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MICHELLE OBAMA ExCLUSIvE!
IRLS L AC K G B
us $5.99 can $7.99 uk £3.95 Fr ¤5.50 Photography marc baptiste
L EE ITOR: SPIKE G U E ST E D
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MASTHEAD CONTRIBUTORS + LETTERS EDITOR’S LETTER
12 16 20 30 36 40 42 G-SHOCK IS THE ULTIMATE THOUGH WATCH BOMBAY SAPPHIRE CODEMODE INSIDER BROWN GIRLS BURLESQUE SURROUND SOUND NAS UP TWINZ SPORTING LIFE NIKE OLYMPIC
Esperanza Spalding PHOTO_MARC BAPTISTE
48 50 56 90 96 104 INTRO BGR EXCLUSIVE: MICHELLE OBAMA BGR! MODELS GAMECHANGER: SPIKE LEE BGR! ACTRESSES BGR! MUSIC
124 126 128 STOCKIST FLASH! LUCKY SEVEN
CHAIRMAN & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF_CLAUDE GRUNITZKY GUEST EDITOR_SPIKE LEE EDITORIAL MANAGING EDITOR_STEVEN PSYLLOS CREATIVE CONSULTANT_MARC BAPTISTE FEATURES EDITOR_YOLANDA SANGWENI INTERNATIONAL EDITOR_ANICÉE GADDIS ASSISTANT EDITOR_NIKKO LENCEK-INAGAKI EDITOR AT LARGE_STEPHEN GRECO COPy ASSISTANT_CARLYE SEYBOLD EDITORIAL INTERNS_PENELOPE CZAJKOWSKI, RAYA JALABI, MERIEM NESSIRI, ERIKA PARKINS, KASAI RICHARDSON, ALEX STEED, LICSI “LICHIBAN” SZATMARI, SARAH WHITE, ERIKA WARD STAFF WRITERS_DEVIN “PAN” BARRETT, STEVE MASCATELLO SPECIAL CONTRIBUTING EDITOR_RZA ART CREATIVE DIRECTOR_KATIE CONSTANS ART DIRECTORS_CRAYON LEE, ANDY LI ART INTERN_ELLEN SHEK, KYN TSOI FASHION FASHION DIRECTOR_CHRISTINE DE LASSUS FASHION MARKET EDITOR_ROBYN V. FERNANDES FASHION INTERN_PRINCE GRAHAM UK EDITORIAL UK EDITOR_PARDEEP SALL PRINT AND PRODUCTION MANAGER_KELLY GODDARD FASHION EDITOR_DAVINA MASHRU EDITORIAL AND FASHION ASSISTANT_MELISSA SIMPEMBA ART ASSISTANT_SIMON AUCKLAND
PHOTOGRAPHy MARC BAPTISTE @ JUDy CASEy FASHION KITHE BREWSTER PHOTO ASSISTANT EMILY GENDRON MAKE UP AMINATA GUEYE @ JUDy CASEy
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Marc Baptiste was born in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. He moved to New york at an early age and began to study photography in high school. After receiving his formal training in photography, graphic design and advertising, he pursued his passion for photography by traveling between Paris, New york and London shooting the collections for various magazines. Marc’s work continues to appear in magazines such as Harpers Bazaar, Vanity Fair, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Trace, German Glamour and Clam. He has photographed a host of celebrities including yoko Ono, Eva Mendez, Colin Farrell, Forest Whitaker and Chloe Sevigny. His advertising clients include Nike, Original Penguin, Reebok, Keep a Child Alive, Barena Beer, Akademiks and Paris Hilton Perfume. Solo exhibitions of Marc Baptiste’s work include Milk Gallery in Ny, Exposure Gallery in London, Modernbook Gallery in San Francisco, CA, and Dactyl Gallery in Ny. Book Projects include: Marc Baptiste Nudes 2007, Intimate Nudes 2003, and Beautiful Nudes 2001; all published by Universe Publishing, a division of Rizzoli International (Worldwide). Marc currently lives in Brooklyn, Ny with his wife and children. Why do black girls rule? Because they do...their attitude, their body language, it’s in their roots.
left to right: Claude Grunitzky, Spike Lee & Marc Baptiste
K ITHE B REWSTER
As a fashion editor/celebrity stylist, Kithe Brewster has developed a fiercely loyal following among those who thirst for boldly creative designs and innovative thinking. Brewster’s work has elevated the fashion game, as he has contributed to an array of American and European magazines including: Vanity Fair, Interview, Flaunt, Chic, (Dutch), Scene, British Elle, French and American Jalouse, and Surface, to name a few. As a stylist, his work has appeared in television and print advertising for Revlon, L’Oreal, Roc-AWear and Puma. Brewster styled and maintained the image of music stars like Eve, Andre 3000 of Outkast, Garbage, Bryan Adams, Beyoncè, Usher, Jessica Simpson, Lil Kim, and Brandy. The “Hey ya” video, which Kithe styled, went on to win MTV’s “Best Hip Hop” video, and the “Video of the year” of 2004. Kithe’s knack for capturing a subject’s unique character has helped him amass a large celebrity clientele, from actors to recording artists and star athletes. His personal clients have included: Halle Berry, Julianne Moore, Iman, Diane Lane, Eva Mendes, Usher, and Heidi Klum. He is currently the Fashion Director of Squint Magazine and contributing New york Fashion Editor to Squint Homme. Kithe also serves as Creative Director of The Artist Loft, a full service agency representing hair stylists, make-up artists, fashion stylists and photographers. Why do black girls rule? Black girls rule because of the infinite power they possess naturally given to them by the rich tradition of our ancestral heritage. They are goddess, they are warriors, they are rulers. Black girls rule because no matter what is dished out to them they rise to the occasion. There are so many images of black women today that are not uplifting and/or demeaning. Black women are not just sexual objects but when called upon to be sexy they rule at this as well. It is time for black women to be empowered. Black women rule music, fashion, sports, and hopefully soon the White House.
Kithe Brewster with BGR! models Dumbo/SoHo//06/01/02/08/ Photography MARC BAPTISTE
A TIME OF CHANGE
When our creative director Katie Constans suggested, at one of our editorial meetings last Spring, that Spike Lee should be the guest editor of our annual “Black Girls Rule!” issue, we realized that her suggestion was, once again, spot-on. As my business partner Richard Wayner once said to me, Spike is black royalty. Spike, who was profiled in one of TRACE’s very first issues twelve years ago, has been a TRACE supporter since we launched as a niche London publication. About five years ago, when I visited him in his Madison Avenue office, he asked me to find every back issue of the magazine and have the lot delivered to him. We found most of the old TRACE magazines in our archives, but I still feel like my ex-wife kept many of our early gems in her post-divorce boxes. Four years ago, TRACE magazine was featured (quite prominently) in the Spike Lee joint “She Hate Me” and we co-hosted the post-premiere party at the Hiro Ballroom in Manhattan. Then, early in 2007, we got a call from a friend who worked at the (now shuttered) Barnes & Noble bookstore on Astor Place, near our Great Jones Street office. Our friend called to inform us that she had just sold Spike Lee one of the very first copies of our retrospective, first decade book “Ten years of TRACE.” When we first started collaborating on this issue, we realized that we had to step back a bit, and let him take the lead. (We had worked with Iman in a similar fashion last year for the 2007 edition of “Black Girls Rule!” and were very pleased with the results.) Spike insisted on listening to all the music we proposed, and the singers portfolio, photographed by TRACE alum Marc Baptiste (a key co-conspirator on almost every feature in this issue), partly reflects Spike’s tastes in this late summer of 2008. He also approved our choice of Nas for the SurroundSound feature, and suggested we include Prince’s backup singers, The Twinz, in the Code section. Spike got heavily involved in the casting of our “Black Girls Rule!” model portfolio. I suggested that Spike photograph a few of his favorite actresses from past and future Spike Lee joints, and he accepted the offer. (The result is the Brooklyn Stoop feature.) Finally, this being election season, we felt that the single biggest issue facing TRACE readers – some would argue the world - is the political choice that voters will be making on November 4th. Spike gave us a candid interview where he opened up about his personal point of view – I think you may be able to guess which presidential candidate he has endorsed – and charted a course for the advancement of people of color. The scoop, however, is the exclusive interview that Spike and his wife Tonya Lewis were able to secure with the next first lady, Michelle Obama. Enjoy, because this truly is a collector’s edition, which is being published in a time of change. -Claude Grunitzky
Claude Grunitzky and Spike Lee Photo MARC BAPTISTE
GUEST EDITOR SPIKE LEE
I’m honored to be the Guest Editor of TRACE’s “Black Girls Rule!” issue. This issue was shaped and molded by the strong, intelligent Black Women in my life. My two Grandmothers, Mrs. Alberta G. Lee and Mrs. zimme Reatha Shelton. My dear late Mother, Jacquelyln Shelton Lee, my Sister of many talents, Joie Lee, my vivacious sexy wife Ms. Tonya Lewis Lee and the joy of my life, my daughter Satchel Lewis Lee. Thank you. -Spizike
Lameen Witter aka “Quill”
Age: 27 Occupation: Lifestyle and Culture Publicist, Red Bull North America Where you’re from: Planet Brooklyn; Population: infinite Where you live: I lay my head in Flatbush, but my territory knows no bounds. I rep my city like a champion of the people Describe your personal style: I’m hipster chic! A fresh pair of exclusive kicks, Levis 501 hard demin, and a dope t-shirt the likes of which you’ve never seen...”fresh to def!” How do you describe your Casio G-Shock: The perfect time piece! Who has time for all that bling sh*t? I lead an active lifestyle between sports, love, and life. I need a watch that can keep up with me, match a crazy pair of Dunks and still looks good after I bust my ass from trying to do a trick on a bike, board, or blades. G-Lide & In4mation Collaboration in Teal (GLx5600x-3)
G-Shock is the ultimate tough watch.
Collaboration between G-Shock and Spike Lee, the legendary director of such films as Malcolm x and an icon of street culture, has now been realized. A long time G-Shock fan, as evidenced by his introduction of G-Shock in his 1995 film Clockers, Lee has created a short film commemorating G-Shock’s 25th anniversary. The collaboration is in effort to ignite a G-Shock movement through activities in the cultural sphere. G-Shock was born from a developer’s dream of “creating a watch that never breaks.” Guided by a “Triple 10” development concept, the design team sought a watch with 10-meter freefall endurance, 10-bar water resistance and a 10-year battery life. After a long hard process of trial and error, G-Shock was finally launched in 1983. A shockresistant structure overturned conventional thinking about watches including: the ideas of a hollow-structured case, all directional protective covering and the use of cushioning material to protect critical parts. These developments were a revolution in watch design. Since its launch, G-Shock has continued to evolve for 25 years, carrying on the spirit of toughness and uncompromising passion that led its developers to persist in their beliefs in the first place. G-Shock & Spike Lee Collaboration (DW5000SL-1) www.gshock.com
Diana Reyes aka “FLY LADY DI”
Age: 26 and a half... Occupation: Live Painter, graphic and web designer, dancer Where you’re from: Toronto, Canada Where you live: Brooklyn, Ny Describe your personal style: My style is “punky”—tomboy-ish yet feminine, subtle yet powerful, a sort of nouveau retro, bright and colorful, dancer-ish. (Lol!) How do you describe your Casio G-Shock: A lot like me! Strong, resilient, long-lasting, can get through any situation, funky fresh and always a classic. Vivid Color in Green (G5500C-3)
Prince Graham aka “Young Swag“
Age: 22 Occupation: Designer/Marketing Assistant. Where you’re from: Jamaica, West Indies Where you live: Planet New york Describ your personal style: I consider my personal style as trendsetting and always searching for the newest and latest gear. Mix of Kanye and Lupe with a Lil’ Skateboard P. How do you describe your Casio G-Shock? A timeless time piece that will always be current. 25th Anniversary Frogman in Skeleton White (GW225E-7)
Henry Ruffin aka “Initial H”
Age: No age Occupation: Artist/Retail Where you’re from: Bronx, Ny Where you live: Bronx, Ny Describe your personal style: Initially H; mostly humble but occasionally arrogant. How do you describe your Casio G-Shock: My G-Shock watch is very stylish, versatile and unique. One of the very few watches you can wear with streetwear and you can also wear it with a collared shirt for when you want to “clean up nice.” G-Lide in Red (GLx5600) and the G-Shock & LRG Collaboration (DW6900) G-Lide in Red (GLx5600) and the G-Shock & LRG Collaboration (DW6900)
Age: Always 17 Occupation: Graphic Design Student Where you’re from: Hong Kong Where you live: Brooklyn, Ny Describe your personal style: Elegantly casual. How do you describe your Casio G-Shock: Retro-tech. Contemporary G-Shock in Brown (G8100A-5)
(Left to Right) shirt_Ksubi jean_Earnest Sewn tee_shirt_Public Domain dress & fur jacket_Rubin Singer earrings_Subversive Jewelry by Justin Giunta jacket_Rubin Singer top_Lorick necklace_Subversive Jewelry by Justin Giunta jacket_Costume National jean_Earnest Sewn
BOMBAy SAPPHIRE is the world’s fastest growing premium gin. The combination of its ten unique botanicals, vapour infusion process and authentic British heritage secure BOMBAy SAPPHIRE as a leader among gins, as well as a symbol of style and sophistication. BOMBAy SAPPHIRE strongly supports inspired adult individuals who create passionate work in design, film and other artistic arenas. For more information, please visit www.BombaySapphire.com
SAPPHIRE COLLINS 1 1/2 oz Bombay Sapphire 1 oz fresh lemon juice (juice from 1 lemon) 1/2 oz simple syrup (or 1 table spoon of sugar) Splash of club soda SAPPHIRE ULTIMATE MARTINI 3 Parts Bombay Sapphire Dash Martini & Rossi Extra Dry Vermouth Garnish with a lemon twist or olive.
(Left to Right) jacket & jeans_Fremont shirt_Samantha Pleet necklace_Subversive Jewelry by Justin Giunta dress_Grey Ant necklace_Subversive Jewelry by Justin Giunta jacket_Surface To Air pant_Costume National 18
PHOTOGRAPHy_MARC BAPTISTE @ JUDy CASEy FASHION_KITHE BREWSTER @ WWW.KITHEBREWSTERINC.COM HAIR_FREDERICK PARNELL @ THE PRIMP CLUB MAKE-UP_AMINATA GUEyA @ JUDy CASEy PHOTO ASSISTANT_EMILy GENDRON FASHION ASSISTANTS_KAy INGRAM & FILECELLIA A. SAMPSON
est and film with the Bronx’s fin Talking fashion, politicsROBYN V. FERNANDES
photography_KEVIN AMATO fashion_
Age: 17 Hometown: Bronx Where do you rest your head: Bronx Occupation: School Do the Right Thing or Jungle Fever: Do the Right Thing Three words that define your style: Different, comfortable and unix
sweatshirt_Shades of Greige shirt_yoko Devereaux jeans_Madewell sneakers_Converse by John Varvatos sunglasses_Selima Optique
Age: 17 Hometown: Bronx Where do you rest your head: Bronx Occupation: School Do the Right Thing or Jungle Fever: Do the Right Thing Three words that define your style: Comfortable, unique and swaggersplash
Joseph aka Twin
Age: 17 Hometown: Bronx Where do you rest your head: Bronx Occupation: School Do the Right Thing or Jungle Fever: Do the Right Thing Three words that define your style: Different, comfortable and unix
Christian (left) tee-shirt_Loomstate shorts_Stussy sneakers_y-3 cap_New Era Twin (right) vest_y-3 tee-shirt_Claw Money purple Jeans: Levis sneakers_Converse
Age: 20 Hometown: Brooklyn Where do you rest your head: Harlem Do the Right Thing or Jungle Fever: Do the Right Thing Three words that define your style: I dress preppy
jacket_Nike shirt_Fred Perry sweatpants_Topman sneakers_Osklen
Age: 20 Hometown: Spain Where do you rest your head: The Big Apple, NyC Occupation: Artist and video-gamer Do the Right Thing or Jungle Fever: Do the Right Thing Three words that define your style: Loss for words
backpack worn as a vest_Osklen shirt_D & G jeans_His Own sneakers_D & G watch_G-Shock
Age: 18 Hometown: NyC Where do you rest your head: Bleecker Street Occupation: Construction worker Do the Right Thing or Jungle Fever: Do the Right Thing Three words that define your style: Funky, fresh, and comfy
tank_yoko Devereaux jeans_Levis scarf_Maharishi sneakers_y-3 sunglasses_Republica watch_G-Shock
Francisco aka “Casper”
Age: 17 Hometown: Bronx Where do you rest your head: Uptown Bronx. Grandmother’s house since the 90s Occupation: Crew trainer at McDonald’s (Don’t knock the hustle!) Do the Right Thing or Jungle Fever: Jungle Fever Three words that define your style: Whatever, patterned, detail
jacket_Protect your Paper tee-Shirt_Diesel jeans_McQ sneakers_D & G cap_New Era
Age: 18 Hometown: Bronx Where do you rest your head: Co-op City Occupation: Model/entrepreneur Do the Right Thing or Jungle Fever: Jungle Fever Three words that define your style: Gotta stay fresh
jacket_Converse by John Varvatos tee-Shirt_M Staple jeans_Diesel sneakers_Nike
Age: 17 Hometown: Bronx Where do you rest your head: Bronx Occupation: Model Do the Right Thing or Jungle Fever: Do the Right Thing Three words that define your style: Complete, daring, different
jacket_Adidas shirt_Stussy jeans_Coming Soon tie_ yoko Devereaux sneakers_PUMA by Miharayasuhiro belt_y-3
photo assistant_JIMMY CEDENO fashion assistant_PRINCE GRAHAM
Come one. Come all
those who got it flaunt it and BRown GiRls BuRlesque is in the business of revealing it all.
text_DALIA DAVIES photography_CARLA AARON-LOPEZ
For New york-based burlesque collective Brown Girls Burlesque, the thrill of gratification and fantasy is the name of the game. Tired of unsatisfying day jobs and dancing in front of the mirror at home, the Brown Girls sirens found a common purpose among each other: to create a safe space where real women with real bodies of perfect imperfections could be adored and seen and adored. With co-producers Shimmy Shimmy ya and Madame Chuli Chulin at their sides and the seasoned artistic direction from Miss AuroraBoobRealis the Brown Girls Burlesque wed the commitment of celebrating their cultures, fierce sexuality, artistry, humor, and of course, nudity while radically challenging the social standards of feminine beauty, vulnerability, and power. And no…they don’t get naked. The art of burlesque is theatre-based live adult entertainment where dancers in elaborate wardrobe, intelligently tease and arouse an audience through satiric skits in sexually suggestive staging, blushing peaks at curvy bodies, tailor-made musical selections and intermissions, go-go dancers, comedians and dramatic lighting. With origins in Vaudeville entertainment, burlesque performers were seen as pleather-clad gothic sadomasochistic domineering women, earthy untamable horse whisperers, and the classic ethereal blonde bombshell. They were almost never women of color. Brown Girls Burlesque is changing that.
Describe burlesque. Kind of like a really great quickie, a tease, foreplay, action, climax, postcoital bliss, all under five minutes, with optional nudity. It’s a narrative with a beginning and an end. you start with anticipation and finish with a great ending. What do brown girls bring to the burlesque stage? A different aesthetic and vocabulary. As women of color we deal with different issues on a day-to-day basis. What we display are experiences that are relevant to us. The ideas behind our pieces will hopefully transpire as more than just cultural appropriation and educate our viewers about different viewpoints and aesthetics. What did you do before burlesque? I once got a biology degree in a faraway land. I changed careers to, and still am, a fashion designer. What burlesque misconception would you like to crush? That having a “daddy” issue is a reason for a woman to become a burlesque super star. Why do you rule? Because everything tastes better when fried.
Describe burlesque. Expressing yourself with your whole body. It’s a way to play with your body; how you view it, how you think others view it, and how you want to be viewed-and doing this in front of a few close friends aka an audience of strangers. What do brown girls bring to the burlesque stage? We bring politics to the stage. This is seen in the pieces we perform and our presence on a burlesque stage. you can’t separate politics from art, the creation and existence of our group is a testament to that. What did you do before burlesque? Babysitter, actress, educator, writer, dragon. What misconception would you like to crush? The notion that “white is right.” you don’t have to be that stereotypical white lady who only weighs 110 pounds to be hot and sexy. The other misconception is that burlesque is scary, it’s not. Taking off your clothes is like riding a bike. you never forget how to do it. Why do you rule? If by “you” you mean us brown people of color, well it’s all in the numbers. There are a lot of colorful people in the world.
“taking off your clothes is like riding a bike, you never forget how to do it.” -exhOtic other
Describe burlesque. Burlesque is a unique expression of individual exploration that unites its audience by tapping into mystery, intrigue, and bold entertainment. Each body is different, the energy level changes and new feelings are conjured each picture is new. you can see highs and lows; bright colors and golden skin tones, ruffles and glamour, blood and sweat, choreography and intense performance art and in the end build up to the reveal, the end or maybe even beginning of the story. What do brown girls bring to the burlesque stage? We bring to the stage the same level of passion and fun that any burlesque artist would. Brown girls have set up their own stage at times to ensure that the audience does not confuse us as novelty. At times the music selection may vary a bit from the traditional expectation of a burlesque soundtrack but the willingness to deliver a great time is usually the focus. What did you do before burlesque? I’ve sat behind many desks, worn many suits, and attended too many meetings while working for someone else. What misconception would you like to crush? Are there misconceptions? I wouldn’t know. I’m not looking in that direction. Why do you rule? The world of burlesque is wide open and ever evolving. We rule because we are able to keep adding, creating, moving, embellishing, entertaining, teasing and essentially we inspire. We rule because we keep it alive.
“Once my niece understood that strippers generally make more money she questioned my wisdom.” -chicava honeychild
Describe burlesque. A burlesque artist is like a snake-charmer; slowly using visuals to entice the audience, sending them through a journey that has them wanting more, leading them through fantasy and fetish, and creating a climatic moment. This empowering dance art form brings out the fire that women have been trained to suppress. Burlesque gives all types of women a chance to whip their sexy out in new ways. We challenge our audience with our fun and political tease. What do brown girls bring to the burlesque stage? Brown sugar, cinnamon, coffee, chocolate, toffee, spice and everything nice. We each share similar struggles as powerful, sexy women of color in the scene and burlesque allows us the freedom to give our audience a taste of our delicious flavor. What did you do before burlesque? I am currently a director of a nonprofit organization. I use my social work and management skills to help underserved and under resourced populations. What burlesque misconception would you like to crush? That burlesque is a ‘white’ art form, that it’s only for a ‘certain type’ of woman, or that it’s a limited style of performance. Burlesque is for anyone who wants to get in tune with what sexy really means to them, and is empowered to share this with others. In BGB, there is not just ‘one’ way of expressing this, and it makes our shows unpredictable and eccentric, arousing all of our audience’s senses. Why do you rule? I rule because I am a seductive, intelligent, and sensual creature that has the Midas touch. Take me, or leave me, but never deceive me.
Describe burlesque. It’s an art form and my way of life. Burlesque is a performance of sensuality, humor and politics. On a technical level there’s lots of glitter and removal of clothing involved. What do brown girls bring to the burlesque stage? We bring another voice to the conversation. We bring our experience, passion and knowledge. We navigate and define the complexities of our own sexuality in a culture that has historically perceived us as hyper-sexualized and one-dimensional. What did you do before burlesque? I’m a theater artist, dancer, choreographer, poet and teacher. Burlesque is just the latest discipline I’ve delved into. As an art form it’s allowed me to combine my skills in new ways. What burlesque misconception would you like to crush? That it’s made for and by white people. Why do you rule? I rule because the word boob is a part of my name. Seriously though, I rule because I have incredible friends who possess talent and skill in the areas that I am weak. Lastly, I rule because I wanted to change the whole structure, creating a space for more than just one of us. I didn’t want to be the ethnic token. I wanted burlesque to include all the shades in the rainbow.
Miss southern Comfort (soCo for short) Chicava HoneyChild
Describe burlesque? It’s my joy. Burlesque is my passion for a lover, it’s me trippin’ ‘bout a love affair gone wrong, it’s government and worldly ills, it’s the material spiritual conflict, it’s all that while I’m shakin’ my stuff in a costume I designed and created. What do brown girls bring to the burlesque stage? The collective creativity of BGB is an awesome phenomenon. Our show is so inventive and cool. We are a burlesque extravaganza and theatrical spectacle all rolled into one. What did you do before burlesque? I’m an actor and whatever you gotta do to get to say that. What misconception would you like to crush? I want people to firmly understand the difference between an Ecdysiast (a burlesque danseur) and a stripper. I’m not a sex worker, though I advocate for their rights. My 12 year-old niece recently asked me this, it was a delicate moment. Needless to say once she understood that strippers generally make more money she questioned my wisdom. Why do you rule? ‘Cause I bring it. I put myself out there five steps beyond my fear threshold. I do it for myself and ya’ll get to watch. Describe burlesque. For me burlesque is about exploring my inner goddess or super woman and presenting that alter ego to an audience. Its dressing up, it’s feeling sexy, it’s embracing women of all sizes. What do brown girls bring to the burlesque stage? We bring variety of all kinds: color, dance styles, fashion and musical taste, a mix of the old and the new. I believe our strongest asset is our ability to mix a bit of everything to keep it fresh but familiar. Brown girls make burlesque something a larger spectrum of people can relate to. What did you do before burlesque? you mean what is my other occupation besides burlesque? I’m an administrative assistant by day at a laboratory. I wear many hats, I’m a singer, actress, dancer, and writer. My life right now is a little like Clark Kent and Superman or better yet Selina Kyle and Catwoman. What misconception would you like to crush? I would like to show everyone that burlesque is not strictly a 20s style or 1940s pin-up. There can be such a thing as incorporating salsa or hip-hop dance in a number. That’s one of the main reasons I fell in love with BGB - we come from and embrace all creative backgrounds. Burlesque is the concept of “tease” but I would also add, “…with rhythm”. Why do you rule? Because I’m not afraid to be loud, flamboyant and sassy. Also, because I don’t mind embracing my inner dork. Miss Southern Comfort is the dork and the sexpot living, moving and shimmying in perfect harmony.
suited up and ready for the season nAs is one giant step for cool
photography_BALDOMERO FERNANDEZ fashion_-ViNcENT OShiN suit_Ohmash shirt_Freeman’s Sporting Club tie_Missoni from Amarcord Vintage Ny belt_Christan Dior from Amarcord Vintage Ny shoes_Gucci from Amarcord Vintage Ny sunglasses_Stylist Own
jacket_ Freeman’s Sporting Club pant_Label shoes_Noah hat_Eleven jewelry_Nas’ Own
suit_Ohmash shirt_Freeman’s Sporting Club tie_Missoni from Amarcord Vintage Ny belt_Christan Dior from Amarcord Vintage Ny shoes_Gucci from Amarcord Vintage Ny sunglasses_Stylist Own
PHOTO ASSISTANT_JUSTIN MARQUIS FASHION ASSISTANTS_KIzzy KNIGHT & BEBE KEOSAMPHANH
PRinCe’s backup singers take a leap into the spotlight
text_cLAuDE GRuNiTZky photography_ASiA cZApLA
fashion_Amy Wonka hair and makeup_Mandy Monteiro
Australian sisters Maya and Nandy McClean, known as “The Twinz”, were born in Sydney but grew up in a remote area in the north of the country. Musically inclined from the start, they started learning choreography off of music videos and dancing in their own bedrooms. Soon enough, they moved to Sydney and started to train at performing arts schools where they studied singing, acting and dancing. They landed coveted appearances in Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 feature film “Moulin Rouge”, as well as in the musical version of “The Lion King”. Soon after they relocated to the US, they landed a singing and dancing gig alongside Prince, for whom they also choreographed shows such as the record breaking 21 night run at the O2 Arena in London for his “Earth Tour”, the 2007 Super Bowl halftime show and a six month 3121 run at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas. Even though they continue to collaborate with his Purple Highness, the girls managed to complete a solid R&B album due for release at the end of the year. Asked about the Prince inspiration, they revealed how “he helped open our eyes and showed us that there is nothing like real live music. The natural vibration it brings to the human soul is incomparable.”
nike Hq summit
design takes center stage at 2008 Beijing Innovation summit
The stage: 1996 Atlanta Summer Games. Michael Johnson, “the fastest man in the world,” dons those famous gold Nikes and wins both the 200 and 400 meter races, and in doing so beats his own 200 meter world record (set two weeks earlier). The difference? .34 seconds. Reminds me of that Seinfeld episode where he jokes: “What’s the difference between a gold medal and bronze? He cocks his head forward, “Gold,” pulls back slightly, “Silver,” pulls back a bit more, “Never heard of you.” The importance of this fraction of a second confirms Nike’s belief in maximizing athletic effort using the latest technology. Wherever you can pull that extra something from, it can make the world of a difference. Fast forward to 2008, Nike HQ in Portland. Nike gathers international media for its Beijing Innovation Summit. Confidently reasserting its superiority in athletic footwear, Nike launches two new key innovations: Lunarlite soles and Flywire construction. Lunarlite is a space-age foam, known for its lightweight nature, yet buoyant composition. Inspired by an astronaut’s “moon boots,” the designers at the famous Nike Innovation Kitchen pulled from the research of the aerospace industry and came up with a cushion 30% lighter than its predecessor. Placed at the bottom of a sneaker, a substantial amount of weight is reduced while distributing the force and weight of the runner more efficiently. Flywire is the crown jewel of this presentation as it is not only a new
breakthrough in design, but a new step in the evolution of sportswear. The Flywire system was inspired by suspension cable bridges, as they are able to handle the necessary weight and tension while remaining flexible and lean. The Flywire system is composed of Vectran cables, a multifilament yarn spun from liquid crystal polymer. Vectran is five times stronger than steel—that’s right, steel—yet super flexible. The Flywire strategically holds the shoe together while diminishing the weight of a sneaker to nearly nothing. The zoom Victory Spike is less than 110g. The construction is barely paper thin, less than two microns. Holding the shoe in your palm, you will not believe that it is possible. The bar has been set and the sneaker game will never be the same. MVP Kobe Bryant attended the Innovation Summit to introduce the Hyperdunk, the lightest and strongest basketball sneaker ever. Utilizing both the Lunarlite and Flywire technologies, the sneaker weighs in at a mere 13 ounces, 18% lighter than all competitors. As co-founder Bill Bowerman once said: “ An ounce off the foot is 16 pounds off your back.” When the game is on the line, every little bit of help counts. Less energy exerted throughout the game, the more there is available when it is needed. (It has also been proven that Bryant’s Hyperdunk will allow you the ability to jump over moving vehicles. See it on youtube.) Obviously, Nike is not just footwear, and they proudly presented in-
novations in all forms of gear focused on Beijing 2008, Aerographics being the most interesting. Aerographics is a new method of incorporating a breathable mesh to gear without excess seams that may cause drag. Olympic Basketball uniforms have been streamlined, reducing the amount of material used in construction, dropping its weight by 30%, and incorporating new advances to whisk heat away from the body. Also, the Long Distance and Swift Singlet jerseys are like holding air in your hand. The key to Nike design is assess everything and advance, less is always more. Also pretty cool is the pre-cool vest. Used by athletes when stretching and prepping for the big moment, these cooling vests are designed to keep the athletes unaffected by the August heat and humidity in Beijing. Media was allowed entrance into the mythical Nike Sports Research Lab where performance is evaluated. It’s amazing that at the HQ, thousands of athletes test products to ever-advance the cause. Listless cool gadgets test new products in various conditions, temperatures, etc. The circle of brilliant minds here that focus their energy on the sporting culture is remarkable, and it shows. For those of us weekend warriors, who think we play like Kobe, we’re lucky that this high design and technology will eventually trickle down to us. Hey, whether superstar or no-name, every little bit of help counts on the court. And it helps that the look really cool. As Spike used to say: “It’s gotta be the shoes!”
nike Beijing showdown
olympic uniforms and nike sportswear were launched in the chinese capital ahead of this month’s games
text and photography_CLAUDE GRUNITZKY
Nike Inc, which turns 30 this year, launched its Olympic effort last May in Beijing with one of the company’s most comprehensive marketing blitzes ever. Highlights of the presentation to the press, and to “friends and family” of Nike, included the retrospective exhibition held at Nike’s new art gallery in the hip Dashanzi arts district, located in the former Factory 798 in northeast Beijing; the Nike Olympic uniform unveiling in the Forbidden City, where drummers and martial artists swiftly moved around the grounds adjacent to the landmark palace; and the much hyped launch of the new Nike Sportswear line, which came complete with high definition Voom video imagery blended into an extremely original installation created by the avantgarde stage director Robert Wilson. Nike Inc, a $16 billion global company that is already the biggest sports brand in the world, disclosed that China is its largest market outside of the United States. Why spend so much time, energy and money in China, I asked Mark Parker, the CEO of Nike, at the Nike Sportswear launch. “Have you spent much time here in China?” he replied. “When you spend time here, you understand why there is no other market like this one.” The retrospective exhibition, which featured interactive highlights of Nike’s history, celebrated the trajectory of some of Nike’s best-known athletes (like Michael Johnson) and paid tribute to the enduring spirit of Nike’s co-founder, Bill Bowerman. The 100 pieces displayed in the “House of Innovation” were drawn from the Nike archives, but few felt like relics. Details were revealed about the intricacies of the design and production processes, and their evolution over time. There was no denying that many of the iconic shoes and jerseys are now part of the athletic world’s popular imagination. Overall, in true Nike fashion, there was one constant in the retrospective: winning. The unveiling of the Chinese Federation’s Olympic uniforms in the Tai Miao temple next to the Forbidden City, on the other hand, was a highly staged, fast-moving, razzle-dazzle presentation where Nike’s latest technology and
“When you spend time in China, you understand why there is no other market like this one.” -mark Parker, nike ceO
innovation were showcased so as to highlight the accomplishments - and history - of China and its athletes. The purpose was to demonstrate that these latest uniform designs were inspired by traditional Chinese culture, in a concerted effort that Nike made to collaborate closely with the competing athletes themselves. For these uniforms, Nike worked with the Chinese athletes, but also with the Chinese Olympic Committee, and 22 of the 28 sport Federations. Finally, Nike launched its new Nike Sportswear range – and brand new division - with an exhibition at the Cable 8 Studio in the Chaoyang District. The initials NSW refer to an old, much loved moniker – and series of graphic treatments - that pay homage to the original 1979 line. The new line was carefully crafted as an attempt to redefine the classic products – and to tap into the very latest technologies - that have come to define the Nike brand over the last three decades. Nike Sportswear launches in stores this month with eight iconic Nike products, all celebrating the legacy of Nike design: the Air Force 1, the Windrunner, the AW 77 Hoody, the Nike Dunk, the Air Max 90, the Eugene Track Jacket, the Cortez and the classic NSW T-shirt. Nike Sportswear’s British-born creative director, Richard Clarke, made a point, however, of explaining that Nike Sportswear was not designed to appeal to brand-conscious fashion victims. “The word ‘fashion,’” he said, “can make something seem very transient and trendy.” For more information, check out www.nikesportswear.com
L S RU L E ! L AC K G I R B
“Our Black Girls Rule issue is always about more than mere beauty.” It’s about the perennial habit of looking at the amazing range of human beauty and the evolutionary force that fuels this habit: curiosity about the people we’re looking at-- how they got where they are, how they’re getting where they’re going. No one on this planet is going forward faster than the actors, models, musicians, and other creatives whom we bring you in this issue—people who, in Spike Lee’s words, are “making the most of this momentous moment” and stepping up to change the game. In some ways, the game is always changing, but let’s face it: this is an unprecedented time in both American and world history. It would be beautiful if we could all make the most of it. -STEPHEN GRECO
MiCHelle oBAMA on what it means to have an african american candidate, moving beyond race, and what her daughters really think of the campaign.
A conversation with Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee
Spike Lee: I would like to talk about your daughters. Michelle Obama: Oh, my daughters. SL: Do they know what’s going on? MO: So this is a good story. So Malia, who’s nine, she’s the oldest. Malia means “calm, peaceful waters,” so she’s very you know, beyond her years. So one of our friends asked after the Portland event, where 70,000 people were there, and then Iowa, where we won the majority, they were there. So we asked, what do you think when crowds of people come out and you go in front of the crowd? Does it make you nervous? How do you feel? She said, “I figured, those people aren’t there to see me, I’m just a kid.” She said, “I can do my part, I can pick up the garbage, I can recycle, but I can’t pass any laws to make people do it, so they’re not there to see me. They think I’m cute, so I just wave and I smile and then I leave.” Those were her words, and that’s really representative of how they think. I mean, we’ve tried very hard to keep their lives normal. SL: That’s a hard thing to do right now, isn’t it? MO: yeah. yeah. But, you know, staying in our community. We live in a pretty close-knit community. My Mom is there. They go to the school that they’ve always gone to; they have the friends that they’ve always had. Their lives are unchanged. We don’t pull them out of their world to put them in this. So when the do it, it’s usually at their discretion. you feel like going with us to Iowa?, Do you want to go on stage?, it’s always within their control. They know what’s going on. They want their Dad to win, because they think he’ll be the best President, as they say. SL: What do they think about Hillary Clinton? MO: you know, I don’t think that they have a negative view of her. you know, it’s just she was the person that Dad had to beat. So they were glad that he beat her. But I, one of the things that Malia said, again, because when he did clinch the nomination we were laying in the bed, because that’s a tradition, me and the girls. They wake up in the morning and they come get in my bed, and we kind of talk before we get ready for school, this is on the day that he won the nomination. I said, well, Dad won, Dad is the Democratic nominee. I said, this is a pretty big deal. you know, they’re laying in the bed, and I said “Do you realize, you know, what this means? That Dad is the first African American to be the nominee”. Sasha, the little one, is like, “eh.” Malia says, “Well yeah.” I said, “Can you believe that?” She said, “yeah, I can believe that.” I said, “Do you know how difficult that was?” She says, “yes, I absolutely know how difficult that was.” And I said, “Well why do you know that?” She said, “Well, because of, long time ago, there was slavery and Black people, they couldn’t vote, and it was unfair.”
“In the course of the year people’s beliefs of what was possible have changed completely.” -Michelle obama
SL: How old is she? MO: She’ll be ten on the Fourth of July. And she said, without taking a breath, “But it would’ve also been a pretty big deal if Hillary had won, because there hasn’t been a woman, and women used to not be able to vote.” She’s very cognizant of that fact, and she believes that goes hand in hand in terms of new. So they’re, you know, they are our light and our joy. They keep us grounded, because when you go out and you do all these fancy things, you come home and they’re like, let me tell you about what I did. Their focus, like any kids, is on their life. Tonya Lewis Lee: I want to ask you about the impact that you and your daughters are going to have on young black girls in this country. MO: It’s hard to know what it will be, but I hope that, there’s just something powerful about seeing your image in a positive light. The one thing I say is that when I say that there’s no magic about me or Barack, I mean that. There are thousands of little black girls like me. Thousands of them. I know them. They’re in my family. I’ve grown up with them. But we just don’t get to see ourselves out in the world. So we start buying into the fact that maybe we are different, you know, the kids who stayed in school, who come from good homes, maybe they didn’t have two parents, but they had love and discipline, and they went to good public schools, and maybe they didn’t go to Princeton, but they went to college, and if they didn’t go to college they have a job. I mean, that is the black experience in this country. That is the experience. We don’t always see that, but I hope that they see it. SL: Will your daughters go to Spelman College? MO: I don’t know. SL: My grandmother and mother went to Spelman. MO: I don’t know. you know what? It’ll be up to them. you know, one thing I’ve learned about kids, I stopped trying to predict. I hope that they will have the skills and ability to choose wherever they want to go and wherever they want to go, we’ll be right behind them. SL: My grandmother, zimmie Shelton, she graduated from Spelman College. MO: Grandma zimmie? SL: Grandma zimmie. She died Christmas Eve two years ago. She lived to be 100 years old. She put me through Morehouse and NyU Graduate Film School. Her mother was born a slave. MO: Mm-hmm. SL: So I’m four generations removed. I mean, people forget that slavery is not that long ago. MO: That’s right. SL: I’m only four generations removed from slavery, and I can be for sure she went to her grave never thinking that what’s going to happen in November would ever happen. The first African- American President in the history of the United States of America. MO: That’s right. That’s right. I think that’s the—that’s the power of this. We’ve come a long way. And I don’t—we shouldn’t lose sight of that. I mean,
“as a country we have to acknowledge that with all that we still have to go, we’ve come a long way.” -MiCHelle oBAMA
we’ve got a long way to go, but the fact that in this year, in the course of the year, people’s beliefs of what was possible have changed completely from a very hard past that still lives within all of us. It’s still a living past. It’s not died off, and that’s part of what was the beauty of Barack’s discussion about race. It’s helping people to understand that pain is still alive for many people, but with each generation we’re moving and seeing and living a different reality, and we have to also appreciate that, because we can’t hold on to that pain, because it keeps us from moving forward as our children are ready to move. SL: Right. MO: They haven’t suffered it in the same way. There are different forms of it, but even me, being one of a few African Americans to go to an Ivy League school, no one denied me anything. There was a level of isolation. There was a level of, “it’s just us.” But you know, no one was calling me names. No Professors were trying to hold me down. My power to finish and complete that school was completely within my control, and that probably wouldn’t have been the case for my Father or my Grandfather. That is my experience. That’s real, and we have to sort of acknowledge as a country that with all that we have to go, that we’ve come a long way. And I am just happy that the Grandma zimmies of the world are still alive to see it. I mean, that’s what breaks me down on a rope line, when I see a Grandma zimmie just breaking down, they grab you and squeeze you, just like, you’re real, and this is happening, and it’s like, yeah, it is. And that, man, that’s powerful. TLL: And you know, the other side of that is our 11-year-old son, the night that Barack got the nomination, he was screaming, screaming, jumping up and down. MO: What’s his name? TLL: Jackson. Jumping up and down, I mean so excited, It matters to him and I can see him take a little more responsibility for himself. MO: Well people have said that to me, they’ve seen young Black men. SL: Right. MO: you know, teachers. People in school, standing a little straighter. TLL: Right. MO: Now we, we’ve got to do more than have them stand straight. They’ve got to have guns off the street. SL: And they got to pull them jeans up over their butts too. [Laughter] MO: yeah. Pull the jeans up, stand up, pull it up. But I think, you know, when you see someone like yourself, doing something so major, you know, those ceilings, they break. TLL: yeah. And Jackson’s a handsome little 11-year-old boy. MO: Well hey, it is not beyond us. But Malia will be tall. TLL: Well, that’s all right. He’ll be taller than Spike. MO: We got some height!! All right. TLL: Malia’s a cutie, beautiful.
The July 2008 issue of Vogue Italia was such a hit that we (rightly or wrongly) felt slighted. Is TRACE not the magazine that decreed that “Black Girls Rule!”? And if so, and so, armed with the historical proof that we pioneered this s#*t - back in the days before past TRACE cover stars Alek Wek, Naomi Campbell, Kiara Kabukuru, Tyra Banks and yasmin Warsame were the darlings of Vogue Italia, back when Chanel Iman and Noémie Lenoir were psychographically examined in these pages for their “model behaviour” - we decided to set the record straight, and feature the very next generation of black girls who could, who will, indeed, soon rule the fickle world of high fashion. And so, as I do every year, preferential treatment set aside, I stumbled across three “new” girls who really impressed me with their beauty, wit, outlook and potential. 19 year-old Georgie Badiel, a Burkina Faso citizen who was born in Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast, unable to attend our casting in person, produced a short video of herself, strutting down an imaginary catwalk, and had her agency messenger the DVD down to our office as her entry into our competition. (Spike Lee was very impressed.) 20 year-old Jessi, a French African model for Victoria’s Secret who wrote that her imperfections are what make her beautiful, is all attitude and confidence, especially when she reveals that she unwinds by watching CSI with her boyfriend. Finally, speaking for myself and myself only, I must state that the discovery of our 2008 BGR! edition is 19 year-old Lily Taylor, a softly spoken Los Angeles girl who now lives in Brooklyn with her older sister. TRACE favorite Bethann Hardison (see Lucky Seven page) had told me about Lily about a year ago, but when I finally met Lily on that hot summer day in Dumbo, I realized that her intelligence, coupled with her amazing grace, was one of those rare qualities that can best be summarized in a quote from the (short) interview session. “As a 19 year-old doing this on my own, I feel successful,” she told me. Black Girls Rule! -Claude Grunitzky
photography_MARC BAPTISTE @ JUDy CASEy fashion_KITHE BREWSTER @ KITHEBREWSTERINC.COM
coat_Miss Sixty hat_Eugenia Kim gloves_Rubin Singer
coat & tights_Miss Sixty hat_Eugenia Kim gloves_Rubin Singer boots_Alexandre Herchcovitch
coat & turtleneck_Michael Kors hat_Ports 1961 tights & gloves_Miss Sixty handbag_Sang A
gown_Rock & Republic gloves_Rubin Singer
gown & gloves_Rubin Singer shoes_yves Saint Laurent earrings_Subversive Jewelry by Justin Giunta
Coat_Malo belt_Rock & Republic handbag_Sang A gloves_Orciani
dress & handbag_Ports 1961 belt_Karen Millen gloves_Celine
jacket, dress & sunglasses_Chanel shoes_Malo hangbag_Orciani tights_Wolford
dress_Fetish hat_Eugenia Kim gloves_Miss Sixty
coat & shoes_Michael Kors leggings_Miss Sixty hangbag_Foley & Corinna gloves_Orciani
left to right; dress & gloves_Ports 1961, belt_Rock & Republic, boots_Fendi, sunglasses_Derek Lam, necklace_Chanel; coat & gown_Fendi, shoes_Jenni Kayne; dress & belt_Lanvin, shoes_Bruno Frisoni, gloves_Rubin Singer, tights_Miss Sixty; jacket & pant_Fendi, shoe_Chanel, belt_Rock & Republic ,
left to right; coat_Rubin Singer, turtleneck_Malo, shoes_Cesare Paciotti, tights_Wolford; cape & dress_Costume National, shoes_Chanel, gloves_Celine, tights_Miss Sixty; jacket, blouse & skirt_Derercuny, shoes_yves Saint Laurent; caplet_Alexandre Herchcovitch, dress_Ports 1961, boots_Fendi, handbag_Sang A, hat_Eugenia Kim, gloves_Rubin Singer
left to right; gown & gloves_Rubin Singer earrings_Subversive Jewelry by Justin Giunta blouse & skirt_Rubin Singer gown & gloves_Rubin Singer bolero jacket_Derercuny earrings_Chanel
dress_Malandrino shoes_Cesare Paciotti
all clothes_yves Saint Laurent
top_Preen necklace_Subversive Jewelry by Justin Giunta
coat, turtleneck & pant_Ralph Lauren gloves_Rubin Singer
left to right; tunic_Fetish boots & tights_Miss Sixty gloves_Rubin Singer necklace_Chanel; dress_Fetish shoes_Derercuny tights & gloves_Miss Sixty necklace_Chanel
coat & boots_Fendi leggings_Miss Sixty handbag_Sang A sunglasses_Derek Lam gloves_Rubin Singer
dress_Laila Azhar fur_Ports 1961 tights_Miss Sixty
jacket, skirt & boots_Fendi handbag_Sang A
dress_Ports 1961 gloves_Rubin Singer
all clothes_Edwing D’Angelo
left to right; dress_Herve Leger shoes_Carlos Miele; dress & sweater_Herve Leger boots_Costume National handbag_Sang A hat_Eugenia Kim
cape_Grey Ant turtleneck_Ralph Lauren hat & gloves_Miss Sixty belts_Rock & Republic necklace_Subversive Jewelry by Justin Giunta
PRODUCER_ EMILY GENDRON RETOUCHING_ BRENDA BUCK @ TWEAKNy PHOTO ASSISTANT_ERIK RASMUSSEN HAIR_AMOY PITTERS @ THEARTISTLOFTNyC.COM USING REDKEN. MAKEUP_JUSTIN HENRY@ THEARTISTLOFTNyC.COM USING NARS COSMETICS. FASHION EDITOR ASSISTANS_KAY INGRAM, DION ANTHONY & COURTNEY V HAIR ASSISTANT_YOLANDA WARD MAKEUP ASSISTANT_ANNE KOHLHAGEN SPECIAL THANKS TO JB, MEzz @ SUN WEST STUDIOS & SPACE 33
Age: 19 Agency: VNy Born: August 15, 1988 Based: New york Height: 5’10” What makes you beautiful? My inner spirit What gives you strength? My family Favorite photo shoot so far? Peter Lindgergh for DKNy Who is your style idol? I’m inspired by all different styles from the tomboyishness of Noodle from the Gorillaz and Gwen Stefani in her Tragic Kingdom days to the Elegance of Audrey Hepburn If you could retire tomorrow, what would you do? Travel around the world How do you unwind? Enjoying good music. Drinking a cold beer. Listening to the sound of the ocean. Doing a crazy dance. Relaxing with my family. What do you look for in a romantic partner? Silly sense of humor Must-have accessory: My bracelets that I’ve collected from my travels Why do you rule? Because I want to
Age: 20 Agency: CODE Born: France Based: New york Height: 5’9” What makes you beautiful? My imperfections What gives you strength? My family and boyfriend. They inspire me to be a stronger and better person. Favorite photo shoot so far? Sooo many! But going to St. Barth’s for a Victoria’s Secret shoot was pretty awesome! Who is your style idol? I don’t follow trends. I make them. If you could retire tomorrow, what would you do? I would be somewhere in Africa, doing politics, helping my people. How do you unwind? Watching CSI with my boyfriend What do you look for in a romantic partner? Kindness and strength Must-have accessory: The gold chain my mum gave me. It’s been in my family for generations. Why do you rule? Because I say so!
Age: 17 Agency: ELITE Born: Jan 25, 1991 Based: Jamaica Height: 6 ft What makes you beautiful? My calm, cool attitude… I’m really open-minded and it shows in my personality and confidence. What gives you strength? My family and friends. They keep me on the right track… I love them… Don’t know what I’ll do without them. Favorite photo shoot so far? Actually it’s my first shoot with Trace, photographer Donald Lawrence. It was such a cool shoot… very urban. I love Trace Magazine. Who is your style idol? Rihanna. She’s beautiful. If you could retire tomorrow, what would you do? Photo Journalism… To travel the world and tell the stories of others. At the same time. How do you unwind? Grab my iPod and my 35mm camera and go out shooting… I love photography… I zone out sometimes and will be out for hours. What do you look for in a romantic partner? Honesty, respect, compassion, understanding, and damn good looks… LOL! Must-have accessory: My cell phone… I love to text Why do you rule? Because I represent all those tom girls out there. We can be pretty too. Black girls rule but tom girls rule even more… LOL.
Age: 22 Agency: FORD Born: Shreveport, LA Based: New york Height: 5’10.5” What makes you beautiful? My personality, my humbleness What gives you strength? I give myself strength, and of course my parents. Favorite photo shoot so far? Trace, Cosmopolitan (UK), Levis Campaign (Fall 2008), Gap Body Who is your style idol? Me, myself, and I If you could retire tomorrow, what would you do? Helping children in need! How do you unwind? A nice cup of tea, light a candle, walk my dogs (Hershey & Rocky) What do you look for in a romantic partner? Someone who is honest Must-have accessory: My Blackberry Why do you rule? I rule because I’m me – fun! Fierce! Independent! (laid back at times) Strong Black Woman… Stays positive… Stays grounded… Good attitude… THE SKy IS THE LIMIT!!!
Age: 21 Agency: Vision Born: Galveston, Texas Based: Los Angeles Height: 5’11” Favorite photo shoot so far: This one What makes you beautiful? My giving heart What gives you strength? The fact in knowing I have power to learn anything Who is your style idol? Don’t have one If you could retire tomorrow, what would you do? Aww LOL. Being a full-time RN How do you unwind? Doing a little kickboxing What do you look for in a romantic partner? Someone who’s centered and stable on their own Must-have accessory: My cell phone
Age: 24 Agency: SILVER MODELS Born: Brooklyn Based: SOHO Height: 5’8” What makes you beautiful?: Being me! Playful! What gives you strength? Haters n negative people! But, then u turn it around n make things right!!! Favorite photo shoot so far? Anything to do with Marc Baptiste! Who is your style idol? An ethnic Marilyn Monroe. If you could retire tomorrow, what would you do? Paint! Great for meditation. Help kids who are in need! How do you unwind? No comment! LOL What do you look for in a romantic partner? Not sure I’m ready for romance, would be nice though! Must have roses in the bath! Must-have accessory: Usually don’t need much. Personality is enough! Why do you rule? Don’t really try hard! me, and that helps me become the best I can be. Must-have accessory: I love hair bands. Why do you rule? I breathe therefore I rule! AHAHAHAH!
ANA SOFiA MARTiNS
Age: 21 Agency: FORD Born: NyC Based: Lisbon, Portugal Height: 5’9.5” What makes you beautiful? I help as much people as I can in my life. I’m also very caring.
Age: 19 Agency: Fusion Model Management Born: The morning of June 14th, 1988 Based: New york Height: 5’10” What makes you beautiful? Because of the inner peace God gives What gives you strength? Love and the respect for my profession Favorite photo shoot so far? Ones that Marc shoots Who is your style idol? The Queen Bee Naomi Campbell If you could retire tomorrow, what would you do? Be a psychologist How do you unwind? yoga and Tai Chi What do you look for in a romantic partner? Their mind Must-have accessory: Necklace Why do you rule? Cause God is always w/ me
What gives you strength? Looking in my younger brother’s eyes, or talking to him every day, just keeps me going. Favorite photo shoot so far? All of them, because all allow me to know new people and have different experiences. Who is your style idol? I like Keira Knightley’s style, so I mix it up with my own styles. Something I’m just not in the mood to care about style. If you could retire tomorrow, what would you do? I would definitely do some voluntary (I think she meant “volunteer”) work. How do you unwind? I go to my ballet class, read a book, sing (even though I sound terrible), or just watch TV until I’m numb. What do you look for in a romantic partner? Someone who respects
Age: 22 Agency: NExT Born: Kingston, Jamaica Based: New york Height: 5’10” What makes you beautiful? My sense of humor. I love to laugh and I don’t take myself too seriously What gives you strength? Surrounding myself with positive people. My parents and brothers have supported me throughout my entire career while other didn’t believe I would succeed. Now I model and own a promotions company with my brothers: Freeientertainment.com Who is your style idol? Lenny Kravitz, Bob Marley, Kate Moss If you could retire tomorrow, what would you do? I would move back to Jamaica and help set up a program to help better the education system down there. It’s so broken right now. Children are being neglected. How do you unwind? Music. I love listening to and discovering new music. What do you look for in a romantic partner? Someone that we help to motivate each other to be better in life, business and love. Must-have accessory: I love funky belts and handbags. Why do you rule? I rule because I’m dedicated to my future and very optimistic about it. With that comes confidence and ultimately great things follow. I want to inspire young girls to believe in themselves as well…
EMANuELA DE pAuLA GEORGiE BADiEL
Age: 19 Agency: MUSE Born: Abidjan, Ivory Coast Based: New york Height: 5’10” What makes you beautiful? The life, (unintelligible) What gives you strength? My mother in Africa Favorite photo shoot so far? Moschino with Peter Lindbergh Who is your style idol? Alicia Keys. She sings very well, very beautiful. I love her! If you could retire tomorrow, what would you do? I would go to Africa to aid everyone who is suffering. (Translated from French) What do you look for in a romantic partner? Nice Must-have accessory: I love bags and shoes (translated from French) Why do you rule? My personality
Age: 21 Agency: New york Models Born: Jackson, TN Based: NyC Height: 5’9.5” What makes you beautiful? I am natural and loving it. I have accepted myseft for who and what I am – that’s beautiful What gives you strength? Knowing that my beauty is not skin deep. Pretty girl come “a dime a dozen.” I am not just a pretty face. Favorite photo shoot so far? Moschino campaign with Peter Lindbergh Who is your style idol? Iman If you could retire tomorrow, what would you do? Speak to young girls in small, poor cities and towns. Give them hope that there is a greater purpose in life. How do you unwind? Walking my dog beside the river What do you look for in a romantic partner? Intelligence. Humor. Great energy. Must-have accessory: Stunner shades!
Age: 19 Agency: Marilyn Born: Brazil Based: New york Height: 5’9” What do you look for in a romantic partner? Someone who makes me laugh If you could retire tomorrow, what would you do? Go back to Brazil and go to college Who is your style idol? Kate Moss How do you unwind? I like to lie down and listen to music Why do you rule? I do not think I rule - I think all people rule!
On the eve of the release of his latest feature, miracle at st. anna, sPiKe lee sat with TRACe for an honest discussion about race, democracy and the politics of beauty. as Obama changes the global game of politics, spike calls for people of color to step their own game up and meet the challenge of a new era.
interview by claude Grunitzky (cG) with Stephen Greco (SG) and Meriem Nassiri (MN) photography_MARc BApTiSTE
CG: There’s actually five things I want to discuss with you Spike but I want to start with Miracle of St. Anna, and from reading the material, doing the research and looking at the clips I’ve seen, it’s a very different kind of movie for you in a sense because all of a sudden, you’re in a European context in the Second World War and obviously you have a certain number of black actors mixed in with a transcultural cast…. It’s a departure from the original Spike, which is, you know, the streets of New york, so my main question is how do you… SL: The original Spike, the first Spike film was 1986’s She’s Gotta Have It; that’s a different century, this is 20 something films later. The original Spike was 25 years-old when he made She’s Gotta Have It, 26 when it came out. I’m 51 now. CG: Exactly, and that’s one of the things I want to talk about, you know, in terms of evolution, but in terms of this film, obviously you liked the James McBride novel. SL: When I read it, I thought that’s what I wanna do, but it really wasn’t on the fast track. It was like there were other projects in front of it. When I went to James, all of a sudden Inside Man happened. That was not planned, and Hurricane Katrina came. That was not planned. Even after that I was hoping to make a film about the LA riots, written by the great writer, novelist, and political analyst John Ridley. And then another project about the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. And only when I was unable to get the adequate financing that I thought I needed to get those films made, that’s when The Miracle Of St. Anna jumped. I said, “We have to make this film now.” CG: And so, had you gone to Italy before? SL: I’ve been traveling to Italy since 1986, to do press for my films but also just for visits, vacations. CG: And the African-American actors who are in this movie, had they actually been to Italy before? SL: No, a lot of the cast, they had to get a passport. I think that’s reflective of just Americans in general. CG: yes, only 18% of Americans actually carry a passport. SL: It’s really an atrocious number, and people should not be surprised with George Bush’s foreign policy these last eight years. Because before he got elected, he had never been out of the North American continent. That should have been a campaign issue. How could you even run for office, for the most powerful position in the world, and you’ve never left the United
States of America and Mexico? He had never left the continent, so if you don’t travel, your worldview is very limited. CG: Do you struggle sometimes, financially, to get your films made? SL: I just gave you an example where following my big commercial success Inside Man, I was unable to get the adequate funding for the two projects, LA riots and James Brown: Godfather of Soul. And it was a struggle to get this one made. It was a miracle this film got made, but we got it done. CG: Obviously you’re a New yorker, born and raised… SL: I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but raised in New york. March 20, 1957, born in Atlanta, GA, moved to Brooklyn. I was like, two years old. But there’s no question, definitely, New york’s my home. CG: OK, and you know you’re identified to the city. What does New york give you? SL: New york is home, that’s number one. And also, the diversity, the energy, the sports, the arts, and just the culture of the city. My work is a reflection of the New york I lived and breathed. CG: And you know you’re now considered one of the quintessential New york directors. If one thinks of one of the best New york directors in the early 21st century, your name comes up in. Meriem [Nassiri, TRACE magazine intern] was just telling me that she was a big fan of your films growing up in Paris, even though she’d never been to United States. SL: See, that’s the great thing about art. I gave an interview yesterday. My thinking has always been and always will be African-American. That art, who we are, is universal. Our music is universal, our language, the way we dress; you can buy that shit all over the world. So why should it not be the case when it comes to cinema? And the same way that I’m not Japanese, I’m still able to love and appreciate the Japanese cinema of Kurosawa; I’m not Italian, I’m still able to love and appreciate the Italian cinema of Rossellini; you get beyond that stuff. So, it doesn’t surprise me that you could be born and raised in Paris and understand. Look at Do the Right Thing. The anthem of “Fight the Power” has been around the world. I mean, rap has a different influence. This is not New yorkism; this is Americanism, this is a world culture, so it doesn’t surprise me. CG: Do you still relate to rap and hip hop culture as much as you used to in your early days? SL: yeah, there’s a lot of rap that I like, but I don’t use gangsta rap. But at the same time, I try to be very careful when I talk about rap; there’s not a
to play out in the campaign? SL: I mean the New yorker didn’t make up these images, you know, he’s a Muslim and she’s a militant. That’s out there already. CG: you’re obviously more than a filmmaker, you’re a bit of a public figure, because of your notoriety in the United States. SL: United States? [laughs] CG: In the world, sorry, so apart from making movies, how do you use your fame to improve the world? SL: Number one thing, I’m an educator, I come from a family that has a long line of education. My great great grand father was a disciple of Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee Institute and my mother was a teacher. My grandma taught art for 50 years, I’m a professor at NyU film school, and also the artistic director of NyU Film Grad School, so education is still a big thing. I’m on the board of trustees at Morehouse [College], from where I graduated, and just this past year I started a school of sports journalism at Morehouse. I had to raise the money myself. It took eight, nine years to raise the money to start it, I’m trying to get more African-Americans into journalism, in the broadcasting side of this multi-billion dollar business of sports. The days of us just running up and down the playing fields and not being the ones to report on it and shape the ideals and thoughts of people, those days are over. We need to get into that. In sports you look in a press box and you know, people of color are not really… the representation is nowhere near what you have on the field or the court. CG: It’s interesting because in my little research, I went to Barnes & Noble on Union Square and I asked five different people, “Do you know who Spike Lee is?” and four out of the five did, and the other one was a Bosnian refugee who didn’t. I asked everyone I met “what does Spike Lee do?” They all said filmmaker but two people said noted sport fan. It’s because sports is a big part of your persona. SL: It didn’t start just now. Me being a sports fan started with my father. He loved sports, so he took me to sit in the last row at Shea Stadium, yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden. I still have the same enthusiasm for the yankees and the Knicks, the Giants and the Jets as when I was a kid. SG: I’m thinking that we once worked together, with you as a distinguished filmmaker, who was also a sports journalist, back when I was at Interview magazine and you interviewed Pat Riley for us and it was a wonderful sort of intimate bantering ’cause I guess you guys were friends. SL: We were born the same day, March 20th. SG: I learnt so much from that. I knew what coaches were but I didn’t really get what it was on a spiritual level. SL: But, to backup, we know, when I first started doing the Air Jordan commercials for Nike, more people knew me for those than as a filmmaker. CG: The theme for this issue is obviously Black Girls Rule. And we talked a little bit about the politics of fear but I wanted to talk about the politics of beauty as well. Did you get to see that Italian Vogue, all black issue? SL: I keep trying to buy it but I can’t find it. Why is it sold out? SG: The same raison that Trace’s Black Girls Rule! Issue sells out. CG: you know, obviously, I’m involved in that campaign with Bethann Hardison, where we try to promote black models in the fashion industry. Do you have anything to say about that? SL: It’s the same thing. It’s about gatekeepers. Gatekeepers are the people that run the show. In film, there are the few people who’ll decide what films get made and what films don’t get made. In television, and in the cable networks, they’ll select what the fuck to put on television or not put on television. There’s no difference for magazines. A select few people saying who we’ll put on the cover, and who we’ll not put on the cover, what photographers are hired, what photographers are not hired, what story’s on the cover, what story’s not on the cover. Until we get in those positions, those locked-down positions of the gatekeepers, it’s not gonna change. And we can protest all we want, but we have to get in those positions where we can say, “We’re doing this, and not doing that.” If we are in a gatekeeper’s position, we can say “Wait a minute, I don’t think this is a good idea.” But
“you can divide time into BB (Before Barack) and AB (After Barack).”
we’re not in the room. If we’re in a gatekeeper’s position, someone can say “you know what, this cover for the New yorker, I don’t think we should do it.” If we’re not in the loop, we can’t say, “you know what, this [Vogue] cover with LeBron James and, what’s her name? [Gisele Bundchen] That’s too evocative of King Kong and black men as savage sexual beasts. But we’re not in those rooms when these decisions are being made. And so, our shit becomes reactive so we react after the shit’s done. We’re not in a position to put, like, you know, to put that thing on simmer from the jump. SG: How do you characterize the progress, in gatekeeping, in media, in the course of your career? SL: Well, in the end, it’s opened up. It’s a little bit more democratic. you know, a little bit more. But I don’t think that much has changed. SG: Bethann [Hardison] had an interesting thing to say, when I asked her for the last Black Girls Rule! issue, about black models; she said, “you know it was better, back when I was modeling, in the seventies.” SL: yes, but if we’re in those gatekeeper positions, then it won’t be about waiting every twenty years for the rediscovery of “Oh, Black women are beautiful”. Every twenty years we’re gonna find this out? People of color are beautiful. Every twenty years? And then, I guess, this whole definition of what’s beautiful. That’s a mini-series documentary. Definition of beautiful. And that whole definition has to be expanded because as far as you look, the covers of these magazines are very limited. you know and most people of color, women I know don’t look like that. The have breasts, they have “culos”… you know, they don’t look like they’re anorexic heroin addicts. And as far as I’m concerned, that shit ain’t attractive, and it ain’t fly. Anorexic, heroin looking, snow-white models. Not for me. That’s not my definition of beauty. SG: Can I just back up and ask one thing about gatekeeping, I was wondering if you think or if you see people, sort of exempting themselves from gatekeeping. I do a little talking every now and then with people who presumably use creativity to do good in the world and ask them how their good scales up and achieves a kind of power they would need to sort of make choice at high levels. Half of them get power dirty, I’m cool, you’re cool but I don’t want that kind of power. Do you feel there’s a sort of fear of (or a retreat from) gatekeeping power? As dirty? SL: No. People love power, people kill each other to achieve power. People stab each other in the back. So I don’t think there is a retreat. It might, but I haven’t seen it. CG: I wanna go back to Miracle. One of the things I noticed is that Derek Luke is an exceptional actor. There’s a lot of good actors in the movie but how did you first notice him? SL: I saw Derek in his debut film, Antwone Fisher, directed by Denzel, but to be honest, this is not a Derek Luke star vehicle. This is an ensemble piece. So it’s not just Derek, it’s Michael Ealy, Laz Alonso, Omar Benson. It’s that quartet. They are the foundation of the film. Then you got everybody else to support them, great Italian actors, great Germans actors, and everybody
Claude Grunitzky and Spike Lee
straight across the board combination of rap that I tried and identify with. There are different sub-groups, but I can’t handle gangsta rap. CG: We’ll go back to Miracle a little bit later but this issue’s going to come out a couple of weeks before the Democratic convention. In your New york magazine interview earlier in the year you said that Barack and Michelle went to see Do The Right Thing as their date movie. SL: First date! CG: yes! How does it make you feel? SL: To me, when they told me that story—in fact, it was at his fundraiser in Martha’s Vineyard’s, when he was running for Senate, in the state of Illinois—I’d heard about him but I hadn’t met him and I’m not gonna lie, no time, any second, at that event, did I think he was gonna be the next president of the United States of America. I didn’t see it. Because I didn’t know it was possible. So when he said, “you’re responsible for me and my wife getting together,” I was like, “Uh-oh what’s he gonna say?” Then he explained it. So I laughed and said, “I’m glad Michelle liked the film because [laughs] you might have fucked up!” Like “This negro took me to see ‘Driving Miss Daisy.’ That’s it! He’s out of here! [laughter] SG: Did you have any thoughts on the New yorker cover depicting Michelle and Barack Obama as Muslim fundamentalists? SL: yeah, I called David Remnick [the editor of the New yorker magazine] yesterday. He said it was satirical; he tried to explain what the thinking was behind it and I sent him back an email saying I understand what your intent was, but the execution was not successful. What I suggested to him was that if he wanted to do something like that, he should’ve had [Spike takes a copy of the New yorker magazine and shows the cover] a headline or a banner or something that says “The Politics of Fear” on the cover. But he says, “well, the New yorker’s never done that in its entire history.” I said, “Well, there’s never been a Black president in the United States of America either, so…” CG: Well do you think that things like that, like the politics of fear, are going
“You can divide time into BB (Before Barack) and AB (after Barack).”
else, especially this young Italian kid, Mateo Sciabordi. SG: My big question was, I found so many younger audience people in an unhistorical state of mind, not knowing when World War II was. SL: They don’t know anything happened before the year they were born. It’s prehistoric to them. SG: So how did you make that work as a filmmaker, or can you do anything about the context? SL: you have to work very creatively to market the film. I’m not putting hip hop in a WWII film just to get to bring in the young heads. I’m not doing that. SG: I remember we were doing a thing on WWII and some people not knowing who was on what side and understanding what principles were at stake. So I’m wondering if it presents a special challenge for a storyteller. SL: you wanna use some historical facts but also you set out to tell a story and I tried not to underestimate the intelligence of the audience. I’m not going to talk down to them. I, whether right or wrong, assume the audience knows something about it, who the Nazis were. Why this is a battle between democracy and fascism. SG: Are you using historical music? SL: No, all of the music is original music written by the great composer, Terence Blanchard. CG: The last question I want to ask is about the anti American sentiment around the world. SL: That’s gonna change. That’s changing already with Obama. Already the United States is being looked at differently because of Obama. And it’s going to change even more when he becomes president of the United States of America. America’s image is at an all-time low now, over the last eight years of the Bush administration. you just can’t qualify it as just the Islamic and Arabic states. The way the world felt about the United States after WWII, that’s the way it’s going to be once Obama get his thing going. The bigger point is that when he gets sworn in and he takes his oath and puts his hand on the bible, I think its January 20th, that’s going to be a defining moment not just in American history but world history. It’s going to change the dynamics of everything. A to z, Alpha to Omega, everything is changed. And you can divide time into BB (Before Barack) and AB (After Barack). That will be a very definitive shift in time, movement, thought, space. And I wanna say here, and it’s really speaking to people of color, especially African Americans. I think that we should use this momentous moment in world history as a mandate for all African Americans, all people of color, to step our game up. Just like he’s doing. So, if you’re a ditch digger, a teacher, a photographer, a musician, a rapper, an educator, a mom, a father, let’s use this momentous occasion of history to raise whatever you are doing to another level. Use this as an inspiration. Use inspiration to step our game
across the board. This is a historical time in America. you can’t be doing the same dumb shit you were doing before. Rise up. Step it up. Everybody across the board. Because it can’t just be him. Everybody, collectively, step it up. And I include myself. Everybody can be doing better, can work harder, whatever it is. That’s gonna be the cataclysmic change. I think it should and will happen. SG: There’s been a change I think in America, Obama seems to have shown people the power of something they thought, a lot of people thought, of as a bit airy-fairy to start. How to be a catalyst, and how to talk about optimism. SL: yes but I think young people got that. And I think young people today are more active and more in tune with the whole multiculturalism happening in this country, versus their parents. SG: I even saw some people in my generation, who had worked hard in the movement in the ’60s, a little hesitant in some ways and sticking to Hilary when they should’ve moved on. SL: I know, but there were several well known Black people, the negroes from that era, who rolled and died with Hillary [laughs]; the Bob Johnson’s, the Charlie Rangel’s of the world. SG: It’s hard to let old dreams morph to new dreams; it’s just hard sometimes. SL: yes, but here is the thing. The old generation always had a hard time getting the fuck out of the way and letting the new guard take control. And never, very rarely—I don’t wanna use the word never—very rarely move aside gracefully. you have to kick their ass out before they go. And then a new cycle, so the new guard becomes old and then they do the same thing they all fought against before so it’s just happening all over again. MN: I was wondering if, for you, it’s a big symbol that Barack is black, and if he wasn’t, would you be as supportive as you are now of him? SL: I don’t think like that, you can’t just say “if he wasn’t black.” If he wasn’t black, then the thing that shaped him would not be the same, so I don’t understand how to answer to that. There are certain insights he got being who he is. If he wasn’t that person, he wouldn’t be Barack Obama. MN: But he can be the first black president of the United States. Is that the symbol for you? SL: It’s more than symbolic. Because symbolism has only gone so far. This country is in dire straits, the economy is fucked up, gas is $4 plus a gallon, health care, education, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, our earth is in peril, people losing their homes—this has to be about more than symbolism.
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BrOOklYn stOOP: sPiKe’s ACTResses
In SPIKE LEE joints actresses are transformed from screen actors to cultural icons. Here Spike’s favorite actresses (some he has worked with, some wishes to) tell us how they fit into the director’s universe. Photography_SPIKE LEE
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r EbEcca n aomi J onEs
I am… “I was born in New york City to a black father and Jewish mother. Needless to say, I have always felt like an amalgam of cultures, histories, energies, and personalities, never to be placed in one defining box. As I continue to grow up and out, I find I can be the many versions of ME through art. Music and acting allow me to be vast in my thinking and in my expressing. Working on Passing Strange has shown me just how unlimited we can be. It is a vessel by which we can tell another version of OUR Story, the African American Story; a version that is often untold.”
D E’a DrE a ziza
I am… “Passing Strange: one of the best blessings to enter my life; second best to my son, who is the ultimate irreplaceable gift of light & love. But first, I am a single mom. Faith, patience, persistence, support, players and then Passing Strange. From obscurity to Tony Awards nominee, Obie Award winner, Theatre World Award winner, Audelco Award nominee. Me? Really? OK. “Spike Lee wants to cast you in his new movie.” Say what? Spike…Lee? Well, you dream about it, work your ass off, and then it happens. Welcome to the life you’ve prayed for. Thank you Stew, Spike, Ma, Chi, le, Trace. Thank you to the Most High.”
all clothes_Edwing D’Angelo
J oiE L EE
I am… “When I was about five or six my mother took me to see the musical Oliver, which I loved. Afterwards I was sitting in the window gazing out, singing, “Where is Love?” just like Oliver. I really wanted to act. As I’m pouring my heart out, unselfconsciously, in the song, I hear someone cackling behind me. I turn around and it’s Spike, who begins to imitate me, laughing hysterically in his inimitable way. Recently, I watched some super 8 footage of my brothers and me running up and down Warren Street. I’m trying to run as fast as Spike, but I can’t keep up. His legs are longer. He’s bigger and older than me. Even though we’re adults now, the dynamic is the same. I am very proud of Spike and eternally grateful to him. I don’t have words to express my feelings about this man who is a pioneer, who is my oldest brother. Our mother would be so proud. She didn’t know if he’d ever grow up. “you’re so immature [yet] you’re the eldest of five,” she’d say. Like Spike, I write and I hope to direct my own films. I have my own voice, my own vision, my own creative sensibility. And I have my own identity, needless to say. Everybody loves Spike, at least the people that come up to me on the street or sometimes shout from their cars. “Are you Spike Lee’s sister?” they ask. I’m going to get a t-shirt made that reads, ‘Spike Lee’s Sister.’ He’d love that.”
r osiE P ErEz
I am… “Puerto Rican icon , nerd, cool-ass Brooklyn chick, smart, silly, funny, corny, brilliant, humble, loud as hell, quiet, party girl, loner, sister, aunt, best friend, flaky, girlfriend, honest, liar, happy, sad, really nice, bitchy, activist, writer, actor, producer, recovering Catholic, reformed pothead, once in a blue moon-er, grateful!” Thank you so much Mr. Lee. I got mad love for ya!
blouse_Edwing D’Angelo jewelry_Ruby Dee’s Own Rosie Perez dress_Operations sandal_Rosie’s Own In the scene where Joie Lee braids Mother Sister’s hair, Spike once again captured the history of so many of us who shared life on the stoops of apartment buildings and brownstones. It was the first time where the truths and the racial nature of neighborhoods I knew were key elements of the story. My second film with Spike was Jungle Fever, where I played Lucinda Purify. In the last scene, my husband Rev. Purify (also played by Ossie) fatally shoots our son, Gator (Samuel L. Jackson), for his weedy ways. As I (Lucinda) stooped to embrace my bleeding boy, I (Ruby) was suddenly struck by a question: How do I scream, stoop, clutch and hug my just-shot boy and not get blood all over my white dress? My dilemma was this: indie movies cannot afford overtime. It’s the last shot. No time to change this dress, even if there is another one, it’s probably packed up. The crew’s already poised to vacate. What do I do? Tears start to brim my lower lid. Then, a twitch in my front brain and a loud voice in my right ear: What the hell you worrying about? This is Spike! Most anything wrong in this movie, he will fix in postproduction. Blood ain’t your problem, girl! The films that Ossie and I did with Spike were some our best and most satisfying work. The brother delivers with enormous sensitivity, with often unique insights, with his particular delivery and honesty, he opens up so much about us all, incredible mysteries, about being these same-different kinds of humans as we are and hope to be. I imagine Spike, mounted high on a big-dollied camera perched on a moving platform, compelling us to watch as he mumbles or shouts ‘Hey, listen everybody, we’re happening. Let’s get the territory together for a smooth landing cause this is it!’” Ruby Dee blouse & skirt_Edwing D’Angelo sandal & jewelry_Ruby Dee’s Own Joie Lee dress_yeohlee boot_Joie’s Own
r uby D EE
“While working in the daytime series One Life to Live, our son, Guy, invested in one of Spike Lee’s earliest films, She’s Gotta Have It. Spike gave people with modest incomes a chance to become investors. Guy went deep into his capital and came up with $1600. I love the fact that had it been five dollars, I think Spike would have accepted it and put his name on the screen right along with others who were expressing (with much heavier bread) their belief in this strongly motivated director/producer. We were so proud to see Guy’s name as the names of all the producers filled the screen. How thrilled I was when Guy told me one day, ‘Ma, I got another check from Spike.’ She’s Gotta Have It paid off, and Spike paid back, with interest, the people who had trusted him. I’d never heard of anything like that. Creative bookkeeping; where projects made money but rarely showed a profit, seemed to be the rule at that time. I’m goose-pimpled to even think about it. My first job with Spike was in Do The Right Thing in which I played Mother Sister. There is an excitement in being in a Spike Lee Joint. It was my first experience with truly diverse crew grips, Ads and designers, all of whom brought a distinct flavor to this groundbreaking company. Mother Sister felt like my mother and all the women I’d seen perched in the windows of apartments all over Harlem, where I grew up. Women leaning out watering their plants, giving instructions, offering advice, passing judgment, propped up on elbows, chins in palms watching the world like we watch TV. Spike Lee placed me in that window talking to Da Mayor (played by late husband Ossie Davis) and interacting with many of his other colorful characters.
fashion_ANDRE ADKINS fashion for Joie Lee_ANN CRABTREE hair_FREDERICK PARNELL @ Primp Club make-up_AMINATA GUEYE @ Judy Casey Agency photo assistants_ERIK RASMUSSEN & DAVID PEREZ producer_EMILY GENDRON
KERI HILSON already has a trail of hits and her debut LP hasn’t even dropped yet
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In a perfect world, artists on the rise would have to pay dues, not approach the stage drunk off the spotlight. They’d rely less on their A&R and bring their own voice to the table. They’d look at a song as a song, an individual piece of work. They’d see music as a craft, not just a passion, or a hobby— worse still, a means to an end. Talent and some hustle would be essential to the success of an album, not just a mega budget and a killer roster of guest so-and-so’s. Twist that radio dial, my friend, and it is obvious: this is no perfect world. Keri Hilson’s debut In a Perfect World is a culmination of two and a half years of work. Her success, 10 to 12 years of serious eye-on-the-prize concentration. Already a prominent figure in the industry as a songwriter to all the contemporary big boys—from Usher to Chris Brown, Ludacris to Diddy, Ciara to Mary J. Blige—she is now starting to receive love as an artist. In 2007, she grabbed the attention of the masses with her duet with Timbaland on the electro-pop “The Way I Are.” The track was on repeat everywhere, and everyone was along for the ride. yeah, the beat was Tim, but everything else was Keri. When we first met, Hilson was in town to reshoot Nas’ “Hero” to make her a more prominent feature in the video. Guess she has more bargaining chips these days. We met at the bar in the Helmsley Hotel just off the blaze of Times Square. Wearing an Adidas zip-up, fitted jeans and high-tops, she’s far more beautiful in person than on TV. Bold statement considering how steamy she looks in her premiere single “Energy” or Tim’s “Scream,” or Usher’s “Love In This Club.” She is cool, very positive, I can tell from the jump. Scheduled for a day of running from appointment to appointment, she’s been in this game long enough not to get fazed by the “busy-ness” of the business. Another first impression: the woman exudes humility, “I’m thankful for this moment, I know that it is God’s design and I am just happy to be living this dream.” We start our convo with her new album, how she would describe it. “My sound is a culmination of what you’ve heard from me: I’ve written for soul artists, I’ve written for pop artists, everyone from Britney Spears to Rich Boy, but there’s always a common thread through it. It’s all me.” Sorry, I had
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“Whatever I wanted in life, I wanted to work towards it, I wanted to make sure I appreciate it. I respect grind, I respect hustle.”
to ask: What was it like writing the track—a great track, at that—“Gimme More” for Britney at a time when everyone, even Britney, was so ready for doom. “That track taught me that you can’t stop a hit song. Not even the artist can stop a hit song.” Member of the super-group of producer/songwriters, The Clutch, with a trail of hits in their wake, I ask if she intends on writing for other artists after the album drops. “I never want to not write for other artists. It opens you up and keeps you on your toes creatively. I like to always broaden my spectrum and stay juicy.” In a Perfect World is scheduled to be the third release on Timbaland’s new Mosley Music/Interscope label (in a joint venture with Polow da Don’s zone 4), following Nelly Furtado’s Loose and Tim’s own Shock Value. In a July 14 interview on BET’s “106 and Park,” Timbaland declares to Terence J that “there are only three girls killing it in the game right now: Keri, Rihanna and Beyonce.” The two first met through Polow da Don’s suggestion, and Hilson sang for Tim over the phone. Months pass and Tim returns to Hilson and Polow’s hometown of Atlanta, and calls her in for a meeting at the Ritz Carlton. “I remember running upstairs to the studio in my house, “ she tells me, “to collect a couple of songs that I would do as an artist, for myself, and I put them on a CD. I didn’t have a demo at that time, I wasn’t pursuing the artist thing, I was an established writer.” She obviously loves telling this story, as she’s smiling from ear to ear, making me smile. She continues: “So, we met and we played the disc. Tim heard a song called ‘Strange Angel’ that I did with Polow’s production partner, Donnie Scantz and goes, ‘Play that again.’ He’s very hard to read, he has the best poker face, you really don’t know what’s going to come out of his mouth. So, he says, ‘I know what to do with a song like this. What are you doing it tonight? Can you come to Miami? I was like, ‘Um, sure.’” Straight from the airport to the studio they went and started working. That same night, Craig Kallman from Elektra happened to be there and offered her a record deal. “I don’t like bragging but it is unheard of for an R&B artist to be signed that quick. We created a big bidding war between five labels.” The pop star-in-the-making was born in Decantur, Georgia, 24 years ago. As far back as she can remember, she knew that music was it for her. “I studied music: Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, my En Vogue tapes, Mariah Carey. I studied the format of a song, I studied a hook—back then, it was called a chorus,” she says laughing, “and how to stack harmonies, where to place ad libs, all that.” She continues, “I didn’t know what the terms were but I studied the song in that way.” Her parents set her up for piano lessons when she was 12, but she was more interested in singing than fingering the keys. “So, by recital time
I didn’t know how to play a song—obviously—and my piano teacher cut me deal. He told me: ‘If you write, arrange and compose the music to a whole song, you can perform that for your recital.’” Little Keri Hilson wrote her first song: “I’ll Never Let Go.” (And she didn’t.) Leaning her head in her palm, she finishes: “I took that tape and listened to it all the way home; I listened to it over and over and over, and that’s when I said I want to do this.” I ask if she still owns the tape. “I probably have it somewhere, and it’s also on video, someone videotaped it.” She pauses, “That is, if my mom didn’t record over it.” At 14, Hilson auditioned for Michael Bivens, who passed. But, through a turn of events, the audition was still a success: the owner of a local artist development center scooped her up. “It was like going through bootcamp: vocal coaches, choreography, physical trainers, all the nuances of the recording life. That was my life at 14,” she says, laughing, “braces on my teeth, still wearing pigtails.” At 17, Hilson was picked up Silvia Rhone and Elektra as the lead of a girl group, By Design. The album never happened. “Whatever I wanted in life, I wanted to work towards it, I wanted to make sure I appreciate it. I respect grind, I respect hustle. I was in the choir, I was in chorus, I was in Black History choir, I sang at my graduation, I did talent shows, musicals, was the lead in plays, I loved the stage and to perform.” Her eyes focus. “I’m glad I wasn’t an overnight success in this, I’m glad I had the opportunity to see and learn and gain the respect of my peers first, build it grass roots.” A man at the bar stares over at her, trying to figure out who she is. Guess he sees her glow, knows she’s somebody. That duality—this grounded woman ready to catapult into the heavens—makes her all the more interesting. I can’t stop thinking, throughout our conversation, how refreshing it is to have someone this talented and real flood the industry of pop unmentionables with light. I ask her, as we’re packing up to leave, how she feels at this moment, debut album ready to drop. She stops and smiles: “It feels like the calm before the storm. I can’t wait for the world to hear.” I heard it, and I can say this: It’s big.
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THe ReBiRTH oF Cool
Vocalist and bass player ESPERANZA SPALDING is the new kid on the jazz block. On her debut album, she accepts the jazz baton passed on to her.
text_MAiyA NORTON photography_MARc BApTiSTE Esperanza Spalding quietly entered Manhattan’s Sun West Studios on a sticky June afternoon. Wrapped in a pearl cotton dress and gladiator sandals, she peered under her extra-large, curly coif and panned the stark white room with her almond eyes. “you’re the journalist?” she asked and extended her hand. She then insisted I sit on a plush violet chair for our interview. At 23, the model-esque bass player and jazz ingénue can sense when a music critic is questioning her authenticity. It begins with a pair of raised eyebrows and segues into questions about John Coltrane and the nuances of the decades. “We call them the ‘Bebop Nazis,’” Esperanza said. “They’re committed to traditional jazz and you have to prove you know its history.” By now, the Portland, Oregon native is used to the rigmarole that comes with trying to get people to take her seriously at such a young age. While some critics are skeptical of Esperanza, she has been met with gratitude by facets of the jazz community that want new acts to carry the torch. “The way jazz has evolved over the decades is so drastic, but after the 1960s, we stopped following it,” she said. As a newcomer to the mainstream, Esperanza wanted to introduce her music with a sense of openness. “A title of a song or album puts a person’s mind in that area, and during the experience they can investigate that for themselves.” So she named her album “Esperanza,” which translates to “hope” in Spanish. Esperanza and her team of musicians consider their breezy, self-titled U.S. debut a cornucopia of global sounds--a mash-up of Brazilian influence, Cuban tunes, Afro-Latin rhythms and good, old-fashioned soul. She draws from her experience studying Portuguese in Brazil and being under the management of Heads Up International. “I spend a lot of time with them in Spain and some of them don’t speak English, so I had to refine my Spanish,” she said. Esperanza also learned from her telenovela-blaring Cuban babysitter, who impacted her knack for the language. During the interview, a team of stylists worked on singer Janelle Monaé’s signature pompadour. “I’ve checked her stuff out,” said Esperanza as she waited for her turn in the hairstylists’ chair. “I think she’s so dope.” The hairstyling team later asked Esperanza how much freedom they have with her afro. “Let’s just keep it natural,” she said breezily. With her music credentials, Esperanza could easily become a “Bebop Nazi” if she chose to, but her beautiful girl-next-door demeanor keeps her down to earth. After graduating at 20 from Berklee College of Music in Boston, she became the youngest teacher there. “I assumed the students would be like ‘Oh this is jive, we’re not paying attention,” she said. If anything, the students were intrigued at being introduced to their “musical selves” by someone so close to their own age. Esperanza’s assignments have included a mandate for students to update their iPods with jazz from different decades. Word has spread that Professor Spalding’s class is not for the faint of heart. Esperanza first got the jazz bug at four while watching cellist yo-yo Ma pluck away at the strings on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. “It’s so corny,” she said. “I had a conversation with ?uestlove, and I thought he was joking on me, but he was like, ‘yo, I used to love that show too.’” Her curiosity with jazz unfurled through a series of basement jam sessions and a stint as the lead singer in a band called Noise for Pretend. Before her vocals were tapped for the limelight, Esperanza sang just so she could practice her acoustic guitar. “I think everyone sings, it’s just at some point someone tells you to do it for others,” Esperanza said. “When you don’t have a specific objective, you just learn music and it’s all connected.” Esperanza also studied under vets like singer Patti Austin and saxophonist Joe Lovano. “The way jazz has evolved over the decades is so drastic,” said Esperanza. She sees a continuation of the style and experimentation of jazz through the music of genre-hoppers like Andre 3000 and the Roots. “It’s not like they’re swinging with horns, but the improvisation and spontaneity; that’s exactly what bebop was. [Even] Biggie Smalls worked as an understudy to saxophonist Donald Harrison to find out about rhythm and phrasing and how to be melodic,” she added. As a newcomer, Esperanza knows she’s in a vulnerable place. “I hope this record is the beginning of a long journey,” she said. “It’s not more auspicious than that it’s like ‘Hi, I’m Esperanza.’”
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“I think everyone sings, it’s just at some point someone tells you to do it for others.”
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A sTAR is BoRn
With DiDDY on board, singer JAnelle MonAe is ready for her alternative soul sound to defy genres.
text_Mawuse Ziegbe photography_MARc BApTiSTE Janelle Monàe runs on stage with the self-assured swing and finger-snap of a ‘60s doo-wop star. As the music builds Jenelle is a frenzy of splayed limbs reacting to the nervy guitar of her spunky single, “Violent Stars/Happy Hunting!” Then she transitions into the plush “Sincerely, Jane” which she punctuates with angular, ambient dance moves. When she opens her mouth wide and bops her head as her epic pompadour flops about, she’s a picture of comic hyperbole. But let that pompadour unravel and she quietly dashes backstage and re-pins the ‘do. In person, however, she is nothing but in control. Backstage, after rocking the 2008 Afropunk Festival in Brooklyn, Janelle is fielding a stream of journalists and filming interviews flanked by her band. It’s 10 PM and her dark Wayfarers are still perched on her heart-shaped face. She describes her music-making process with words like “excellence” and “perfection” and speaks like she’s been giving that ol’ razzle-dazzle for years (At one point she actually calls me “doll”). She counts Katherine Hepburn and Colonel Sanders among her style icons and her main pet peeve? “Conventional thinkers.” Originally from Kansas City, Janelle grew up an aspiring equestrian. She even went to Georgia Perimeter College to perfect her riding but music was always in her heart. “I was in a group called The Weirdos and we used to always try to make political statements because Kansas was so black and white…we were always trying to be the color.,” she says. Janelle left Kansas for NyC where she studied theater at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy but later ditched school because it was literally cramping her style. “I took a year of theater in New york after I graduated high school but I stopped because I didn’t want to be too influenced by musical theater. I didn’t want the technique to take away from my natural ability.” On stage she has the dramatic sensibilities of a someone steeped in the dramatics of the Great White Way. But she counters, “it’s only my interpretation of what I think someone in musical theater would bring to the stage. I think it’s that’s always been me. I’ve always been very animated as a child. On stage, it just comes out.” Janelle’s musical career launched when she moved to Atlanta and began “touring” dorm lounges at Spelman, Morehouse and Clark Atlanta. After a performance at Sean “Diddy” Combs restaurant Justin’s, she caught the eye of the original ATLien, Big Boi from Outkast who insisted they get this music thing crackin.’ She appeared on the 2005 compilation album, Big Boi Presents…Got Purp? Vol. 2, and after flexing her skills on the 2006 Outkast soundtrack, Idlewild, she caught the mogul bug and set up her own label, The Wondaland Arts Society. In 2007, she released the EP Metropolis Suite I of IV: The Chase, a five-song collection of spacey and retro rhythms chronicling the travails of her android alter-ego, Cindi Mayweather. The album was heralded as the second-coming of fierce by the media and ear-to-the-web fans alike. One such web-troller would take her fame to a new level. “[Diddy] emailed me on MySpace and I didn’t respond back because I didn’t think it was him. So, then Big Boi called me to confirm at like 6 AM that morning, like ‘Puff’s been blowin’ up my phone, he really likes the concept…he wants to talk.’” Eventually, a joint venture crystallized between the Purple Ribbon, Wondaland Arts Society and Bad Boy labels. But how would Janelle, with her stylized Buddy Holly look and songs full of political and science fiction references look in the pantheon of jiggy Bad Boy stars like 112 and Danity Kane? “I think that people are truly lovers of art [and]…I’m actually proud [Diddy] he wanted to help endorse a group like The Wondaland Arts Society. We understand that it’s up to us help alter history…and fight for art. What he’s decided to do is step back and let me grow as an artist and not mess up what he had fallen in love with. There’s no incentive for people to write music for the radio - that’s not gonna sell you any more records. So why not take a chance on something that may not be so radio-friendly. This is the perfect time.” Her band of art-warriors includes Wondaland producer N8 (pronounced “Nate”) “Rocket” Wonder and songwriter Chuck Lightning, whom she met at Morehouse and are instrumental in the evolution of Monàe’s sound. “I was just into live music and just the guitar but after I listened to the production that N8 was doing, I was like ‘no more sitting on a stool and just singing. It’s time to get up and jam because the music is funky.’” The special edition of The Chase with additional songs was released in August as the first in a planned series of Metropolis-themed albums. Janelle describes music in colors and speaks about The Chase in bold hues, “lots of reds, bright oranges and blacks.” She plans to mix it up on her next album: “right after you get finished listening to red, you need to calm down; get some green.”
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“Writing music for the radio is not gonna sell you more records.”
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HAlF HiP HoP. HAlF AMAzinG
Few singers can boast their own production. Indie artist MuHsinAH challenges the norm.
text_DEViN “pAN” BARRETT photography_MARc BApTiSTE There once was a time when record companies found raw talent and developed artists to be neatly packaged and systematically exposed to chosen demographics. These days, the trend in musicianship is more about selfdevelopment and discovering an audience, well before any major labels come knocking. Hailing from the nation’s capital, self-sufficient soulstress Muhsinah is an example of why this new wave of independent artists deserves our attention. With production, engineering, and songwriting credits on her resume, Muhsinah’s artistry and voice should be far-reaching. Born and raised in Washington D.C. to a Muslim family, Muhsinah Abdul-Kareem realized early on that music would be prominently woven into the tapestry of her existence. Reflecting on some of her early influences, Muhsinah beams, “Of course go-go music is something so big in D.C., it was definitely part of my musical experience growing up. My father knew so many local groups. Outside of that, my mother was a DJ in college, and she would play records like Parliament when I was a kid. I was blown away by that music…now it’s like, ok, how can I do that?” Muhsinah satisfied her musical urges by training in classical piano, learning the finer points of composition, and opening herself up to a world of musical inspiration which now includes Herbie Hancock, J Dilla, James Brown, Madlib, and Frederic Chopin. “I didn’t start singing until I was about 20,” she says. Her musical exploration was largely the result of logical, creative progression. “I started a band in college (Howard University), and we wanted to stop doing covers so I started writing songs and creating our beats. People loved it.” Shortly thereafter, destiny would reveal itself in the form of an unexpected phone call from Phonte of rap group Little Brother. “I had just been to a Little Brother show a week prior and Phonte called after randomly hearing my music on Myspace. I thought it was a joke, but he actually wanted to work with me. Now we’re like best friends. That’s when I felt like I was really supposed to be doing music.” She jokingly adds, “Plus I wasn’t getting any of the jobs I was applying for.” Muhsinah has since successfully developed an organic, soulful sound integrating layers of her previous influences with hints of contemporaries like Janelle Monae and J*Davey. She describes it as, “Everything you’ve heard and haven’t heard. I’m inspired by the way a sewing machine sounds, or an Indian lady speaking, just throwing sounds together in an introspective stream of consciousness.” Within just two years of posting her music on Myspace Muhsinah was chosen as one of 30 young musicians to attend the Red Bull Music Academy in Toronto last year, taking in “lectures by DJ Premier and the guy who invented the first synthesizer.” Her independent debut LP Day.Break 2.0 has been released internationally, along with an alternate Japanese release called Prelude. After some travel and connecting with audiences in different parts of the world, Muhsinah is sure about one thing. “Sometimes indie artists don’t want to be seen by the masses…I’m not one of them! I want everyone to hear my music! I’m going for it!”
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Out to prove she’s no DesTinY CHilD clone, MiCHelle williAMs is carving her own tracks.
text_DALE cOAchMAN photography_MARc BApTiSTE
Individuality is hard to come by and to follow suit in the current music industry is definitely the easy way out. Former Destiny’s Child singer and part owner of the WNBA’s Chicago Sky, Michelle Williams could have jumped on. “you don’t want to see two other Beyonce clones, you don’t want to see two other Kelly clones, and I’m glad, we’re making history,” she says. The quiet church girl is building her own empire and with her new album Unexpected, she’s defining herself to let critics, fans, and closet peers know, she’s more than just a church abiding former member of the highest selling female group in history. Although she grew up in a religious family, Michelle reflects on her social life as a teenager and how she always had a feeling of control, “you can have a social life. People think God is in a box. God is everywhere. If you didn’t go to the movies or bowling, honey, that was your fault. Jesus was out mingling with people in the streets.” Even as a teenager she wanted to look and feel her best. “I wanted my little purses, to keep my hair and nails done. you know at school you had school lunch and you could by your Doritos that were extra? I wanted my money to buy those Doritos and cookies. I say all this to say, I never wanted to have to depend on anybody.” Image is something that Michelle is very cognizant of and when it comes to being a woman in the music industry handling the business aspect of her career, there tends to be a double standard on many different levels. Through her years as a member of DC and a solo artists she learned to stand up for herself. “Always speak your mind, no matter if you’rr right or wrong,” she says. lways speak your mind. If you think that one thing is so minute and you overlook it; that could be the one thing that makes or breaks you. I have management, a booking agent, and all that, but I don’t sit back and let stuff be done. I have to be knowledgeable about what they’re doing for me. It’s my career, and some of my career is in their hands.” Michelle hopes after her new album Unexpected, scheduled to release August 2008, she won’t have to disprove anymore misconceptions, but she also understands that even when she joined DC and garnered all the fame and those perceptions attached, positive and negative, her church background is at the core, a part of her DNA, “When I look back at old footage of
me being with the group, it was like, ‘Look ya’ll, I was in church all my life, so I’m going to have a little church bounce to me, and that’s with all my music.’ I keep a little bit of that in me because that’s what rooted me, that’s where that soul comes from.” Manager Matthew Knowles thought she was ready to complete her third gospel album, when Michelle told him she wanted to go a different route. The irony, as the Chicago native put it, is that her mother was the catalyst behind her new pop/dance album. Williams noticed she had allowed people to put her in a box and she decided to keep herself there and not show the other facets of her repertoire, “I started working on the album two years ago and the first draft of the album was very R&B. The album was done and I let my mother listen to it and she was like, ‘It’s alright.” Much to Michelle’s dismay she realized that it was her mother, the church going saint, who indirectly gave her the freedom to get loose with it, she told Michelle, “you have nothing on this album for people to dance to.’ It was a challenge and got me out of the box that I put myself into. I allowed people to put me in a box so much that I was going to stay in that box.” Michelle Williams knows she has a lot of work to do but she’s definitely continuing on her path in the driver’s seat. If people take away nothing else from this album and Michelle Williams the individual, she wants people to know she’s done it her way, “This album is made to let people to know, Michelle has fun and Michelle is not on the alter twenty-four hours a day seven days a week! I’m just letting people know Michelle has her lane.”
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THe GolDen GiRl
Raised on a hearty diet of 70s soul music and old-school hip hop singer STEPHANIE MCKAY’S voice comes down over you like sticky sweet sap from a tree.
text_ERikA pARkiNS photography_MARc BApTiSTE Writers tend to label Stephanie McKay as a soul savior and images of an afroed soul priestess descending from the sky in a swirl of purple-y funk haze, quickly ensue. Though she does possess a mighty ‘fro and a soulful swagger that hearkens back to an era of sweat-soaked blue-light parties under another kind of haze, Stephanie is more humble than the image and the adulation imply. Her response to the praise? “It’s pretty self-righteous to say something like that about yourself. I’m real simple.” Modest as she is, Stephanie is not an in industry neophyte. Her resume boasts a lengthy roster of collaborations with musicians like Amp Fiddler, Roy Hargrove, Carl Hancock Rux, Talib Kweli and Brooklyn Funk Essentials among others. She was playing guitar with her own band when producer and songwriter Mark Batson (Sting, Seal, Beyonce, India.Arie) asked her to play on an eight-month world tour for Kelis. While in London, a fortuitous turn lead to an introduction to Portishead’s Geoff Barrow and the beginning of Stephanie as a solo act. He later produced her first album, the critically approved McKay and she has yet to look back. Stephanie has spent years perfecting a sound that can only be described as an amalgam of Betty Davis-like growl and Dionne Warwick-esque ability to reach way down in a song and stir up the dramatic crescendos that would otherwise lay dormant had anyone else tried to sing it. When we spoke Stephanie was preparing for an upcoming tour promoting her second full-length album, Tell It Like It Is (Muthas of Invention). Though she primarily records and releases her albums overseas, New york is still her base. Her experience abroad, however, has both inspired her music and prevented her from being pigeonholed into a certain genre, like she would be in the U.S. “Overseas, at least in England, the radio is staterun so more people could kind of ‘get in there’ and not necessarily have to worry about being bought out by major labels,” she says. An added bonus to working in the U.K. is the appreciation she finds for her style of music. “People are into authentic music, “real music” – well I don’t want to say ‘real music’ all music is real – but in certain parts of England, you have some serious crate diggers, they know this music very well, its history and all about artists that we’ve forgotten or don’t know at all here. They know the rare groove, the whole language of the music and are exposed to a lot more than the same people, same videos, same songs every 20 minutes.” Stephanie deftly moves from early reggae, dub and ska to rock, to funk and soul. On “Tell It Like It Is,” her second full-length album, she worked with a new team of producers that included Damien DeSandies, Robert “Chicken” Burke and Gizmo. “I know everyone’s got an odd name,” she said, laughing. “But, the funk is in there. It’s living!” She co-wrote all of the tracks and together they created what she would like to think of as a New york story. “The city has gone through so much since 9/11 and the Iraq war that has changed our society dramatically,” she says. “Information now moves so fast-paced. I wanted to talk about being creative amidst that pace, about slowing down and realizing what’s around us. It’s about speaking our minds and being a creative person among the economic struggles and political changes of the last six to eight years. For many people out there, across the U.S., there is this story, but my perspective is New york.” So would she reconsider her position as soul savior? “I don’t cater to that at all,” she insists. “Soul doesn’t need saving. There is a deep, rich lineage of music that originated in Africa, was translated through the Blues and has transformed multiple times since then. I’m a part of a rich continuum.”
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NEW yORk ciTy
WhAT: The G-Shock 25th Anniversary celebration hosted by Spike Lee at Gustavino’s in NyC just below the 59th Street Bridge. WhO: The industry’s flyest professionals and gutsiest trendsetters partied it up in a celebration for 25 years of success. With a performance by the Louis Vuitton Don himself, Kanye West, and DJ Cassidy on the ones and twos, guests like the founder of LRG Jonas Bevacqua, Terrence J from 106 and Park, and Laurie Ann Gibson partied it up while wearing G-Shock’s exclusive new watches. photo_ JOHNNY NUñEZ
Black Girl Rock
Former model and model agency owner Bethann hardison pays her respects to the fiercest women who paved the way.
text_DALE cOAchMAN photography_MARc BApTiSTE
Who are your favorite black girls of all time? Sojourner Truth: In my spiritual mind, she is my alter ego; a freedom fighter who aided the slaves escape on the underground railroad and did it over and over again. Truly my hero. Naomi Sims: The only black model to make me a groupie. Her gait, her height, style and creativity was the true beginning of change. Not only beautiful and talented, but a strong business woman. I was truly smitten. Diana Sands: An actor who inspired my artist. She is who I still aspire to be as an actor. Her performance in The Pawn Broker and Raisin InThe Sun say it all.
Ida B. Wells: A defiant woman who dared to go against the system and sue the railroad for not accommodating her as a form of racial injustice. Shirley Chisholm: A Brooklyn politician, my hometown. First, did so much for the community, then dared to run for the president of the United States. Sophia Hardison: My mother, the first and only “jitterbug” dancer I ever knew. She was a great party girl. I never forget, and will always admire, her support of all my ambitious desires. Carrie Hudson: My grandmother who taught me by her actions how to be a grandmother. More importantly, she expressed how to appreciate death as well as life. One of her great gifts of wisdom.