All Articles Tagged "role model"

Olivia Pope Is A Role Model…But Not For The Reason You Think

February 28th, 2013 - By Charing Ball
Share to Twitter Email This

Olivia Pope

Hypothetically speaking – because we are talking about a fictional character – there is lots to admire or like about the Olivia Pope character:

Firstly, she is a cute black girl. And by that I mean, she is petite and thin; her suit game is on point; and her hair is tossed to death. And secondly, she is a cute black girl with lots of power and access. This makes Pope quite a powerful and alluring fantasy in world where the average black women’s real-life social, political and economic standing are not deemed as heroic. However I do wonder if we are missing what really makes the Olivia Pope character such a transformable television figure.

Although black characters are clearly present on the series, “Scandal” rarely addresses race at all. And in fact, the only time the Olivia Pope character’s ethnicity or gender were even broached was when she confronted her love interest, President Grant, referring to herself as Sally Hemmings. If I was a betting person, I would wager that Rhimes is going out of her way to create a post-racial society where everyone has an equal opportunity to be…well, scandalous.

Or as Brandon Maxwell of the FeministWire wrote recently:

While this is the drama’s claim, a closer examination reveals that Scandal actually centers on the seemingly salvific protagonist of imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy* and the lengths to which all people – women and men, black/brown and white, gay and straight, etc. – will go to preserve it.”

That’s pretty much the best analysis of show I’ve read. The whole claiming Olivia Pope as a role model, based solely upon her her position and status in the world, never made sense to me. Even Rhimes said as much when she got with Star Jones for questioning the morals of the Pope character and said, “…because this show is not a fairy tale & Olivia is not a role model.” However I always thought that the Olivia Pope-role model question was a stand in for the real question of whether or not Shonda Rhimes is doing her due-diligence to represent black people positively.

There is no doubt that Rhimes, a black woman, has managed to reach certain heights of success on a major network that few before her have been able to do. But understand that there has been a growing sentiment about Rhimes overall representation of black relationships on screen. More specifically, why are there so little of them? To be honest, “Scandal” is the first Rhimes-produced series I have ever engaged in so I can’t speak to the state of black relationships on all of her shows. However, I have paid attention to the Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson jokes about “Scandal” made by black men and women alike. And even I have to admit that it does seem odd that the only relationships Pope has seriously contemplated, involved white men. Okay there was Senator Edward Davis. However you have to admit that he was kind of a throwback to the days of Billie Dee William and Colt 45 era, so you can’t blame our girl Pope for passing on that. But what’s wrong with Harrison? Hell, I would certainly do him. And the mere fact that Rhimes has this fine brother around equally fine Pope and nothing has popped off between the two, definitely raises an eyebrow.

Also a YouTube blogger noted similar dysfunctional intra-racial relationship among black folks is also a common theme in Rhimes’ previously series, “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice”: “She [Shonda Rhimes] makes it a point of showing black couples, who don’t work; black couples, who hate each other; and the answer to either the black male and black woman is to run into the arms a white person, ’cause that works better.”

Understandably, when our image has been constantly distorted, misrepresented and criminalized in the media, we have become protective. However this has also been a hindrance cinematically as some black directors might be less inclined to take chances out of fear of failing to represent the race positively and/or correctly and turning off black audiences. Again, I’m not privy to all of Rhimes catalog of work however I think that this might be the case for “Scandal” at least. Overall, what Rhimes has created is a rainbow coalition of characters, who on the regular, engage in some pretty despicable things. Things like murder; election-rigging; kidnapping; terrorism; baby stealing; etc…probably were more motivated by personal gain than they by their races, genders and sexual orientation of any of these characters. If anything the show is pretty jaded about people as whole as opposed to one group, specifically.

If Rhimes were using her television platforms to demean black relationships, I think in terms of “Scandal,” you would also have to acknowledge that she is doing a really piss poor job of trying to sell us on the idea of a white savior. Outside of being sort of adulterous (side note: is it adulterous if the wife consents?) with a self-involved white Republican president, who drinks a lot and has tons of extra-marital affairs (one of which led to the killing of a pregnant woman), the Pope character is currently hooking up with another white guy, who has secretly been spying on her. I’m sorry but there is nothing endearing about either one of these white knights.

So in that regard, you have to give Rhimes credit for not just writing black and other subjugated characters but writing characters in such a way where their moral and ethical choices are much more important than their race, gender and sexual orientation. You know, how it is supposed to be?

Olivia Pope And The Depiction Of Multifaceted Womanhood: Why We Love Kerry Washington And Her Honest Portrayals Of Women

February 21st, 2013 - By La Truly
Share to Twitter Email This

scandal_season_2

I haven’t heard this much criticism of a television character… ever. Kerry Washington’s role in the hit prime time drama Scandal as Olivia Pope, the boss yet internally conflicted “fixer”/mistress to the President of the United States has EVERYONE talking. And when I say “everyone” I do mean everyone. On Thursday nights at 10 pm EST, my Twitter timeline is rockin’ with Scandal hashtags by family, friends, politicians, athletes and actors alike, raving about the twists, the turns, the brilliant writing, the fashion, the flashbacks, the very different funky 70s soundtrack… Every aspect of the show seems to be something of a phenomenon, especially since it’s the first primetime drama with a black female lead role on a major network in years. Some of us see progression in that. Some of us see off-the-charts talent and entertainment.

Still, the show has its vehement critics. Those not unlike CBS, Atlanta reporter Mo Ivory who breaks down Washington’s role as “no different than Joseline from “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta” or Kim from “Real Housewives of Atlanta” – she just has more expensive clothes, a higher paying job and tighter security.”

I don’t agree or disagree with Ivory’s thoughts. I’ve been so focused on Washington’s accurate portrayal (no matter how messy) of just a WOMAN in general that I haven’t had the time to bust down a list of the horrible characteristics.

I watch Kerry beast through her performance as Olivia Pope every week and think to myself that I have NEVER seen such a consistent powerhouse performance in primetime, week after week. As Pope, Washington peels back the layers of a very human woman who can clean up anyone’s, EVERYONE’S mistakes and hiccups around her but is just barely holding together the steadily unfolding mess that is her own life. I don’t see a black woman who is a mistress when I watch Olivia Pope. I see a woman in general who has issues just like the rest of the world and is trying to get clarity and peace of mind in the midst of a crap storm of confrontation and seemingly buried secrets. Kerry Washington executes the human-ness of the role flawlessly. That’s what I’m tuned in for.

Is she playing a mistress? Yes. I know, I know. That sets black women back hundreds of years and blah blah blah. I don’t agree with all that simply because for years, blacks have had to fight with screenwriters and directors and producers to allow us to be human beings on screen. Not caricatures. Not trumped up stereotypes. Not ALWAYS Mammys and drivers or harlots and drug dealers. Just everyday, normal human beings, whatever that entails. For this particular role, Kerry Washington unfolds a woman’s struggle with loving someone she cannot wholly have, being strong for everyone else all the time, working almost ‘round the clock, trying to cover past mistakes with present goodwill. Who of us haven’t dealt with at least one of the above?! She plays a human being, people! She shows the multi-faceted womanhood that many of us try to deny by criticizing roles like this or even everyday people like this.

About a month or so ago during her interview with Oprah, Washington drew parallels between Olivia Pope and her character of “Broomhilda,” a slave woman in the deep south spaghetti western Django Unchained, which opened as a box office hit with very mixed reviews. She expressed that her goal as an actress is simply to honor humanity by telling these stories in as real a way as possible. Washington also stated that she felt honored to play both roles because it showed how far we had come as a nation. Her ability to be able to play such a multi-layered character like Olivia Pope essentially was an answer to her character Broomhilda’s prayers that one day that kind of freedom would be possible for a black woman. She talked about the timeline of black acting, citing that in the beginning, everything was stereotypical if you wanted to be a black actor. Then, there was the era of “black perfection” where all roles taken on by black actors had to be pristine, no flaws. Now, we live in an age where we are beginning to be allowed to simply be human. Flaws and all.

That idea struck a chord with me as I reviewed Washington’s body of work from Save The Last Dance to Django. She has always chosen roles that some might say have made black folks “look bad,” yet they offered an honest look into the lives of honest characters. And what is a serious actor if not an honest vessel?

During her acceptance speech at the 2012 Black Girls ROCK! event, Washington said, “I get to honor humanity. We are all valuable human beings and all our stories deserve to be told.”

We, as freethinking human beings need to stop being so quick to judge the black artist. What Kerry Washington and Viola Davis and countless other black actresses are doing is monumental if we change our outlook. We cannot whittle down the idea of black art only to what makes us feel comfortable. Was Viola Davis’s role as a 1960s maid too painful a memory for some of us? Is Olivia’s role as a mistress (no matter how classy and fierce) too telling of many a modern day reality for some of us? I see Washington as a brave soul for pushing through and bringing a truth to television that has long been airbrushed to ease internal tensions. I see Washington as an example of the versatility black women have not been allowed to exhibit for so long. The honesty we have not been able to speak on or to portray without feeling some sort of way. I celebrate her courage to honor humanity even in the face of such opposition. If we’re more fixated on the flaws of the character rather than the honesty those flaws bring to entertainment, perhaps we need to do a bit more soul-searching and a little less judging.

La Truly is a late-blooming Aries whose writing is powered by a lifetime of anecdotal proof that awkward can transform to awesome and fear can cast its crown before courage. La seeks to encourage thought, discussion and change among young women through her writing. Check out her blog: www.hersoulinc.com and Twitter: @AshleyLaTruly.

Janelle Monae Covers ELLE Canada, Explains Why She Stays In Her Signature Black And White Ensembles

January 10th, 2013 - By Clarke Gail Baines
Share to Twitter Email This

Janelle Monae - ELLE Canada - February 2012

The very lovable and uber-talented Janelle Monáe is covering the February issue of ELLE Canada, and in the issue, she’s talking her music, her style, and how she made it from Kansas City sista working as a maid to CoverGirl and music impresario.

Coming from humble beginnings, in the interview, Monáe spoke on the importance of keeping yourself humble and setting a good example. She made it clear that she’s not trying to “pour it up, pour it up” in the club or engage in the activities that most pop stars get caught up in. Homegirl’s trying to be a responsible role model:

“You have to protect your heart and your spirit so you’re not tainted by money, greed, power, arrogance…. I don’t get off on those things…I have responsibilities to make sure I’m setting an example. I have a responsibility to my community. I have a responsibility to tell the universe a story in an unforgettable way.”

Going further into her thoughts about being an example, Monáe spoke about the people she’s hoping to reach with her music and her story:

“I really want to open doors for all those starting to have their voice…. I want to speak to my cousins who are still in Kansas and feel like they don’t have anyone; I want to speak to the young lady who is trying to understand who she is and how she’s going to follow her dreams living in a disadvantaged environment.”

The most interesting part of her interview though, came when Monáe discussed why she stays decked out in her black and white ensembles, and how she can do so without losing her ever-loving mind (since variety is the spice of life). She finally shows a bit of cockiness while explaining why her look will never get old:

“The colours come out in your music, the colours come out in your personality, the colours come out in performance. I started wearing this uniform, to be perfectly honest, because I have an amazing body. I’m serious – I’m not playing. When I look at myself in the mirror, I’m attractive. I really have a nice body. And I had to pick: Do I want them to focus on my body? Do I want them to focus on how curvy and really, really gorgeous my figure is? Or do I want them to look at my music? What has more value? And I made that decision. I want them to focus on the message and the music because I feel like I have a higher calling.”

Never looked at it like that, but it makes sense. Yet at the same time, I hope the clothes and hair that she DOES wear, consistently, don’t overshadow her music as well. Because I love some Janelle Monáe, and The ArchAndroid was my joint in 2010. You can check out the rest of her interview on Elle Canada’s website, including her thoughts on being a CoverGirl, probably the most fab CoverGirl of them all…Well, next to Queen La of course *smiles*

So How Does That Work? Erica Mena Tells MN She Doesn’t Want To Be A Role-Model — Even Though She’s A Mother

January 7th, 2013 - By madamenoire
Share to Twitter Email This

By now, Erica Mena has generated more than enough publicity for her stunts with supposed boyfriend Rich Dollas, but Madame Noire is more concerned with another man in her life — her son. When we caught up with the “Love & Hip-Hop NY” cast member at the Season Premiere last week, she had tons to say about her new relationship, but when it came to questions over her suspect behavior — like fighting girls, throwing drinks, and slobbing down her new boo on camera — Erica was quick to say she’s nobody’s role model. But with a little boy at home, we couldn’t help but ask, how does that work?

Check out our exclusive above to hear what she had to say.

Lala Anthony: Being a Basketball Wife Isn’t the Only Thing That Defines Me

February 10th, 2012 - By Brande Victorian
Share to Twitter Email This

While baby mamas, side pieces, ex-girlfriends, and jump-offs of basketball players pull crazy stunts to appear on TV every week with the titled of so-called basketball wives, Lala Anthony, an actual wife of a basketball player, says the title isn’t one to be taken lightly.

The wife of Carmelo Anthony covers the latest issue of YRB Magazine, and inside she talks about everything from her reality shows to being a role model to her career aspirations, and of course, being a basketball wife. Check out highlights of the interview:

On Being a Basketball Wife

“I’m married to a basketball player. I love being [Carmelo’s] wife, so I don’t look at it as a negative thing. I think it’s just like anything else and what you are doing with whatever title you have. I’m a lot of other things, too, so that’s not the only thing that defines me.

“It’s an honor. Something like that comes with work. You are not going to be labeled that by just sitting around with Louboutins on and not doing anything. I want to get out there as I have been and make a difference in N.Y.”

On Her Personal Image and Lala’s Full Court Life

“I like that people think I’m so down to earth and real because that’s how I really am and I want to show that on the show, and also show that my life isn’t perfect. I go through things like everybody else. When there is a bad moment and you want to turn the cameras off, that’s not reality. I don’t want to do that.”

On Emulating Her Career After Oprah

“She started in radio; I started in radio. She produced; I produced Tyson. She has done acting. She has done branding – she’s done everything.There was a time when people only wanted you doing one thing. If you are a host, you are only a host, only an actress, only a singer… And now, in this day and age, it’s about doing a lot of things and being good at all of them. I just want to prove that one person can be good at a lot of different things.”

On Being a Role Model

“I don’t have to think about being a role model or doing things a certain way because all I do is really just be myself, and so far, that’s worked for me,” she says. The responsibilities might become overwhelming for another personality, but it’s all in a day’s work for La La. ”This is what comes with the territory of who I am. I would never complain about it. It’s a blessing to be in this position and do something that I love. I’m happy with my life, I’m happy with the position I’m in, and I’m happy to be in a position 
to help others and be a role model to girls out there. That’s a wonderful thing.”

Check out the rest of her profile on YRB.

Do you think Lala sets a good example of a basketball wife and reality TV star?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

More on Madame Noire!

Does Staying in the Closet Mean You’re Hiding?

January 13th, 2012 - By Brande Victorian
Share to Twitter Email This

LA Weekly recently spoke with Odd Future’s Syd the Kyd about her sexuality and what it’s like being a part of the musical group of singers, rappers, dancers, and producers which includes Frank Ocean and Tyler the Creator.

In speaking on her own sexual orientation, though, Syd decided to call out some well-known female entertainers who she says need to come clean about where their real sexual allegiance lays. She says:

“There’s Alicia Keys, who’s married to Swizz Beatz – we know that s*** ain’t real. You got Queen Latifah kissing Common in movies. Missy Elliott saying she don’t wanna hang with b****es. You know she loves her some b****es.”

Along those same lines, Syd explains why she decided to come out as a gay female in The Internet video, “Cocaine.”

“I decided to do it because I wish I had someone like that [an openly gay female artist] while I was coming up. People write on my Tumblr just thanking me for making the video, saying that I really inspire them, and they want to be like me. But I wasn’t always this way, this comfortable with myself, and I remember what that was like. So I figure, f*** it. Everyday people aren’t given this opportunity and I realize that.”

That may be all well and fine for Syd but I don’t think it’s her business to try to “out” women who she suspects are homosexual. From my limited knowledge of the whole idea of “coming out,” for some people, taking that step is like running up and down the street naked—you’re baring your sexual self in front of the world to be judged and the reaction you’ll get is never certain. Granted, most people these days don’t care so much whether someone is homosexual or heterosexual, but the decision to admit who you are sexually is still a very personal choice that people decide to disclose or keep to themselves for a number of reasons. Knowing that, and admitting that she wasn’t always comfortable enough to do so herself, I find it a little crazy that she’d try to put these women out there like that.

More importantly, why do these women need to admit anything? I understand that the whole coming out process signifies acceptance of who you are but I’ve personally never found it necessary. If heterosexual people don’t have to announce their orientation, why should homosexuals? Show up at the dinner party with your mate of the same sex and let people read between the lines just like they do with heterosexual couples.

I get wishing she had popular lesbian role models to look up to, but Syd’s just going to have to accept that Missy, Alicia, and Queen can’t be that for her and I don’t think that necessarily means they’re ashamed. We’ve seen pics of Queen Latifah with Jeanette Jenkins and it appears she’s already replaced her with another one—another one being a woman. Maybe these women don’t want their sexuality to overshadow their careers. If they are gay, the minute they admit it, that’s all anyone would want to talk about. Who wants to keep explaining what they do between the sheets at night? Maybe they don’t want to be the face of homosexual advocacy, which someone would surely expect them to be if they came out; and if they declined there would certainly be hell to pay. There’s also the possibility that these women just aren’t lesbians at all (except maybe the Queen).

In trying to speak up for gay artists, Syd marginalizes women in the same breath by suggesting it’s impossible for a woman to be heterosexual without showing T and A all day long. There’s more than one type of female MC and at the end of the day, no one has to explain their demeanor or orientation to anyone. I think Syd should take a lesson from her “lesbian” role model Missy Elliott and  “Stop talkin’ ‘bout who [she's] stickin’ and lickin,’ just mad it ain’t yours.”

What do you think about Syd’s comments on Queen Latifah, Missy Elliott, and Alicia Keys? Do you think lesbian entertainers have an obligation to come out with their sexual orientation? Is choosing to remain in the closet a sign of shame?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

More on Madame Noire!

Exclusive Interview: Misty Copeland Talks about Being a Curvy Black Ballerina

March 5th, 2011 - By Demetria Irwin
Share to Twitter Email This

Misty Copeland is an accomplished ballerina…and a bad chick. She’s the first African American female soloist for the prestigious American Ballet Theatre and she also graced the stage alongside music legend Prince during his recent tour. Rumor has it that she is currently dating the Purple One. You KNOW we asked her about that!

Find out what she said about the whole Prince thing and what it’s like being a black curvy girl in the world of ballet.

8 Reasons to Stand Up for Your Beliefs

February 3rd, 2011 - By L. Nicole Williams
Share to Twitter Email This

Last week mega-church pastor Joel Osteen and his wife Victoria appeared on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight to discuss everything from faith and charity to wealth. Unsurprisingly, his biblically-based views on homosexuality accumulated the most attention. Osteen stated, “…homosexuality is a sin.” He went on to note that homosexuality is one sin among many and he has no desire to “bash” homosexuals. But, that wasn’t enough for Morgan, who obviously felt differently, as he continued to press the issue as if Osteen’s perspective would change. It didn’t.

As our world changes, for better or for worse, fewer and fewer people seem to stand by their core values—whatever they may be. In the case of Osteen, the normalization of homosexuality turned his once socially-norm Christian beliefs into words of controversy. Yet, instead of faltering to the pressures of Morgan, and society at large, he stood his ground with grace. For those who live according to the same doctrine, his actions invoked strength.

Only a small percentage of people have the tenacity to live life in black and white, most prefer to straddle in gray. It takes courage to believe in something wholeheartedly because it also means you disbelieve in something else just as much. There is a level of accountability that comes with such vigor and no one wants to be judged. But, would you rather be judged as a person of substance or half-heartedness? The ever-sparkling gay figure skater Johnny Weir expressed it best when he simply recognized Osteen’s comments as his freedom of speech and beliefs. Regardless of what anyone may say or think, these are several reasons to stand up for your beliefs:

BET’s Lee Wants To Move Beyond Demeaning Stereotypes

March 22nd, 2010 - By TheEditor
Share to Twitter Email This

Bonnie McDaniel refused to let her now 24-year-old daughter watch Black Entertainment Television growing up. She hated the oversexed, booty-shaking music videos. She thought the programming objectified black women. She would bad-mouth the network with her girlfriends.

Last week, the author and entrepreneur joined 130 other influential black women – in politics, entertainment and nonprofits – in Washington to talk about portrayals of black women in the media, the problems facing black girls, the state of the black family. The sponsor of this gathering? BET.

Read More…

No thanks