Streaming, Salons, and Lingerie–A Black Business Spotlight

BlackandSexyTv.com

Founded by Numa Perrier and Dennis Dortch, this streaming service lives up to its name. Albeit most of the shows are about sex,  the blackandsexytvplatform though is not raughy or even risque, but depicts the under-discussed questions and conflicts that arise our sex—whether celibate or sexually fluid. All shows have a predominately, if not all, black cast, and focus on black young adulthood.

Shows include: Sexless, Build-a-Boo, Broke and Sexy, RoomieLoverFriends, and Ok Cupid (amongst others)

Membership is $5.99 p/m

swivelSwivel App

Despite the influx of black hair care products and natural hair stylists, finding a salon and stylist as a black woman (or man) remains a challenge. Swivel, founded by Jihan Thompson and Jennifer Lambert, is designed especially for “women of color.” The app allows users to put in their hair type and desired style to find salons that specialize in their texture and style  ambitions.

Each featured salon also had an online portfolio (instagram) and customer reviews.

Nubian Skin, The Naked Collection

Started by founder Ade Hassan, Nubian Skin provides nude lingerie nubian-skin-naked-collections-2017-tonesfor black women. The company has recently launched a new line called the “Naked Collection.” The collection, consisting of intimates from body suits to panty-line less undergarments, feels like skin. I can attest to the soft, high quality fabric used, and the comfort it garners even the most traditionally uncomfortable lingerie.

P.S.: All products are easily washed and maintained at home.

Prices range from $15-$48, with a flat shipping rate of $9.99—which Is pretty good given all products ship from the UK.

This post is not sponsored, but reflects my desire to aid black commerce by spreading the word :-).

Black Power ❤

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Why OWN’s Checked Inn Checks all of Boxes in Positive Black Portrayal

Typically, black portrayal in white media proves a medley of stereotypes. From the welfare mother, to the jezebel, the mammy, the buck, tom, sapphire, and tragic mulatto, the black body remains confined to the caricatured imprisonment of the oppositional gaze.

OWN’s new series Checked Inn strikes a new chord in black representation. The series focuses on black power couple Monique Greenwood, Glenn Pogue, and their daughter Glynn, as they operate Akwaaba–a bed and breakfast named for the Swahili word meaning “welcome.”  Greenwood, a former editor and chief for Essence magazine, left corporate America to pursue her dream of operating a bed and breakfast.  590880cd140000e409a9d027

The business started in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, with the purchase of a Brooklyn mansion and has now expanded to four additional locations in DC, Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New Orleans. Having stayed at the Brooklyn location numerous times, I can attest to Greenwood’s masterful eye and ability to espouse hospitality and elegance. The product of a black couple married for almost thirty years, their business, like their show, is a personification of black excellence.

Here are a list of positive portrayals from the show:

  1. The portrait of black women donning their natural hair dos: Monique  
    Greenwood the black woman who owns and operates Akwaaba, dons a natural hairdo. This illustrates that assimilation dissolves when you work for yourself. I also appreciate seeking the numerous black women featured on the series, from the staff to the guests, also donning natural hairdos.
  2. Personifying a Black Business that “looks” black: One of the most valid critiques of black business is their dedication to seeming “universal.” Thus, It is heartwarming to see that Greenwood employs an all black staff. Greenwood illustrates the premise of black business, not only to place money in the black community, but to employ black people.     
  3. Positive Portrayal of Black Men: From  kind and gentle Akwaaba owner Glenn Pogue, to Chef Shawn, to the male husbands who come to Akwaaba to reconnect with their wives, Checked Inn features a mass  black male portrayal that counters the negative portrayal seen throughout the media. In a world where black men are portrayed as habitual cheaters, innately violent, vulgar, and insensitive, it is a pleasant surprise to see black men portrayed as they are—royal.

 

4. The Various portraits of black love: Owned by former Essence editor and chief, Monique Greenwood, Akwaaba a bed and breakfast proves a platform for a weddings, couple reconnection, girlfriend getaways, and solo escapes. The series features all of the above, but it is especially resonant in its pleasant portrait of black couples.

Viewers witness a couple who recently lost their teenaged son suddenly, find comfort in their community following their unimaginable loss. This image is powerful because it lacks the presence of a white savior, instead proving that blacks can be their own hero.

I would negligent to not point out that the black savior borders a resurrection of the “mammy’ figure in one episode where Greenwood plays advisor to a non-black couple engaged for eleven years. Given that black businesses post integration will entertain non-black clientele, the choice to feature this on a series seemingly centered on black entrepreneurship, illustrates the issue with black presence on a white media.

Nevertheless, this criticism is a reflection of the transition from real to reel, and not of the empire Greenwood and Pogue have built. In the same breath,  while it is certainly a joy to see the positive images that compose Greenwood’s daily life featured on television, the true praise goes to Greenwood for making this portrait of black excellence a reality long before making it to reality television.

….

Akwaaba– while a beautiful property with mouthwatering breakfast and a charming Jacuzzis– is most resonant as a black business owned by a black family not seeking economic capital, but the sentimental capital in bringing joy to others and creating a space for black people.

Cheers to a second season and many more years of weddings, vacation stays, girl’s weekends, and couple reconnections!

Which Akwaaba will you stay in, in 2018?

Black Power! ❤

They Called Her a Liar, A Book Review

The Tawana Brawley case is a prominent page in the black female narrative. Despite its vivid illustration of the dehumanization faced by the black female body, this page remains unread or glossed over by those most impacted by its truth. Brawley’s treatment in crime and consequence illustrates the low regard to which the white world holds the black female body. Most importantly, Brawley’s story illustrates that any black female is merely breaths away from mirroring Brawley’s fate.

Dr. Melva Jackman performs a dual service in not only bringing buried details of a forgotten case to the forefront, but epitomizing black people telling their own stories. Seventeen years ago Dr. Jackman was my multi-cultural studies teacher. She taught my peers and I about Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee and even praised students for wearing cornrolls. So, it comes as no surprise that she would author such an essential text, given that she authored such an important page of my childhood.

They Called Her a Liar evaluates the heartbreaking truth of a black female body ostracized despite her own victimhood. Her admission of truth cost her normalcy and poisoned all those who too attempted to stand in the line of truth.

The Backstory

It was Thanksgiving of 1987 and Brawley made her way home to prepare for the family’s annual trip to DC to celebrate the occasion. In analysis, this timing seems the creation of a television series. Thanksgiving, a well regarded holiday evoking the necessary collective amnesia to erase the truth upholds white supremacy in declaring a Massacre on the indegenous an occasion to celebrate. But little did Tawana know that she was about to come face to face with white supremacy, with a tragedy that would compromise the rest of her life.

Tawana went missing for four days, raped by multiple men. She remembers being orally assaulted by at least three men, and  one of the attackers urinating in her mouth. The book provides gory details of Brawley’s attack, details I had never heard before. For instance, the white media conveniently disregards that Brawley tested positive for two STDs , and had a white substance on her tonsils. When found in a garbage bag, the teen was clinging to life, and near death with feces, and racial epithets all over her weak body. The entire town, which was predominately white, would join together and paint her as a liar.

They Called Her a Liar functions to discount the “lies” the white media rendered Tawana’s story.

  • The medical record reveals that Tawana had a “Contusion” the exact spot where she said someone hit her in the head.
  • Tawana had two sexually transmitted diseases: Trichomonas and Chlamydia in addition to a swollen red hymen and white discharge on her tonsils.
  • Her rape kit was given to George Brazzle, Duchess County arson specialist
  • Suspects Steven Pagones and Henry Crist were together the day Tawana disappeared. Crist was found with a gun shot wound to the head soon after the incident. It was ruled a suicide although no gun was found at the scene
  • The smeared feces was not an isolated incident
  • Tawana Brawley, ordered to pay $185,000 to Steven Pagones for defamation of character for single statement around June 12, 1988) Her advisors also had to pay the following:    C. Vernon Mason—$185,000
    Alton Maddox: $95,000 disbarred
    Al Sharpton: $65,000

While an overall  terrible portrait of injustice, two moments from the text proved particularly unsettling.

  1. Sh!t Happens

The feces that consumed Tawana’s hair and clothing, was one of the first components of the crime scene used as evidence that Tawana did this to herself. It was later stated that Tawana had gotten the feces from a nearby dog and smeared it on herself. But, this was not the sole instance of feces smearing in a racially charged act.

In 1988, Elaine Disnuke, a lucrative, self-employed, middle-aged black woman confronted police following their mistreatment of her son. Disnuke filed numerous complaints to which she received the following response:

When she pressed for action to be taken over a period of months, after filing complaints on a number of occasions, a window was shot out of her house, racial slurs were shouting outside her house at night, a fire was started on her lawn , and her front door was smeared with feces (Jackman 155)

Authorities would later claim, as they did Tawana that Disnuke smeared the feces. Also similar to the Brawley case, the smearing of feces by the victim was corroborated by a witness. Dr. Jackman writes

“ Apparently, a witness submitted a photograph ostensibly showing her smearing her own door. Mrs. Disnuke maintained that the photo showed her cleaning the door after the incident” (Jackman 155).

Despite her retaliation to the proposed evidence, Disnuke would not be able to beat the numerous allegations accumulated against her by those of the majority. She was arrested, and although a once successful business woman, would eventually lose her business and home due to an anonymous source that urged Disnuke’s customers to withdraw their patronage from her business.

This part of the text proved especially redolent because it illustrates the black female navigation through this abducted land as a shared experience. Even when experiences seem singular, no black female body is alone in her suffering, exploitation, or pain. Often times these shares experiences stories, as seen in the Brawley case, are buried and not uncovered until one has already mirrored the tragedy of an elder or peer.

        2. A Guilty Conscious?

Another moment in the text that stuck out to me was the behavior of the supposedly innocent Steven Pagones. Dr. Jackman provides the following information in her book:

Pagones made certain admissions to Barca regarding his whereabouts and activities on evening Tawana was abducted. He also admitted to harassing the Brawley family after the incident and while the initial investigation was in progress. Its hard to explain why an innocent assistant district attorney would have a friend harass and intimidate the Brawley family (Jackman 187).

Pagones offset a number of harmful acts onto the Brawley family that seem unsolicited unless their claims are true. Particularly, Pagones filed a lawsuit against Brawley for defamation of character, despite obtaining a promotion and pay grade since the incident. This immense financial burden would be difficult to overcome under normal  circumstances, but impossible given the alienation following Brawley’s attack.

I read an article late last year that revealed Pagones as receiving a three thousand dollar check from Tawana Brawley. This turned my stomach but was not the worst of it. To this payment, Pagones scoffed saying that he would prefer an apology.  Pagones statement is a racist’s attempt at modesty, an attempt butchered by an oblivion to the totality of damage incurred by Miss Brawley, and a general lack of conscience.

To this Dr. Jackman writes the following:

Salt added to the wound of injustice is that no one was ever named by law enforcement not even as a suspect. No one was charged, indicted or convicted, or punished in any way for the deeds done. In fact, careers moved forward. Tawana and her family took what they believed would be the best route to a fair hearing of her story in a court of law leading to the prosecution of the perpetrators, given the attitude and actions of the prosecutor. She never was granted in court. ( Jackman 239)

She was also not granted peace of mind. Instead, Tawana incurred psychological and emotional damage, social alienation, and an underserving financial debt–all for having the courage to not only share her story but stand by it.

I believe you Tawana.

Three years later after Tawana Brawley’s rape, Anita Hill would garner support for harassment claims against Clarence Thomas just before his conformation. Hill’s testimony would garner support from both black and white women because Hill’s allegations functioned to substantiate black male hyper sexuality. Thus, the irony of Hill’s testimony just before Thomas’ confirmation, is that her testimony served as “confirmation” that the black male body, despite extensive education, was still a sexual degenerate. But, Tawana, just eighteen years old at the time of Hill’s trial, was ostracized because her truth disturbed the tranquility of Western conceptualizing of black female bodies .

So, while many wrote letters to Hill following her trial stating their belief in her testimony, this support seemed non-existent or fleeting for an even younger victim perhaps more in-need of communal support and belief.

Thus, perhaps the most extraordinary bit of Dr. Jackman’s work is that that she bears an intractable belief in victim Tawana Brawley. This belief, however, does not consume the text. Instead, Jackman presents fact after fact and attaches copies of actual documents to show readers the truth omitted from mainstream news. Dr. Jackman’s work is masterful because she makes it so that even those who doubted Brawley for over two decades must question their own rationale, and gifts those who believed her from the start, peace in new knowledge.

Nevertheless, Tawana– I believe you.

They called her a liar because she told the truth in a world composed on fiction, didactically illustrating  that black truth simply cannot function in a world established on white lies. Tawana could never be a rape victim in this world, for to paint the white male as a pedophile who savagely raped and beat a fifteen year old child is to unveil the forgotten horrors of slavery—where white men performed these very acts as often as they ate and slept. To perform acts of sexual deviancy is in tune with the  innate state of white men, who coerce sexual relations with the hyper fertile black female body as a means to both exercise power and to selfishly ensure their survival. In essence, the white man treats the black female body identically to her continent of origin. Africa—raped, bludgeoned and abandoned until another form of rape manifests to abduct her resources, mirrors the treatment of her abducted daughters cast along the Western coast.

 

Black Beauty Spotlight/ Mented Cosmetics and Nubian Skin

Transformation remains a central component of beauty. From foundation and contour powder that function to rework a woman’s face, to spanx —designed to instantly slim a woman’s figure—beauty is a quick fix designed to distance the female body from what she possesses naturally.

Beauty, therefore, is toxic in nature and execution, conditioning the female body to believe that she is never quite beautiful enough.

The transformative premise of beauty proves particularly harmful to the black female body, a body that bears the cruel duality of oppression. Residing at the intersection of race and gender, the black female body is “othered” as both a woman and member of the black collective.

Furthermore, the featured black businesses and products stand out because they lack the transformative nature of most beauty products. Instead, these products highlight the natural beauty of the black female body:

  1. Mented CosmeticsmentedStarted by K. J. Miller and Amanda E. Johnson, Mented caters to the black female
    lip. Specifically, the company offers a lip product that accounts for the hued lips of black women. The company specializes in the black girl nude, offering something previously omitted from the black female experience—options.

Mented presents the sun-kissed black woman with six nude options. I personally recommend the following:           mentedlippies

Dope Taupe: The ultimate nude with whose slight shimmer only fitting for a queen.
Mented # 5: A plum nude perfect for work or a night on the town.
Nude Lala: A pink nude great for the effortless glamazon.

2.  Nubian Skin

Nubian Skin is a London based black owned company that specializes in black lingerie. Most of the talk around this company focuses on the nude undergarments the company created especially for the black woman. However, Nubian Skin also excels in its hosiery. The company makes its hosiery in four shades: Cafe Au Lait, Caramel, Cinnamon and Berry.

Nubian-Skin-Hosiery

I purchased the hosiery in Caramel and the tights are like a second skin—the perfect companion for both casual and formal outings. The tights are also available in curve, to accommodate the curvy black woman.

While other beauty companies and products function to present various ways to be anyone other than yourself, Mented Cosmetics and Nubian Skin  present multiple ways for the black woman to bask in her own beauty.

For us by us, for now and hopefully forever.

** I purchased all products with my own money, and provide this review as a means to promote black patronage of black businesses.

 

Lipstick and Heels: Black Business Spotlight

Beauty is a central to the female experience. Originally excluded from the term woman, femininity–a privilege not allotted to the traditional black female, circumscribed black female beauty into an imposed masculinity. Contemporary culture welcomes black consumers– a relationship that falsely suggests an inclusion not manifested by popular brands.  Brands like MAC, NARS and Sephora earn extensive profit from black women, yet black hues and features remain an afterthought in a pale palette industry.

The remedy for exclusion and exploitation takes form in patronizing black-owned beauty companies. Although few and far between, black-owned beauty companies not only present an opportunity to circulate the black dollar within the black community, but place black female intersectionality as central.

This post highlights young black entrepreneurs Kirsten Brown (Gold Label Cosmetics)  and  Eleanor Anukam (of Eleanor Anukam footwear) who simultaneously pave their own paths and a path for the black female collective.

Company: Gold Label Cosmetics      glc

Owner: Kirsten Brown 

Website: https://gold-label-cosmetics.myshopify.com

Gold Label Cosmetics provides lipsticks and lip-pens to goad a woman’s natural beauty.

gold-label-cosmetics-e1449672985986-640x418

Recommendations

Nairobi– a brown girl’s nude.

Wear it when you wish to personify #iwokeuplikedis

Empowering– a statement red.

Wear it when you want to paint the town as red as your lips. 

Dark children: red wine shade

Wear it with that little black dress on a Friday night.

Gold Label Cosmetics has a mirage of colors from pinks to browns to reds. Visit her website to find your shade today.

_____________________________________________________________

Company: Eleanor Anukam       eanukam

Owner: Eleanor Anukam

Website: http://www.eleanoranukam.com

A mixture of heels and flats for the “plus-sized foot.” Shoes offer something for the working professional, women with a flat shoe fetish and the high- heeled lover. The shoes come with a signature plush pink shoe bag.

Recommendations

Akuchakuchipumpi: A classic pump with a four inch heel and leather exterior.

Wear this to work and everyone will swear you “work” on the runway.

 

For your fall wardrobe make (buying) “black” your best accessory!

 

 

Eat This Not That: Unveiling Food Appropriation in the Black Community

Appropiation is perhaps one of the greatest areas of distress for the contemporary African in America. From Iggy Azalea as a hit making rapper, Angelina Jolie as the epitome of luscious lips to Kim Kardashian as the portrait of round derrieres, black people witness their ridiculed attributes celebrated on whites and non-blacks. While appropriation is typically aligned with clothing and body types, appropriation also extends to food.

Eating is a central part to every culture. We eat to celebrate our tragedy, triumphs and new additions. To the African in America, food is not only a source of entertainment and comfort, but a personification of our ability to make something out the nothing allotted to us by white male hegemony.

However the “soul” of our food is now in the hands of our oppressors, in a guised manner. The white or non-black ownership is often concealed as an effort to appear a black-owned. This appearance is a strategic means to suggest authenticity, and exploit black community. The following list unveils NYC food establishments that were perhaps originally black owned and become subject to new ownership or those who only appear to be black owned to veil appropriative measures.

 

Eat this: Melba’s            melbas_v4_460x285
300 W. 114th St., New York, NY 10026

Started by former Sylvia employee Melba Moore, Melba’s is a cozy, classic and tasty Harlem staple. Known for her Eggnog Waffles and Strawberry Butter, Melba’s offers original spins of traditional dishes in a chic ambiance.

Recommended: Fried Catfish and Eggnog Waffles

 

or This:
Billie’s Black now B2 Harlem             billies
271 W 119th St, New York, NY 10026

Within walking distance from Melba’s Billie’s offers a less formal atmosphere with unforgettable dishes. The fried catfish is to die for, and the mac and cheese is a unique twist to the soul food staple. Billie’s also offers jazz on weeknights for additional ambiance. The owner is often on site greeting each table personally, sharing the story of following her Grandmother’s passion and naming the establishment in her honor.

                                                              Recommended: “Crack “ fish

 

amyruths.jpgNot that: Amy Ruth’s
113 W 116th St, New York, NY 10026

Once black owned, Amy Ruth’s is now under white ownership. Since its acquisition the establishment has expanded, raised its prices but deceiving  maintains it’s original menu (with Amy Ruth on the front) and entrees (named after prominent black figures).

 

Not This: Harlem Tavern

Owner: Gareth Fagan, Sheri Wilson

harlemtavern

2153 Frederick Douglass Blvd

New York, NY 10026

Located alongside the subway, its bustling crowd reflects a gentrified Harlem.

 

 

 

Eat This: Streetbirdstreetbird

Owner: Marcus Samuelsson 

2149 Frederick Douglass Blvd

New York, NY 10027

An 80’s feel in contemporary Harlem. Self-seating but full service

                                                                            Recommended: Hot Sauce, Catfish, Waffles

or this

Lolo’s Seafoodlolos

303 W 116th St
New York, NY 10026
b/t Manhattan Ave & 8th Ave
Harlem

A homemade feel with casual dining. Caribbean spice in the heart of Harlem.

 

                                     Recommended: Pom Pom Shrimp and Jerk Chicken

 

Eat this: Red Rooster      

Owner: Marcus Samuelsson

rr.jpg

310 Lenox Ave
New York, NY 10027

Red Rooster offers a larger setting than most of its soul food counterparts and soul food seasoned with the medley of cultures that compose the black diaspora. Red Rooster offers live music, dim lighting and somewhat smaller portions for a hefty price. It is also worth mentioning that Rooster, unlike its soul food counterparts exhibits an abundance of white dinners that compose the majority of the dining experience. This abundance undoutedly  betrays its surrounding gentrified area.

Recommended: Chicken & Waffles and “The Cake of the Day” (varies by the day)

 

Eat This: A Taste of Seafood    

Owner: Sheila Thomas          410_Live_-_a_taste_of_seafood
59 E 125th St, New York, NY 10035

Started by a Mississippi native, A Taste of Seafood culminates a seafood lover’s dining experience. From whiting to red snapper, a taste of seafood has it all. The establishment also offers diversity in preparation, as steaming is an option for both fish and vegetables. Once a neighborhood staple and “hole in the wall,” it’s success garnered a new location with the option to dine in.

Recommended: Fried Shrimp, Whiting, Mac and Cheese, Yams

manna-s-by-nightNot This: Manna’s Soulfood

Owner: Betty Park
54 E 125th St
New York, NY 10035

Black workers, Black cook. Black Patronage. All the signs of a black establishment right? Wrong. This business, named eerily similar to black owned establishment near Central Park West “Manna’s,” is actually owned by Korean immigrant Betty Park. This establishment has since become a chain, the flagship location located adjacent to “A Taste of Seafood.” Manna’s success is probably the best example of how non-blacks capitalize on central aspects of black culture to foster profit, a profit immediately taken out of black community.

May this post steer you into placing your black dollar wisely from New York City to your community.

Black Business Spotlight: Nude Barre

A medley of personal style and professional aspiration, stockings, tights, or hoisery- are a part of my daily life. However, despite its essential status to my lifestyle, the cost is often overwhelming to my meager earnings. This cost, while personal harmful, was also an expense outside black economics– marking its true detriment. This detriment finds its remedy in black-owned hosiery company  Nude Barre.  nude-barre-crystallized-fishnet-tights

Launched by dancer turned businessman Erin Carpenter, NudeBarre enables the darker-skinned woman to enter the “nude” conversation. Donned by celebrities from Wendy Williams to Tyra Banks, Carpenter cures the conflict faced by black women from all walks of life in finding their hosiery hue. Plagued with the decision to don a lighter shade at the exchange for an “ashy” look or the too-dark shade that borderlines blackface  Nude Barre specifically speaks to the brown girl’s experience. The brown woman bears a unique experience to colorism as her central placement on the color spectrum bears an often understated correspondence to colorism. Not bound to the extremes of “light” or “dark” the “brown” woman, in her shade diversity, is often omitted from the categories of color that commonly compartmentalize blackness.   nudebarreshades.png

Nude Barre, has 16 shades that brilliantly capture every shade. In capturing 16 shades, Nude Barre emerges as inclusive to every lifestyle previously abandoned in the exclusivity of a white-dominated society.  Nude Barre hosiery also has a spandex component that makes the tights both comfortable and non-restrictive. The hosiery also comes in a variety of styles for children and adults: opaque, crystallized and fishnet. My picks are the opaque and fishnet. The opaque issues a sheer look that is both sexy and sophisticated. The fishnet stockings are a classy take on the typically risqué fashion. The fishnet stockings, being couture to color, offer a sheer look that appears transparent to the casual onlooker. The sheer look makes the fishnets, in addition to the opaque, perfect for both work and play.

nude-barre-tights

While Nude Barre is certainly a great product, its greatness is largely a product of its creation. Made for black women by a black woman, Nude Barre offers fashion and culture. Nude Barre as a company epitomizes the beauty in blackness by demonstrating not a need for inclusion in history, but a means to write our own.

***I was not paid or asked to write this review. My efforts are sincerely a product of my belief in the product and wish to uphold black femininity.

Spotlight on Upcoming Showcase: Be Tina, A Tina Turner Tribute

Determined to become the woman she knew she was destined to be, performer Tempest Walker looked to superstar Tina Turner for inspiration. As talented as she is tenacious, Turner epitomizes the beauty, showmanship and strength of a black woman’s spirit. Using Turner’s attributes to galvanize her personal and professional pursuits, upcoming showcase Be Tina is a amalgam of Walker’s acquired confidence and creative vision.     

From  University student to administrative asset to the US National Guard, Be Tina is Walker’s first time in front of the camera. However, as a creator and producer of the upcoming production, Walker proves as multifaceted as her muse. Walker states that the premise of her project is not for young women to actually attempt to “be” Tina. Rather she wishes to encourage women to use Turner’s legacy as a gateway to their own.

“Be Tina” is a concept derived from the inspirational, incomparable icon herself. It simply means BE Tina. Not physically, of course! We don’t all have a Grammy award winning voice or legs of steel! But what we do have is the mentality to overcome, the tolerance to outlast and the fearlessness to achieve greatness.

The Whispers of Womanism recently made Ms. Walker’s acquaintance and discussed Be Tina, her influences and the cultural impact of her upcoming showcase. Enjoy!

Describe the showcase in 3 words.

image3* Three words I would use to describe Be Tina would be Celebratory/Inspiring/Funky!

Tell us a little more about the production and your role.
* Be Tina is a live tribute performance dedicated to Tina Turner and the incomparable gift of a legacy she has graced us with! With a 5 piece band, 3 dancers and myself as Tina, we are hoping to capture the true essence of a Tina Turner performance. My role extends from creator/producer to lead of show. I would mostly say I am the creative director though:)

What attracted you to the role?
* A series of purposeful events inspired me take on this role. All of these roles. I was gifted with a vision and I just followed it.

Tina Turner is commonly praised for her strength and tenacity. Ranked in order, who are the top three women you admire? In what ways did they influence you?
* I admire my grandmothers most. Betty, Carrie and Katherine. They each possess gifts that together instilled in me the inspiration to believe that I can achieve greatness. Betty is strong. She recently suffered the loss of her husband of 35 years. Her strength through this trying time is all inspiring. Carrie is wise. She is rooted and shows me through her everyday life that hard work is the road most traveled. She inspires me to never give up. Katherine is the beauty. It’s through her I maintain my confidence even if everything is not perfect. My grandmothers are truly gifts.

The Whispers of Womanism focuses a lot on troublesome representations of black women in the media. How do you think your performance works to elevate us above these negative images?
* Well I’ve never thought about my show in that light. My performance is a strong symbol that we, as black woman, can be strong and impactful without reducing our selfs to those negative images. Much like the natural hair waves that are proving more and more popular, maybe my performance can proof that if we just be our selfs we’ll be making more of a statement than we could have ever imagined.
What is something you have in common with Tina Turner?
* I like to think we have a lot in common! We both have really big, beautiful smiles. And I’ve been getting compliments on my legs since I was a kid 🙂
 With regard to this performance, of what are you most proud?
* I am most proud of how far I’ve come. If you can believe this, I’ve never sang or danced before lol I have no real experience. I started out with only a dream and now my dream has grown wings! I’m proud of that.

The feature takes place in Harlem, New York- a place rich with black history. What cultural impact do you think a tribute to a prominent black performer in a place rich with black legacy will have?
* I think our performance will have a great cultural impact because Tina impacted our culture so much. She made it ok to have struggled, ok to chase your dreams. I think the black community admires Tina for the path she created for black woman, and woman everywhere. They will be happy to see her sort of revived.

The Whispers of Womanism focuses on capturing the black female experience. What does Tina’s legacy adds to the narrative to the black female experience?
* Tina’s legacy adds a lot to the black female experience. Black women have been long ridiculed for their circumstances, for image1-2atheir rich features, and even their beautiful bodies. Tina’s legacy is a living testament that all of those things can make you  GREAT!

Amidst the abundance of negative images cast on the canvass of black femininity, Be Tina’s message  is a step in the right direction with Walker as its chief ambassador. Stay tuned for my upcoming review of Be Tine following its premiere performance.

Be Tina premieres, August 15th at 3pm at the Adam Clayton Powell Building in Harlem, NY. 

Spotlight: An Interview with Actress Andrea Lewis, Founder of JungleWild Productions

home_andrea_lewisIn Honor of Women’s History Month, Whispers of Womanism is launching  a new category entitled “Black Business and Entrepreneurship” honoring black women in business!

To kick things off I interviewed Degrassi Alum and creator/writer of web series Black Actress, Andrea Lewis. In our convo she discusses inspiration, naming leading lady ‘Kori Bailey,’ and creating her own lane through her production company Jungle Wild Productions!

1. Describe “Black Actress” in three words.  andrea-lewis-black-actress-620x493

A: Truthful. Funny. Colorful.

• How did you come up with the idea?

A: I came up with the idea for Black Actress after an experience I had while filming a movie in Vancouver and my cast mate introduced me as “Andrea the urban one”. It was a very strange and awkward moment that let me realize he saw me the same way the script saw me and it was just as “the black girl”. From there I knew I had to create something that told the story of a woman of color pursuing the ups and downs of acting and chasing her dreams. Something that showed us just like everyone else.     img_8636

2. As a brown girl myself, I am very inspired by the beautiful brown leading ladies of

Black Actress ( Allison Edwards-Crewe, Suzannah Gugsa). It seems as if traditional and

even many contemporary portrayals feature blacks who are a hue that is easily racially

ambiguous or those who are very sun kissed. Was it your intention to feature the often

overlooked dynamic of “brown-ness” within blackness?   

A: Yes it was my intention to show the diversity of brown skin. I wanted to make sure that when I watched this show I was able to see every type of black girl with different complexions, heights, body types and hair types, because it all matters and we’re all so unique.

3. In a way, your web series epitomizes many of the attributes of black series that we have come to love, one being featuring your own music on the series. How important was it for your viewers to see you as a writer ,/creator actress and singer? 

Andrea_Lewis_Leave_It_To_Your_Faith

A: It was very important for me, that I expressed all of my talents in this show. That’s why I created it, because I have so many ideas and goals for myself and I wasn’t going to be boxed into just one thing. I can sing, act, write, produce and create so that’s what I’m going to do!

“I can’t leave you alone” cooes in the background of Episode 2 of “Black Actress.” It

has also become one of the most requested songs by viewers! What do you think it is

about this song that made it perfect for the series? What about this song do you think

is so captivating for listeners?                music_andrea_lewis

A: I think it’s simply a good song lol. I didn’t make it for Black Actress, I made it for my album but it just happened to fit in the scene perfectly and I was really glad that viewers responded to it so well.

4. One of the features that attracts me to “Black Actress” is that its protagonist doesn’t fit

into any of the traditional stereotypes of black women. How important was it for you to

demonstrate the diversity in black femininity through Kori?

A: This was very important to me. Being a black girl is important but it’s not all that she is and that’s why it was so important for me to focus on Black women and show how diverse and universal we are. We have dreams, insecurities, best friends, boyfriends, passions etc just like everyone else. So when you see me, definitely celebrate my blackness because it’s beautiful but don’t make it my limit.

• Also, Kori Bailey and I have something in common (laughs). We have the same last

name! How did you come up with ‘Kori Bailey?’

A: The name came to me in a dream lol.    bastill

5. In the abundance of black female leading ladies, there remains an absence in the

twenty something void. What do you think is unique about the journey of a black twenty-something?

A: I wish there was a black twenty something story on TV, hopefully Black Actress will fill that void. I think as a young woman in my twenties, I’m always looking for a character that is living a similar experience to me and my friends. Someone who represents the black millennial woman and the trials and tribulations that we deal with today. The projects that I’m creating focus on that voice.

6. Confidence is an asset to any and everyone, but why is self love and fearlessness especially valuable to the black woman/actress?   

aldearme

A: The entertainment industry is hard, there’s a lot of rejection and negativity so the only way you’ll make it through is by having a strong foundation and that all starts with self love. Self love will help you with anything because you’ll become fearless and confident in everything you do. I try my best to speak about Self Love as much as possible
because I believe in it and I know first hand how having a strong sense of who you are and love for who you are can help you greatly in this industry.  

7. Perhaps one of your most resounding episodes was Episode 2, Season 2 which

discusses the pressure of black actresses to “look the part.” To do so, one of Kori’s

colleagues dons a silky wig. I noticed that the actresses all don their natural hair in a

variety of styles. It is a very powerful choice for the lead black actress to don her natural

hair. Was this a conscious choice? What do you hope the impact of such a portrayal will

be?

A: As an actress I wear my hair natural because, it’s who I am and I struggled in my early twenties with Andrea-Lewis-7finding “the right look” for auditions. I was constantly in a battle with my hair, until I booked a job that liked me the way I came in. The producers chose to do a screen test where they looked at my hair straight and curly, up and down and chose what they felt suited the character best. After that experience, I finally felt okay with wearing my hair they way I feel comfortable because at the end of the day, my hair is versatile and I can do it anyway for the character. But like Aisha Hinds says in Episode 2, “it’s all about the work”, my hair is just hair and I’m gonna wear it the way I think it’s suits me best, which is natural. I thought it was important to talk about hair as a black actres because it’s a conversation that comes up a lot but at the end of the day you have to do what makes you comfortable and confident. You only get one shot in the audition room and worrying about having “the right hair” is the last thing to focus on. Wear a wig if you feel good, or go natural or make it straight, whatever will make you confident in you. Just as long as you’re not doing it to fit into a box of an unrealistic beauty standard.

8. It is also imperative to note that in addition to creating the series, you also write the

episodes. Many of my readers are also fellow writers. What is your writing process like?

What advice do you have for writers who are advocates for an under-served

demographic? al

A: There’s a popular saying, “write what you know” and I truly believe in this advice. Be inspired by your own life and the people around you and then go and tell the story that inspires you the most. As a person of color I am inspired by my friends and family and they happen to look like me so as a writer I have an obligation to write about women and people of color because our stories are not told enough and creating these stories fulfills me. My process for writing is constant, I have a million voice notes on my phone of ideas and I’m constantly people watching and listening to conversations for inspiration for dialogue. Observing real life, and also living my life helps me to write and makes my process much more enjoyable.      andrea-lewis-pic

9. In demonstrating the trials and triumphs of the black actress were you concerned

about how your message would be received?

A: No not all. I was very confident in the story and the relevance of black actresses and women so I knew that people would be intrigued. As well I’ve been pursuing entertainment my whole life and I know that the story I am telling is valid and accurate.

10. So far “Black Actress” featured cameos from fellow Canadian Melanie Fiona, Youtube sensation Francesca Ramsey, The Fabulous Shameless Maya and actor and

New York Native Tristan Wilde. Who is someone that you would like to feature on the

show?               mbj

A: There’s endless cameos I’d like to see happen on the show, to name a few: Zendaya Coleman, Keke Palmer, Michael B Jordan, J Cole, Lena Dunham and there’s a lot more people I can think of that would make a very fun addition to the cast.   KekePalmer

11. Romeo Stein is Kori’s suave and articulate love interest, played by Rob Vincent.

From his swag to his chiseled features, he emerges as a rolling stone turned Mr. Right.

Despite his pretty packaging, fans learn quickly that Romeo is more than a pretty face- he is also a math tutor. How important was it that the black male lead be as diverse in portrayal as the black women?    

cast_Rob_Vincent

A: It was very important for me to have a diverse and positive representation of people of color on screen whether it was the males or females. I applied the same care for “Kori” to all of the characters because they all matter and represent something for everyone. I love black men so I want to show them the way I see them and that is complex, strong, positive and intriguing.

12. “Black Actress” features the comical input of Kori’s agent who remarks: “ I am fifty

percent sure that your big break is right around the corner.” In so many ways we are all

waiting on our big break, but you made your own in starting your own production

company. Can you comment on the significance of literally forging your own path? What

does it mean to be your own big break?   AndreaLewis2-835x600-000000

A: I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit so I knew from a young age that I was going to create my own lane, it was just a matter of when. Creating my own lane was important for me to do because there’s no one like me and if I want the chance to show the world what I can do than I have to create the space that I want to live in.

13. In an effort to combat the diversity issue in Hollywood you created your own

production company. Tell us about Jungle Wild. How did you come up with the title and

how does this correlate with its mission?

A: One of the definitions of “Wild” is “unrestrained” and this is simply the way I live my life, I don’t want anything to hold me back, especially not myself. I came up with the name “Jungle Wild” because it makes me feel like that, like nothing can hold me back right now because I’m taking control of the Wild Nature of this business aka the jungle and making it my own, without any restraints.

14. What can we expect from Jungle Wild in the future?  photo-original

A: 2015 is a big year for Jungle Wild Productions, we have 3 news shows coming out and we are working on our first feature film. All of our content focuses on diversity and the story of millennials. I truly believe in the team of people that I’m working with and it’s a very exciting time for what we have in store.***


For more information on Andrea, Black Actress and Jungle Wild Productions check out missandrealewis.com

A huge Thank You to Miss Andrea Lewis for providing Whispers of Womanism our first interview!