Tracee Ellis Ross Is the First Black Woman to Win Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Comedy In 35 Years

LinkedIn

Wow! Tracee Ellis Ross became the first black woman to win the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a TV Comedy or Musical in 35 years on Sunday, January 8.

The 44-year-old actress took home the trophy for her acclaimed role as Dr. Rainbow “Bow” Johnson in the ABC sitcom Black-ish. Debbie Allen was the last black woman to receive the honor for the 1982 NBC series Fame at the 1983 Globes. Ellis Ross is also the first black nominee in the category since Gimme a Break‘s Allen and Nell Carter were nominated in 1984.

Taking the stage at the Beverly Hilton, Ellis Ross dedicated the award to women of color. “This is for all the women of color and colorful people whose stories, ideas and thoughts are not always considered worthy and valid and important,” she said. “But I want you to know that I see you. We see you.”

The Reed Between the Lines actress also expressed her gratitude for her sitcom, saying, “It is an honor to be on this show, Black-ish, to continue expanding the way we are seen and known, and to show the magic and the beauty and the sameness of a story and stories that are outside of where the industry usually looks.”

Continue onto US Weekly to read the complete article.

Spike Lee is first black person to lead Cannes Film Festival jury

LinkedIn
Spike Lee pictured in cap and giving the peace sign

Acclaimed director Spike Lee will head to this year’s Cannes Film Festival as the first black president of its jury. “I’m honored to be the first person of the African diaspora (USA) to be named President of the Cannes Jury and of a main film festival,” the “Do The Right Thing” director said in a statement.

“My biggest blessings have been when they arrived unexpected, when they happened out of nowhere,” Lee continued. “I was shocked, happy, surprised and proud all at the same time.”

The festival’s organizers said they are looking forward to seeing how Lee injects his personality “to shake things up” at May’s event. “Spike Lee’s perspective is more valuable than ever. Cannes is a natural homeland and a global sounding board for those who (re)awaken minds and question our stances and fixed ideas,” festival organizers said in a statement.

The New York native, who works almost exclusively on his own screenplays, first formed a relationship with the prestigious festival back in 1986, when he presented his first feature film “She’s Gotta Have It.” Since then, Lee has presented six films at Cannes: “Do The Right Thing,” “Jungle Fever,” “Girl 6,” “Summer of Sam,” “Ten Minutes Older” and “BlacKkKlansman.”

Continue on to CBS News to read the complete article.

Missy Elliott, Stevie Nicks, Tame Impala, Miley Cyrus Top Governors Ball Lineup

LinkedIn
Missy Elliott

New York’s Governors Ball has announced the lineup for its 10th annual festival, and it’s a wide mix of styles, genres and eras: Missy Elliott — making her first major NYC performance in over a decade — Tame Impala, Stevie Nicks, Vampire Weekend, Solange, Miley Cyrus, Flume, Ellie Goulding, H.E.R., Swae Lee, Rufus Du Sol, Portugal. The Man, Foals, Summer Walker, Jon Bellion, Khruangbin, Carly Rae Jepsen, Maren Morris, Of Monsters and Men, Milky Chance, Bleachers, Banks and many more.

Not for nothing, the festival features several female headliners, unlike the recently announced Coachella lineup.

While the lineup features many strong performers, Elliott’s rare appearance could be this year’s highlight: While she has performed and dropped music sporadically over the past 15 years — last summer’s “Iconography” EP was her first non-single release since 2005 —  she is a roof-raising live performer, and this festival spot is likely to feature stellar choreography and a relentless barrage of her hits.

Continue on to Variety to read the complete article and view the full line up.

51st NAACP Image Awards Nominations Announced

LinkedIn
5ist Image Awards collage of nominees

The nominees for the 51st NAACP Image Awards were announced recently at a joint press conference with Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP and Connie Orlando, Executive Vice-President, Specials, Music Programming & Music Strategy. The winners will be revealed during the two-hour LIVE TV special airing on BET Networks on Saturday, February 22, 2020 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m.CT.

Netflix leads the television category nominations with 30, with an additional 12 nominations in the motion picture categories for a total of 42. RCA Records leads in the music recording categories with 14, followed by Columbia Records and BMG, respectively, with seven. Universal Pictures leads the motion picture categories with 15 nominations, and Penguin Random House has 8 nominations followed by HarperCollins with four in the literary categories.

“Representation across entertainment and the arts has profound meaning and unparalleled power to shape perceptions, influence culture, and galvanize communities,” said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson. “This year’s nominees have conveyed a wide range of authentic stories and experiences that have resonated with many, and we’re proud to continue celebrating their outstanding achievements and performances.”

“This is a historic occasion for BET Networks, and we’re thrilled to be able to celebrate our network’s 40th anniversary in conjunction with this milestone moment of hosting the NAACP Image Awards,” said Scott Mills, President of BET Networks. “It is our distinct privilege to be able to acknowledge contributions of talent in TV, music, movies and literature and we look forward to celebrating these contributions next month.”
The NAACP Image Awards honors the accomplishments of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature, and film and also recognizes individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors. The Image Awards previously aired on TV One.

In previous years, Image Awards attendees included Oprah Winfrey, Will Smith, Taraji P. Henson, Viola Davis, Gabrielle Union, Kerry Washington, Anthony Anderson, Sterling K. Brown, Mandy Moore, Halle Berry, Common, Dwayne Johnson, Steve Harvey, Audra Day, John Legend, Lena Waithe, Tracee Ellis Ross, David Oyelowo, Laverne Cox, Octavia Spencer, Issa Rae, Trevor Noah, Terry Crews, Yara Shahidi, Danai Gurira, Jacob Latimore, Jay Pharoah, Jemele Hill, Josh Gad, Loretta Devine, Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Meta Golding, Michael Smith, Tyler James Williams, Ava DuVernay, Chadwick Boseman, and many more.

Voting is now open to the public to determine the winners of the 51stNAACP IMAGE AWARDS by visiting www.naacpimageawards.net– Winners will be revealed during the 51stNAACP Image Awards telecast. For all information and the latest news, please visit the official NAACP Image Awards website at www.naacpimageawards.net or on Facebook at naacpimageawards and Twitter @naacpimageaward (#NAACPImageAwards).

The complete list of categories and nominees for the 51stNAACP Image Awards follows:

ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
Angela Bassett
Billy Porter
Lizzo
Regina King
Tyler Perry

TELEVISION CATEGORIES

Outstanding Comedy Series

“Ballers” (HBO)
“black-ish” (ABC)
“Dear White People” (Netflix)
“grown-ish” (Freeform)
“theNeighborhood” (CBS)

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series

Anthony Anderson – “black-ish” (ABC)
Cedric The Entertainer – “theNeighborhood” (CBS)
Don Cheadle – “Black Monday” (Showtime)
Dwayne Johnson – “Ballers” (HBO)
Tracy Morgan – “The Last O.G.” (TBS)

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series

Logan Browning – “Dear White People” (Netflix)
Jill Scott – “First Wives Club” (BET+)
Tiffany Haddish – “The Last O.G.” (TBS)
Tracee Ellis Ross – “black-ish” (ABC)
Yara Shahidi – “grown-ish” (Freeform)

Continue on to Ebony to read the complete article.

Cynthia Erivo could become the youngest EGOT winner

LinkedIn
Cynthia Erivo on the red carpet at the Premiere of HBO's "The Outsider"

Cynthia Erivo is one step closer to EGOT status with an Oscar nomination for her turn as the iconic freedom fighter and suffragist Harriet Tubman in Kasi Lemmons’ ‘Harriet.’

British actress Cynthia Erivo was nominated for her first Oscar on Monday morning for her performance as the iconic freedom fighter and abolitionist Harriet Tubman in Kasi Lemmons’ “Harriet.”

The stage and screen actress (along with powerhouse singer — she is also nominated in the original song category) also earned Golden Globe, SAG and Critics’ Choice nominations for the role.

And while BAFTA controversially snubbed acting nominees of color entirely, the ceremony still asked her to perform (she declined).

Erivo was the only person of color nominated for an acting Oscar this year.

“Harriet,” distributed by Focus Features, exceeded box office forecasts when it opened in November, debuting to $12 million on its way to $43 million to date in global ticket sales. It marks the first feature leading role for Erivo, who stole scenes in 2018’s “Widows” and “Bad Times at the El Royale.”

She was first approached about “Harriet” while in the midst of a Tony-winning turn in the Broadway production of “The Color Purple.” The production is also responsible for her subsequent Grammy (for the cast recording) and Daytime Emmy (for a cast performance on NBC’s “Today”) wins. (For those who don’t want to count Daytime Emmys in EGOT status, Erivo will also headline the upcoming limited series “Genius: Aretha” for National Geographic. And playing music singer Aretha Franklin could put her in Primetime Emmy contention as well.)

Continue on to the LA Times to read the complete article.

Tiffany Haddish Stars in ‘Like a Boss,’ in Theaters Today

LinkedIn
Like a Boss premiere photo of the cast, including Tiffany Hassish, pose on the pink carpet

Tiffany Haddish is her usual hilarious self in the new film Like a Boss, which recently opened across the nation. In it, Mia (Haddish) and her best friend, Mel (Rose Byrne), are living their best lives running the own cosmetics company they’ve built from the ground up.

Unfortunately, however, they’re in over their heads financially and the prospect of a big buyout offer from a notorious titan of the cosmetics industry, Claire Luna (Salma Hayek), proves too tempting to pass up, which puts Mel and Mia’s lifelong friendship in jeopardy. The beauty business is about to get ugly.

The Paramount Pictures film, directed by Miguel Arteta and executive produced by Haddish and Nicolas Stern, also stars Billy Porter, Jennifer Coolidge, Ari Graynor, Natasha Rothwell, Jessica St. Clair and Karan Soni.

Watch the Trailer!

Continue on to Ebony to read the complete article.

11-year-old ballerina dances into history as 1st black lead in NYC Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’

LinkedIn
Charlotte Nebres smiling holding a large Nutcracker

Four years ago, Misty Copeland became the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history. Now, an 11-year-old girl is also breaking barriers as the star of the New York City Ballet’s holiday production of George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker.”

In a story first reported by The New York Times, Charlotte Nebres, a student at the School of American Ballet, danced her way into ballet history as New York City Ballet’s first black Marie, the young heroine of a show that dates back to 1954.

The annual production also includes a diverse cast of other young leads this season, including Tanner Quirk, Marie’s Prince in the ballet, who is half-Chinese; Sophia Thomopoulos, the ballet’s second casting of Marie, who is half-Korean and half-Greek; and Kai Misra-Stone, Sophia’s Prince, who is half-South Asian.

“It’s pretty amazing to be not only representing S.A.B., but also representing all of our cultures,” Nebres told “The New York Times.” “There might be a little boy or girl in the audience seeing that and saying, ‘Hey, I can do that too.'”

Charlotte, who was just 6 years old when Copeland became the first female African American principal at American Ballet Theater, recalled being inspired when she saw Copeland perform for the first time.

“I saw her perform and she was just so inspiring and so beautiful,” she told The New York Times. “When I saw someone who looked like me on stage, I thought, ‘That’s amazing.’ She was representing me and all the people like me.”

Charlotte Nebres in Ballet outfit holding on to ballet bar with her coachCharlotte, whose mother’s family is from Trinidad while her father’s side of the family is from the Philippines, is becoming a trailblazer herself with the role of Marie.

For Charlotte’s mother, Danielle Nebres, the experience for her daughter is a meaningful one, because she was also a dancer growing up.

Nebres, who described Charlotte as quiet and artistic, said, “You don’t know what people are seeing in your child, and they are definitely seeing something in her.”

Although Charlotte is making waves being cast as Marie, the 11-year-old is just enjoying the moment and doing what she loves most: dancing.

Continue on to ABC News to read the complete article.

Idris Elba knows how to spend his downtime

LinkedIn
Idris Elba sittting casually, smiling with one hand on his knee

I’m an only child, and growing up it was a constant challenge to entertain myself. I’ve been keeping busy my whole life: I’m primarily an actor, but I’ve been DJing since I was a teenager. I’m a producer and a director. I’ve done fashion collaborations, and I have a music label.

Imagine you’re a farmer with a piece of land, and you’re growing crops. Some vegetables need a full cycle to grow, others grow quicker. You realize you have to juggle each one’s seasonal pattern. That’s how I think of my projects. I like having some variety, so I could be in a few episodes of something funny [like The Office] and then do something more serious [such as Luther or 2021’s The Suicide Squad]. Or I could act [Hobbs & Shaw], and direct [Yardie], and DJ. I have an incredible assistant, Marsha, who keeps everything on track. Every night, she texts me the plan for the next day. It took us a while to find our system, but it’s bulletproof now. We used to do a phone call, but that didn’t work as well. WhatsApp is easier.

I don’t think in terms of minutes or hours or days or dates, especially because I’m traveling between time zones. My home base is London, but I could be working anywhere around the world. I pretty much know my schedule for the whole year, and I think of it in terms of blocks of time, where each project is a block.

Clubs and festivals are busier in the summer, and this season was a really busy one for me. I played Coachella for the first time. I’m part of a wave of producers and DJs who adopted a smaller, more nimble studio model. Instead of producing in a big room, I’ve adopted a series of laptops, phones, apps, iPads, headphones that I can take anywhere. I’m a real tech head.

Time he gets up: Between 6 and 8 a.m.

First thing he does in the morning: “I pick up my phone and check my messages. Then I’ll get up, sit on the edge of the bed for a little bit, take the day in, and take a shower.”

How he handles social media: “I’ve been trying to wean myself off. I used to post a lot more, but it’s been putting me off lately. And Twitter’s just not how I want to receive my news. I read the news aggregated on my iPad, but I can’t check it constantly—I’m not proud of it, but it’s true—because it makes me feel depressed.”

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

Tyler Perry will cover medical expenses for couple stranded in Mexico

LinkedIn
Tyler Perry smiling for a promo shot

Tyler Perry is footing the bill for an Atlanta couple who was forced to remain in Mexico after they were unable to pay a $14,000 medical bill.

Stephen Johnson and his fiance Tori Austin were traveling on a Carnival cruise ship when he was diagnosed with pancreatitis and diabetes, according to multiple reports. He fell into a diabetic coma, prompting staff on the ship to send him to the hospital in the Mexican port city of Progreso.

WGLC reported that the couple didn’t have medical or travel insurance and was unable to pay the ensuing medical bill. They claimed that efforts to set up a payment plan were rejected, forcing the hospital to lock the doors and windows and monitor them in an effort to discourage them from leaving until they found a way to pay up.

A source told Fox News that Perry took notice of the story and has agreed to pay the man’s medical bill as well as the couple’s travel expenses home so that they may leave the hospital once doctors give Johnson the all-clear on his health.

“Today I am thankful for and will always be thankful for Tyler Perry,” Austin wrote on Facebook. “My mom also was a huge fan of his.

People reports that Austin previously wrote on Facebook that Stephen has several ulcers that need to be treated before it’s safe for him to travel. In an update on Facebook, Austin previously notes that neither she nor Johnson blames Carnival in any way for the incident. In fact, they praised the staff’s efforts to ensure his safety.

Continue on to Fox News Latino to read the complete article.

Tyler Perry’s New Atlanta Studio To Host 2019 Miss Universe Competition

LinkedIn
Tyler Perry poses for a photo on the red carpet at the grand opening of Tyler Perry Studios at Tyler Perry Studios

Tyler Perry’s new Atlanta studio will be home to the 2019 Miss Universe competition. The three-hour-event, hosted by Steve Harvey for the fifth consecutive year, will air live from Tyler Perry Studios on Sunday, December 8 at 7 PM ET live/PT tape-delayed on Fox. Additionally, the event again will be simulcast live in Spanish exclusively on Telemundo.

“The Miss Universe telecast is distributed to more than 170 countries,” said Paula M. Shugart, president of The Miss Universe Organization. “We have always been proud to give a global platform to diverse, ambitious and strong young women – our leaders of tomorrow.”

Women representing more than 90 countries will compete in multiple categories, including personal statement, swimsuit, evening gown and interview, culminating with the reigning Miss Universe, Catriona Gray from the Philippines, crowning her successor.

Perry opened his 330-acre 12-stage facility on the former Fort McPherson Army Base earlier this month. The writer, producer, director and actor recently premiered his two newest series Sistas and The Oval on BET, the first projects stemming from his mega film and TV deal with Viacom he inked back in 2017.

Continue on to Deadline to read the complete article.

‘Go Kill It,Girl’:’She’s Gotta Have It’ Star DeWanda Wise Scores Lead Role in ‘Jurassic World 3’

LinkedIn
DeWanda Wise pictured at movie screeing with hair pinned up and wearing shiny black dress

When the film “Jurassic World 3” hits theaters on June 11, 2021, moviegoers will see DeWanda Wise front and center as the lead.

The Maryland born actress just joined the cast, according to Deadline, which includes Laura Dern and Jeffrey Goldblum, who starred in the original 1993 film “Jurassic Park.”

If you recognize Wise, it’s because she starred as Nola Darling in the now-defunct Spike Lee Netflix series “She’s Gotta Have It.” She also played in TV shows such as “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “The Good Wife” and the soap opera “One Life to Live.”

Wise celebrated the news of the role Friday on Instagram, where she also thanked the people encouraged her along the way. According to the actress, the constant motivation she received is what helped her land the “Jurassic World 3” role.

Wise celebrated the news of the role Friday on Instagram, where she also thanked the people encouraged her along the way. According to the actress, the constant motivation she received is what helped her land the “Jurassic World 3” role.

“If you believe in the power of words, in the strength of positive energy, as I undoubtedly do, you know that every ‘Can’t wait 2CU in more movies! You should play _____! Go Awf! You inspire ✊🏾 Queen
Shine 🌟Please play ______ Yaaassss 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 And of course… I love you ♥️’ Went into this,” she wrote. “#ThankYou beyond🙏🏾See you in #JurassicWorld 🦖🦖.”

And Wise’s followers continued to provide encouragement under her post.

“GO KILL IT, GIRL!!!💛👏🏻,” someone wrote. “🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾! So so excited for you @dewandawise !! Love seeing you on our screens! It’s where you belong! Congratulations!!! 💕👑.”

“You truly deserve this!” a second person commented. “So happy and excited for you, really can’t wait to see it either you’re are the PERFECT addition to this franchise!! ✨✨✨🙌🏾✨✨✨.”

Back in July it was announced that “She’s Gotta Have It” would be cancelled after its second season. But one of Wise’s fans told her the new role made up for that and then some.

“One door closes and an even bigger one opens!” that person wrote. “So excited your talent is coming to the big screen in a blockbuster no doubt!”

Continue on the Atlanta Black Star to read the complete article.

Gabrielle Union: A Journey to Fulfillment

LinkedIn
Gabrielle Union appears at Ulta Beauty to promote her "Flawless" line on Michigan Avenue on September 28, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. TIMOTHY HIATT / CONTRIBUTOR / GETTY IMAGES

By Jovane Marie

Gabrielle Union found her way into the mainstream and straight to our hearts at the start of the new millennium with her breakout performance as the leader of the East Compton Clovers in Bring It On.

In the nearly two decades since then, the actress’ life has evolved to encompass a multitude of additional roles across a personal and professional spectrum—outspoken activist, best-selling author, fashion-forward designer, dedicated wife and, most importantly, doting mother.

Actress to Activist

Union’s influence emanates far beyond her on-screen portrayals. Proudly raised by her parents to have a world perspective, she supports a multitude of causes, from racial justice to ending violence against women, voting rights to eradicating poverty, and diversity to health initiatives.

Her tenacity in standing up and speaking her mind was cultivated through education and life experiences, both positive and negative. As a young black girl growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, Union admits she wanted nothing more than to completely assimilate, letting racially tinged jokes and perspectives roll off her shoulders to avoid being seen as “other.”

Exposure to African-American studies while attending UCLA had a huge influence on Union’s mindset, highlighting the importance of calling out injustice and oppression and opening her perspective to a treasure trove of change-makers.

“Learning about those brilliant Black activists and authors encouraged me to have pride in myself and in my voice,” she said. “I realized that assimilation can be a path to becoming invisible and complacent. I’d rather be ‘other.’”

With the strength of those lessons at her back, and following a sexual assault that threatened to marginalize her even further, she began speaking her mind fearlessly and unapologetically, raising awareness about the issues that mattered to her—a characteristic that has endured in her day-to-day life.

“My goal is to use my platform to provide a sense of connectedness

Union’s collaboration with New York & Company’s 7th Avenue Design
Union’s collaboration with New York & Company’s 7th Avenue Design

for those who suffer in silence,” said the activist, who was appointed to former President Obama’s National Advisory Committee for Violence Against Women in 2010. “It’s been a journey and an evolving consciousness—not an easy process, but definitely worthwhile.”

She’s a Boss

As she’s solidified her place in the film and television industry, the America’s Got Talent judge has lent her efforts to establishing and growing her commercial empire, calling upon her down-to-earth persona and relatable personal brand to connect with fans and consumers.

In 2004, she became a brand ambassador for Neutrogena, a successful partnership that lasted for more than a decade.

In 2012, she partnered with Napa Valley-based winery JaM Cellars to develop a full-bodied Chardonnay cheekily named Vanilla Puddin.

In 2014, she became the first celebrity ambassador—and creative advisor—for nail beauty company SensatioNail.

And in 2017, her entrepreneurial spirit erupted with both the launch of Flawless by Gabrielle Union—a hair care line created specifically with black women in mind—and the announcement of her partnership with major consumer fashion brand New York & Company, where she serves as the face of the brand’s 7th Avenue Design Studio and launched an acclaimed namesake collection.

The Flawless brand was born through Union’s experiences with trying to care for her natural hair while working in the industry. More often than not, she lamented, the stylists on set would have no idea how to manage her textured mane, leading to damage and dismay.

When the opportunity came along to create a line of products that catered specifically to her hair care needs, she jumped at the chance, working with a team, including former Macadamia Beauty CEO Vince Davis, to produce a range of catered shampoos, conditioners, repair masks, oil treatments, edge control, and more. A common thread throughout the brand’s offering is the use of a group of key ingredients proven to promote healthy hair, including argan, marula, macadamia, coconut, and avocado oils, as well as pea protein.

“My goal with our Flawless products is to help women with textured hair create ever-changing looks without compromising the health of their favorite accessory—their hair,” Union said of the collection, which is sold online, in JCPenney Salons and at ULTA. “I just want them to have great hair days. Period.”

Union’s collaboration with New York & Company’s 7th Avenue Design Studio materialized to the star’s admitted surprise—she never expected to be courted by the popular retail chain to serve as a brand ambassador. Operating as a sub-brand and inspired by her character on series Being Mary Jane, the line features chic dresses, modern suiting, and versatile separates that “embody the career woman who needs easy, effortless, styles that are polished and on trend.”

Kaavi James Collection; Caption: Kaavia James Union Wade and Gabrielle Union visit New York & Company Store in Burbank, CA, to launch Kaavi James Collection on May 09, 2019. PHOTO BY JESSE GRANT/GETTY IMAGES FOR NEW YORK & COMPANY
Kaavi James Collection; Caption: Kaavia James Union Wade and Gabrielle Union visit New York & Company Store in Burbank, CA, to launch Kaavi James Collection on May 09, 2019. PHOTO BY JESSE GRANT/GETTY IMAGES FOR NEW YORK & COMPANY

“Mary Jane’s style reflects power, leadership, and risk taking,” she explained. “She wears classic styles, but with a twist, which is why I think she’d definitely shop at New York & Company.”

Beyond her ambassadorship, which features Union modeling fashions on the company’s website, in print and digital advertisements, and on social media, the actress has ventured into a “whole new game” with the launch of her namesake collection, featuring a wide range of fashionable choices, all reminiscent of the style icon’s eclectic taste.

“I wanted to offer on-trend fashions at affordable prices that flatter all body types—that’s the bottom line,” said Union, who was given free rein to design whatever she chooses and prides herself on being fully hands-on with the creative process.

Two years into her venture, the designer recently pulled from a new source of inspiration to drive her latest launch—five-month-old daughter Kaavia James Union Wade. The adorable all-inclusive capsule collection, entitled Kaavi James by Gabrielle Union, features an array of stylish dresses, T-shirts, jumpers, and onesies (many of them unisex!) in sizes 0–24 months, all within a $15–$45 range. In addition to serving as fashion muse, Kaavia (whose parents recently trademarked her name for future projects) serves major face in the campaign’s advertisements, posing alongside her mom with her hilarious signature “Shady Baby” expression.

Family First

When it comes to priorities, the multi-hyphenate talent makes it clear—nothing is more important than her family. Just check her social media (which is plastered with their faces). She married NBA star Dwayne Wade in 2014, in the process becoming stepmother to his three boys, Zaire, Zion, and Xavier.

After struggling with infertility due to a form of endometriosis, the couple turned to surrogacy, welcoming Kaavia in November 2018.

The new mother has been open and honest about her fertility struggles, believing there is healing in the knowledge that many couples face similar challenges as they try to conceive.

Union’s life today may seem like a fairytale, but it has required blood, sweat, tears, self-love, introspection, and a dogged determination to succeed to transform her life from then to now.

A Pre-Destined Path

Union embarked on her acting journey in the mid-90s, performing in a guest role capacity or as a supporting character for a number of popular sitcoms, including Family Matters, Moesha, 7th Heaven, and Sister, Sister.

Interestingly enough, she hadn’t grown up with stars in her eyes, dreaming Hollywood dreams. The driving force behind her foray into the acting world, she admits, was money to help pay for college.

“You want to know when I became serious about being an actress?

Gabrielle Union interacts with fans during America’s Got Talent auditions. TRAE PATTON/NBC
Gabrielle Union interacts with fans during America’s Got Talent auditions. TRAE PATTON/NBC

When I made money! It really wasn’t for the love of it, in the beginning,” said the star, who graduated from UCLA with a BA in Sociology. “My plan back then was to eventually go to law school, but pretty quickly, I realized I could make a living doing this. So, I recalibrated—and never looked back.”

She hit a double whammy in 2000, appearing in Love & Basketball (as superficial high school mean girl Shawnee Easton) and co-starring with Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On (as captain of the East Compton Clovers, Isis), both of which were extremely popular and have since become cult classics.

Her role in Bring It On held a great significance for Union—she credits it as one of the biggest boosts of her career—as it not only addressed the real issue of appropriation but also served as a catalyst for her to be conscious of the roles and narratives she agreed to portray on screen.

“It’s interesting, because I had wanted a part in another cheerleading movie that came out around the same time, but they didn’t pursue Black women for any of the roles. I couldn’t even get an audition,” she revealed. “In this movie, the very premise was about cultural appropriation and how the hard work of African Americans has been repackaged with blond hair and blue eyes. The social justice of it appealed to me.”

The role directly led to her casting in the ground-breaking medical drama City of Angels, which held the distinction as network television’s first medical drama with a predominantly African-American cast. The show, which ran for two seasons on CBS, featured a who’s who of eventual Black Hollywood royalty, including Blair Underwood, Viola Davis, Maya Rudolph, and Vivica A. Fox.

It was her portrayal of successful TV news anchor Mary Jane Paul on

Union discusses television series on The Talk on the CBS Television Network. MONTY BRINTON/CBS ©2017 CBS BROADCASTING, INC.
Union discusses television series on The Talk on the CBS Television Network. MONTY BRINTON/CBS ©2017 CBS BROADCASTING, INC.

BET network’s Being Mary Jane, however, that truly solidified Union’s superstar status and staying power. The award-winning series, which ran from 2013 to spring 2019 over the course of four seasons, followed the personal and professional life happenings of the broadcast journalist as she searches for “the puzzle pieces that she, and society, insist are missing from her life as a single Black woman.”

The show was an absolute homerun for BET (debuting as its highest-rated show and quickly becoming the network’s signature series) and was praised across the board for its complex characters, captivating storylines, and willingness to tackle powerful issues. African-American women across the world hailed the series as they saw themselves and their families reflected on a weekly basis.

For Union, participation in the project was a labor of love and her greatest creative decision, offering an opportunity for her to take a role she cared about, while playing an imperfect, complicated, messy character.

“I didn’t want to play a perfect character that was a fully wholesome role model who had all the right answers,” she said. “I’d never been challenged like this—I could be required to show a bunch of different colors within one scene. In many ways, we shared similar struggles and triumphs, loves and losses, and especially the penchant for epic reads. This role was one of the most gratifying of my life.”

Producing for the Future

Building on years of experience in front of the camera, in 2014 Union added to her repertoire by stepping behind the camera to produce, starting with the Lifetime original film With This Ring. In the years since, she has served as an executive producer on a number of projects, including last year’s Breaking In (for which she was awarded Breakthrough Producer of the Year at the CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards) and Spectrum Originals first major original series LA’s Finest (a Bad Boys spin-off co-starring Jessica Alba).

She also launched her own production company, I’ll Have Another (named as a nod to her best-selling book, We’re Going to Need More Wine), signing a first look deal with Sony Pictures TV last year to develop broadcast, cable, and digital projects.

It is a responsibility Union doesn’t take lightly, as she realizes that she is one of but a handful of Black women who head their own production companies.

“As I’ve taken on new projects, I’ve become more aware of the lack of diversity behind the camera,” she noted. “It’s been proven that real inclusion actually makes dollars and cents, and Hollywood is starting to change, but we still need to increase the diversity of directors, executive producers and studio heads.”

The Road Ahead

With her family by her side, her career expanding, her businesses and partnerships blossoming, and her voice for social justice reverberating, Union is living life unapologetically and striving daily to reach her full potential.

“I’m just trying to think limitlessly and not put a cap on my dreams,” she said. “When you’re open like that, the world will take you all sorts of places you could have never imagined.”

It’s obvious that for this multi-tasking mama, the best is yet to come.

Inside Tyler Perry Studios’ Grand Opening Gala with Oprah, Spike Lee, Tiffany Haddish, Beyoncé and More

LinkedIn
Tyler Perry pictured with celebrities at his studio opening gala

In a speech celebrating the opening of his brand new 330 acre studio in Atlanta, Ga., Tyler Perry challenged his guests to dream bigger, like he had, while turning the former Army base into his personal production play land.

But even the biggest dreamers — and the biggest names in entertainment — couldn’t be prepared for all the multi-hyphenate creator had in store at his recent grand opening gala.

“For people to drop what they’re doing in their very busy schedules to come and join me in this moment is beyond anything I could’ve imagined. It makes me happy. It makes me want to cry. It makes me grateful. It’s just I’m beyond,” Perry told Variety on the red carpet as the festivities kicked off. “I’m over the moon right now.”

The centerpiece of the evening featured Perry’s tribute to trailblazing black stars who inspired him — Oprah Winfrey, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Will Smith, Halle Berry, Sidney Poitier, Whoopi Goldberg, Cicely Tyson and Harry Belafonte.

“It means I’m a part of history. This is an historic night in American cinema. It’s never been done before. So I’m honored and humbled that my brother asked me part of it,” Lee told Variety before being honored with soundstage No. 10.

The reveal of each soundstage and the star it honored was accompanied by a fireworks display and a round of massive applause from the A-list crowd. Perry also immortalized the late Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, Della Reese, John Singleton and Diahann Carroll, who passed just before the ceremony on Friday.

Of celebrating Carroll’s legacy through the event, Perry said, “It’s sad news, is exactly what I thought at first, but then I looked at her 84 years on this planet. I looked at all that she was able to do. I looked at the bridges and the barriers that she broke just for me to be in this moment. So I’m celebrating it.”

Tiffany Haddish considers Perry a mentor after filming “Nobody’s Fool” on the lot. “Every time that I came in to work here at Tyler Perry studios, it was the biggest smile on my face. Cause I know the history of this place — It was a Confederate union military base,” Haddish recalled. “Trying to keep us enslaved. Now it’s owned by a black man.”

One attendee called the event “the black Met Gala” — but in actuality, the guest list gave the event the feel of the Oscars, Emmys and Grammys combined.

Continue on to Variety to read the complete article.

America's Leading African American Business and Career Magazine