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‘Queen & Slim’ star Jodie-Turner Smith covers ESSENCE

All hail the Queen!

Jodie Turner-Smith is getting her shine on as the face of the November cover of ESSENCE magazine. The British-born model and actress with Jamaican roots is captured as never before by noted photographer JD Barnes. This is all in anticipation of her new film—Queen & Slim—which opens in theaters November 27.

As previously reported, the film follows Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) a couple on their first date when a police officer pulls them over and things take an unexpected turn. The film is directed by Melina Matsoukas with a screenplay by Lena Waithe.

Take a look at the full cover below:

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UPFRONT’s BTS Coverage of ‘The Reel Divas’ Photo Shoot (VIDEO)

Check out my behind-the-scenes UPFRONT coverage of #TheReelDivas photo shoot that was featured on DEADLINE.COM this week. The glossy image has generated a lot of buzz on social media and includes 20 of Georgia’s most prominent black women filmmakers, producers, directors, content creators and actresses.

The event was conceived by writer, producer and filmmaker Cas Sigers-Beedles (BET’s Angrily Ever After and TV One’s When Love Kills) and was inspired by the star-studded photo shoots in Vanity Fair’s annual “Hollywood Issue.” She along with producer extraordinaire Ty Johnston-Chavis (Atlanta Pitch Summit) reached out to women like actress and director Jasmine Guy (A Different World, Grey Anatomy), director and filmmaker Deborah Riley Draper (Versailles ’73) and producer Dianne Ashford (Ambitions).

The event took place on a Sunday morning in September at Atlanta’s Goat Farm Arts Center and was photographed by Donna Permell.

Other #ReelDivas members include: Terri J. Vaughn (Actress + Director + Producer), Rhonda Baraka (Writer +Director), Denise Hendricks (Producer), Gieva Stinchcomb (Producer), Star Smith (Line Producer), Wanda Shelly (Executive Producer), Autumn Bailey Ford (Producer), Angi Bones (Executive Producer + Director), Samantha Ramirez-Herrera (Content Creator), Tammy Garnes (Producer + Actress), Wendy Eley Jackson (Writer + Producer), Angela Barnes Gomes (Writer + Director), Tamra Simmons (Executive Producer), Shante Paige (Producer), Lisa “Captain” Cunningham (Writer + Producer + Director).

PHOTO CREDITS: Donna Permell +

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Kelly Rowland, Solange, Miguel and more attend L.A. Screening of ‘Queen & Slim’ [PHOTOS]

Check out images from the recent L.A. premiere of filmmakers Lena Waithe and Melina Matsoukas new feature Queen & Slim. The star-studded event took place at The Underground Museum and was hosted by Grammy Award winning singer and fashionista Solange.

Attendees included: Kelly Rowland (Singer), Lance Gross (Actor, Star), Michael Ealy (Actor, Being Mary Jane), Miguel & his wife Nazanin Mandi (Musician), Kendrick Sampson (Actor, Insecure), Keith Powers (The New Edition Story), DeWanda Wise (Actress, She’s Gotta Have It), Estelle (Musician), Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Gabrielle Dennis (Actress, A Black Lady Sketch Show), Logan Browning (Actress, Dear White People), Will Catlett (Actor, Black Lightning) and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, (Actor, US) Y’lan Noel (Actor, insecure), Etienne Maurice (Actor + filmmaker), Isis King (Actress, When They See Us) and many more.

Queen & Slim focuses on a couple’s first date that goes awry when the man kills a police officer in self-defense. Terrified and in fear for their lives, the man, a retail employee, and the woman, a criminal defense lawyer, are forced to go on the run. It features Daniel Kaluuya, Jodie Turner-Smith, Bokeem Woodbine and POSE actress Indya Moore

Following the screening was a discussion hosted by film critic Elvis Mitchell.

Queen & Slim opens in theaters on Thanksgiving:

PHOTO CREDITS: Jennifer Johnson/Universal

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T.I., Killer Mike, Ledisi and more to appear in live reading of ‘Between the World and Me’ (VIDEO)

The words of Oprah Book Club author Ta-Nehisi Coates are coming to life as part of a special live reading of his New York Times bestselling book, Between the World and Me on Tuesday October 22 at Atlanta’s historic Symphony Hall.

The event is being presented by the Apollo Theater and The Collective Culture and will feature Atlanta hip hop icons T.I. and Killer Mike as well as Grammy nominated singer/songwriter Ledisi, TV and film actress Pauletta Washington and spoken word sensation Marc Bamuthi Joseph and more.

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’ attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.

A live reading of his book was first done last spring at the Apollo Theater and featured a who’s who of star performers including Angela Bassett, Joe Morton, Black Thought, Common and Susan Kelechi Watson from NBC’s This Is Us. The show was conceived and produced by the Apollo Theater’s Executive Producer Kamilah Forbes and includes a jazz score by Jason Moran.

Ray Cornelius with Kamilah Forbes

Click here and listen to my UPFRONT interview with Kamilah Forbes about the event and click here to purchase tickets for the 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. performances.

PHOTO CREDITS: and Ronald B. Hill

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‘UNCENSORED’ returns 10/6 @ 9PM (VIDEO)

TV One’s original auto-biographical series UNCENSORED is back for a second season with some really exciting new profiles on Tyra Banks, Niecy Nash, Tisha Campbell, Lamar Odom and LisaRaye McCoy.

It premieres on Sunday, October 6 at 9 p.m. EST.

“We’re thrilled to bring back one of the network’s top-rated and inspirational series, Uncensored,” said Executive Producer in Charge of Production Jason Ryan. “This season, we have a dynamic line up and we can’t wait for viewers to hear the raw truth and journey of some of their favorite celebrities.” 

UNCENSORED delves into the lives of luminaries as they reveal secrets to their success, obstacles they faced and how they’ve navigated the perils of social media that helped but sometimes haunted their careers. Viewers will get a glimpse into the lives of celebrities as they personally reveal their own stories, in their own words. 

Watch a sneak peek below:


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‘Soul Train Musical’ coming to Broadway in 2021 (VIDEO)

The story of Soul Train and its iconic founder Don Cornelius is coming to the Great White Way in 2021. The new production will be written by Ain’t Too Proud’s Dominique Morriseau, directed by Kamilah Forbes, choreographed by Tony Award nominee Camille A. Brown and executive produced by Grammy winner and hip hop icon Ahmir “Quest Love” Thompson.

Through more than 20 classic hit songs from the era, Soul Train will tell the personal story of Cornelius as he creates the iconic television series that transformed a generation and revolutionized black music.

“I am so excited to help bring the narrative of one of our culture’s most influential and legend-making endeavors to the stage,” said Dominique Morisseau. “Having grown up on this series and being immersed in the culture around it, I never knew what it took to make it the iconic staple that it is.  Through the socio-political challenges both internally and externally, Don Cornelius’ uncompromised vision, and the revolutionary dance culture that the show made visible to the mainstream, there are a million handprints on what we know as “Soul Train.”  I cannot wait to partner with this legendary creative team of incredible women to celebrate the history and the unsung heroes of our nation’s longest running televised music and dance series.”

Soul Train will be produced by Tony Award-nominee Matthew Weaver (Rock of Ages) and Jeffrey Tick (former owner of Broadway’s Helen Hayes Theater)alongside new general producing partner Richard Gay (5Pack Entertainment founder, and former EVP of Viacom’s Music Networks & BET Networks). It will also be executive produced by Don Cornelius’ son Tony Cornelius.

Soul Train will premiere in 2021 in celebration of the landmark series’ 50th Anniversary. It was created in 1971 by visionary Don Cornelius and predominantly featured performances by R&B, pop, soul, and hip-hop artists. It was also the longest running first-run, nationally syndicated program in television history.

Stay tuned…


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Kenny Leon to direct ‘A Soldier’s Play’ with David Alan Grier + Blair Underwood

BroadwayWorld is reporting that Tony Award winner Kenny Leon is set to direct a new production of A Soldiers Play on Broadway featuring veteran actors David Alan Grier and Blair Underwood.

The show will take place at the Roundabout Theatre Company and will begin preview performances on December 27 with an official open on January 21, 2020 at the American Airlines Theatre.

Ray Cornelius with Kenny Leon

“I think America needs to hear the newness and the freshness of this play.” ~ Kenny Leon

A Soldier’s Play is set in 1944 and follows the investigation into the murder of a black Sergeant on a Louisiana Army base. One tenacious investigator must race against his white leadership to unravel the crime before they unravel him.

The original production at the Negro Ensemble Company premiered Off-Broadway in 1981 and featured a cast of then rising superstars—Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson along with the late Adolph Caesar and Larry B. Riley. It was later turned into a film in 1984 and renamed A Soldier’s Story. It featured much of the stage cast along with the late Howard E. Rollins, Robert Townsend, Art Evans, Patti LaBelle and David Alan Grier.

Watch the film’s original trailer below:

Click here for tickets!

PHOTO CREDITS: Roundabout Theatre Company +

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Niecy Nash to host ‘Black Girls Rock’ honoring Angela Bassett, Ciara, Regina King + more

BET Networks and Beverly Bond, CEO, Executive Producer and Creator of BLACK GIRLS ROCK!® are excited to announce Emmy-nominated actress and CLAWS star, Niecy Nash as host of The 2019 BLACK GIRLS ROCK!® Awards on BET. This year’s celebration will tape this weekend on Sunday, August 25 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, NJ. The broadcast will premiere on Sunday, September 8 at 8:00 P.M. ET/PT on BET.

The 2019 star-studded line up of celebrants include Golden Globe winner and Oscar nominated actress, director, and producer Angela Bassett (Icon Award), Oscar, Golden Globe, and Emmy-winning actress and director and former BLACK GIRLS ROCK!® Awards co-host Regina King (Star Power Award), GRAMMY-Award  winning singer/songwriter Ciara (Rock Star Award), Academy Award and Emmy Award-nominated producer and industry trailblazer Debra Martin Chase (Shot Caller Award) two-time GRAMMY Award-winning musician H.E.R. (Young Gifted and Black Award), and activists The Mothers of The Movement Sybrina Fulton, Geneva Reed Veal, Gwen Carr, Lucy McBath, Maria Hamilton and Cleopatra Pendleton-Cowley (Community Change Agent Award).

“I am thrilled to host this year’s BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Awards, said 2019 host, Niecy Nash. “We are celebrating Black women who serve the world with style, grace, class and sass! Our honorees are truly shining bright. In a room full of Black girl magic anything could happen! This is going to be an amazing event!”

“Multifaceted actress Niecy Nash brings her own unique flavor of black girl magic as our host and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Our lineup from host to honorees, performers and M.A.D. Girls all rock and I’m looking forward to presenting another empowering and dynamic show,” said Bond.

Will you be watching?


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T.I. unveils ‘Nipsey Hussle Exhibit’ at Trap Music Museum (VIDEO)

All eyes were on Atlanta’s famed Trap Music Museum Tuesday night for the unveiling of the new Nipsey Hussle Exhibit. The event was hosted by Grammy Award-winning hip hop star, actor and philanthropist T.I. and was attended by a bevy of influencers and trap music enthusiasts including Tameka “Tiny Harris,” Monica, LeToya Luckett and Toya Wright.

UPFRONT was in the building to capture all of the sights and sounds of the evening. I got a chance to chat with the “King of the South” about the new installation as well as BK The Artist and muralists Dizzy and Quake, who also contributed to the new work. Krystal “KG” Garner, general manager of the museum also discussed the importance of bringing this exhibit to Atlanta and much more.

Hussle, a beloved Trap music star and community activist, was tragically shot and killed on March 31, 2019 outside of his store “Marathon Clothing” store in Los Angeles, CA.

Watch the coverage below:


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Missy Elliott to receive Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award (VIDEO)

A BIG CONGRATS to hip hop music legend Missy Elliott. She will be presented with this year’s coveted Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award during the 2019 VMAs. MTV posted the news on Monday along with the announcement of her highly anticipated live performance on August 26 at 9 p.m.

“Missy’s impact on the music landscape is indelible,” Bruce Gillmer, Head of Music and Music Talent, Viacom and Co-Brand Head, MTV International, said in a statement. “Her creative vision across production, performance and songwriting is unmatched.”

Missy is the first female rapper to receive the award and will be recognize her for years of outstanding showmanship in music as a writer, producer and performer. She joins a laundry list of iconic female honorees including Madonna, Michael’s sister Janet Jackson, Pink, Rihanna, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Beyoncé.

Watch the official announcement video below:

What’s your favorite Missy Elliott song?

Photo Credit: YouTube

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Synchronicity Theatre presents: ‘2 The Left: A Tribute to the Life of Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes’

Atlanta’s Synchronicity Theatre is presenting a new one-woman show chronicling the life and spiritual journey of Atlanta music icon Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes titled 2 The Left. The show is described as an inspiring music-filled multimedia production written and performed by Kerisse Hutchinson and portrays the challenges Lopes encountered as she embarked on a journey to find her artistic voice and spiritual purpose.

“After working with Kerisse, I can confidently tell you, there is no one I feel is more dependable, loyal, and hard-working than her with a vision and determination to convey my sister’s story.” said Ronald Lopes, the brother of the TLC member.

“We are pleased to offer Kerisse our continued support during the development and execution of her project about our beloved Lisa. She has proven herself time and again to be an invaluable asset. In my humble opinion, Kerisse is exactly the type of person able to execute a project such as this and reach global audiences.”

Hutchinson is a multi-talented award-winning actress, dancer, and writer. She received her dance training at the Alvin Ailey School, and has danced with numerous companies and music artists.

2 The Left‘s creative team includes Atlanta theater icon and director Thomas W. Jones II, acclaimed choreographer Victor Jackson and Dramaturgy by Addae Moon.

The show is also being presented by Atlanta’s Fulton County Arts & Culture Council and the nonprofit C4 Atlanta Artsforce.

Click here for tickets and watch a sneak peek below:

Photo Credits:

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Watch Trailer for ‘Wu-Tang: An American Saga’ (VIDEO)

Hulu has released the trailer for the highly anticipated series about famed hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan. Based on one of the most influential and important groups in hip-hop history, Wu-Tang: An American Saga, marks the latest high-profile original series order from Hulu that aims to deliver authentic, culturally-relevant storytelling to today’s audiences

The series will explore and expand the world of the Wu-Tang Clan, and marks Hulu’s second project with Brian Grazer’s Imagine following the Emmy and Grammy Award winning documentary, The Beatles: Eight Days A Week – The Touring Years.

Wu Tang: An American Saga

Wu-Tang: An American Saga is inspired by “The Wu-Tang Manual” and “Tao of Wu”, and based on the true story of the Wu-Tang Clan. Set in early ’90s New York at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic, the show tracks the Clan’s formation, a vision of Bobby Diggs aka The RZA, who strives to unite a dozen young, black men that are torn between music and crime but eventually rise to become the unlikeliest of American success stories.

The Wu-Tang Clan has released five gold and platinum albums, selling 40 million albums worldwide. The group is often hailed as one of the most influential groups in the history of hip-hop with a unique sound and distinct image.

“I’ve been a fan of Wu-Tang since the mid-90’s and recognized quickly how significant Wu-Tang and The RZA were to the world of hip-hop music and culture. Over the years I’ve gotten to know RZA and it’s clear that he is the soul and storyteller of Wu-Tang. Working with RZA and Alex Tse on this series has been a highlight of my career and Hulu is the perfect partner to bring this story to a global audience,” said Grazer.

Wu-Tang: An American Saga stars Ashton Sanders as RZA, CAU alum Johnell Young as GZA, Shameik Moore as Raewkon, Siddiq Sanderson as Ghostface Killah. Rounding out the cast is Erika Alexander, Julian Elijah Martinez, Siddiq Sanderson, Marcus Callender, Zolee Griggs, Vinnie PastoreDave East, and Joey Bada$$.

Wu-Tang Clan members Ghostface Killa, Inspectah Deck, Masta Killa and GZA as well as the Estate of Ol’ Dirty Bastard, served as consulting producers on the project.

Watch it below:

Wu-Tang: An American Saga premieres on September 4.
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‘The Wendy Williams Story’ is coming to Lifetime

Wendy Williams is having one helluva year! In addition to the announcement about her receiving a coveted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the “queen of all media” is now the subject of an upcoming biopic for Lifetime. Super producer Will Packer is bringing her story to the small screen and will begin production this fall.

According to S&A, the film will showcase the highs and lows Williams has experienced throughout the years.  It will also follow her journey from urban radio to the success of her talk show, The Wendy Williams Show. 

As if the biopic wasn’t enough, Lifetime will also be airing a documentary about Williams that is being produced by Entertainment (eOne) and Creature films.

My pick for the lead role is…TAMI ROMAN. I believe she has the heart and grit that it would take to play Wendy in a movie. I also think Tami can relate to Williams’ ambitious pursuit of fortune and fame as a Black woman in entertainment and channel that through her performance.

Who do you think should play Wendy Williams?

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“I Just Want to Help Other Creatives” says Teyana Taylor to ESSENCE (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Congratulations goes out to triple threat performer Teyana Taylor. The award-winning actress and music artist is one of three divas to cover the July/August edition of ESSENCE Magazine.

During her behind-the-scenes video for ESSENCE UnCOVERED, Taylor opens up about being ready for the spotlight and the joy she receives as a wife and mother to her baby girl Junie.

She also talks about her new found desire to help others achieve their goals and being a conduit for success.

“I come from a place where I just want to help others…you know…help other creatives. I know how it feel to feel like you’re not being heard. My dream is to hopefully be that person that could get out other people’s dreams and not just mine.”

ESSENCE featuring Teyana Taylor, Ciara and Iman is on newsstands now.

Photo Credit: ESSENCE