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Ray Cornelius to co-host AHF’s ‘World AIDS Day Concert’ on 12/5 [PHOTOS]

Happy Wednesday family and welcome back to RayCornelius.com.

Allow me to apologize for disappearing on you guys in November but I was having some serious tech issues with the site. However, we are back up and running and I have a lot of catching up and sharing to do with you.

“Drumroll please…”

It gives me so much pleasure to announce that I will be co-hosting the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) “World AIDS Day Concert” tomorrow night (Thursday, December 5) featuring R&B, pop and dance music diva DEBORAH COX, R&B and soul music prince RAHEEM DEVAUGHN and hip hop artist KCAMP. It all goes down at Center Stage Atlanta beginning at 6:30 p.m. and is FREE and open to the public.

This is actually my second time working with AHF and I am completely thrilled that they asked my back. I gave the opening remarks during their 2017 screening of Nathan Hale Williams‘ indie short 90 Days during the BronzeLens Film Festival.

Tomorrow night’s concert is the last of several events AHF presented commemorating World AIDS Day (December 1). Check out photos below from the Los Angeles show which featured POSE star and Tony Award winning actor and singer BILLY PORTER and R&B/Hip Hop icon FAITH EVANS + the Dallas show which featured TEYANA TAYLOR and living legend and music icon DIANA ROSS.

Photo Credits: Walik Goshorn/AHF

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AAFCA honors the ‘Movies of Motown’ with TCM (VIDEO)

The African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA) continues its partnership with Turner Classic Movies (TCM) with a special celebration of the films of Motown. Last year the two teamed up to present The Black Experience on Film, putting diversity and inclusion in cinema at the forefront with a month of programming on TCM curated and hosted by AAFCA members. This year, the two have rejoined forces for AAFCA Presents: Motown Productions on October 22, featuring AAFCA member Christopher Witherspoon, who joins TCM host Alicia Malone to screen and discuss the classic Motown films THE LAST DRAGON, LADY SINGS THE BLUES and MAHOGANY.  

“We are thrilled to extend our relationship with Turner Classic Movies showcasing the cinematic universe of Motown,” said AAFCA President/CEO Gil Robertson. “Motown chairman Berry Gordy is a visionary known for creating the soundtrack to American life, but his cinematic contributions are largely unsung, and they shouldn’t be. Fueled by Gordy’s creative genius and bold vision, Motown Productions offered the world a chance to see images of Black life that had never been seen before: a Black Kung Fu master, a Black female model and designer and a timeless biopic of the legendary Billie Holiday that earned Diana Ross an Oscar® nomination. It’s just incredible.” 

“TCM’s mission is to showcase films with context and curation, and we are so pleased the experts at AAFCA are joining us again this year to highlight the importance and originality of Motown Productions, the extension of Gordon’s Motown Records music label,” said Charles Tabesh, senior vice president of programming & production, TCM. “We are proud that this partnership will continue to bring both important programming and a critical perspective to our audiences.”

Check out Ms. Ross’ mesmerizing Lady Sings the Blues performance of “Good Morning Heartache” below:

PHOTO CREDIT: TCM.COM

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#UPFRONT featuring Patrick L. Riley, Troy Powell and Ronald Williams (AUDIO)

This weekend’s edition of UPFRONT is all about #BlackBoyJoy. It features my conversations with Troy Powell, artistic director of Ailey II, Ronald Williams from The Collective Culture and media sensation Patrick L. Riley

Ronald Williams is here to chat about the upcoming stage adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ best selling book Between the World and Me The event takes place this Tuesday, October 22 at Atlanta’s Symphony Hall and features a who’s who list of talent including Lynn Whitfield, T.I., Killer Mike, Ledisi, Omar J. Dorsey, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Pauletta Washington and more. Between the World and Me is Coates’ attempt to answer life’s questions in a letter to his adolescent son. The event is being presented by The Apollo Theater, The Collective Culture + NBAF (National Black Arts Festival).

Artistic Director of Ailey II—Troy Powell—is here to chat about their upcoming Atlanta engagement at the Rialto Center for the Arts at Georgia State. The evening will feature new works from Bradley Shelver, Andrea Miller and former Ailey dancer Kirven Douthit-Boyd. Yours truly will be hosting a conversation with Troy following the performance. 

Closing out UPFRONT is my conversation with producer, media star and WCLK alumnus Patrick L. Riley. He stopped by to chat about his new book, That’s What Friends Are For: On the Women Who Inspired Me. It chronicles his relationships with some of the biggest DIVAS in music, TV, film and stage including Diana Ross, Janet Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Taraji P. Henson, Vanessa Williams and Wendy Williams

Listen to my full unedited conversation below and CLICK HERE for the entire UPFRONT show:

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Miss Lawrence added to Lee Daniels’ ‘The United States Vs. Billie Holiday’ (VIDEO)

Photo Credit: Lee Daniels/Instagram

Lee Daniels is adding more star power to his upcoming film The United States Vs. Billie Holiday. Snowfall actor Melvin Gregg and Miss Lawrence formerly of STAR have been added to film which features Grammy-nominated singer Andra Day as the jazz and music icon.

According to DEADLINE, The United States Vs. Billie Holiday follows Holiday’s career as she was targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair. It will explore Holiday’s struggles with addiction, fame and heartbreaking love. Gregg will play Joe Guy, a famed trumpet player in Billie’s band, and one of her lovers, who is battling drug addiction at the height of Holiday’s reign. Miss Lawrence will portray Miss Freddy, Billie’s stylist.

The film also stars Trevante Rhodes, Garrett Hedlund, Natasha Lyonne, and Evan Ross, whose mother Diana Ross earned an Oscar-nomination for her portrayal of Ms. Holiday in the Motown classic film Lady Sings the Blues.

Check out Andra Day’s performance of the Billie Holiday classic “Strange Fruit” below:

PHOTO CREDITS: Lee Danies and RayCornelius.com

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Watch Michelle Williams as Diana Ross for BET’s ‘American Soul’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

BET has released another sneak peek of Michelle Williams as Motown’s leading lady—Diana Ross. The Destiny’s Child star will be appearing as the legendary singer for the network’s newest drama American Soul. It premieres tonight at 9 p.m. EST followed by another new episode at 10 p.m.

American Soul is the untold story of the struggle to make the dream of Soul Train come true. Inspired by the personal trials and professional successes of a young, ambitious and troubled impresario Don Cornelius, the 70s period drama is an unflinching look at the entrepreneur, his Soul Train dancers, and musicians set against the backdrop of a cutthroat Hollywood – how they work, play, rise and fall.

The series also stars Kelly PriceJason DirdenIantha Richardson, Christopher Jefferson, Katlyn NicholJelani Winston and Sinqua Walls as Don Cornelius. It also features cameos by Kelly Rowland as Gladys Knight, Bobby Brown as singer Rufus Thomas, Gabrielle Dennis as Tina Turner, McKinley Freeman as Ike Turner and  K. Michelle as Martha Reeves.  

Will you be watching?

Photo Credit: PEOPLE.com

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Diana Ross to perform at Grammy Awards (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

The Grammy Awards announced earlier today that living legend and musical icon DIANA ROSS will be performing during this year’s show on Sunday February 10.

The performance is part of a tribute and celebration the Recording Academy is doing for the Motown diva who is turning 75-years-old.

“We’re thrilled to announce a very special #GRAMMYsperformance by @dianaross! We will be honoring her landmark career and contributions to music with a special 75th Diamond Diana birthday performance,” said the Grammy’s Instagram page.

In addition to appearing on the Grammys, Miss Ross will return to Las Vegas’ Wynn Hotel for a limited “Diamond Diana” engagement beginning February 6. It will include all of her hits songs like “I’m Coming Out,” The Boss,” “Love Hangover,” “Reach Out and Touch Somebody’s Hand” and my favorite “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

She is also teaming up with Fathom Events for a nationwide screening of her now legendary Central Park Concert: For One and For All  on her birthday—-March 26.

Click here to purchase your tickets!

Photo Credit: Instagram/Grammy Awards

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Michelle Williams to star as Diana Ross on BET’s ‘American Soul’ + more (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

DEADLINE is reporting that BET has added more star power to its upcoming series American Soul. Grammy Award-winning singer and Broadway actress Michelle Williams is set to play legendary Motown diva Diana Ross. The Destiny’s Child star will portray Miss Ross as she is being courted by Don Cornelius (Sinqua Walls) to appear on his new music show – Soul Train. However, she hasn’t quite decided if she will accept his offer.

Well, we already know that she does accept his offer and appeared on on the show a few times. Cornelius even did a tribute show to her back in the early 80s (watch it here) and Miss Ross received the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award during the 1995 Soul Train Awards.

Bobby Brown as Rufus Thomas on “American Soul”

In addition to Williams, R&B King Bobby Brown has also been cast to portray singer Rufus Thomas, who is best known for his song, “Do The Funky Chicken.” Gabrielle Dennis, who starred as Whitney Houston in BET’s The Bobby Brown Story will portray unstoppable Tina Turner with McKinley Freeman as Ike Turner.  

Reality starlet and singer K. Michelle will also appear as Motown darling Martha Reeves of Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. Michelle revealed the big news back in November and talked about how proud she was to finally work with music icon Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. I take it he must be handling some of the show’s musical elements.

American Soul premieres on BET beginning Tuesday February 5th.

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com + YouTube + Pintrest

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Diana Ross and John Legend to perform on NBC’s ‘Christmas in Rockefeller Center’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Music legend Diana Ross and EGOT John Legend are just a few of the big stars who will be performing during tonight’s Christmas in Rockefeller Center special on NBC.

The holiday season will officially begin with the lighting of America’s tree and includes other star-studded musical performances by Tony Bennett with Diana Krall, Martina McBride, Pentatonix, Kellie Pickler, Brett Eldridge, Darci Lynne and much more.

This is the second NBC special that Miss Ross has appeared on in the last two weeks. She was just singing holiday music from her new album on top of float with her family during the hugely popular Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. From the looks of several videos I have seen on social media, Miss Ross will be singing “Home” from The Wiz. The iconic movie just celebrated its 40th Anniversary. Can’t wait to see this tonight!

Watch a sneak peek below:

https://youtu.be/MvnEWseOGmM

Photo Credit: Instagram/AdamDanielWeiss

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‘UPFRONT with Ray Cornelius’ featuring André Leon Talley (VIDEO)

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

Check out my exclusive UPFRONT with Ray Cornelius interview featuring fashion and style icon André Leon Talley. This is the second episode of my new program that puts a spotlight on Atlanta’s ever evolving TV, film, music and arts scene.

Mr. Talley was in town for a recent SCAD screening of his documentary, The Gospel According to André and was so gracious enough to make some time for me. During our conversation, he opens up about his career as the former American editor-at-large for Vogue, his time spent with the art icon Andy Warhol and the story behind the famous image of him dancing with music legend Diana Ross at New York’s famed Studio 54.

UPFRONT with Ray Cornelius airs on Friday evenings at 8:30 p.m.  and on Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m. on CAU-TV 23 (Comcast 23).

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LISTEN to #UPFRONT with ‘Superfly’ cast + André Leon Talley (AUDIO)

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

Check out this past weekend’s edition of my arts and entertainment radio program, UPFRONT Inside Atlanta’s Entertainment Industry. It features my exclusive black carpet interviews from the Atlanta premiere of Superfly.

The film is a remake of the 1972 classic and stars Trevor Jackson as Priest, a drug dealer who decides that he wants to get out of his dangerous trade. The film also stars veteran actors Esai Morales and Michael K. Williams along with newcomers Jason MitchellLex Scott Davis, Terayle Hill and Allen Maldonado. The film is produced by Future and directed by hip hip music video icon Director X.

Closing out the show is my one-on-one with fashion icon and former VOGUE Magazine editor-at-large André Leon Talley. He opens up about his new documentary, The Gospel According to Andre’. He also chats about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Andy Warhol and dancing with Diana Ross at NYC’s famed Studio 54. I also feature music from the original Super Fly soundtrack with Curtis Mayfield all throughout the show.

UPFRONT Inside Atlanta’s Entertainment Industry airs every Saturday morning at 9 a.m. on Atlanta’s Jazz station, Jazz 91.9 WCLK and WCLK.com.

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com and AURN.com

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Lee Daniels wants to direct Andra Day in a Billie Holiday biopic?

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

VARIETY is reporting that Lee Daniels would like to direct a new film about beloved jazz icon Billie Holiday and wants singer Andra Day as his leading lady.

The creator of Empire and STAR is reportedly in talks to direct a project titled—Billie—and wants to pair the “Rise Up” vocalist with Get Out star and Atlanta actor Lakeith Stanfield.

Daniels would team up with Pulitzer-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (Top Dog/Underdog) as the writer along with Joe Roth and Jeff Kirschenbaum as producers.

Music legend Diana Ross portrayed Holiday in the iconic 1972 film Lady Sings the Blues along with Billy Dee Williams. Her performance earned her critical acclaim as an actress along with an Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe award.

Six-time Tony Award winner Audra McDonald portrayed the singer on Broadway and for HBO in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill.

Day performed her version of Holiday’s classic “Strange Fruit” last year during the Global Citizen Festival.

While I do have a lot of questions about this project, I am more than confident that Day would pour her heart and soul into this role and of course the music. She received a standing ovation recently following her performance of “I Put a Spell on You” during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s induction of Nina Simone. She could very well be that singer who introduces Ms. Holiday to a new generation of fans.

RC will keep you posted as this project continues to develop.

In the meantime, check out Ms. Ross’ performance of Holiday’s classic, “My Man.”

Photo Credit: RayCornelius.com

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Danai Gurira shines for ‘EBONY’ [PHOTOS]

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Black Panther starlet Danai Gurira looks absolutely radiant for the new cover of EBONY magazine. The actress, playwright, producer and activist is the epitome of #BlackGirlMagic in these beautiful images shot by renowned photographer Dennis Leupold.

“Growing up at a time when you didn’t often see yourself represented in popular media, #EbonyMagazine was always that source of edification celebrating Black voices, history, and achievements. Really enjoyed shooting this cover and sharing my story with them. Thanks so much @ebonymagazine,” said Gurira on social media.

According to EBONY, Gurira rocked to Diana Ross‘ classic 70s hit “The Boss” while doing her photo shoot. Click on the video of the song below while looking at the photos:

Photo Credits: EBONY/Dennis Leupold

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Kim Kimble names Diana Ross, Beyoncé & Michelle Obama among her ‘Top Hair Divas’

Written by | Ray Cornelius

If you’ve ever wondered who inspires celebrity hairstylist—Kim Kimble—well look no further. I recently caught up with the reality show star and chatted with her about the women whose locs give her life!  The list wasn’t given in any particular order but it includes a wide range of hair mavens from the iconic Madam C.J. Walker to the #LITAF Issa Rae.

Kimble has worked with a number of celebrities throughout her twenty plus year career including Oprah WinfreyMary J. Blige, Kelly Rowland, Brandy and the late Whitney Houston. She’s also worked her magic on such films sets as Double PlatinumDreamgirls, Sparkle, Cadillac Records, B*A*P*S and Beyoncé‘s Lemonade.

Her most recent work is seen in Ava DuVernay‘s epic Disney adventure, A Wrinkle in Time, where she designed all of the hair and wigs for the film.  She talked exclusively to UPFRONT earlier this month about the project and much more.

Check out Kimble’s list of “Top 7 Hair Divas” below:

1. Madam C.J. Walker 

“I have to pay homage to Madam C.J. Walker just because. For me it wasn’t so much about her hair as it was her impact on the hair industry.”

2. Diana Ross

“Miss Ross always brings BIG, FABULOUS hair!”

3. Michelle Obama

“She’s a pretty incredible person and she gives you ‘First Lady’ hair.”

4. Beyoncé 

“She’s been a BIG impact on today’s hair and fashion!”

5. Issa Rae

“Issa is part of that new generation of hair. I love that she came out with natural hair.”

6. Josephine Baker

“If you wanna go way back in fashion, I would say Josephine Baker with that cool finger wave. It was sexy!”

7. Tina Turner

“I kinda hit the 80s with Diana Ross but you gotta mention Tina Turner when she came out with her ‘What’s Love Gotta Do With It’ hair.

Who are your favorite hair divas?

Photo Credit: RayCornelius.com

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UPFRONT featuring Constance C.R. White, Audrey Morrissey + the writers from ‘This Is Us’

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

Check out this week’s edition of UPFRONT Inside Atlanta’s Entertainment Industry. I recently traveled to Hollywood, CA  for an NBC Press Junket and talked to Audrey Morrissey, executive producer of the popular music competition series, The Voice. Morrissey opens up about this season’s newest features including “The Block,” “The Save” and adding Kelly Clarkson as a coach.

Former ESSENCE editor and fashion expert Constance C.R. White stopped by the studio to discuss her new coffee table book, How to Slay: Inspiration from the Queens & Kings of Black Style. It features over 150 photographs of fashion icons like Josephine Baker, Michelle Obama, Naomi Campbell, Kanye West, Jay Z and more.

Closing out the show is another NBC exclusive with three of the writers from This Is Us. Kay Oyegun, Shukree Tilghman and Elizabeth Berger discuss the success of the show, what fans can expect in season three and much more.

UPFRONT Inside Atlanta Entertainment Industry is a 30-minutes arts and entertainment program that features one-on-one interviews with all of the movers and shakers in television, music, film, theater and fashion.  UPFRONT airs every Saturday at 9:00 a.m. on WCLK 91.9 and is hosted by yours truly.

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com