New, Black-owned radio station in Chicago becomes the “Game-Changer”

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Tracey V. Bell close up professional picture

Chicago makes history by ushering change as African-American female industry veteran Tracey V. Bell, President of The Integrated Brand Marketing Company (The IBM Company), seals the deal of a lifetime and has purchased 95.1 FM Clubsteppin™ Chicago from Windy City Broadcasting.

Commercializing the brand name of Clubsteppin™ and recognized as “The Heartbeat of Soul,” 95.1 FM Clubsteppin™ Chicago becomes the only African-American-owned music station in Chicago with a strategy to change the game in the third largest media market in the country. While the parent company of Clubsteppin™ reveals that Steppin music will remain the nucleus of the format, it also shares that Steppin music transcends genres.

95.1 FM Clubsteppin™ Chicago will not only serve up the same great music its listeners have come to expect and enjoy, it will extend itself to ensure an optimal listening experience, intermingling Steppin music with Classic/Old School R & B. It will also remain committed to servicing African-American adults 35 plus years of age as its primary listener, the only music station in Chicago to do so.

Solidifying that commitment, in addition to Tom Joyner who will continue to start the day at 5:00 a.m., 95.1 FM Clubsteppin™ Chicago has teamed up with an A-List of Chicago’s veteran personalities, the Who’s Who in “Black” Chicago radio: Legendary DJ Sam Chatman, Ramonski Luv aka “The Al Kapone Of The Microphone,” Kris Hutchinson aka “First Lady,” who also dubs as Program Director, Gene “Airman” Phillips, Bonnie “Hey Baby” DeShong, Brian Frazier, Troi Tyler, Gachelle Coffey, Dana Divine, Hugo Hutchinson, AJ Parker and Ken Bedford and Luther Gage.

More still, 95.1 FM Clubsteppin™ Chicago, is bringing Smooth Jazz back to the airwaves in Chicago. Amidst one of its weekend specialty segments, “The Sunday Evening Winddown,” Gachelle “Smooth Touch” Coffey kicks off the segment and renowned recording artist Will Downing headlines at 9:00 p.m.

Committed to helping uplift the community, 95.1 FM Clubsteppin™ Chicago will work to become the people’s station and build a gateway for the exchange of information in support of small businesses. Building on that gateway, 95.1 FM Clubsteppin™ Chicago reaches 95 percent of African Americans on the South and West sides of Chicago and some areas of NW Indiana.

Continue on to the Chicago Crusader to read the complete article.

Chef Big Shake Debuts New Online Store, Offers Deep-Fried Turkey for the Holidays

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Chef Big Shake in Chef's uniform smiling with arms folded

People line up at Big Shake’s Nashville Hot Chicken, excited to get the array of unique flavors being served up. Now, people across the country can simply log online and buy whatever they want, and it will arrive at their doorstep within two business days. With the launch of the online store, Chef Big Shake has made it possible for everyone to get in on the hot chicken, deep fried turkey and “famous” shrimp burger action.

This comes just in time for the holiday season, giving people the ability to order Chef Big Shake’s custom deep-fried turkey that they can serve up for their special meals with family and friends.

“There are many people who have been waiting for this store to go live, so it’s an exciting time,” explains Shawn Davis, otherwise known as Chef Big Shake, the creator of The Shrimp Burger and owner of Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish. “The online store will let everyone get a taste of our food, whether for themselves or as a special gift for someone else. Some say you can’t find a better gift than my famous hot chicken.”

Chef Big Shake’s online store, located at ShopBigShakes.com, serves up a full menu of options to choose from, including his famous Nashville hot chicken, seasonings and peppers, shrimp burgers, and more. For those wanting to ensure their holiday meal is simple and a big hit this year, they may want to order Chef Big Shake’s deep-fried turkey, for only $89.99.

The deep-fried turkey offered through the online store serves 10-12 people and is shipped Monday-Wednesday. After it has been expertly deep-fried, it is then frozen to seal in the flavor, then packed in a reusable cooler with dry ice, and shipped anywhere in the country, arriving in two business days. Once the person receives it, they put it in the freezer, and then follow the simple instructions for heating it in the oven, so it’s ready for that special holiday gathering. Chef Big Shake’s deep-fried turkeys are crispy on the outside, and tender and juicy on the inside. They can also be ordered infused with their award winning Nashville Hot Chicken heat injections: such flavors as CryBaby® – Mild, Stop Drop n Roll® – Medium, Rambo – Hot. Or, classic flavors such as: honey butter, honey BBQ, Cajun butter, Jerk, lemon pepper, and classic seasoning.

“Whether you are someone who lives near a Big Shake’s or you wantDepp fried turkey being cooked someone who doesn’t to try the food, we want to make sure you have the best tasting turkey this holiday and ready to help,” added Davis. “But be careful, once you go Big Shake, you never go back! This food will keep you coming back time and again.”

According to the National Fire Protection Association, Thanksgiving is the peak day for home cooking fires, followed by Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, and the day before Thanksgiving. Here are some safety tips for those who plan to deep-fry their turkey themselves for the holidays:

  • Never leave food cooking in the kitchen unattended, and don’t leave the house while the food is cooking.
  • Make sure that children stay away from food that is being cooked, so they don’t get burned.
  • Keep the outdoor deep fryers away from flammable sources, including garages and balconies. Also, check the weather to ensure that it will not rain or snow.
  • Be sure that the turkey is completely thawed, which will help eliminate flare-up risks.
  • Those using a propane-powered deep fryer will need to ensure there is a two-foot buffer between the burner and tank. Ideally, you should use a fryer that has temperature controls, so that the oil is not heated beyond its smoke point.
  • The fryer must be on a level surface before it can be used. If it’s not, there is a risk of it being tipped over, starting a fire.
  • Avoid overfilling the oil in the fryer, which can ignite if it comes into contact with the burger. Check with the manufacturer’s directions for the correct amount to use.
  • When it’s time to submerge the turkey, shut the burner off. You can turn it back on once the turkey is submerged in the oil.
  • Use protective gear, such as safety glasses and oven mitts when working with the fryer.
  • Once the turkey is done, remove the pot from the burner and place it in a safe, level place to cool overnight, before disposing.

Big Shake’s currently has three locations, in Franklin and Goodlettsville, Tennessee and Huntsville, Alabama with a fourth location opening soon in Huntsville, Alabama. Chef Big Shake became famous for his signature shrimp burgers, which were featured on the hit show “Shark Tank.” They have sold hundreds of thousands of them. The restaurant has also become famous for its hot chicken plates, chicken sandwiches, hot chicken and waffles, hot chicken tacos, and more. They also feature a variety of fish entrees, including whiting and catfish. Diners can choose their level of heat, ranging from “cry baby” to “executioner.”

To learn more about Chef Big Shake’s online store or to order a deep-fried turkey, visit the site at: https://shopbigshakes.com/. To learn more about Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish, visit the site at: bigshakeshotchicken.com/.

About Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish

““Chef Big Shake,” was named after and founded by Shawn Davis, a man who worked his way up from restaurant dishwasher to chef to entrepreneur. After being passed up on the reality business show “Shark Tank,” he received the funding he needed to take his business national. Today, his product line, which features five varieties of “The Original Shrimp Burger,” is available in over 2,500 stores, and he owns Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish restaurants. To learn more about the restaurant chain, visit the site at: bigshakeshotchicken.com/.

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

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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.

Stedman Graham: Lead Yourself First, Others Second

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Stedman Graham pictured in front of large military plane with several servicemembers

By Brady Rhoades

Once upon a time, Stedman Graham—yes, that Stedman—was a soldier in the United States Army, trying to figure out who he was and where he was going. More than 40 years later, he’s a world-renowned businessman, author and speaker with a laser focus on identity leadership.

“Understanding who you are is the key to your growth,” he told U.S. Veterans Magazine.

Five years in the Army in the 1970s gave him a solid foundation. “I would not be here today without the military,” he said. “I needed structure.”

Graham learned to be on time. To listen when others were speaking. To do his best. To not quit. To be a follower. To be a leader. To get down to the nitty-gritty details of whatever task he was working on.

“It helps you lay out a process for continual improvement,” the 68-year-old founder and CEO of S. Graham & Associates and bestselling author of 11 books said of his experience in the military.

Graham has never forgotten those lessons, and he is forever grateful. Which is why he continues to visit military bases and stay in touch with servicemen and women.

It’s also why he lobbies employers to hire veterans.

“The message of learning while you’re experiencing is a great message for our troops,” he said. “It’s a great design for self-actualization…You couldn’t have a better opportunity than serving.”

And, he added, you won’t get a more grounded, humble, flexible and

Graham’s latest book helps people identify themselves before taking the lead
Graham’s latest book helps people identify themselves before taking the lead

can-do employee than a veteran.

Graham was born on March 6, 1951, in the Whitesboro section of Middle Township, New Jersey, the son of Mary Jacobs Graham and Stedman Graham Sr. He is one of six children.

He received a bachelor’s degree in social work from Hardin-Simmons University in 1974, and a master’s degree in education from Ball State University in 1979. Graham, who stands at 6-foot-7, played basketball at Hardin-Simmons.

He later moved to High Point, North Carolina to establish himself in public relations. At B & C Associates, he worked on behalf of African-American causes and had many distinguished clients, including author Maya Angelou and South African activist Winnie Mandela.

He is also founder of Chicago, Illinois’s Athletes Against Drugs (AAD), a non-profit organization that provides services to youth and has awarded more than $1.5 million in scholarships since its founding in 1985. Moreover, the organization arranges for sports figures to educate children about substance abuse.

In 1988 Graham created S. Graham & Associates, a Chicago-based corporate and educational marketing and consulting firm.

Graham has delivered speeches at many public and private schools on the topics of identity and self-awareness. He is perhaps most famous as an author of business and self-help-related books, including, Who Are You? and his newly-released, Identity Leadership: To Lead Others You Must First Lead Yourself.

Graham has been partners with Oprah Winfrey since 1988.

Identity leadership employs a simple but profound premise: You can’t lead anybody until you lead yourself. And to lead yourself, you must know yourself. The “self” is the biggest enigma in the world, the more provocative challenge, and the most rewarding mountain to climb, according to Graham.

Stedman speaking to servicemembers
“It takes years to do simple. People think there is such a thing as an overnight success. There isn’t. Success is hard work. The success I am having today took me 25 years. You have to put the time in to get the rewards out.” —Stedman Graham

Graham talks about being a learner, a hard worker, and knowing who you are, but if you go deeper, he invokes what he calls the most important word in the English language.

“Love is the key word,” he said. “Passion, talent and skills are related. Do what you love.”

In Identity Leadership: To Lead Others You Must First Lead Yourself, readers learn how to define themselves. The alternative, Graham said, is that society “puts you in a box.”

“When you can’t define yourself, the world defines you by your race, by your house, by your car, your money or your title,” he said. “It’s kind of socially constructed and designed to control your development.”

Graham said once he figured out who he was, he began to lead himself and, “to create a vision beyond my circumstance.”

If love is the most paramount word, purpose might be second, or in the top five. “Everything starts with a purpose,” said Graham, adding that purpose is essential to self-actualization.

In his world travels, he is intensely interested in motivating people to get rid of labels—whether they are linked to race, gender, class, you name it—and to take control of their own destiny.

He wants others to realize the process for success is the same for everybody in the 24 hours we have in our days.

Graham says being able to teach that, and to help people realize their potential, is a passion and a joy. He advises his readers and listeners to not be afraid.

“Failure, in fact, is a phenomenal teacher,” Graham says. “The concept goes back to ‘learning while you’re experiencing.’”

He said veterans know what it’s like to be part of something bigger than themselves, and they’ve learned how to adapt, particularly when faced with adversity. But they aren’t superheroes. They could use a helping hand—be it by a prospective employer, a nurse, a clerk, or a citizen on the street.

“There’s so much work to be done as far as helping our troops,” Graham said. “I’m just honored to be of service.”

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

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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.

Shaquille O’Neal Wants to Bring Papa John’s to Every HBCU Campus

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Shaquille O'Neal smiling wearing a suit

It seems that after Papa John’s founder John Schnatter was forced out for saying the n-word on a conference call last year, the pizza chain has been trying hard to win back Black customers.

And one of the first moves they’ve made was partnering with Shaquille O’Neal earlier this year, who now wants to put a Papa John’s restaurant on every HBCU campus.

To do so, he’s teamed up with Miles College, an HBCU located in Fairfield, Alabama, and he’ll make an announcement on Saturday, Oct. 26, with the school’s president, Bobbie Knight. They’ll make the announcement on the Miles College campus in the Student Activity Center at noon.

“HBCUs have been pivotal in the development of young minds; influential in highlighting the history and culture of African Americans and effectively provided a means for academic success,” said O’Neal in a statement. “It is in these great halls of these wonderful institutions that students saw their potential magnified and exemplified.”

“Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘If you want to move people, it has to be toward a vision that’s positive for them, that taps important values, that gets them something they desire and it has to be presented in a compelling way, so that they feel inspired to follow,’” he added.

“Join me and President Bobbie Knight of the great Miles College, as we move toward a business initiative that will open avenues of opportunities for our HBCUs. Today is our day. This is our time,” the statement concluded.

Earlier this year, O’Neal spoke to The Undefeated about joining Papa John’s and said he would only be involved if the company “got some diversity” in its leadership.

So to honor that request, he was asked to come on as a board member.

“‘How about a triple threat?’” O’Neal remembered telling CEO Steve Ritchi at the time. “’Board member; I want to invest in stores to show you I’m serious, and of course I’ll be an ambassador to the brand.’”

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

Young Hotel Employee Surprised With New Car After Working Solo For 36 Hours During Flood

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hotel employee being gifted a car for his flood heroics

The 21-year-old who made headlines around the world for single-handedly running a hotel and caring for its 90 guests trapped along with him during a flood was rewarded in big way by the city of Beaumont, Texas.

Homewood Suites employee Satchel Smith was honored with a proclamation for his heroics during tropical storm Imelda, which included answering phones, cooking, doing dishes, and washing laundry, during a solo shift that lasted over 32 hours.

The young man, who said he was “just doing his job,” also lost his car in the flooding—but, after his marathon of good work, city officials surprised him with a new one, a 2013 Honda Hybrid, during an event.

“I mean it was a bit unexpected—overwhelming!” he told KFDM News. “I mean I don’t expect anything for what I did.”

“I’m truly thankful.”

And, too, so are the guests he catered to, including Angela Chandler, who said Smith handled the situation “with grace, kindness, and a beautiful smile on his face.”

Continue on to the Good News Network to read the complete article.

Couple Brings A Wealth Of Experience To Help Combat Workplace Contagion With Enviro-Master Services

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Pictured outside their building is Willlie Jenkins, Jr., Kimberly Jenkins, Willie Jenkins

When you see terms such as “leading provider, recession-resistant, lack of competition” and “scalable,” associated with a franchise opportunity, it’s undoubtedly going to pique your interest.

And if it’s in an industry that can literally impact millions of people – by creating its own unique niche – you’re almost certainly going to want to know even more about this ground-floor opportunity. Mix in a company culture that’s equal to its growth potential… and you have the perfect list of ingredients that drew Willie Jenkins and Kimberly Clark to become franchise owners with Enviro-Master, North America’s leading health and safety-focused commercial cleaning service, which has doubled in size since 2012. They are seeing demand from many markets for their service because of the growing concerns about MRSA and other new tough to combat bacteria. Pictured left to right are Willie Jenkins, Jr., Kimberly Clark, Willie Jenkins, El Paso,TX.

“We are NOT like anyone else. We are UNIQUE,” said Willie. “When we first met with the corporate team from Enviro-Master we were truly impacted with how welcoming they were and that they wanted to know about ‘us’ and not just about our previous business experience. They genuinely cared about us as a family.”

Launched in January, Enviro-Master’s El Paso location serves businesses throughout El Paso, Las Cruces and Alamogordo, N.M., as well as Juarez, Mexico. Surrounding franchise areas still available are Albuquerque, Lubbock and Amarillo.

Willie, 49, has owned a janitorial cleaning company for 15 years while Kimberly, 57, has spent a decade in a civil servant role as an inventory/warehouse manager after a 24-year career in the U.S. Air Force before joining Enviro-Master, which provides unique processes and products that disinfect and sterilize surfaces that serve as breeding grounds for bacteria and viruses such as the flu, Hepatitis, Norovirus and MRSA. Enviro-Master’s commercial restroom hygiene service, which is applied with EPA-registered, non-toxic products, ensures 99.99 percent of germs are killed. “As a border city, we have many challenges dealing with the health and safety aspect due to travelers constantly going back and forth into Mexico,” Kimberly said. “We wanted to be a part of helping our neighbors within the city and even in Mexico.”

In Enviro-Master, Willie and Kimberly found a company that is a recognized leader in the $61 billion commercial cleaning industry, which is expected to grow by an additional two percent in 2019 alone, according to experts. Enviro-Master International Franchise has ranked five years in a row by Inc. 5000 as one of American’s Fastest Growing Private Companies. Their niche, which focuses on killing germs and bacteria, protects businesses, their employees and clients against the spread of infectious diseases. Currently targeting growth in major markets throughout North America, Enviro-Master’s continued growth is fueled by five basic fundamentals: 1) Large, identifiable markets; 2) Lack of competition; 3) Recession resistance; 4) Recurring revenue model; and 5) Service that can’t be displaced by technology.

“I’ve been in franchise development for more than 30 years and have not seen a concept with the strong fundamentals that we have at Enviro-Master,” said Brian Wieters, executive vice president of franchise development. Said Willie: “This is something we want to pass on to our children. We believe in leaving a legacy for our children’s children. Our plan for them is to be very aggressive in the future growth of our company.”

Markets being aggressively targeted for new franchises are Phoenix, Toronto, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Reno, New York and its boroughs, Denver, Boston and New Orleans. Call 1-833-GERMPROS for more information, or visit the website at enviro-master.info

Gabrielle Union: A Journey to Fulfillment

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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.

Rihanna Launches Another Big First: A Visual Autobiography

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Rihanna pictured in gold and black long dress at her book launch party

With only two months left in the year, Rihanna continues racking up a number of big wins. Recently at New York City’s revered art institution, the Guggenheim Museum, the fashion and beauty industry disrupter celebrated the release of Rihanna, the lavish large format book that features 1000 photos—many never seen before images from her days growing up in Barbados to candid moments between her global jaunts with friends and family.

As Rihanna welcomed invited guests—including many Navy fans—to the book launch, she acknowledged the book’s many contributors and artisans, including the Haas Brothers, who she said “they decided to do something this huge and dream this up with me.”

But the celebrated multihyphenate couldn’t finish her next acknowledgment after simply saying three words, “my bestie Melissa.”

The crowd erupted into thunderous applause for her long time friend Melissa Forde, who has a number of photographs featured in the book. “Thank you for these intimate images of life,” said Rihanna. “I didn’t even know the camera was here.”

She also thanked her tour photographer Dennis Leupold, who has shot a number of ESSENCE covers including Idris Elba, Taraji P. Henson and the cast of Black Panther, by calling him “a legend in his own right.”

Rihanna book is pictured opened with two pages filled with photos

And if Rihanna, which is 504 pages and weighs 15 pounds, wasn’t special enough, the artist has created three other unique editions. Already available, the Fenty x Phaidon edition, “This Sh*t is Heavy,” includes a copy of the book and a tabletop bookstand inspired by Rihanna’s hands. On November 20, the Luxury Supreme edition is signed and numbered by Rihanna and a “Drippy + The Brain” gold toned bookstand covered with a bespoke black vermiculated fabric (together it weighs 126 pounds). Lastly, the Ultra Luxury Supreme edition, entitled “Stoner,” includes a Portugal marble pedestal.

Rihanna will be available on October 24.

Continue on to Essence to read the complete article.

Restaurants Can Now Carry Healthier Famous Shrimp Burger with Big Shake’s New Partnership

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Big Shake's restaurant owner and partners standing ooutside restaurant

Known for some of the best fried chicken and famous shrimp burgers, Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish has entered into a new partnership with Performance Food Group. The partnership will help the restaurant expand, by giving other restaurants an opportunity to carry their famous shrimp burger. The partnership and growth is being fueled by their new and improved shrimp burger, which is currently available at several restaurant locations.

“We are excited to partner with Performance Food Group and look forward to bringing our famous shrimp burger to more people,” explains Shawn Davis, otherwise known as Chef Big Shake, the founder of The Original Shrimp Burger and owner of Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish. “People are increasingly looking for healthier options when dining out, even when it’s fast food, which has made our shrimp burger a massive hit.”

The famous signature shrimp burgers by Chef Big Shake include the Southwest Shrimp Burger and the BBQ Shrimp Burger. Big Shake’s currently has three locations, in Franklin and Goodlettsville, Tennessee and Huntsville, Alabama with a fourth location opening soon in Huntsville, Alabama. In addition to the shrimp burgers, which they have sold hundreds of thousands of, their menu features hot chicken plates, chicken sandwiches, hot chicken and waffles, hot chicken tacos, and more. They also feature a variety of fish entrees, including whiting and catfish. Diners can choose their level of heat, ranging from “cry baby” to “executioner.” The shrimp burger sales have been so popular that is fueling interest in people wanting to franchise the restaurant.

The shrimp burger has become so popular that Chef Big Shake is now giving other restaurants the ability to offer it on their menu. Distribution of the shrimp burger will be through Performance Food Group. The product being offered is a new and improved shrimp burger that was based off of the one that Chef Big Shake pitched on the hit show “Shark Tank.” With the new partnership, restaurants will be able to put it on their menu, giving diners a healthier option. It’s the perfect menu item for those looking to capitalize on the consumer demand for healthier food options. The shrimp burgers are made with 100% Gulf Shrimp/ Domestic.

“Our customers include restaurant operators, government agencies, healthcare facilities, schools, and more. Our goal is to get the Shrimp Burger in front of as many of the customers as possible,” says Chris McKee, the area manager for Performance Food Group. “Any operators will want to consider the shrimp burger as a new menu item because it’s a beef-alternative burger that is low in fat and calories and high in protein, not to mention is tastes great, too. As consumers become more and more concerned regarding their food choices (consider the popularity of the Impossible Burger), operators need to have new options available for their customers. That’s exactly what we are giving them.”

Performance Food Group was founded in 1885. They distribute a range of food products and have over 14,000 employees. Interested parties that would like to start offering Big Shake’s famous shrimp burger can also contact Performance Food Group and mention item #610377.

Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish is also currently offering franchise locations in the Nashville area. To find information and franchisee qualifications, visit the site at: bigshakesfranchise.com/.

About Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish

Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish was named after and founded by Shawn Davis known as “Chef Big Shake,” a man who worked his way up from restaurant dishwasher to chef to entrepreneur. After being passed up on the reality business show “Shark Tank,” he received the funding he needed to take his business national. Today, his product line, which features two signature varieties of the new and improved “The Original Shrimp Burger,” is available online and through, his Big Shake’s Hot Chicken & Fish restaurants. To learn more about the restaurant chain, visit the site at: bigshakeshotchicken.com/.

 

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

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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.

Don’t Miss the One Gift Topping the List of Families This Season

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Family photo in store witha ll members holding a Fishing Caddy

Families today are busier than ever before. Between commutes, school, extracurricular activities, and weekly duties, it leaves very little time for the family to get together and have fun making memories. This is one reason why The Fishing Caddy is the one gift topping the list of families this holiday season. The all-in-one fishing system helps make it easier and more enjoyable for the family to get together and spend time fishing.

“I hear from people frequently about how The Fishing Caddy has helped make it easier for their whole family to get involved in fishing and to have a great time together,” explains Joe Pippins, creator and founder of The Fishing Caddy. “That’s what it is about, making family memories. Those who make it a family gift will go into the new year with the goal of creating more happy memories together.”

According to the American College of Pediatricians, there are numerous benefits of families spending quality time together. They include kids being better behaved and families having less stress and developing stronger bonds. In other words, families that have fun together end up having kids who are happier and do better in school and in life. Plus, the stress-reducing benefits of spending quality time together are good for overall health.

Many families opt to go fishing together to spend quality time. Fishing is inexpensive, relaxing, and there are health benefits of spending time outdoors in nature. The Fishing Caddy has been designed to help make fishing trips easier and keep people more organized. It helps to eliminate the repetitive time spent setting up and tearing down. Rather than having numerous boxes of gear, the one caddy has everything that is needed to have a fun time fishing.

The caddy is the world’s first all-in-one fishing system, offering a padded seat top or tackle box lid, a built-in cup holder, a live well for the fish caught, two rod holders, LED lights, and more. The water weight prevents it from tipping over, making it a great piece of gear for sharing with a family that loves the outdoors. This is the type of family gift that will help this generation fall in love with the age-old tradition of fishing.

“Many families buy a gift or two that is for the whole family to use. The Fishing Caddy is that type of gift,” added Pippins. “It’s one that will bring enjoyment to the whole family, and help ensure they get outdoors and have some fun. Families that put this under the tree this year, whether for one person or as a family gift, will not be disappointed in the hours of enjoyment that it brings.”

The products will be in stores in time for consumers to do their holiday shopping, giving them great present options for the estimated 46 million Americans who participate in fishing. The Fishing Caddy makes a great gift because it will help ensure fishing trips are less stressful and will be enjoyed more, because it’s been designed for organization and to improve the anglers’ experience.

The Fishing Caddy, which ranges in price from $69.95 to $129, was expertly designed for all types of fishing, and can be used by anglers of all ages. The caddy also comes with a 60-day money back guarantee. The organization system gives people everything they need for a great fishing experience. The fishing system has been designed to help make fishing more enjoyable, and give people more time to fish, rather than track down and organize their tackle and supplies. The Fishing Caddy is available online at Amazon and Etsy, at Ace Hardware, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, and Scheels locations, and at the company website: thefishingcaddy.com.

About The Fishing Caddy

The Fishing Caddy is the world’s first all-in-one fishing system. Created by Joe Pippins, the caddy offers anglers an easy and simplified way to head out fishing. Features on the caddy include two rod holders, a cup holder, live well for storing fish, tackle box, and a padded seat option. The Fishing Caddy is made in the USA and comes with a two-year warranty. For more information, visit the site at: thefishingcaddy.com.

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