I mentioned being inspired by HBO’s “BLACKLIST” ( www.hbo.com/docs/docuseries/theblacklist/index.html ) – not just for its content but inside of how its stylistic flow is a good template for what my “Big Willies & Amazing Graces: gay men and their best girlfriends” could be – as a book (and a documentary). I am still shopping for this book deal (with my literary agent Robert Guinsler at Sterling Lord Literistic)...and you all know how much I love my "Amazing Graces". From Nat (the OAG, she calls herself - "Original Amazing Grace") to my Nichole who is my sister away from my sister here in New York City. And of course, there are the oh-so-many other ladies in my life whose relationships I hold so near and dear as there is nothing like the unique relationship between a gay man and a straight woman... and TRUST ME, it's more than shopping, interior design, hair and beauty, and those categories we sometimes myopically attach to the bond. "Big Willies & Amazing Graces: gay men and their best girlfriends" is a book that will celebrate the depth and the diverse array of levity that exists inside of these special bonds. More comprehensively, it is a collection of conversations between men and women who fit that paradigm. I've already interviewed a couple dozen pairings for this project, but am now seeking to fold more high-profile folks into the mix (Already, comic actress MO'NIQUE; Tony-award-winning actress LACHANZE [from 'The Color Purple']; and Tony-award-winning producer/actress Tamara Tunie have committed to contribute). With that, I attended a friend and colleague Janet Lee’s cocktail party which also represented the launch of her business LIVING IN A NUTSHELL .COM ( www.livinginanutshell.com ) – “Designing Out of the Box… when you LIVE in one!” And her place was the PERFECT backdrop for what she can do. Ant and I are considering her expertise for our home space (still in progress). Also in attendance, Janet's friend Michael who too works with Ant at "The Wendy Williams Show" (and with whom I have worked on projects with Janet at the helm). It marked our first double date as Michael brought his partner Yogeesh. They’ve been together 5 years (Ant and I are closing in on 3). I used to think we were the Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis of the ‘gays’, but look at them. Two other mutual friends between Janet and me - Joe from Chicago . Great to see Joe who works in production out of Chicago. And Audra Boltion, director of communications for Miss Sandra Lee (www.semihomemade.com ) – Food Network host with the most. Audra (who too was instrumental in introducing me to some book publishing execs from her previous position as a publicist at Simon & Schuster/Atria Books) introduced me to Miss Lee, who accompanied her to this party. Sandra said she loved my cheekbones and smile. Wanted to know who I was (She said “Is he on TV or a model or something?” During a morale-depleted time for me (believe it or not), compliments like that can bring on a smile. SMILE! This, though I'm working through the doldrums one day at a time.). Audra and Sandra even invited us to her photo shoot the next day - scheduled for Neo Studios. Though just there as a friend to the publicist, I get there and Miss Sandra Lee asks me to be a "model" in the shoot. It was for "OUT MAGAZINE" (www.out.com/) and its theme was Sandra Lee and a number of the gay men in her life (from her hairdresser to her makeup artist to her props guy to her culinary director to her brother to --- suddenly --- me, her new BFF she'd just met the night before at a cocktail party). Perhaps she needed some diversity with her model entourage. I was fine to oblige as I got to handle (as my prop) $1,000,000 worth of jewels from Van Cleef & Arpels. STAY TUNED for more on the feature and the article. Only in "... the life of Riley...". (I walked into that shoot Tracey Chambers and walked out "Mahogany"! You get that analogy?).
Making media impressions that have reach and range support so much of what my branding as independent personality/producer/writer (and now-'model') are about. Every six months or so, I meet up with my favorite editor Paul at my favorite post-house Murray Hill to take stock of my last six months of work ( www.murrayhillstudios.com/ ). From "Million Dollar Password" to NBC Nightly News on-line to my REMY MARTIN/Dave LaChappelle project to AT&T's "Hugh Thompson Show" in which I did Geek 2.0 makeovers on one man and one woman, we have excerpted this work accordingly. Stay tuned. Those links will be available to view sometime soon. Paul is working on them.
Meanwhile, as I continue to work my load of freelance regulars, I may need to rebook some time to update the reel even further as many calls are coming in for my ‘pop culture’ analysis. At UNITY ’08, execs from CNN's "Showbiz Tonight" ( www.cnn.com/CNN/Programs/showbiz.tonight/ ) and CN8’s “Your Morning!” ( www.cn8.tv/channel/channelhome.asp?lChannelID=649 ) expressed interest in using me and already the phone is ringing. Just this morning, I got two calls from CN8s 'Your Morning!' (regional cable network morning show out of Philly, but reaching audience of 9 million from Virginia to Maine). Monday morning, I'll participate in a roundtable on Ben Stiller's 'Tropic Thunder' (Are we oversensitive a la blackface/retard references?) via satellite from CNN's New York City studios.
I'll send those links to you when available. It's good to be in a bit of a demand. This, as I too was invited to sit in at BET for a taping of “THE TRUTH with Jeff Johnson” ( www.bet.com/ ) which premieres tonight. CNN's Lola Ogunnaike and I waxed topical and pop cultural on the same panel. They say they will call on me to join the weekly roundtable from time to time. Awesome!
From the passings of my fellow "Moshood-nisto" Isaac Hayes and Bernie Mac, I got a call from www.blackamericaweb.com which quoted me with partial accuracy ("[Bernie Mac] was like your everyday Chicago brother who really took the opportunity to do his art in front of the masses,”). The second part of what I said to the interviewer: "“He was paid to be himself and to take those experiences from the 'hood in Chicago , along with life lessons, and turn those into a really beautiful body of work,” is attributed to Billy Wilson, founder and president of the Motown Alumni Association". But those are my words (http://www.blackamericaweb.com/site.aspx/bawnews/berniemacrecalled811).
I too got a call from the New York Post's David K. Lee regarding Beyonce’s L’Oreal Ad ( http://www.nypost.com/seven/08072008/news/nationalnews/beyonce_the_pale_123393.htm ). Though fellow NABJ-er and fellow NABJ A&E Task Force member ERIC Deggans quote made the cut of the actual article, this is what I had to say:
"... I think the brouhaha over Beyonce's so-called lighter image in these pix is much ado about nothing!
I think the gossip bloggers have been chomping at the bit to get a new impression of Beyonce that they could hate on. (Not sure who critiqued this first...).
It's clear that creative types in advertising and entertainment take the time to overtly photo-shop and color-correct images sometimes. And that's across the board. Shucks! I make sure my photo editor/my partner Ant takes the time on my blog photos to ensure that I am as shine-free as possible or that my skin tone is evened out on the photo. And left to my own devices, I might come out a hair lighter than intended. There are many color complexes in the African American community and they didn't escape me (though I'm mindful of how silly they can be sometimes).
With that, Beyonce is too identifiable as a "light-skinned", African American woman for us to be crying over this perhaps less-tanned image of her. Sometimes we see her more bronzed after she's spent time in the South of France or when she's given herself a cosmetic tan. Nobody is saying "Is she trying to look like Kelly Rowland (her darker hued, group member from DC3)?" Othertimes, she's more pale (like in this pic) to the naked eye. And oftentimes, the graphic artist may have gone too far.
Do I think it was a direct act on the advertiser's part to show her as "white" - in hopes that she'd just blend into the sea of pages featuring white models? No! Because - again - Beyonce, like Diana Ross before her, Janet Jackson, and Whitney Houston (pre-crack) and a host of other 'brown divas' since the beginning of pop culture, transcends race inside of her pop/crossover/mainstream success... if only iconographically.
Surely, there's another conversation to be had on race and equity (with who gets these contracts) between a Black diva vs. a White diva, etc (and what that diva looks like... going into the offer or negotiation). But that's not this conversation.”
QUICK SHOUT OUTS TO:
· Kim Bardakian with Pandora ( www.pandora.com ). You guys checked out that site yet? It’s lots of fun! And as my cap demonstrates, they have a lot of fun SWAG!
· CHECK THIS OUT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AM599RHWtQ
My Morehouse brother David Redic, who I haven’t seen in years, reached out to me as he got the call to write and record an Obama theme song. It’s a grassroots labor of love that I want to share with you here. If you can think of any tie-ins, let me know. I met David when he was a freshman at Morehouse and I was a senior. I booked he and three others to be in the freshman week talent show as a group we called “Just Us” (I also cast Rockmond Dunbar in that same talent show to do a monologue).
· My fellow New York Association of Black Journalists member Martha Buckner (who too works at Black Enterprise). I want to say hi to her Louie and Prada, twin cats, who are 2 1/2 years old from the Humane society. She adopted them and I met them during a shoot I produced at her home. She adopted them after Muffin and Leiber died. Leiber died for weeks after Muffin. Louie, Prada and Leiber are named after handbags. Handbags are her favorite accessory. Hey Martha, Louie, and Prada!!!
- Shout out to Leonard Pitts, Jr. - NABJs JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR. He’s a syndicated newspaper columnist, Pulitzer prize winner, author ( www.miamiherald.com/living/columnists/leonard_pitts/ ). But I have such a childhood memory of him as the author of one of the first Diana Ross biographies I ever read. See ROSS here with another pop cultural favorite Kathy Griffin ( www.kathygriffin.net/ ) Moreover, his pop cultural analysis on icons like Whitney Houston. When he asked if she was “black enough”, it was in a context that many in the industry didn’t get. Clearly, she could “sang!!!!!”, but he was speaking to how so much of who she was naturally was being repressed to ensure her pop domination. Perhaps that was the worst thing that could have happened for her livelihood.
- And one of our NABJ Babies Olivia Sanders? Great to spend a little time with you while here in New York City. Good luck to you as you soon graduate college and start your career. Good to break bread at my favorite spot (and have you enjoy it for the first time): HOUSTON'S (www.hillstone.com/).
- LEDISI who was recently on JAY LENO performing with SERGIO MENDES ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUGU9PuAI48 ). More on SERGIO here ( www.sergiomendesmusic.com/ ). And LEDISI ( www.ledisi.com ).
- Two girlfriends I must shout out: PAT BATES (see us in Maui. What a dream. We must get back there soonest.). And my Itika (Ti-Ti, I call her) with her lastest impression on www.nbc5.com/nudehippo/ . Here she is outta this world: http://www.motionbox.com/videos/d49fdfb1191ce55c?iid=share&sid=mbox_shareemail&type=sd
- Just as her client load lightens a bit with USHER off of her roster, publicist for Janet Jackson, JD, and Patti LaBelle needs a ‘publicist’ of her own. Patti Webster’s new book, “IT HAPPENED IN CHURCH: Stories of Humor from the Pulpit to the Pews” will be released on September 3, 2008 on Souls of My Sisters/Kensington Books with the prayer that those who don't know Jesus Christ will open up these pages, smile, laugh and ultimately, see Him. Borders, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com are just some of the places you will be able to purchase the book. CONGRATS PATTI! We’re lifting you and this project up to achieve your goal. (But don't get too busy to manage our eternal queries on Miss Janet Jackson. There is a tour coming up... and we MUST be there... in New York City, Tokyo, and beyond!!!!! SMILE!).
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