Dollmaker American Girl named its “Girl of the Year” Friday, revealing a new African-American doll named Gabriela McBride. She’s the first Girl of the Year doll since 2011 who wasn’t white.
American Girl, a Mattel-owned company, sells the popular — but expensive, at $115 a pop — 18-inch dolls that aim to teach young girls about different historical eras and perspectives. The dolls also come with books, outfits, and accessories to personalize each one.
American Girl dolls have always been hot sellers, but there has been resurgence in popularity in the last few years. Mattel said in October that American Girl sales were up 15% in the last year.
Gabriela McBride, the company’s newest addition to its “Girl of the Year” line — dolls that are sold just for one year — has a back story in which she dances, teaches children about poetry, and wants to save her community center.
“The goal has always been to be able to create mirrors and windows for girls to see either a direct reflection of themselves or a window into a life or a culture that may be different from their own,” Stephanie Spanos, an American Girl spokesperson told The Daily News.
Simone Biles won her sixth all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships on Sunday, plus did a historic clean triple-double in floor exercise.
Biles, 22, did the triple-double in the preliminaries Friday in floor exercise, too, the first time a woman had ever completed the complex move of two flips with three twists in competition. But she put her hands down on the landing then, which frustrated her. She didn’t do that Sunday and was so happy with the move that she retweeted video of it during the competition.
“I didn’t want to be the last person to see it,” Biles said of checking her phone for the video, “so I went online to see what it looked like, so that me and [coach Laurent Landi] could watch it. But I was very pleased that I actually landed it this time in competition.”
Biles won the all-around title easily; her 118.500 was almost 5 full points ahead of second-place finisher Sunisa Lee at 113.550. Grace McCallum was third at 111.850. Biles has won 20 consecutive all-around titles dating back six years, including at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Sunday, Biles also won the titles in the vault (30.850), balance beam (29.650) and, of course, floor exercise (29.450), which she especially has elevated to must-see TV whenever she’s performing. And even in the event she calls her least favorite, uneven bars, she finished third (28.800).
Lee, a 16-year-old from Minnesota, won the bars with a score of 29.800 and was the only woman other than Biles to walk away with a gold medal from these championships. She acknowledged she watches all of Biles’ routines with a sense of awe.
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ABC’s “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” reality shows continue to be ratings gold for the broadcast network. But critics say they don’t succeed when it comes to diversity.
Although attorney Rachel Lindsay became the first African American to lead either of these programs when she starred in the 13th season of “The Bachelorette” and soccer player Juan Pablo Galavis was “The Bachelor’s” first Latino lead when he starred in Season 18, there has never been a male African-American star of “The Bachelor” in its 23 seasons.
ABC president Karey Burke was asked about this controversy on Monday when she spoke to journalists at the network’s Television Critics Association press day in Beverly Hills.
“I can tell you, the conversations are ongoing about who the next Bachelor will be,” Burke replied. “I do think that the show has worked hard to increase diversity in casting. And, as that evolves, we’ll continue to see more diversity in the franchise.”
Later, Burke was also asked about the issues surrounding the recently completed chapter of “The Bachelorette.” That finale revealed that chosen suitor Jed Wyatt was already in a relationship when he began competing on the show.
Burke, who started her job at ABC in November, said that she’s still new to this process but that “I’ve been quite impressed by the production company [behind “The Bachelor”] and the show’s interest in continuing to improve and expand its vetting processes.”
“It’s an on-going journey,” she said. “Human behavior is mercurial and I think the show does as good a job as it can vetting contestants.”
Protesters who are demonstrating against a massive telescope being built in Hawaii have a big supporter in Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson.
Johnson made an appearance at the site of the protests Wednesday and told people there that he stands with them as they fight to prevent the Thirty Meter Telescope from being built on an area considered to be a sacred ground by some Native Hawaiians.
“This is such a critical moment and a pivotal time,” Johnson told the protesters. “Because the world is watching.”
Wednesday marked the 10th day of protests that have involved demonstrators blocking the road to the summit of Mauna Kea, where the state’s Supreme Court has approved a $1.4 billion telescope to be built.
Johnson, who is not of Hawaiian descent, spent part of his youth living in the state.
Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim says he wants to work with the protesters to find a common ground and avoid the community become divided. He is working on behalf of Hawaii Gov. David Ige.
Barack Obama Teaming up with NBA for Professional Basketball League in Africa
The National Basketball Association (NBA) and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) announced their plan to launch the Basketball Africa League (BAL)— a new professional league featuring 12 club teams from across Africa—and former President Barack Obama is reportedly going to be involved, according to The Associated Press. Obama recently tweeted, “I’ve always loved basketball because it’s about building a team that’s equal to more than the sum of its parts. Glad to see this expansion into Africa because for a rising continent, this can be about a lot more than what happens on the court.”
BAL will be built on the foundation of current club competitions the FIBA is organizing in Africa. Scheduled to begin play in January 2020, BAL would mark the NBA’s first collaboration to operate a league outside of North America.
The NBA also recently announced its plan to introduce a re-imagined direct-to-consumer offering of NBA games for fans in Africa by the start of the 2019–20 NBA season. The offering would include new packages, features and localized content, with additional details to be announced at a later date.
The NBA and FIBA plan to conduct qualification tournaments later this year to identify the 12 teams that would represent several African countries, including Angola, Egypt, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia, with no more than two teams from the same country able to qualify.
The two organizations also plan to dedicate financial support and resources toward the continued development of Africa’s basketball ecosystem, including training for players, coaches and referees, as well as infrastructure investment.
Queen Latifah is Developing Affordable Housing in Newark
Queen Latifah, the Grammy award-winning musical artist, acclaimed television and film actress, label president, author, entrepreneur and now developer, is investing in a $14 million development of multi-family town homes as co-president of the Blue Sugar Corporation, alongside Gonsosa Development.
According to nj.com, rents for the market rate units will start around $1,800 a month and are expected to open by December 2020. The affordable housing building is expected to be finished in December 2021, and units there will be priced according to a person’s income.
The New Jersey-born native isn’t the first celebrity to break ground in Newark—former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal constructed a $79 million, 22-story apartment complex called Shaq Tower.
Jaden Smith Partners with Flint church to Provide Fresh Water
First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church spent a year working with Jaden Smith and his foundation JUST on a mobile filtration system called The Water Box that reduces lead and other potential contaminants. According to mlive.com, the box utilizes the same filtration system Smith’s bottled water company JUST Water uses.
The eco-friendly company was founded by Smith and his dad Will Smith in 2015. “While Jaden was surfing as a young kid, some plastic water bottles floated by him and he soon realized they were dirtying our oceans and killing the environment,” said Will. “He was immediately motivated to do something to save our planet; our future—and with that JUST Water was born.”
With a career spanning almost three decades, Common’s journey in the spotlight has been anything but.
Along the way, he’s gained an ever-expanding list of titles and credits that run the gamut: rapper, artist, father, actor, activist, model, author, designer, philanthropist, Microsoft ambassador, and Academy Award winner, to name a few.
But if you’re thinking that’s enough to satisfy this modern-day Renaissance Man, you’re wrong. “I revel in the fact that in being all of these things, I don’t have to choose,” said the multi-hyphenate talent. “I want to do and be more…what I’ve accomplished so far is great, but there is always more to achieve.”
Voice of the Future
Common might’ve had his start in the music industry, but he’s no stranger to the world of STEM. In fact, he’s had a long-standing relationship with tech behemoth Microsoft dating all the way back to 2008, when the two partnered to launch Softwear (a play on “software”), a retro clothing line of T-shirts featuring MS-DOS (an operating system) font. Six years later, that partnership was re-birthed as the tech giant searched for a spokesperson to helm its first Super Bowl commercial. Common sent in a tape explaining why he wanted to lend his voice, and the rest—they say—is history. Since the inaugural commercial in 2014, the artist has lent his voice to a multitude of commercials, shorts, and presentations touting the importance of advancing technology and the infinite possibilities created by Microsoft’s artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.
“Technology is possibility, adaptability, and capability,” he muses in one spot. “It’s not about changing what came before—it’s about creating what comes next. Right now, we have more power at our fingertips than entire generations that came before us…the question is, what will we do with it?”
Actor to Activist
Common’s firm footing in the entertainment industry might sound like a full-time endeavor, but he has consciously created the time and space to enrich and advocate for the causes he believes in. “The truth is, you don’t have to be an actor, or an athlete, or an influencer to make a difference,” he said in a recent interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Ernie Suggs. “All you have to do is have a desire the make the world a better place. Every human being can do it, and I have a desire to do my part.”
This desire has manifested into fervent action focused on increasing and championing diversity and mentoring youth in the inner-cities of his home state, among other things.
In January, he delivered the closing keynote at the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion conference, a gathering of more than 250 Chief Human Resource Officers (CHRO) and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officers (CDO) from an array of Fortune 500 companies on a mission to provide tangible, ready-to-implement strategies to encourage and increase diversity and inclusion both internally and within their local communities.
“My interest in promoting diversity was rooted in my looking in these communities and seeing certain people not having access to the same opportunities,” said the ardent advocator. “The undeniable fact is that we need to see more women and POC [people of color] in positions of power—same for different beliefs and those in the LGBTQ+ community.” “We have to figure out ways to increase the diversity, and that starts with a conversation. For me, I love being in a position where I can be a part of the paradigm shift and contribute to that conversation.”
Speaking to C-suite leaders about diversity isn’t the only way Common is lending his voice to the diversity conversation. In 2018, after African-American business partners Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were racially profiled in a Starbucks—causing national outrage—the chain subsequently closed 8,000 stores for a day to conduct anti-bias training. The voice they heard in those videos, stressing the importance of anti-discrimination and inclusivity? Take a guess. The art of the give-back has further manifested into the creation of the Common Ground Foundation, an organization dedicated to reach and impact inner-city youth in Chicago through mentorship and college-preparation programs. For more than a decade, the foundation has intimately focused on nutrition, healthy living, financial living, character development, and creative expression—even holding youth leadership conferences and summer camps. With more than $230,000 in scholarships awarded, a 100 percent graduation rate among participants, a 99 percent college attendance rate, and more than 2,500 collective hours of community service provided to the community, the organization has earned the distinction of an impactful labor of love.
“I started the Common Ground Foundation because I wanted to help,” said the philanthropist. “I think making a difference in the lives of others is life’s greatest purpose, and I always believed that of we started with the youth, we’d be planting the seeds for our future to blossom.”
A Tale of Common Sense
Common, born Lonnie Rashid Lynn to an educator mother and youth counselor father, was raised in the Calumet Heights neighborhood of Chicago, where his foray into the world of music developed and thrived. Talented and precocious, he was writing lyrics by age 12, and at 15, formed a rap trio—C.D.R.—with two high school friends. Far from just an after-school hobby, the group served as an industry incubator, not only building his proficiency in writing, producing and performing, but also aiding in his personal branding as an artist.
“C.D.R. represented so much in my life, and it was the birthplace of a lot of artistic firsts,” remembered Common. “That acronym was a revolving door of different meanings—it mainly stood for Corey, Deon, Rashid [our names], but on other days, it was Compact Disc Recorder, or Recording Def Rhymes. We were learning how to record, making demos, writing songs, performing—just trying to figure ourselves out and do our thing.” Influenced by hip-hop’s titans of the time, including LL Cool J, Run DMC, A Tribe Called Quest, NWA, and Rakim, C.D.R. went on to gain a footing in the industry, having their songs played on the University of Chicago’s local radio station and opening concerts for Big Daddy Kane, Eazy-E, and Too Short.
Upon graduation, Common enrolled at Florida A&M University under a scholarship, where he majored in business administration. His artistic streak remained uninterrupted, however, and in 1991, after being featured in The Source magazine’s Unsigned Hype column, he left A&M to sign with Relativity Records. It was under this label that he released his first album, “Can I Borrow a Dollar?”, using the moniker Common Sense. The album was an underground success, and laid the groundwork (as well as a growing fanbase) for his subsequent albums and collaborations. To date, Common has won more than 20 awards from various distinguished award bodies for his lyrics, albums and performances, including a 2015 Academy Award for his and singer John Legend’s original song “Glory” (from the Selma soundtrack), three Grammys, four BET Awards, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy. He has also garnered over 40 nominations in the music industry.
More than Music
Had Common been content to produce records, pull awards, and perform his hits for dedicated fans around the world, that might’ve been the end of the story. But, true to his character, he always had his sights set for more—much more. He began making his mark in the film and television industry in the early 2000s, often making cameos as himself and later evolving into more complex roles in well-known films, such as American Gangster (starring Denzel Washington), Wanted, Just Wright, Suicide Squad, Selma (as activist James Bevel), and installments of the John Wick franchise, to name a few. His constantly growing acting portfolio, which currently includes more than 40 films, supports a long-term goal to eventually become one of the great actors of our time.
“I’m still working to get to where I want to be, and I’m always working to get to the next level,” he said. “The majority of roles I want, they’re looking at other actors for. But I’m always going to fight to prove myself.” As he works tirelessly to widen his range and nab multifaceted roles, Common is also focused on another goal: helping amplify the creative voices of others through his nearly five-year-old production company, Freedom Road Productions. To date, he has executive produced Showtime’s popular drama The Chi (created by screenwriter Lena Waithe, the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series), and last year, signed a deal to develop and produce new television series with Lionsgate TV.
On the Horizon
Common’s career in the spotlight has diverged into many paths during its three-decade journey, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Add to that his impactful work in mentorship, advocacy, and diversity, and a bevy of new projects within all of these fields, and it’s safe to say that he may never stop. Next up is his second book, Let Love Have the Last Word, a personal anthology exploring the core tenets of love to help others give and receive love to live better lives and build stronger communities. Following on the heels of his New York Times best-selling memoir, One Day It’ll All Make Sense, the book is sure to be a page-turner.
On the film front, the actor will feature or star in three upcoming films: The Informer, The Kitchen, and John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. Several TV series in collaboration with Lionsgate are also in the works. Simply put, Common wants to expand his experience, provide opportunities for others, and inspire.
“I want to live my passions, help others do the same, and make the world a better place, as much as I can,” he said. “This—all of this—inspires me to work harder and do more.”
Not every actor or actress has the privilege of telling a story on screen whose message is completely synergetic with their own. Actress Taraji P. Henson would tell you it’s no accident. Films that cover controversial subjects, female achievements or human rights within the African-American community are exactly her cup of tea.
Much like her role in the acclaimed drama Hidden Figures, where Henson plays the brilliant Katherine Johnson, an African-American female mathematician whose calculations as a NASA employee were critical to the success of one of the greatest space operations in history.
“I feel like it’s my obligation,” Henson explained in an interview with Ebony.com. “I’m an artist. I want to tell stories that matter. I’m always interested in movies that move humanity forward, change perspectives of people you know.”
The Golden Globe winner and Academy Award-nominated Henson, 48, is conscious about picking projects that speak to her heart and further her own message of equality and progress for the African-American community.
She addresses the historic yet still relevant topic of race relations in her latest non-fiction film, The Best of Enemies. Set in Durham, North Carolina, in 1971, the film—based upon the novel by Osha Gray Davidson, The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South—centers around a two-week-long discussion of ordinary citizens on the subject of school integration.
Based on a true story, the film brings together members of the black and white community—most dramatically the two main characters; Ann Atwater, played by Henson, a local firebrand of a Civil Rights activist, and Claiborne Paul “C.P.” Ellis, played by Sam Rockwell, the head of the Durham Chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.
Portraying the true-life character of Atwater gave Henson a chance to show the integral part segregation has played within American society. It also gave the actress a platform for her own civil rights advocacy offstage, she explains in an interview with Oprahmag.com.
“What’s happening today is that everyone is doing a lot of talking, but not much listening. We should try listening to understand the other side…Often, we can find better solutions that way,” Henson said. “But if you try to match hate with hate, you’re not going to get anywhere.
“At the end of the day, we just need to have more compassion for each other and unconditional love, no matter our differences or background,” she adds.
Born and raised in southeast Washington, D.C., Henson grew up watching Solid Gold and was inspired by the likes of such acting legends as Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett and Flip Wilson. She studied acting at the famed Howard University and began her Hollywood career guest starring on several television shows before making her breakthrough in the coming-of-age film Baby Boy in 2001. She received praise for her performance as a sex worker in Hustle & Flow (2005) and as a single mother of a child with a disability in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). She also made noteworthy appearances in the action comedy Date Night and the remake of The Karate Kid.
While she is now happily engaged to former NFL quarterback Kevin Hayden and residing in Chicago—her self-proclaimed dream town where everyone is ‘real’—her own life story has not been without its share of strife.
In a recent interview with Variety, Henson opened up about her personal battle with anxiety and depression following two tragedies in her life in 2003—the death of her father, Boris Henson, and also her son’s father, William Lamar Johnson. “We’re walking around broken, wounded and hurt, and we don’t think it’s okay to talk about it,” Henson told Variety’s Elizabeth Wagmeister.
She shared that her depression and anxiety escalated during the skyrocketing success of her pivotal role on the hip-hop TV drama Empire. During that time, she says the desire to pull away from the limelight was strong, as was the longing for more privacy and time for self-care, in addition to caring for her son, Marcell, who was also suffering from depression.
It was while looking for a relatable therapist for Marcell that Henson discovered how tough it was to find one of African-American descent. The experience jump-started her effort to get rid of the taboo associated with metal health, specifically within the African-American community.
“People are killing themselves,” Henson said in the Variety interview. “People are numbing out on drugs. Not everything is fixed with a pill.”
Taking her efforts a step further, the actress created the Boris Lawrence Henson Foundation in honor of her father, who also suffered from mental issues following his service in the Vietnam War.
Henson explains that there is still a lot of work to be done, but the first step is to lift up the carpet and talk about it. Her personal advice for others who are struggling is to find a professional therapist—someone who has no stakes involved so that “when you’re on the ledge, you have things to say to yourself that will get you off of it,” she explained.
Henson remains true to herself and her work. Her latest project will be released in 2020 and promoted later this year—a Netflix original police drama called Coffee and Kareem. Henson will star as the girlfriend of a Detroit cop who aims to clear his name and take down the city’s most ruthless criminal with the assistance of her 11-year-old son.
Henson’s main message was perhaps best summed up during her recent Glamour interview: “The fight continues,” she said. “Just like so many women before us who fought so that we could sit here. Now’s not the time to drop the torch.”
“We have to continue fighting,” she insists, “so the ones coming behind us—maybe one day this is not their narrative. So we have to keep fighting.”
Mary J. Blige received the highest honor at the 2019 BET Awards on Sunday. While presenting the Queen of Hip-hop and R&B with the Lifetime Achievement Award during the ceremony in Los Angeles, Rihanna praised Blige for the blueprint she set.
She changed the game with her unique style: the backwards cap, the baggy jerseys, y’all know the Mary J. look. She took it there with those thigh-high boots,” Rihanna said, going on to praise Blige for her many successes, including becoming the first person to ever be nominated for an Oscar in both music and acting in the same year.
“Happy Mary, sad Mary … we’re here for all of it,” Rihanna said. “Mary J. Blige, you have set the bar for relatable, timeless, classic music. You opened multiple doors for female artists in this industry. And on behalf of all the women that came after you, like myself, thank you for being you so we can feel comfortable being ourselves. Thank you for pouring yourself into every track and giving us a song for every feeling. Thank you for showing us that love is all that we need. But we didn’t know how much we needed you.”
Blige accepted the award and told Rihanna the feelings of inspiration were mutual. She went on to thank BET, her family, friends, Diddy, Andre Harrell, other collaborators, her team and fans.
“People always ask how do I sustain and stay relevant in this industry,” Blige said. “It’s because although I am a leader, a queen, a living legend, although I’m all of these things, I’m a servant as well and I’m here to serve. Being a servant is not always glamorous or popular, but it’s the job and assignment I was given. It’s because in order to be an authority, I had to learn how to come under authority. It’s because when the glory is placed on me, I give it back to God immediately. This journey has always been bigger than me and my job is not only to survive, right now it’s to thrive and continue to make history while I do it.”
It’s official, Robyn Rihanna Fenty is the world’s wealthiest female musician. Let’s let that sink in.
The 31-year-old singer, actress, entrepreneur, beauty and fashion powerhouse just became the world’s highest female earner in music, according to Forbes. Meaning she’s out-earned Madonna ($570 million), Céline Dion ($450 million) and, Beyoncé ($400 million), three of the most wealthy women musicians alive today.
The financial glow up is real: In 2018 Rihanna ranked number 7 on Forbes list with an estimated $37.5 million. As Forbes notes, she’s now worth an estimated $600 million.
As for the tipping point? In May, Rihanna officially launched her luxury fashion label in partnership with the French luxury goods conglomerate, LVMH. The partnership was historical, she became the first woman of color to lead an LVMH business and Fenty Maison is the first fashion company that LVMH has launched from scratch.
While news of Rihanna’s ascent into the highest tax bracket in her respective field is a major accomplishment, it comes as no surprise. Launched in 2017, Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty generated $570 million in revenue during its first 15 months.
Then in May 2018, Rihanna launched Savage X, an online-based lingerie company. During the first 40 days on the market, the company made $100 million in sales. It’s now available in 40 markets. Sheesh.
Work, work, work, work, work indeed.
Continue on to Essence to read the complete article
Nine years ago, two unlikely lunch partners sat down at the Hollywood Diner in Omaha, Nebraska. One, Warren Buffett, was a regular there. The other, Jay-Z, was not. The billionaire and the rapper ordered strawberry malts and chatted amiably, continuing the conversation back at Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway offices.
Buffett, then 80, walked away impressed with the artist 40 years his junior: “Jay is teaching in a lot bigger classroom than I’ll ever teach in. For a young person growing up, he’s the guy to learn from.” This moment, which was originally captured in our 2010 Forbes 400 package, made it clear that Jay-Z already had a blueprint for his own ten-figure fortune. “Hip-hop from the beginning has always been aspirational,” he said.
Less than a decade later, it’s clear that Jay-Z has accumulated a fortune that conservatively totals $1 billion, making him one of only a handful of entertainers to become a billionaire—and the first hip-hop artist to do so. Jay-Z’s steadily growing kingdom is expansive, encompassing liquor, art, real estate (homes in Los Angeles, the Hamptons, Tribeca) and stakes in companies like Uber.
His journey is all the more impressive given its start: Brooklyn’s notorious Marcy housing projects. He was a drug dealer before becoming a musician, starting his own label, Roc-A-Fella Records, to release his 1996 debut, Reasonable Doubt. Since then he’s amassed 14 No. 1 albums, 22 Grammy awards and over $500 million in pretax earnings in a decade.
Crucially, he realized that he should build his own brands rather than promote someone else’s: the clothing line Rocawear, started in 1999 for $204 million to Iconix in 2007); D’Ussé, a cognac he co-owns with Bacardi; and Tidal, a music-streaming service.
Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean, the superproducer behind some of Jay-Z’s biggest hits, looks at Jay-Z as something others can model: “It’s bigger than hip-hop … it’s the blueprint for our culture. A guy that looks like us, sounds like us, loves us, made it to something that we always felt that was above us.”
Continue on to Forbes to read the complete article.
Miss Teen USA 2019, Kaliegh Garris, was crowned Sunday. The high school senior from Connecticut plans to attend college and pursue a degree in nursing. Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin, who won her competition in September, hailed from New York.
“There were a few naysayers saying, ‘You look better with straight hair,’ or ‘You should put in extensions and straighten your natural hair,’” Garris told Refinery 29, later adding, “I feel more confident and comfortable with my natural hair.”
King’s company, Royal Ties (King, Royal ― her mind!!), has partnered with the streaming service for the multi-year deal, which typically gives the company the right of first refusal for unwritten projects. Her sister, Reina King, will be head of production for the new company.
Regina King, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for “If Beale Street Could Talk,” recently took home an Emmy for her role in Netflix’s limited series “Seven Seconds.”
“Regina King is a multi-faceted talent both behind and in front of the camera. She’s been a trailblazer for years, with boundless creativity and impeccable taste in projects, and we couldn’t be more thrilled that she will bring her formidable talents to Netflix,” Ted Sarandos, Netflix chief content officer, said in a statement.
King said in the release that she’s “beyond thrilled to join the Netflix family.”
“They are at the top of their game and as an artist, I am so excited to come play in this wonderful sandbox they have created for storytellers,” the actress said.
Fans have been showing love on Twitter, calling King “admirable” and her Netflix deal “well deserved.”
Priya Swaminathan and Tonia Davis, co-heads of Higher Ground Productions, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama’s production company in partnership with Netflix, today announced the company’s initial slate of upcoming projects.
The content encompasses a wide range of fiction and non-fiction signature productions for all audiences including scripted, unscripted and documentary series, as well as full-length features and documentaries.
President and Mrs. Obama launched Higher Ground last spring to create content that embodies the core values of celebrating the human spirit through struggles and triumph; facing adversity through resilience, determination, and hope; lifting up newvoices and stories to bring about change; and transcending divides to bring us together. The projects selected are a reflection of these values and a commitment to quality storytelling. Higher Ground expects to make additional project announcements in the coming months.
“We created Higher Ground to harness the power of storytelling. That’s why we couldn’t be more excited about these projects,” President Obama said. “Touching on issues of race and class, democracy and civil rights, and much more, we believe each of these productions won’t just entertain, but will educate, connect, and inspire us all.”
“We love this slate because it spans so many different interests and experiences, yet it’s all woven together with stories that are relevant to our daily lives,” Mrs. Obama said. “We think there’s something here for everyone—moms and dads, curious kids, and anyone simply looking for an engaging, uplifting watch at the end of a busy day. We can’t wait to see these projects come to life — and the conversations they’ll generate.”
“President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and the Higher Ground team are building a company focused on storytelling that exemplifies their core values,” said Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Officer of Netflix. “The breadth of their initial slate across series, film, documentary and family programming shows their commitment to diverse creators and unique voices that will resonate with our members around the world.”
Projects currently in different stages of development, to be released over the next several years:
AMERICAN FACTORY was acquired by Netflix in association with Higher Ground Productions out of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Directing Award: U.S. Documentary. From Participant Media, the film is directed by Academy Award®-nominated and Emmy Award®-winners Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert (“The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant,” “A Lion in the House,” “Seeing Red”). The acclaimed film takes a deep dive into a post-industrial Ohio, where a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant and hires two thousand blue-collar Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America. The producers are Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, Jeff Reichert, and Julie Parker Benello.
BLOOM is an upstairs/downstairs drama series set in the world of fashion in post-WWII New York City that depicts barriers faced by women and by people of color in an era marked by hurdles but also tremendous progress. BLOOM is written and executive produced by Academy Award-winner® Callie Khouri (“Nashville,” “Thelma and Louise,” the upcoming Aretha Franklin movie at MGM), from an idea developed by Khouri, writer-director Clement Virgo (“The Book Of Negroes,” “The Wire,” “Empire”) and novelist and producer Juliana Maio (“City of the Sun”). Higher Ground Productions, Khouri, Virgo and Maio will executive produce the series.
Higher Ground is producing a feature film adaptation of author David W. Blight’s Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, for which he won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize in History. The New York Times called the book “an ambitious and empathetic biography of a major American life.”
Adapted from The New York Times’ ongoing obituary column Overlooked, telling the stories of remarkable people whose deaths were not reported by the newspaper, Higher Ground is developing OVERLOOKED as a scripted anthology series with producers Liza Chasin of 3dot Productions and Joy Gorman Wettels of Anonymous Content.
For family programming, LISTEN TO YOUR VEGETABLES & EAT YOUR PARENTS will be a half-hour preschool series from creators Jeremy Konner (“Drunk History”) and Erika Thormahlen. The show will take young children and their families around the globe on an adventure that tells us the story of our food.
From Michael Lewis, the best-selling author of The Big Short and Moneyball, and based on his book The Fifth Risk: Undoing Democracy, FIFTH RISK, a non-fiction series, will aim to portray the importance of unheralded work done by everyday heroes guiding our government and safeguarding our nation.
CRIP CAMP is a feature-length documentary film in production that is supported by the Sundance Institute and acquired earlier this year by Higher Ground and Netflix. Just down the road from Woodstock, in the early 1970s, a parallel revolution blossomed in a ramshackle summer camp for disabled teenagers that would transform young lives, and America forever by helping to set in motion the disability rights movement. The film is directed by former camper Jim LeBrecht and Nicole Newnham. Producers include Newnham, LeBrecht and Sara Bolder, with executive producer Howard Gertler.
About Higher Ground Productions
A storytelling partnership between President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama and Netflix, Higher Ground Productions is home to a wide range of scripted, unscripted and documentary- style series, as well as feature-length narrative and documentary films. Higher Ground shines a light on timely and timeless subjects by empowering new and diverse voices to create content that speaks to our world today.
Netflix is the world’s leading internet entertainment service with over 148 million paid memberships in over 190 countries enjoying TV series, documentaries and feature films across a wide variety of genres and languages. Members can watch as much as they want, anytime, anywhere, on any internet-connected screen. Members can play, pause and resume watching, all without commercials or commitments.
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