SPEAKS ON LIFE AS A TRANSGENDER AND THE CAITLYN JENNER
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO A YOUNGER VERSION OF YOU?
LETRISE CARTER ERICA HUBBARD CRYSTAL NICOLE LONDYN DE RICHELIEU DERICK A. THOMAS
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What Would You To A Younger Version Of You?
By Letrise Carter
question has been asked of many celebrities and authors. It’s a good question to ask yourself as you reflect on who you are, how far you have come, and most im portant when you can give a youth, niece or god-child the same advice you would want to give a younger version of yourself. If you were given the chance to talk to a younger version of you, what would you say? What age would you want to talk to and why? Well, I would talk to a 12 year old pre-teen middle school version of myself. Why? This is the age where self-esteem and confidence in one’s self starts. It’s a struggle due to peer pressure and trying to fit in with the in-crowd. It was at this age that I didn’t feel beautiful or that I fit in with the girls I was hanging around with at school. This was the age where “Mean Girls” in middle school surfaced. What would I tell her? I would tell her four things. First, she is beautiful and that her beauty starts from within. I would tell her to look in the mirror every day and tell herself she is beautiful and to tell herself “She loves herself. Second, I would let her know that what other people think of her does not matter. They do not define who she is nor who she will become in the future. Third, I would tell her that her life has purpose and she was born to do great things. She is an epic creation that is uniquely designed by the most high. It’s okay for her to have curves and hips because she is special and she is not meant to look like all the girls walking around middle school or high school. Finally and most importantly, I would let her know that God loves her and he will never leave her side. In today’s society, children can be cruel to one another to the point that ‘mean girls’ just don’t lurk the hallways at elementary, middle, or high school anymore. They are on social media being mean girls and bullies. Looking back, if I had another woman to tell me the things I would have told a pre-teen version of me, then maybe I would not have spent so many years trying to re-building my self-esteem and confidence.
A Letrise Carter is a CEO and contributing writer to Sistah’s Place Entertainment Showcase at www.sistahsplace.com . She is currently working on her debut fictional romance and drama novel Sister’s Secret due out late fall 2015. She resides in Chicago, Illinois. Follow her on Twitter @ SistahPlace2, www.Facebook.com/SistahsPlace2, and Email: Letrise@ sistahsplace.com
Erica Hubbard was born in Chicago, raised in Chicago and she still lives in Chicago. It looks like she may never leave. “Oh my God!” Laughs Erica. I am a Midwest girl. I love Chicago not only for all the things they have here, but they have the best food in the world. We are known for our food all over the country. That’s all I do every day is eat, eat, eat. Chicago is home for me, but I do go back and forth from LA to Chicago because a lot of things happen in LA. I have a place in LA and a place in Chicago.”
“Actually it was pretty hard because people saw me as Casey, the character I played for so long on Lincoln Heights for four years. When I went on auditions, the casting directors would recognize me and say, ‘Oh you’re Casey Sutton’ and I would say, ‘No I’m Erica Hubbard. Can you look at what Erica Hubbard can do?’ So, then I just kept going and I lucked up to get the job as Kia Whitmore on the show, “Let’s Stay Together””. Erica said that was definitely the door that helped her transition to an adult actress.
I heard about the notorious winters in Chicago and I don’t think that’s a place where I would want to be. “You need to read a survival guide before spending a winter in Chicago”, explains Erica. “We had snow above our waist last year. It was crazy. It seemed like we just kept shoveling snow all season to the point where my bones were freezing. You definitely have to be in survival mode because it will feel like you’re living in the north pole.
It’s good to have lots of life lessons whether it’s positive or negative because as an actress it prepares you for various roles you have to play and characters you have to embody. Mentally an actress must prepare herself for the role and that can be a challenge. However, Erica uses various methods and her favorite is the Method Acting technique. “Method Acting is basically finding someone that has experienced the exact lifestyle you’re about to emulate. You can follow that person’s lifestyle by walking with them during the day to see what their day is like. You can ask them questions or read books about their life. Method Acting is essential and key to preparing for a role. If you haven’t experienced what this person has experience, you need to find someone that relates to that character so that you understand what it is they are going through. That is the key to transforming.
Erica has been acting since the age of nine. Her parents stopped what they were doing so that they could take her to auditions, various modeling jobs, voiceover work, acting on stage, television, commercials and print work. “They were very busy because I pretty much was a child actress who did some of everything, but they loved it and when I attended college they suggested I get involved in theater. I owe a lot to my parents; I really do”, recalls Erica. Erica seemed to have managed the transition from being a child actress in the entertainment business to a successful adult actress in the entertainment business. “Oh boy”, she begins.
Even though actresses can play different roles or become many characters, there may come a time when the roles stop becoming challenging. What happens next? Erica says she does want to act for the rest of her life. “I do, I do”, says Erica.
Even though actresses can play different roles or become many characters, there may come a time when the roles stop becoming challenging. What happens next? Erica says she does want to act for the rest of her life. “I do, I do”, says Erica. “I do want to do this as well as producing. I fell in love with producing when I did my second short film. The film was about a lady who was dealing with an abusive relationship. So I produce that and I started getting calls to be a producer. In some of the projects I’m an actress and other times I just produce. I helped produce, “The Last Fall” as well as “Black Coffee” which is airing on BET. That’s how I fell in love with acting as well as producing and it kind of goes hand-in-hand. Reese Witherspoon is actually doing both now and Sandra Bullock is also doing both acting and producing.” In “Black Coffee” any girl would love producing a film where you can look at handsome co stars such as Darren Dewitt Henson, Christian Keyes and Lamman Rucker. Yum, yum! Besides acting, producing and all that other good stuff Erica has also started the Erica Hubbard Foundation. “When I was on Lincoln Heights, I kept getting phone calls to speak to the youth at community centers, schools and churches”, explains Erica. “The kids wanted to know what was it that I did to get on the path to success. I was getting phone calls where people would fly me out to Detroit, Ohio, Atlanta; all over the country to speak. I was doing so much of that while on Lincoln Heights. After I finished the show, I decided to continue speaking.” While going all over the country speaking to kids Erica found out something about herself, “I just love mentoring, encouraging and inspiring people especially in Chicago where a lot of the youth need it,” says Erica.
Erica stays very busy in Chicago mentoring the youth. “So many kids need to hear positive messages and they need to be inspired and uplifted especially in today’s economy. People need to encourage each other. That’s what I see a lack of in some of our communities. Therefore I try to mentor as many youth as I can who are in situations of poverty or dealing with low self-esteem or bullying at their schools; I try to uplift them. This is why am so passionate about the Erica Hubbard Foundation.”http://www. theericahubbardfoundation.org/ It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood when you can motivate our youth towards their victory. Erica is definitely the person to do it with her squeaky clean image. Yes, we laughed about her being so squeaky clean that we don’t see her on TM Z or other gossip sites where entertainers are always in trouble about something. Erica reveals, “I get a lot of phone calls and I mean a lot of phone calls from people saying, ‘You know Erica, if you just did some teen magazines where you could show your butt, a little nudity or post a picture on Instagram of you showing some skin everybody would know you.’ I would say, ‘Why do I have to show my body for everybody to know me. Why?’ Does every actress have to go that route? No! I’m that actress that is going to break that barrier and keep my clothes on as much as I can and maybe show a little cleavage here and there to leave a little for your imagination. It’s hard staying squeaky clean and not getting into any drama where people are saying, ‘Ooooo, she got into this fight.’ Life’s too short and I’m trying to enjoy myself and keep the drama and the mess down as much as possible. I don’t like to argue with anyone. The thing that I like to do is have fun and laugh and I love, love, love to travel.”
Erica’s advice to those traveling on the road to success is perseverance. “Keep striving to do what you want to do no matter what people say. Don’t listen to them. Keep your dream alive. Keep aiming high and never give up because there will be a lot of people around you that will say you can’t, you won’t, you don’t or you shouldn’t. Don’t listen to any of them; keep doing what you love to do,” advises Erica. The future is looking so bright and fabulous for Erica. There is a long list of fantastic projects in the works. “I am so happy that I am getting some really good parts. I have a project coming out called “My Favorite Five”. It’s a cute romantic comedy. Along with myself it’s starring Brian White, DeRay Davis, Jay Ellis from The Game, and Rochelle Aytes from ABCs Mistresses just to name a few and it is directed by Paul D Hannah. It was really fun to work on this project with Brian White. I think he is a phenomenal actor”, says Erica. The fun did not stop there for Erica because she was able to jump right into her next film project, “72 Hours” directed by Christopher Nolan which has a cast of phenomenal actors that include Thea Camara, Cynda Williams, Harry Lennix, Tim Durrett, Tangi Miller, Brely Evans, Chyna Layne, Terri J Vaughn and Brian Hooks. “I was so happy to work on this project because it was shooting in my hometown of Chicago. I have not filmed a project in Chicago since “Save The Last Dance”, says Erica. “It was really cool to finally do a project in Chicago. I was so happy the director called me to do it. He said he saw my work on “Black Coffee”. In that film I played the ditsy, naïve girl, but in his film I’m happy to say that I have a brain. I’m playing a doctor.
I am so happy I’m playing a professional.” I’m happy that she’s happy with her life and her fans will be happy to know that they can keep up with her on Twitter https://twitter.com/ EricaHubbard If you are a fan with children, then you will love to know that Erica has put out a series of children’s books entitled, “You, She, Her, Him and I”. It’s a cute story about the adventures of a little girl named Justina and her friends. It’s available on Amazon.com.http:// www.amazon.com/You-She-Her-Him-Volume/ dp/0989569330 It looks like Erica is manifesting her life to be fun and drama free. This does not mean she will not hit a challenge or two. However, when it comes, she will always be victorious!
The Self entitle “I AM Crystal Nicole” is the heavily anticipated debut album from the dynamic Grammy award winning songwriter who has stayed hidden from the public to manifest chart topping hits for major artists such as Beyoncé’s Grammy award winning album, “I AM Sasha Fierce” and Rihanna’s Grammy for best dance record of the year, “Only Girl In The World.” The first release single on this album as an artist is “I Don’t Belong To You”, which is an accumulation her journey. “This song was inspired by my life,” says Crystal. “I’m from Decatur Georgia and I’ve always been that girl who wanted to sing and be famous in a lot of different ways. I was always told I couldn’t do it for different reasons whether it was that I was overweight or I was too dark or my hair wasn’t long enough. I mean, it was always something and I kind of let those things run my life in a lot of different areas. This song was just me redefining some of the words that have been spoken over me throughout my life whether it was about music or other types of things. I just wanted to come at it from a different angle and take those words and inspire myself instead of letting it continue to rule me.” It just puzzles the mind how people can let their words feed into others without knowing how they are affecting the journey or delaying a divine plan. For people to tell Crystal that her hair was short or she was overweight was cruel because there are a lot of singers who are full figured beauties, dark skinned and have stunning short haircuts. “The way that society views what’s considered beautiful affect people in many ways.
We live in a blind society where we look at what
the magazine covers says and a lot of it is not necessarily true,” explains Crystal. “The pictures are altered and a lot of things are not as they appear. In our society we grow up looking at these images and we say, ‘I want to look like her… I should look like that’… and no one really looks like ‘that.’ The people who are on the magazine covers don’t normally look like ‘that.’ So we have to be careful who we’re listening to and what voices we’re taking in and knowing how to decipher what is a lie and what is the truth.” Fans can look forward to a lot of inner soul searching from Crystal on this album. “This album is very transparent; it is me in audio form. Everything I have done whether it’s good, bad or ugly I like to talk about it on this album,” says Crystal. “I believe with music it’s supposed to come from a place of reality and it’s supposed to be authentic; not just in the sound quality, but also in the concept and the lyrical quality of what you are saying. I feel like when you sing a song, it should mean something to you and it shouldn’t be just words. On this album people will definitely get to hear exactly who I Am and I’m not perfect, but I Am Crystal Nicole and that’s what they will get on this album.” If you think you don’t know Crystal Nicole, think again. She has quietly been the mastermind songwriter behind some of the most sensational, prolific music for some of your favorite artists such as Mariah Carey, Monica, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, Brandy, Ciara, Jennifer Hudson, Natasha Bedingfield, Tiffany Evans, Teyana Taylor, Janet Jackson and the list just keeps going. I told her this is basically the
same story as the husband/wife songwriting team of Ashford and Simpson. Then I realized I was telling my age and should have used those more current such as Babyface or Neo as examples. Sheesh! Since she is traveling along the same path, we are definitely in store for some of the most memorable music in history. Why did she decide to come out and play for us now as a solo artist? “It’s so crazy,” laughs Crystal. “The interesting thing about being a songwriter is that you’re being introduced to the world as one thing and when people meet you in one capacity, they don’t think you exist in any other capacity and that’s because no one knew me. Actually I’ve been singing forever; songwriting came later. I never wanted to write songs. I just wanted to sing, sing, sing until I die. I was singing in talent shows and I even met my husband singing at a talent show. He was in a singing group and later we both sang together. It’s been years of me singing. The world got to see me first as a songwriter and now I get people who say, ‘What made you want to become an artist’, but actually I was always singing and I put out my first initial single in 2011. I was signed to Blackground/ Interscope records and I put out a single called, “Pinch Me” and that was really my first single as an artist. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to find my niche as an artist. Even though I am writing for other people, I still didn’t know who I was; I still didn’t know what I wanted to do,” she laughs. “You know artist are schizophrenic. We don’t know what we want to do, we think we know everything and we have no clue. I’m glad I wasn’t able to fully come out with an album at that time because I didn’t know what
I was doing or how I wanted to accomplish it. Now I feel like everything is aligned in my life to the point where I feel it’s time to say who I am and this is what I sound like.” Crystal understands life’s situations because she has lived it and she is truly a natural singer/ songwriter who has found her niche which allows us to peek inside her world. “I started writing because they wouldn’t let me sing,” says Crystal. “I didn’t really believe it when people said I couldn’t sing. I mean I heard what they were saying, but I know when I go home at night, I hear myself singing. When I look in the mirror, I see myself singing. I know that God gave me something so there was no way you could tell me that I couldn’t do it.” “I was in a singing group for years and after the group broke up, I was just so frustrated. I was sad about the fact that I couldn’t break through those barriers so I just started writing my feelings down on paper and those things became my early songs that were really bad and horrible. They sound so awful that you will never hear them.” We both bust out laughing and of course I suggested she tweak them a little bit and she replied, “They are somewhere hidden in a volt from me and anyone else who tries to find them. Those things became my very early records and I was still fighting it. I was fighting God. I said, ‘Look, I don’t want to write no songs, Lord. Quit giving me lyrics. I don’t want to write; I want to sing.’ I didn’t realize that songwriting makes you more of a complete singer. Now I am whole and I am complete. I write it and sing it as opposed to just singing it or just writing it. I now have a right and a left hand.”
Crystal is not the only singer in her household; her mother, sister and husband sings and they actually battle each other. “It’s a crazy musical house,” adds Crystal. Her husband actually produced the first single, “I don’t belong to you” on her latest album. Now that I look back on everything Crystal has told me it will sound crazy, but she should thank those people for stopping her from singing because she was able to put her thoughts in words. She was able to experience life in many forms. She is not the only one going through things, however now she is able to put it in words for others to sing. For Crystal the words she writes come from a powerful inner place; they become hits and that’s why she is so successful. No matter what the outside world told her, she never stopped believing what her inner spirit was saying. People need to understand that life is an experience and when you have things happen in your life that you don’t understand, just sit still and the answer will appear sooner or later. What type of child could she have been growing up? Ms. Crystal Nicole takes a moment and says, “Well from my perspective I was a very good and obedient child. While all the other children were skipping school and being evil, I was probably somewhere reading my Bible and praying for my enemies.” She laughs and continues, Honestly, I was the complete opposite. I was very stubborn, I thought I knew everything and I was very opinionated. I played around in school and I just couldn’t stay focused in school to save my life. I was in school with my, “All You Need To Know About
The Record Industry” book underneath my social studies book. I was supposed to be studying what the teacher was teaching and instead I was flipping back-and-forth reading that book. That was me as a kid in high school. I was just so focused on being in the music industry. I really didn’t have a lot of friends because people thought I was too serious. They would say, ‘Yo, you need to calm down. You’re only in the ninth grade and you’re talking about careers and living your life in the music industry. You need to just chill out and go to lunch. Crystal continues, “I was always on stage somewhere, always in the music industry even as a kid and because of that I couldn’t focus in school. I would skip school to go sing at different places. I actually got kicked out of school because of that. I never graduated and that was part of why people said certain things to me when I was younger. People were calling me stupid or the girl that can’t spell and different things like that which I kind of carried with me for years. I started to feel that maybe I should have taken school a little bit more seriously. However, in my mind there was no plan ‘B’. I was going to be a singer, I’m going to be in the music industry and if I allow myself to think of a plan ‘B’, I’ve already accepted that I might fail at plan ‘A’. I can’t even go that route and because of that I just went full force into this music thing.” This sounds almost like that classic nerd story where there was always that one kid who had dreams and goals that no one else believed in and everyone would just laugh and not take them seriously. Fast forward to the adult years and name some of those kids or young adults…
Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, the Facebook boys, yatta, yatta, yatta. They had faith enough to defy those negative voices to beat the odds and live a life of freedom. Today Crystal Nicole lives her life free to do whatever the heck she wants to do. If she wants to sleep in bed all day for a month, guess what????? She’s living her life to the point where she can do just that. In looking back at those who tried to strangle her dreams I asked what she would say to them today and she replied, “I would tell them ‘Thank you’ because I had to learn. I learned a lot about what people would say to me that I didn’t agree with. I had to learn that there is some validity and truth to what people say about you however, I don’t think it’s true that I’m ugly, but someone had to call me ugly in order for me to find the truth that I wasn’t. I was gauging myself off the looks of other people. I thought if I didn’t look like her or if I didn’t look like that, then I must not be good enough. So, even in the mist of all the negativity I was able to decipher and navigate my way through all of that stuff. It was actually friends who would call me stupid and different names. I’m still friends with some of them to this day. I have grown to know that a lot of people will say things about you because it’s really reflecting off of themselves and unfortunately, we do gossip and we talk about people. It’s just like when we sit at home on our computers and we just dog people out, but what really matters is what we see when we look in the mirror. So when I think about people who have done that type of stuff to me, it’s a little sadness that I feel for them because I feel like it’s almost them lashing out. They are really saying what they feel about
themselves, but you say it to me because you can’t say it to yourself. So I have no grudges or anything, but I’m not going to lie; I used to walk around with it for years even after I was writing songs for people. I had a chip on my shoulder and I felt like, ‘Yeah, I made it! Y’all said I wasn’t going to make it. Look at me now.’ That was my thing. I carried it around and it was a heavy load. I had to take that thing off because it was like carrying around an extra 30 or 40 pounds. I was carrying around emotional weight and those people didn’t know why I was walking around mad at everybody. They didn’t even know or care. I had to let that stuff go. I can grow and I can live now.” Take a good look at Crystal Nicole’s picture… I want to know who called her ugly? Somebody beat her face and whipped her hair to perfection! It is flawless. “My hairstylist is JJ and he is awesome. He has been keeping my hair healthy,’ reveals Crystal. “I had a really short haircut. I cut all my hair off a couple of years ago because I was trying to do something different and I had it super short and shaved in the back. It took a long time for that to grow back to the point where it is now. The person who did my make up is Dayhill. She is amazing and has been doing my make up since 2008. I’m a loyal type of person. I like for all of us to start at the bottom and go all the way up to the top together so that we can remember ‘back in the day’ stories.” No matter what industry you start to pursue, there will be someone who will give you your big break. Crystal says she feels like she had a few big breaks… “The first and the biggest one was probably Jermaine Dupree”, remembers
Crystal. “I was signed to him/EMI music publishing as a songwriter in 2007. It was a joint venture between him and EMI. It was my first publishing deal as a songwriter. After that things just started to fall in place and he actually put me in the studio with Mariah Carey; that was pretty huge. Being a songwriter can become difficult when artists don’t agree with your song choices or writing styles. With the long list of artist that she’s written for over the years, which was the most flexible? Her answer… Beyoncé. “First of all she’s a machine,” starts Crystal. “I don’t even know if she’s human. She is just that amazing. She would come in the studio on-time actually. She would come in maybe around 12 in the afternoon and stay until about six at night and she would record about four or five songs in one day in that time period and she just let me have so much freedom. She would go in one room to record and I would be in another room writing. When she finishes recording, she would come to the room where I was writing and she would listen to what I wrote and say, ‘Aww, that sounds really nice. Let me know when you’re finished with it.’ Then I would finish it, send it into the next room and she would record it. It was just like a well oiled machine being in the studio with her. I would say she definitely gave me a lot of freedom in the fact that she just kind of let me fly and if I flew in the wrong direction, she would say, ‘Ahh… I really don’t like that; can we change it?’ However, for the most part she just let me go.”
Wait a minute… let’s back up so that we fully understand what goes on in the studio. Songwriters have to write a song on the spot. This is not the first writer I’ve heard this from and I guess it is standard because they all do it. I’m just an outsider looking in. “Oh yes!”, says Crystal. “That’s a whole other conversation. Everything was done on the spot and she would record so fast I would have to have a new song within the hour. Mary J Blige was the most pressure because I was such a fan and I was in the studio with her. I was writing her first single and she was sitting in the studio watching me as I was writing the song on my iPhone; she was sitting right next to me. I was sweating bullets and she didn’t even know it.” We laughed and Crystal said she told them she had to go to the bathroom. She needed to leave the room in order to compose herself. “I was on the bathroom floor saying, ‘Oh My God! So, yeah I had a lot of those moments.” They were a few times where she could write something at home and let the artist hear it later, but for the most part everything was done on the spot. “Most of my hit records were written right on the spot,” remembers Crystal. “Janet Jackson was in the studio walking around while I was writing. Oh my God, my stomach was growling in the booth,” laughs Crystal. “I was nervous and hungry. I’m thinking to myself, ‘Oh Lord, I hope she doesn’t hear my stomach growling. She may think I’m crazy or something.’ Yes, I had a lot of those moments.”
Crystal has had an awesome opportunity to tap into her hidden talents as a songwriter and now she gets to also be the artist. It probably would be hard to say which she loves doing most, but I think in her heart it definitely is singing. “Nothing beats standing on stage singing into a microphone for me,” says Crystal. “I am a vocalist. I will sing in public and just start belting out a Whitney Houston tune. I just love to sing. I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. Artistry is a whole different level because I have to make sure every strand of my hair is in place. When I was writing songs, no one really cared if I was cute; none of that mattered. With songwriting I can’t write a song that sounds similar to what I just did yesterday. It’s different things that I would rather not concern myself with. When it comes to just singing into a microphone, that’s just a dream for me.” With all her experience being in both the songwriting industry and coming out as a solo artist she definitely has tons of advice that would definitely be helpful to those following in her footsteps. “For a songwriter I would say research your work. A lot of times for me writing a song doesn’t come as easy as the one before,” advises Crystal. I have written a song in about 25 minutes, recorded it and went home. Another day it’s done in an hour or the song is written and recorded and that’s a great day. However, there are days when it takes me about six or seven hours and I am literally digging for gold and searching through every verse, every chorus just searching for the right line, the right words, the right melody and the right concept. I would tell every songwriter that you got to be willing to have those days where it’s 25 minutes and that’s it you go home or have those days where it’s a two day session.”
Crystal’s advise for artist was a little different… “For artist I would say this is my theory for people who can really sing… We tend to be lazy because we can do something that really doesn’t make a lot of sense to other people. We can open our mouth and this sound comes out and we don’t even know where it’s coming from and so we can be very lazy sometimes. We can just wake up rollover and start singing. There’s no warm-up, there’s no preparation, there’s no vocal coaching; We just sing. I’ve been singing since I was two years old because my grandma said I sound awesome. I’ve had to learn things because I have been that lazy person. I have to get up every day and say, ‘Wait a minute… is my craft worth me working on today? Should I try to get my range higher? Should I try to hit this note better and when I’m in the booth recording, am I trying to execute things to a level that is not just enough for me because I can sing, but is pushing me to another level?” She continues…. “It’s work in both areas, but in different ways. As far as being both a singer and songwriter, you have to know who you are. That is so important. I think a lot of people waste a lot of time and have a lot of frustration because they have an identity crisis. People who don’t really know who they are will allow someone to give them a song and not know whether they should sing it or not because they don’t know who they are; you just sing whatever someone throws in front of your face. As a writer, if someone asked you to write a certain type of song, that may not be the type of song you are good at writing and so you are just writing whatever someone asks you to do. I think that all comes back to a sense of identity in knowing who you are and what you are capable of doing.”
Let’s just bring Crystal’s brilliant explanation home on why songwriters need to stay in their lane and know who they are… Are you familiar with a song called, “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles? Well, her record company asked her to write a love song and she told them she does not write love songs. Why? Who knows… However, what she does know is that love songs are not her forte. So instead of writing her record company a love song she wrote a song about how she does not want to write a love song and it became a huge hit. “Yes, I love her and I love that story because she said I don’t want to do that so you know what … I’m going to write a song about how I don’t want to write you a song like that,” says Crystal. “What a great story and it just goes to show you that when you know who you are and know what your limitations are you become a better songwriter and a true believer in yourself. Looking back on everything that has happened in Crystal’s life she emerged victorious from the voices outside and inside of her head that almost stopped her from achieving her dreams. She took a few detours, but they were necessary in her path. Crystal adds, “I feel blessed so blessed and I feel grateful.” You can follow her on Facebook/Twitter http://www.twitter.com/1crystalnicole check out her YouTube channel or website at http://www.iamcrystalnicole.com All rights reserved -- no part of this website may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system without permission from Who’s That Lady Entertainment.
LONDYN DE RICHELIEU Londyn De Richelieu
Photographer/ Creative Director: Blair K. Lashley Instagram: @_artrepreneur_ Make Up Artist: AlexisPaul
When I last spoke to Ms. Londyn de Richelieu, she just finished school and now she is waiting to start law school in 2016 as well as a correspondent school to do her masters in an accelerated time. Her schedule has been quite busy with attending transgender women of color conferences at the White House and other major events regarding the transgender community. “Keshia Knight Pulliam who is my Spellman sister introduced me to leaders in the community at a convention at the White House”, says Londyn. “So I came, I listened, I spoke to the cabinet members, I asked questions and got some very good answers. It was very informative. I was invited back to the White House for a Transgender Woman of Color event. We were able to discuss the disparencies and how it affects transgender women of color and their visibility as well as the lack of data that’s available for research. In our ‘off the record’ conversation we spoke about what is needed in order to have the right care so that you know what you have, what you lack and the areas that need to be filled.” “I love to commend President Obama’s administration for being so transparent, supportive and great advocates to not only the transgender community but also the LGBT community as a whole. With the Supreme Court ruling in all the states legalizing gay marriage I am glad they have been instrumental in the transgender and LGBT platform. I also got some great answers from the department of justice as well. I saw how transparent the department of justice really is along with seeing the growth and how involve they have gotten with things like police brutality and civil rights violations; so I was more inspired than ever to go into law school. I was able to see all the intricacies about how things work and understand constitutional rights and law. I am the type of person who is very open-minded. I’m able to look at things from different point of views and kind of understand the intersection where everything meets so this is my calling. This is what I want to do. It’s never too late to go after your dream as long as you’re living and breathing, you are still capable. So go after your dreams so that you won’t regret it later on. I’ve had my setbacks. I had a time when I was mentally struggling with things and feeling I can’t do it. Then I had to tell myself, ‘Girl, go ahead and do it’”. The last time I spoke to Londyn, Bruce Jenner was the hot topic and the world was waiting to see if he was really ready to come out to the world as a woman. Well, we all got our answer. Caitlyn Jenner has arrived. The media is going crazy over her like it’s the new flavor of the month. Being transgender is nothing new. People have been dealing with living their truth for centuries. “I don’t like to speculate”, begins Londyn. “I state my opinion for 5 minutes on my blog and You Tube page and put it up. I did one on Caitlyn and it got a lot of hits. My first concern was that so many people was able to call this person Caitlyn, but you have your niece or nephew who wants to be called Michael or Michelle and you can’t call them Michael or Michelle, but you can call Bruce by her new name, Caitlyn. This child lives in a house with you and you can’t even call them by their new name. I see people from my own community call her Caitlyn, but they can’t even call me Londyn. They call me by my old name, but have no problem calling her Caitlyn. I have a problem with that. It’s like she gets a certain amount of respect and within that she is also privileged. I don’t want to run Caitlyn through the coals for being privileged because that is only one part of her circumstance. She was an athlete and is a part of one of
the most famous if not the biggest reality show that ever hit TV. She just happened to be a part of all the fame which comes with it. It’s a privilege and it comes with the territory so I don’t want to blame her for that, but I would like her to take accountability and responsibility to say, ‘I have a platform and I have a community that I have been invisible from for so long.’ She had to put in the back of her mind a community that she has wanted to be a part of for so long and was not able to be a part of because of the stigma of society. So I want her to shed light on that stigma. I definitely acknowledge that she has been able to shed light, but I don’t want it to be forced. It seems to be staged verses it being genuine and it needs to come from a place of sincerity in a place that is organic.” Londyn goes on to say, “There is a movement of trans women of color that is not being discussed within this because they’re not privileged. She still has white privileges and that still exist. There are still disparities that still exist among those in poverty and amongst the trans community that crosses and goes beyond just being trans. There is racism within just being trans as well. Just look at how she is getting all this attention. There have been thousands of people doing this. I’ve been living like this for years. This has been my life. This isn’t something where I just woke up one day and wanted to be on TV. No, this is my life and this just seems like a slap in the face to myself and other people who have been living like this. It just seems like suddenly this person has been created as this hero and this person has not had to struggle with walking through the hood, getting bottles, rocks thrown at them or have to beg somebody to give them hormones…She did not have to go through that so to me that is not a hero. I don’t look at her as a hero. I look at her as someone who is a visible advocate, but I wouldn’t look at her as this pioneer for social change…no, I’m not looking at her like that.” If it sounds as if Londyn is anti Caitlyn that is far from the truth of the matter. Londyn explains, “Let me be clear because I don’t want any conflicts in what I am saying… I support Caitlyn because we have solidarity. When I say I support black businesses, I support black women… I say that because there is solidarity across movements. I have solidarity with her because we are transwomen. I’m going to support her regardless, but what I’m saying is that I want people to be cognizant and aware of the reality of the situation which is that there are other trans persons who do not have the same opportunities and/or the same privileges. They are struggling right now and there needs to be light shown on the fact that there is a large disparity in the trans community when it comes to unemployment, poverty, discrimination and so forth. And yes, she has taken her stance and I commend her for it. However, Caitlyn has a responsibility to the community, but I don’t want it to be a responsibility that she is doing just because they are telling her to do it. I would hope that the responsibility is something that is organic to her and something that she feels passionate about and not because a production team or anybody else says she needs to do this. Let’s see what she does after the show is over. Ridicule is going to come regardless.” Caitlyn Jenner has opened the door to the general public about the transgender world with all of its twists, turns, detours, tests and stop signs. This is not a reality show. “To the transgender, gay and lesbian community this way of life is not a reality show”, says Londyn. “There are people who come from
all walks of life who have a story to tell and believe me it did not start on the privileged side of the road. Some feel that Caitlyn has a fake cast of friends who she did not know before her show, [I Am Cait]. Some are very privileged and did not have to walk through unwelcoming streets or get abused by others just for having the courage to live a life that has not been accepted by society.” The producers could have asked Londyn to be on Caitlyn’s show. She is part of the television network community through WE TV’s hit show, Love Thy Sister where Londyn appeared as a main transgender cast member with the stars of the show, the Rucker sisters. She has been taping with television producers for over a year. They know her well enough to know that she is versed in the community and would be able to bring up real issues in the trans community. Maybe Caitlyn’s show was not ready to deal with deep issues. Instead the show chose to focus on how Caitlyn is able to transition into her new life and spend time getting to know herself first before she tackles the transworld issues. Right now the show seems to show the glamour and the privileged life along with Caitlyn hanging out with her new friend Candis Cayne who appears to now be her bestie. This very thing causes a riff of the ‘haves and have nots’ in the trans community. Londyn adds, “That just breeds more issues because you are still not talking about the issues. You are just placing these people who are privileged on the show and not addressing the situation. You have these people on TV at a certain place in life suddenly coming over to hang out at Caitlyn’s house for a girls night out and she don’t even know them and that’s what makes it so inorganic and crazy to me. I guess that’s what reality shows are all about; putting people together who don’t know each other. It wasn’t like our show, [Love Thy Sister] where we knew each other. We really knew each other in and out; not like those housewives where they put them together and think they have something in common by hanging out together in a room; they don’t even know each other. How are they even having a conversation? I guess that’s why they fight like that on national television. They do it because they don’t care that they are hurting the other person because they don’t really know them and don’t have any feelings for them either. So we have Caitlyn on the show and she is hanging out with Candis Cayne. What I want to know is where did she meet Candis? When did they become girlfriends? Last week? When did they become friends? I’m confused.” Caitlyn has a big basket to fill. I didn’t want to say big shoes because I don’t want her to think I’m talking about their feet. If she thinks she can just live out her life peacefully as a transwomen, she has no idea what she asked for. There’s a bigger picture than just Caitlyn finally being able to shop in the women’s section. There is an entire community watching and waiting for her to open the doors so that all may enter and enjoy. “There is definitely a transgender visibility happening now and I am so thankful,” states Londyn. “Caitlyn made us visible and what matters to me is that there is an acceptance in our whole world. There is a presence and with that visibility changes will come along as people see what’s going on.
Scene from: WE TV’s hit show, Love Thy Sister Change happens slowly. It doesn’t happen overnight. Girls have been dying…losing their lives for years and it took so many of them to be martyrs. So many have been killed for just living, just walking down the street and because of who they are somebody decided to take their life. So I want to just thank those martyrs and those pioneers for giving us your shoulders to stand on to move forward and with that being said I want to be a part of the continuing changes. That’s why I want to go to law school and why I was so inspired by the transgender woman conferences I’ve been attending at the White House.” Future plans for Londyn include putting together a Trans Retreat in January of 2016. “It will be a weekend event so all the girls can come together as one,” says Londyn. “We are going to do economic and financial development. It’s important because people are always talking about all these different changes and poverty, but before we can tackle poverty people need their identifying documents, they need their credit checked and ran, they need to know how to obtain and keep good credit so they can understand about ownership of homes and having credit cards; all those things are important. People seem to lock tran’s people in a box. It’s just crazy to me because when I meet people they will say something like, ‘Oh! You went to school?’ ‘Oh! You have a credit card?’ ‘Oh! You have a car?’ and they act so surprised. What the?! I have girlfriends who are lawyers, doctors, own homes and businesses.” As our interview came to a close, Londyn gave a major shout out to her trans girls who are very successful in their careers who include Amiyah Scott, Bryanna Jenkins, Madison Hinton, Shavana Brooks, Shayla Stacks, Isis King, Chanel Sui who owns RCR Consignment online store and Felicity Noire. “I just had to give a shout out to my girls who I personally know that are doing their thing. It’s all about building each other up,” says Londyn. You can follow Londyn de Richelieu on the social media networks, blogs and her You Tube page to get updates on all her activities and events. She also has a Go Fund Me account for the Transwomen of Color event.
BALTIMORE’S VISIONARY OF THE AFRICAN AMERICAN MALE
By: Belnda Trotter-James
erick A. Thomas
Derick always wanted to be a filmmaker. As a kid he was inspired by the actor Robert Guillaume; you may best know him on the hit television show Benson. At the age of six he has always been a fan of television and it just unfolded into the filmmaking business when he was a teenager. That’s when he finally got a chance to explore all aspects of filmmaking. “At the age of six there were not a lot of us on television and television influences children which is one of the reasons why we have so many bad influences today, but that’s another story,” says Derick. “Robert Guillaume was intelligent, articulate, he had power, he had persuasion plus he was the guy who had everything and at six years old I watched him and thought, ‘I can do that.’ He was just a great role model for that time.”
When I asked what was he like as a child, he laughed and responded, “I would say as a kid I was not mischievous or a bad kid; I think I was more insightful and quiet. I guess I’m the same way today, but I think I was just a regular boy. My mother would tell you that I was high energy. I wouldn’t just walk down the street with her; I would be doing a cartwheel down the street beside her. She always thought I was full of energy and everybody always thought I was crazy wild. I was always doing something and making funny faces. I was always the clown in the house.” Derick swears it wasn’t sugar that kept him bouncing off the walls. “I think it was just my personality,” recalls Derick. I had a lot of fun with all my girlfriends. I could always make them laugh. I don’t let the world see that side of me; only the women in my life get to see that because they are close to me.” Derick was born and raised in Baltimore so he gets to see first hand all the riots and anger from the residents because of the injustices taking place in that area and in various cities around the world. He is not too far from the action. “Actually the house I purchased with my mother years ago is right around the corner from the mall,” says Derick. “She was concerned because she still lives there.” Derick reveals that the area is not a bad area however, the concerns of the people are about the haves and the have-nots. “Kids would have fights all the time for years and it never made it to television,” says Derick. The general atmosphere of the situation in Baltimore is that society has given up on them and would like to see them disappear one by one. When the world shows you that they, the powers that be or whoever don’t care about you, then the world becomes a stranger or even the enemy. When one starts to feel that everyone around them is the enemy, then the world becomes a dangerous place. All these things that are happening in Baltimore were started by high schoolers. They were the ones who organized it. The story is that the police was monitoring the kids before they got out of school to prevent rioting, marching or whatever and the police were getting prepared.
But if you notice the kids did not riot for Trayvon Martin, they didn’t riot for Eric Garner and you have to wonder why they weren’t rioting. Why? Because they have seen national news again and again and again with incidence after incidence of what seems to be these white police officers who have been sworn in to serve African Americans killing unarmed black men and it rings of injustice to these kids and they are not having it. They are not having it in Ferguson and they are not having it in Baltimore. It was a powder cake ready to explode. They have had enough and it was the children who started this.” There is a common theme to Derick’s films that is relatable to the things that are happening in the streets of Baltimore that can be seen as marginalized, disenfranchised grief. “You’re talking about young boys who are on the verge of becoming men and basically they have been locked out of society,” says Derick. “I’m a black man who grew up in this city and I’ve experience different instances of racism. If you’re a black man in this country, you will experience racism. Chris Rock has been pulled over three or four times. So when you have young men in this city, they can’t get jobs because maybe people don’t like the way they dress, the way they look, the way they sound or think that they are a threat or will rob them or steal and don’t want to hire them and for the most part these kids are not getting jobs. They’re struggling out there and they are falling off by the wayside. The producer of The Wire, David Simon said it best when he said, ‘You’re talking about a system that doesn’t need them.’ So you have a lot of inner city people who are falling in the cracks of America.” Most of Derick’s films
deal with this very issue of youth who feel marginalized and disenfranchised or very close to it. His first film in 2006 was Charm City, which is about the epidemic of the older black men in America who are trying to lift themselves up in challenging situations. Raising Wolves deals with the problems in the African American community, Blue Light City is a cop drama that deals with gang culture and corruption and how power corrupts everyone eventually. “My films are about the black male experience. Charm City is about the older black male experience. Raising Wolves is timelier because it talks about a few problems in the African American community. You have youth that are fallen to the wayside and are following in the footsteps of the older men or trying to make money by selling drugs and trying to find ways to survive and they have dreams, but they don’t necessarily know how to pursue those dreams. You also have a climate of homosexuality and women are taking the male roles, which is really interesting. That’s a whole different story. We did not concentrate on that, but we did show that there is a development of a strong force of women who have taken on male roles in African American families.” This is not the generation of kids we saw years ago. “In Raising Wolves the kids are more smarter, they are more intelligent, they are less fearful and more fearless and are willing to do what it takes to get their point across and you saw that with the riot and they were not afraid of the police,” explains Derick. “One thing you realize is that those kids learned from those in the Middle East not to be afraid of the police. That was classic behavior they learned from
watching the news; their anger against the police… They learned how to do that from the news and television when they were rioting.” I did notice people throwing bottled water. We don’t have many dirt roads with an abundance of rocks therefore, bottled water or whatever they could find is their choice of weapons. Even though Derick’s films have common themes of life in the hood and the struggle to survive they are not loosely based on his life. “No, I’m a good boy,” laughs Derick. “I just watched from a distance. I always told my mother I was there just to be a reporter and observer. God put me in that place to watch. I’ve always known I was going to make movies one day. It wasn’t any surprise to me what I was doing there. I knew I was there to learn. There were oftentimes where I would be mischievous, but I learned how to have a rough edge being in the hood. It was good learned behavior because some of the people or personalities I have in my film, I have come across. Stories that I’ve heard I’ve never been involved in any of those activities of the hood, but I heard and learned and seen so many things that it’s been easy for me to write these stories.” Since 2006 Derick has been producing films through his company Da Vision Pictures. In today’s world some feel it’s their mission to document the world in which they live or the world they see. Some people always want to slap the title of mentor, role model, or duty to society on the backs of society’s creators. On the other hand the artists or creators feel it’s just a form of how they express themselves with no expectation. They just do what they do because they love it. “I don’t know if it’s our duty, but it
most certainly seems to be more of a serendipity feeling as if you were placed here to be a voice for that era,” says Derick. “They say that one of Jay Z greatest assets is that he was able to give you an eye into that hood life and made it more relatable to everybody and I think that’s what key artists do. It’s like they have some way of being able to share their voice and give you the ability to be able to see their perspective of their experience in a unique way that really resonates with people. So to a certain extent I would say it’s like a God given opportunity; almost like you were ordained to tell that story.” “You are more immensely powerful than what you think,” says Derick. These were golden nuggets of wisdom given to a group of school children when Derick was asked to give some words of encouragement. “That is not just for the youth,” explains Derick. “Its for every one and all the worries of the world really don’t hold a hell of beans to the amount of focus that can turn your life around in a matter of seconds if you were to give it all to an idea or a mission. I think the youth especially have a great amount of enthusiasm, energy and they have a future and we don’t want them to waste it getting involved in activities that can some how change their future. We want them to be great citizens of this great society to contribute and give back and the only way they are going to do that is to find something they are passionate about and pursue their goals, dreams, desires and really take a hold of their life and the only way they are going to be able to do that is to find someone to show them how to do it. And I think that’s where we come in… schools come in, teachers come in. If I didn’t have the ‘village’ to step in at different moments of my
life to steer me in the right direction...” Derick stopped short of finishing his sentence however, each one of us reading this can add hundreds of our own endings to his sentence. “Jon Stewart said Baltimore was burning long before the riots began and he was absolutely right. It’s a shame that it took a riot for people to see the disenfranchise… the baggy pants, the out of work youth stuck home with his mother and you hear comments from other races who call them monkeys and savages because they are out there rioting. They are out there rioting because they feel hopeless. Not only are they being killed, but also they are in a world where people are showing them that they don’t give a damn about them or their lives. I always tell people that the most dangerous word in the world is….. inequality. That label has been slapped on African American men around the world. When you look at us across the board… across the planet, we are in a dire situation. We are in a rough spot when it comes to trying to mobilize our youth in Baltimore city. They need jobs, they need training, they need to be nurtured, they need to be loved and it’s a systemic problem when you have out of work, unemployed African American men that are untrained for no workforce. It’s not everybody, but it’s enough of them where it’s causing a problem. They are rioting because the police are shooting unarmed black men across this country and people are tired of it. The rioting and looting continues because of the disenfranchise of the situation. People want to know why are you looting in your own neighborhood? Well white people loot in their own neighborhood. White people don’t come into African American neighborhoods to riot. When white people riot, they riot in their own neighborhood. When black people riot, they riot in their neighborhood. White people don’t come in black people neighborhoods and black people don’t go in white peoples neighborhood to riot. It would be a race war if that happened.” “They are trying to get a leg up and they don’t care if it’s a free soda. Of course there are opportunist out there. We know it and recognize it, but at the end of the day there are opportunities where people will take advantage of all types of situations. At the center of it all we are talking about out of work, unemployed, disenfranchised people who feel this society and system is unfair and don’t care about them so they rebel. As terrible as this whole situation looks, it may be transformative. The government may have to take a look at this and say what can we do to prevent this because it’s a powder cake that’s getting ready to explode.” Derick is a part of a canvas that creates a way people can understand each other through film. Filmmaking allows stories to be told to a captive audience who must sit and listen without being interrupted by anger, fear, sadness, hopelessness and any other negative emotional feeling that comes to mind. Derick enjoys being the storyteller and collaborating with other creative people. “The most wonderful thing of it all is when you can take someone and put them on film and then watch them look at themselves. You can see them see themselves in all of their glory. That makes my heart smile. I’ve done that so many times in my life. I get joy out of seeing people see their dreams come true. It’s wonderful to see people in all their glory!” Yes, it’s a light bulb moment. Fans can find Derick A. Thomas of Da Vision Pictures and his films in stores and on various social networks …Face book, twitter, You Tube and Instagram.
KNOW YOUR TRAIT Speck out tell your story...