Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Five Reasons Why Beyonce is A Robot

I suspect Beyonce is a robot. Entertainer, entrepreneur, wife, mother, Sasha Fierce. She is able to accomplish things on stage and off that mere humans can only fathom in their dreams. 

Here are the top five reasons why Beyonce is a Robot:

1)The Show Never Stops.
Her weave got stuck in a fan during a concert but Ms. Carter kept on singin'.
A fan pulled her into the crowd during a concert and Diva kept on singin'.
She toppled over like a tree on stage but Bootylicious kept on singin'.

2)Nobody is that Beautiful.

Girlfriend hacked off her weave but still her beauty is like the sun. 

3)Nobody is that Rich.

Her and hubby Jay Z-izzle made ninety five millions dollars last year. 

4)She had the perfect comeback.

When controversy broke out after she lip synced the National Anthem at Obama's inauguration Destiny's Child sang the same song acapella at a Superbowl press conference. Only a team of programming geniuses could come up with a bitch slap like that.

5)There is more than one Beyonce.

It's not technical wizardry that allowed Beyonce to dance with former versions of herself in that Pepsi commercial. Those other "versions" are robots. 

Can you think of any other reasons why she is a robot? We can prove this together. Please share your thoughts. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Magic Tricks

My daughters love music. I have introduced them to my favorite Broadway show soundtracks and thanks to their older siblings they are up on the current music teenagers have on their iPods. There is nothing quite like hearing my three year old sing the lyric, "I crash my car into the bridge! I don't care!" at the top of her little lungs.

Sunday night I was driving home with the girls in the back seat. We had on the pop station their big siblings request whenever they are in the car. One of their favorite songs came on and they asked me to raise the volume. I hit the plus button on my steering wheel and the music got louder.

"How did you do that?" my six year old asked.
I almost started to explain the logistics of what I had done but then I decided to go in another direction."It's magic." I told her.
"Are you serious?" she asked.
"Do it again!"
"See." I waved my hand up while I turned the volume up more, then waved my hand in the opposite direction while I turned the volume down. I repeated the moves alternately while the girls squealed with delight.
"That is so awesome!"

My heart was exploding. The girls were fully convinced there was magic taking place. It reminded me of the moment in the play Peter Pan when Peter turns to the audience and asks them, "Do you believe in fairies?" then begs that they applaud in order to revive Tinkerbell. The children in those audiences believe it is their applause that brings Tinkerbell back to life.

As much as I loved that they were so easily convinced I felt a pang of guilt for misleading them. Eventually, I explained that I was pushing a button on the wheel in order to control the volume. They weren't disappointed. In fact, I think they admired that I took them on that ride.

When we got home I showed the girls the button on the wheel. They both wanted to "control" the music by waving their hand and I obliged by pushing the buttons up or down. Knowing that they were creating the magic seemed to be just as thrilling as believing it was real.

There is magic all around us if only we believe.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cancer, Friendship and a Legacy

Most actors can relate to the saying, "Book a vacation, book a job." I recently stayed behind on my family vacation in order to shoot a national commercial. It's a great opportunity and my husband and I agreed it was worth me missing the first few days of our trip and catching up with them down the line.

I have been away from my kids only one other time when I flew to NY on a three day restorative visit with friends. That trip seemed to be based in survival. I am fortunate that I get to spend a good deal of time with my girls because my schedule is flexible. Sometimes that time can become a bit consuming and a break is needed in order for me to restore some sanity and autonomy.

There was something about the girls leaving me that left me feeling quite raw and vulnerable. The idea that they would be off in unfamiliar territory without me to guide and protect them caused me great discomfort. Although my husband and their older siblings (my step kids Thomas and Nora) are perfectly capable of caring for them I felt helpless.

The night before they left as I finished packing their bags I got a dizzying view into what my friend Carrie must have felt ten fold before she passed away recently. Carrie is a woman I had the pleasure of knowing all too briefly. Her daughter Francesca played my daughter in a play. I got to know Carrie as she shared her daughter, her strong spirit and her diagnosis of stage four cancer.

You'd never know Carrie was sick. She always looked great, had the most positive attitude I've ever encountered and the sheer energy and joy in Francesca was testimony to what a wonderful woman she was.

Six months after I met Carrie she was gone. We'd kept in touch after the play closed. Francesca and my girls had play dates. Carrie and I e-mailed and even weeks before she died, she was curious about my life and determined that we meet for coffee so she could learn more.

In a status update on Carrie's page after she passed a friend listed some of Carrie's last requests. In lieu of flowers she asked that we offer gift cards to local restaurants and services. She specified which restaurants; the kids favorites. She requested certificates to Peapod and a pre-made meals company. She thought about feeding her family even after she was gone.

She asked that donations be made anonymously so that her dear husband Stefano wasn't overwhelmed with having to write thank you cards. Stefano is the just the kind of man who would spent his time writing one to every single person.

As I packed and worried about the couple of days I'd be away from the girls my heart ached for Carrie.  It pained me to think how she felt knowing she was going to have to leave her children as they continued their lives in unfamiliar territory without her their to guide and protect. How brave she was to look the reality in the eye and plan for them.

The same thought led me to think about mothers and fathers in the military who face the unknown in relation to their families on a regular basis.

I am grateful to have known Carrie and I am grateful to those parents in the military.

I am awe struck by their bravery.

For volunteer opportunities to aid Military Families:

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Kerry Washington: Scandal, Love and Hate

I have been catching up on ABC's Scandal.

Scandal is about Olivia Pope, the head of a crisis management company in Washington who happens to be having an affair with the married President of the United States.

All sorts of other stuff happens but back to the affair. Olivia is black. The President is white.
I. Can't. Stop.Watching. On Facebook a friend posted,"Black women hate adultery except for Thursdays at 9 pm."

As a married black woman who is also an actress I struggle with my investment in the doomed affair between Olivia Pope (played by"it" girl Kerry Washington) and the President (Tony Goldwyn).
Actress Kerry Washington

Shonda Rhimes Scandal's creator has broken ground by creating the first black female lead character on a network TV drama since 1974. Despite the history she has made I think she is sending a mixed message.

Olivia Pope is educated, runs her own company, is powerful, beautiful, smart, fashionable.
She is also locked in a dysfunctional disaster of an affair. 

Her white lover; the President is often mean to her, downright verbally abusive and treats her like a sex object. He is often just shy of forcing himself on her. She dissolves into tears after most of their encounters and her "man" has never so much as given her a petal of a flower or a piece of chocolate. 

The Prez summons her and she comes running, then she says, "I am not yours. I don't show up places because you want me.." Olivia, yes you do, Girl.

Their relationship makes me uncomfortable and even though I enjoy Kerry Washington and Tony Goldwyn's palpable chemistry it bothers me that her character is treated like crap. Sadly, I am so darn happy to see a black actress playing something other than the "sassy black woman" I am complicit.

I think if Olivia Pope were white the affair as it stands would not be tolerated on a cultural level.
When Millie (the First Lady who knows about the affair) and Olivia Pope engage in one of their many steely stare offs there is the sense that Olivia is losing. Ultimately, in their high stakes political world the odds (in part because of her skin color) are against her. 

If a white mistress and Millie had the same stare off the white mistress would seem like more of a viable threat. If the mistress is more of a viable threat maybe I as well as other viewers wouldn't be wanting the affair to continue because oh yeah, affairs suck. 

Some critics can't get over that Olivia Pope is black and the President of the United States is white. They can't believe that Olivia Pope is almost never referred to as a black woman. Although race is not referenced I think it plays an integral if not insidious role in how the relationship between Olivia and the President is perceived. The "mistreated black woman" is familiar. We have seen her before.

I know I am raining on the Scandal parade. At the same time I'm getting drenched because I am hooked. The show is fast paced, has exciting story lines and surprises.

Still, I have a nagging feeling that there is something other than the affair that is fundamentally wrong and should not be applauded. I wonder if Kerry Washington who has been cast in the role of a lifetime struggles internally with the portrayal.

Shonda Rhimes has simultaneously broken new ground while inadvertently setting Scandal on much traversed ground. I hope she allows Olivia Pope to gain some equal footing with her lover.

Or I. Will. Have to. Stop. Watching.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Lena Dunham Is Not The Problem

XFINITY offered a Watch-a-thon last week in order to lure more subscribers to the zillions of channels they offer. I grabbed the opportunity and watched the current zeitgeist offering HBO's Girls.

The cast of HBO's Girls

Starring writer-producer-director Lena Dunham, Girls is a polarizing hit about four twentysomething women surviving in New York City.

Dunham has been lambasted in the press for the lack of diversity in her cast.

I hated the show based on one blog post addressing the issue.

As a black woman who is also an actress and a writer I am wary of shows that aren't inclusive because it is a flagrant reminder of the limited opportunities for minorities in the industry. It can also be (believe it or not) quite boring to only see white faces on the screen.

After actually viewing both seasons of Girls (in a five day marathon) I have no problem with the lack of diversity.

The show is absolutely a representation of a myriad of young people who aren't exposed to anyone different than themselves. If they are exposed to people outside their ethnicity they still aren't in the forefront of their lives.

People segregate in desegregated contexts all the time. We aren't allowed to do it in the workplace or school but share a meal together ie a school cafeteria or a break room and observe the racial divide.

Dunham is a great writer with a precise story to tell. I think she is on her way to setting the audience up for something far more shocking than the graphic sex scenes.

The exploration of rootlessness, roommate hopping, drug use, self involvement, break ups and the loss of friendship is relatable regardless of the characters' skin color.

In Season Two, Dunham made an effort to satisfy critics of the lack of diversity by giving Hannah Horvath (her character) a black boyfriend. A true auteur, Dunham flipped the audience's expectations by making him a Republican.

Within two episodes, the black boyfriend is out of the picture due to their political differences and his criticism of her writing. Hannah Horvath resorts back to her all white world save a few minority extras in the background.

Was it really Lena Dunham's job to portray a black character?

The problem isn't that Lena Dunham isn't writing for people of color. The problem is that there aren't enough writer's of color in the entertainment industry.

According to the 2013 Writer's Guild TV Staff Diversity Report minority writers have doubled their share of TV Staff Employment since 1999-2000 but remain severely underrepresented by a factor or more than 2 to 1 employment.

When a minority does have the opportunity to helm a show hiring other minorities is crucial.

Noreen Malone of the New Republic suggests, "There tend to be two ways that people react to having a minority and an underdog in a situation like that. One is to give a few breaks to up-and-comers with a mind to changing the status quo and making things a bit easier for people who come afterwards. The other is to think, I earned it, why can't they if they're really good?"

The fate of minority representation on television is grim if the latter explanation is true.

As the poet Alice Walkers says,  "Each one must pull one." 

If writers of color (and women, people with disabilities, LGBT) wait around for the industry to change the status quo it could be a long time before there is proper representation in programming. 

For example, over the last decade the rate of female representation went up a mere five percent. According to Jonathan Handel of The Hollywood Reporter it is " a rate of increase so sluggish that parity to men won't be achieved for another 42 years unless faster progress is made."

In the meantime minorities must make the strides. 

Shonda Rhimes the prolific creator of Grey's Anatomy has created characters all all ethnicities in her three ABC shows (Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice and Scandal).

She is a black woman in a position of power who integrates her experience and point of view into her storytelling. According to the Writer's Guild Staffing Brief her shows have minority writers.

I am available to write for any of Ms. Rhimes' shows.

I also have an idea for a pilot...

Monday, February 18, 2013

Giving Up Facebook For Lent

I am Catholic. I'm not very good at it.  I wish I turned to prayer more and my own solutions less. I wish the controversy that plagued the Catholic Church didn't haunt me. Better yet I wish the controversy didn't exist at all because I wish the men in power had done the right thing in the first place. I am Catholic and I am conflicted but Lent is a time when I feel the most devout.

Lent is not a time where I give up a "luxury" (like chocolate) it's a time when I eliminate something that is draining me of my energies or serving as a distraction and a thief of my time.

For Lent I have given up Facebook because besides the Kardashians the "book of face" is the biggest time suck in the nation. 

Here's why I gave it up:

1) I am too concerned with whether people respond to my status updates or comments and how many "likes" I receive.

2) Facebook is like a virtual high school cafeteria where the cool kid table shares french fries and inside jokes while I sit by myself and eat a bag lunch from home.

3) Most Facebook posts consist of other people's highlight reels and even though I know that people are posting their "best case scenarios" it's still hard not to compare my life to theirs.(And I have a great life so what the hell?)

When I get a little panicky due to Facebook withdrawal I take a deep cleansing breath.

The elimination of Facebook allows me to go into my desert the way Jesus went into the desert.

In my desert, I can hold quiet in my heart, pray, focus on my family, think, heal, be grateful and be kind to myself.

So I am on a Facebook fast and so far it feels great.

I think I'll be checking it a lot less after Lent, too.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Tina Fey and Nicole Kidman vs Jennifer Lawrence and Lena Dunham

In Hollywood actresses fall into three categories:

The "it" girls.
Jennifer Lawrence 

Lena Dunham and the cast of Girls.

Former "it" girls who are trying to stay in the category through plastic surgery.

Demi Moore

Nicole Kidman

And former, former "it" girls who have allowed themselves to age naturally in front of the camera while also experiencing a resurgence in their careers. 

Jessica Lange

Sally Field
When all these categories of actresses end up at an awards ceremony together there is bound to be tension. 

At the Screen Actor's Guild Awards Tina Fey still hadn’t recovered from twenty six old Lena Dunham’s reference in her Golden Globe speech that Ms. Fey’s (42) work (along with fellow nominees Julia Louis Dreyfuss, Amy Poehler and Zooey Deschanel ) helped get her through middle school.

On national television Tina Fey's reaction suggested she'd just been slapped in the face with the fact that she was considered old.

In Ms. Fey’s Screen Actor’s Guild acceptance speech for Best Comedy Actress she referred to knowing Amy Poehler since she was "pregnant with Lena Dunham"

Of course Tina got a huge laugh. Leave it to her to turn lemons into comedy gold.

In response to the flood of criticism over her speech, Ms. Dunham replied, "It came from the most earnest place but I'd forgotten that we're in Hollywood, where the rules are that you should not acknowledge that anybody has been around longer than you by more than three years."
When young Jennifer Lawrence won best actress for Silver Lining Playbook over middle aged Naomi Watts’s performance in The Impossible Nicole Kidman (Naomi Watts’ best friend) didn't even try to hide her irritation.

Aging is hard and in Hollywood it can be torture. Literally. By going under the knife actresses like Nicole Kidman and Demi Moore have rendered themselves unrecognizable.

I find it uncomfortable to watch these women because it looks like it is physically painful to have their face. Their faces are a constant reminder of their surgery and it’s impossible to concentrate on their characterization.

The actresses who subject themselves to surgery desire to be watched but render themselves unwatchable.

There seems to be a desperate reluctance on the part of these forty something actresses to let go of their reign as the Hollywood "it" girl.

I am excluding Tina because she has a sense of humor about it as well as her original face.

Back in the day there was a natural progression; a passing of the baton. Actresses didn’t desperately try and stay in the roles they once played. They complained about fewer roles, commiserated or produced their own damn movies. Hail, Hail Goldie Hawn who produced the 1980 hit Private Benjamin and other films in which she starred.

There is so much more pressure on women in Hollywood which of course trickles down to women everywhere.

When Sissy Spacek won the Oscar for Coal Miner's Daughter she wore a black jumpsuit cinched at the waist. Her hairstyle was in a loose bun. I think she looked great. 

Sissy Spacek and Timothy Hutton
A current actress would be eviscerated then sacrificed to the fashion Gods for attempting to wear the same kind of an ensemble to the Oscars.

I imagine I would crumble at the pressure put on celebrities. I am an actress and ending up on a hit show could happen someday. I could end up at an awards ceremony. I could be on the receiving end of some backhanded compliment. I could.

Currently I still have my natural hair color; black. But a few gray hairs have emerged. I shudder when I take a cold hard look at the strand before I yank it out. It is a stark reminder that I am not going to live forever.

Eventually, I'll be need to decide whether or not to dye my hair. When I was in my twenties I use to think I'd let myself go gray. Now I'm not so sure.

I wonder if Kidman and Moore and countless other actresses and women felt the same before age started to change their vision of themselves.

I wonder if these actresses regret their choice to have cosmetic surgery. I wonder if they think they look good or whether they continue to get surgery in order to try and fix the damage done.

I wonder what Tina Fey would say to Lena Dunham if left alone in a room with her.

Now that would be interesting.