Life Story of Maya Angelou Being Developed For Broadway Stage

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The life and art of the late legendary poet Maya Angelou will be made into a one-woman stage performance with hopes of taking it to Broadway. According to Deadline, Maya Angelou’s son, Guy Johnson, has partnered with producers David Michael Rich of Corstoria LLC, who was Angelou’s representative for more than 11years, and J. Todd Harris of Branded Pictures Entertainment to begin developing the project.

“My mother lived an extraordinary life,” Johnson said in a statement. “She brought a sense of passion to living and invested herself wholly in it. What she wanted most was justice for all human beings, and the freedom to experience joy and laughter. We hope to capture her joie de vivre. We’re going to include some private anecdotes that will be a revelation to audiences. I’m pleased to be working with this team in bringing her story to life and can’t wait for the public to experience it.”

Phenomenal Woman: An Evening With Maya Angelou will be a one-woman show drawing from Angelou’s writings, along with “some private musings that have never before been made public.” Theatrical rights have been secured for key works from Angelou’s estate and have signed Johnson to help develop the project.

Producers hope to bring the show to Broadway in 2021.

Brittany B. Talks Stepping From Behind The Scenes, Her New Record Featuring 24Hrs, The State of R&B, Her Upcoming EP, & More With Live Civil

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From an early age, singer-songwriter Brittany B. always knew she wanted a career in music. Growing up in Compton, California, she recalls being an 8-year-old entertainer who not only became a regular performer at school talent shows, but would perform songs by Destiny’s Child during recess, a group in which she credits as being one of her most cherished musical influences.

“I knew at a very young age that I wanted to pursue music as a career,” Brittany B. recalls. “I had to be about 8 years old and I remember singing to my friends at recess. They would say “you have a great voice, sing to us,” so I would sing Destiny’s Child songs to them. I actually went to the military briefly, but was discharged. Even when I was in basic camp, I would sing and everyone would tell me I didn’t belong there — that I belonged on stage.”

 

According to an article published on Genius, Brittany B.’s first break came in 2011 when she worked on Grammy-nominated musician Terrace Martin’s album, ‘Locke High 2’, and contributed to his track “Love,” featuring Ty Dolla $ign. Since then it seems that Brittany B.’s career as an artist has only elevated as she went on to sign a publishing deal with Spirit Music Group and earned writing credits on Theophilus London’s “Can’t Stop,” featuring Kanye West. Other collaborations include artists such as John Legend, Eric Bellinger, Chrisette Michele, Ledisi, and Bhad Babie, whose Brittany B. assisted track “These Heaux” peaked at No. 77 on Billboard’s Hot 100 — making Bhad Babie the youngest female rapper to chart on Billboard. After spending most of her career behind-the-scenes, writing for different artists, and becoming a Grammy-nominated songwriter herself, Brittany B. is ready to step into the spotlight to tell her own story.

“I have so many experiences that I want to share through my music with everyone so that they can understand where I’ve come from and where I’m going in my life,” she says.

 

We caught up with Brittany B. to discuss what makes now the perfect time to step from behind the scenes, the state of R&B, advice she would offer to an aspiring artist, her new record featuring 24 Hrs., and what we can expect from her upcoming EP. Check out what she had to say below.

 

When did you realize you wanted a career in the music industry?

I knew at a very young age that I wanted to pursue music as a career. I had to be about 8 years old and I remember singing to my friends at recess. They would say “you have a great voice, sing to us,” so I would sing Destiny’s Child songs to them. I performed at all the school talent shows and always knew I would be an artist. I actually went to the military briefly, but was discharged. Even when I was in basic camp, I would sing and everyone would tell me I didn’t belong there — that I belonged on stage.

 

I read that Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Mary J. Blige, and Destiny’s Child serves as your most cherished influences in music. Is there any one of the newer or younger generation that you have also been inspired by?

Billie Ellish, H.E.R., and Daniel Ceasar have really inspired me as well. They have all mastered one of the key qualities an artist must have — authenticity.

 

After spending years behind-the-scenes writing for different artists, what made you want to begin pursuing and focusing on your own music career — or becoming “the face of your own words” so to speak?

I just feel that this is the moment in my life when I can tell my story the right way, with the right team, and in a time where I really have a lot to say. I have so many experiences that I want to share through my music with everyone so that they can understand where I’ve come from and where I’m going in my life. I’ve worked behind the scenes for a long time and now I feel like I can finally step into the forefront.

 

 

You have a new record called “Good For It” featuring 24 Hrs., which I love by the way. What was the inspiration behind this record?

The record is a blend of my new sound with my feelings about love. Where are the men who want a ride or die woman? I just wanted to bring that aspect back to music in a cool way. There’s so much music about being single, turning up, and “taking someone’s man.” I wanted to talk to the women who wanna be cuffed and who are loyal. I’m so happy that twenty hopped on the record too because his lyrics are just as important as mine. He talked about impressing his girl and never doing her wrong. Those lyrics are super important for this time in Hip-Hop where men are saying the complete opposite and women are praising “scammin’ a man”.

 

It seems as though R&B doesn’t get as much love and support as it once did in the ’90s and maybe early 2000’s. The genre is noticeably absent or not as widely represented on the radio, awards shows, and mainstream music in general, with the exception of maybe one or two hot new artists here and there. As a singer-songwriter, what is your opinion on the current state of R&B?

R&B will never go away. It’s always present however right now it’s not the dominant genre. Hip-Hop is more dominant right now, but that doesn’t mean that R&B disappeared. There’s a lot of artists blending both sounds. I feel like every genre will get its time to be the “popular,” so I think R&B artists shouldn’t change to fit in. The most successful R&B artists were the ones who stayed true to their sound and core fan base. I think R&B is actually becoming more popular than ever and emerging due to the over saturation of the Hip-Hop culture. Basically, people want to hear something different; they wanna feel different.

 

If you could offer a piece of advice — one ‘do’ and ‘don’t’ — to an aspiring artist looking to break into the music industry, what would that advice be?

Do stay true to yourself. Be authentic. Always do what you feel is right regardless of popular opinion.

Don’t take the first offer or opportunity that comes your way out of fear. Know your worth and then add tax

 

Where are you as far as the completion of your ‘Bossed Up’ EP — and what can we expect from the project?

I have over 50 songs recorded, but I still feel like I’m not done yet. I want this EP to be impactful and really speak to the independent women. You can expect boss bitch anthems and real records. I also want to showcase all of my talent — my writing, singing, and rapping. So make sure to stay locked in via social media, @brittanybmusic.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZr_E3j_sDY]

Tarana Burke Announces #MeToo HBCU Tour For Sexual Assault Awareness Month

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April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) and Tarana Burke is looking to continue the #MeToo conversation by going on a tour to several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) across the country. Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, made the announcement on Instagram.

 

“I’m so excited to finally announce this!! This has been a vision of mine for many, many years,” Burke’s caption reads. “Every year during April, which is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) college campuses around the country turn their focus towards dealing with sexual violence but very little activity happens on HBCU campuses during SAAM even though we know it’s happening.”

 

Burke says that in 2018 she spoke at more than 70 schools and surprisingly only two of them were HBCUs. She’s looking to change that by teaming up with Yaba Blay to “bring this right to the yard and provide a space for HBCU students to talk, vent, strategize and heal.” Dr. Blay is the creator and producer of a number of online campaigns including #PrettyPeriod – a visual celebration of dark-skinned Black beauty – and #ProfessionalBlackGirl – a web series and digital community dedicated to celebrating everyday, ‘around-the-way’ #BlackGirlMagic.

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BvNIg-wgkXG/?utm_source=ig_embed&utm_campaign=embed_loading_state_control

 

“While we are working in service to survivors of sexual violence from all walks of life,  it’s always been about Black people, particularly Black women and girls. This tour is important because we know that Black women make up the majority of the student population at HBCUs,” Burke tells Blavity. “The college tour is an extension of our work to center marginalized communities in the movement to end sexual violence wherever it exists.”

 

According to the MeTooMvmt.org, each stop on the tour will include strategic convenings with campus leaders, a workshop for men and male-identifying individuals, and a fireside chat featuring special guests. The tour will be sponsored by The Root and Lifetime with free admission for the public.

Kobe Bryant & The WNBA Team Up To Host ‘Her Time To Play’ Event At Mamba Sports Academy

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In celebration of Women’s History Month, which lasted the entire month of March, Kobe Bryant hosted more than 150 local Los Angeles girls for a basketball clinic and life skills development session at his new Mamba Sports Academy on Thursday (March 28) as part of the NBA and WNBA’s ‘Her Time To Play’ program.

‘Her Time To Play’ was launched in October 2018 and is described as a national grassroots initiative created by the WNBA and NBA to inspire the next generation of girls, ages 7-14, to play basketball in a positive and healthy way. Through sports, girls learn important life skills such as teamwork, leadership, and self-confidence.

 

According to Urban Spotlite, the event started with 40 minutes of on-court developmental drills including dribbling, passing, shooting and defense skills led by Bryant and Los Angeles Sparks clinicians. It also included a panel discussion moderated by ESPN’s Michelle Beadle featuring Kobe Bryant, Cappie Pondexter (two-time WNBA champion), Danita Johnson (L.A. Sparks Team President & COO), and Keisha Nix (Executive Director of Los Angeles Lakers Youth Foundation).

‘Her Time To Play’ aims to increase opportunities for women in coaching and athletic leadership across the youth sports landscape. To learn more about this initiative, click here.

 

First Black-Owned Beauty Supply Store In Nashville Generates $50k In Sales Its First Day

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Nashville, Tennessee saw the grand opening of its first black-owned beauty supply store earlier this month. According to NewsChannel 5, customers stood outside in bad weather to support Roots Hair & Beauty, owned by Sam Tisdale.

“We are proud to be the first, and hopefully we won’t be the last,” says Tisdale.

The company’s goal is to provide customers with the best quality at the lowest price with outstanding customer service. Roots specialize in all categories in beauty supply such as 100% human hair bundles, quick weaves, branded hair weaves, crochet braiding, natural hair products, and much more.

The company has two successful locations in Chattanooga, Tennessee. They opened up their first location in 2016 followed by the second in 2017. Its third location in Nashville generated approximately $50,000 in sales in just one day.

 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYai6wK3A8Q]

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Aoki Lee Simmons Gets Accepted Into Harvard University

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Following an Instagram Live video earlier this month where she admitted to being bullied at school, Aoki Lee Simmons has not let that interfere with her studies as the 16-year-old has been accepted into Harvard University.

Aoki, the daughter of Kimora and Russell Simmons, shared a tearful video that documented the moment she found out she was accepted into the Ivy League school with the caption that reads, “I’m only 16 and I’m going to Harvard baby! Insert emotional crying face.”

Aoki also quoted her mother Kimora Lee Simmons saying, “thank god you got in on your own honey cause you can’t row,” which is in reference to the recent USC scandal involving Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. The women are among 50 people being charged for their involvement in a bribery and cheating scheme to get unqualified children into top colleges. According to NBC News, court papers revealed that Loughlin allegedly told a cooperating witness that she would arrange for one of her daughters to be photographed on a rowing machine to bolster the false claim on the college application that her daughter was on a crew team.

“Thank you so much to every single person who helped me along the way. I am excited and honored and so so grateful,” Aoki writes.

Congratulations to Aoki!

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BvkmFVFl9YN/

Tiffany Haddish Lands ‘They Ready’ Stand-Up Comedy Series With Netflix

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Tiffany Haddish has landed a series of curated stand-up specials with Netflix. They Ready will be a six-part series with each episode lasting a half-hour. It will be hosted by Haddish and will feature six of her favorite comedians who she feels also deserves a chance to shine.

“I am introducing six of my favorite comedians – in my eyes, they are superstars. The epitome of They Ready,” says the Girls Trip actress.

The comedians, who Tiffany shares a history with after working together on either stand-up or in television, include Chaunté Wayans (50 Shades of Black), April Macie (Snoop Dogg’s Bad Girls of Comedy), Tracey Ashley (The Last O.G.), Aida Rodriguez (Last Comic Standing), Flame Monroe (Def Comedy Jam), and Marlo Williams (Comicview).

Tiffany Haddish will serve as executive producer through She Ready Productions, alongside Wanda Sykes and Page Hurwitz through their Push It Productions banner.

A premiere date for the series has not been announced.

Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’ On Track To Become The Most Successful Memoir In History

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Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming, has sold nearly 10 million copies in four months and is on the fast-track to becoming the most successful memoir in history. Becoming, which was published through Penguin Random House, was released in November 2018 and sold over 725,000 copies on its release day.

“I’m not aware, in my personal experience with Penguin Random House, that we ever sold 10 million units of a memoir,” said Penguin Random House’s Chief Executive Markus Dohle, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Becoming tells the story of Michelle Obama’s life from growing up on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive, balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the White House.

“We believe this could be the most successful memoir in history,” added Thomas Rabe, the CEO of German media corporation Bertelsmann SE.

Bertelsmann SE owns a 75% stake in Penguin Random House. The former First Lady’s release helped the company bring in $20 billion last year, according to the Los Angeles Times. Michelle Obama is currently on a book tour, An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama (see the list of dates below).

“I’ve been so humbled by the response to the tour thus far and the overwhelming interest we’ve received from so many communities we weren’t able to visit this year,” Obama told People magazine. “That’s why I’m thrilled that we’re able to expand our conversations to these new settings and wider audiences. I can’t wait to continue the discussions that have been so meaningful for me and, I hope, for so many others.”

CEO & Entrepreneur Milan Rouge Shares the Five Rules of Fashion & Discusses Being a Black Woman in a Male Dominated Industry

Meet Milan Rouge, the CEO and founder of  ‘Milano Di Rouge,’ a unisex luxury streetwear changing the game of fashion. In honor of Women History Month, Live Civil caught up with the entrepreneur to discuss being a black business woman in a male dominated industry, dream collaborations, and the five rules of fashion one must abide by.

WHAT IS ONE QUOTE YOU LIVE BY?

“Teach them early what we learned late.” 

I incorporate this into everything that I do because I feel as though anything can be a  teachable moment for the people following me.  The new generation deserves to have the information that we needed coming up to help them avoid mistakes and have a more streamlined path to success. They need to know that following their dreams may not be easy but we, the older generation, are here to educate and support them through the process.

HOW EXACTLY DID YOU GET INTO FASHION?

Style and fashion have been apart of my life for as long as I can remember. In high school, I was runner up for Best Dressed. Eventually, I branched out and began designing and selling stylish T-shirts. I can’t even remember a time where I wasn’t interested in fashion.

HOW HAS YOUR DEFINITION OF FASHION CHANGED FROM WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED, TO NOW THAT YOU’RE MORE ESTABLISHED?

I’ve watched myself evolve from being a consumer of fashion to becoming a producer. I am no longer satisfied with just wearing nice clothes. I have a need to create quality, trendsetting pieces.  Now, I’m a true designer. My hands touch everything from the technical designs all the way to the packing and shipping of my products. It’s an overwhelming but amazing feeling.

AS A BLACK WOMEN IN FASHION INDUSTRY, WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR CLOTHING BRAND TO MEAN?

My brand, Milano Di Rouge, means making dreams a reality. Even though that applies to people from all backgrounds, I can’t shy away from speaking directly to women of color. The fashion industry is STILL male dominated. Almost all of the streetwear designers are male. As a black woman, I want Milano Di Rouge to shatter the glass ceiling in the streetwear industry and let women know that there are no limits to their dreams. Representation is very important in fashion and I want to represent for all women of color by breaking these barriers that have been in place for decades.

 

 

WHEN CREATING NEW PIECES, WHERE DO YOU DRAW YOUR INSPIRATIONS FROM? DOES THE INSPIRATION CHANGE WITH CUSTOM PIECES?

Initially, I was inspired by my boyfriend’s clothes. I wanted to wear them but they were too baggy for a woman’s shape. I set out to create a high-quality unisex streetwear line that would feature a specially tailored fit. What I like will forever serve as my main inspiration. If I can’t find the perfect outfit then I’ll go design one. As a result, I tend to be a walking billboard for my brand. MDR is an accurate representation of what I feel is fashionable so I wear it with pride.

ARE THERE POINTS IN YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS THAT YOU FEEL UNINSPIRED?

Of course! Creative blocks are the worse. When I start feeling like I’m lacking creatively then it usually means that I need new experiences. Recently, I was going through a creative block and decided to take a trip to Milan, Italy. It was the perfect cure.

WHAT’S THE MOST DIFFICULT DECISION YOU’VE HAD TO MAKE IN YOUR JOURNEY THUS FAR?

I’m a person who likes to push the people around me to their highest potential. I want everyone to feel the joy of living out their dreams. Unfortunately, everyone doesn’t possess that same mindset and it’s hard to keep them around. If my team isn’t cohesive then that’s where I have to make the hard decision to remove them from my environment.

ARE THEIR ANY FUTURE OR DREAM COLLABORATIONS CAN WE LOOK FORWARD TO OR EXPECT?

One of my biggest goals is to collaborate with Virgil Abolah of Off White. He’s such an inspiration and he’s always trying new things. I truly believe that a collab with him would be so epic! I mean, currently he is using his expertise to design these beautiful rugs for IKEA. How amazing is that!? It’s like he isn’t afraid to switch and conquer different lanes and that’s exactly how I feel as well.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE INTERESTED IN CREATING THEIR OWN BRAND? AS A BUSINESS OWNER, WHAT ARE SOME BRAND ESSENTIALS INDIVIDUALS MUST HAVE?

I always ask people about their motives for wanting to start a business. The WHY is very important to me because a lot of people jump into business for the money and that motivation is not fulfilling nor is it sustainable. When you are building a brand you have to truly LOVE what you do. There will be days where you won’t feel like doing anything but the strength of your passion will move you to get things done regardless of how you feel or even if there is no money involved.

Brand essentials should ALWAYS at minimum include a quality product, a solid team, and strong message that resonates deeply with your customers.

HOW DO YOU STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF? WHAT ARE YOUR 5 FASHION RULES YOU ABIDE BY?

As a daily routine, I question myself. I ask myself “What does Milan want?” I do this so that I can stand firm in what I think is best for my brand and for myself. I work with so many people who have so many amazing ideas but they all may not fit who I am or what my brand represents. I take all of the information that I get from my meetings, or creative sessions, and process it. I take what I think fits and block out what doesn’t.

  1. Always keep a nice stash of sweats, t-shirts, bralettes, and crop tops. They are versatile items that can be easily styled for almost any occasion.
  2. Hats are a must-have especially for busy days where you don’t have time to style your hair.
  3. Having a good pair of denim is crucial because you can  take over the world in the right pair of jeans.
  4. Bodysuits are necessary to add the right amount of sex appeal to any outfit
  5. A little Dior lipgloss goes a long way!

Sony Pictures Animation Picks Up Matthew A. Cherry’s Short Film ‘Hair Love’

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After raising nearly $300,000 to fund his first animated project, retired NFL player Matthew Cherry’s short film titled Hair Love has been picked up by Sony Pictures. Through his Kickstarter campaign, Cherry set a fundraising goal of $75,000 and completely surpassed that amount, raising a total of $284,058.

Hair Love is a touching animated short film about an African American father, Stephen, learning to do his daughter Zuri’s hair for the first time when her mother becomes unavailable right before a big event. According to MatthewACherry.com, this story was born out of seeing a lack of representation in mainstream animated projects and also wanting to promote hair love amongst young men and women of color.

 

“In the past year, it has been very clear that audiences have been yearning to see fresh stories that are universal and culturally authentic,” says President of Sony Pictures Animation Kristine Belson. “‘Hair Love’ is a wonderful father-daughter story and we are proud to nurture talented young filmmakers like Matthew who are breaking new ground.”

Matthew Cherry expressed his gratitude for the support from Sony Pictures, a company in which he says championed the project since its early stages.

“It was important to get this story out there and we are so grateful to Sony Pictures Animation for their generous support in helping us make that happen. They have championed it from its early stages and we cannot wait to share the project with the world,” he says.

Hair Love is expected to be released later this year and will be accompanied by a children’s book that will be released on May 14th — click here to pre-order.

Photo: Emily Stein

Shaquille O’Neal Joins Papa John’s Board of Directors In Effort To Help Repair Company’s Image

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Papa John’s is the latest company to perform damage control following racially insensitive remarks by the company’s founder and namesake, John Schnatter. It all started when Schnatter criticized the NFL’s leadership and blamed protests by football players for falling pizza sales. It was also revealed that he used a racial slur during a media training session. Like most, Schnatter issued an apology, but the damage was already done. The company removed his face from its logo and pizza boxes. However, he is the company’s biggest shareholder, according to ESPN.

In an effort to repair the company’s image and sales, Papa John’s has called on NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal as the new face of their brand. He will also join the company’s board of directors and invest in nine of its restaurants in the Atlanta area.

“If you want to enjoy great pizza and feel loved by the people that serve the pizza, you can come back home now,” O’Neal said in an interview with The Associated Press. “The Daddy is here.”

Stating that he’s the first African-American to join Papa John’s board, O’Neal described Schnatter’s comments as unacceptable and told the company’s executives that it needed more diversity in its leadership. Papa John’s International Inc. said it will pay O’Neal more than $8 million in cash and company stock for the three-year endorsement deal.

“We want to create a culture to let everybody know that they’re loved, accepted and wanted,” O’Neal said.

Gayle King To Sign Multi-Million Dollar Deal To Stay At CBS News

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Following the success of her highly anticipated interview with R. Kelly amid his sexual abuse allegations, it has been announced that Gayle King is expected to sign a new multi-million dollar deal to stay at CBS News.

King, who reportedly already has a $5.5 million-a-year deal with the network, joined CBS News in 2011. She has conducted revealing and news-making interviews with world leaders, political figures, and celebrities for the broadcast, including Michelle Obama, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Jack and Suzy Welch, Taylor Swift, Cicely Tyson, and more recently R. Kelly. King has also handled a number of high-profile assignments and co-anchored CBS News’ special coverage of several breaking news stories, including the Paris terrorist attacks, the San Bernardino shootings, and the Supreme Court’s landmark decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

According to Page Six, all other staff-related negotiations surrounding CBS News have been placed on hold until King has signed her deal. There has been speculation that her co-host Norah O’Donnell will replace Jeff Glor on CBS Evening News. O’Donnell also wants to move the show to Washington, DC. However, Page Six has been told that everything has pretty much been kept under wraps.

“Everything has gone very quiet. Nothing will be done until Gayle has signed her contract. It looks likely that she’s staying — but we don’t know what the holdup is,” a source tells Page Six. “Everyone is stressed — they want to know what’s happening.”

When asked if she will be staying, King told The Associated Press recently:

“Ooh, that’s a good question. All I can say is I really love my job. And I think it’s kind of foolish to predict the future.”