All Articles Tagged "The Daily Beast"

Tina Brown Leaving The Daily Beast, Announces Tina Brown Live Media

September 12th, 2013 - By Ann Brown
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The Daily Beast was her baby. But now Tina Brown is leaving the news reporting and opinion website and she  has announced she will form a a new company called “Tina Brown Live Media.”

BuzzFeed was the first to report the surprising news that Brown was splitting with IAC, the Barry Diller-owned parent company of the Beast.

According to BuzzFeed, Diller had decided not to renew Brown’s contract, which is up in January. However, sources close to Brown told the BuzzFeed’s Peter Lauria (a former Beast staffer) that it was Brown who decided to sever ties with IAC.

Tina Brown Live Media will be centered around Brown’s “Women In The World” conference, as well as other live events. Brown told the Beast that her new company’s focus would be “theatrical journalism.” A statement announcing Tina Brown Live Media,  said the new company it would “merge Brown’s lifelong commitment to journalistic inquiry with her innate ability to dramatically stage storytelling” and would be “devoted to sponsor-supported summits, salons and flash debates.”

Brown personally informed the staff of the Beast on Wednesday of her departure,  wrote Capital New York.

Brown said in a statement that her time at the Beast was “some of the most exciting and fulfilling years” of her professional life. She made a name at Tatler, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair. “And I am proud, too, of what we did with Newsweek in the battle we waged to save it from the overwhelming forces of media change.” Newsweek became all-digital and then was sold to IBT Media last month. Diller called purchasing Newsweek a “mistake” at one point.

“That venture quickly soured amid stubborn financial and editorial difficulties, and IAC sold Newsweek to IBT Media in August,” reports The Huffington Post.

Financially, The Daily Beast has not fared well. It is reportedly set to lose as much as $12 million this year. It has however seen gains in ad revenue and traffic.

Managing director Deidre Depke and executive editor John Avlon will run the site for now.

“Seriously, This Song Is Disgusting”: Critics Give Robin Thicke The Rick Ross Treatment, Call Hit “Blurred Lines” Another Rape Song…

June 20th, 2013 - By Clarke Gail Baines
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Just when you were having fun jigging to “Blurred Lines” and planning to make it your summer jam, here the cynics come calling it a rape song and taking all out of the fun out of it.

As the song hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts last week, it seems it is gaining a lot more attention from everybody and their mothers, including The Daily Beast, Feminist in L.A., and a few other publications and bloggers who found the lyrics, and the banned from YouTube video for the track, a little to risqué and well, rapey. While the song seems to be more about getting a woman stuck in a dull relationship to have some fun (“OK now he was close, tried to domesticate you/But you’re an animal, baby it’s in your nature/Just let me liberate you“), here are a few lyrics that a few folks pointed out that they are upset about:

“And that’s why I’m gon’ take a good girl/I know you want it/I know you want it/I know you want it/You’re a good girl/Can’t let it get past me/You’re far from plastic/Talk about getting blasted/I hate these blurred lines/I know you want it…The way you grab me/Must wanna get nasty…”

Yeah, I don’t really see it. But then again, I didn’t see all of the fuss behind Miguel’s “How Many Drinks?” so I guess I’m not the best person at understanding what makes lyrics less about two grown people having consenting, ratchet fun and more about folks low-key saying they’re going to take it if you don’t willingly give it up. But Tricia Romano of The Daily Beast seems to be much better at deciphering shady lyrics than me, and here’s what she pointed out about the track earlier this week:

“The subject [of the song] itself is enough to make some female music fans uncomfortable. The song is about how a girl wants crazy wild sex but doesn’t say it — positing that age-old problem where men think no means yes into a catchy, hummable song.”

And Feminist in L.A. blogger Lisa Huyne took it a huge step forward saying the following:

“Has anyone heard Robin Thicke’s new rape song? Basically, the majority of the song (creepily named ‘Blurred Lines’) has the R&B singer murmuring, ‘I know you want it’ over and over into a girl’s ear. Call me a cynic, but that phrase does not exactly encompass the notion of consent in sexual activity.

“Seriously, this song is disgusting — though admittedly very catchy.”

Thicke hasn’t responded to this recent batch of criticism of the song itself, but he did have some things to say a while back about controversy over the video, with the uncut version including topless women and balloons that say “Robin Thicke Has A Big D**k”:

“People say, ‘Hey, do you think this is degrading to women?’ I’m like, ‘Of course it is. What a pleasure it is to degrade a woman. I’ve never gotten to do that before. I’ve always respected women.’ So we just wanted to turn it over on its head and make people go, ‘Women and their bodies are beautiful. Men are always gonna want to follow them around.”

I really don’t know what to say about all this because I really don’t listen to the song and think RAPE (though there are some awkward moments). But what do you think? Did you get this message from the track?

UPDATE: Howard Kurtz Apologizes For Errors In Jason Collins Reporting

May 6th, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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(AP Photo/Evan Agostini, file)

(AP Photo/Evan Agostini, file)

UPDATE: Howard Kurtz has taken to the CNN airwaves to apologize for the errors in his reporting of the Jason Collins story.

“I read it too fast and carelessly missed that Jason Collins said he was engaged previously to a woman and then wrote and commented that he was wrong to keep that from readers, when I was in fact the one who was wrong,” he said on Reliable Sources. Before the apology, CNN had already committed to a continued relationship with Kurtz, according to The Huffington Post.

The editor of the website that Kurtz writes for, The Daily Download, Lauren Ashburn, has also apologized for participating in a video with Kurtz, in which he repeated the error, failing to double check the facts and then pulling the video down without explanation.

“I knew Kurtz was going to make this point about Collins before we taped, and I didn’t double check to make sure it was accurate,” she wrote. “As soon as I knew about the mistake, I pulled the video off of the site without acknowledging and correcting the mistake. That was another error.”

Howard Kurtz, a prolific reporter whose work could be seen online and on CNN, was dismissed from his job at The Daily Beast yesterday, days after he erroneously reported that Jason Collins came out without mentioning that he had been engaged. However, writes The Washington Post (a previous Kurtz employer), that last gaffe wasn’t the big reason he was fired. The news site was said to be upset about the amount of time Kurtz was spending on another site, The Daily Download. Media reports say The Beast wasn’t happy that a lot of his social media activity focused on The Daily Download.

In a statement, Tina Brown, head of The Daily Beast and Newsweek said:

The Daily Beast and Howard Kurtz have parted company. Under the direction of our newly named political director John Avlon we have added new momentum and authority to our Washington bureau with columnists such as Jon Favreau, Joshua Dubois and Stuart Stevens joining our outstanding DC team of Eleanor Clift, Daniel Klaidman, Michael Tomasky, Eli Lake, David Frum and Michelle Cottle – giving us one of the best politics teams in the business which was instrumental in this week’s Webby win for Best News site.

TVNewser reports that Kurtz’s contract to appear on CNN’s Reliable Sources probably won’t be renewed once it’s up.

The importance of this story lies in the fact that Kurtz is a well-known reporter who continually makes mistakes and yet maintains a prominent platform for saying false things. WaPo notes, “Kurtz drew attention for a 2011 misquote of Nancy Pelosi and for a 2010 story in which he misattributed quotes to California Rep. Darrell Issa.”

TVNewser continues with, “We wrote about a ridiculous item he filed about TV coverage of the primaries, and he emailed a Daily Beast colleague to discourage her from writing about Anderson Cooper’s sexuality. He also was reluctant to give credit when other’s broke stories, and was loathe to correct errors, a number of which were in his big interview with Lauer. Then of course there was always the inherent conflict between his CNN program and his media criticism work, though it sounds like that conflict will not be an issue much longer.”

Finally, we have the Jason Collins story, which was ultimately retracted by The Daily Beast (h/t Fishbowl NY).

In the wake of the error-filled reporting from CNN’s John King during the manhunt for the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, media outlets need to be more proactive about cutting free from reporters who, either in their haste to be first or their lust to be more visible, are putting out wrong information. It not only hurts the credibility of the outlet, it diminishes trust among the population, who desperately need accurate reporting to counteract the craziness that get passed around on Twitter and other sites. Maybe with some more time on his hands, Kurtz can focus a little more on fact-checking.

Pulitzer-Winning Journalist Robin Givhan Ousted from “Newsweek”/Daily Beast

December 11th, 2012 - By Tonya Garcia
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via @RobinGivhan

We didn’t want this to be true, so we kind of hesitated in reporting it, but Robin Givhan, a Pulitzer-prize-winning fashion journalist for Newsweek/The Daily Beast, has been laid off. Givhan confirmed the cut with Journal-isms (via The Grio) over the weekend writing, “Sad to say that yes, it is true. Quite the ‘Merry Christmas.’ . . . I’m in New York as we speak doing book research and happily following up on any new career opportunities.”

Givhan won her Pulitzer in 2007 while working with The Washington Post. She left after reported disagreements with the Style editor in 2010. She was with the paper for 15 years. She joined Newsweek at the tail-end of the magazine’s 80-year run. It will be moving to an all-digital format next year. Givhan is one of a series of layoffs as the magazine expects to lose $22 million.

The media industry, particularly print outlets, have been in turmoil for the past few years as audiences increasingly turn to the real-time coverage of social networks like Twitter and online outlets like The Daily Beast. Even for venerated outlets like The New York Times, making money through the traditional advertising business model has been difficult, with layoffs happening throughout the industry.

Givhan spoke with our friends on StyleBlazer this summer for an episode of “How I Made It.” Check it out here.

Your Married Boyfriend Isn’t Your Mentor: The Right and Wrong Way to Take Someone Under Your Wing

November 27th, 2012 - By Tonya Garcia
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In the latest news out of the Gen. David Petraeus adultery scandal, the woman who started this whole mess, Jill Kelley, the “Florida socialite,” is being stripped of an honorary consul position that she was given in South Korea for no apparent reason.

“Kelley will lose that designation after a New York businessman accused her of trying to use the honorary title to solicit business, Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun told the semi-official South Korean news agency Yonhap,” CNN reports. (Here’s a chart of who’s who and what’s what, in case you need it for reference.) It was a title that gave Kelley no power. Still, apparently tried to milk it for all it was worth.

Obviously, this is a woman who needs an ethics class. Or maybe she needs a mentor; someone to guide her in the ways of right and wrong when trying to climb the ladder to success. (She probably just needs the class.) Interestingly — or even more tawdry, depending on your perspective — Paula Broadwell was not just Petraeus’ mistress and biographer. He was also her mentor. What a tangled web we weave…

The Daily Beast’s Michael Moynihan asks why a woman like Paula Broadwell would even need a mentor. She’s an athlete, has a Master’s degree (she was kicked out of Harvard while trying to get a second one), a graduate of West Point, and a published author who thought of making a political run in North Carolina.

“Despite this rather impressive résumé, Broadwell decided she needed career guidance from the man tasked with executing the troop surge in Iraq and commanding American forces in Afghanistan,” the article says. After calling out a few weird mentoring pairings (Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow) and some examples of mentoring gone bad, he highlights the number of books on the shelves these days, talking up the benefits of mentoring.

“Apparently, everyone has a mentor these days,” the author writes.

Mentoring is a topic we’ve tackled on the pages of Madame Noire Business, with sources talking about the positive experiences they’ve had on both sides of the mentoring equation. “I decided to be a mentor because I saw early on the benefits of my peers and the deficit I suffered by not having a mentor in my field. I saw that it provided many opportunities for networking and introductions to others in their chosen field,” Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams told us at the time.

Among the many things we glean from the Petraeus situation are lessons in how to be a proper mentor. A mentor is a person that someone respects, usually an older person who has moved along in their career, or achieved something that the mentee would someday like to accomplish. In that sense, Petraeus fits the bill.

Some of the mentors we interviewed also provide an apprentice-like opportunity for the people they work with, giving someone who’s just starting out the chance to get hands-on experience and personalized attention. A mentor should also be a conduit to the VIPs that a newbie should know. There’s a bit of elbow-rubbing involved, but it also offers the truly talented a chance to get to know the pros who open doors so talent can be realized.

A mentor isn’t your boyfriend or the person you’re sleeping with. He or she isn’t someone that exchanges information and opportunity for favors of any kind. And it isn’t someone who gives themselves the title so their conscious feels a little better about all the crooked crap they’re doing. A mentor is a person that you can trust; who’s helping because they see the spark in you and wants it to grow. And in so doing is actually doing a service for the industry they work in or the wider world that will be influenced by their mentee. So Paula Broadwell didn’t have a mentor with Gen. Petraeus. She had a roll in the hay and heap of trouble.

Kerry Washington Writes Op-Ed Piece About Why She’s Down For President Obama–And Why You Should Be Too

October 22nd, 2012 - By Victoria Uwumarogie
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While everyone prepares for tonight’s last debate (thank you, Lord!!!!!!!), Kerry Washington was somewhere writing a deep essay on why she supports President Obama in his quest for a second term. Washington has had the President’s back for a while now, even speaking at the Democratic National Convention to get the word out. In a thought-provoking piece, Washington said she is inspired by his support for women’s rights and women’s health, as well as the fact that he seems to be working for the people–all people. Being a man raised by a woman, he seems most concerned out of both candidates in doing right by us:

President Obama knows the importance of women’s rights and women’s health. He was raised by a single mom, and he has been surrounded by smart, strong women ever since—he’s married to one and he’s a father of two. So for our president, women’s issues aren’t just political, they’re personal for him as well.

When President Obama made the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act the very first bill he signed—he did so because he believes the hard work of our daughters is just as important as the work of our sons. He fought for Obamacare so women can access quality, affordable health care. He put two more women on the Supreme Court because he believes women should have an equal voice in the decisions being made at the highest levels of our democracy. And he knows we still have work to do.

I think the most interesting part of Washington’s piece was the part where she pointed out the things Mitt Romney has NOT committed to, and of course done his famous flip flop on over and over again. I’m sure you all remember in the last debate how Mitt Romney didn’t answer the question about equal pay and instead talked about how he helped women get jobs in general. That Mitt, always beating around the bush:

There are a lot of answers Mitt Romney still hasn’t given women. Why won’t he stand up for equal pay? Why won’t he support renewing the Violence Against Women Act? And while I am surprised that Romney won’t commit to those things, I’m even more concerned about what he will commit to.

Two weeks ago, Romney told a newspaper that eliminating a woman’s right to choose isn’t part of his agenda. Within two hours, his staff had to correct him, confirming that, yes, the real Mitt Romney would “of course” support legislation to restrict and deny that right. Romney can’t hide that he once called Roe v. Wade “one of the darkest moments in Supreme Court history,” and has pledged to defund Planned Parenthood. Romney also supported one bill that would turn women’s health decisions, like having birth control covered in our health plans, over to our bosses, and he even once said he’d be “delighted” to sign a bill that banned all abortions.

Washington concluded her op-ed letting folks know that it’s important for us, women especially, to go out there and get our voices heard this election season, or we run the risk of losing so much.

“We, the people, especially us women, have to make sure our leaders know how we feel, what we think and what we care about. Together, we need to stand up for the kind of America we want—one where women and girls are equal, strong and proud, and where we all have a president who has our back.”

Check out the rest of Kerry’s piece via The Daily Beast and get enlightened.

I can’t tell you how badly I want this election season to conclude. Hearing the lies and the lack of information about how folks are going to improve the conditions of ALL people has become frustrating at this point. But I definitely agree with Washington about her points on women’s health and rights possibly being snatched from right under us if Romney is elected. As inconsistent as he’s been over the last few months, if not years, it confuses me how some can ride so hard for Mitt and not the President, a man who has four years under his belt already (and not to mention Osama Bin Laden’s head on his record).

Oh wait, I know why (and I’m sure you do too), but that’s a whole other story for another day.

What do you think of her comments?


Can Women Denounce the Media’s Scope of Female Beauty While Also Benefiting From it?

April 11th, 2012 - By Brande Victorian
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Source: US Magazine

Beauty makes the world go ‘round, or at least the United States, probably Brazil too, and several other countries. It’s the billion dollar industry of cosmetics, hair processes, and diets we buy into—some of us on a small scale, others much more so. It’s the biggest topic discussed in magazines, there are television shows about it, and it all gets presented to us under the guise of some anonymous being known as “the media.” At this point that should probably be code for women because typically there’s a female editor-in-chief, art director, and/or marketer presenting these beauty ideals to us, while in the next breath speaking out against the pressure on women to be light, white, and thin.

Ashley Judd recently spoke out about this idea rather harshly in an op-ed piece for The Daily Beast in response to the negative attention she’s been receiving about her looks. Her 43-year-old face has been described as “puffy,” in the media, which she says is a result of a combination of a thing called aging and a sinus infection she’s been treated with steroids for, but she goes much further by calling out her criticism as sexist patriarchy men and women are all too comfortable participating in these days. She writes:

“That women are joining in the ongoing disassembling of my appearance is salient. Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.”

No one is arguing that women aren’t more vicious toward one another than men have ever been about our bodies but what people are questioning is the validity of the argument’s source considering Ashley has benefited quite nicely from this system. Now that she’s no longer in her prime and feeling some of that backlash 99% of other women experience on a regular basis she wants her body to be off limits and some say that isn’t fair. She reminds me a bit of Tyra Banks making a big deal about the “media’s” focus on women’s bodies on her talk show only after she’d gained 30 pounds or so. Everything is good when these women are on the desired side of the beauty equation but when things move a little downhill for them personally suddenly the outcry comes. The stance seems a bit contrived. But still I wonder, was Ashley upholding a patriarchal system of sexism when she appeared nude in movies or basked in the celebration of her beauty by the press or was she simply being herself and making good use of her genetics?

I think this is a hard line for women to walk on a daily basis. Who doesn’t want their physical beauty to be recognized, even celebrated, at least by one other person on this earth? Does that make us hypocrites because in the same breath we also don’t want to be scrutinized for our perceived shortcomings? I remember reading an article on when an author mentioned not complimenting little girls on their looks in order to make them see their value outside of the physical and that’s a very interesting concept and one that certainly doesn’t follow the norm. We’re almost trained to acknowledge one another’s beauty as a universal complimenting system that in the case of Ashley Judd can come back to bite us.

I think all women are in solidarity on not wanting our physical characteristics to be objectified, but what objectification looks like from one woman to the next is quite different as well. A video vixen calls herself a model and says she’s profiting off of the genes the good lord blessed her with. A woman outside of the industry might consider her a h*e who sells sexual fantasy for profit and sets women back centuries. Like beauty, objectification is sometimes in the eye of the beholder, as is oppression. It could easily be said magazines are preying on the insecurities of women when they spout out tips to drop 10 pounds in two days or suggest how to look younger, prettier, and thinner but is it fair to assume all of that advice is rooted in a desire to help women become more desirable for men as opposed to simply wanting to look good for ourselves?

The other day someone mentioned on an article I wrote about knowing when something is really an example of racism that the word sexism would benefit from a similar breakdown, and I agree. I do think the criticism directed at Ashley Judd totally comes from a place of ill motive intended to break her down I’m just not sure it’s rooted in sexism. As a whole, we’ve become an increasingly insensitive and judgmental society in all respects, with beauty being the most obvious because it’s most easily displayed (or not). The question is, if criticism of women’s bodies is internalized patriarchy, then what is celebration of distinct ideals of beauty and is it wrong for men and women to participate in and benefit from that as well? If so, Ashley Judd may need to backtrack because her change of heart from enjoying being the object of men and women’s admiration to now not wanting to be critiqued for having fallen short somehow may have just stuck her foot in her mouth.

What do you think about Ashley Judd’s comments? Is her point valid or is she a hypocrite?

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

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Rep. Gwen Moore Shares History of Sexual Assault with Congress

March 29th, 2012 - By Veronica Wells
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Source: Tom Williams / Getty Images via The Daily Beast

In a courageous move, Democratic representative, Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, stood before Congress yesterday and revealed her own history with sexual abuse and rape. She did so to show support for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

The act, which originally passed in 1994, has been a point of contention for some Republicans since 2005, presumably because new provisions seek to protect gays, lesbians and illegal immigrant women. Last month, when the Senate voted on the bill, eight republicans, all men, voted against it. Though, the bill has been supported by every Republican woman in the Senate.

Moore, astounded by the stalling of this bill, decided to address Congress and share her own personal story.

You can watch the video of her very passionate, very candid statements below.

Tragically, the story Moore shared with Congress yesterday does not represent half of the abuse she’s endured throughout her life.

In a recent interview with The Daily Beast, Moore said,

“I have been a victim of domestic violence and sexual assault for as long as I can remember. I think that men, boys, see it as a right of passage to have sex with girls. Lovers feel it is their right to dominate women in that way. That has been my experience.”

As a child, Moore was sexually assaulted by a distant family member. In high school, she was raped by a classmate, as she mentioned in the video. Amazingly she overcame all of that trauma and went on graduate from Marquette University. But in the ’70s Moore was raped again by a stranger. Moore pressed charges; but to add insult to injury, her rapist challenged her in court. He claimed that she wasn’t wearing any underwear at the time of the rape and that she had a child out of wedlock. As ridiculous and absurd as his testimony was, he was acquitted of all charges and Moore lost her job as a result.

Listening to Moore’s story will make you question God. The fact that one woman has had to endure more abuse in one lifetime than many of us will ever know is unfathomable. But the even greater injustice would be for the story of Moore’s abuse, and the abuse of the women she represents, to continue in Congress.

Another Republican representative, Cathy McMorris Rogers, a woman, told The Daily Beast that Moore and fellow Democrats are pushing the bill now as a political stunt. She claimed that that Democrats have created a “war on women” to distract from the real issues at hand.

It really is disgusting. Violence against women is a real issue, at hand right now. With the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Crime Victimization Survey stating that there are an average of 207,754 rapes, (about one every two minutes), every year, it is a very real issue, right now. Not to mention, those are just the number of rapes which have been reported. With those type of numbers, there’s no doubt we all have either been assaulted ourselves, or know someone who has been raped.

If there’s any bright side to this picture, it’s that rapes in the U.S. have decreased by 60 percent since 1993. This may be a coincidence, but that is exactly one year before the Violence Against Women Act was passed. Whether it’s a leap or not, reducing funding for this act is not a theory we or Congress should be so willing to test.

What do you think of Moore’s story, do you have one like it? Do you think Moore’s remarks will help make the Violence Against Women Act a priority for Republican members of Congress?

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Regina King Talks Being a Woman of Substance On and Off Screen

January 31st, 2012 - By Brande Victorian
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It’s been a little while since we’ve seen Regina King on the big screen, but she’s been far from off the Hollywood radar. For the past three seasons she’s had a starring role on the TNT drama “Southland,” and after 30 years of acting, she said she still can’t believe she’s one of few black actresses to have a lead role in an hour-long drama.

“I’m just really thankful to have the chance to portray a character you don’t see every day,’’ Regina told the Daily Beast. “I have women come up to me all the time and say that exact thing to me. They say they love my character and how she is a real woman with a real career that they believe. People love to see themselves on screen in a way that makes sense and seems on point.”

From her role as Brenda on “227,” to Ice Cube’s girl on “Boyz N’ the Hood,” to the loving wife in Jerry McGuire,” and one of Ray Charles’s mistresses, no two roles have been the same for Regina, and that’s how she likes it.

“I’ve tried to be flexible in my career by doing a little bit of everything and that’s worked for me. It’s incredibly hard out there for women of color. That’s why I do love being a woman of substance on “Southland.” Someone who isn’t a caricature and isn’t a stereotype. But remember she wasn’t written as a black character and that makes a big difference in how she can be portrayed.”

Regina makes an effort to be a woman of substance off camera as well, keeping her personal life, particularly her relationship with Malcolm Jamal Warner, under wraps.

“I have to keep something for me and that has to be my personal relationships. Neither one of us is out there talking about it and we won’t be. It’s important to keep what we have between us. I respect others who do it differently, but that’s just not for me.”

And that’s why we love her. Do you watch Southland? What’s your favorite Regina King character?

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

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Teen Sex Offenders: Does the Time Fit the Crime?

January 25th, 2012 - By Brande Victorian
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A freshman girl dating a senior guy is a common scenario in high school. For some, the story ends with popularity, a high school sweetheart, maybe even heartbreak, but for others there is shame, stigma, and maybe even a charge of statutory rape.

The Daily Beast reports that there are a growing number of parents across all 50 states who are fighting to protect their children from the sex-offender laws that were meant to do just that. From their view, the punishments inflicted on high-school boys are far too harsh and they want the laws to change.

One mother, Francie Baldino, says her son Ken’s prison term was unthinkable. In 2004, the 18-year-old high school senior was arrested for having sex with his girlfriend who was a 14-year-old freshman. Because the age of consent in Michigan is 16, he was sentenced to a year in jail and three years’ probation. When Ken was released from jail he violated probation by resuming his relationship with the girl and then was given a sentence of five to fifteen years. After serving six years behind bars, he’s now forced to wear a GPS device and was told his home address and personal information would be listed in the sex-offender registry for 25 years.

When a guy is in his 20s and a girl is 14, the issue of sex with a minor is a no-brainer, but when we’re talking two high-school students, one of whom may have just become a legal adult, the issue is much more gray. Even Fred Mester, the judge in Ken’s case openly acknowledged the complexities of statutory rape laws when he sentenced him in 2005, saying, “Half my senior class … were dating freshman girls, and I suspect half of them would be in here today.”

While the prevalence of the act doesn’t mean it should be excused, it does call into question whether the law should recognize the difference between teen sex and teen rape. As Ken’s attorney, Cheryl Carpenter says, “The laws often don’t differentiate between a 50-year-old man molesting a 14-year-old girl, and two teenagers having sex.”

But how could that be done? Often times girls who sleep with older boys say the sex was consensual, but in an age where so many teen girls are admitting to being coerced into having sex or performing certain sexual acts, it’s hard to know whether they are telling the truth or protecting boys they are scared of. And as prosecutors argue, the law is there so there’s no need to delve into this issue of distinction at all. They say the law is the law and kids need to follow it regardless of whatever urges or relationships they have.

“The court isn’t imposing restrictions because it’s fun—it’s the law,” Paul Walton, a chief assistant prosecutor in Michigan, says. “You can disagree on the age of consent, but the law says that prior to that age, a person doesn’t have the ability to consent.”

Although following the law truly is the bottom line in these cases and the aim isn’t to encourage teen sex—although that behavior isn’t going anywhere—unfair laws are protested all the time.  With boys like Ken, who has now been taken off the sex-offender registry but remains a convicted felon for life, you have to wonder if their futures are being thrown away before they even get started with these harsh penalties.

Do you think sex-offender laws are too harsh when it comes to teens? Should legislators work to modify the laws or should they stand as they are to protect young girls?

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

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