Monday, June 28, 2010

My Article on Janelle Monae in the Huffington Post

Janelle Monae, Janelle Monae, Janelle Monae! This woman is out of this world, futuristic funky and has voice that that would blow your socks if you wore them with snow boots in the winter. I saw her in concert at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles when she toured with Erykah Badu and Lupe Fiasco. Read my review of her performance and her art on the Huffington Post. Unlike so many other newcomers in music who sing and rap about the same stuff--money, women, sex and clubbing (yawwwnnnn), Monae is giving us substance. Her lyrics are clever and deep, she can sing. I'm not talking about she sounds good with autotone, but she studied music in New York. For all my readers in London she's headed your way July 1 and she's also going to be doing some stops for Lilith Fair in the U.S. I've been listening to her new album The ArchAndroid so much that when it's stuck in my head. So I had to stop. I haven't been this hyped over a female artist since Lauryn Hill.

Read my review on Huffington Post and let me know what you think. Comments are REALLY Appreciated.

BET Awards Actually Stepped It Up

Prince acknowledges the audience as he accepts the Lifetime Achievement award at the 2010 BET Awards in Los Angeles June 27, 2010. REUTERS/Mario <span class=
No little girls gyrating on stage. A host with class. Good artists. A decent tribute to Prince and Michael Jackson. Would you believe I'm talking about the BET Awards? Seriously, I am. This year Debra Lee and her BET crew spared us the usual annual buffoonery and actually gave the world a decent awards show. After that hot mess on a platter "show" we endured last year, that's the least they could do. I even understood the songs performed this year because they weren't bleeped out entirely. I had no expectations of watching the ENTIRE show and only tuned in for Prince and Kanye. I thought BET might clean it up this year because Queen Latifah hosted and since she's big in Hollywood, I didn't expect her to be a part of a foolishness.

Alicia Keys should've gotten the "Sexiest Pregnant Lady" award. The mommy-to-be looked stunning in a short fuchsia dress and her glowing skin. El Debarge performing twice was a great surprise! Kanye must still be trying to keep low after the Taylor Swift speech because you couldn't see his face during the whole performance. Smart move. Take not Chris Brown. Call me a dirty old woman
LOS ANGELES, CA -  JUNE 27: Musician Alicia Keys performs onstage during the 2010 BET  Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on June 27, 2010 in Los Angeles,  California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
but Drake looked like yummy cougar meat. Well actually call me a dirty old woman for thinking Taylor Lautner is hot. But if Larry King can do it, why not me?

Moving on...Tyrese epitomized the word "dreamy." He nailed Teddy Pendergrass' tribute with his rendition of "Close the Door." That performance right there will probably boost the world population by 5% nine months from now. Whew, it felt like the temperature in my apartment went up 10 degrees when Tyrese sang. Tyrese, please put out an R&B album. Puh-leeeezzzeee. Are those red panties I see in the picture below?

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LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 27: Actors <span class=
Girl didn't you fall in love with Larenz Tate all over again when he and Nia Long re-enacted a scene from Love Jones?

I'm the blues in your left thigh. Trying to be the funk in your right. Is that alright?

YES Larenz, that is alright with me!

What did you think of the Chris Brown tribute to MJ? My friends and I had a good debate on this one. I thought he did a good job until the end when he broke down while singing "Man in the Mirror" and couldn't finish the song. I'm not sure if those tears were for MJ or his career. The tribute was for MJ but it became all about Brown once he started the boo-hoos. That I didn't like. Some people are saying that was the best MJ tribute hands down. Others think it was a ploy to save his career. But I'm not sure about that. CB's career is in trouble and I think those tears were for real. The U.K. denying him a visa may have got to him. That's $$$ he's losing overseas. I'd be crying too. Breaking down may have helped him recoup some fans he lost. But if you read this blog you know Chris Brown isn't on my list of favorites. So moving on...

LinkAnd I'm still figuring out the Nicki Minaj mania. I like originality in artists. But with Manaj's bright wigs and sexy lyrics, sorry kids, looks like Lil' Kim back in her Junior Mafia days to me. Look at this video around 2:08. If you remember Puffy when he wore shiny suits then you know orange wigs are soooo 1996. And moving on again...
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 27: Musician Nicki <span class=

The ladies gave Prince a fun tribute. Patti LaBelle killed it with "Purple Rain." My favorite new artist Janelle Monae got wild on "Let's Go Crazy." I loved how someone had to drag her off stage. Alicia Keys rolled around on the piano, 5 months pregnant and all. And were you mesmerized by the sista with the huge fro, Eperanza Spalding? Her voice is heavenly. I went to her website and she has an amazing story. She began studying music in college at 16. That's another CD I have to pick up.

The BET Awards was so tasteful I may actually watch it again next year. Too bad it took protesting outside of Debra Lee's home, ripping up the network on blogs and a decline in ratings for there to be some change

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 27: Musicians Patti LaBelle, Janelle Monae and Esperanza Spalding perform a tribute to Prince during the 2010 BET Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on June 27, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)


Friday, June 25, 2010

Michael Jackson's Death
Has It Been A Year Already?

Remember where you were when you heard the news Michael Jackson died? That was a historic day many of us will never forget. I was at home running back and forth from my TV and computer. I would check CNN and TMZ for updates. I almost cried like I lost a relative when his death was confirmed. Now it's one year. Can you believe it? I took the picture you see at the Hollywood Walk of Fame last year. I walked past his star because I felt like I had to pay my respects to Mike some sort of way. While there, I met a man who told me he was building the props for Mike's upcoming "This Is It" tour. He showed me a cell phone photo of one of the props. It was some gigantic statue or some sort that I believe Jackson was supposed to emerge from. But don't quote me on it.
Speaking of This Is It, I received a free copy of the DVD months ago and I still can't bring myself to watch it. I'm an MJ fan. Not like those crazy ones who would cry and faint when he came on stage. But I loved me some Michael Jackson. And I think I'll get too sad if I watch the final footage of his life. He had everything anyone could ever want but peace. And he was lonely. Watching that film and knowing that probably played a role in his Propofol addiction will bother me. I pop it in my DVD player one day.

In the year since MJ passed, I've been disturbed by the greed I've seen come from SOME members of his family members and associates. It's like his death has become a business and everyone wants a check. Interviews, books, promoting record companies and people claiming all kinds of things happened in MJ's life just to get a few seconds of fame. Like Whoopi Goldberg said last year, "Michael is the gift that keeps on giving." Last night there was a woman on the The Insider who is MJ's illegitimate sister. Why was she speaking on his death when she told reporters the one time she met him, he wanted nothing to do with her? I don't know how my brotha MJ is resting in peace with all of the drama. Speaking of RIP, no way am I going to Forest Lawn Cemetery. The city of Glendale is going to have some serious, serious traffic. I'll pay my respects watching MJ videos on YouTube and listening to his oldies on Pandora.

Rest In Peace Michael. If you can.

Do you feel some of those in MJ's circle and family are turning his death into $$$$. If so, do you think that's wrong? Or as they just continuing his legacy?

Oh and what's your favorite MJ Song? Here are 2 of my favorites:

And this one is good baby- making music:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Keeping it Real Beautiful with His Camera
Interview with Photographer
Saddi Khali--Part 1

Photographer and writer Saddi Khali’s life story is vivid like his work. He doesn’t have a residence but travels the country and parts of the world taking pictures. He got into photography after evacuating New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Then he moved to New York and performed poetry. His spoken word skills landed him on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam and stages throughout the country. And his photography has garnered some serious buzz on Facebook. But it's Khali's passion for life you can’t help but admire.

I extend my hand when I first meet Khali at the Four Seasons hotel lobby in Los Angeles.
“I’m from the South. We hug,” he says as he gives me a friendly smile and embrace.
In just a few years the New Orleans artist has touched thousands of people with his photos. No airbrushing, Photoshop or special lighting touches his pictures. Khali, 37, uses natural light and the organic beauty of his models. His images are fresh air in a time where it feels like we're suffocating under silicone, skin lightening cream and Botox (Do you recognize Lil’ Kim and Heidi Montag anymore?). Khali photographs people of all backgrounds. Yet,his purpose for his photos of black people is to defy the negative images society has been force-fed for centuries. Many of Khali’s photos are of nudes. Some are erotic, others clothed but all are moving. His images not only look good, but make you feel good. I sat down with Khali to talk about his career, erotica, Hurricane Katrina, and why he un-swags his clients.

You were in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. Did that experience inspire you to start taking pictures?
Definitely. The morning before Katrina I went to Baton Rouge which is about an hour- and-a half outside of New Orleans. Most of what happened I watched on the news. And watching the way they colored us and watching the way other people’s control of our image displayed us was really angering to me and hurtful. I started paying more attention to all of the ways we are showing us and how unlike us those images are. And how not celebratory and how not uplifting and how denigrating most images that we see of ourselves are. So I wanted to get back to the basics of seeing us without all of the images we’re bombarded with--without the pain, without the self-esteem issues and just without the swag or any of that. But how are you when you are just in what God gave you?

Is that what you mean on your website where you say, “Black people need to see images of ourselves with humanity”?
We grow up in communities where on the sides of corner stores there are images of us with liquor and cigarettes in our hands. [There are] videos of us throwing money at each other or shaking our thigh meat. The news shows us being carded off to jail. Everything is either really awful or unrealistic. As opposed to complain about what’s happening, I play my part in helping us to reclaim our image. Something as simple as just showing us how we are.
My photography doesn’t have airbrushing. I don’t have a bunch of studio lights. I just use the sun that’s coming in through any window. I don’t have a bunch of couture poses to create you in this larger- than- you- are personality. It’s just you. And fortunately we are beautiful enough as just us.

Did you take any photography classes?
I’ve never taken a class. I’ve never read a manual to a camera.

I can’t believe you never took a class because you’re really good at playing with light.
I had this really cool light kit and Katrina took it. So I went to New York with a broken camera and no lights. I started shooting with no lights. It was more just necessity and so I ended up learning how to shoot with what I had. Now, because I know it by heart, there’s definitely a technique to it.

Interview with Photographer Saddi Khali Part 2


Are you on tour?
Yes I am. I was in New York for two years and then in 2007 I moved back to New Orleans. I had been pining for New Orleans the whole time I was gone. But when I got back to New Orleans I started dealing with the painful realization that the New Orleans I was pining for is not there anymore. Not to mention with all the influx of new people and new relationships, the stuff that sustained me there before I no longer have that same situation. So, I started recognizing people always had been asking when I’m going to come [to their cities]. I just started finding places where the most people are asking for me. I get deposits from them and go there. At this point I don’t have a home. I live in the world and I travel the world. And people bring me where they want me next. I make money there and I make friends there. Either I know where I’m going or I find out where I’m going while I’m there. Then I go to the next spot. And I’ve been doing this since February.

So this traveling started this year?

Yes, this way in particular. I had been traveling and getting gigs, but I hadn’t really put the value and the knowing that I can take my art to the people who want it. I don’t have kids. I’m not married. I’m free to see the world and take the world on my own terms.

Do you have a base?

Right now I don’t have a base.

So, you’re just living out of your suitcase going…

From city to city

Oh I would love to do that.

Through touring with music and poetry I have connections all over. There’s always a place for me to lay my head.

That’s really powerful because when I think of Katrina I think of fragmentation in the black diaspora. And Katrina has created more pieces in the black diaspora because people are dispersed.
I went to New York with the bag of books I had on my arm and the clothes I was wearing when Katrina happened. And I ended up being on HBO [Def Poetry Jam] and having my name on the marquee of the Apollo. I did all of these things I dreamed about and so it made it more clear than ever that I have everything I need. With that understanding it’s painful of not having the home I am accustomed to in New Orleans but everywhere is my home.

How to find models when you travel?

Finding models is the easy part. Finding clients is what matters. When I get to a place I make sure I have my clients in tact. I walk up to somebody randomly and say, “This is going to sound crazy to you but…”


Or I’m online and I’ll write somebody or come across a photograph and say, “Check out my work. You should be in it.” Because it’s striking work and has an intention that makes people feel good, more times than not folks are like “I’m afraid, but I’d love to.” Sometimes people are like, “Why are they naked? Why does everybody have to be naked?” And I understand…You can't take it personal if somebody says no.
And I am the secret keeper. I’m that dude that comes in and gives you the opportunity to be the you you often don’t have the opportunity to be without negative connotations or judgments. And then I go to another city. And because of the intimate degree of what I’m doing, the person I’m shooting is my friend now.

Well, yeah especially since you’ve seen all of them.
But there’s a very therapeutic side of getting somebody to let go of the stuff they’re holding on to. People are crying in shoots. I’m asking them questions and they’re talking about things that people who’ve known them all their lives don’t know. So we’re building a relationship in two hours that you don’t have with people you see everyday. I end up becoming fast friends with people. People call me for advice that has nothing to do with photography because I’ve shown myself to be more accepting of what they’re going through than most people they know.

A lot of your pieces I’ve seen will remind me of my era when I become an old woman. What do you think your photos will say about African Americans 40 to 50 years from now?
I thought hard about this. I realize that I am creating a time capsule that years from now…I think it will say something very different than what the dominant media says… I’ll have thousands of images that say black people love the hell out of black people. And we do it well.

You MUST visit Saddi Khali's work on Facebook, websites Saddi Khali and Saddirotica and follow him on Twitter.

And fly with Cocoa Fly on
Facebook and Twitter.

Photo Credits:
Saddi Khali

Friday, June 18, 2010

TV Dads, Babies' Daddies, Vasectomies and Condoms

Back in the 80s and 90s my favorite TV dads were The Cosby Show's Dr. Huxtable and Roseanne's Dan Conner. Last decade Everybody Hates Chris daddy had me cracking up. Julius was so cheap he made James from Good Times look like Puff Daddy. But a new big poppa has stolen my heart in the 20-teens. He's a prissy, sensitive ex-college football player who makes me laugh every Wednesday night. Oh and he's gay. I'm talking about Modern Family's Cameron Tucker, played by Eric Stonestreet. The man is hilarious. There are only a few TV shows that I can not miss and Modern Family is one of them. Cameron and his partner Mitchell adopted a baby girl from Vietnam. Although Cameron's fathering style is a cross between the motherly love of June Cleaver and the blunders of Franny Fine, you can't help but not love him. He's protective and sweet to his baby girl Lily. Just like all fathers should be. He did accidentally leave his baby in a hotel elevator in Hawaii, but Cameron gets a pass because parents aren't perfect. That's the theme of today's sitcoms. Lucky for Cameron, the elevator episode had a happy, perfect ending.

Enough of TV land. Let's get back to reality. We've been bombarded in the news about women's, especially black women's, expectations being too high. But I'm writing to all women today. The "high expectations" stuff has got me thinking about Father's Day. I'm single and childless and happy because I'm not ready for those responsibilities just yet. But as I keep my eyes open for "The One", father material is high on my "Must Have" list for a mate. I want a man who will be good to me and OUR children. I am not talking about a Baby's Daddy. I'm talking about a MAN who will be a FATHER to OUR children. You know that saying, "Anyone can be a daddy, but it takes a real man to be a father." I don't want my kids to loathe Father's Day because the man I chose to mate with turned out to be a dead beat. That's not to say things don't happen and the person you had a child with changed for the negative. But for all of the single ladies out there with bare ring fingers and eggs itching to be fertilized, make sure your man is also father material. Don't get caught up in this hoopla that you're too picky. If you have a child with a man he'll be in your life for at least 18 years. So be picky and have high expectations. I'm not arguing that you only date a man with a Donald Trump bank account and David Beckham's fineness (Did you see him at the World Cup? Yum!) Some of us take more time when choosing a pair shoes than a lover. Too many kids in this world don't know their father or have fathers who aren't stepping up. Forget what the media and mediocre rappers who cheat on their girlfriends tell you. You and your future family deserve more than the mediocre.

On this Father's Day I ask all of the deadbeat dads to buy a pack of condoms or get a vasectomy so you don't make anymore children you wont care for. I know it's good business for Maury Povich, but it's not fair to the kid.

And to the all of the men in our global village who are raising and mentoring children, Happy Father's Day. Miss you Paw-Paw.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fly Lady of the Day: Dance Your A** Off's

Last weekend I caught up with a friend and she suggested I do a reality show because of the sometimes craziness in my life. Whew, I got a good laugh. I don't think I could handle cameras following me around 24/7. And I don't find my life interesting enough for a reality show. Well sometimes I have interesting experiences but a girl needs her privacy (*wink, wink*).
Even as a journalist I'm always amazed at people who choose to share their personal lives. And for those who go on weight loss reality shows, I'm extra impressed at their willingness to open up about their weight, lifestyle and imperfections to millions of people. That takes courage. The Fly Lady of the Day is Briana from the second season of Oxygen's Dance Your A** Off. According to Oxygen's website Briana, 22, used to be a hip hop dancer and captain of her cheer leading team. She's also a member of my great sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho (ya'll know I had to throw that in there*smile*). She exercises but is having trouble
slimming down from her current 290 lbs. Plan B is dancing off the weight. Props to Briana for putting her health first, inspiring others to take care of their bodies and having the guts to shake her boo-tay on national TV. Obesity is a major health issue in this country and shows like this, The Biggest Loser or Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution are encouraging people to save their lives.

Briana, we'll be dancing with you every week. Work it soror!!

Check Briana and the rest of the cast of Dance Your A** Off on the Oxygen channel, Monday nights at 10pm. Follow Briana on Facebook.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Ebony Magazine May Live After All!
Amy DuBois Barnett Named New Editor-In-Chief

Ebony magazine may no longer be your grandparents' magazine. The powers-that-be at Johnson Publishing made, what I believe, an excellent decision and hired Amy DuBois Barnett as their new editor-in-chief. Barnett was the deputy editor-in-chief for Harper's Bazaar. Prior to that position, she became the first African-American woman to head a mainstream magazine when she took on the role as managing editor of Teen People. She helped that magazine takeoff online and on the newsstands. But that's not the only reason why I like Barnett. She's young and she knows both journalism AND new media. Barnett can draw a new generation of readers to Ebony. Did I mention she was editor-in-chief of Honey magazine back in the day? My hip hop fly readers remember Honey.

There's another reason why I like Barnett. A few years ago I produced an interview with Barnett when she was promoting her book Get Yours: How to Have Everything You Ever Dreamed of and More. It's a great book for young woman pursuing their goals. Barnett shares her own struggles of dealing with the loss of her mother at a young age, battles with weight loss, and being a journalist and woman of color. I've read that book so many times and still turn to it today.

I'm excited for Ebony's future. I didn't want the magazine to go under because John Johnson paved the way for people like me to go into journalism. I even sent emails to the company with ideas of how they could save the magazine. The magazine needs a serious rebirth. Big Mama and Paw Paw aren't going to be around forever to read Ebony. The editors need to market to a newer generation. Cut down on the fluff pieces, do some investigative reporting and put other people on the cover aside from the Obamas and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Good choice Linda Johnson Rice. Can't wait to subscribe again after all of these years.

One more thing...
They must really be seeing the light at the Johnson offices in Chicago because Desiree Rogers was hired to be a consultant
"to assist with corporate strategy," says an Ebony spokesperson. Another good pick. Ebony may thrive again. I'm keeping my reporter's pads crossed.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Did You Listen to Cocoa Fly News Podcast Yet????

full body shot of a young adult woman as she sits up on a couch and listens to music through headphones

COCOA FLY-- A New Flavor in News for WOMEN

PLEASE download Cocoa Fly from iTunes or listen online HERE

Original news stories, interviews and a lot of flavor FOR WOMEN. Men are welcome to listen too. If you don't have time to listen on your computer, download it from iTunes FREE.


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