Category: Entertainment Written by Tony Jones
(Photo credit: TD Jakes and Daughter courtesy of Chevrolet )
The 2013 Annual Stellar Awards will be remembered as a zenith event in the growth of the gospel music industry. From inception to exit strategy, the show was terrifically executed in true glitterati style.
This year’s 28th edition unfolded on Saturday (Jan. 19) and was broadcast live for the first time from Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, a fitting choice. In the same way that the country music industry has become its own arena-filling powerhouse genre, gospel has grown into a commercial powerhouse, with marketing rivaling the best of the R&B and hip-hop markets – sans the vulgarity.
More than 140 markets signed on and streamed the Stellars live on the web. That interest meshed, of course, with commentary on industry and fan blogs, Facebook pages, tweets and email support.
Co-hosting with fellow industry leader Kirk Franklin, sibling duo Mary Mary’s five award-winning moments were among the night’s highlights on stage. Marvin Sapp’s aptly titled “I Win” equaled their total as the big statuette garnerers for the night.
Special awards were given to Kurt Carr, as the recipient of the James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award, and to Bishop T.D. Jakes, who received the Thomas Dorsey Notable Achievement Award (sponsored by Chevrolet).
Unless they decided to give away free Corvettes (the new C7 is the talk of the industry), Chevrolet couldn’t have chosen a better weekend to highlight their diversity outreach. The Stellars coincided with First Lady Michelle Obama’s birthday and led into President Barack Obama’s second inauguration, which was held on Dr. Martin Luther King Day.
The real action
The Stellar Awards are the polished face for a revenue-driven industry. The real action is behind the scenes, where deals are discussed, doors opened and where upcoming talents network the showcases, seminars and confabs in their push to become to become “the next…”
Following Friday’s daylong pre-show activities, Terrance Zachary, the president for the recently established indie label NuJeru Music Group, said the BMI luncheon is always the highlight for him.
“It’s where you can let your hair down and just get caught up with everybody,” he said.
Zachary’s out to write his own success story after a rewarding experience with industry major Bow Tie World Music (based in Nashville) and its main act, Wess Morgan.
“I was with Bow Tie World from 2010 to 2012. I worked with a ton of artists there, Wess of course being the best known. Billboard voted us one of the top ten labels in 2010 and 2011 and I’m praying to be half as successful on my own,” said Zachary
“Working with Wess taught me a lot, seeing the work that was done in him getting to where he is now, and remaining humble along the way.”
When the break comes
Detroit’s Tabitha Goodman, part of the artists’ support team, had myriad duties during the Stellar Awards weekend, including chaperoning the schedule of the Chrysler Corporation Choir, now known throughout the nation after being featuring in several commercials for the company. The choir was featured at several pre-show events. In between, she explained her own networking goal.
“What I’m trying to do, and what I tell others like me that are here to do the same, is brand yourself to be ready when the break comes,” said Goodman.
“For instance, the main person I’m trying to connect with is one of the top radio charters in the industry, who places a lot of music on the air. She has 38 Stellar nominations, represents all of the artists nominated for Song of the Year and seven Grammys just this year. Just getting her ear would be a major plus.”
‘Here with God’s people’
The closing highlight of the pre-show day was a service led by industry legend Pastor Hezekiah Walker, who presented the award to New Artist of the Year LeAndria Johnson.
Heading back to his hotel room afterwards to rest up for the big day, Walker’s representative, Sean Pennington, offered insight from his decade-plus work managing a major industry figure via his company Flipside Entertainment (which also represents the Wess Morgan).
“Pastor Walker was really excited to present the New Artist award because he loves to see young people succeed in any endeavor, praise God,” said Pennington.
“I like being here to see people that may not be winners out front yet but are winners at heart be made known to the world, and to get to know others with similar interests. Just the opportunity to be here with God’s people doing good is a win.”
‘Step up our game’
In entertainment, crunch time is called “Day Of,” and nearly every conversation kicks off with “It’s Day Of, so…”
For the Stellars, “Day Of” presented several optional events, the most important being a conference for radio media. Totally thronged, a perfect example of smart marketing was the currently unknown and New York-based Livre, who had a full display on the event floor, positioning them to appear like a major. Another smart thing they did was to have door hanger flyers made and placed on room doors at the hotels where the industry players were staying.
“We just work hard,” manager Craig Towns said. “We planned everything this year around the Stellars. We’ve been here several times now and knew we had to step up our game.”
After the radio meet, all on board repaired to the hotels to breathe and change for the night. As the crowd thronged in, Michael Adrian Davis, air personality for the Memphis gospel arm of the powerful Clear Channel Group, summed it all up.
“It’s the industry Grammys, and because it’s now a live broadcast, it makes it even more important,” said Davis.
“But it’s really higher than that because of the message of the music. Praising God is always most important.”
(Tony Jones reported this story for Real Times News Services’ Memphis outlet, The New Tri-State Defender.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 January 2013 10:02
Category: Entertainment Written by Amber Bogins
Every boy needs role model, a father or father-figure that can help him navigate the complicated and confusing path to manhood. Sometimes that person is a drug dealing ex-con and beggars can’t be choosers. This is the case for 11-year-old Woody Watson (Michael Rainey Jr.), whose mother is absent and his father is nonexistent. Uncle Vincent (Common) steps up to the plate after an eight year bid in prison.
The day begins full of promise: Uncle Vincent plans to take Woody school and then go to the bank to get a loan to open a crab shack. Uncle Vincent gets the brilliant idea that Woody should play hooky and ride with for the day to show him “how to be a man”. Not the worst decision. He takes Woody to get a custom fitted suit, even lets him drive a car. But when the bank denies his loan request, Uncle Vincent decides to do one last drug deal to fund for his dreams…and takes the kid with him.
Naturally things do not go as intended and his former boss Mr. Fish (Dennis Haysbert) suspects that Vincent made a deal with the police to get his twenty year sentence reduced to eight years. Since Uncle Vincent didn’t drop him off at school before things went south, poor Woody is forced to not only witness but participate in a drug deal gone bad, complete with guns, explosions and death.
The problem with this movie falls solely on its script. The film is shot meticulously and highlights the beauty and grit of Baltimore. The cast is full of Hollywood’s elite, including Danny Glover, Charles S. Dutton, and Michael Kenneth Williams, all of whom are capable of making cliché dialogue believable. Even newcomer Rainey is able to hold his own with Common who gives a phenomenal performance.
What director and co-writer Sheldon Candis did that worked so will in the first two acts was focus on the uncle-nephew relationship. Woody’s admiration for Vincent is unquestionable even as he follows him into one calamity to another and Vincent is determined to do right by him. However by the third act, the character growth halts in favor of guns and explosions and it turns a dynamic coming of age story into a just another “hood tale”. It would be naïve to assume that a film whose crisis solution involves selling drugs would not have violence. However the formulaic way it was done has been done time and time again and will continue to resurface until a more imaginative director comes along and can balance story and action without compromising either.
LUV opened January 18 at select theaters only.
Follow Amber Bogins on Twitter @AmberLaShaii
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 January 2013 10:07
Category: Entertainment Written by Britney Spear
Prime time cable television just got a major dose of much needed testosterone with two new BET series airing on Tuesday night, ‘Real House Husbands of Hollywood’ and ‘Second Generation Wayans’.
Will the two new shows put the ‘fun’ back in funny?
Recent comedy in television has come to be defined as a spoof of real life reckless behavior. Dare I say that all too popular ‘r’ word that comes to mind? Quite frankly, our culture has become accustomed to laughing at things that aren’t meant to be funny. It is refreshing to find the comedic genre returning to its roots with a sitcom-like flare.
Granted, scripted comedy is alive and well in the mainstream; however, one cannot deny the absence of faces of color on the biggest networks’ most popular shows. Perhaps, bringing this formula to black entertainment television will mean actors, and not just reality stars, get to enjoy a share of ‘small screen’ success.
‘Real House Husbands of Hollywood’, as can be expected from its title, plays upon the stereotypes one might imagine. Joining funny man Kevin Hart are such familiar faces as Nick Cannon, Boris Kodjoe, and Duane Martin, coupled by guest appearances from Nelly and Robin Thicke.
The comedic comrades poke fun at scenarios that tend to define today’s biggest reality shows that follow the lives of so-called happy homemakers. The scenes appear hilariously similar to ones we’ve watched play out in an episode or two from the ‘Real Housewives’ franchise. ‘Real House Husbands’ offers a new formula for the urban ‘small screen’, unlike the reality shows that have recently become television’s most lucrative genre.
‘Second Generation Wayans’ may not offer as frequent back to back laughs. It, however, showcases a style that is unique and stands apart from what’s currently on the air. It follows the quest of two Wayans’ sons, Damien (Damon) and Craig (Keenan Ivory) as they endeavor to ‘make it’ in Hollywood. Rounding out the trio is honorary family member, George Gore, who you might recognize from ABC’s ‘My Wife and Kids’. Other familiar faces include actresses Tatyana Ali and Regina Hall, and former Destiny’s Child crooner Letoya Luckett. At one point in the first episode, the show and ‘Real House Husbands’ cross over with Kevin Hart making an appearance.
Will these new shows that challenge the status quo of current television comedy survive? The two sitcoms can each be best described as a ‘reality show but not really’. In short, they define a new genre, one that might catch on with viewers in search of something new. We’ll be watching to see whether or not Kevin Hart and the Wayans’ Tuesday night take over helps BET compete with televisions’ heaviest hitters.
Follow Britney Spear on Twitter @missbritneysp
Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 January 2013 09:24
Category: Entertainment Written by Britney Spear
Perhaps the biggest ‘rock star’ to grace the Oval Office, President Barack Obama is no stranger to the unwavering support of some of the most well known names in entertainment. Everyone from Beyonce to Bruce Springsteen has come out to let fans know they stand by the current leader of the ‘free world’.
This past weekend commemorated a series of events leading up to Obama’s second inauguration. Saturday’s Kid’s Inaugural celebration, which featured musicians Usher, Katy Perry, and the cast of Glee, gave children an opportunity to get it on the action. On Sunday, the ‘Hip Hop’ ball prepared for the president’s official swearing in with R&B singers John Legend and Marsha Ambrosius coupled with rappers Two Chainz and M-C Lyte.
The formal inauguration to take place on Monday has guaranteed performances from Pop superstars Beyonce and Kelly Clarkson as well as legendary singer James Taylor. There are rumours that musical acts Alicia Keys, Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx, and even Lady Gaga will headline additional inaugural ball celebrations with performances.
This year’s inauguration has already brought out the most recognizable faces in entertainment. Fans may be more interested in hearing their favorite crooners than the recited words of the Presidential Oath.
At any rate, this week serves as a celebration of four more years. What’s a party without good music? Before things get too seriously, the series of events are a chance for folks to kick back, relax, and have a little fun in anticipation of the second term.
Follow Britney Spear on Twitter @missbritneysp
Last Updated on Monday, 21 January 2013 09:58
Category: Entertainment Written by Steve Holsey, Michigsn Chronicle
Let’s face it, exercise, especially today, is in some respects a form of entertainment, and if you watch television at all, odds are you are at least casually familiar with superstar fitness trainer Shaun T (full name: Shaun Thompson), whose omnipresent infomercial about his “Insanity” workout program makes an impression that can never be erased. (Billy Blanks used to be the man, but now it’s Shaun T.)
The 34-year-old Thompson, who is from Camden, New Jersey, is so much into the product he is promoting that you can’t help but believe in it too, even though, if you are like most people, you know that you would never attempt this particularly difficult, but apparently effective, workout in a million years.
Even so, Thompson is so convinced that most of us can achieve what we think we cannot that he says in his infomercial, “You can frickin’ do it!” (Easy for him to say!)
It is a paradox that at a time when we are bombarded with health, diet and physical fitness information, from everyone from Jennifer Hudson to Dr. Oz, Paula Abdul to Doug Sewell, people in the United States are still in the worst shape ever.
Evidently it is a minority of people who are going the distance with the books, the Internet programs, the videos, the gyms, the lectures, the infomercials, etc.
Motivational speaker Les Brown, laughing as he so often does, says he, with the best of intentions, bought an expensive exercise machine, but ended up using it to set his food tray on while he watched TV!
OUR NATION’S first lady, Michelle Obama, is a strong advocate of physical fitness, one major project being her “Let’s Move Initiative.” Well-meaning advocates like Jane Fonda (who started it all in 1982 with her iconic exercise video), Chuck Norris, LL Cool J, George Foreman and many others have all written books and/or produced videos. Even hard-core rapper 50 Cent is working on a book.
Endlessly surfing the Internet, texting, tweeting, etc., with little body movement is among the key things hurting us physically, as is our overall poor diets.
Shaun T, who has always been athletically inclined, spent much of his childhood and teen years playing baseball, running track and playing football.
He later attended Rowan University, which is located in Glassboro, New Jersey, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Science (something most people are not familiar with) with a minor in two other loves that would prove to be beneficial in his career, Theater/Dance. (He now lives in New York.)
DURING HIS college years, however, Thompson was not the picture of physical fitness. In fact, much to his dismay, he managed to pack on a whopping 50 pounds.
That proved to be a wake-up call, prompting an intense interest in fitness, for himself first but in due time for others as well, and it turned out to be financial bonanza because today Shaun Thompson is a wealthy man and his empire is rapidly expanding.
He first secured health industry employment at Wyeth, a multi-national pharmaceutical company. There he worked as a health and fitness specialist/personal trainer and health program manager. In addition, he applied his expertise and gained additional knowledge with a number of fitness chains.
When he was in college, Thompson became an aerobics instructor. Upon graduation from Rowan University he made the big, and career altering, decision to move to the West Coast, Los Angeles specifically. He started at the top: His first work as a professional dancer came by way of being hired by none other than superstar Mariah Carey.
IT WAS JUST a matter of time before Shaun Thompson would emerge as Shaun T, a key figure in the world of fitness instruction.
Beachbody, LLC asked him to submit a workout video with his own spin. The rest, despite the cliché, is history — and history in the making.
Smart and visionary enough to utilize hip-hop music, “Hip Hop Abs,” his first project for Beachbody, sold by way of an infomercial, became the No. 1 selling workout video in the United States.
Suddenly, Shaun T was everywhere. He became a bona fide star and thousands of people worked their way to being in much better shape. No surprise that he also sells nutritional supplements and gear by way of mail order.
BlackVoices.com conducted a Q&A with the fitness megastar.
When asked if he really enjoyed what he was doing or if was essentially “a job” and a means to an end, Thompson responded, “You have no idea. You know how people like to go out and go to happy hour and kick it with their friends? When I wake up in the morning, that’s the same feeling I have. I think, ‘I can’t wait to see how far I can push myself today.’ I just want to lead by example and for everyone to be healthy and fit.”
To say that the “Insanity” workout is intense would be, at best, putting it mildly. It takes working out to a whole new place, one that, quite frankly, scares a lot of people, but not enough to stop it from being a major success.
“I want to keep it real,” he explained in that same interview. “You’re going to have to do the work to get the results. It was inspired by my track and field training. I knew that feeling of being in the best shape when I am working that hard because there is no time for excuses.
“THE ONE THING I hate is when people say, ‘I didn’t have a good workout today.’ I wanted to create something where you’re never going to say that. You know you worked hard without spending two hours at the gym. You still get the results.”
He continued, “Beachbody did a survey with its customers and ‘Insanity’ got the highest score. It’s created to push you and inspire you. I think of every way to help this person keep moving. There’s nothing selfish about ‘Insanity.’ It’s not about me. It’s about the people at home who want to change their body and get healthy, and I think that’s what makes it stand apart.”
Kudos, Shaun Thompson, but these writers, and no doubt many other people, sometimes wonder what it will be like for Shaun T in, say, 20 years. Shaun T at 54. Maybe then it will be the “Sane” workout or the “Resonable” workout.
But knowing this guy, it may well still be the “Insanity” workout.
As Shaun T would put it, “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” — Svh/Jason Donovan
Last Updated on Monday, 14 January 2013 10:31
Digital Daily Signup
Sign up now for the Michigan Chronicle Digital Daily newsletter!
- Detroit gears up for historic March on Woodward celebration (1)
- UPDATE: Election commission decides to keep Duggan on the ballot (1)
- African Americans Must be a part of Detroit New Development Growth (1)
- 'Real Housewives of Atlanta' Porsha Stewart Locked Out By Husband Kordell? [Video} (2)
- Earn and Learn Program helps chronically unemployed find careers (1)