Saturday, December 22, 2007

Coming Soon: The Secret Life of Bees


Now this bit of production news is just the bees knees: How excited are we that Love & Basketball director, Gina Prince-Bythewood, is attached to not only direct but has adapted Sue Monk Kidd's best-selling novel, "The Secret Life of Bees" for the big screen?

Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson and Sophie Okonedo will star and Dakota Fanning and Alicia Keys are in final negotiations.

"Bees," a drama set in the Southern U.S. in the 1960s, centers on teenager Lily Owens (Fanning) and her friend Rosaleen (Hudson) who flee their hometown to escape their harsh upbringing and seek to uncover the mysteries of Lily's late mother. Along the way, they encounter three beekeeping sisters (Latifah, Okonedo, Keys) who take the pair in to their South Carolina home. --Reuters

For the past several years, Black female directors have been noticeably MIA from the big screen. But with Angela Robinson (Herbie, D.E.B.S) continuing to helm projects and Kasi Lemmon's recent return with the Petey Greene story, Talk to Me, thankfully, things are starting to look up again!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Cocoa Lounge NOW: 8 of The Most Powerful Black Women in Entertainment

Cocoa Lounge NOW: 8 of The Most Powerful Black Women in Entertainment

The Hollywood Reporter recently announced its 16th Annual, Power 100 Women in Entertainment List:
When the Hollywood Reporter pulished its first Women in Entertainment special issue on Dec. 8, 1992, only one woman headed the motion picture division of a studio--Sherry Lansing...Fifteen years after our first report, it's almost commonplace to see women seated at the head of the table in film and television, as well as shepherding production studios, agencies and cable networks. In fact, this year's Power 100 features more women with titles of president and chairman than in any of the previous special issues we've published.

Of the 100 buiness-savvy, female power-players listed, a solid 8% were African American women, a good sign, as black women are comfortably filling executive chairs in and outside of the entertainment industry. Enough of our gushing...
Without further adu, and in no particular order, meet 8 of the Most Powerful Black Women in Entertainment:

  • Vanessa Morrison, President, Fox Animation

  • Lorrie Bartlett, Partner, The Gersh Agency

  • Christina Norman, President, MTV

  • Tracey Edmonds, President and COO, Our Stories Films

  • Nina Shaw, Founding Partner, Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano

  • Debra Lee, Chairman And CEO, BET

  • Sylvia Rhone, President, Universal Motown Records

  • Oprah Winfrey, Chairman, Harpo Inc.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Fresh Face [#015]: Muhsinah

Fresh Face [#015]: Muhsinah

She has "muse" in her name, so it comes as no surprise that Muhsinah's tapped into a rich source of inspiration for her debut CD, Day.Break.

We've been having the "Where are all the female producers?" discussion for years around these parts. Outside of Missy Elliott, you could (literally) count the number of female Hip Hop/Soul arrangers/composers/producers on one hand--practically one finger, even.

Muhsinah is like a seasoned steak to the malnourished soul game; A refreshingly fresh independent, who pushes soul music so far forward, it warrants its own genre: "Progressive Future Soul." And on top of being a producing wunderkind, she's also crossed 'classically trained pianist' and 'formidable vocal talent' off of her list of things-to-accomplish by the age of 24.

With a sound that is like Georgia Anne Muldrow meets someone you've never been formally introduced to, we look forward to more of what Muhsinah has to offer this galaxy.

Check out her independent video: "Construction" below.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Iman Sashays Onto TV's 'Runway'

Iman Sashays Onto TV's 'Runway'

Hold on to your chemise, Heidi Klum! Iman joins the growing list of über-models turned television stars as host of Project Runway Canada, the latest installment of the popular Project Runway franchise.

Iman puts her own stamp on the Canadian version with a no-nonsense approach to judging contestants' designs. But as any model knows, measuring up is a tough job, especially when another (Klum) has worn the 'Runway' look so well.

Does Project Runway Canada measure up to its American predecessor? You be the judge:

Wanna see more episodes? Iman's Runway airs on Canada's Slice network. If you're outside of Canada, don't bother checking your local listings, we recommend scouring youtube instead.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Coming Soon: The 'Bolden' The Beautiful

Two upcoming period pieces have us all eyes and ears: one's an indie biopic, the other is an early award-season contender filled with entertainment heavyweights.

The 'Bolden' The Beautiful

Fantastic Four: Four Guys We love alum, Anthony Mackie, is known for generating heat around these parts, but Bolden!, his latest project, is full of its own sparks.

Audiences have been patiently waiting for Mackie to get his Denzel on; to land a role that transforms an actor from 'good' to 'critically-acclaimed.' That role, we hear, comes in the portrayal of Buddy Bolden, a giant in rag-time music, and early father of jazz.

The 'Bolden' The Beautiful

The film also features three notable up and coming actresses: The Bolden women. Yaani King, Karimah Westbrook and Milauna Jemai, all young dramatic actresses, who are gaining their stripes through strong television appearances on popular shows like CSI, Without a Trace and Law & Order.

The Great Debaters: Publicity Photo

And what can we say about The Great Debaters that hasn't already been uttered? With names like Denzel Washington, Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey to headline the credits, this film is destined for a little award-season attention. And young Jurnee Smollett, an acting powerhouse since Eve's Bayou, is already being lauded for Supporting
Actress consideration by MGM.

We here at the Lounge can't wait to feast our eyes on these when they finally grace the silver screen.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Diana Ross Receives Supreme Honor

Diana Ross
There isn't much that hasn't been said about Diana Ross in her over 40-year career, but it can be said with certainty that she has not yet been honored by the prestigious Kennedy Center. This December, along with legends from varying backgrounds: Actor/Comedian, Steve Martin; Filmmaker, Martin Scorsese; pianist Leon Fleisher and composer, Brian Wilson; Diana Ross will be awarded what has been considered the artistic equivalent of knighthood in Britain.

To celebrate the achievement, we'll leave you with a moment from Kennedy Center Honoree, Diana 'The Boss' Ross' epic 1983 Central Park Concert.

"The show will not stop!"

This "Endless Love" performance is inarguably one of the greatest concert moments in recent history. A crowd of over 300,000 bore witness as Diana Ross gave new meaning to Singing In The Rain.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Saturday Soul: L'Trimm, "Cars That Go Boom"

From The Cocoa Lounge

Holy Cabbage Patch Kids! We're in a fun, 80's mood, which means today's Saturday Soul may just come with its own can of Aqua Net.

Hence, the video for 80s duo, L'Trimm's, one and only claim to fame: "Cars That Go Boom." The group, comprised of emcees Lady Tigra and Bunny, were a wicked combination of JJ Fad and Cyndi Lauper who quickly jumped onto the Top 40 Charts and landed in oblivion.

We hope--somewhere--they've managed to find happiness with the ones they especially like:

Which ones?
You know the ones with the cars that go...
I hear you...
Hit it!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Cocoa Lounge NOW: Black Girls Rock with Honors

From The Cocoa Lounge

Actress, Gabrielle Union, to host 2007 Black Girls Rock Awards

We spotlighted Black Girls Rock Inc. last year when we caught wind of the fantastic grass-roots work this organization dished out in the Big Apple. Black Girls Rock Inc. has continued to grow and recently joined forces with VH1 Hip Hop Honors and a slew of entertainers for its star-studded 2nd Annual Black Girls Rock! Awards, co-hosted by actresses Gabrielle Union and Regina King.

Sponsored by CoverGirl Queen Collection, VH1 Hip Hop Honors, bluhammock music, Jordan Brand, Akademiks, GIANT Magazine and METRO, this year's growing list of presenters include breakout superstar and COVERGIRL spokesmodel Rihanna, R&B heartthrob Mario, pop-star Mya, philanthropist/poet/artist Danny Simmons, hip-hop pioneer MC Lyte, R&B princess Ashanti, and Bad Boy recording artist and actress in the upcoming Disney film "Step Up 2," Cassie. Other presenters include music mogul Andre Harrell, Hip-Hop legend and icon KRS-One, Rain Pryor, NAACP Image Award winning actress, author, MS Avocate and daughter of legendary comedian Richard Pryor, philanthropist and former model Bethann Hardison, "The Wire's" Sonja Sohn, Discovery Home Channel celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson and more.

Black Girls Rock 2007 Honorees (Honorees include: (clockwise) Common, Christte Michele, Missy Elliott and Tracy Reese.

A who's who of girls—and guys—who rock, have been penned into the nomination diaries. Street Soldier and Fox 5 News Correspondent, Lisa Evers, has been nominated for the Community Outreach Award; Jay-Z's hook girl, Chrisette Michelle earns a well-deserved "nom" for the Who's Got Next? Award for her brilliant neo-soul debut album, "I AM;" Hip-Hop icon Common, not only churns out hit after hit but has also penned the history of hip-hop with his 1994 love song to the art form, I Used to Love H.E.R. The Chicago-born rapper has been nominated for the Soul Brother #1 Award; And Philadelphia's Power 99 breakout female deejay, DJ Diamond Kuts, has spun a nomination for the Jazzy Joyce DJ Award. With attendance still pending, the irresistibly irreplaceable Beyonce Knowles, is rumored to be taking home the Icon Award.

Rock On!

The awards ceremony will take place Oct. 6th at the Lincoln Center in New York.

***10/09/07 UPDATES:***
Black Girls Rock! 2007 Awards Photos
For photos from the 2007 Black Girls Rock! Awards, CLICK HERE.

For more info about the Black Girls Rock! Awards visit:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Lieutenant Uhura: Remixed.

Lt. Uhura gets Remixed

Since her inception in the late 1960s, Star Trek's Lt. Uhura has remained a pop-culture icon. The beehive-rocking, smart, Chief Communications Officer of the USS Enterprise, introduced international television audiences to a kind of black woman it had never seen before: a sista literally light-years ahead. Becoming one of the first African American characters to join a culturally diverse television cast, actress Nichelle Nichols helped to change archaic notions that once crippled the sci-fi genre, and proved once and for all that people of color would, indeed, have a place in the celluloid future.

Though, Nichols made Uhura's sci-fi trekking look easy, she battled racial inequalities both in front of and behind the scenes and had once contemplated leaving the show in its first season, until Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. talked her into staying. The legendary leader told her how important it was for the world to see her in such a groundbreaking role--and who can really argue with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr? Nichelle Nichols continued through the shows' three seasons, making television history along the way. King's words would ring true when, years later, Mae Jamison, the first black female astronaut, cited seeing Uhura on television as an inspiration for joining NASA.

Zoe Saldana as Lt. UhuraNow, forty years later, the iconic role of Lt. Uhura will have a new face: Zoe Saldana's. The new Star Trek film will begin shooting this winter and is expected to hit theaters Christmas 2008.

Zoe has been given some pretty big shoes to fill, but we're sure she'll wear them well. Beam her on up, Scotty!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Junk on Your Trunk: Junkprints

Junk on your trunk: Junkprints

The designer's name is Chanel Kennebrew, so it's no surprise that this trendsetter is brewing up her own memorable brand of fashion. Eclectic, pop-art influenced and fun, Junkprints, an online shop on Etsy, reminds of us of the kind of little boutique you might discover in a big city and never stop frequenting.

Check out the online collection, which includes fashion and Chanel's own artwork.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

From London, With Love: M.I.A

From The Cocoa Lounge

Due to tight schedules, we've been leaning heavily on YouTube for content recently. Rest assured, we'll be back soon!

Today's YT special is for all those (like us) wondering Where All The Female Emcees Have Gone. Look no further....we've found one!

This particular emcee, M.I.A., was a little hard to track down as she has roots in Sri Lanka, London, and reportedly, Compton, CA...and on top of all that, we've been sleeping on her for years. But MIA resurfaced earlier this summer with a new album, and rather enjoyable video for her single "Boyz," that is equal parts throw-back and musically forward in this era of recycled tunes.

With a name like M.I.A., it's ironic that she's one of the only visible female faces in Hip-Hop this year. Is it time to file a missing person's report?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Why We *Heart* Serena!

She digs deep. She plays from the heart. And today she earned herself a spot in the U.S. Open Quarterfinals.

Here's Serena Williams doing what she does best to the beat of Kanye West's Stronger:

*Update: The same reason why we heart big sis Venus, too! Congrats to both these ladies on their return to the top tier of womens tennis.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Saturday Soul: Gladys Knight

Saturday Soul: Gladys Knight

On September 10th, Gladys Knight will be honored with this years' Ella Award. The ceremony, named for its first recipient, Ella Fitzgerald, celebrates singers who lend their time and support to charitable causes. Past recipients include Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra, Celine Dion and Elton John.

Enjoy this 1974 performance of "You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" from Gladys Knight and the Pips. After over 50 years in the business, Gladys' voice is still as rich as pure honey.

When the movie is made that highlights this womans' life and illustrious career, we think Kelly Rowland would make an excellent Gladys Knight. Don't they look alike?

(right: singer, Kelly Rowland)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Cocoa Lounge NOW: The Hollywood BBF

(Alicia Keys and Scarlett Johansson in The Nanny Diaries.)

The following article, "Hollywood loves BBFs 4-Ever" was published today in the Los Angeles Times. Relevant and brutally honest, this exposé sheds light on an old industry practice which can be perceived as either extremely progressive (in terms of race relations in America) or severely limiting (as black actresses are relegated to one-dimensional characterizations).

You be the judge:

Hollywood loves BBFs 4-Ever
By Greg Braxton
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

August 29, 2007

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has one. Sandra Bullock had one. So did Jennifer Garner and Katie Holmes. Jennifer Love Hewitt has had two. Calista Flockhart took hers dancing. Kate Walsh had one, lost her, and got another one with a different face but the same name. And Scarlett Johansson got her first one last weekend.

(Regina King and Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality.)

They're stars who have all played lead characters who experience adventure with the help of their BFF (Best Friend Forever). But in many cases, these BFFs might more accurately be characterized as BBFs -- Black Best Friend -- played by an African American actress whose character's principal function is to support the heroine, often with sass, attitude and a keen insight into relationships and life.

Celluloid BBFs have been featured in the just-opened "The Nanny Diaries," as well as "The Devil Wears Prada," and "Premonition." But BBFs have been even more of an influence in TV series, including "The New Adventures of Old Christine," "Ghost Whisperer," "Alias," "Ally McBeal," "Felicity," "Summerland" and "Private Practice," the spinoff of "Grey's Anatomy" premiering this fall.

The BBF syndrome isn't something that Hollywood likes to talk about, even as it continues to be a winking in-joke among blacks in the industry. One African American actress said that she and her actress friends tease one another about forming a support group for characters who had to help out their "woefully helpless white girls."

But on a more serious note, the trend of BBFs underscores the limitations that African American actresses still face more than five years after Halle Berry's Oscar-winning performance as best actress in a leading role for "Monster's Ball." Despite impressive résumés, solid credentials and successful achievements, many of the black actresses who have played BBFs are rarely offered the heroine role in mainstream projects. Not one black actress will star in a prime-time series on the four major networks this fall season.

And, as has been long lamented, lead roles in films are few and far between.

(Alicia Silverstone, Brittany Murphy and Stacey Dash in 90's sleeper hit Clueless.)

Rose Catherine Pinkney, executive vice president of programming and production for TV One, a cable network targeted to black audiences, was one of the few TV or film industry executives willing to talk about BBF syndrome, saying: "It's wonderful that studios recognize great talent. And there's more diversity, so it looks like the world. But it's a shame that studios also don't have the courage to put these actresses in leads."

Some say it's unfair to even categorize BBFs -- it undermines the talent of the actors and actresses who work hard to win their roles, they say, and ignores the fact that some of these roles didn't necessarily call for an African American performer.

But Pinkney, a former Paramount Studios executive, added, "Historically, people of color have had to play nurturing, rational caretakers of the white lead characters. And studios are just not willing to reverse that role."

Of course, friendships or partnerships between black and white males are a staple in films and movies ("Lethal Weapon," "Wild Hogs," "Pulp Fiction"). But in many of those relationships, the dynamic is more even-handed -- the friends support each other -- or the black male is the dominant friend.

But it's different for women.

BBFs vary in personality and looks, but many share the same qualities: They are gorgeous, independent, loyal and successful. They live or work with their friend but are not really around all that much except for well-timed moments when the heroine needs an eating companion or is in crisis. BBFs basically have very little going on, so they are largely available for such moments. And even though they are single or lack consistent solid relationships, BBFs are experts in the ways of the world, using that knowledge to comfort, warn or scold their BFF.

And quite often, they are the only black character in sight.

"It's a stereotype that's been around for a long time," said Stuart Fischoff, professor emeritus of media psychology at Cal State L.A. "It's a way for bringing in a different culture, and the black friend can add ingredients that would not ordinarily be there. Blacks are seen as being more outspoken, so they can speak with greater authority and give more information."

(Aisha Tyler and Jennifer Love Hewitt of The Ghost Whisperer.)

Opportunity or limitation?
Aisha Tyler, who generated buzz when she played the first recurring African American love interest on "Friends," wound up in the BBF class when she played the best friend to a paranormal investigator (Hewitt) in CBS' "Ghost Whisperer."

Tyler, who left the series at the end of its first season to devote more time to her first directorial effort, a buddy comedy about two female cops that she will star in, said she feels fortunate that she is mostly offered roles that are more complex and interesting than the traditional BFF.

"But I don't know what the alternative is," said Tyler. "I think the more roles there are for African Americans, the better. This trend feels like a consolation prize, but at least these roles are available. A lot of ensembles are not diverse at all, so if it's a shot, it's a good thing."

With "The Nanny Diaries," musician Alicia Keys enters the distinguished class of BBFs that includes Tracie Thoms, Wanda Sykes, Nia Long, Brandy, Merrin Dungey, Audra McDonald, Regina King, Stacey Dash and Lisa Nicole Carson. Key BBF moments include:

* "The Nanny Diaries": Lynette (Keys) warning Annie (Johansson) that taking a nanny position as a lark instead of pursuing a career may be problematic: "The path of least resistance, it can lead through a minefield."

* "The Devil Wears Prada:" Lily (Thoms) scolding Andy (Anne Hathaway) about ignoring her circle of friends and getting swept up the world of high-style fashion: "The Andy I know . . . is always five minutes early and thinks Club Monaco is couture. For the last 16 years, I've known everything about that Andy. But this person, this glamazon . . . I don't get her."

(Calista Flockhart and Lisa Nicole Carson of TV's Ally McBeal.)

* "Ally McBeal": Renee (Carson) berating attorney Ally (Flockhart) for still pining after her old boyfriend, a colleague who has married someone else: "You two were like Barbie and Ken. He's a wimp. Five years from now, he's one of those boring little lawyers looking over his stock portfolio, playing golf at the country club with nothing left to offer you at the end of the day. . . . You can do better."

If there was a poster BBF for BBFs, it would most likely be Dungey.

(TV Veteran, Merrin Dungey.)

A veteran of several television series, Dungey is best known as Francie, the best friend of secret agent Sydney Bristow (Garner) in "Alias." After leaving that series in 2003, Dungey turned up on the WB's short-lived "Summerland" as Susannah, the best friend of Ava (Lori Loughlin).

Her next major role was in the pilot for "Private Practice," the spinoff of "Grey's Anatomy" that aired in May as part of a two-hour special. She played Dr. Naomi Bennett, the best friend of Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh). In late May, producers announced that Dungey was being replaced by another African American actress, Audra McDonald, saying that there was more chemistry between McDonald and Walsh. The character will keep the same name when McDonald takes over the role.

Talent wins out
There is another view to the emergence of the BBF. Some producers say the casting of black actresses as the friend is not due to any race-specific casting, but comes down to best actress for the role. For example, producers of "Friends" said Tyler won the role strictly on talent.

Richard Gladstein, producer of "The Nanny Diaries," said he also was not looking specifically for a black actress to play the lead's best friend, a character not in the book that inspired the movie. "She just happens to be African American," he said. "Alicia Keys came in and gave a wonderful reading, and that was it."

(Kellee Stewart and Jordana Spiro in My Boys.)

And Kellee Stewart, who plays opposite Jordana Spiro (P.J.) in TBS' comedy, "My Boys," which launched its second season last month, refuses to be categorized as a BBF, calling it an insult to her talent. She won her role as a best friend to a sports writer over several actresses, including whites.

"To call this a trend or to say an actress was cast just because of her ethnicity is to negate her contribution," said Stewart. "It minimizes the talent and effort it took to win the role in the first place."

[Online link to article:] "Hollywood loves BBFs 4-Ever,"
by Greg Braxton

Monday, August 27, 2007

Teyana Taylor: Trace Covergirl

Teyana Taylor: Trace Covergirl

Cocoa Lounge Fresh Face, Teyana Taylor, wasted no time landing the coveted spot of Trace Magazine. Her skateboard-biker-chic m.o. is perfect for the style and culture mag, most famous for its annual Black Girls Rule issue.

Without so much as a guest-hook spot populating the airwaves, this Pharrell Williams protege is quickly becoming underground musics' It-Girl. Keep an eye out for this eclectic teen; but blink and she might just be a superstar already.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Coccoa Lounge Legends [#003]: Kara Walker

Cocoa Lounge Legend: Kara Walker

"Her silhouettes throw themselves against the wall and don't blink." --Time Magazine.

Named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in The World, Kara Walker's artwork is so bold, it doles artistic slaps to the face.

Her fairy-tale-meets-nightmare world of silhouettes are often centered around antebellum slavery themes, and racial/sexual relations. Walker is unflinching in telling it like she sees it, and in doing so, has become a legend in her own time.

Cocoa Lounge Legend: Kara Walker

As is expected when an artist goes against the grain, Walker's art is frequently met with controversy, but it hasn't stopped the accolades from coming; by age 27 she'd pocketed the MacArthur Genius Award and her art has been exhibited in prestigious institutions across the globe including the Guggenheim, Harvard, and the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.

If a Kara Walker exhibition is not coming to a city near you soon, don't fret. You can gaze upon her startling imagery in the privacy of your own home in one of several books about her work.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Fresh Face [#015]: Ayo

Fresh Face [#015]: Ayo

With influences that range from Donny Hathaway and Jimmy Cliff to Pink Floyd, Ayo's musical background is just as diverse as she is. Like fellow Afro-German, Fresh-Face Joy Denalane, Ayo takes genres and infuses them with a dose of her own sensibilities and culture. While her sound is not completely definable, we'd file it in our music collection under Folk: Soul.

Her latest video, Down on My Knees, reminds us of how simplistically artistic music videos used to be... Ahhh... the good ole days.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Coming Soon: Production News from a Few of Our Favorite Actresses

From The Cocoa Lounge

Coming Soon: Actress Watch
(Clockwise: Kerry Washington, Gabrielle Union, Paula Patton, Kimberly Elise, Zoe Saldana, Naomie Harris, Thandie Newton (center)).

Cocoa Loungers are always wondering what's next from their favorite actresses. Here's a look at films that have been announced or already in production with Black Hollywood's A-List Scene-Stealers:

Kerry Washington joins Mos Def and Alfre Woodard in Bury Me Standing.

Gabrielle Union and Morris Chestnut are together again for Perfect Christmas. And the busy actress is also in production on sci-fi comedy, Starship Dave, with Eddie Murphy.

Paula Patton co-stars with heavyweights Kevin Costner and Kelsey Grammer in comedy, Swing Vote.

Kimberly Elise re-teams with Denzel Washington for Oprah Winfrey-produced and Suzan-Lori Parks-penned, The Great Debaters.

Zoe Saldana gets bionic in the film version of adventure-hit, Avatar.

Pirate of the Caribbean's,
Naomie Harris, joins Keanu Reeves and Forest Whitaker in The Night Watchman.

And Thandie Newton teams with Cocoa Lounge favorite, Idris Elba, and Gerard Butler for the Dramedy, RocknRolla.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Saturday Soul on Sunday: J*Davey in Paris

From The Cocoa Lounge

The French fashion label, Lacoste, recently celebrated their collaboration with designer Michael Young and the launch of Plastic Polo.

One of our favorite new music duos, J*Davey took the stage as part of the festivities, with an off-the-cuff performance of "Hi Sun" that makes us want to pop the wheels and go electric! Weeeeeee!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Cocoa Lounge NOW: Lauryn Hill Breaks Her Silence

From The Cocoa Lounge


In recent months, stories of Lauryn Hill's bizarre antics and performances have saturated internet blogs like high cholesterol. L Boogie's remained virtually silent until this telling, impromptu interview with a European hip hop personality.

Aside from revealing that Lauryn Hill is obviously experimenting with something (philosophies, personal expression... stimulants?), her brief candidness has its upside. We don't know how much she's had to lose in Losing Herself, but her keen intellect clearly remains as evident in this response to a question about hip hop music:

Q: What do you think of the state of hip hop right now?

Lauryn Hill: That’s a longer story. That’s like a longer interview… I see a lot of talent; lot of potential... At the same time I see a lot of lost potential. You know, I see a lot of what could easily be exploitative… I mean we could sort of trace black music back and watch the pattern... See how these black folks found this incredible music, you know, that comes from a place of expression and how it gets co-opted and commercialized and compromised and… bitten… and appropriated and taken... You know, my struggle has always been to sort of prevent that from happening, to sort of maintain the soul in everything that I can possibly do.

Somehow we can breathe easier knowing that Lauryn hasn't quite lost all of her mind. But we hope she maintains herself first and the soul later; then help heal the open wound that is hip hop.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Le Chic Afrique: Zulu Rose

From The Cocoa Lounge


Zulu Rose has found the perfect balance of African Culture and eye-catching graphics to redefine global urbanwear. These are the shirts chests were made to rock!

With their culturally-aware mission statement (...It is our vision to fuse the strength and intensity of a Zulu warrior with the buttery smoothness and vibrancy of an African rose...) and a talented pair of visionaries to guide them, Zulu Rose will certainly succeed at bringing Africa to a body near you.

We adore.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Flo No Mo: R&B Duo Floetry Calls It Quits

Floetry Splits

A change was in the air a year ago, when we penned this one: Marsha Ambrosius To Flow Solo. And now it’s official: Marsha Ambrosius (the Songstress) and Natalie Stewart (the Floacist) are Floetry no more. But Marsha has not yet flown the Floetry coup… Enter Stewart’s replacement: up and coming, rapper/vocalist, Amanda Diva.

We’re more concerned with Marsha’s highly anticipated debut album than how the new Floetry will fare. Like Amel Larrieux before her, (former vocalist of the now defunct duo, Groove Theory) there’s no question if Ambrosius will have an audience. As much as we enjoyed the innovative, UK-style Floetry had to offer, we think it’s time for Ambrosius to step into the limelight again, but this time, perhaps, alone.

Because, in all honesty, we hate having to wait a verse to hear this songstress sing.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sassy Sarah Vaughan: Still Shining 60 Years Later

The year was 1947 when Sarah Vaughan was bestowed the "Best New Star Award" by Esquire magazine. Exactly 60 years later, Sassy or the Divine One, as she was known by fans, has yet to stop shining.

We're likely to hear Sarah's remarkable voice in coffeehouses or as soothing background music in television commercials but rarely do we get to see just what made Sarah divine and kept audiences clamoring for more. So without further ado...

Enjoy this 1955 rendition of "Perdido."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cocoa Lounge NOW: Jordan Richardson is a Covergirl

From The Cocoa Lounge
Jordan Richardson (right) Covers Colures
(Jordan Richardson, pictured right, is one model to watch.)

Cocoa Lounge Fresh Face: Model, Jordan Richardson is the face of Colures Magazine's current issue. Jordan makes our list of Models on the Move and we're sure this cover is the beginning of many.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

'Dem' Darn Debates: Hilary Vs. Obama

It's gonna be a tough choice at the polls for the 2008 Democratic Primaries. Most of us want change. A lot of us want diversity. But with both a woman and black man fitting the bill, it looks like the fight for The Oval Office will be to the finish... and it won't be pretty.

Enter this cute and witty little YouTube video that addresses just about every Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton gripe ever uttered. The vid throws clever political (and personal) jabs at both candidates that'll make you laugh first and think later.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Model Liya Kebede Struts Onto Forbes' Earnings List

Model Liya Kebede Struts Onto  Forbes' Earnings List

Liya Kebede was recently named one of Forbes Top Earning Models joining a list of modeling elite which includes Gisele Bundchen, Kate Moss and Heidi Klum.

From Forbes:

[Earnings:]$2.5 million

As the first black model in Estée Lauder's history, the 29-year-old Ethiopian beauty is hailed as a ground-breaker. She also models for H&M, the Gap, Anne Taylor and Givenchy.

From the philanthropic work she does in her home country of Ethiopia to a perched spot atop the prestigious Forbes list, Liya Kebede never ceases to be a pioneer.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Saturday Soul: Klymaxx, "The Men All Pause"

Shoulder pads. Asymmetrical hair cuts. The infamous drum solo. What ever happened to those days? And what ever happened to Klymaxx? Relive the magic of 80s R&B with this fabulous all-girl band.

Besides rising to the level of legendary clubbanging status,
The Men All Pause contains one of the greatest lines ever recorded onto wax: "Somebody slap me! Cause I know I'm lookin' good..." Wait for it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Cocoa Lounge NOW: Bezemymailan

From The Cocoa Lounge

Cocoa Lounge NOW: Bezemymailan

| Arresting & Innovative. Bezemymailan, fashion's ecclectic design duo, have their eyes on the global market, and our eyes glued to their unique creations. |

Combining their creative talent to form the ‘Bezemymailan’ clothing line, Mailan and Bezem are two young designers, who between them represent four different cultures. The Bezemymailan brand is inspired from a rich mix of cultures, including their travels to Russia and various countries in Africa, Asia and South America.

Cocoa Lounge NOW: Bezemymailan
Street style.

Cocoa Lounge NOW: Bezemymailan

Mixing Third World Culture and Couture. We love it.

For more info:

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Venus Golden at Wimbledon

Venus Williams wins 4th Wimbledon Title

Planet Venus is back in orbit!

Whoever said 'three's a charm' obviously never snagged a fourth Wimbledon title...

Friday, July 06, 2007

Fresh Face [#014]: Wendy Wonder

From The Cocoa Lounge

Cocoa Lounge Fresh Face #14: Wendy Wonder
Danish Reggae chanteuse, Wendy Wonder.

One of the newest voices of Reggae Music is one that can't be found in the Caribbean, Latin America, the US or the UK., though Wendy Wonder (currently a rising star) on the Danish Reggae scene, has a combination of talent and style that could land her on the international stage.

The singer / songwriter's sound--a fusion between traditional Reggae arrangement and Pop vocals--is familiar, yet fresh. And fans of World Music will find themselves looking to add at least one of her tracks to their iTunes library.

For more info:

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Celebrating The 4th, Diva Style!

In Celebration of Independence day, here's Whitney Houston (recently
voted one of the 20 People Who Changed Black Music) reinventing the American National Anthem in 1991.

Enjoy your day off this 4th of July! (That is, if you're in the states...)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Coming Soon: Films in Production From ATL to Africa

From The Cocoa Lounge

This summer, Black Star Power is in full effect. Some of our favorite thespians are on location this month shooting films that will have to be seen to be believed:

Angela Bassett to 'Meet The Browns'

Cocoa Lounge Film: In Production: Meet The Browns
Legendary Actress, Angela Bassett has teamed up with Tyler Perry for Browns.

There's no doubt about it: Angela Bassett is black America's most beloved and highly respected actress. The black Meryl Streep; the female Denzel, Angela Bassett's talents go without saying.

We hissed when the Academy failed to recognize her for what she was: The Best Actress of 1994 for her reincarnation of Tina Turner in What's Love Got To Do With It. And it saddens us that this great actress' shortage of roles and acclaim, have more to do with Hollywood's ambivalance towards black womanhood than her lack of talent.

Cocoa Lounge Film: In Production: Meet The BrownsSo when the rumor began that Angela Bassett will star in the film-adaptation of Tyler Perry's farce Meet The Browns, we couldn't stop ourselves from cringing. Though Tyler Perry has established a brand of comedy that has captured the attention-spans of millions the world-over, we find it hard to imagine the Yale-trained actress exchanging sassy banter with the brassy Madea and her clan.

Perhaps Bassett is just what Tyler Perry needs to grow as a multi-faceted filmmaker, and the role that Bassett could transform into another memorable vehicle. Only time will tell.

Meet the Browns began production last month in Atlanta, GA. Jennifer Hudson is also rumored to be attached.

Botswana opens its doors to Jilly from Philly

Cocoa Lounge Film: In Production: The No. 1 Laides' Detectives Agency
Idris Elba, Jill Scott, and Anika Noni Rose will make history in Africa this month.

Jill Scott is a very busy lady these days. The singer-turned actress recently made Cocoa Lounge news, and is now leading the cast of a landmark film set in Africa. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency, scheduled to begin filming Monday, is the first major production to shoot entirely in Botswana. And with Hollywood heavyweights The Weinstein Co. producing (with additional funding from The Republic of Botswana) and Anthony Minghella (The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley) in the directing chair, it seems that Miss Scott is in very good hands. This film has the word "nomination" written all over it.

Agency, based on Alexander McCall Smith's best-selling book series, follows the exploits of Precious Ramotswe (Jill Soctt), the series' heroine and proprietor of the only female-owned detective agency in Botswana. Anika Noni Rose (Dreamgirls) will play Precious' quirky secretary Mma Makutsi, and Lucian Msamati will play Precious' suitor JLB Matekoni.

The cast also includes David Oyelowo (The Last King of Scotland), Idris Elba (28 Weeks Later), Colin Salmon (Die Another Day) and Tony Award winners Winston Ntshona and John Kani.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Happy Birthday Lena Horne!

The Cocoa Lounge celebrates Lena Horne's 90th Birthday weekend with a clip from 1943's Stormy Weather. Though Lena Horne appeared in over a dozen films over her legendary career, Stormy Weather remains one of her few starring roles.

We wish Ms. Horne a very happy 90th!

Friday, June 15, 2007

America the (Not-So) Beautiful: Model, Gerren Taylor Speaks On The Ugly Side of Fashion

Model/Actress Gerren Taylor

As few as two years ago, you couldn't miss Gerren Taylor.

Dubbed "Baby Naomi" because of her striking resemblance to the catwalking legend, at only 12 years old, it seemed Gerren had taken a permanent seat on top of the modeling world. Appearances on Oprah, fashion show bookings and media coverage came quickly and then suddenly, almost just as quickly, Gerren disappeared.

Those who had come to know and love the baby-faced sensation wondered what dimmed the light of such a fast-rising star.

Now, the documentary America The Beautiful answers the question: Taylor was shunned by the industry because of her size.

" the heart of "America the Beautiful" is Gerren, a teen model who got labeled "obese" by the fashion industry at age 14 — as a 6-foot size 4. With a résumé that includes modeling for international designers such as Roberto Cavalli, Richard Tyler, Tommy Hilfiger, DKNY, Nicole Miller and Catherine Malandrino, Gerren went head to head with an industry obsessed with thinness. She was measured in London with 96-centimeter (37.8 inches) hips and told she had to be 90 centimeters (35.4 inches) or under to model in Paris. (Then as now, she weighs 130 pounds.) Even Gerren's mountains of supermodel media coverage — including appearances on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Entertainment Tonight" and "Extra" — couldn't get her past the power of the tape measure." --Los Angeles Times

Not one to be deterred, Gerren is reportedly focused on continuing to pursue an early passion, acting---she remains one of Denzel Washington's most adorable co-stars--and will be featured in the BET reality series Baldwin Hills.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Jill Scott and Nzingha Stewart take on 'Hate'

From The Cocoa Lounge

Jill Scott

Trailblazing music video director, Nzingha Stewart, has been tapped to direct Jill Scott's latest video for the soon-to-be-released, very hot single, Hate on Me. (.mp3) Performers from Common to Dashboard Confessional have benefited from Nzingha's artistry over the years.

Here's one of our favorite Nzingha-directed videos as of yet: Her crisp, black and white vision of Bilal's, Soul Sista.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Black Model Museum [#003]: The Beauty Dynasty

From The Cocoa Lounge
Generations of Beauty: Black Models
Three generations of fashion industry giants.

In one historic snapshot, circa 2001, Vanity Fair Photographer Annie Leibovitz captured over 30 years of black beauty from all around the globe. To us, it was one of the most relevant images published in the magazine in years.

(Models pictured. Front Row (l to r) : Gail O'neal, Karen Alexander, Shakara Ledard, Clara Benjamin Naomi Campbell, Iman, Second Row: (l to r) Kadra, Kara Young, Cynthia Bailey, Tyra Banks, Liya Kebede, Beverly Johnson Third Row: (standing) (l to r:) Oluchi, Katoucha, Adia, Noemie Lenoir

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Isn't She 'Lovely?' Brand New Amel Larrieux

From The Cocoa Lounge
Singer, Amel Larrieux
(Amel Larrieux releases Lovely Standards.)

In certain circles, the name Amel Larrieux is either followed or preceded by three words: "I love her." Her voice is pure air. She's Neo-Soul music's resident chameleon; which has been her greatest legacy as well as a slight detriment. Refusing to fit into one particular box may have cost her mainstream success over the years, but is exactly why hardcore fans like us keep coming back for more.

Her newest project, released just this week, Lovely Standards, represents her grand entrance into the jazz arena. Larrieux takes a gentle approach to popular and rare standards; with a light and breathy vocal that soars. With a take on Nina Simone's Wild Is The Wind, that would impress the High Priestess of Soul herself, Amel Larrieux takes on a songbook of giants note-for-note, and simply whispers them to sleep.

Here's one of our favorite Amel Larrieux throwbacks: The video, Get Up!

For more Amel Larrieux: Her Official Site, Groove Theory Biography, Maatkara Animated Web Series

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Fresh Face [#013]: Regine Nehy and Serena Reeder

From The Cocoa Lounge

Fresh Face #013:  Regine Nehy and Serena Reeder

Regine Nehy and Serena Reeder both made splashes earlier this year in the Sundance-premiered Weapons, a tale about drugs and violence in small-town youth. The film, starring Nick Cannon and Little Miss Sunshine's Paul Dano, swept starletts Nehy and Reeder into the limelight and on the fast-track to Hollywood success.

Fresh Face #013: Regine Nehy Grey's Anatomy fans may remember Philly native, Reghine Nehy, from a dramatic guest starring role as a pregnant teen; or as the only female swimmer on the Marcus Foster swim team in Pride, the drama based on a true story.

Fresh Face #013: Serena Reeder Julliard graduate, Serena Reeder's breakthrough role was as 50 cent's murdered, drug-addicted mother in Get Rich or Die Tryin. She will later star opposite Hollywood greats, Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson, in the highly-anticipated film, The Bucket List.

Get to know these Fresh Faces, because you'll be seeing a lot more of them soon.