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‘Black-ish’ star Jenifer Lewis appears at ATL’s ‘Power Rising Summit’ [PHOTOS]

Written by | Ray Cornelius

I had the pleasure of meeting iconic TV, film and stage actress—JENIFER LEWIS—on Saturday afternoon during the Power Rising Summit. The four-day women’s conference took place at Atlanta’s historic Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel and featured inspirational and informative sessions with Star Jones, Cicely Tyson, Erika Alexander and Elder Bernice King.

Lewis took part in a very powerful conversation about black women and mental health along with the First Lady of New York City—Chirlane McCray. She also sold copies of her new memoir, The Mother of Black Hollywood, and took pictures with her adoring fans.

Ms. Lewis is EVERYTHING you think she is and more! While taking photos I watched her embrace, talk to and cry with a number of attendees who were either personally dealing with mental health issues or had family members who were suffering from bipolar disorder.

Ms. Lewis was very open and honest with us and even shared more “pearls of wisdom” about self-love and finding joy in the midst our current circumstances or situations. She also opened up about the advice she received from the late, great Dick Gregory and how the passing of actor/dancer Gregory Hines changed her perspective on living life.

What you see is truly what you get and I absolutely love her for it.

Stay tuned to my radio show UPFRONT as I will be featuring Ms. Lewis in a future segment where we will discuss her book, her illustrious career and more .

Jenifer Lewis with her friend and gospel great Dottie Peoples 

Ray Cornelius meeting Jenifer Lewis

Jenifer Lewis with Ray Cornelius 

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Jenifer Lewis, Kenny Lattimore, Rahsaan Patterson & more to appear at ‘Divas Simply Singing’

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Original “Dreamgirl” and my good buddy, Sheryl Lee Ralph will host her annual HIV/AIDS fundraiser “DIVAS Simply Singing!,” on Saturday, December 9 at Hollywood’s Taglyan Cultural Center.

This year’s roster of talent includes R&B greats Kenny Lattimore and Rahsaan Patterson, Chicago soul singer (and “The Voice” Season 3 contestant) Terisa Griffin and “Black-ish” actress and singer Jenifer Lewis, who will also be signing copies of her new book “The Mother of Black Hollywood.” This show will be the most intimate gathering in the organization’s history and will feature cocktails, dinner and entertainment in a unique club setting that will give all in attendance an up close experience with the performing artists. 

“We are always trying to find creative ways to continue to raise HIV/AIDS awareness,” Ralph says. “Anytime you put on an event for over 25 years, there’s the danger of becoming old, too familiar and having the community take you for granted. So this year, we thought we would do something different and host it in a smaller venue that brings everyone closer together for maximum interaction and enjoyment.”

The evening will also feature Todrick Hall, multi-hyphenate and former “American Idol” contestant turned Broadway star (“Kinky Boots”), who is this year’s recipient of the The DIVA Foundation’s Vision Award.

“With his passionate artistic activism, powerful songs and ability to connect with and promote a sense of better understanding with gay kids, straight kids, trans kids and so many others finding their way in the world, I believe Todrick will continue to have a great impact on our industry and the world,” says Ralph. “To use the vernacular term, he is truly WOKE!”

“Divas Simply Singing!” is the longest consecutive running musical AIDS benefit in the United States and continues to serve as a loving tribute for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDs. Over the years, DIVAS Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan, Teena Marie, Tremaine Hawkins, Karen Clark Sheard, Yolanda Adams, LaShun Pace, Dottie Peoples, Jennifer Hudson, and many more have raised their voices in song on the DIVAS stage. 

Click here for tickets!

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Kerry Washington, Andra Day, Jenifer Lewis & more attend ‘CARS 3’ World Premiere [PHOTOS]

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Check out photos from the recent world premiere of Disney/Pixar “CARS 3.” The screening took place at Anaheim Convention Center and was attended by a number of the stars who provided voices for the characters including Kerry Washington, Armie Hammer and Owen Wilson.

In “CARS 3,” the legendary Lightning McQueen is suddenly pushed out of the sport he loves. To get back in the game, he will need the help of an eager young race technician with her own plan to win, inspiration from the late Fabulous Hudson Hornet and a few unexpected turns. Proving that #95 isn’t through yet will test the heart of a champion on Piston Cup Racing’s biggest stage!

The film also features the voices of Nathan Fillion, Bonnie Hunt, Tony Shalhoub, Lee DeLaria, Cheech Marin, Katherine Helmond, Paul Dooley, Larry the Cable Guy, Christela Alonzo and Darrell Waltrip.  Other famous faces spotted on the red carpet included Isaiah Whitlock Jr., “Black-ish” stars Jenifer Lewis and Marsai Martin as well as Washington’s “Scandal” co-star Cornelius Smith Jr., soul singer Andra Day and NBA icon Reggie Miller. 

Check out more photos + the film’s official trailer below:

Jenifer Lewis 

Isaiah Whitlock Jr. 

Sky Katz and Navia Robertson 

Kerry Washington 

Marsai Martin

Cornelius Smith Jr. 

Andra Day

Reggie Miller and family

Photo Credits: Jesse Grant and Alberto E. Rodriguez for Getty Images

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Jenifer Lewis to release a memoir ‘Mother of Black Hollywood’

Written by | Ray Cornelius

“black-ish” star Jenifer Lewis is releasing a new memoir this fall about being the “Mother of Black Hollywood.” It’s scheduled to officially debut on Tuesday, November 14 through HarperCollins.

For years now, it’s been a running joke that Lewis has played just about “errbody’s mama” in most Black films and television shows. Some of her film credits include the now legendary portrayal of Zelma Bullock (mother of Anna Mae Bullock aka Tina Turner) in “What’s Love Got To Do With It” alongside with Angela Bassett.

She was Mama Rose in the hugely popular TV mini-series about Motown stars, “The Temptations.” She was also Whitney Houston‘s cigarette smokin’ mama in “The Preacher’s Wife” even though she was only six years older than Houston.  She has played a mother in “Dead Presidents,” “Think Like A Man,” “Think Like A Man Too,” “Girlfriends,” “Baggage Claim” and in “Disney’s The Princess and the Frog.”

Of all of her mother characters, it is her outlandish comedy, “Jackie’s Back!” that is probably her most memorable. Lewis starred as an “over the top” aging music diva, Jackie Washington, who is trying to make a career comeback. Washington and her daughter Antandra are iconic “camp” figures in the Black LGBTQ community and are revered as much as real-life music divas—Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and Beyoncé.

While there are no immediate details about the book, “Jenifer Lewis A Memoir: The Mother of Black Hollywood,” is available for purchase now online. 

Click here and listen to Lewis dropping “pearls of wisdom” during a 2013 screening of “Baggage Claim.” It was a message to young artists but is truth that can apply to anyone. I am so looking forward to reading this book!

Photo Credit: Instagram/Patrick Riley

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Yara Shahidi to star in possible ‘black-ish’ spin-off?

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Yara Shahidi, one of the young stars of “black-ish,” may find herself at the center of a spin-off of the popular TV series.  DEADLINE is reporting that ABC is looking into a new show about Shahidi’s character, Zoey Johnson, going off to college.

The network is reportedly in early talks and planning with the show’s creator and executive producer Kenya Barris and former “black-ish” showrunner Larry Wilmore. The show would be introduced as a backdoor pilot episode on “black-ish” this spring.

Hearing about this possible show immediately reminded me of “The Cosby Show” spin-off, “A Different World,” which was centered around Lisa Bonet’s character, Denise Huxtable and her college years at the fictional Hillman College. Bonet exited the show after the first season and the series shifted its focus to her co-stars Jasmine Guy (Whitley Gilbert) and Kadeem Hardison (Dwyane Wayne). “A Different World” aired for six seasons and made TV icons out of its cast.

“black-ish” also features Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laurence Fishburne, Jenifer Lewis along with Marcus ScribnerMiles Brown and Marsai Martin.

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

Photo Credit: HypeHair

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WATCH Jenifer Lewis, Brandy & Todrick Hall in hilarious new video (NSFW)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Check out the hilarious new video below of “black-ish” star and diva Jenifer Lewis, Grammy winning-singer, actress and reality star Brandy Norwood and Broadway star Todrick Hall. The three appear to be rehearsing a song, “But If We’ll Ever Have To” when Todrick refers to Brandy as a “legend” and all hell breaks loose. This is one of many videos featuring Jenifer and Brandy that has had everyone talking on social media. Their other hugely popular video, “In These Streets” with veteran TV and Broadway actress Roz Ryan became a YouTube sensation and was even turned into a ringtone.

Enjoy and Happy Friday!

https://youtu.be/dgzC6OdJX-g

Photo Credit: YouTube.com

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‘A Preacher’s Wife’ Musical in the works?

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Playbill is reporting that Emmy-nominated Broadway star Tituss Burgess has aquired rights to the 1996 hit movie “The Preacher’s Wife” starring the late Whitney Houston. The acclaimed performer has also penned music and lyrics to the show with a book written by Daniel Beaty.

The Broadway-aimed musical is described as “the story of one woman (Julia’s) journey to find her voice and strengthen her husband (the Preacher) and larger church community during a moment of financial crisis and emotional overwhelm. In a fast-gentrifying Harlem when they’re at risk of losing their church and their hope, an Angel appears and reminds them that a church is not a building, but the people who inhabit it and the love they share.”

An industry reading of the show will be presented next week, September 12 in NYC and will feature Grammy nominated-singer-songwriter Ledisi along with original “Dreamgirl” Loretta Devine, who also starred in the film with Houston over 20 years ago. “The Preacher’s Wife” also starred Denzel Washington, Courtney B. Vance, Jenifer Lewis and the late Gregory Hines.

Stay tuned…

Photo Credits: OurRelease.org

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Brandy, Jenifer Lewis and Roz Ryan perform “In These Streets’ (VIDEOS)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Watch Grammy winning-singer Brandy, “black-ish” star and everybody’s favorite “mama” Jenifer Lewis and veteran Broadway/TV actress Roz Ryan perform a hilarious  new song titled “In These Streets.”

The NSFW video was posted by Brandy this afternoon and everyone has been talking about it. The song’s title is named after one of Brandy’s favorite coin-phrases. Even though its funny as hell, their harmonies are tight and the ladies should consider doing a web series titled…you guess it…”In These Streets.”

The song also reminds me of Mille Jackson‘s legendary “Phuck You Symphony” from her now classic Live and Uncensored Album, which she recorded at L.A. Roxy Theatre in 1979. Check out both videos below:

Photo Credit: LoveBScott.com

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RC talks to Robert Townsend about his new UP film, ‘Playin’ for Love’ (VIDEO)

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

It’s been a minute since we’ve last seen award-winning director and actor Robert Townsend in front of the camera.  The multi-talented comedian, who starred in such classics as The Hollywood Shuffle, The Five Heart Beats, and The Parent ‘hood, is back in the spotlight with a brand new romantic dramedy  airing tonight on UP titled, Playin’ for Love.

The two-hour drama stars Townsend as Niven Banks, a cocky high school basketball coach who has just acquired the rival team’s star player, Justice “The Judge” McCoy.  However, what he didn’t bank on was McCoy’s outspoken momager, Talisa, who seems to have more control over on his basketball court than he would like. The film stars the beautiful yet stern, Salli Richard-Whitfield as Ms. McCoy and newcomer, Daniel Yorel Cooper as Justice. The film also stars the hilariously funny, Jenifer Lewis as Talisa’s friend, Alize Gates along with TV vets, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Coach Preston Reid and Esai Morales as Principal Jose Marti.

For Townsend, Playin’ for Love was conceived out of a need to help the inner-city youth of Miami, Florida’s Overtown community see that there is hope beyond the violence and poverty that cripples their neighborhood.

“I was in Miami three years ago at the American Black Film Festival and Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones approached me and said, ‘Hey Robert, you guys are on South Beach at the Ritz-Carlton but about 10-minutes away are the kids dying from violence and gangs and I wanted to know if you could help me? Could you teach them about making movies because the only thing the kids seem to respond to is music and celebrities they see on television? Could you come over and help us?’ So I said to her, ‘You know what? Why don’t we make a movie?’ I then told her that I could teach the kids how to make a movie and that they could be in the movie and learn all sides of the movie. I will even call on my Hollywood friends and make this film,” said Townsend during a brief phone interview.

After committing himself to the project, Townsend turned to a script that he had written a few years back about basketball.

“There was a script I had in my head like years ago and thought it would be a great movie for the kids because it involved basketball.  There could be cheerleaders and there could be different basketball teams. So I called Jenifer Lewis and I called Salli and called Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Steve White and said, ‘Hey guys, this is a small project that we’re doing for the community and everybody said, yes!’”

Townsend also explained that while the film was shot entirely on a shoe-string budget, the Miami-Overtown community genuinely rallied around the project in a way that he had not witnessed in filmmaking before. Many of the movie’s stars were teens from the community that had auditioned.  He even employed about 20 youths for his production staff and gave them all producing credit for the film. Even some of Miami’s high profile celebrities like Dwayne Wade pitched in and donated over 500 sneakers towards the cast, production and crew.

A fan of blackploitation film era, Townsend admits that Playin’ for Love is more than just a love story but it’s also an ode to his favorite 70’s childhood film, Claudine, which starred Diahann Carroll and James Earl Jones.

“It’s a sweet movie and I’m really proud that it has some morals and values in it, which is something you don’t see in a whole lot of TV shows today,” said Townsend.  “I’m also really glad it’s on the UP channel, which is all about uplifting entertainment.”

Next up for Townsend is a remake of the Richard Pryor classic, Brewster’s Million.

Playin’ for Love airs tonight at 7 p.m. EST on UP!

Check out a preview below:

[youtube id=”uicrL97nOGQ” width=”600″ height=”350″]

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Robert Townsend & Salli Richardson-Whitfield star in UP’s ‘Playin’ For Love’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Acclaimed filmmaker Robert Townsend (The Five Heartbeats, Hollywood Shuffle) stars, directs, produces and co-wrote script with Michelle Amor and Cheryl L. West for the UP Premiere Movie Playin’ for Love, a romantic comedy about life on and off the basketball court.  It’s a story about a successful high school coach who gets a superstar player – and the mom who tries to take over the team.  The film also stars Salli Richardson-Whitfield (“Being Mary Jane,” “Eureka”), Jenifer Lewis (Think Like A Man, “Black-ish”), Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (The Jacksons: An American Dream,Claudine) and Esai Morales (La Bamba, “Criminal Minds”). Playin’ for Love premieres exclusively on UP on Sunday, July 12 at 7 p.m. EDT / 6 p.m. PDT.

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“As a filmmaker I strive to uplift and inspire people, so I’m thrilled to have Playin’ for Love make its television debut on UP,” said Townsend. “This film is an homage to one of my favorite films ‘Claudine,’ starring James Earl Jones and Diahann Carroll, who received an Academy Award nomination for her role.  It also starred a young Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, so I had to have him in this film because ‘Claudine’ changed my life.  I saw my life on screen and it made me want to make movies.”

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“We’re thrilled to bring our viewers the world television premiere of Robert Townsend’s entertaining, fun family film Playin’ for Love,” said Sophia Kelley, senior vice president of programming, UP.  “Under his keen direction, the film presents a range of characters who you can’t help but root for as they struggle to do the right thing and on and off the basketball court.  And as impressed as we are by the film, we are also amazed by the story of the making of the film and how Robert and Miami’s Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones changed the lives of a group of kids and brought the community together.”

Check out the trailer below:

[youtube id=”uicrL97nOGQ” width=”600″ height=”350″]

Playin’ for Love airs Sunday, July 12 at 7 p.m. EST

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New Trailer and Poster for Kevin Hart’s ‘The Wedding Ringer’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Kevin Hart is taking it up a notch in the newest restricted trailer of “The Wedding Ringer.” In Sony’s latest comedy, Doug Harris (played by Josh Gad) must turn a group of strangers into the perfect team of groomsmen in time for the ceremony; And we can’t forget about the best man. That’s where Jimmy (played by Kevin Hart) comes in – a witty, smooth-talking guy who makes a living as a best man for hire. This winter, sparks will fly as the dynamic duo try to put on the perfect show for Doug’s family and friends. In this hilarious all-new restricted Holiday trailer, watch the groom and best man get raw and uncut on their adventure to create the perfect wedding. “The Wedding Ringer” also stars Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Affion Crockett, Jenifer Lewis, Cloris Leachman and Mimi Rogers
Check out the trailer and new poster below:

[youtube id=”wkt0WfysRAw” width=”600″ height=”350″]

wedding_ringer

Don’t forget to catch THE WEDDING RINGER in theaters January 16, 2015!

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Jenifer Lewis added to ABC’s ‘Black-ish’

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

TVLine is reporting that comedic actress and err body’s favorite mama, Jenifer Lewis is coming to ABC’s new family dramedy, Black-ish.

Reportedly, Lewis will play Anthony Anderson’s mother and is being described as follows: “She smothers pork chops with gravy, Dre with love, and would like to flat out smother [Dre’s wife] Rainbow (Tracee Ellis Ross), who feels the same way about her.”  Her character will join the show later on in the season.

As previously reported, Black-ish  takes a fun yet bold look at one man’s determination to establish a sense of cultural identity for his family. In addition to Anderson and Ross, the series also stars television and film veteran, Laurence Fishburne.  Black-ish  premiered last week and pulled  in over 11 million viewers.

Lewis has appeared in several television, film and stage projects including Strong Medicine, Girlfriends, The Preacher’s Wife and Jackie’s Back. She most recently starred in Think Like A Man Too  and is slated to appear alongside Kevin Hart in the upcoming romantic comedy, The Wedding Ringer.

Kudos to Lewis!

Photo Source: BET.com

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FIRST LOOK at Kevin Hart in ‘The Wedding Ringer’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

That Kevin Hart reign just won’t let up!

The Think Like A Man Too  star is already promoting his next film, The Wedding Ringer,  which opens in theaters at the top of next year.  In the new romantic comedy, Hart plays a charismatic guy who provides best man services for socially challenged men who can’t get anyone to stand by them on their wedding day.  Yes, think HITCH  remixed.

The film also stars Josh Gad as the lucky groom along with the very funny Affion Crockett, Jenifer Lewis, Cloris Leachman and Mimi Rogers.

Check out the preview below:

[youtube id=”_7HHplVZaG8″ width=”600″ height=”350″]

The Wedding Ringer  opens in theaters January 16, 2015.

Photo Credit: IndieWire.com

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FIRST LOOK at ‘Think Like a Man Too’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

The first trailer for Think Like A Man Too  has been released and it is hilarious.

The Will Packer film is a follow up to the 2012 smash hit, Think Like A Man  and features all of the original cast members:  Michael Ealy, Taraji P. Henson, Terrence Jenkins, Regina Hall, Gabrielle Union, Romany Malco, Meagan Good, Jerry Ferrara, Gary Owens and Kevin Hart.

The sequel also stars Jenifer Lewis, Wendy Williams and Dennis Haysbert.

According to the film’s IMDB page“All the couples are back for a wedding in Las Vegas, but plans for a romantic weekend go awry when their various misadventures get them into some compromising situations that threaten to derail the big event.”

Think Like A Man Too  is based on Steve Harvey’s best-selling book Act Like a Lady, Think Like A Man  and is directed by Tim Story and penned by Keith Merryman with David A. Newman.

Check out the trailer below:

[youtube id=”h30NCi9Z5_4″ width=”600″ height=”350″]

Think Like A Man Too  will be released on June 20, 2014.

Photo Credit: uk.movies.yahoo.com