February 20, 2014
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Lupita Nyong’o is preparing herself for normalcy. After the frenzy that's followed her gripping performance in “12 Years a Slave,” she wants to be ready for life back home in New York.
“I try to keep my regimen — rest, water, eat well, workout — so that when this is all over, I don’t experience a total hangover,” she says, taking a bite of scrambled eggs in a recent interview at a Beverly Hills cafe.
She hasn’t yet accepted that her life may never be the same. “I have a very ostrich mentality,” she says. “I feel like I have my head in the sand so no one can see me.”
Before playing slave Patsey in Steve McQueen’s brutal tale of a free black man kidnapped into slavery in the 19th century South, Nyong’o was virtually unknown. Now, as a supporting actress Oscar nominee, she's become a breakout star.
When she received the call from McQueen saying she had landed the role, “I was so elated,” she recalls. “But then I immediately panicked. I was so scared.”
No wonder; this would be her first major role after attending the Yale School of Drama. Yet shooting the film gave her the confidence she needed coming out of school. “It was an amazing feeling,” she says.
Now, with all eyes on what she’ll do next, the actress refuses to stress about securing another role that’s equally as celebrated.
“The bar has been set very high externally and internally,” she says. “But I don’t want to feed into that pressure of expectation. This film was so fulfilling and artistic. I’ve tasted that and I obviously want to experience that kind of creative fulfillment again, but I also know that I can’t replicate that. I want a varied acting experience and that may include some failure and that’s healthy.”
Actually, Nyong’o’s next film is already in the can and ready for release on Feb. 28: She plays a flight attendant opposite Liam Neeson in the action-thriller “Non-Stop.” “It was what I needed to do,” she says. “It was the perfect antidote to ‘12 Years a Slave.’ It was a different genre with different demands. It was very technical and fun.”
Growing up in Kenya, Nyong’o says her parents encouraged her and her five siblings to “find out what we were called on this earth to do and then do it to excellence.”
Before former Kenya president Daniel Arap Moi allowed multi-party politics in 1991, Nyong’o’s father, Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, was an advocate for democratic reform, opposing Kenya’s autocratic regime. Then a political science teacher, Nyong’o’s father relocated his family to Mexico City for their safety. It was there that Nyong’o was born, yet her family returned to Kenya before she was a year old.
Nyong’o says her parents have been supportive of her Hollywood success but have also taken the excitement in stride. “It’s nice to have parents like that because they’re thrilled,” she says. “But they’re not shaken by it.”
(Nyong’o’s father is now a Kisumu County senator and her mother, Dorothy Nyong’o, is the managing director of the Africa Cancer Foundation.)
With the Academy Awards less than two weeks away, the 30-year-old actress says she wants to continue to savor every moment, even the overwhelming ones.
“The Hollywood Film Awards were really stressful,” she remembers of the October ceremony, where she shared the spotlight with the likes of Julia Roberts and Matthew McConaughey. “It was the biggest press line I'd ever seen. It was difficult to orient myself, but there are familiar faces now, so it becomes less daunting.”
Not only blessed with significant acting ability, Nyong’o’s striking beauty and bold fashion choices have made her one of the most talked-about celebs on the red carpet.
From the turquoise Gucci column gown she wore to the Screen Actors Guild Awards to the emerald green Christian Dior dress she chose for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards last weekend, she’s what “12 Years a Slave” screenwriter John Ridley calls “undeniably poised and graceful.”
Never the girl who thumbed through Vogue (now she appears in the magazine as the face of fashion house Miu Miu), Nyong’o began buying fashion magazines in preparation for all of the formal events she expected to attend following the success of “12 Years.”
“I was like, ‘OK, I have to research,’” she recalls with a giggle. But letting herself “dress large” has been scary, she admits. Referencing the scarlet Ralph Lauren dress she wore to the Golden Globes, she adds, “It had a cape! That was exhilarating.”
Despite her tendency to make fashion statements in stunning ensembles, she doesn’t feel pressure to always deliver a talked-about look. And the same goes for her feelings about Oscar night.
“I feel privileged that people are looking up to me and perhaps a dream will be born because of my presence,” she says. “But my responsibility is to just keep on pursuing my dreams and goals and the admiration will take care of itself.”
Notes Whoopi Goldberg, who Nyong’o cites as an inspiration after watching her in “The Color Purple” as a child: “Hollywood is a very strange place. Lupita has to be really glad people want her autograph and know that she has the right to say ‘Not right now.’ But no one can limit her conversation to race because she’s better than that. She’s a great visual for why dreaming is OK.
February 13, 2014
By Maleena Lawrence
LAWT Contributing Writer
The natural libations of the falling rain made way for an intimate Opening Night at the 22nd Annual Pan African Film Festival (PAFF). The Red Carpet was sheltered outside Rave Cinemas as honored guests happily made their way inside for the screening of the opening night film, “Of Good Report”, a South African film directed by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka about a shy and mysterious high school teacher named Parker who arrives at his new assignment in a rural school. He falls obsessively for a gorgeous young girl who he did not know was a student at his school. This tail of forbidden fruit has anxiously made its way to the Pan African Film Festival after being banned in its native country. Following the premier, the promise of debate sparked the theater by viewers who agreed the film was either to explicit to watch or it tapped on a deep rooted taboo that tends to be kept secret cross communities worldwide. Either way, the director remained open in addressing feedback and held his own in defending his film, “Of Good Report”.
In addition to the controversial screening, PAFF’s official night included award-winning actor/ director Charles Dutton who received this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the festival’s annual Night of Tribute awards ceremony. Mr. Dutton stated, “This is a fantastic night and I am honored to be here at opening night since every year that I am invited I am unable to attend because of work. So, this year is very special to me and I appreciate receiving my Lifetime Achievement Award from PAFF.” Dutton received congratulations from fellow actress Loretta Devine, actor Rocky Carroll who shared the screen with Dutton in the early 1990’s television series, Roc and Isaiah Washington, who co-stars in the critically acclaimed psychological thriller BLUE CAPRICE with Tequan Richmond which is must see feature at this year’s festival.
This year the Pan African Film Festival is debuting 172 films made in the U.S. and throughout the Diaspora. To support Black independent filmmakers and the arts movement make your way over to RAVE Cinemas Baldwin Hills 15 at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza by February 16, 2014 to catch a Pan African Film and share your feedback with us on Twitter, @thelasentinel.
To check festival listings go to http://www.paff.org/filmfest/.
You know, the dream that you say you’ll “get to” when the time is right. This week the time is exactly right. Get the plan started that will lead to the realization of that dream. Talk it over with significant others so that they can add their strength. Make the dream their dream too. Soul Affirmation: I love the options that are presented to me. Lucky Numbers: 13, 41, 55
You are made from the best stuff on earth. You’ll need to remember that this week. Cast a wide net among the people that admire you and spend time being admired. There re plenty of people who know your best qualities but this week seek out those who enjoy talking about what is good about you. Soul Affirmation: I let my positive emotions make my decisions this week. Lucky Numbers: 8, 14, 36
Give to a charity, talk with a grandparent, counsel a child, encourage a colleague this week. Choose any or all of the above or create your own list. Your goodness is an investment in your future as long as you do not think of it as such. Soul Affirmation: I don’t hide the wonderful things I feel about myself. Lucky Numbers: 6, 24, 53
If you are unhappy with your situation this week, you have all the power you need to change it! Don’t procrastinate any longer. You can make the improvement now! Don’t worry about what others are thinking. Just do what is good for you. Soul Affirmation: Love is my reward for giving love. Lucky Numbers: 12, 33, 55
The universe is balanced and our lives will be filled with triumphs and tribulations. Don’t fret when you face turmoil this week. Deal with it head on and stay undeterred. Keep straight on the path you are traveling and you will reach the place where you are meant to be. Soul Affirmation: All is well and so I let it be. Lucky Numbers: 6, 21, 47
Your inner beauty is one of your greatest assets. This week take full advantage of this gift you received from God. This week hold in consciousness the truth that you are specially crafted from His hands. Allow a cheerful disposition to radiate through you. Soul Affirmation: I happily help to clear up a mess made by others. Lucky Numbers: 1, 50, 53
Everything that goes around will come around for the universe is balanced. We all need to bear our crosses and accept the fate that is destined for each of us. The will of God is good and we will receive as He gives. This week is a week for finding joy in little things. Soul Affirmation: I let love teach me more about life. Lucky Numbers: 19, 23, 46
This week have faith in what you know can happen and rededicate yourself to achieving your dreams. Be sure to remember and respect who you are as the week unfolds. Love yourself for who you are this week and this will give you a clear perspective on what you can become. Soul Affirmation: I celebrate the high energy that engulfs my life. Lucky Numbers: 5, 32, 51
Give yourself a chance to experience a different side of your personality this week. Keep from getting bored by doing a little acting. Choose a character who would be more effective than you in the situation in which you find yourself. Be that character. Play the role. Enjoy it. Soul Affirmation: The value I place on myself is the value that others see in me. Lucky Numbers: 17, 20, 30
You are a person of action. Believe in your ability to get things done and you will find things so easy to do. Put things into perspective and obstacles will become opportunities. Put your plans into practice with confidence and your list of things to do will get done one by one. Soul Affirmation: Hope brightens my mornings, faith sustains my nights. Lucky Numbers: 18, 25, 27
This week think of yourself in ways that you have not thought of yourself recently. Find in the closet of your spirit another set of clothes. Put them on and wear them like they are your everyday apparel. Reinvent yourself and act as if the new is usual. Soul Affirmation: I feel like the star that I naturally am. Lucky Numbers: 19, 49, 52
You are a person of many talents and skills. People around you count on your abilities to keep things running smoothly this week. Know that all your hard work is appreciated and even though you may not see it right away your dedication will be rewarded. Soul Affirmation: I do good unto others and enjoy doing it. Lucky Numbers: 4, 17, 22
By Edward Rice, III
Men have feelings. And despite the age old adage that suggests big boys don’t cry the dirty secret is: men actually cry. “The Things That Make Men Cry” is the stage play that explores the topics that typically move men to tears currently playing at the Barnsdall Gallery Theater in Los Angeles through Valentine’s Day weekend (February 14-16). Set in a barbershop in Los Angeles, the play centers on the lives of barbers Joe (Lou Beatty Jr.) and Mel (Gregory Niebel) and the clients who frequent the establishment. Based on the book of the same title written by the play’s executive producer Dr. Gloria Morrow, “The Things That Make Men Cry,” opens up the doors of the barbershop to allow the audience an opportunity to peer inside the souls of men.
“Back in 2008 I was counseling a couple and there was a lot of tension in the room,” says Dr. Morrow as she discusses her inspiration for the book. “When I saw them separately the man just started weeping. He could barely sit down long enough for me to do the things that I do and say the things that I say before he just started balling. He said he felt misunderstood. He said he loved his wife, he just didn’t know how to communicate with her and he was overwhelmed by her.” As the play unfolds everything from fatherhood, divorce, love, unemployment and sex are tackled in the shop. Much like a real barbershop, the centerpiece of the shop which holds everything together is the veteran barber, Joe. “I felt that I could really show my wares in this role,” says Lou Beatty speaking about his character Joe. “Every role doesn’t fit but this role was a great fit for me.” Joe provides the voice of reason and always has some sage advice for his co-workers and patrons despite his own character flaws
Conversely, if Joe is reason then Mel is insanity. Played with great insight and humor, Mel is the comedic relief in the play. He is the stereotypical, guarded, sarcastic ladies man. “Mel works on different levels. He obviously loves women,” says Niebel with a chuckle. “But he’s got his armor up when it’s around women and he doesn’t like having to show his emotions and that all rings very true. I think that’s a universal trait in being male. It has just been hammered in our DNA that you don’t show emotion, you don’t cry, you don’t talk about your feelings, you contain everything and don’t let these things bother you and these things are changing.”
Newcomer to the stage Steve Turner shoulders the responsibility of bringing to life Charles, the character facing marital woes in the play. Divorced and unemployed, Charles struggles with providing for the son he loves dearly and navigating the remains of his volatile relationship with his son’s mother. “I related to the character 100%,” says Steve emphatically. “This role has been very therapeutic for me too at the same time. The biggest learning for me was just learning how to get it out. You know there’s a part where we talk about the son being cut in half, about putting your child first and that resonates. A lot of times many of the single men and women out there arguing over a child don’t always realize the effect it has on the child. That right there made me realize we need to be willing to put our differences aside for the sole purpose of raising our children.”
“The Things That Make Men Cry” is a powerful stage play that will help initiate some of those difficult conversations that men need to have about the things they talk about when nobody’s around. “To see this thing happen and see our community blessed has been the crucible for me,” says Dr. Morrow. “I think that we will bring a wonderful opportunity for men to speak their truth and women to receive that as well.”
by Kam Williams
The African-American community has been slow to get on the gay rights bandwagon, at least according to exit polls conducted on election days in states like California where the narrow defeat of same-sex marriage in 2008 was blamed on black folks. What’s up with that? After all, one would expect blacks, as the long-suffering victims of segregation and discrimination, including miscegenation laws forbidding race-mixing, to be quick to support LBGT equality.
But that hasn’t been the case according to “The New Black,” an eye-opening documentary directed by Yoruba Richen. The film follows the recent effort of African-American activists to rally support for Proposition 6, a Maryland same-sex referendum. This was to be no mean feat, given the way that the Black Church has dragged its feet in terms of LGBT issues.
The gay rights movement was apparently up against walking around money greasing the palms of black pastors coming courtesy of Mormons and white Evangelicals eager to sway the African-American vote. The Born Again crowd pressed for a literal interpretation of scriptures that leave no doubt about God’s will. Still, Bible-thumping bigots are ostensibly at odds with the open-minded attitude advocated by George Gershwin’s heretical hymn, “It Ain't Necessarily So” which warns that “The things that you’re liable to read in the Bible ain’t necessarily so.”
As far as conservative black ministers, some have called homosexuality “a white man’s disease,” and shunned members of their congregation who have come out of the closet. This even happened to Tonex, a Grammy-nominated Gospel singer who found his homosexual “perversions” criticized by colleague Reverend Donnie McClurkin, a convert to heterosexuality who has come to reject what he refers to as the gay lifestyle.
Nevertheless, most brothers seem to be coming around to a more tolerant attitude, despite the homophobia previously permeating black culture. For example, as a presidential candidate, Barack Obama narrowly defined marriage “as a union between a man and a woman,” only to arrive last year at a belief that “our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”
The African-American community collectively jumps the broom over its last big taboo!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 75 minutes
Distributor: Film Forum
To see a trailer for The New Black, visit:
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