All Articles Tagged "Entertainment"
Rachel Dolezal may have made headlines, but she’s not the only person to lie about their race. These folks lied about their heritage to get ahead, get a job or get deeper into a major identity crisis.
Meet Courtney Kemp Agboh, co-creator, Executive Producer and showrunner for the Starz hit crime drama Power. Agboh, a Brown University graduate whose early days started in journalism, built her career in the writing chair with gigs working on shows like The Bernie Mac Show and The Good Wife. Power, which stars Omari Hardwick, Naturi Naughton, Joseph Sikora, and Lela Loren, was recently renewed for a 10-episode third season and airs in more than 175 countries and territories worldwide. (50 Cent is a producer on the show.)
We chatted with Agohb about her experience as a woman of color in the TV industry, advice she has for aspiring writers, why she’s tired of people comparing the show to Empire, and her hopes for the show’s larger impact.
MadameNoire (MN): What has been your experience as a woman of color in the TV industry?
Courtney Kemp Agboh (CKA): Obviously I am Black and female all the time. You can’t really separate the two. I was recently quoted in Entertainment Weekly saying it was harder to be a woman than it was to be Black. They cut off the part where I meant as showrunner for Power. When people watch Power and they find out the showrunner is Black, it’s not surprising. What is surprising is that I am a woman and my background is not particularly urban. We use the word “urban” to mean Black or Latino but that’s not what the word means. It actually means “from the city.” I’m not from the city. I’m from the suburbs of Connecticut. I grew up with mostly all White people.
My experience as a Black woman in the industry is simply that often I was the only one in the room. Often I would be the only woman AND the only person of color. Sometimes I would be one of several women but the only person of color. Sometimes I would be one of several people of color, but the only woman.
I really wanted to do one-hour drama. I did not want to write specifically stories about people of color. I was interested in making a long career that looks (on paper) like anyone else’s career. If you look at my resume, it does not indicate my race at all. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t go the other route (and there will be more opportunities to go the other route now), but I think playing it safe and being around people who are like you is not going to give you the career you want. You have to get comfortable really quickly with being places alone.
MN: How did you hone your ability to create stories and characters that appeal?
CKA: It’s a tough thing. There’s a difference between talent and skill. You might have writing talent, but skill is learned. You have to practice. I remain teachable. I was sure that I didn’t know everything. People who work with me will tell you I don’t think I know everything. I watch people sink around me thinking that they knew everything. Or, that they showed up and thought their talent was enough.
You have to learn skills. I was fortunate and worked for great showrunners like Greg Berlanti, Michelle King, Jeff Melvin, and Yvette Lee Bowser (who created Living SIngle and is one of my mentors.) All of them taught me different skills. Some of those are writing skills. John Eisendrath (who runs The Black List) and I worked together briefly on My Own Worst Enemy. John knows more about story structure and reversals and where you need them in a story. He is so great at that. I really learned. It’s important to be open to different styles and to recognize that the medium and the message are not the same thing. Sometimes someone who may not be like you or may not agree with your point of view has a lot to teach you.
I think people (especially younger people) are vested in the instant gratification culture. If I write something, it’s good and it’s fast. I can just put it up. It’s [the world] of self-publishing. You press “tweet” and it’s there. It takes a long time to get to be good. I still have a long way until I think that I am good. I would also say any comparison between me and Shonda Rhimes is wrathful. Shonda is the Dick Wolfe of our generation. Shonda is an industry. I am one Black woman with one little show. Whenever people bring it up, I feel like I have to say don’t. I’m so irrelevant to her in what I’m doing and what she’s able to accomplish on a grand scale.
MN: Are people quick to compare you with Shonda Rhimes because the industry for Black showrunners is so small?
CKA: Yeah, that’s why people bring it up. I had one person say to me, “Has Shonda Rhimes opened any doors?” I’ve been asked that multiple times. Shonda and I have never met. She never opened the door for me at all, but Greg Berlanti and Robert and Michelle King did. They don’t look like me. They helped me get where I am.
In order to survive, human beings (like any other animal group)… we identify our own and then we go and are safe with them. Sometimes people think because people look like each other, that’s what engenders community. It doesn’t always.
I try to go out of my way to help young women, young women of color, and young people of color in general because I feel that is my responsibility. My parents raised me as “each one teach one.” As you go up the ladder, reach behind for those behind you. You can’t expect people to help you because they look like you.
MN: What is a good path to get on if you want to eventually be a showrunner on a hit show like Power?
CKA: My answer is not popular because it’s not about instant gratification. The path to get on is to get somebody’s coffee. You’ve got to go and start at the bottom. Work in the mailroom at an agency. If you really want to be a writer, the best thing to do is get that writer’s PA job where you are going to get everyone’s lunch every day and you are answering the phone. That’s how you get exposed to writers. In the industry, there are two ways to get a television writing job. You either get an agent and the agent sends you out for writing gigs. Or, you meet other writers and they go, “Hey, you know who I know…” and they make a phone call for you. You get the interview that way.
Write constantly. You have to always be writing. There’s no excuse for not having multiple scripts. Not just pilots. You have to have that but you need to have specs for it. I won’t hire you off of your pilot. I’m not interested in whether or not you can write a great piece of material that is about characters you created. That’s not what I’m hiring you for. I’m hiring you to write Power. Most of the job that television writers do is writing someone else’s show. I have eight writers. They are writing my show. When I was on The Good Wife, I was writing Robert and Michelle’s show. You have to go in and have that humility and skill set.
My assistant, the woman who worked for me the last three years… I promoted her to writer’s assistant now. She’s in the writer’s room on Power doing the notes. In time, I’ll promote her to staff writer and she will be a television writer. I promote from within. Some people don’t. Find out who those people are. To me, there’s no way to do it from outside.
I say 15 percent of people are so talented they can cold-send their script to an agent and somehow it will get read. With the other 85 percent (which includes me), you’ve got to work your way up. I didn’t do my coffee getting in the television industry. I was an editorial assistant at Mademoiselle. After that, I was a editorial assistant, then assistant editor at GQ. I worked my way up.
Here’s why this is important: If lightning struck and you were able to write a script that someone wanted to buy and make into a TV show today and you had no television writing experience up until that point, they would give you a showrunner who would run the show. You wouldn’t be the boss of your show. That’s why you have to work your way up. People don’t see that. I had 10 years of television experience before they let me run my own show.
MN: Some people have compared Power to Empire. How has the show Power pushed you as a writer to remain authentic?
CKA: It’s hard. That Empire comparison is frustrating. I find that we (as people of color) are doing this thing to ourselves that we always say we resist, which is the ghettoization. If you continue to compare Power and Empire, what is that conversation about? That conversation is about two shows that are completely different but have Black people in them. Instead of comparing Empire to great long-standing soaps like Dynasty or Grey’s Anatomy… any of these that are so awesome and delicious, people are comparing it to Power, which is not fair to that show because we have sex and violence that they can’t show. Our show is dark.
Instead of talking about our show and talking about The Sopranos and Breaking Bad… now the conversation is about Empire, which is a soap. I am more frustrated when Blacks say it. As long as we are trying to compete against each other, we are never going to get out of the box. It’s like a bunch of rats crawling over each other. Get out of that! Think about it as you’re trying to tell a great story and so are they.
MN: How is Power contributing to the larger conversation regarding diversity in media internationally and overseas?
CKA: When the show was being developed, there was some concern (not from Starz) that there would be no foreign market for the show because the lead of the show was African American. It was this thing that people were sadly, unashamed to say. They said shows with African American leads don’t sell overseas.
When I heard this I said what the hell has Will Smith been doing all this time? I keep seeing him opening movies overseas. Do people really care that much? Hip hop, rap, and R&B sales around the world are huge. Isn’t Beyonce the biggest star in the world? I was so confused about this idea that that people of color were somehow [unappealing] to our foreign neighbors. The show got made anyway. Starz believed in it from the beginning. Then we started to sell the show abroad. The idea that the show would not work overseas has been dispelled to some extent.
Before setting her sights on a career in stand-up and winning The Moth GrandSLAM storytelling competition, Clark she grew up in the entertainment industry. Her very first memories are of being on TV sets in LA.
“I wanted to do screenwriting, but I talk way too much. I knew my thing wasn’t to write, it was to perform. So I started taking improv classes,” she says.
Clark got the itch for stand-up unexpectedly when she was asked to perform a story solo on stage while studying at the ImprovOlympic in Chicago. She liked being on stage so much by herself that she decided to give performing stand-up comedy a shot.
“My first [performance] was around Christmastime and I found a journal with all the stuff I hoped my parents would get me for Christmas and it was really funny to me. So I read experts from the journal on stage. It went really well and I never stopped after that,” Clark says.
Since then she credits stand-up for opening a million doors. She’s performed at some well-known venues and events including the Laugh Factory, Comedy Store and the TBS Just For Laughs Festival. She found that most people who like stand-up also like hearing stories and that’s what gave her the idea to try her hand at The Moth open-mic contest in Chicago.
Moth StorySLAMs take place in several major cities. Participants are given a topic beforehand, then they must memorize and perform a five-minute story. A winner is chosen by audience judges and they move on to face off in the GrandSLAM Championship.
The story that won Clark the title of GrandSLAM Champion is on conflict and she’ll be performing a shortened version of it this Tuesday, May 12th at the highly anticipated Superheros Moth Ball taking place at Capitale in Manhattan. The ball is an annual fundraising event held to support The Moth organization, a nonprofit committed to the art and craft of storytelling. Proceeds of the ball go to The Moth productions like its radio show, podcast and community programs. The event will be hosted by storyteller Ophira Eisenberg and it will honor Louis CK, from the hit FX show Louie.
Attendees will enjoy cocktails plus stories from Clark and other GrandSLAM champions and dinner. Clark says she loves hearing other people’s stories and that’s what she’s most looking forward to at the ball. Without giving too much away about her own performance, Clark says the outcome of her story will be unexpected, but the audience will be entertained.
Out of all of her stand-up accomplishments, Clark says the best one so far was the first time she performed in California and received a standing ovation.
“Being a part of the TBS Just for Laughs Festival was considered a big thing to a lot of people. But for me [the standing ovation] was really big because I had never done comedy outside of Chicago. I know a lot of people who do stand-up that can only work certain crowds or people. I felt on ’10’ to be able to go to California, be an unknown and get a standing ovation. That’s the best feeling ever,” she says.
In addition to stand-up, Clark also fills in for a morning radio show in Chicago which she’s looking forward to doing more of in the future. Clark says her next steps are gaining more exposure in stand-up and as a radio personality. She’s also considered appearing on the small and big screen.
“I’ve always wanted to be a guest star on TV. I’ve never wanted to be a series regular. I’ve wanted to be the funny quirky character that has 10 minutes of screen time,” she says. “I also love being on the radio, so I see myself doing some more national radio spots. My goals are to do what I’m doing now on a greater scale.”
Outside of her father’s fame, Clark’s trying to make a name for herself and she’s even beginning to get noticed for her own work. “I was going for a walk yesterday and the Comcast man said, ‘I know you from somewhere… Oh, I saw you last month at a show,'” Clark laughs. “It’s cool to start getting recognized for stand-up.”
Tickets are still on sale to view the show at the 2015 Superheros Moth Ball, for a limited time. For updates on other performances by Clark connect with her on Twitter @MrTsDaughter or Facebook at Erica Nicole Clark.
— DIY Network (@DIYNetwork) March 19, 2015
It’s hard to be anything but stick-thin in Hollywood. But these celebrities who refuse to diet say they’re defining their own beauty standards — so keep your salad and your diet crazes to yourself.
When leafing through the files of relationships past, every woman asks herself “am I a good girlfriend?” And what does that mean anyway? We don’t know if we’ll ever come up with a definite answer. But in a mean time, these celebs dish on what it means to be a good partner. Do you agree?
‘Think Again Flip Flopper:’ NeNe Accuses Cynthia Of Ending Their Friendship To Secure A Storyline For Season 7
Well, it looks like NeNe Leakes and Cynthia Bailey’s relationship may be a thing of the past. Last night, NeNe took to social media to discuss the ending of their friendship and she basically accused Cynthia of sacrificing their friendship to secure a storyline and spot on season seven of “Real Housewives of Atlanta”.
“As hopeful as I was for us to be friends for life, I’m not surprised that our friendship has ended and it truly saddens me!” the “Dancing With The Stars” contender announced in an Instagram post. “Reality friendships never last anyway. So how foolish was I to think I had something special?”
NeNe went on to say that with Cynthia’s lukewarm personality, their broken friendship was more than likely inevitable.
“It’s amazing what people are willing to do for the love of money, relevancy, and to stay on TV. With Cynthia’s sell-out personality and blow-in-the-wind persona, I knew it was only a matter of time! It’s always the ones that are closest to you that will turn on you! I was totally blindsided by all this!”
Her post continues:
“Yes, I said Peter was a b***h early October of last year and I have apologized numerous times for it! Cynthia & Peter accepted my apology and we simply moved on! Yes! moved on to talking, traveling and texting several times a day as we always did!”
In addition to hosting events with one another and spending Thanksgiving together since the “b***h” comment, NeNe says she also spent New Years Eve with Cynthia.
“When the episode aired for all to see and Twitterverse had their say, I guess she changed her mind and decided she needed to be mad nearly six months later! I know you trying to pull the sympathy card, but if you were such a good friend, why didn’t you pull me aside and talk to me about how you were feeling instead of dicing our friendship up in front of a bunch of people who don’t care! Surely I am worthy of that considering that I carried you on my back!”
“I can admit something hurts the same way I can apologize when something I am wrong. But hey, who cares about a stupid friendship when you need to secure another season on the show […] P.S. If you or anyone else thinks the demise of our friendship is your storyline for season seven, think again flip flopper.”
Interestingly, NeNe also released text messages that seem to imply that the “b***h” scene was planned.
“Change of plans for the scene. Not going to do the b***h thing with Gregg,” a text message believed to be from Cynthia reads. “I thought it would be funny, but I really don’t want to call him out of his name—even as a joke. Think we should have a real grown conversation, address our concerns as friends, apologize, hug it out and have cocktails.”
She captioned the screenshot:
“Did you forget you sent me this text after Mexico? The morning before Gregg & I shot the scene with you & Peter. Don’t play dumb friend! I know you innocent.”
The posts were later removed.
Have NeNe’s words changed how you look at their situation? Do you think their better off ending their relationship?
TV Shows are getting bolder and more shocking. Once upon a time you knew there was no way a lead character on a TV show would be killed off, nowadays it seems anybody can get it. Here are 15 shocking TV show deaths we still haven’t gotten over.
Being the most feared character brings lots of enemies, so we all knew Omar’s days were numbered. For a while, though, it seemed that Omar was invincible, but no one thought taking a regular trip to the store would be his demise, let alone at the hands of someone who was never on Omar’s radar.
We’re usually not into guys who rock gold eyeshadow, but when Lenny Kravitz wears it in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (in theaters today), we love it. For his recurring role as Katniss’s stylist Cinna, Kravitz found a kindred spirit in his character’s edgy on-screen style and the movie’s megawatt star Jennifer Lawrence.
The rocker-turned-actor talked to ESSENCE about their relationship (she’s like a sister to his daughter Zoe), the future of Cinna (spoiler alert!) and why he’s ready to sing again.
ESSENCE: In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, why is Cinna the last person Katniss sees right before she’s released to fight the other Tributes?
LENNY KRAVITZ: He’s the one putting together Katniss’s outfits and her gear. He’s walking her there to make sure she’s together and ready to go. And you saw what happens next.
ESSENCE: If you could be a Tribute, what would be your skill?
KRAVITZ: I’m a survivor. So I would find my way out of the problem. I’m pretty good at seeing through problems and getting out of the other end.
ESSENCE: When you weren’t on set, did you work on a new album?
KRAVITZ: Yes, I started writing and putting it together. After I’d done The Butler and Hunger Games, I was hungry for the music again. I’m in the Bahamas finishing the album. It’s a really exceptional record. I think it’s my best work, ever. I’m really excited to put it out and go on a world tour next year.
You can check out the full interview over on Essence.com. We’re big Lenny Kravitz fans and love that he’s been part of The Hunger Games movies so far. Oh, and we’ll be hearing new music from him? Even better!
Anthony Anderson is not taking his new gig as host of the Soul Train Awards lightly. “I plan on making it a party. Expect the unexpected from me,” he tells ESSENCE.com.
Keeping in line with this year’s 90s theme, Anderson reveals he may just reunite his fictional ’90s boy band. “Not too many people know I was part of a band back in the day called Lustasy,” he joked. “I’ve located some of the guys so there may be a one time performance, 20 years in the making.”
According to Anderson his group had hits such as “I Still Want It Even If Your Breath Stanks” and “Your Head On My Headboard.”
On top of getting back with his boy band, Anderson has also been busy cooking his way around the country on his AOL web series Anthony Eats America where he helps people cook their favorite meals in their home kitchens. “You don’t have to be a chef, just someone who likes to cook at home,” he explained.
You can read the rest, including info on his new show hitting NBC soon, over on ESSENCE.com.
Will you be watching the Soul Train Music Awards?
ABOUT THIS EPISODE Who doesn't love a great wedding? Especially when the Bride-to-be looks like a million bucks. We've surprised one lucky Bride to be with the ultimate wedding makeover. You're in for a treat as this fab beauty story unfolds on "I Dream of a Glam Wedding." In this episode, you get to hear the story behind proposal of Nina and Ed and she will also receive a hair/make-up consultation by a celebrity hairstylist/makeup artist. Make sure you watch the full video to find out how you can win a $500 gift card for your own hair and makeup products.
ABOUT THE BRIDE-TO-BE Nina Kenny is a 28 year old Private Voice Instructor from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Currently engaged to 33 year old Edward McCray who recently proposed to Nina on her 28th birthday. To here full story of how they met and more make sure you watch the video above.
ABOUT THE CELEBRITY HAIRSTYLIST Pat Sumpter Davis has styled numerous celebrity personalities such as Gayle King, Tamron Hall, Nene Leakes, and Tamar Braxton. She recently founded Vanity Mane, luxury line of hair extensions, wigs, and accessories. As one of the leading voices in the beauty industry, Pat's experience and knowledge has allowed her to identify the void in the market therefore presenting a product to customers that she can stand behind. For more information visit: http://www.vanitymaneextensions.com/
ABOUT THE CELEBRITY MAKEUP ARTIST Patricia Ambroise is a born and bred New York Celebrity Makeup Artist. Her work has been featured in publications such as Vogue Italia, Essence, GQ, Ink Magazine, and Ebony. She has worked with companies such as K-Mart, NIKE, and Eylure USA Cosmetics. Her work with celebrities include Ne-Yo, Flo Rida, J. Cole, Trey Songz, Bridget Kelly, Nina Sky, Wynter Gordon, Big Sean, Rihanna, Spike Lee, just to name a few. For more information visit: http://www.patriciaambroisemakeup.com/