Tri-State Defender Entertainment Stories


Black writers Colson Whitehead, Lynn Nottage win coveted Pulitzer Prize

By Hillel Italie, AP National Writer

Colson Whitehead’s “The Underground Railroad,” his celebrated novel about an escaped slave that combined liberating imagination and brutal reality, has won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Monday’s announcement confirmed the book as the literary event of 2016, an Oprah Winfrey book club pick and critical favorite which last fall received the National Book Award, the first time in more than 20 years that the same work won the Pulitzer and National Book Award for fiction. Whitehead, known for such explorations of American myth and history as “John Henry Days,” conceived his novel with what he calls a “goofy idea:” Take the so-called Underground Railroad of history, the network of escape routes to freedom, and make it an actual train. He wove his fantasy together with a too-believable story of a young girl’s flight from a plantation. Whitehead finished “The Underground Railroad” well before Donald Trump’s election but now finds parallels with the present. “I think the book deals with white supremacy as a foundational error in the country’s history and that foundational error is being played out now in the White House,” he told The Associated Press on Monday. “When I was writing the book I wasn’t thinking about current events, but I think you have to look at it differently now.” Other winners announced Monday also touched upon race and class, in the present and in the past. Lynn Nottage’s “Sweat,” which won for drama, explores how the shutdown of a Pennsylvania factory leads to the breakdown of friendship and family, and a devastating cycle of violence, prejudice, poverty and drugs. The play marks Nottage’s Broadway debut and her second Pulitzer Prize. She is the writer of “Intimate Apparel,” ”By The Way, Meet Vera Stark” and “Ruined,” which also won the Pulitzer. “I was looking at how poverty and economic stagnation was beginning to shift our American narrative and how a culture was crying out,” Nottage told the AP after her win Monday. “I’m very honored. I’m in a bit of a daze.” The history winner, Heather Ann Thompson’s “Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy,” examines the events that unfolded starting Sept. 9, 1971, when nearly 1,300 prisoners took over the Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York to protest years of mistreatment. The work reveals the crimes committed during the uprising and its aftermath, who committed them, and how they were covered up. Thompson, a historian at the University of Michigan, was teaching her second class of the day when her cellphone awakened with a call from her book agent about the win. Her students burst into applause. Thompson said she was most happy that survivors of the uprising and subsequent brutal crackdown were able to have their stories told after more than four decades. “Beyond Attica, I’m hoping that it also shines a light on inside these correctional facilities, of which we have more in this country than any other country on the planet,” she said. “I hope it reminds us that the 2.5 million people that are locked up in a correctional facility are human beings.” The general nonfiction winner was Matthew Desmond’s “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City,” set in Milwaukee and praised by the Pulitzer board as “a deeply researched expose that showed how mass evictions after the 2008 economic crash were less a consequence than a cause of poverty.” Desmond, who last month won a National Book Critics Circle award, said Monday that he hoped his book would illuminate both the severity of the crisis and the role of government. “You look at a public housing tower and a mortgaged suburban home,” he told the AP. “Both are government subsidized, but they don’t look anything alike. We seem a lot more willing to spend money on tax write-offs than on direct assistance.” Hisham Matar’s “The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between” won for biography/autobiography; the Pulitzer board said Monday that Matar’s memoir about his native Libya “examines with controlled emotion the past and present of an embattled region.” Tyehimba Jess’ “Olio” was the poetry winner, cited for melding performance art with poetry “to explore collective memory and challenge contemporary notions of race and identity.” The Pulitzer board gave the music award to Du Yun’s “Angel’s Bone” and called it a “bold” work which “integrates vocal and instrumental elements and a wide range of styles into a harrowing allegory for human trafficking in the modern world.” Yun had just returned from a day of panels at The Culture Summit in Abu Dhabi, and her librettist Royce Vavrek texted her the good news, which arrived close to midnight for Yun. She said that it was great to hear after a day of learning “how to use art and make art … to advance cultural change” at The Culture Summit. “I met a lot of people who work intensively with refugees and human trafficking, which was the top of my work,” Yun said. “We just had this intense conversation about how to really use art to affect policies.”

Jay Z pulls all his music from Apple and Spotify

By theGrio

Jay Z has pulled his solo music from Apple and Spotify. According to Spotify, the removal was “at the request of the artist,” though that’s hardly surprising. This is not the first time that Jay Z has pulled his music from the steaming services, since he had pulled his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, from all streaming services except for Tidal after Tidal’s launch. Then, last year, Jay Z removed his Blueprint series as well. However, for this removal, most of his music, barring Reasonable Doubt and Blueprint, is still available on Google Play Music. Additionally, his collaborative works, such as those with R. Kelly and Linkin Park, will remain on the streaming services. Which is great timing, considering he has a new collaborative work that recently dropped. Frank Ocean just dropped “Biking” on his radio show, featuring Jay Z, riding on the heels of another surprise release, this one of “Chanel,” also on the radio show. It’s not clear for Ocean if that means a new album is in the works or not, but either way, we’re excited about the new music!

No, Lee Daniels, we don’t need another movie about the down low

By Kellee Terrell, The Root

Lee Daniels recently announced the premise behind his upcoming remake of the ’80s sentimental classic Terms of Endearment. In the original, Debra Winger’s character dies of cancer, but in this filmmaker’s version, which also will feature Oprah Winfrey, one of the leads will have AIDS—a disease she contracted by having sex with a man who is presumably on the down low. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Daniels believes this storyline is “important.” “I’ve got to tell stories that are important to me, and so many African-American women died,” he said. “I want to make Flap [played by Jeff Daniels in the 1983 film] gay and infect the Debra Winger character. And then we explore the ’80s in a different way.” Now, as a journalist who has covered AIDS in black America for over a decade, I commend the effort to bring stories about the epidemic to the screen. Aside from HBO’s Life Support, starring Queen Latifah, black HIV-positive women are usually completely ignored or unfairly demonized (think: Tyler Perry’s Temptation). But there is a way to center these voices without throwing black gay and bisexual men under a bus. There just has to be. I’ll admit, I haven’t seen the script, but I have an inkling that I really don’t need to given that these down-low narratives have one goal and one goal only: To paint black queer men as the enemy of our community. And let’s be real, since the down low became a cultural phenomenon in the early 2000s, pop culture’s handling of the topic hasn’t been known for its nuance and empathy. These bogeyman cautionary tales are just a tired extension of our own paranoia and homophobia. But here’s the gag: It’s all been debunked. Yes, there are closeted black men who sleep with men and women and black women who have been infected by positive closeted men. But study after study has shown that the down low is not fueling HIV among African-American women. The true culprit is a combination of factors, including high rates of undiagnosed and untreated sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV; disproportionate poverty and poor health; IV drug use; stigma, sexism and homophobia; and mass incarceration in black America that takes significant numbers of black men out of the community, leaving a lot of straight brothas on the outside to share the same female partners. Oh, and straight black men get HIV—roughly 1,900 each year—and 87 percent of the 4,100 black women who are newly diagnosed contract HIV through heterosexual sex ... so I’ll let you connect the dots. But by all means, let’s keep pointing the finger at gay and bi black men. It’s not just these alternative facts that infuriate me; it’s also the timing. Wasn’t it just a few months ago that Moonlight won a slew of Oscars, including Best Picture? Barry Jenkins’ insanely beautiful film about the struggles to come to terms with one’s sexuality, the carnage homophobia leaves behind and the beauty of touch between two black men was a real sign that we are truly evolving. Meanwhile, the premise of Terms of Endearment 2.0 seems to be the exact opposite—dated, irresponsible and pedestrian—kind of like Dave Chappelle’s recent Netflix specials. Now, before I am reminded that Daniels is an actual black gay man who, through his own life experiences, is capable of penning a multilayered and compassionate screenplay, let’s look at the receipts. For years, the Empire creator has been caught in the crosshairs of “the sunken place,” making disparaging comments about black women, denying that racism has impacted his own life and career, and insisting that black folks are more homophobic than anyone else. Just a few months ago, he shared that he cast a white actress for the lead of his Fox show Star because “the country needed to heal” and this “white girl is so fabulous that black people will embrace her and white people will embrace her.” Between these obvious internalized demons and the chronic heavy-handedness of his work in general, we all know how this remake is going to play out. And as a black woman, an HIV/AIDS advocate, an LGBTQ ally and an aspiring filmmaker, I am like Auntie Maxine when it comes to No. 45: I refuse to have a “just wait and see” attitude with this melodramatic mess. Directors cannot just carve out black gay male characters from vilifying stereotypes and play revisionist history with the HIV epidemic and expect people to give them the benefit of the doubt because they are gay themselves, have a few Oscar nominations under their belt and an extensive IMDb page. Not in this #StayWoke era. Right now the state of black film—straight and LGBTQ—is at an interesting intersectional crossroads. Looking at what we’ve seen so far this year and what’s coming down the pipeline, it’s clear that black writers and directors are expanding the rigid notion of what it means to be black in America, and they are doing so by telling fresh and complicated stories about our lives in damn near every genre. Now is not the time for us to move backward—we cannot afford to. And quiet as it’s kept, Mr. Daniels, neither can you.

Beyoncé’s Instagram posts are reportedly worth $1 million each

By theGrio

According to a new report from D’Marie Analytics, Beyoncé is the most powerful celebrity on social media. If Beyoncé gives a shout-out or plug to anything on Facebook or Instagram, that post is reportedly worth $1 million in spending for an ad. “Her limited release of exclusive, curated content…causes such frenzy from her audience,” says Frank Spadafora, chief executive of D’Marie. “These days, less really is more.” Her influence has also skyrocketed because of her role in the Grammy Awards in February as well as the announcement of her pregnancy and news that she was expecting twins. “She’s been more consistent about posting in the past two months than before,” Spadafora told Moneyish. All this is even more impressive when you consider the fact that she is the 22nd most followed person online. Look at some of her posts here

College student’s ‘Martin’ themed campaign video goes viral

By theGrio

An Alcorn State University student running for Miss Senior 2017-2018 is parodying the ‘90s hit comedy “Martin” as part of her campaign, and it’s pretty much perfect. According to Shemesha Martin, the idea to make a video remixing the hit show’s theme song came simply from the fact that her last name is “Martin,” and the idea grew from there. She said that her campaign manager, Shaqunna Sardin, had the idea: “She was like, ‘Mesha what about ‘Martin,’ and you can be like vote for Shemesha Martinnnnn.’ I thought it was a good idea.” — SportsCenter brilliantly pays tribute to ‘A Different World’ — The video, which was directed by Michael Watts and Herman Ceasar and stars Martin’s friend Jacobi Holt, is not the only Martin-themed part of Martin’s campaign, either. For example, she has created an acronym called WZUP: Working Zestfully Unto Progression, and her campaign events are similarly named for famous sayings and phrases from the show. “Once we started thinking about his famous quotes, it was easy to come up with event ideas,” she said. “For example, Martin [is] always saying ‘Martin Love the Kids’ and I thought that would be a great community service project at the daycare on campus. It really just fit the whole concept of the theme.” WATCH VIDEO HERE

Kendrick Lamar stuns with new music video ‘Humble’

By theGrio

On Thursday, Kendrick Lamar dropped a new song and video without any warning. The song, “Humble,” is anything but. Lamar starts out the video standing in a holy beam of light and wearing papal garb and at one point reenacts the famous painting of “The Last Supper,” starring himself in the role of Jesus Christ. The video also sees an imagery of nooses on fires–a possible commentary on race and social justice. This is the second track that Lamar has dropped recently, after “The Heart Part 4,” which seemed to suggest that something big is coming April 7. Many fans have speculated that means Lamar is going to drop an album on that date, and this latest song and video seem to jive with that conclusion.

Director wants Beyoncé to play voice of Nala in ‘Lion King’ remake

By theGrio

Director Jon Favreau is getting ready for the live-action remake of the Disney classic The Lion King, and his top pick to voice the character of Nala is none other than Beyoncé. According to Variety, insiders insist that the Lemonade singer has not yet made a decision but that the studio is willing to accommodate the fact that Beyonce is pregnant with twins. Since this is a voice acting role, it is expected to be less stressful and easier for the star to do. This would be Beyoncé’s first film role since she was a voice actor in the animated film Epic.

Actress Tia Mowry’s new cookbook puts a healthy spin on comfort foods

By Maya A. Jones, The Undefeated

After years of experimenting with healthy food and clean eating, actress and producer Tia Mowry was ready to share the recipes that have helped her recover from minor ailments in hopes that she can help others. Even with the success of “Tia Mowry at Home” on the Cooking Channel, Mowry wanted to reach a wider audience with her personal story about the power of clean eating through her first cookbook, “Whole New You: How Real Food Transforms Your Life, for a Healthier, More Gorgeous You.” The cookbook includes more than 100 recipes Mowry found helpful in healing her chronic migraines, eczema and endometriosis, a disorder that affects more than 11 percent of American women between the ages of 15 and 44. Mowry was diagnosed with endometriosis in her late 20s, which left her with debilitating abdominal cramps and at risk for fertility problems. After undergoing two surgeries, Mowry was advised by her doctor to change her eating habits. “[My doctor] went in, saw the scar tissue had built up, and said this is going to be a repetitive cycle if you do not change the way you eat, and if you want to have children,” Mowry said in an interview with Ebony. “So as I got older, wanting to have kids, I was like, I have got to get this right. So that’s when I finally got on the diet, which are basically the things in my cookbook. I ate these same types of foods. I didn’t have any more endometriosis symptoms.” “Whole New You,” released March 14, offers a 10-day menu plan to get readers started. The most gratifying part is Mowry’s ability to keep a wide selection of comfort foods with only slight alterations. Favorites, including buttermilk fried chicken, remain delicious, yet light. The cookbook has received praise from celebrities and athletes, including actor Morris Chestnut, tennis star Serena Williams and actress Naya Rivera. “This cookbook was really personal for me,” Mowry told BuzzFeed. “As I started to make healthier choices in my own life, I saw things — like my endometriosis or my migraines — be put at bay. And that was amazing to me. So I wrote this book based on the concept that food can be medicine in its own way, that it can worsen or help with an existing condition. That was my experience, and I’m hoping that writing about it can help others too.”

From celebrity to homelessness to celebrity artist

By Kelley Evans, The Undefeated

She’s been called “The Pretty Artist.” Professional art creator and painter Tiffanie Anderson knows the benefit of hard work, dedication and the power of putting blood, sweat and tears into a labor of love. She spent years painting entertainers and athletes and she continues to broaden her horizons by developing new ways to create art for the famous. The 28-year-old went from being in the popular girls group Girlicious (formed by Robin Antin of the Pussycat Dolls) when she was just 21 to a highly-regarded artist, painting for athletes such as boxer Floyd Mayweather to actor and singer Ray J — Anderson’s first celebrity client. “I found out that Ray J was going to be somewhere,” Anderson said of presenting her art to him. “I just knew he was going to be at this random location downtown, filming some show. I knew he was going to be there in two hours. So I was like, OK — two hours to paint Ray J. “So, I painted Ray J, and then I pulled up on him on the street,” she said. “He was so nice. I was like, I have something for you. I was nobody at the time, I had no power, he was, like, who are you? You should be more popular. So, then he posted it on his Instagram and then I got a lot of followers from that. And then, he hired me twice after that just for some other stuff. He was my first break into the public. And he was so sweet about it. I will always give him that credit.” The self-taught artist and Los Angeles native even lived out of her car during the critical time of switching from touring the country as a pop artist to delving into the world of visual art. Memphian and Former TSD staffer Kelley D. Evans, now with ESPN’s The Undefeated, spoke to Anderson about her journey. Kelley D. Evans: When did you first start singing? Anderson: I was singing since I was a little kid. In my mind I always knew. I am going to be a pop star. You could not tell me I wasn’t going to be a pop star. From a little kid, I had zero other aspirations besides being a signer. So funny that I even ended up doing what I do now. KDE: How did you develop into a visual artist? Anderson: I was in Girlicious, and it was extremely stressful. It was very, very stressful. The music industry is very crooked. So, I was superstressed out. Something that I can do that will take my attention for a couple of hours, that isn’t about music. I was like, maybe I’ll start drawing again, I haven’t drawn since elementary school. I was 20. I painted Barack Obama, because he was running for president at the time. KDE: Why art? Anderson: Because I feel like you have one life to live, from what I know. You never know. Maybe there’s such thing as reincarnation. I don’t know, but from what I know, you have one life to live and I just don’t think God put us on the earth to be working at Walmart. I just feel like I have a destiny and I feel my destiny is art and I have to stick to that, because if I don’t stick to that, then I won’t live out my life to full potential. KDE: How did the experience of living out of your car shape you? Anderson: I think there’s a lot of power in struggle. I don’t have anything to fall back on. I don’t have dual options, but to succeed at what I’m doing. If I don’t make it, I’ll be back in my car. So, I think going through that struggle motivates me to keep moving forward. What I do is difficult, it’s physically difficult. I kind of do hard labor every day. It’s hard, No. 1. And then, No. 2, the devil gets in my mind sometimes. Going through the hard times I went through, I could tell other people with full confidence, hey, if you work hard, doing whatever it is you want to do, you have no choice but to succeed. I use myself as an example. KDE: What’s your favorite thing that you’ve ever created? Anderson: More recently I’ve started this new style. I used to use glass, but now I’m starting to use crystal and all these different sparkly things. I’m pretty excited about it. Every time I walk into the studio, I’m kind of spellbound by it, and I think it’s so pretty. KDE: What are you trying to communicate through your art? Anderson: It’s really simple. I know it’s human nature for people to be attracted to things that are A, large and glittery and shiny. People love that, so I think I just like to kind of get people where they’re spellbound by the materials I use more so than actually what the image is. KDE: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? Anderson: The best piece of advice I’ve ever received was: Worry about your art. If you focus on your art, the money will come later, so focus on what you’re passionate about and don’t worry about the money, because that is inevitable. If you’re focusing on your craft, the money is inevitable. It’s going to come anyway. Don’t think about the money, just think about the art. That’s what also helped me make tough decisions in the beginning of my career when I would have to choose between food or canvas. KDE: What’s been your most embarrassing moment? Anderson: I had a client that just looked so creepy. He was so creepy-looking. He just looked a serial killer. I don’t know why, but he just did and then I texted my friend, ‘Oh my god, this guy looks a serial killer,’ but I accidentally texted it to him. He said, ‘Did you mean to send that to me?’ KDE: What’s been the hardest part of your journey? Anderson: The hardest part of my journey is I have to do a lot of mental maintenance on myself because I’m always extremely overwhelmed and overworked and I have a lot of blessings, but with a lot of blessings comes a lot of burdens. I have a lot on my plate all the time, so I’m always having to mentally talk to myself or go through my things that I do to get myself mentally OK. I think that’s the hardest part. I have a lot of work on my plate and what I do is very physical. It also makes me sick too. A lot of the chemicals I use I’m allergic to, so that’s another thing. This story first appeared on ESPN’s The Undefeated. Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch

Dodson announces retirement from legendary Bar-Kays

By TSD Newsroom

Larry Dodson Sr., The Bar-Kays’ lead singer, will retire at the end of the year after 47 years as the frontman of the internationally renowned funk and R&B band. “It has been a blast…and I am fortunate to do what I enjoy for almost five decades with The Bar-Kays,” said Dodson. Dodson, bassist and founding member James Alexander and the band will tour together for the remainder of 2017 to give their fans a final opportunity to see them together with Dodson on stage. “I love Larry…he is like a brother and I wish him the best in his retirement,” said Alexander. The Bar-Kays will perform in Memphis on June 16 during the 25th Anniversary of the Juneteenth Urban Music Festival presented by Next Millennium Entertainment. Doors open at 8 p.m. and the show starts at 9 p.m. at the Cannon Center for Performing Arts in downtown Memphis. Fans will have the opportunity to enjoy Dodson and Alexander together on stage one final time in their hometown. There will also be a special guest performance by ConFunkShun. “The band will not be breaking up and will continue to perform for our fans for years to come,” said Dodson. Dodson and Alexander will keep The Bar-Kays legacy alive as they search for a new lead singer for the band. The Bar-Kays will then begin rehearsing for their 2018 Spring tour with their new lead singer. Visit beginning May 1, 2017 for further instructions on lead singer auditions for The Bar-Kays. “The new lead singer that we select has some big shoes to fill,” said Alexander. (For more information, including upcoming tour dates for The Bar-Kays, visit Follow them on ( and Twitter (@Barkays).