Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas from The Cocoa Lounge

From The Cocoa Lounge

In celebration of the season, here's the legendary Eartha Kitt, singing "Santa Baby."

Grab a cup of egg nog and enjoy. Happy Holidays!

RIP James Brown.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Kelis Channels Etta James

From The Cocoa Lounge

Nas and Kelis at Album Release Party
Hip Hop Super-couple Nas and Kelis at Nas' album release party

Kelis is one of the most stylish r&b singers around. It's always a treat to see just what she comes up with next. Her newest look (a throwback to Hollywood Glam) has received mixed reviews from fans but The Cocoa Lounge gives it two thumbs up.

Kelis and Etta James

Seeing Kelis with the blond upsweep, dark brows and upturned nose, we can't help but notice a strong resemblance to soulsinger Etta James in her youth. We put the two side by side so you can be the judge...

Other celebrity look-alikes:
Usher and Ben Vereen
Meagan Good and Robin Givens

Sunday, December 17, 2006

'Raw' Footage: Chaka Khan on Drums

From The Cocoa Lounge

We all know Chaka Khan is one of the baddest chicks to ever breathe life into a note but who knew she was just as comfortable behind the band as she is in front of it?

Check out Chaka Khan playing the Drums in 1976 on the aptly titled, "People to Watch" show.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Fresh Face [#009]: Dawn Okoro

From The Cocoa Lounge

Bold. Striking. Powerful.

Dawn Okoro knows how to make a paint brush bleed; and this young Texas native is working her way into the pages of art history one stroke at a time.

Dawn learned how to put pencil to paper at an early age and garnered a slew of awards for her artistic achievements. Her work even caught the eye of singer, Erykah Badu, and the two have collaborated for Badu's non profit organization B.L.I.N.D.

(Dawn's piece, "Untitled 6" and the artist with singer, Erykah Badu)

Okoro's art is engaging, with each piece appearing to have it's own riveting story to tell. And for those of us who can't squeeze high art prices into our budget, Dawn offers afforable prints that will save your wallet--and your living room walls.

Learn more about the artist and her work at:

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Golden Globe Awards Sings a New Tune

From The Cocoa Lounge

64th Golden Globe Nominees

The Nominations for the 64th Golden Globe Awards were announced today and it seems the stars are more colorful than ever before. Not only were a number of our favorite black stars lauded with nominations but Latina, American Ferrera, (of Ugly Betty) and Masi Oka (of Heroes) received acting nods as well.

Hollywood is finally beginning to recognize actors of color on a larger scale. Hopefully, we're witnessing the beginnings of something new.

We can't wait to see more recognition for those behind the scenes as well.

Here's a brief glance at our selected nominations:





DreamWorks Pictures/Paramount Pictures; DreamWorks Pictures/Paramount Pictures





Chiwetel Ejiofor

British actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor joined a select few, including Clint Eastwood and Leonardo Dicaprio, nominated more than once for their work this year.











Check out the entire list of Golden Globe Nominees

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Fantastic Four [#002]: Four Guys We Love

From The Cocoa Lounge

Fantastic Four [#002]: Four Guys We Love: Jimmy Jean Louis

Jimmy Jean-Louis - Actor

We love NBC's latest supernatural drama Heroes. And the camera loves Jimmy Jean Louis who plays the show's mysterious Haitian. Up until last week's finale, Louis stole whole scenes without uttering a word. Too bad we'll have to wait until January to see (and hear) more from Jimmy Jean Louis. Those hungry for more can see him in Phat Girlz with Monique on dvd now.

Fantastic Four [#002]: Four Guys We Love: Reggie Bush
Reggie Bush - Athlete

The old adage "Good things come to those who wait," couldn't be truer in the case of NFL rookie and 2005 Heisman Trophy Winner Reggie Bush. After a mediocre start to his Professional Football career, the New Orleans Saints running back came alive against the San Francisco 49ers, scoring all four touchdowns in the team's 34-10 victory. And all this amidst a nation of critics and fans questioning his talent.

On the field, the 21-year-old Bush is a case study in patience and hard work, and off the field we can't help studying this strapping young man with our eyes. He definitely makes the grade.

Fantastic Four [#002]: Four Guys We Love: Steph Jones
Steph Jones - Musician

It's hard to believe that this talented singer-songwriter wasn't allowed to sing at home as a youth. It seems these days Steph Jones is making up for lost time. His sound--a fusion of alternative and acoustic soul--is as fresh and universal as his Gap-ad image. We recently spotted him performing an impromptu show in Downtown LA where we learned two things about this up and comer: If he doesn't win you over with his charm, he'll devastate you with his falsetto.

Our favorites from his growing songbook: "Mr. Ordinary" and "Look What You've Done."

Fantastic Four [#002]: Four Guys We Love: Ernest HardyErnest Hardy - Scribe

Ernest Hardy has a way with words. Without actually seeing or hearing this celebrated writer, one could instantly recognize his voice on a page. Honest, entertaining and thought provoking, Hardy's film and music criticism has been featured in The LA Times, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and Vibe. This year, he published Blood Beats: Vol. 1 a series of essays and interviews exploring film, music and sexual identity from an evolved perspective.

If you can't get to your nearest newsstand to pick up Hardy's extended works, the next best thing is a mouse click away--his blog.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Black Girls Rock! in NYC

Black Girls Rock

Not only do we love the title of this organization, we also love its mission. Founded by Mitzi Miller of Honey Magazine, author Joan Morgan, DJ Beverly Bond and journalist, Kenya Hunt, Black Girls Rock! Inc's mission is to promote discussion and awareness of the ways women of color are portrayed in mainstream media to at risk teenage girls.

We've got 2 words for 'em: Rock on!

For more info visit:

Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Raisin in The Sun to hit the Small Screen

From Chicago, to Rent and most recently, Dreamgirls, Hollywood is churning out the Broadway hits left and right and nobody's more excited than the Cocoa Lounge that A Raisin in the Sun is coming soon to a television near you--and all of the original Broadway cast members are onboard!

The Lorraine Hansberry play returned to Broadway in 2004 and starred Phylicia Rashad, Audra MacDonald, Sanaa Lathan and Sean 'P Diddy' Combs as the Youngers, a family of African Americans who face obstacles trying to move into their dream home in an all-white neighborhood.

A Raisin in The sun Still

For their performances, Phylicia, Audra and Sanaa all garnered Tony Award Nominations, with both Phyilica and Audra walking away with Broadway's highest honors. Phylicia Rashad made history that night, becoming the first African-American ever to be awarded Leading Actress in a Play.

The 3 hour television movie is currently shooting in Canada and John Stamos recently joined the all-star cast. Paris Qualles penned the screenplay and Kenny Leon will direct. This isn't the first time A Raisin in the Sun has been adapted for film, it was originally made for the big screen in 1961 and helped to solidify Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee as serious, furious actors.

We know there's nothing like watching a live show in New York but finally, those of us who don't reside in the Big Apple can get a taste of Broadway without even leaving our own couch. Ain't it grand?

Shareeka Epps "Breaks Through" at Gotham Awards

Shareeka Epps named Gotham's Breakthrough PerformerCongratulations are in order for Shareeka Epps. The Hollywood newcomer and Cocoa Lounge Fresh Face, was recently named Breakthrough Performer at this years' Gotham Awards.

The win is just the beginning of what looks like a big year for Epps. On Tuesday, the Independent Spirit Award nominations were announced and Shareeka is in the running in the Best Female Lead Category.

With all the Oscar buzz about Dreamgirls and The Pursuit of Happyness, it's refreshing to see Shareeka repping on the indie front.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Cocoa Lounge Remembers: Bebe Moore Campbell

Author, Bebe Moore Campbell

The literary world has lost another one of its amazing talents: Bebe Moore Campbell died yesterday in Los Angeles, she was only 56. Many may know Bebe through her novels, others may know her as the mother of actress, Maia Campbell, but she will forever be remembered as one of the most prominent female voices of African American fiction.

In a year that has seen the loss of science fiction great, Octavia E. Butler, Bebe's passing has sent a collective shock through the African American literary community.

Here's a brief article from USA Today:

Best-selling author Bebe Moore Campbell has died from brain cancer in Los Angeles, the Associated Press reports. She was 56. Her books include Brothers and Sisters, What You Owe Me, Singing in the Comeback Choir and 72 Hour Hold. Read more about her life and writing at her Web site, African American Literature Book Club and Voices From the Gaps. BookReporter has a 1998 interview with her, and NPR has several links for audio of her commentaries that aired on the network.

Bebe Moore Campbell will be deeply missed.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Amy Winehouse Takes 'Em to Rehab

This UK Chanteuse has got more soul than many of today's celebrated R&B singers. We might need Rehab for our addiction to this joint, which was inspired by Girl Groups of the 1960's.

More about Amy Winehouse.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Fresh Face [#007 - #008] Claire-Hope Ashitey and Shareeka Epps

Young Actresses Claire Hope Ashitey and Shareeka Epps

You probably don't know their names or faces now, but soon you will.

Claire-Hope Ashitey and Shareeka Epps (along with previous Fresh facer Keke Palmer) are poised to begin a new generation of young black actresses flexing some serious acting muscles.

Claire Hope Ashitey in
(Claire Hope Ashitey in a scene from "Children of Men")

London native, Caire Hope Ashitey, will co-star in the upcoming apocalyptic drama Children of Men (view trailer), as --get this--Kee, the key to the preservation of the human race. Though she's already getting early accolades for the role, the 19 year old is rumored to be taking a break from acting to pursue a college career.

Anthony Mackie and Shareeka Epps in
(Shareeka Epps chilling with one of our Fantastic Four, hottie Anthony Mackie during a scene from "Half Nelson")

In 2004, then 14 year old Shareeka Epps starred in writer/director Ryan Fleck's Sundance award-winning short film Gowanus, Brooklyn. When Ryan decided to adapt the short to this year's indie hit Half Nelson, Shareeka was a shoe-in for the role. Her portrayal of a 13 year old girl who bonds with her crack-addicted junior high History teacher, is sure to win her consideration at the Independent Spirit Awards next year. Look for Shareeka Epps in the upcoming "Alien vs. Predator" sequel.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Lauryn Hill makes rare appearance in New York

For days, there was internet buzz about an intimate Lauryn Hill performance. Few people knew the time or place, but the tightly guarded show was advertised as a special reward for American Express' Starwood Preferred Guest cardholders. Attendees weren't sure what to expect with Hill's recent performance track record tarnished by late starts and rumored diva antics, but besides an hour delay (which is becoming the norm) the show at the W Hotel in New York went on without a hitch.

Lauryn Hill and her band covered Bob Marley's "Zimbabwe" and Martha and the Vandellas' "Heatwave" then went on to play Hill staples including "Doo Wop: That thing" reportedly delighting audiences for over an hour past stage time.

Hill hasn't released a studio album since 2001's MTV Unplugged, though the internet continues to be a source of live material for fans of the guarded star. Her recent appearances have brought speculation about drugs and mental illness, but the rumors haven't seemed to slow her down; her performances continue to draw favorable reviews from critics.

One of those rare artists in the R&B/Hip Hop world, Hill is equal parts talent, creativity and defiance that keep fans and naysayers alike wondering (or worrying about) what her next move will be.

(Left: a past Hill performance)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Speaking of Stephanie Mills...

We mentioned singer Stephanie Mills in our previous "Divas Simply Singing" post. Here she is at only 16 years old (!) singing the song that became her signature, "Home."

We're glad to see Stephanie back 'Home' on the stage these days. They just aren't producing talent like this these days (but we'll reserve that for another post...).

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Cocoa Lounge Review: Divas Simply Singing

Divas Simply Singing: Benefitting the American Aids Foundation

This past weekend a number of notable divas got together and used their incredible diva powers for good: They simply sang--for a fabulous cause...of course.

Divas Simply Singing, held at the Wilshire E Bell Theater in Los Angeles, marked the 16th year that great women of song, stage and screen donated their time and voices to raise money to benefit Aids healthcare. The event was established by actress Sheryl Lee Ralph (star of the original Broadway hit Dreamgirls. Younger audiences may remember her as Moesha's mother). Ralph initially began the Divas show sixteen years ago to honor those friends who lost their lives in the early 80's to a then mysterious disease.

The sixteenth annual event saw divas like Stephanie Mills, Regina Bell, Loretta Devine, Jennifer Lewis, Karen Clark Sheard, Tremaine Hawkins, Shanice, American Idol Alums:Jennifer Hudson, Frenchie Davis, Paris Bennett, and Rahsaan Patterson (an "honorary diva" who's soul stirring rendition of Sade's Love is Stronger than Pride transcended the realm of performance--it was an experience). Even divas that didn't sing found a way to shine: Karen Briggs--a Diva "Simply Stringing"--played a compelling violin solo of Amazing Grace that brought the audience to it's feet, while hilarious comedian Niecy Nash was a Diva "Simply Speaking."

Divas Simply Singing: Dreamgirls
Original Dreamgirls cast members Sheryl Lee Ralph (l) and Loretta Devine (r) with actress Jenifer Lewis (center).

The night was one full of laughter, beautiful music and the antics of Sheryl Lee Ralph, 'oh diva divine' who during many fabulous wardrobe changes sang, laughed, joked and cried.

Frenchie (American Idol, Rent) who received a standing ovation for her rendition of "I am Telling You," blogged about the show:

"I have such a tremendous amount of respect for every woman who was on that stage....and to be considered amongst them was! I am so thankful."

Divas Simply Singing was Simply Amazing! For more information about Divas Simply Singing visit:

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Cocoa Lounge Remembers Tamara Dobson

We recently featured an article that a rumor was circulating that actress Tamara Dobson may be returning to the screen. Unfortunately, the buzz was unfounded. Tamara Dobson, former model and star of the Cleopatra Jones films of the 1970s died recently in her hometown of Baltimore after a battle with mutiple sclerosis. She was only 59.

If you are unfamililar with Ms. Dobson's accomplishments, here's a biography that we featured on the Cocoa Lounge in our early days:

Tamara Dobson earned a degree in Fashion Illustration at the Maryland Institute of Art. It was no suprise that the striking 6' 2" Baltimore native would later decide to head to New York to become a model. Before heading to Hollywood, Tamara Dobson plugged products for 25 television commercials. In the early 1970s it was almost impossible to see adverstisements geared to black audiences that didn't include Tamara Dobson or then-model, Richard Roundtree (who also became a huge action star in the Shaft films).

She later won the role of Cleopatra Jones beating out over 100 other young ladies who auditioned. Cleopatra Jones (1973) and Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold (1975) were two of Dobson's most popular films, providing young black women with a classy, sassy film icon that they could identify with. After the Cleopatra Jones films, however, Dobson would appear in only a few televsion movies and series and would disappear from the Hollywood scene forever, leaving two films to stand as testament to the box-office clout that black women can have--when given the opportunity.

Related Posts: Tamara Dobson Returns?

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Girls of Summer: Must-haves for every playlist

Cocoalounge Girls of Summer

Coming to an iPod near you! Five of the most promising talents this side of the Billboard Hot 100...

Emily King 1. Emily King

J Record's best kept secret is doing damage to our iTunes playlist with her empowering scorcher, “Walk in My Shoes.” Check Emily King out!

Janelle Monae2. Janelle Monae

Mix the voice of a modern Billie Holiday with the fashion sense of Miseducation-era Lauryn Hill, and you've got Janelle Monae. We really can't let go of her uptempo anthem "Let It Go." Check Janelle Monae out!


Strong vocals and a hot track keeps Shareefa's "Need A Boss," in constant rotation in the whip. With all the fragile voices in radio friendly r&b right now, Shareefa's soulful sound is a welcomed digression. Check Shareefa out!

Brook D'Leau 4. Miss Jack Davey

of J*Davey fame took one of our favorite tracks, "Electric Relaxation" by A Tribe Called Quest and gave it some 2006 feminine flair. Reminiscent of a young Erykah Badu, Jack Davey is part of a new wave of R&B artists ushering in an alternative sound. Check J*Davey out!

Algebra Blessett5. Algebra Blessett

No equation was necessary for us to deduct that we dig Algebra's sound. Her sweet love song, "U Do It 4 Me," is great for a Sunday morning ride or quality time with the one who does it for you. Check Algebra Blessett out!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Project Runway: Season Three's Got Seasoning

Project Runway 3 Contestant Michael Knight

From The ATL to Atlas New York: Michael Knight

Blink and you missed him in the first few episodes, but Michael Knight's eye for fashion is undeniable. The glimpses we got of his coffee filter dress in episode 1 and his stunning number in the dog challenge made us hungry for more. He looks more hip hop than high fashion, and may have been wrote off early by the likes of judges Heidi Klum, Michael Kors and Nina Garcia. But Mike has obviously got skills that could possibly pay the bills for a spot in the final three. Only time will tell. For now, we're just waiting for him to get at least a minute per episode in...

Black Girls Rule The Runway

If you've been keeping tuned in to Bravo's Reality Darling, Project Runway, then you've probably noticed the unmistakable flavor of this season's cast. Aside from the drama in the workroom--and there's lots of it--is the drama on the stage. We're not eluding to backstage catfights, or seam sabotage, but to the FIERCE runway stylings of a sizeable number of sistas that take the stage each week. The proof is in the pudding. The first three challenges have went to exquisite garments made even more exquisite by models at the top of their game.

Anybody who knows Cocoa Lounge's history knows that we love to profile fresh faces in the industry. The good casting folks at Runway have cut our job in half. Take a look at some of our favorite models from the show:

Project Runway 3 Models
Clockwise from top left: Camilla B, Katia Bissou, Marilinda, and our personal favorite, Nazri Segaro.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Barbara Walters: A Lesson in Inappropriate Touching

Barbara Walters couldn't seem to keep her hands to herself--and off her African American guest hosts, Brandy and Tanika Ray, two of many black women sitting in the seat once occupied by Star Jones on The View.

The clip made VH1's Best Week Ever and highlights an issue many African Americans--women and men--find themselves tangled in (pun intended).

Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child (right) recently sat-in with The View chicks. Someone must have informed Barbara that the touching thing wasn't going over well because she didn't fondle Kelly's hair but she did touch some sensitive spots for the singer--namely her recent split with her football fiance. Ouch!

That Barbara Walters is out of control!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Raven Symone takes on 'Adventures'

Raven Symone
Though the Disney television series That's So Raven has run its course, the Walt Disney company isn't finished with its hitmaker, Raven Symone yet. Raven has signed an acting and producing deal with Disney and is now attached to star in a remake of the 80s classic "Adventures in Babysitting." You guys remember this one, right? The 1987 film, which starred Elisabeth Shue, follows the misadventures of a high school teen stuck babysitting a trio of trouble-makers for one night. We're sure Raven could spice this one up with that crazy comedic timing of hers.

The deal follows a successful nearly five year partnership between Raven and Disney. That's So Raven has been one of the Disney Channel's highest-rated shows for several seasons. Symone also struck gold on the network with the Cheetah Girls films based on the books written by Deborah Gregory. Raven stars in the upcoming Cheetah Girls 2 set to air on the Disney Channel this August.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Tamara Dobson Returns?

If you haven't seen Cleopatra Jones in action, then you probably don't know who Tamara Dobson is. The model-turned-actress starred in the successful Cleopatra Jones action films in the early 1970s and disappeared from the film and television scene altogether shortly after. Along with Richard Roundtree (Shaft) and Pam Grier (Foxy Brown), Tamara Dobson was the equivalent of a superhero to action fans of the era.

Rumors have it that Tamara Dobson will return to the screen in an upcoming Rudy Ray Moore Dolemite film but with Rudy's recent health issues, we're not sure if this one will ever see the light of day.

In the meantime, if you'd like to see Tamara Dobson again (or for the first time), we'd recommend renting Cleopatra Jones or Cleopatra Jones and the Casino Gold.

filmsThe Casino Gold film is a Cocoa Lounge favorite. How often do you get to see an action flick starring an African American woman filmed on location in Hong Kong? Correct us if we're wrong, but we don't think that has happened since 1975.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Halle Berry and Angela Nissel get "Mixed Up"


Some of you hip hop fans may remember Angela Nissel as the co-founder of Okayplayer. She has since gone on to write the critically-acclaimed memoir, "The Broke Diaries," based on her hilarious adventures living below the 'broke line' and is currently a writer/consulting producer for the NBC dramedy, Scrubs.

Now Angela Nissel is teaming up with Halle Berry and HBO to develop "Mixed Up," a tentatively titled series based on The Broke Diaries and Angela's most recent novel, "Mixed: My Life in Black and White." The show will focus on a biracial woman and her two friends as they tackle racial and financial issues after college (Daily Variety).

We're not sure if Halle Berry will star or just produce but this project--if greenlit--may just be our Entourage or better yet, Sex in the City.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Fresh Face [#006]: Joy Denalane

Joy Denalane -- Throwback Pam Grier Moment
Afro-German, Joy Denalane, is a musical chameleon. Not only is her music a blend of genres that include Soul, Afrobeat and Hip hop, her lyrics are equally as diverse--Denalane will sing in English, German, Xhosa or Shangan (South African languages) without batting an eyelash.

Though she's been in the musical game for years, her fanbase has been largely focused in Europe--but that's quickly changing. Joy was featured on the German version of Common's single "Go!" and is sure to draw attention in the US with her latest R&B single "Let Go."

If you haven't yet discovered Joy, you don't know what you're missing.

Singer, Joy Denalane
Watch the video for "Let Go" here. (Real Player)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Lachanze Hits A High Note at the Tony Awards

It looked like it was going to turn into a Tony Award shut-out for the Broadway adaptation of Alice Walker's The Color Purple. The show, which was nominated for a whopping 11 Tony Awards, went home with only one but stage veteran Lachanze's Best Actress in a Musical win is a great reflection of the this young womans' talent and a huge honor for the show.

Lachanze will leave the The Color Purple in November, so if you want to catch her award-winning performance as "Celie" you'd better get tickets soon. If you can't make it to New York to experience the show live, you can purchase the musical's soundtrack or pop in that classic movie DVD.

"You tole Harpo to beat me!"

A scene from the musical, The Color Purple