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ALSO:

Nafessa Williams Dennis McKinley Curtiss Cook Sammie Glynn Turman Rev A. Sharpton






IN THIS ISSUE... Contents Page 20 Page 28 Page 32 Page 40 Page 44 Page 48 Page 58 Page 64 Page 70 Page 74 Page 78 Page 88 Page 94 Page 98 Page 106 Page 112 Page 120 Page 136

Triple Threat Teen - Cameron J. Wright Real Love or Real Estate - Jimmy Jones Staying Afloat - Michael Phelps Having His Way - Geovanni Gopradi Climbing to the Top - “Snoop” Dillard The Resilliant Rocker - Bret Michaels Transparent and Vulnerable - Sammie Fit For A King - Wearbrims The Art of Glam - Tim Johnson Classic Man - Curtiss Cook Let it Rain-Ciera Payton Minding His Business - Dennis McKinley She Made It -Teyanna Taylor Simply Design - Justin Q Williams Tales of a Legend - Glynn Turman Ruthless Hustle - Jaime M. Callica Drum Major for Justice - Al Sharpton A Star is Born - Nafessa Williams


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THE FAMILY Rashod Davenport | Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief ***

Michael Letterlough, Jr. | Co-Founder /Director of Photography ***

Kym Oglesby | Executive Editor ***

“The Swag Master”| Fashion Editor ***

Andre Jones | Movies Editor ***

Syreta Oglesby | Executive Editor Assistant ***

Rodney Jon | Makeup and Male Grooming ***

Davana Jones | Editorial Assistant The Editorial Team Matt Molina, Conner Cheney, Chanler Brown, Paul Marsh, Noah Wade, Sarah Sadik, Ebony Davis, Meraki

Special Contributors Allison Kugel and DS Will


The Future (Intern Team) Courtney Kasch is a senior at the University of Arkansas working towards a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. Her interests range all over the map, covering everything from urban legends to professional basketball. She hopes to one to be a staff-writer for multiple different print and online media outlets, as well as one day publishing her own fictional works. When not writing or doing schoolwork, she can be found arguing about the ending of Game of Thrones, screwing up a new recipe, or getting a little too into a round of bar trivia.

Hailing from the West Coast of Southern California, Greg Poblete is a 28-yearold, curly haired English major attempting to find his place in the world of writing and journalism through his love of music, pop culture, and sleight of hand magic. Greg has been interviewing different artists, practicing his editing skills, and reviewing albums. Greg’s taste in music ranges anywhere from industrial rapcore to chill bedroom-pop; there’s no genre off limits. Asides from music, Greg enjoys going to alt-comedy shows, traveling anywhere especially Mexico City and eating tostadas de atún from Contramar, running, and posting lousy magic tricks to his Instagram stories.

I am a writer that currently residing in Atlanta, GA. Originally from South West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. My love for words started with rapping, which grew into my passion for writing. I started writing lyrics at the age of ten. Enjoying the freedom to release my thoughts and go in with my pen. I enjoy writing about any topic, so no topic is off-limits. I also write poetry and songs. Inspired by writers like Jay-Z, Sia, The Dream, Nicki Minaj, Missy Elliot, and Jazmine Sullivan just to name a few. My goal is to release my thoughts to the world. I want to leave a legacy that will live on well after me. Aside from writing, I enjoy listening to music, reading, playing video games, enjoying good vibes, and becoming a better human being. I love being around creative and positive people.

Ashtyn is awesome, smart, humorous, talented, young, and notable. Just jumping off into the marketing world, her quest involves article writing, social media strategies, and constant market research. Heralding from California originally, she has done time in states such as Illinois, Michigan and now Missouri. Ashtyn spends her free time (what free time?) taking long walks on the beach and spending time with her family (what is this a romantic comedy). But the real question stands...who is Ashtyn Rankin?


I find myself interested in writing feature profiles due to the fact that I feel like everyone has a story to tell and it is up to us as journalists to help tell those stories. On my free time I like to listen to music and hangout with my friends. I am a huge New York Giants fan. As a season ticket holder, I try to make it to every game if I am not working or stuck doing homework. One accomplish I hope to achieve one day is to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Barrett Kent Isaac was born in the valley of Riverside, California, but currently lives in the desert of Lancaster. Graduating from U.C.R. with a degree in Creative Writing, Barrett works on his fiction, most of which belongs to the science-fiction genre. Barrett also likes to play a variety of simulation and strategy video games on his P.C., diddle on his alto saxophone, and occasionally explore the pages of a book. He likes double pepperoni pizza, Japanese beef bowls, and garlic parmesan wings, the last of which irritates everyone around him with its glorious and rich smell.

Sade’ Culliver is an artist and fashion designer that brings mental health awareness to the world of fashion. Her favorite color is red, and all it takes is five minutes with her to see how well that fits. She’s fiery, passionate, and sometimes a little too loud and energetic for her own good. She channels that energy into her art, often creating edgy pieces that visually speak on social and political issues that matter to her. She aspires to have her own creative brand where she can exercise the many facets of her talent. When she isn’t expressing herself creatively, she’s fangirling over her talented friends, listening to new music or trying out new restaurants.


Editors Note

Rashod Davenport Editor-In-Chief @iamsuavv


I have loved music my entire life. I can remember being a child and listening to old albums with my parents, learning to play the piano at 6, having a school-issued instrument at 9, being in band through high school, engineering and mixing a CD as a high school project with my music mentor Bob Welsh, earning a full music scholarship for college, and considering going into the music business. Music is a passion for me. I hear it differently, I feel it differently, I appreciate small things in song and in composition. However, passion fades. At some point, I stopped playing music, I stopped enjoying creating music, the fire that boiled the music of my soul lowered my pot to a low simmer. My purpose began to take over. There’s a divine difference in how people pursue life goals. You have people who push for what they are passionate about and those who focus on their purpose. For a very long time, I thought they were two in the same. However, when it came time to put the criteria into perspective, I understood a little deeper where the difference lies. Your passions are things that you really enjoy. Maybe something that you trained at, something that others have always associated you with, and maybe you’ve made a living of it. Your purpose is that area that all of your life has lined up to prepare you for. You see, my story is no different from a person who has been an accountant for 20 years and decides to retire and open a shop to bake those cakes that they love to make. Or a Pilot who decides to follow his purpose of owning a bed and breakfast because he loves to host others. Or the Nurse who loves to paint and painting her reality brings her joy. We spend time in life chasing passions which can be fueled by the acceptance of family, friends, money, and society. But a very real question was asked when speaking with Dr. Joe Johnson, “Who Are You?”. I have always been a storyteller. I’ve always wanted people to see the full aspect of a person or a situation. I thrive on understanding people and having others do the same. I love to encourage others, motivated their dreams, and make people laugh. I learned that my purpose is to combine all of that and give other people a level of hope that they can relate to. And here I am with SUAVV Magazine doing just that. But just like me, there are people like Tim Johnson, who went into the haircare industry and not only made a name for himself with his talents but has been able to be somewhat of a therapist for his clients while also boosting their self-esteem through hairstyling. Nafessa Williams made a life-changing decision to leave a sprouting law career and now stars on one of the hottest shows on television. Rev. Al Sharpton has spent his life fighting for the justices of those usually found voiceless. Justin Q. Williams began his design career at the young age of 12. After winning awards and designing all kinds of beautiful spaces, his creative mind shows itself in the homes of many. Sammy has found that his vulnerability and truth in his music is what he was placed here to do. Finally, Rome Flynn put it all on the line for a shot in Hollywood. I made this issue the Purpose issue for that reason. I want our readers to not only fight for their dreams but be inspired to chase their purpose. It’s not easy and ill never say that it is. It’s challenging to look into yourself and ask “Who am I and why am I here. What do I love, and what do I feel that my purpose is.” When you find out what that thing is, pursue it. Hopefully, someone’s story in this issue will spark that conversation in yourself and allow your inspiration to shine through. Until next time, Spread Some Love and Stay SUAVV. Peace.



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Triple Threat Teen Cameron J. Wright By Samantha Ruiz

A

t just the age of 14, Cameron J. Wright is a rising actor and musician with extraordinary talents and a passion for performing. Despite his age, Cameron is a triple threat teen who has done it all from acting to singing to live musical theater and his career in the performing arts has only just begun. His career took off when he landed his first-ever role in the national tour of “Motown: The Musical,” where he starred as young Berry Gordy, young Stevie Wonder, and young Michael Jackson. Since then, he has gone on to star on season 1 of NETFLIX’s “Family Reunion” as Mazzi McKellan, whose family decides to move from Seattle to Georgia after getting to know their extended family. When he’s not acting, Cameron is the leader of Nick Canon’s latest boy group Ncredible Crazy Kids (NCK), and can be found recording music for their upcoming album. With the production “Family Reunion” season 2 and Ncredible Crazy Kids’ promotions on hold due to quarantine, Cameron is currently spending his time at home. I caught up with Cameron to discuss his role in “Family Reunion,” NCK’s music, and how he stays creative and productive while stuck at home. We want to start by opening up about you and your road to acting and music. How did you develop a passion for acting and music? When did you realize that you wanted to pursue a career in the arts? Cameron: Well, everything for me started with music. My whole family loves music. When I was little, I grew up listening to music and I wanted to take guitar and piano lessons. I started with the piano. All of that kind of transi-

tioned into singing and from there I started to find my love for performing and being on the stage, which eventually led to acting. I just loved being on the stage and getting to perform for people and put on a show. I had known from very early on in my life that this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a musician. I’m glad that everything just worked out for me. Despite your age, you have already made a name for yourself in terms of acting. You are currently starring in “Family Reunion” on NETFLIX with an all-star ensemble that includes Tia Mowry, Loretta Devine, and Richard Roundtree. What is it like working on such a big show with an experienced cast? Cameron: It’s amazing just getting to be a part of this show. It feels so surreal. I feel like I could pinch myself and wake myself up and it would all be a dream! I feel like I’m living the dream! We learn so much from these legendary actors and actresses that it is really unlike any other experience in the world getting to be on set and work with them. How has this show been different or more challenging from other acting projects that you have worked on? Cameron: I’ve definitely encountered challenges. It’s a different feel, almost like going from 0 to 100. In the beginning, I was like, “Oh my gosh!” It did take some time to get used to the schedule of everything and getting a new script every day due to small changes. It was a little bit challenging, but you eventually get used to being on set and the week-by-week schedule. Your hard work has certainly paid off since the cast of “Family Reunion” also won an NAACP Image Award


for Outstanding Children’s Program, which is a huge accomplishment. Congratulations on this achievement. Cameron: Thank you! How does it feel to be a young, award-winning African American teen actor in Hollywood? Do you hope to become a role model to inspire kids/teens from all backgrounds to chase their dreams? Cameron: It’s amazing and I am blessed to be where I am right now. It makes me feel so happy that there could be some kids out there who look up to me and know that I inspire them. That’s exactly what I want to do. I want to be someone that could be an inspiration for people and help people learn that they should never give up on their dreams and find what it is they want to do. It’s an amazing feeling. You have also dabbled in musical theater and have starred in “Motown: The Musical” as young Berry Gordy, young Stevie Wonder, and young Michael Jackson, which was your first-ever acting role. How has your time on this production prepared you as an actor? Cameron: It did prepare me as an actor because musical theater is all live and you can’t stop or re-tape certain scenes. I feel like I am lucky to have had that as my first acting role since it was challenging. By the time that was done, I really grew as an actor. Having to be on stage and not getting a chance to stop, cut, and restart helped me on set for “Family Reunion” because I was extra prepared. What was your favorite part about working on this production? My favorite thing about the tour was getting to experience being on stage with the whole cast since the cast was so amazing! I miss them every day. Getting to tour America and Canada, getting to see all of these different places, putting on the show for a bunch of different people—it was all amazing. Now that you have some experience with television and live theater, are there any type of roles/characters you would hope to play in the future? Cameron: Anything that opens up for me, I’ll be grateful for. I think one thing I would want to do is star in a movie since I haven’t been in one yet. Not only are you an actor, but you’re also an upcoming musician and member of the band Ncredible Crazy Kids (NCK). Originally, Nick Cannon discovered your singing talent on Instagram and hand-selected you to be a part of NCK. Now, you’re currently working alongside him to create NCK’s first album. What is it like working with Nick in the studio, writing songs, practicing vocals,

etc.? Cameron: It’s cool just getting to be in the studio and record some songs. I love how the songs sound. I feel like everyone is going to love them, too. Getting to work with Nick is awesome. He’s a great mentor and he’s an inspiration to us in the band. I’m just excited for the world to hear our music. Who have been your musical inspirations? How do these artists influence you and or NCK’s sound when making music? Cameron: My personal artist inspirations are Michael Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, and a lot of other Motown singers. I also love Bruno Mars as my favorite current artist. I can’t really talk much about NCK’s music so everyone is going to have to stay tuned for when that comes out! There are some inspirations in there that will be clear once the songs come out. Can you tease what kind, type, or genre of music fans can expect from NCK? Cameron: The songs are all pretty much different types of genres. We have one song that is a slow-jam and one that’s a doo-wop. We even have one that’s upbeat that you might hear at a party and people can dance to it. There’s a song for everyone to like. We’re looking forward to hearing your music with NCK, but right now most of your projects are on hold due to quarantine. How are you keeping busy during quarantine? Are you working on anything related to acting or music? Cameron: I’ve been working on my music and I’ve been doing Zoom acting classes. I’ve mainly been focusing on my school work. I’ve also been hosting an Instagram series called “Quarantine Tunes” where I have a friend come on and we do a song together. It’s just something we like to keep doing while we’re stuck inside. It’s quite easy for kids and teens nowadays to feel cooped up, anxious, and even unproductive while they’re at home during the quarantine. Do you have any advice as to how kids/teens might overcome their restlessness and stay busy? Cameron: Find what you are passionate about and keep working on that. If you already know what you are passionate about, just try to find a way to work on it while you’re stuck inside. If you don’t, use this time to experiment, try new things, and find what it is that you love to do. Once you find something, keep working on that and


you will have a new passion that will last once quarantine ends. We would like to end things on a hopeful note. Once the quarantine is lifted, are there any particular projects that you are excited to return to or finally begin? What can fans expect to see from you? Cameron: I’m really excited for “Family Reunion” season 2! We had to put everything on hold because of the shutdown. Once that’s done, we’re going to get back up and head back to the set. I cannot wait to continue filming the new season. Also, I’ll be getting back together with my band and start back up on our YouTube channel and record some videos together.



America Divided: Are Riots a Product of White Rage? By Meraki

2020 has been an exasperated year, socially another year

Reagan erased those improvements through substantial cuts in federal programs and jobs. Unemployment climbed to 15.5 percent, the highest since the Great Depression — and black youth employment decrease by 45.7 percent— a reduction of $3.805 billion.

The latest violence in protests and civil strife is not a result of black rage, but “white rage” for black empowerment.

Drugs

like 2020 would be detrimental to the world. All the riots and disproportion footage in the media cause a worldly perception. Any intellectual know perception is critical and is precious as a diamond.

White rage is an astonishingly well-timed and urgent call to challenge the legacy of structural racism bestowed by white antagonism and resentment and to demonstrate its ongoing menace to American democracy’s pledge. The book, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, by Carol Anderson, records white Americans’ centuries-long endeavors from rage to disrupt African Americans. The book connects the theme of white rebellion from anti-emancipation revolutions through post-restoration racial terror and the enactment of Black Codes, legal efforts by Southern administrators to prevent African Americans from escaping repression during the Great Migration. There are many patterns of advancement, followed by some form of brutality, recounts of numerous instances of achievements by African Americans have repealed.

Voting

The first time in history, in 2008, the black voter turnout rate approximately rivaled that of whites. Two million more African Americans and Hispanics, respectively, and 600,000 more Asians. A response state after state began demanding voters to have records such as bank records, utility bills, and W-2 forms, which many Black Americans and other economically underprivileged inhabitants are less likely to acquire. In 2013 the Supreme Court declared 5 to 4 to subdue a component of the Voting Rights Act. As a result, 22 states have passed voter-restriction statutes.

Unemployment

Black unemployment had declined during the ‘60s and ‘70s, sealing the racial gap, black enrollment in HBCUs had doubled between 1970 and 1978. Noticing the growth,

When drugs such as cocaine, hallucinogen, and marijuana were declining, Reagan’s National Security Council and CIA “constructed and facilitated” a drug crisis and were complicit in submerging African American communities with crack. The government administration shielded Colombian drug traffickers by enthusiastically allowing cocaine imports to the United States to rise steeply to 50% within three years. In 1982, the CIA received approval from the Department of Justice to remain silent about assets engaged in the manufacturing, shipping, or transaction of narcotics. Regan targeted the users, not the traffickers, and Congress legislating mandatory sentencing for first-time offenders.

The Black Wallstreet

Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1921. A mass wave of racial violence and satanism destroys an affluent African American community. The community was a threat to white supremacy of American capitalism. On May 31, the Tulsa Tribune recounted that an African American man, Dick Rowland, allegedly endeavored to rape a Caucasian woman, Sarah Page. Whites in the neighborhood declined to wait for an investigation, triggering two days of unprecedented racial violence. Three hundred people died, 800 were injured, and thirty-five city blocks went up in flames. Defense and the rescue of white female righteousness was the articulated motivation for communal racial violence. White rage is a result of Black success; we must face our country, learn, take responsibility, and act. Some citizens are people that continue that rusty demonic way of thinking, while others see harm and wrongdoing being place on other individuals in a free country. If America is “Home of the free,” it requires to embody the message.



Do Black Lives TRULY Matter ? Words By DS Will

Raise your hand if you currently have over thirty shows, movies, and documentaries lying dormant in your Netflix queue. Great! I am not alone in this quagmire! You can put your hands down now. (Unless said hand-raising is a part of your daily quarantine work out.) Face it, we all have spent hours perusing an endless selection of titles that serve as the gateway for unabashed escapism.

demic has eliminated many of the activities that may have distracted us in the past. Or were these signs of solidarity for more nefarious reasons such as exploitation, greed, and patronization?

However, on one fateful day in May, I noticed something a bit different about my home screen. There was a paragraph plastered across my tablet. Amongst the sea of letters, one phrase floated to eye level: Black Lives Matter.

And they continued to matter as protests raged on, and jerseys were plastered with the names of those slain by the police. Zoom meetings were conducted, hashtags were created, and moments of silence were held. Golden Girls episodes were removed, master bedrooms were renamed, and voice actors were replaced by individuals of color. They even canceled COPS!!!

Before a sense of anything remotely associated with pride could develop, I felt astonished and then confused. Was this the same mantra that was often demonized now serving as a welcome mat to my favorite streaming service? (Sorry Disney Plus). Shortly after my discovery, I noticed CNN was highlighting protests from across the world all in defense of black lives. Yes, that same castigated phrase had now become a rallying cry for the downtrodden across the globe. Soon, major corporations began to throw their hat in the socio-political arena by pledging millions of dollars to the once ostracized cause. Celebrities flooded twitter streams, sports organizations began to backpedal, and Sesame Street was preparing to air a special on racial injustice in the coming days. For me though, it was all too much too soon. Why did black lives all of a sudden “matter”? One can easily point to the horrific murder of George Floyd as the catalyst for such fervor. But had we not seen black lives snuffed out on the world’s stage before? One can just point to Eric Garner back in 2014 who also pleaded for his life with the phrase “I can’t breathe.” Maybe it’s the fact that the COVID pan-

Wherever your belief lies, one thing was for certain: Black Lives Now Matter!

But despite all of these efforts, black lives are still being lost at the hands of the police, systemic racism remains interwoven in the fiber of this capitalistic society, and the leader of the free world refuses to denounce white supremacy. Perhaps the most debilitating blow to recent activism was the failure to effectively indict the officers who murdered Breyonna Taylor. In no way am I endorsing that we cease the fight against racial inequality and injustice. Quite the contrary. Now is the time, more than ever, to be resilient in our resolve. I’m just going to need more than a commemorative cup and Juneeteenth off to believe that black lives truly matter.



Real Love or Real Estate Jimmy Jones

Words By Ebony Davis

R

eality tv can sometimes make or break a person’s career. In some cases, it is for the better and in others, it can take a serious turn for the worse. In the case of former Ready to Love Season 2 castmate, Jimmy Jones, reality tv has been a blessing. Granted Jimmy brought a lot to the table before joining the OWN hit show. A graduate of Florida A & M University and a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., Jones embraced his entrepreneurial spirit early on. It was this spirit combined with OWN Tv’s Ready to Love that let this Atlanta native see no shortage of customers. The self-assured number one listing agent in Atlanta, has become quite popular since his appearance on Ready to Love. Yet, is he as lucky in love as he is in business? It would seem so. Jones’ love interest on the show was, Kimber, and he still actively date. Not only that Jimmy is experiencing a sudden influx of new female Instagram followers averaging 60-70 a day. With those sorts of numbers, I would venture to say Jimmy Jones is not just selling homes but also love. For an inside look into the reality of love and business in Atlanta I sat down with “Sell Your Home”, Jimmy Jones, for an intimate chat. We met in midtown at one of my favorite hotel lounges during lunch hour and chopped it up. Jimmy arrived in a blazer, crisp white button-up shirt, jeans, boots, and sunglasses. With a smile from ear to ear, we began joking back and forth with a little HBCU banter thanks to my attendance at Johnson C. Smith University. Then we got down to business. Let’s talk about one of the

most popular occupations in Atlanta, Georgia...Real Estate. How did you get into real estate? Everything else really was not working for me. Real estate was like a, a plan D. A, B, and C did not work. I took the GMAT to get my masters, failed it. I took the LSAT for law school, failed. I took the DAT for dental school, failed it. I took that real estate exam, knocked it out of the park. And I made a deal with God right before I went in there to take the first part of the test, I was like, God, if you allow me to pass this, I will never quit doing it. I will never quit it because I feel like one of the biggest mistakes in my life has been, I had quit things. Here is what I say, it is okay to quit somethings. I am not saying never quit. I am not a never quit guy. I think you should quit toxic relationships. I think you should quit self- hate. I think you should quit things that are not helping you. You should quit that. Quit smoking. But in terms of different opportunities and things, I feel like if I had to see them out a little bit further out versus cutting them off where I cut them off...) I completely agree. sometimes we hold on to toxic situations longer than we should. Going into real estate, how long did it take you to become successful as a real estate agent? Success is a mindset. I have been in, well over five years. It took me three years to get it, man. I took a year and focused on investment. I worked with one of the largest fastest growing black-owned and operated real estate


brokerages in the world. Real estate guru, Justin Giles, great guy. He taught me everything there is to know about investing in real estate, buying the whole, buying, and flipping. Whatever you are trying to do. I know how to do it. I am an expert. It took me a year, but it took me a year where I was also not, not really focusing in on what my sweet spot was. I was working with a lot of buyers in my first year of real estate. Working with a lot of buyers is great because you learn how to get into the mind of a buyer. Meanwhile, you also are depending upon people with challenging credit situations and money. You are basing your life upon those people promising to close on their house. Yet, those bills are still coming. We call it a pipeline in real estate and sales. Once you’ve built that pipeline, you are not stressing every deal that comes in. Once I learned to stop stressing and just let go and let God, I stopped caring so much. The secrets of my success have really been learning how to better communicate with my inner sphere, with my circle of friends. Because most of your referrals are going to come from your friends. And I was getting referrals. I was just getting bad referrals. I was getting the wrong referrals. But [singing} when it is time to sell your home, call Jimmy Jones... when it is time to sell your home, call Jimmy Jones, call, call, Jimmy Jones. I am Atlanta’s top listing agent. I defined myself and, and spoke boldly, you must speak boldly to the people. Anybody that’s ever said anything that’s left a mark has made a bold statement...) Once you start taking yourself more seriously and speaking directly to your audience, they will start listening to you and taking you more seriously. So, I had to change the message and stick with it so I was not sending them so many mixed signals. They were figuring I was a Jack of all trades, but a master of none. I want to be a master of one thing. That’s a testament of how to allow God to work His plan. We tend to lose that sometimes. What is the hardest deal you have ever had? Selling the house, I grew up in and my mother was still living there. My mother died recently. She is in a great place, and plus she up there getting it poppin’ with me and God... I got a guardian angel...) Also, my mother was a real estate agent, so I was listing to her house, selling my mother’s house, and having to deal with her and the offers that we got. She was a stickler man. She was a tough woman. She was a tough landlord and she was a tough woman. She was like a man. We are always thankful in hindsight for tough mothers.

Did she encourage you to go into real estate? She never really encouraged me to go into real estate. I did it on my own because, to be honest, my mom was not the greatest at real estate. My mom used to take a bunch of tests and pass, she was a paralegal, pass the whole pillar. Some people say the paralegal exam is harder than the law exam. My mom was just like a serial test taker. She loved the feeling of knowing that she beat the test. She used to challenge us to be better test-takers, but I never was. But I passed that real estate exam.

You get to a point in your career where you are becoming more successful, then this show comes along. How does the show come along? I was on Bumble. I got on dating apps because I was tired of meeting women out here that did not have a job. They have no education; they have nothing about themselves and that were minimalizing themselves. I do not want to get in trouble for telling all these secrets but there was somebody with the casting that was on the app. They asked me to audition. They had reached out to me for season one through my Instagram dm’s but I was in a relationship. So, this time it was just the right time. I was single as hell...) My last breakup was really the first time that I had ever been truly single, I had no plan B. So, going on the show, I was one of the guys that genuinely was on there looking for love. Is that frustrating when you get serious about wanting that relationship and then you find other people playing the game? Yes. Especially when it is somebody you wished it with, it is disappointing because we could have been great. Was it challenging being vulnerable on national TV? It was not challenging. I thought it was going to be tough, but then when I realized that reality TV is not acting... So being real was never hard for me. It is never hard to just be yourself. You know how reunion shows go. I was surprised that you didn’t cut up a little bit. I was more of a peacemaker. I was coming like let us bring closure to this so I do not have to live with this for the rest of my life. It was how can I put a button on this thing, a nice little bow. I think anything we do can be solved through effective communication... I apologized on national television on the reunion episode. It was the apology


heard round the world, literally, because it was really from my heart...) You know what, after the reunion, we fell off as a group. Post-show, are you still looking for love? I am. I am still looking for love. Let me rephrase that, I am not looking for it...I am waiting for it. That’s a much better approach. LOL. Is it harder to find the right one or even dating in general after the show? No, it is a lot easier. That is a lie. After that reunion episode, I got over 3000 new female followers. They just came in suddenly because they felt me and I was vulnerable. I took the risk. I was like maybe I should not go here, but I said you know what, let me just show my softer side. It resonated and I still get about 60-70 new female followers a day. It was at one point about 100-150...Dating after the show is been different because women treat you differently after having seen your show. It is rare to find somebody that has not seen the show, that I go out on a date with.

So now that we know the Jimmy Jones of the past, what do you want moving forward? What do I want? I want to be happy every day. I judge my happiness from day to day, 24 hours. I look at my money week by week and I look at my happiness day by day, 24 hours, sun up, sundown. I want to build a legacy and with the legacy comes a family again. My ex-wife remarried, moved on with her life. I want to start a legacy, start another family of my own. I want my voice to live on. I think Tupac said it best. He was like if your voice can live on after you; that is the most powerful thing. But I guess with the power of social media now and everything, it is a little easier to go back to old text messages, voice text, and stuff that people wrote. But I just want to make an impact and I want to be rich.



Staying Afloat Michael Phelps By Allison Kugel

With his unmatched agility and speed in the water, Michael Phelps holds the

all-time record for Olympic gold medals earned. The closest thing to Aquaman, on two legs, Phelps, like many pro-athletes who have reach his rarified status, was placed on a pedestal that was unsustainable. For more than a decade, Michael Phelps’ life was a relentless march towards breaking Olympic records, out-swimming his competition as he trained and traveled the world collecting gold medals and corporate endorsement deals. His seemingly flawless athleticism and boy-next-door charm made him seem unstoppable. The bloom first came off the rose in 2004, when Phelps was arrested for driving under the influence. That embarrassing event was compounded in 2009, when pictures of Phelps allegedly smoking from a bong went viral, finding their way into mass tabloid circulation. The final nail in the coffin for Phelps was a second DUI in 2014, which he now describes as “the bottom of my bottom,” leading to deep depression and spurning him to seek help for issues that had plagued him since his younger years. The rough road to redemption ultimately instilled a passion in Michael Phelps for mental health awareness and advocacy.


Rejecting a tragic end to his story, Phelps dusted himself off and made his comeback at the 2016 Summer Olympics, breaking further records and winning over fans who had doubted him. Now, a devoted husband and father of three boys, Phelps insists that the second chapter of his life will make his storied time in the water look like a dress rehearsal for what’s to come. Through his Phelps Foundation, he tirelessly champions the sport of swimming, fitness initiatives and healthy lifestyle choices for young people. Phelps continues to dedicate his time and resources to a cause close to his heart, that of mental health research and awareness. The Weight of Gold, an HBO Sports documentary film, executive produced and narrated by Phelps, delves into the lives and careers of celebrated Olympians as it unpacks the mental health ramifications of the long term, restrictive and singularly focused pursuit of Olympic greatness and stardom that Phelps has achieved. According to HBO, “The Weight of Gold seeks to inspire discussion about mental health issues, encourage people to seek help, and highlight the need for readily available support.”

it all. And if you do show emotions, you are showing your competitors weakness. I could not show that part of myself until the last two years of my career when I got to the point where I really didn’t care what people thought about me. It was at that point where I opened up and decided to talk about the struggles I had been going through. Allison Kugel: Can you tell me what was your highest moment what was? What was your absolute zenith moment in your life when you just felt absolutely high and on top of the world? Michael Phelps: It had to have been in 2008, after winning 8 gold medals. Achieving that singular goal of doing something no one else has done before. That was the highest point right there. Allison Kugel: By the way, you are in my refrigerator right now. You’re on a milk carton (Michael is a brand ambassador for Silk plant-based beverages), but for something good. Not because you’re missing (laugh). Michael Phelps: I love it (laugh)!

Allison Kugel: I watched your documentary The Weight of Gold, and you really go deep into the emotional effects of life as an Olympian. The public may watch this film and not understand how somebody who has achieved so much can feel such profound unhappiness, because our society loves to equate success with happiness.

Allison Kugel: Can you tell me what the lowest moment of your life was, where you knew you were in trouble?

Michael Phelps: The hardest thing for me is when friends of mine say something like that to me. My response is I am a human being. I have these feelings just like other people do. People seem surprised when I say that. Speaking for myself, for most of my life I felt like I was not a human being, so until I was able to look at myself in the mirror and see that I was a person and not just a swimmer, that’s when I starting realizing what I was going through, emotionally, and what I was living with and struggling with.

Michael Phelps: Just the feeling of letting so many people down. Leading up to that point I was trying to call out for help, and I did not really know how to call out for help at that time. That was the bottom of my bottom. I was just basically on an elevator headed straight down.

Allison Kugel: Is it safe to say that when you devote your entire life entirely to a single pursuit, you don’t get to know yourself or have the chance to develop that emotional intelligence needed to cope with disappointments or problems as they come up? Michael Phelps: It’s difficult to start a journey at such a young age when you miss so much of your developmental stages. I was 15 and thrown into competing a world where I was competing with 30-year-old men and expected not to be a 15-year-old kid, but a grownup. At some point I just got numb by it all. You train yourself to not pay attention to how you feel, and before too long you are blindsided by

Michael Phelps: In 2014, getting a second DUI, and not wanting to be alive. Allison Kugel: Not wanting to be alive, why?

Allison Kugel: Who rallied around you at your lowest moment? Michael Phelps: Leading up to that rock bottom moment I didn’t have a single person, because I was pushing everybody away and at that point it was the people who cared about me the most that I was pushing away. That would be a handful of friends and family. Allison Kugel: I remember reading about the drugs and the DUIs in the news and I think as the reading or viewing public, we are all, myself included, guilty of forgetting we are consuming news about a human being. You read about someone who has it all and does something stupid and it makes no sense. The reason it makes no sense is because you don’t really know that person or what their day to day life is about. It is proba-


bly isolating for you, being that person, in the public eye that people see as infallible. Is that why you ended up self-medicating, do you think? Michael Phelps: It is probably part of the reason I did that. I was trying to escape and numb myself, and I was trying to get away from everybody. I think some of the things I did were really my cries for help, and they were looked past. But again, I really didn’t know how to ask for help, and I didn’t want to be rejected if somebody couldn’t or wouldn’t help me. After discovering that a lot of my struggles were based in my childhood and based in my parents splitting when I was very young not really growing up with my dad, I was able to try to tackle that part things. I still speak with [my dad] from time to time, but that was a non-existent relationship for so long. We do speak now, but it’s on my terms. Once I dealt with all of that and I got through that, it just kind of got easier. Allison Kugel: Do you think the media understands the gravity of their responsibility when they are covering people in the public eye, and how it could potentially impact their mental health? Michael Phelps: I think, like you said, that’s a difficult thing for everybody to see, right? Because we never really understand what people are personally going through. So, I would say it’s a general statement that could be applied across the board and just with journalists. Allison Kugel: How have your wife and children contributed to your healing process? Michael Phelps: My wife has been the biggest and most influential person. She has been there for me through some of my struggles. Being together during this quarantine, with so many unknowns for everybody, it’s been some more difficult times, and my wife and I have probably pressed each other’s buttons, but not on purpose (laughs). But we have been fortunate enough to grow and learn together, and that is something I am forever grateful for. I was actually afraid as hell of going through this quarantine process and some of our conversations that have come up, and of becoming vulnerable, but that’s part of growing up and learning. Overall, I think the journey with her is something I can look back on and be proud of how I’ve enjoyed this experience with her. Allison Kugel: What is your relationship with fame today, as opposed to a decade ago? Michael Phelps: I don’t know that I have a relationship with fame. For the majority of my career I would say I didn’t really think about it because I was just focused on swimming. Everything else just came along with it. At this

point, my wife and I live our lives how we want and don’t really let anything affect that. We are laid back, relaxed people. We don’t go out a lot. We are homebodies, in general, so the quarantine has almost helped us in that respect (laugh). In some odd way, our relationship has benefited even more from it. Allison Kugel: It’s an introvert’s paradise, right? Michael Phelps: Yes (laugh)! Allison Kugel: How do you quell stress and anxiety? Michael Phelps: I don’t even know how to put it into words. My scariest days are dark. My scary moments, in general, feel like I can’t do anything right. It feels like the whole world is out to get me. On those days it’s almost better for me to fall asleep and wake up tomorrow. That’s how I feel when I have days like that. I know I need to get into the swimming pool. I know I need to get into the gym even more, just because that’s my calming place. Swimming is therapeutic for me and working out is something I do every day because it’s all I know and it’s the only thing I’ve done consistently for 20 years (laugh). Being regimented helps me be my best; that and taking quiet time for myself. That’s one thing my wife and I are both good at. If we aren’t taking time for ourselves, the other one is very pushy



you feel over“ When whelming emotions you just have to take a second to realize what they are. [Without alcohol,] I have had to process those emotions that have come up from my childhood.

“


about making sure we each take that time. If our glasses aren’t full, we can’t help our three kids. Allison Kugel: Because of all the Olympic gold medals you have won, people would define you as “great.” How do you define and identify greatness? I ask, because while watching The Weight of Gold, you and other Olympians talk about the price of achieving Olympic greatness, and the toll it takes… Michael Phelps: Would I change anything? Probably not, to be honest. It is all allowed me to be who I am today. If it had to take me going through some of the scariest moments to look at myself and love who I see today, then it is all okay. I think greatness is a bunch of small things done well. That is really all it is. If you look at any of the greats in history, in sports or whatever, we basically all do it the same way. There is no real rocket science behind it. It is hard work, dedication, not giving up and pushing through. I do think there are healthier ways and smarter ways to do it, and people who see this film or people who are going through these things now, hopefully they can see that there is a healthier way to do it than what we’ve done in the past. Allison Kugel: When I interviewed Mike Tyson, he told me that you can’t be happy and be great. He felt that at the height of his boxing career he had to sacrifice happiness for greatness. Do you think that is true? Michael Phelps: I think what he is referring to is that, as an athlete, you are just trying to chase something. That is the biggest thing for a lot of people. I can say for myself, when I retired in 2012, the feeling was, “I need a break. Leave me alone. Stop!” I knew deep down inside I still wanted to come back because I was frustrated with how I finished, and I wanted to finish on my terms. That’s why I came back. When I was swimming or when I retired in 2016, I felt I did everything that I could, and I did what I was meant to do in this sport. For the longest time I saw myself as strictly a swimmer, and just this kid who went up and down staring at a black line [in a swimming pool] and not a human being. That’s that feeling of trading happiness for greatness you are referring to. I didn’t like who I saw in the mirror when I was like that. Allison Kugel: Do you think you ever bought into the notion that you were superhuman or a superhero, at all? Michael Phelps: No because I just wanted it that bad. It was always more of a wanting and a striving. Going into 2008, that was just… me. When I become super focused on one thing, it’s that and only that. I’m a competitor, and I’m the biggest competitor you will ever see. It’s that blood in the water mentality. At that point in my life, when I wanted something bad enough, I was going to outwork

every single human being, no matter what it took. Allison Kugel: How would you say your mental health is today? Michael Phelps: Today, meaning over the last couple of months (laughs)? Allison Kugel: Well, all of us are having some issues these last couple of months (laugh). Michael Phelps: I will say this, I did a piece with ESPN three months ago and it was a disaster. Yes, I have ridden a roller coaster of emotions over the last six months, as I’m sure we all have. But all in all, honestly today I don’t think I could be in a happier place. I probably have one or two bad days a month that are a 6 or 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, whereas before, it would be 10 bad days a month that were at a 9. Quarantine has also forced me to learn and to grow. I almost feel like that is what this is all about. Whether it’s the work that my wife and I have done, or work on myself, I’ve broken through some barriers. It’s almost been good for me to have this time, not to, like, sit in my own shit (laugh), but to deal with myself. I feel like everything in life happens for a reason. Allison Kugel: I understand what you mean. It is scary but necessary to be still, and we’ve all had to be still in recent months. Michael Phelps: It’s been fun though. It was scary in the beginning, but if we can all take a step back and look at the beginning of the quarantine process, I bet we can all see how much we’ve learned and grown through the process without even realizing it. It’s kind of crazy that I have worked within hundredths of a second as a competitive swimmer my entire life, and now I’m trying to slow life down. Allison Kugel: That’s interesting. You’re really not used to that. Michael Phelps: No, not at all (laugh). Allison Kugel: Are you completely sober today? Have you sworn off alcohol? Michael Phelps: We don’t drink in our household at all. There are some bad childhood memories of my father [drinking] or seeing other things like that. I’m somebody who is very conscious of not having my boys go through some of the same things that I lived through and had to see. It’s hard to still live with some of those feelings, even 20 years down the road. When I was a kid my dad didn’t know how to handle certain situations. I feel like at times


I get very irritable in certain situations because of it, and I’ll go back to my childhood self and realize, “Oh, this is probably why I’m feeling this way right now. It’s because of something that scared me from my childhood and this situation is kind of poking at something.” I have to take a deep breath and be still with it. That is what I teach my sons. When you feel overwhelming emotions you just have to take a second to realize what they are. [Without alcohol,] I have had to process those emotions that have come up from my childhood. Allison Kugel: In this documentary film, The Weight of Gold, we you appear in, narrate, and you also executive produced, you show a darker side of the Olympics and Olympians? Are you at all nervous about how the International Olympic Committee will react to the film? Michael Phelps: This is a project that I was super pumped and excited about it. Honestly, after coming off of the 16 Olympic games, being able to see that there are so many other athletes that are going through something just like what I went through, I feel strongly that something has to be done about it. Athletes along with myself want to help make a change and I was very fortunate to have 20 athletes jump on board this film. Since then, we have had even more athletes open up about their experiences. The film is very real and raw. We are going to have to change this dynamic if we want to see everything continue to grow in Olympic sports. Allison Kugel: What change do you hope to see because of people watching this documentary? Michael Phelps: I hope people take our mental health just as seriously as our physical health and athletic ability. If [the powers that be] care so much about our physical well-being, then our mental well-being should be a part of that equation. If our mental well-being isn’t there, then our physical well-being won’t be anywhere close to our potential. They both go hand-in-hand. Right now, the mental health resources and support is not there, and it has never been there. I guess if we were not performing, then we don’t get the help we need. Allison Kugel: And you start to feel like a prize racehorse. Michael Phelps: Like a product. You see in this film there are thousands of kids that are waiting to take our shoes, and as soon as we are done the door slams on us and we are forgotten about. Personally, I have been extremely fortunate. Yes, I struggle mentally but my performances have allowed me to continue to do things where other people are still potentially not getting a job because they’ve forgone college, they’ve forgone their whole life to put into

this. Allison Kugel: Would you let your kids be professional athletes or take on the kind of the kind of journey that you took on? Michael Phelps: I don’t think it’s fair for them to have to follow in my footsteps. If they are going to be 100 times better than me, than hell yes! I would love to see it. I would love to be there and be a part of it if they love it. but I don’t want to force them into something they don’t want. I found swimming as a kid and loved it. I did have some rocky points, but I absolutely enjoyed every moment. I want them to follow their passion and love what they do. Allison Kugel: What do you think you came into this life as Michael Phelps to learn, and what did you come here to teach? Michael Phelps: I think I have partially found some of it, but I don’t think I’ve figured out all of it. I do think this next chapter of my life is going to be way bigger than what I have ever done before. I think bringing awareness to the mental health side of things could potentially be bigger than my swimming ever was. I don’t think that is the whole picture, and I don’t know what the rest of the picture looks like yet. Isn’t life’s purpose to continually be finding out what it is, but we are never supposed to really find out what it is while we are living it? Allison Kugel: I like that. Michael Phelps: If you obsess over your purpose too much then it almost becomes irrelevant and obsolete. It should naturally just occur over time. I don’t know exactly what my life’s purpose is because I feel like I am still trying to find it. I might not fully know, but I feel like it’s not something I can go out and search for. It will be presented to me whenever it is ready to be presented. Allison Kugel: I get that. Michael Phelps: I am still trying to process what happened over the last 16 years. The one thing for me throughout my career was that I was always visualizing my next goal, and that is important. I was always prepared for what was going to happen, but I was never future tripping. I try to live in the moment as much as possible. And now, that is something I am trying to do outside of the water. I feel like I have probably taken more strokes in the water than I have taken steps on land.



Having his Way in Hollywood Geovanni Gopradi Written by Matthew Molina Interview by Rashod Davenport

F

rom a fear of public speaking to a star, Geovanni Gopradi has made his mark in the entertainment industry. The Cuban American actor has had roles in multiple movies and shows such as Paul Blart Mall Cop 2, Tyler Perry’s Haves & Have Nots, True Blood, and more. Geovanni started his career acting in Florida after he enrolled in acting classes. He then went from New York to Los Angeles, this is his story. SUAVV: After interviewing a few actors from Tyler Perry projects, I understand that he likes to film very fast with very little prep time. How did you adjust to that type of filming schedule? Oh yeah, he’s known for doing features in a week and I think that is just his style of shooting. He shoots with three cameras and has a very solid crew around him. They all know what they’re doing and they crank out scenes really fast and in a way, from an actors perspective you don’t really get a chance to think about it he just throws you in and as long as you do the prior work your instincts just kick in. In a way it helps you be in the moment because you don’t have the chance to overthink things you just go for it. And Tyler will direct you off camera and throw in different lines or tell you to do certain things sometimes, but for the most part he lets the actor develop and create the character in the moment.

does because it’s the only way that you as an actor can connect with it and find a reason for it to make it feel authentic and real. Tyler directs and writes six shows on air right now so he has a lot of characters flowing in his head, so he really depends on the actors to create. SUAVV: That’s what shows talent and skill. When you went into the show did you expect to be a reoccurring character? Oh no. I was given seven episodes at first but it kept getting extended. It started at seven, then I was given 10 more, and now we’re at 29 episodes. And he does that on purpose. He puts you in with the wolves and if you can run with the pack he’ll keep writing for you and directing, but if you can’t keep up you start getting written off. He definitely always has the last say.. SUAVV: I saw you got into acting because you had a fear of public speaking and you felt this was a way to overcome that? That’s correct. Public speaking or just talking to groups of people in general. I thought public speaking classes would help but it didn’t. Therapy didn’t help me either and it was just one of those things where I had to put myself in a situation over and over again until I got better and for me that was acting.

SUAVV: Were you able to gain an overall understanding of the character that way? Do you know what direction to take it?

SUAVV: That’s pretty amazing. At what point did you feel you wanted to turn it into a career? I know you say acting wasn’t really a dream for you and that you just kinda stumbled into it.

He allows you to go ahead and create the understanding and direction from the writing. So a part of my job is to justify what my character is now saying or doing in comparison to what he said or did. So you have to navigate that by continuously justifying everything that he says and

I did stumble into it. When I was younger I loved watching Bruce Lee films and other action films. I ended up getting really into martial arts and stuff but I never thought of being the person on the screen. It wasn’t until I finished


of money. My first four years I basically worked for free. I did two years in Florida where I did about 30 films, then I went to New York and did about 10 plays. I ended up moving to LA and I was a part of AFTRA at the time but became SAG when the unions emerged. SUAVV: Was it all an intimidating process for you? It was because whenever you move to a new city, like when I moved to New York I had to start from scratch because nothing I did in Florida was considered in New York and nothing I did in New York was considered in LA. The only value was gaining credits in LA. My first opportunity in LA was when I came in as a featured background on “True

Blood”. I was so involved as a background extra that the director brought me up as a co star. They wanted to make me a reoccurring co-star but it didn’t really end up working out that way. I still got that co-star feature though and it brought up more opportunities for me like under fives (under 5 lines). I got a few under fives on shows like “The Bold & Beautiful”, and others. I ended up getting considered for co-stars and featured guest spots. Even when I had no lines I made my presence known. SUAVV: That’s really inspiring. At what point did you go for the Tyler Perry role?


the Conservatory program at my acting school where I said to myself I should see if I can make a career out of this. I started doing student films and got an agent. I then began doing independent films and made a little bit Kim Coleman is the one who casted me. She had previously casted me on a pilot so she knew who I was and had good feedback from the pilot for me. So I went in to read for the “Haves & Have Nots” and the producers liked what I did and what I brought to the character. They ended up calling me in and I started filming right away. My first scene happened so fast and I felt like I blanked because I didn’t even remember if I did the scene correctly because I was so nervous. I went up to Tyler after and apologized because I didn’t really know what happened. He was really cool and said ‘no no you’re fine, you did great’. SUAVV: (both laughing), well you’re 20 plus episodes in now so you seem to be doing just fine. You’ve progressed your career behind the camera now. How did you get into writing and producing? As a writer, I’m more of a story writer. I don’t do the script I just write the story and pass it to other writers who do script. I got into producing back in Florida with this film and I really just wanted to learn all the workings behind the scenes of how a movie gets made. I got into that movie from concept to distribution. I ended up realizing producing isn’t really my thing. I feel more comfortable with directing. I started directing friends, colleagues, and self tapes for friends. Those friends started getting callbacks and bookings out of the self tapes that I directed. I started getting credit and opportunities came. Now I just finished directing season two of “Full Disclosure”. SUAVV: How did it feel to direct six episodes of a series? It was absolutely exhilarating. It pointed out my strengths and weaknesses and just how passionate I am about directing and seeing the bigger view helping the actors. As an actor who has taken many classes and has experience I am able to communicate factors of what I need them to do and where I need them to be emotionally. I guess in a way I’m what people call an “Actors director”. I come from an actor’s perspective because I’m also an actor. I rely on my crew to do the technical aspects, I just tell them where to point the camera and work with the actors more. SUAVV: And that’s one of the best atmospheres. Having a coach that played. So you said you worked four years for free. Would you advise other actors to do the same thing or would you advise them to go a different route? This career is like a maze and everyone walks with their own life. It took me four years but it might take another

person one year depending on their skill or people they know. Nothing is set in stone in this industry. Some people have taken 10 years or more to get their breakout role. All I can really do is give people my blueprint of how I made it which was working non union in Florida and working up through every level. I can definitely help people cut corners after everything I went through to get here. I believe not cutting corners is what gives you the experience and what develops the character. It gives you the tough skin to be able to survive in this industry. I always repeat what Dwayne Johnson says which is ‘There is no substitute for hard work’. I used to crash castings for student films and just anyway to get an opportunity. I know this industry is tough to get into, but if it’s something you want to do you just have to put in the time. SUAVV: That’s the damn truth.The fastest way to be mediocre is taking the short cuts. What else are you involved with these days? What are you working on? Yeah I have actually been very involved with the Special Olympics and I just want to encourage anyone to stop on over and check out what the Special Olympics and Best Buddies are all about and what they’re doing. I am officially a best buddy ambassador and my first best buddy’s name is Chris. I started posting pictures and videos on my social media to show what it’s all about. So I just encourage everyone to stop by and show some love. Geovanni is currently on “Haves and Have Nots” playing as Broderick. He is someone you will most likely continue to see in the future either as an actor or director. His inspiring story shows hard work does pay off and that you can get to what you want if you just put in the time.



Climbing to the Top Mychel “Snoop” Dillard By Ebony Davis

“I just have an A-type personality. I’m just not willing to deal with bullshit. Anybody that meets me, it is pretty obvious that it’s kind of hard to get one over on me.” Kind words from a serial entrepreneur, right? It is no wonder Mychel Dillard, also known as Snoop, has led a fruitful career as an entrepreneur and restauranteur. With her no-nonsense attitude, bullshit detector, and aptitude for scouting out new business prospects; she’s cultivated an undeniable recipe for success. Most notably Snoop has partnered with 2 Chainz in the opening of Escobar Restau-

rant and Tapas Lounge. The Detroit native, now residing in Atlanta, recently sat down with us at Suavv Magazine to discuss her success and give insight to those looking to follow in her footsteps. Snoop’s journey began not long after graduating from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. After her time there, she went on to become a financial advisor even diversifying into real estate. Sometime later Snoop made a jump into entertainment. Snoop began creating a calendar cleverly titled “Lose the Leather.” Snoop enlisted the help of her then-girlfriend and model in sourcing talent for the calendar. With her help, Snoop was able to feature 11 additional models for “Lose the Leather. The venture taught Snoop a


new skill, in the way of promoting. “I’ve always just kind of been about, you know, climbing my way to the top...I‘m always about business, always. I’m always just so motivated and kind of willing to overcome adversity and obstacles,” said Snoop. Having many skills proved advantageous for Snoop but it did not prevent her from learning some important lessons in business. What were some of the obstacles you dealt with at the beginning of your entrepreneurial career? Snoop: Some of the obstacles of course was just finances, learning how to trust people. My credit was not always the best. I started investing in a lot of houses when I first was doing real estate and financial advising and definitely took a hit with the stock market in 2008, 2009. I had a lot of adversity when it comes to rebuilding my credit back up. And of course, if you don’t look good on paper then people don’t really trust you, they’re not as willing to work for you. So that was probably the biggest of it. Learning who to work with, who not to work with having various business partners, and different things of that nature. What was the most sporadic kind of business that you got into? Snoop: The most sporadic, well, I opened up a lounge. Most people don’t know this, but I opened up a lounge in Macon, Georgia with a couple of people that I barely knew. That was a huge mistake. I ended up losing a lot of money. I was just very overzealous too. I had already had the Hookah Hideaway and it was very successful. I was just very anxious to do another one and just really didn’t do my research and didn’t do the things that I needed to do to make sure that it was a good investment. I was working with people that I barely knew who were not experienced like I was. We didn’t sit down and talk about what we wanted for the business, and what that looked like a year from now two years from now, etc. So that was definitely one I kind of just jumped off the porch into, and I definitely paid the price for doing so. The business didn’t last for more than probably three months. Since having these life lessons, Snoop has come to a point where she is found her groove. She believes it is important to create a system that you can reproduce to maximize your success long term. One of the first steps Snoop’s recommends fellow entrepreneurs take is having good people in place that are hardworking, trustworthy, and likeminded. Keeping those things in mind herself Snoop was able to replicate this system of reproduction into other businesses such as Crave, Escobar Restaurant and Tapas Lounge, The Hookah Hideaway, Members Only Restaurant & Lounge, Remedy Spa & Salon Suites, and Girl Talk.

The self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur does not just want to stop there. Snoop spoke about another new venture. Referred to as N.E.M.T, non-emergency transportation, inspired by recent events surrounding Covid-19. The current pandemic has also inspired Snoop and 2 Chainz to give back. The entrepreneur is giving free meals from their Atlanta based Escobar Restaurants to hospital staff, other essential workers, and the homeless amidst the ongoing pandemic. In addition, a short while ago Snoop and 2 Chainz both took to Instagram to share their excitement about opening a third Escobar known as Esco Seafood. The pair plan to open doors to the public beginning in October 2020. As for how to gain the same level of expertise as Snoop, she recommends stopping by her website, www. whoissnoop.com. She insists on checking out the courses page where individuals can find paid and free courses focusing on business. “I also have a YouTube; they can subscribe to called “who is Snoop.” I have a lot of videos about, how I met 2 Chainz, how I came up with the different concepts for all of my restaurants, businesses, and a lot of the things that I’ve had to overcome to get to where I am, said Snoop.




Bret Michaels

The Resilient Rocker

By Allison Kugel


T

he current state of our world has opened our eyes, shifted priorities, compelled us to action and leveled society’s playing field. Recent events call upon all of us to, both, embrace and acknowledge our vulnerabilities and muster our collective strength. Regardless of what race, religion, ethnicity, or socio-economic circumstances we hold, we are forever bound together by these extraordinary times we live in. While our essential workers on the front lines keeping the nuts and bolts of society running and keeping us informed; elements like nature, family, friends, and the arts lift our spirits. Music has the power to inspire, heal, help us process our anger or heartbreak, prompt reflection, or make us grow nostalgic. Therefore, it should continue to be celebrated, even in the tensest of times. Some of my favorite interview subjects have been musicians, because of the philosophical and poetic nature many of them share. Legendary Poison frontman, Bret Michaels, is one of those people for me. We first met in 2007 when I interviewed him about his then VH1 reality show, Rock of Love. I enjoyed Michael’s company then, and thirteen years later I still do. We resumed our conversation as it pertains to his now four-decade multi-platinum-selling music career, how some much-publicized health challenges have strengthened his spirit and resolve, his love of touring and his inexhaustible energy for new projects. On Monday, June 1st, Bret Michael’s band Poison, in a joint statement with Motley Crue, Def Leppard and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, announced that their much anticipated 2020 tour would be postponed until 2021. In light of the challenges our nation is facing on several fronts, their official statement reads: “We wanted to continue to communicate with our fans and update you with valid information as it becomes available. The official decision has been made to move all 2020 North American Stadium Tour dates into the summer of 2021,” and concludes with, “Stay tuned, be safe and we will see you next year.” In the interim, Michaels is excited to discuss the recent release of his personal scrapbook memoir, titled, Auto-Scrap-Ography. The book is an amalgamation of Michael’s timestamped photographs, inspirational musings, landmark memories, and deep thoughts, penned by the singer, himself. *Editor’s Note: This interview was completed prior to the tragic death of George Floyd.

Allison Kugel: This is the first interview I am releasing since the start of this pandemic. I have been reticent about putting anything entertainment-related out there. But if I am getting back into it, you are a good person to start back up with. Bret Michaels: We use the words “tough times,” but these are also confusing times. Some people are saying “Don’t worry about it,” while others like me and you are saying, “Are you and your family safe?” I’m in the highest risk category for COVID-19, being a Type 1 Diabetic since the age of six. So, my whole family have been really good about wearing masks and gloves and being safe until we get closer to the shore, if you know what I mean. I’ve also been trying to inject as much positivity into everything as I can without it sounding phony. I call myself a drealist. I dream and I dream big, but I’m also a realist. Allison Kugel: I agree with you about injecting positivity into challenging situations. My son has been complaining that he hasn’t seen his friends, and he jokes that our lives have become like the movie Groundhog Day. He’ll say, “We take the same walk everyday mom!” I say to him, “Look how blue the sky is. Look at that beautiful tree. Try and find the simple things that you may have overlooked under more normal circumstances.” Bret Michaels: One thousand percent! I went out and took pictures with my kids. And recently I got a bucket of paint out because our sports court has needed painting for ten years, and I’d been avoiding it. I’ve put myself into every project I could find. It keeps you positive and it keeps your hands busy. If you are taking a walk and looking at a tree, it keeps your mind on positive stuff. It works. Allison Kugel: Would you say that some of the things you previously took for granted or overlooked, you are now noticing or rediscovering? Bret Michaels: Completely. I have a ranch in Arizona, and I went through everything that I have hoarded. I de-hoarded it (laugh). Then I went and started painting stuff. I’m a motor sports, outdoor kind of guy, so I ripped apart engines, like Go Kart engines. I also began noticing some furniture in need of a little love and TLC. I watch all these shows where they do it, and I finally decided to jump in and start restoring some furniture. And music, of course. I love listening to Bob Marley through these times. I listen to Three Little Birds and it just puts me right. Allison Kugel: I can’t speak for other journalists, but for me this work has been a giant case study in the human experience. I’ve learned that everybody’s life has a master theme. Your Type 1 Diabetes has been well documented, as was your brain hemorrhage some years back. You also had



some big accidents that required rehabilitation. I feel that your master theme in this life is overcoming limitations of the physical body. Bret Michaels: That makes sense. When people ask me, “How do you overcome?” I say this is the card I was dealt and rather then become a victim to it and have self-pity, I chose to take the path of being spiritually and mentally positive. I want to go on record and thank my parents for that. My dad was active and a have fun, get it done kind of guy. My mom is the same. She opened the first youth diabetic camp in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania because I was the only kid in my entire class growing up who had diabetes. I send so many kids to diabetic camp so they can see what I experienced. It literally saved and changed my life. I saw other kids with diabetes, and we all learned together, brick by brick, how to find a way to enjoy sports and make it all work. That experience has been used in every application of my life, and in some ways prepared me for the entertainment business. Allison Kugel: And that is the power of a mom’s love. Your mom said, “I’m going to create a camp for my kid so he can have this positive experience.” I always say that where other people see problems, I see opportunities. It sounds like your mom is the same way. Bret Michaels: One million percent, and I hear that in your voice. In our case, diabetes was a part of our lives. My sisters also had it. And even when it comes to work and being on the road, I always say, “Ok, we’ve established the problem. The guitars didn’t show up for our show in Lima, Peru (laugh). We can stand here and keep discussing it and yelling about it, but we have a stadium show in three hours. Let’s focus on what we are going to do to solve this.” I think you and me together can solve a lot of problems. Allison Kugel: The right perspective makes all the difference in your life. Bret Michaels: All the difference! With coronavirus, we don’t know the exact date it was created or where it came from, so rather than focus on that, why don’t we start focusing on the cities that are doing better, and what places like New York are doing to make it better. We have already established that it’s a horrific virus. Now, what do we do to help each other get through it? And the amount of anxiety and depression this has caused, and economic turmoil; we are going to have to keep an eye on each other. We have to have each other’s backs. Allison Kugel: Let’s talk about your new book, Auto-Scrap-Ography. You are a ball of kinetic energy. How did you manage to sit down and write this book?

Bret Michaels: Writing a book is one of the toughest things I’ve ever done, and it’s one of the most fulfilling. I wanted to do something unique. I grabbed some timestamped photos. I took blank pieces of paper and I would scotch tape an image to a piece of paper and start writing the story surrounding that image, kind of like a Chicken Soup for the Soul vibe. The reason I didn’t write a normal biography, and I love to read those, by the way, is because I could take a picture and write stream of consciousness about what my thoughts were in that moment, what I was going through and what happened. Every picture has a story and every story has multiple tentacles. This book is Volume 1. Over the next volumes I’m going to give you different tentacles of each story and really deep dive into it, so you are living the experience with me. Allison Kugel: That’s an interesting approach. When I wrote my book, I took a different approach. I streamlined passages to focus on one main aspect of a story for the sake of continuity. I’m curious to read your volumes to see how you went about this. Bret Michaels: It’s why yours is unique to you and mine is unique to me. If I tried to write it that way, I would have lost focus. That’s why mine is written as a scrapbook. It’s an autobiographical scrapbook diary. Some of it are pages of inspirational stuff; some are intense and impactful moments from my life. For example, there are five pages talking about me almost drowning in Caracas, Venezuela. I share with people what was going through my mind when I knew I was in a rip current. I had that fight or flight that happens. I thought that was it. Everyone on the beach thought I was kidding around, because I wasn’t that far off the shore. I’m waving frantically and everyone on the beach is partying with their band and crew and they’re just waving back at me, and I’m drowning out there. Allison Kugel: Your life experiences are such double-edged swords. Everything is the good and the bad, or the fun and the scary at the same time. Bret Michaels: Yes, my life, ironically, has been roses and thorns (a reference to Poison’s number one hit ballad, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”). A rose is this beautiful thing that looks amazing, it brings people life and it means love. And if you grab it the wrong way, or slide your hand down it, you have a painful thorn in your hand. My life has been a perfect balance beam in that way. I remember playing Texas Stadium in front of 83,000 people. It was completely sold out and we shot the I Won’t Forget You video with Paul Stanley on stage, and Steven Tyler watching from the side. It was one of those, “This is the greatest!” moments. Life felt like a surreal dream. Two hours later we went from mega Texas Stadium rock star status to playing a small town in either in Texas or New Mexico where there weren’t


four people in the whole place who knew or cared who or what we were. At the time, it was exactly what I needed to happen to realize this will keep me as grounded as the person that I am today. Allison Kugel: I so get that. I’m not a public person, but I had gotten into this amazing groove where I was doing dream interview after dream interview, and I had just interviewed Gwen Stefani and was feeling pretty high about everything. Well, shortly thereafter, something happened, nothing terrible, but I got myself arrested and was thrown into a lockup. It was a traumatic experience. I remember being hysterical and I asked the woman if I could use the phone. I was freaking out and I started crying, and she goes, “Can you go cry over there, you’re getting on my nerves (laughs). Bret Michaels: Oh, my goodness (laughs). Allison Kugel: Yup! I was like, “No, you don’t understand I don’t belong here. You don’t know what I do and who I am.” Well, that just made it one hundred times worse! Bret Michaels: I’m so sorry that happened to you, but truth is stranger than fiction. As I say in my book, I did not need to make stories up for shock value. Some stories I needed to pare down because you would think I’m making it up. I was arrested and went to Walton County Prison (Walton Correctional Institution in Walton County, Florida), with the real inmates. It wasn’t the nice holding cell. Allison Kugel: (Laughs) Bret Michaels: I had just got done playing what at the time was called Omni Basketball Arena. A guy claimed I ruined his car, that I jumped on his car and smashed his windows. All of it was false. But they didn’t ask questions. They just took me in. I had just come off stage and was in a state of shock. I spent two days in there and finally it came out that the guy made the story up. For two days I sat in the corner of that jail cell with about twenty other inmates all packed into a place that only should have held about four people. I sat in a corner with my head down and I didn’t say a word. Some people said, “Hey, are you who I think you are?” I was like, “Yeah, no big thing, man, thanks.” Allison Kugel: A humbling experience… Bret Michaels: A lot of the stories in Auto-Scrap-Ography are stories of how I overcame challenges, and true stories of inspiration. But a large part of my book is, of course, what I like to call a Rock ‘n’ Roll Thrill Ride. I’d like to think the overriding theme of the book is inspiration; it’s telling people that if I can do this you can do it, regardless of what your dream is.

Allison Kugel: Since touring is off the table right now, what other projects are you working on? Bret Michaels: I am going to be the face of college radio. Each year they pick someone to be the face of it and this year it’s me. I also got the Humanitarian of The Year Award last year at the 2019 Hollywood Christmas Parade (Michaels ongoing philanthropic efforts have included delivering needed supplies to the people of the Bahamas and Puerto Rico). Way back when, when no one would touch our records, college radio spun our album. I wanted to do something to show my appreciation. I’ve also contributed to a lot of school programs, donating to their music, art and athletic programs. Allison Kugel: One passage that really struck me in your book was when you wrote, “I went from barely being able to afford to feed myself and buy my insulin to touring stadiums.” What did you learn from poverty and what have you learned from wealth? Bret Michaels: From the beginning I was always a guy who thinks positive. I find a way to get it done. When I would run out of insulin and my parents would have to help, or they couldn’t send it out in time, I would literally go down to the clinics in Hollywood and they’d give me insulin. It all made me resilient and determined, and most importantly, grateful when the second half came along. Poison and I, we are one of the few bands who were an independent band. My big signing day and signing party for Look What the Cat Dragged (Poison’s debut studio album, released August 2, 1986) was sitting on a floor in El Segundo, California shrink wrapping my own albums. You know those stories about private jets and limos? I’d love to tell you that happened, but none of that happened. Allison Kugel: I think people just assume that any band that goes multiplatinum was signed to a major label. The fact that Poison was independent makes it all the more impressive. Bret Michaels: I couldn’t have been prouder of what I was doing back then. And I didn’t know any better. I didn’t come from money. I was excited just shrink wrapping those albums I was grateful to have a record. The next thing was college radio played it. Nobody else wanted our music at the time. No one wanted Every Rose Has Its Thorn. No one was fighting to get Talk Dirty to Me or Something to Believe In; songs that eventually became number one songs. No one originally wanted our publishing at first, so we kept our own publishing with a ten percent administration deal with what’s now Universal Music Group. It ended up being a humungous blessing.


“I’m going to say something very bold here. I came here to learn as much as I can about everything. One of the things I teach my kids is, “Take it all in, and learn from everybody.”



you think you came here to teach? Allison Kugel: Why do you think you survived your 2010 brain hemorrhage and stroke? I’m sure you’ve thought about this a lot. Bret Michaels: First of all, I’m grateful that I lived. Second, I say praise God! It wasn’t my time yet. I have more to do and this is where being a diabetic and my fighting spirit came in. Dr. Joseph Zabramski, one of my doctors, said, “I’ve never seen anybody work as hard in physical therapy to get better.” I hope the reason I survived is so I could show people what it means to fight and not give up. I’ve always been a grateful guy but that took my gratitude to an unbelievable level, and it also really upped my philanthropic work with my Life Rocks Foundation. Allison Kugel: You also say in your book that you do have a few regrets. How do you determine a regret versus a lesson, versus something you’re proud of, in retrospect? Bret Michaels: One regret is that I couldn’t be there for some of the events my children had at school. I’ve been to everything I could physically get to, but if it’s when you have to play a show and it’s also the night my kids are doing a recital, those are the things that I regret. I’ve never missed a birthday or a Christmas, but some of the other things you do miss. Another regret is a huge fist fight I had with C.C. [DeVille], my guitar player, and he’s one of my best friends. It was a lot of time on the road, a lot of heated discussions about what songs we wanted in the set, and little things that fester and turned into a knockdown, drag out, nose breaking, teeth missing fist fight. We are like brothers, and I regret the physical end of it. It didn’t need to go there, and it’s one of my biggest regrets, especially because it happened twice in the same week, once in New Orleans and once backstage at the MTV Awards. Allison Kugel: You have an ageless look about you. How do you feel about aging? Are you okay with the aging process? Bret Michaels: I’m either an aging rocker or a dead rocker (laugh). We are aging from the moment we’re born. Aging gracefully, I’ll take that any day of the week because it’s better than the alternative. I’ve been aging since we put out Look What the Cat Dragged In. By the time we did Open Up and Say… Ahh! I’d already aged from the first record. As you go along things happen to you, medically. You will not find me being one of those guys saying, “This sucks.” I’m just glad I got the chance to age, because a lot of my buddies didn’t. Allison Kugel: Here are the questions I ask everyone and my favorite part of the interview. What do you think you came into this life as Bret Michaels to learn? And what do

Bret Michaels: To learn, I’m going to say something very bold here. I came here to learn as much as I can about everything. One of the things I teach my kids is, “Take it all in, and learn from everybody.” I’ve done that. I go out on my mountain bike and drive around while the road crew is setting stuff up, and I talk to them and find out what they are doing and learn from that. Whether or not I can apply that knowledge right then and there is one thing, but I learn a lot and I enjoy people. As far as teaching, I think if I was to have one other career, and I hope I can segue from what I’m doing now into this, I do these inspirational seminars where I talk about everything under the sun. I talk about what I’ve gone through and what I go through. With everything I have been through, that is the one thing I can give back and what I want to be able to do. It’s what I would have done had this music thing not worked out the way it has. If my life had gone another way and I was just playing music on the weekends, I would have been a teacher of some kind… or a truck driver. I know that sounds crazy, but I love the open road. Allison Kugel: What do you think your spiritual mission is in this lifetime? Bret Michaels: I think it’s to bring to people as much realistic positivity to people as possible. If you came to a party I’m hosting, as you have been, when you come to my house to a party, I don’t want to be the life of the party. I want you to have the time of your life at my party. I think one of the reasons I’m a singer or frontman of a band is I’m a good host to people. I like when people feel good. It makes me feel good. Photos courtesy of Michaels Entertainment Group Bret Michael’s memoir, Bret Michaels: Auto-Scrap-Ography, is out now and available exclusively at ShopBretMichaels.com. Follow on Instagram @bretmichaelsofficial. Information on Poison’s postponed tour dates.



Transparent and Vulnerable Sammie

Words by Rashod Davenport

“Y

ou know, I’ve known what it’s like to be Sammie, the singer, songwriter, and performer a lot longer than I do having a sense of normalcy,” Sammie explains as we laugh about life and how things fall apart and come together. Sammie Leigh Bush, Jr. knew that he had a passion for singing as early as four years old. He was that high pitched kid singing in church that we typically say “awwww” to when they grab the microphone. Four years later, he knew that he wanted to pursue singing as a professional career and began doing talent shows around the city. After his big break on the Apollo stage, he was able to sign his first contract at 12 years old. This was the moment when we were all singing this catchy song called “I Like It”. For us, it was the introduction to someone we would grow into adulthood. Nonetheless, Sammie didn’t live the typical childhood that most “kid stars” have. “I’m here because of the gift of music,” Sammie says. “It was just refreshing to be so young and to see so much of the world and to have a positive impact on a lot of kids at that time, during that era, just through my music and gift of song. It was like living a dream every day. My mom and my father did an awesome job making sure that I have balance. I still remained in public school during the duration

of time of my child stardom.” Sammie would go to school Monday to Wednesday and then tour the world pretty much Thursday through Sunday. As you could imagine, it was challenging adjusting from being the child star to an everyday average student. His classmates couldn’t understand how they were able to hear him on the radio or see him on the television to then sitting right next to him in class during the week. However, he played little league football, played basketball, took four years of a hiatus after his first run to go to high school where he was crowned Homecoming King. He played high school basketball for two years, was in the choir, and the Renaissance program. Sammie was able to live the best of both worlds as best as possible. His parents made sure that he didn’t miss out on that time. “ A lot of my industry peers, that grew up with me, that came in the game young, they only know lights, camera, and action,” Sammie Explains. “And I think when the world changes or, you know, of course, music changes and they’re not as hot as they used to be. They kind of act out because they don’t understand what it’s like to just be normal. I found like significance of self during those four years of just being an everyday average, high school student, you know? I used to ask my mom for lunch money. I used to chill by the lockers with my homies. I really got to




just have a normal life. I don’t care how much money and how much fame you obtain, you will never get time back. You know, that’s one thing, that’s probably why I’m here. And I’m so grateful that I was able to have that time in my life.” Going into Adulthood, Sammie’s music started evolving a lot. In 2012, he took the direction to really pour out his life and his heart. He put out this mixed tape, entitled INSOMNIA because at that very time he was really suffering from it. He was depressed. He was taking ambient asleep. Nothing was right for his personal life or his career. All the while, he was fighting an ex-business partner and friend. So he created the mixtape project and put it out for free. If you’re a true Sammy fan, you may still believe it’s one of his greatest bodies of work. “That’s when I realized like, oh, if I really think about my

Sammie is a catalyst for not dying with any secrets. He’s had his mountain tops and valleys. He used his social media as more than a highlight reel, but a place of truth and transparency. (A conversation that we took off the record for a few moments.) Furthermore, his ambition and his drive became stronger and more focused. He cut back on the clubbing, women, and instant gratifications and dug into his soul to find his purpose. Like many successful men, Sammie isn’t satisfied when a goal is accomplished because there is another challenge in place. There’s always more to achieve and more to conquer. He doesn’t allow himself to feel fulfilled too long. That’s the gift and curse of a dreamer. What he does instead is fall in love with the process and less on the results. As he likes to describe it, he was in the ocean treading water for a long time. Though he never drowned, Sammie

“I just had to get really intact with my creator. So I started praying, man. I started meditating and then decided to get out of my own way.” life, and really dive in and be transparent and vulnerable and tell them what I’m going through, they get more attached to not just the music, but the man I’m becoming,” Sammie says passionately. “So I, I took heed to that. And then from that day forth, everything that I create, I just give them all of me, you know what I mean? Unfiltered. And they appreciate the rawness. I think there’s that organic factor that makes them really, really feel connected. And that’s what I did with the ‘Everlasting’ project. I was going through a breakup and to be honest, that was my way of healing. That was my therapy, you know, my music. I was a little nervous because I didn’t do that album with my fans in mind, per se. I just was hoping that they would fall in love with the story. And then I knew some of those same subject matters would relate and correlate to someone else’s lives. And it worked.” “I’ve fallen in love with showing people, my imperfections. I don’t want people to praise me for all the great things I’ve done. I think that’s awesome to be acknowledged by, but maybe you should know the backstory on how I became this way. You know, Why do, I love so much because I used to literally hate a person with all my, you know, with all my soul. Why do I, why am I so grateful? Because just four years ago, I didn’t have anything. Now I have a lot. So I want to share that part of myself and I don’t want to die again with secrets. So it’s no fear in my heart no more to, to let it all out. Because again, someone needs to hear that side of the story and not just the glitter and gold side, because that’s really smoke and mirrors.”

admits that he found himself going under a few times by way of a stint of depression and betrayal of a friend who took all of his money, forged signatures on contracts and deals, and ultimately messing up Sammie’s career. These are things that can put its death grip on any man. Instead of allowing circumstances to take his life over, Sammie turned to a familiar place, God. He realized that he couldn’t have anyone else pull him from the space he was in. He had to deal with the cards he was dealt and play his hand. “I had to weather that storm for those seven years of hardship,” Sammie reflects. “I just had to get really intact with my creator. So I started praying, man. I started meditating and then decided to get out of my own way. A lot of times when we go through things in life, we always want to point it at someone else. And oftentimes it starts with self and inner self. So once I looked at myself and started realizing like, just like you I’m in my twenties, man. So instead of praying, I was going to the clubs, I was messing around with girls and that was doing nothing, but, you know, making matters worse, to be honest with you. So once I got out of my own way and as cliche as it is, but let go and let God he started to shift it. And then I would say to anybody that has a grudge, disdain, or hatred towards somebody, forgiveness is everything.” With all that Sammie has gone through, genuine friendships and relationships are a cherished area of his life. While trusting others has been hard for him, there has


always been one female friend who has been his security net and “bodyguard” (as Sammie likes to describe her with a slight chuckle) for over 10 years. While friends and family think the two would make an amazing couple and even though they were for a period of time, they both pretty much agreed that crossing the line between friendship and a romantic relationship wouldn’t be the best move. Therefore, a serious boundary has been put in place and as a part of the transparency that Sammie has implemented in his music, he wrote a song describing the relationship entitled ‘Friend Zone” Which is the single off of his new album released June 5th. “To be honest, I never thought I was her type because she kind of likes the bad guys and I’m real laid back,” Sammie laughs. “You know, I’m an R&B guy, I’m very godly and spiritual, I’m the good, nice guy. She kind of likes the guys a little opposite of me. I will say this, I think we both knew there was an attraction there, you know? She’s beautiful and she thought highly of me from that point also. But, I just never thought I was her type. And then one day we had a conversation and our parents see it and our friends see it and everyone thought we had something going on, but just was kind of keeping it under wraps. We both fear that if we take it romantically, and God forbid it doesn’t work, we will never have this pure friendship and foundation that we developed over this past decade. So I let her hear the record. Of course, before it came out, when she gave me the blessing in green light to you know, release it to the world. So as long as she’s happy, I’m good. I call her priceless. I tell her that all the time. Like, remember your priceless, don’t let anybody just trample your heart. She’s always reminded me, remember, you’re a king, and I like that. No matter what, she’s always going to keep it 1000.” With all things COVID-19 related, he has truly had the time to do all of the things that he hasn’t had much time to dedicate previously. Sammie is a man wearing many hats. He has his candle line under PopAndPearlCandle. com which he launched in February with two Scents called Pure Love and Pure Honey. He started working on his sixth studio album with about seven songs in the arsenal and about 11 written on the project he will call ‘sunsets’. Lastly, completing a book entitled, “Good to Know” which he started about seven years ago. The book is inviting women into the insight of a man’s mind. A book that he feels will give that happy medium to, to learn, to understand just how different men and women are to, hopefully, mesh a little better in harmony and in peace. Recently, his best friend isn’t the only person Sammie has let into his creative flow. He has utilized his Instagram live sessions to allow his fans to act as A&R’s of a sort. “I sit at my desk and some tracks might take me 25, 30 minutes, but they just watch me in the process,” Sammie

explains. “I will say on one of the (Instagram) lives I so happen to look up at the comments and I forget what I wrote, but a girl changed this one word, but the word that she chose was much better than the word that I did. So I used it, I got her name, got her Instagram, and then I educated them. I was like, when this song comes out, if it makes the album, I’m going to give you a writer’s credit and give you some publishing and it’ll say written by Sammie and co-written by such and such. And I broke it down because you do get a little bit of the pot because I chose that word. And they thought that was so amazing and cool because they didn’t know. I could have just taken the word and kept it pushing, but I was like, nah. You know what I mean? Me and my manager, we believe in keeping our shirt clean. Good karma, good energy, good vibration. It doesn’t hurt to give this girl 2%-3% of publishing and she’ll forever, I think cherish that as a Sammy fan to actually have a writer’s credit, you know what I’m saying? And all she was doing innocently watching you on IG live. That’s something she’ll have forever.”




Fit For A King Brims Hats Founders Tajh Crutch and Archie Clay III By Noah Wade

W

hat do you do when the worlds of retail and information systems just aren’t cutting it for you? You create a massively successful fedora brand with an old friend, of course. That is the basis of the story for Archie Clay III, a graduate of Tuskegee University and Tajh Crutch, a graduate of Troy University, both of whom were searching for something more fulfilling when their post-graduate professional life wasn’t living up to their expectations.

fulfilling as it may be for them, they want their customers to be able to express themselves as well. The customer is able to curate their own hat, creating it in a way that fits their lifestyle and personality.

The pair came up with “wearbrims”, a luxury fedora company that is American-made through and through. Both had been interested in fashion prior and thought that fedoras would be a niche product to tackle. “I thought that this is a market we could tap into because there hasn’t been It might be surprising to some, but fedoras have never fully a fedora hat company, a new, innovative fedora hat company in a while,” said Clay. “At that time the only hat compagone out of style. Music producer Pharrell Williams and nies you had were the Goorin Brothers and Baileys….all singer Harry Styles wear them frequently as part of their these companies that have been around since the 1800’s.” public persona, but for Crutch and Clay, their business is He wanted to work in clothing, in fashion, but in an area as personal as it is a fashion statement. “wearbrims” has outside of the normally “oversaturated” industry. “I just been a way for the pair to express their individuality in a thought about me being in the business of being business modern way, while paying homage to a classic style. As


minded,” he said. “I’m always thinking about what makes sense at the end of the day.” For Crutch, the seeds were planted earlier on when he would make his own hat designs from hats he purchased at the mall. He also wore fedoras himself, having bought his first in Philly back in 2009. He recognized Clay’s usage of fedoras in his own personal style, so he knew he had a possible collaborator who was serious about the work. “After we got off the phone he called me back maybe two days later,” he said. “He was like ‘Hey man, have you really thought about what I was talking about?’” Clay had laid the groundwork, selecting a manufacturer and figuring out where their product would come from. All that was needed was a name. At that point, for Crutch, there was no denying Clay’s vision. “In my head, I thought that it was a sign from God,” he said. “It was something I wanted to do, but I kept putting it off to the side. But now he’s bringing the same idea to me. Now I’m 100% in. I said, ‘Let’s go. Let’s get it running.’” The inspiration and prospect of a new start came after a tumultuous few years for Crutch, so it became about way more than just himself. “How can we motivate and inspired individuals who were in our shoes three years ago?”, he asked himself. So they got to work. Fedoras, in their essence, are a symbol of stature and, of course, luxury. “You can get into any area….any place with a fedora on,” said Crutch. “You can’t go some places with a city cap or a dad hat on. But with a fedora, that automatically gets you in.“ Part of it may have to do with the price point. Sure, there are some cheaper options, like graduation caps at $65, but most of the other product stretches at well over $200, really showcasing the idea of the fedora being a product of excellence. “Back in the days of the Black Renaissance and the Harlem Renaissance, people would wear it with suits, with anything,” said Crutch. “Now it’s an accessory just like a pair of shoes, like a belt. I wear my hat with slips, I wear it with shorts. You can do whatever you want with it. I just think it’s the stigma of what a fedora is.” Just like in any other aspect of fashion, confidence is key when it comes to wearing your fedora to its full potential. It works with both casual and upscale wear, but is, very visibly, the centerpiece of the outfit. It is the statement piece. The rest of the outfit should be catered to the fedora, but the hat itself should have the appropriate fit, not drooping down over your forehead. “If you’re going to the beach, if you’re traveling, it doesn’t matter,” said Clay, who grew up watching his grandparents wear fedoras to church. “You don’t need a haircut, you can just throw it on and go.” The line features five brims; Aubergine, Prime, Sandlot, Summer Jones and the exclusive Crown Blanco, wearbrims’ collaboration with Tay Mitch. Some might stop themselves after seeing the price point,

but it is a worthwhile investment. “The price is self-explanatory based off a margin or whatever it may be,” said Crutch. “So we have to keep our prices between $170$215. It depends on the different types of felts and fabrics for the bands and additional pieces that may add to the hat.” He reiterates that, while wearbrims is a luxury brand, the goal is for everyone to be able to enjoy it. “We consider ourselves a luxury brand, but it’s an affordable luxury,” he said. “We want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to get their hands on it.” After only three years, wearbrims has become one of the fastest-growing Black-owned luxury hat brands in the US. They have no plans of slowing down their progress, with two more hats dropping by the end of the year as well as fashion show appearances with Atlanta Magazine and in a show with R&B superstar, Miguel, next month. With features in GQ British magazine last year, wearbrims is on its way to becoming an international product, while Clay and Crutch continue to achieve black excellence, maintaining a purposeful product meant to satisfy individual minds and appearances. Check out the line at www.wearbrims.com






The Art of Glam Tim Johnson

Words by Rashod Davenport

“M

y college roommate asked me to cut his hair one day,” renowned hair stylist and Image Expert, Tim Johnson reminiscences of how he got his start in the hair industry. “I was like...I don’t know anything about cutting hair,’” Tim Johnson laughs. “My college roommate said, Tim, my mom put a pair of clippers in my bag and told me either I cut my own hair, or I get somebody else to cut it because she’s not paying for haircuts.’ “‘Okay. I’m gonna’ do it.’” Tim said to his friend. “You know, I figured since I went to the barbershop every week, cutting hair didn’t look that hard. It just had to be smooth. But what did I know?! So, I went ahead and cut my roommate’s hair and I jacked him up!” laughs Tim. “But my friend came back in two weeks asking me to cut his hair again.’ He wore a baseball cap for those two weeks though.” My roommate said, ‘Man, I’m gonna make you my barber.’ But I was like, ‘Man! Either you’re crazy or you love misery.’ “But I cut his hair again… and (this time) I noticed I did it better,” Tim reveals. “And because I kept going to the barbershop (to get my hair cut), I could see what I had done wrong with my roommate’s hair. So, eventually over I got better. And the next thing you know… my college friends are asking me to cut their hair! I started cutting the basketball team, then and the football team, and soon, everybody was coming to my room to get their hair cut!”

telling him about his dilemma. Tim had a plan to go to barber school. He was beginning to enjoy the trade, had a list of clients, and was ultimately failing out of college. The issue he ran into is that there were only two schools in the area to attend. One was in town with a year and a half waitlist. The other was an hour and a half away. His friend asked a question that would ultimately change Tim’s life. He asked, “Why don’t you just go to cosmetology school?” The question wasn’t an easy answer for Tim. He didn’t want to be seen as “gay” for doing women’s hair. “My friend said, “WHAT? Don’t you sing?” I said, ‘yeah,’ Tim reflects. “He said, “Don’t you love to act?”, ’yeah.”’ He said, “And you’re the best dancer at the club.” I was like, ‘yeah.’ He said, “Tim, they’re already calling you gay. You better give them something to talk about and make some money,” Tim laughs. “I never knew about the money,” explains Tim. “All I knew is that I was able to cut hair and it was fun.” he reveals. “Women, my female friends, and other girls would always ask me to cut their hair and I wouldn’t do it. I just didn’t want the negativity with it,” he says. “I was raised by a single parent and grew up around all my female cousins. So, I already knew what it was like to deal with drama. Then, to have people making up stuff and accusing me of this or that. I just didn’t want to go through that.”

Tim Johnson is a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, and is able to sing laps around just about anyone who steps into his realm. He attended Eastern Carolina University in Charlotte, North Carolina to study music. Like most music majors, he found that music theory was a prerequisite for singing his way to a degree and he didn’t have that. So, while failing out of college and having a 0.83 GPA placed him on academic probation, he was then faced with telling his mother what was really going on. She was an IBM employee who paid for his tuition out of pocket. Needless to say, she wasn’t going to be happy.

Tim spent a lot of time turning down the advice of his 19-year-old friend who’d been doing hair since he was 14 and was still trying to figure out how to break this news to his mom. One night while Tim was preparing to go hang out with a group of his close friends. While getting ready, his friend asked Tim to come up to the room because he wanted to show him something. When He came to the room, this same friend threw Tim a set of keys and asked him to grab a box out of the closet behind some meticulously folded sweaters. Tim went to grab the safe---you know the kind that you open from the top--- there were actually four (4) total. Tim threw them on the bed as he was directed.

Before Tim was able to build the courage to have that conversation, he spoke to his friend and former 8th-grade bully about what to do. While cutting his hair, Tim began

“I opened up the first one and it popped open,” Tim explains as if he is still in shock. “Inside of this safe were freshly ironed bands of hundreds, fifties, tens, and twen-


ties. All of the boxes were filled with money. It was so much! I don’t think I’d ever seen that much money in my life! You know, during this time we were making $3.35 an hour. It looked like somebody had robbed a bank or something. And I said to my friend: ‘‘Where did you get this money?’ “My friend then said, ‘That’s from doing hair, but you’re going to lock it back up because you don’t want to do that.’ “I said what?” He said, ‘THAT’S (pointing at the boxes) from doing hair.’ I said, “How much money is here”’ He said, ‘It’s over $75,000 cash. I’ve been saving this since I was 14.” I’d never seen anything like this before, and I said, ‘Where do I sign up?!” The next day, Tim and his friend developed a plan for him…. step one was speaking to his mother. Fearing his mother’s response about his mom hearing about his academic probation and cosmetology school, Tim asked his friend to go with him. “If I’m going to not only tell my mom that I am failing out of college, but I’ll also be dropping out to go to cosmetology school, you’re going to go with me,” Tim laughs. Tim’s friend was the baddest hairstylist in the area. He did all of the women’s hair in the community including Tim’s mother. If anyone could help this sound like a good idea, it would be him. Tim’s mom already knew that he was cutting hair and had numerous clients from her visits to his school and how often he was coming home to cut hair. But this wasn’t college. She was a corporate woman, and this wasn’t going to be an easy sell alone. After a few choice words, and eventually her blessing, Tim was off to cosmetology school with one rule, His friend was going to teach him everything that he knew but Tim had to go to school every day as if he knew nothing and learn the technical fundamentals. Nine and a half months later, Tim graduated from cosmetology school, and only a week out of school, he was BOOKED. The success was so sudden that this terrified Tim. “When you’re doing something that you’ve never done before, and you’re experiencing massive success, there can still be fear,” Tim explains. “Entrepreneurship is the willingness to ignore the fear and take the risk anyway. And when I took that risk. Like I had nothing else. I was all in and the results were coming in and it was coming in fast!” Tim said. “My phone was ringing off of the hook, and people were telling their friends and their friends would come not knowing that I only knew how to do two haircuts.” “Then my friend, who’d become my mentor, told me, you’ll always make money off of these cuts,” Tim recounts. He said, “Hair can only be cut one of two ways, It’s either up

or down. And as long as you get that concept together, it’s going to click for you. You’ll forever make money.’ I learned that, and it became part of my system,” Tim reflects. “So, the money started coming in and I didn’t even know that I was considered an entrepreneur. And I’m telling you just as brutally honest as I can; I didn’t even know that I was an entrepreneur.” Tim went from making $80-$125 a week to $1,500.001,800.00 a week by styling his female clientele. He was 19 years old clearing $60,000 in his first year. He’d never made that much money but had no idea how to manage money and success. He’d never had this level of power. He was an entrepreneur who didn’t know much about how to run a business, pay taxes, or the next steps to take. But He had faith in God and was gifted at building relationships that have yielded great rewards. Early in Tim’s faith journey, he’d stand on a Bible to demonstrate that he was literally standing on the Word. But since then, having grown in wisdom, knowledge and good understanding he uses his words to declare what it is he wants to see. He does this through positive affirmations, speaking his life into existence. He was doing this before he truly understood the power of doing so. He was determined that he would not go back to his mother and tell her that he’d failed and wasted her money again. He learned the importance of writing out his visions and goals. So, he’d write about being booked, the type of salon he’d have, how it would be designed, and ultimately what his clientele would look like. He called what wasn’t at that time to be as if it already existed until it really did. “My mother was a diva,” Tim laughs. “So, the example of the type of clients I wanted was much like my mother. I wanted high-end women. My dream client was the professional woman who took care of business. She’d come into the salon one way and leave out with her hair shaking like a TV actress in a commercial,” Tim smiles. “Everything word I spoke began to bloom; it came to fruition. There was nothing that I believed that I didn’t get.” I made a lot of money doing hair, but at the same time, I was fulfilled because it was like being on an adventure. However, every adventure has its obstacles. Because I didn’t go to school for business, I knew very little business. And I didn’t know anything about P and L’s or profit and loss statements. I didn’t know about credit. I didn’t know anything about taxes. I’ve had money seized out of my accounts. I’ve lost cars. you know? But what I didn’t know I learned through the School of Hard Knocks.” This story continues in the next issue of SUAVV.




Classic Man Curtiss Cook

Words By Noah Wade

S

ome actors may fail to stay relevant in the constantly shifting world of entertainment, but Curtiss Cook is not one of them. Cook, already more than two decades into his career, is experiencing a surge of success playing the role of Otis “Douda” Perry, a businessman and hustler from the Southside of Chicago, in the Showtime hit “The Chi”. He also has another big project set for release later this year as well.

After reading for, and almost landing a part in, another Martin Scorsese film called “The Departed”, Cook had the chance to read back and forth, with Scorsese himself, for “Shutter Island. He got a call that he had booked the job before getting off the train back home to Yonkers. In the film, he played one of the orderlies at the mental hospital that Teddy, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character, was visiting in search of a missing patient.

Cook’s impressive resume should come as no surprise. He was the first American to ever be given a full ride to London’s Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, which has produced dozens of acclaimed British thespians including Stuart Matthew Price of Harry Potter fame. His education and skills led him to work in just about every entertainment medium you can think of. From cable TV on shows like “Elementary” and “Bull”, on Netflix in the Kevin Spacey-led “House Of Cards”, in film in “Shutter Island” with Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo (one of my favorite movies of all time, by the way) and on Broadway in both “Miss Saigon” and “The Lion King”.

“As the orderlies, we were there about 70% of the time,” said Cook. “We had to always be there. I was like a fly on the wall watching these greats like Ben Kingsley, Leonardo, ‘Marky Mark’ Ruffalo and Michelle Williams.” It was just Cook’s second major film, so he really tried to soak it all in. “It was amazing on so many different levels,” he said. “As far as meeting people and getting to watch people work.”

Selfishly, I had to discuss “Shutter Island” and “The Lion King” with him. The former came out in 2010, while I was still in middle school while I saw the latter on Broadway at five years old in December, 2001. Cook, jokingly, objected to hearing this so as to not feel “old”, but he discussed both projects with such rich detail and admiration for both his colleagues and the individual crafts of film and Broadway respectively.

On Broadway in “The Lion King”, he stepped in for the role of Banzai, one of Scar’s henchman hyenas, just before 9/11. Production, of course, had to be stopped for the time being, but would soon resume and Cook would stay in the show for the following two years. “Lion King”, is, essentially, Disney’s first big Broadway blockbuster, and Cook described it just as an audience member would. “When that elephant walks down the aisle and that sun rises up, it’s breathtaking,” he said. “The authentic African sounds and the singing….you’re transported.” He met his wife, who is still a member of the “Lion King” ensemble, during his time in the show. Besides “The Chi”, Cook’s other big project is the Steven



Spielberg remake of “West Side Story”, set for release on December 18th. The film follows what is now almost a tradition for big budget musical films, like “Les Miserables” and “Into The Woods” in previous years, to be released right around the holiday season. Spielberg’s film comes less than a year after the most recent Broadway revival of the classic show opened at the Broadway Theatre, but with an all-black cast. The new adaptation stars Ansel Elgort as Tony, Rachel Zegler as Maria and, of course, the legendary Rita Moreno, who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Anita in the 1961 film version, as Valentina. The significance of this moment is not lost on Cook, who is set to play an original role named Abe in the film. “For a black boy from Dayton, Ohio to get the opportunity to do….”, he began, the gravitas of that statement clearly still palpable. “All I ever wanted to do when I came to the city was musical theatre. Now I’m involved in the new incarnation of ‘West Side Story’, that, when it comes out, hopefully, it will be one of those things that lasts as long as the original.” Cook had had a chance to previously work with Arthur Lawrence, who wrote the original “West Side Story”, and talk about his other works like “Hallelujah Baby” and “Gypsy”. “Now I’m doing his ‘West Side Story’,” he said, clearly still exacerbated by the whole thing. “It’s crazy.” On whether he wishes the new film would have taken more points from the all-black Broadway production, Cook said no. “I think just the inclusion of black folk there is important and necessary,” he said. “Just portraying that time period as it really was, everyone was there. It’s New York City. It’s the melting pot of the world. The fact that this incarnation has black folk around is an honor.” Cook’s most current project sees him in the role of Otis “Douda” Perry” in Showtime’s “The Chi”, a show that is, both fortunately and unfortunately, very timely based on the reality of Chicago’s inner race wars. The cities issues have, if it was even possible, escalated, since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis back in late May. Besides an increase of his Instagram following, Cook doesn’t view his involvement in “The Chi” as something that is altogether career-altering, but, like with “West Side Story”, he is proud of the story he is able to help in telling. “’The Chi’ itself is an amazing show,” he said. “It’s dealing with very need-to-be-talked about topics that black folk are dealing with in our country. To focus on the Southside of Chicago and to show us so unapologetically and honestly….there hasn’t been a show that has done that

10-11 years. I don’t remember a show that, specifically, has looked at a certain area of black America and honestly told what was going on.” In a time of such political and cultural unrest, a show like this, which portrays real and honest stories, is, as Cook said, extremely necessary. At the end of the day, Cook is a dedicated husband and father who provides for his family by immersing himself in the art forms he dreamed of being involved in while growing up in Dayton, Ohio. His involvement in these incredibly timely and poignant projects are a clear indication that his career will sustain until he himself decides it’s time to slow down.



Let It Rain Ciera Payton Words by Chanler Brown

I

had the opportunity to sit down and chat with the adept Ciera Payton, an actress, entrepreneur, writer, social activist, and educator. Her breakout role was the female lead in Flight of Fury (2007), and her most recent and notable roles were in Tyler Perry’s feature length film A Madea Family Funeral (2019) and television drama series The Oval. She has over 50 acting credits to her name ranging from television programs to feature length films to voiceovers, written the onewoman-show Michael’s Daughter that details her experience and struggles with having an incarcerated father, founded the Michael’s Daughter Project which is a youth summer camp that empowers youth through creative writing, theater, and film production, and created her sensitive skin inclusive beauty line Sincerely Cosmetics. Born in Mississippi and raised in New Orleans, Payton weathered the carnage from the devastating Hurricane Katrina which included the loss of her home and personal belongings. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California. Payton expands on her childhood by revealing

that she used to separately live with her mother, father, and grandmother during different parts of her childhood. She also disclosed that she moved to New Orleans to live with her father when she was about eight years old. After Hurricane Katrina, she relocated to North Carolina then later moved to New York. She moved to Los Angeles to further pursue her interest in film and television. How has New Orleans prepared you for everything you go through career wise? “There’s such a flavor and a vibe in New Orleans that really teaches people how to be confident and how to be real and to be true to yourself—have dignity, have morals. What I love about New Orleans, even the times I’ve worked down there, people in New Orleans don’t get all crazy over celebrities or fame. People are fans of course, but we see people as people. There’s no room to be pretentious or to put other people down or to be judgmental. So, I grew up with that feeling and growing up around that energy with being real and being raw like honoring your culture—honoring and remembering where you came from…That has definitely helped me along the way with my career because with this career, I’ve experienced so many extreme lows and extreme highs and through all of it I’ve been able to keep a level head and stay grounded…Growing up in the neighborhood I’ve grown up in—growing up in poverty taught me to appreciate everything. No opportunity is too small. Whenever I’m playing complicated characters, it’s cool to have that background because I don’t come to the character like I’m above them. I come to the character like I am them and I could relate to them no matter what their status is or what their occupation is. I can see


this character as a person and find those parts in me to bring to the character.” From my understanding, you were in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and you had to relocate out of New Orleans? “We were still living in New Orleans. We were out in New Orleans East which is also considered the upper ninth ward. We lived in a townhome area that was actually owned by Bishop Paul Morton…My mom and I, we were renting out one of the townhomes. To make a long story short, my mom went down to Mississippi to visit her fiancé at the time so actually I was in New Orleans up to the night before the storm hit. I ended up evacuating through Baton Rouge and staying at LSU with one of my friends I went to high school with. Her mom was my next-door neighbor and she was like “We need to get out of here. My son is in the national guard. He’s telling us that if some crazy stuff goes down it’s going to be nuts and no women should be staying at home by themselves.” So, I was like “Alright,” and got in my car and I had a friend of mine, Tiffany, and we drove up—we followed Miss Sandra, my friend’s mom, up to Baton Rouge to LSU. My friend Brianna, the campus apartment we stayed at—she had a little two-bedroom campus apartment. She had her roommate, her roommate had her boyfriend and another friend of hers—So at one point, we were in this little campus apartment with about 12 people. There was no electricity—the storm had hit that Monday morning—Baton Rouge had got hit but we didn’t get all the flooding like New Orleans did. We were without electricity for about four or five days, but I was out of communication with my mom for about 12 days. It was one of those moments in my life that I just look back on—and I’m very grateful for it. It was very traumatic. We did lose our home. We didn’t go back to our home until about Thanksgiving of that year, so we didn’t go back for about two or three months. My grandmother that raised me a little in Mississippi had passed away during all of this, so we had to go back down to Mississippi to go bury my grandmother. It was a lot, but the big takeaway from having that experience was number one, having the importance of family, and number two this idea of materialism—I’m not perfect at it by any means, I still buy stuff impulsively, but I lost everything. I had a little overnight bag I took to Baton Rouge with me because I thought I was only going to be there for one night and that wasn’t the case. I literally had to start all the way over. It made me see the bigger picture in life and what are the things that are important. Even with what I’m doing as an actor. After Katrina and when my grandmother passed away, I felt pursuing a career in acting was more self-fulfilling. It really gave me a different perspective that what I’m doing as an actor is just as equal to what doctors do or what nurses do or what therapists do. You’re here to highlight the human

condition. What better way to do that than to go through some things? I did a lot of soul searching with Katrina. I bounced back and ended up going into acting and I haven’t looked back since.” How did you get into acting? You said you were already dabbling in it, but how did you decide to make this your career? “I have that story that a lot of people had that as a kid I was living in my imagination, playing with my dolls—I would say when I was eight years old my dad bought me a karaoke machine and I just lost my mind when he bought me that. I was up until midnight—one o’clock in the morning singing Disney songs to Pocahontas they were like “I’m going to rip it away from my fingers like Ciera you need to sleep.” I found something with it, and my dad he saw that. That’s what I love about my dad. He’s very supportive. He did the right thing by enrolling me into an arts-based magnet school. I went to a school called McDonner Fifteen and they also called it the “Little Red School House” and it was in the French quarter. I went there and I learned how to play the kildare—the clarinet and I also took art classes. After I left that school, I went to middle school at this school called Lusher and they didn’t have any arts at Lusher. They had afterschool programs. So, I got involved with the drama troop. I just wanted to be active in the arts. I knew I couldn’t dance, but I feel I can act. So, let me try to get up in this acting thing. We did this school play and it had something to do with the Trojan War and I got cast as Athena, the Goddess of War. I got out there—I was in eighth grade or seventh grade and they were like “You gotta strike a pose when you come out.” I had to strike this pose and I felt alive. One of the teachers there told me I should think about applying to the performing arts school called New Orleans Center of Creative Arts and we called it NOCA. It was this prestigious high school—so I was like “I’m going to go ahead and apply to NOCA.” And I did, and NOCA has a very interesting set up where they don’t like to accept freshman and if they do, they will have them do their afterschool program. So, I auditioned when I was in eighth grade and they told me they’ll accept me for the following year as a freshman but have me do their main classes and not do the afterschool program which is pretty awesome. So, I was a year younger than all the people I was in class with at NOCA. So, I was kind of forced to graduate a year early. Being at NOCA was one of those experiences that just shaped my whole life. The teachers were all professional actors and amazing amazing teachers. They understood the kids—and this was a free school. You had to audition to get in, but it was all free. It was just like a big family there. My last year there as a junior, my teacher said you should look into going to the North Carolina School of the Arts and pursing this. And yeah, I think I really want to. I enjoy it, and I really like the fire in me…So, I




ended up going to the North Carolina School of the Arts and taking a leap and going for it. I think at a young age I just made up my mind: “I’m going to be an actress.”” Following this response, Payton discusses how she felt when she finally took the “leap” into acting and what actually felt scary to her: auditioning. “I left school when I was 16 years old to go to the North Carolina School of the Arts. They had a senior year high school program there, so since I had graduated from NOCA as a junior I still qualified to go and do the senior year program at North Carolina School of the Arts. I remember feeling fearless. I had no fear at all. My mom was a little worried—even friends and stuff were like “What are you doing? You’re going to go to North Carolina? You don’t know anybody there…” And I was like, “Yeah, I’m going to go. I want to do this—I want to learn how to be an actor.” I just went for it. I think the scary part for me, even now, sometimes auditioning is scary. Sometimes when I’ve booked a role and the first day on set—like those things are scary. You don’t want to fall flat on your face. You don’t want to make any mistakes or anything. That’s when you’re in the arena, you can’t make any mistakes. You want to be perfect. Those are the moments for me where my heart just races and I’m like “Oh my god Oh my god,” but once I get through the initial moments of it then I’m like “Alright, I can settle into it.” …Now that I’m thinking about it, most of the roles I’ve booked are not my best auditions. There’s just a different energy that I come in with—it’s hard to explain. I’ll mess up a line or make up something else like improv some things here and there then I end up booking it. The ones I don’t get are the ones I try to make perfect. It’s an interesting thing. The dynamic of it all. Fiercely and truly be yourself. That’s real. People say that “Don’t try to be a version of yourself.” Literally, be yourself. Let them see you and who you are as this person.” How did you land the role with The Madea Family Funeral? “Two years ago—because we actually filmed the movie two years ago—I don’t know if you’re familiar with pilot season but it’s just that time of the year where they are just casting for like every TV show, every project left and right. As an actor, if you’re lucky enough to be in the mix of all that it can be very very very very overwhelming. I tell friends—and a lot of my friends don’t understand it, pilot season don’t call me—not in a mean way but I’m not taking no vacations, I can’t even hang out—It’s going to be a good two-and-a-half, three months of “Where’s Ciera?” You already know that I’m in the Batcave somewhere. It’s this flow of—there are times where I have five auditions in a day then have to go home and tape two and have it in by

midnight. It’s all of that craziness—So, this audition came up in the middle of pilot season and it was an audition and I was already auditioning for 10 to 15 projects a week then had my voiceover auditions and I was also teaching—because I teach at different high schools out here in LA, so I was just overwhelmed and I get this audition and they’re like “We need you on tape as soon as possible. Can you please tape it and send it back?” They didn’t give me any information on it at all. They just gave me the scene. I was like “What—what is this?” There was no action or description in the scene—nothing. It was just a woman saying hi to a whole bunch of people and asking how people were doing. As an actor, you’re trying to fill in the information like “Is this a good scene? Is this a bad scene? Did somebody die? Is somebody alive? What’s going on?” So, I had one of my friends to tape with me—I was trying to do the scene, just saying the lines and I said “You know what man”—I’m from New Orleans, my friend who helped me with the tape is also from New Orleans too—Derrick Augustine, and I was like “Man, let’s make this thing New Orleans. Let’s just do this.” He rolled the camera and we were just talking to each other and I was like “Hey, how’s your momma?” just acting all like that. We recorded it, I edited it, and sent it off. I didn’t hear anything. I didn’t even think about it because I was already off to the next audition working on the next thing. About four or five weeks later, I’m in my car and my agent calls me and he’s like “Tyler Perry wants you.” And I’m like “What are you talking about?” And he’s like “The movie you auditioned for.” And I was like “What?” And he’s like “Yeah, you sent it.” And I was like “Oh my god, yes!” And he was like “You’re going to be flying out in two days.” And I was like, “What, are you kidding me?” It was all these things. I had to go back and look at the tape—it was such a magical moment. It was just so cool. I had a full circle moment with Tyler because I was an extra in Madea Goes to Jail maybe ten years—eight years prior to that to filming The Madea Family Funeral. It was just dope to be working with him on the last Madea movie. We didn’t know that was the last Madea movie. So, going from being an extra to being one of the leads—part of the cast I was like “Man, this is really cool.” I had a really great time working on it.” What is it like working with Tyler Perry? “Tyler is so cool. You go on the set and the very first thing he does every morning on set—which I just think is so cool—he prays. The whole cast and crew gets together and holds hands and he gives a prayer of gratitude. For the day, for everything, for the production, for everyone being a part of it. Then we go and start the day. It’s a really loose, not loose going to do whatever you want to do but it’s laid back. You feel comfortable. Tyler knows how to make everybody feel valued and appreciated on set and that type of vibe that he created that atmosphere that he created just


allows us as the actors—I know for me just to take liberty exploring this character or trying different lines. Trying something different in the scene. He allows that. He’s not much of a stickler for like “Oh, you said the wrong word here” or “Don’t do that.” He wants us to do something different and bring some different flavor to it. I got to try that out and it was such so dope working with him. It’s rare I feel like, especially out in LA. I go from being on the set, we’re starting in the morning praying and laughing and joking around and then I came back out to LA a couple of weeks after that to work on another project and I’m like “Hi, good morning!” and people were looking at me like I was crazy. And I’m like “Oh, okay. This is a whole different atmosphere, a whole different vibe.” Working with Tyler was just amazing, just a dream come true.” Outside of acting you have a cosmetic line called Sincerely Cosmetics. How did you get into that? “I’ve had sensitive skin. The main thing for me was lipstick. With the return of matte lipsticks and bright red lipsticks that came out about maybe six years ago, I was like “Aw, I can’t wear any of them.” My lips are sensitive, they start puffing and bluffing and blowing up like the Nutty Professor or Will Smith in Hitch. It’s crazy because I already have big lips. I can’t be walking around with lips ten times the size of mine. Especially being an actress too and going on set and getting in the makeup chairs, it was challenging at times. The makeup artists, they’re artists as well and they have a look that they want to achieve with the characters. So, it was challenging going on set and being like “I can’t wear that. I can’t wear that. can’t wear that. Don’t put that on my lips. Please, I’m allergic to it.” And I was like, I can’t play this Russian Roulette game anymore with my skin. I need to make something that I can wear. So, I went online and just researched different natural lipsticks, different ingredients for them, and I took a trip up to Whole Foods and I bought crushed beets and coconut oil and aloe vera oil and all these different natural things and I got in my kitchen and started cooking some things up, and I ordered some things on Amazon as well. Next thing I know I’m creating lipstick that I can wear. My friends and family they started to catch on to it and really giving me the idea that “Ciera, you need to do something with this.” So, I took the next couple of steps and got with manufacturer, built a website, and ever since then I’ve been selling and making lipsticks. So, it’s fun. I really enjoy it. I hope that it sustains and really breaks through to be one of the bigger brands down the line.” You also have a project called Michael’s Daughter. How did you start that, what made you decided to get into that, and how did you get involved with it?

“I started it in 2013, and I’ve already been involved with a bunch of arts education projects. Being an arts education teacher, I started as an assistant to an arts program when I was 15, 16 years old and then I just took what I learned from working with the different nonprofit organizations and I like what I do as a teacher and teaching youth that are impact by poverty and incarceration and impacted by foster care. So, everything I’ve been a part of up until doing my own program was all about teaching inner-city youth or at-risk youth on how to use art as a medium of coping and as a form of self-expression and creative expression. So, using art as therapy. In every program I’ve been involved in, to some capacity, we were creating something and presenting it. So, for my own coping and therapy I was like “I’m going to take that same model and use it for myself.” I ended up writing a one woman play called “Michael’s Daughter” that highlighted where I was in my life. My father at this time in my life was incarcerated and so, I was like “You know, it’s time for people out here in LA to see who I am.” It’s cool going into auditions and do these different characters, but not a lot of people know about this background and how it has impacted me and affected me. So many people responded to it. They thought it was an amazing play and wanted to be involved in it in some type of form or capacity, but I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with it next. I did get different opportunities to take it to different high schools. So, when I’ll do it kids would be like “Oh my gosh, my dad is in prison and my brother is in prison and my sister blah blah blah.” That really resonated with me and I realized the importance of sharing my story with young people, then transitioning into an educational realm. So, I would have group discussions with kids afterwards and so, from there I was like “You know what? I should just create my own program with this because there’s so many kids that need a creative outlet.” So, long story short, I ended up getting funded by the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, the DCA. They’ve been funding me ever since and I just work with kids out in district six here in Los Angeles County. We create plays, we create films, documentaries, short films. It started off as social justice focused highlighting different challenges and statistics, but now I’ve just kind of scaled it back to like “If you guys want to make a horror movie, let’s do a horror movie. If you want to make a comedy, let’s do that too.” Just, you know, giving them something fun to do and taking their mind off what’s around them, what’s going on, and just giving them some tools to build up their confidence, tools to create something they can be proud of—almost like a distraction away from their regular coping tools like getting involved in gangs, drug use, dropping out of school, that type of stuff. Like, “Nah, that’s not going to help you down the line, let’s try to create a movie.” You might not be the next Spike Lee or Tyler Perry, and that’s okay, but take away the feeling that you felt when generating something that came from you and something that you



created. Use and build upon that throughout your life. You could put that into being a computer engineer or being a fashion designer or owning your own business one day. It’s really just a social skill program that just so happens to use art to get there.” Career wise, you’ve had your own acting career, you have the cosmetic company, you have the youth program, you have your hobbies, your friends, family, things like that. Where do you want to see yourself when it comes to your name? “I love observing and watching people and anytime I pick up a book it’s usually a biography. It’s usually people that have reached this icon status—longevity. You know what you’re going to do when you see them and get. Working with Tyler Perry, he has just amassed an amazing career and amazing wealth and also, he gives back and he knows how to value the people he works with. I remember knowing that and observing that about him “Man, I want to be like that one day or be in a position to be like that.” With me, I see myself being an actress until I die but also, not just that. I definitely want to produce and create content that this world is going to respond to. I want to, of course, be wealthy and be able to take care of my family. More so than anything, I just want to enjoy life to the fullest and make a worldwide impact on people. There’s so much suffering—there’s also so much beauty in the world as well. For me, where I come from and the things I’ve experienced, I just want to be a beacon of light to the world and a beacon of hope. Like “Yo, no matter where you came from, no matter what you do I can be the example of how possible it is to get out there and achieve” and live a life of living my dreams and being of service and just elevating this world. I try to bring light to every room I walk into. I always tell myself before I go into an audition “Is this going to be a production that I send good vibrations on?” I really want to elevate every project I’m a part of. Be a person that makes other people want to be better while being better myself.” Free time, what do you like doing when you have free time as you’re very busy? “I like to sleep. I’m such a napper. I love love love taking naps. Aside from that, I like nature. I know it sounds so corny, but I do. There’s a little hiking trail not too far from where I live, and they have a little creek over there. I like to go there. Tomorrow morning I’m going to the beach. It’s just stuff like that that I just enjoy. Sometimes, I just like driving too, not in traffic, but I like going for rides and listening to my motivational tapes.”




Divine Intervention Dennis McKinley

Words By Rashod Davenport

Jay-Z and Pharrell made a song this summer called Entrepreneur. One of the parts of the song says: “Serial entrepreneur, we on our own/ Stop sittin’ around waitin’ for folks to throw you a bone/ If you can’t buy the building, at least stock the shelf (word)/ Then keep on stacking ‘til you stocking for yourself ”. These are strong lyrics for our generation. Dennis McKinley is one of those entrepreneurs that relate to Jay-Z’s lyrics. Starting his business right out of high school, Dennis started purchasing and flipping real estate in Detroit with a group of his friends. It wasn’t the starting point for the current franchise owner, but it was his business. Growing up in the inner city of Detroit, Dennis’ family moved to the suburbs in his teenage years where he

met his next-door neighbor, Tina Brundage, who instantly asked him if he wanted a job. After doing all kinds of odd jobs to make money before that time, he agreed. And that’s where this story begins. “She was one of the few Black-owned McDonald’s franchisees’ in Detroit,” Dennis says with a tone of pride. “It was kind of the first real job that I had. I used to wake up with her at six o’clock in the morning, every day, and stay there with her, sometimes until midnight. I would think to myself, ‘man, this is the tenacity man and work ethic that you really need to be successful.’ That was kind of my first run at real business. There were times when she used to leave, and I would be in charge… and I was only 16. You know? I had managers there that were 30-40 years old. I


really learned at that point what hard work really meant and where responsibility really was. Dennis just pulled up to his restaurant, Original Hot Dog Factory, in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. We’re laughing because this is maybe the 4th time he’s called back into the line for his interview. The podcast program that we were using disconnects the line if your phone rings…(Dennis’ phone never stops ringing) “Bro, this damn phone rings all day and night so my apologies”. Being a business owner myself, I understand and we switch to a conference line that will allow him to take the calls he needs to. At the age of 18, and entering into college at The University of Michigan, Dennis started buying property and flipping houses. He watched some other people do it and asked all of the right questions. He was on to something big. He worked in the real estate industry through college graduation and up until he was 26-years-old. Wanting something different and more out of life, he made a tough decision. “I sold that business,” Dennis says laughing. “I was just tired of Detroit and I just wanted out of Detroit man. I was tired of the cold and shit. That deal was the first million dollars I had ever made. So, I moved to Chicago, then to New York, (I chime in… “so you stayed in the cold” we both fall out laughing) still hadn’t left the cold weather, bro. So I left New York and went to LA. You know, just trying to find out what the next thing I was going to do would be. I had made some cash in real estate, but I didn’t make enough to retire forever. I was only 26 years old and a million dollars goes faster than many think.” Dennis spent the next years in Los Angeles spending a lot of money trying to make his way into film production and traveling back and forth to Las Vegas gambling and purchasing real estate. Realizing that money was going out faster than it was coming in, Dennis purchased two apartment buildings to generate some cash flow. However, anyone in the real estate business will tell you those apartment buildings are expensive. That said, the price was a few million dollars and he put down a huge bulk of his savings to obtain it. Everything was going well until the real estate market crashed in 2009. His life was turned upside down. “All of my banks started calling on my notes,” Dennis says as if they called him while we were on the phone. I could literally hear his face twist up. “I’m like, yo, what the f**k are you calling for me $4 million worth of loans. Granted, I was under a million dollars, so I was f**ked. I couldn’t refinance the loans, so now I’m broke. Now, I gotta do something else. I had a spot in LA, a spot in Vegas, and I’m down to my last maybe $200,000. I run into a guy I went to school with and his father was in the hair business. We were talking and he was like ‘man you should start selling

hair.’ While at the same time, the girl I was with was like, ‘Hey, can you buy me some hair.’ I’m like, damn what a coincidence.” “Now, I don’t really think a lot of things are coincidence, everything just happens in divine order. I go into this place called Extensions Plus. They sell all of the hair in the city. It was like $400 right out the door. I’m like, this is crazy. I’m about to start selling hair, (laughing). I know I can get hair cheaper than this. I started selling hair, moved to Atlanta, built Queen Virgin Remy, and boom. That was my next exit. And that was 2017. So here we are in 2020, over that time, I bought some restaurants, I still invest in real estate, and I invested a bunch of tech stuff. That’s how I started. That’s how I got where I am now.” After that real estate crash, Dennis realized that if one thing suffers, there has to be some cushion from another. Diversifying is where Dennis plays his gambling hand now. Because, as he says, if you don’t, you’ll find yourself in a situation where we are right now with Coronavirus, and you’re in trouble. Whenever he made money in one business, he used it to fund exploration in other ventures. That diversification hit another moment of divine intervention when he was introduced to Cru Lounge, a hookah lounge in the Old Fourth Ward area of Atlanta. While dating someone in the city, she recommended that they met at the lounge as it was close to where he was living. He hadn’t been but agreed to the location. “I’ve lived in an Old Fourth Ward since I moved to Atlanta in 2010,” Dennis explains. “When she recommended Cru, I’m like, okay, what the hell is Cru? But it had a good vibe, you know? I never smoked hookah, but it was a good vibe. And one day I was like, man, I like this place, but I can make it better, let me buy this. I met Grace (the owner of the lounge at the time). She was really cool. She just happened to be ready to move on to something different. And then to make matters even crazier, I went to school with the guy who owned the building. And he ended up selling me the building. So, it just like everything in my life, man, happened like a straight divine order. I end up knowing people that are connected to something and it just happens.” That alignment would place itself in Dennis’ life in a way that he truly wasn’t expecting. While at his club, Daydreams, a woman was there partying and caught his eye, and as he says “damn she’s fine” came out of his mouth. He didn’t know who she was but knew he had to find out. He walked over to the woman and started talking to her and unknowingly to himself, he was introduced to Porsha Williams, the woman who would become his fiancé. “I mean, that’s how we met,” Dennis says in a tone of


bewilderment. “I tell people all of the time, I didn’t even know she was on Housewives because I don’t watch TV. I watch some basketball and whatnot, but. That’s it. I’m like, what the fuck is Housewives. And you know, if you’re in Atlanta, you can’t not know what Housewives is. So, she was like “you know, I’m on this show. We’re filming, you should film with me, blah, blah, blah.” You know, you’re trying to do things to impress your girl, and you want her to grow, to be happy, and you ain’t gonna tell you a girl “No”, for her job. Now, seeing that I didn’t watch the show, I didn’t even know the drama that was behind the scenes or how that shit would really affect my life. And it has affected my life, man. Not necessarily in a positive way. But it just comes with the territory, man. I’m not going to say, “You’re on TV, everybody knows your business. I don’t want to date you no more.” Cause that’d be shallow. But like I was ignorant, man.” Once, on the show, Dennis knew that the only way that he could go through filming was if he was to be himself. That was the most authentic place he could reside. He says there was nothing for him to hide because he has no secrets. And that quality is something that men in the audience gravitated towards. The same Dennis McKinley that you see on TV is who he is in person. His unrelenting honesty has given the male audience of housewife viewers a sigh of relief. Dennis stays away from the mess. And if you watch

the show, you know the mess will always find a way to make it to you. “You know, I’m not really ashamed of anything I’ve ever done in my life,” Dennis says very straight forward. “It’s a flip side to this too, it (the show) was definitely a gift and a curse, man. I would just say, it doesn’t matter if it’s Housewives or anything else, it’s important to always be, your authentic self to everybody in every situation you put yourself in. Kandi got on the show and was talking about girls I’ve dated and stuff. It made me feel no type of way, you know? Half of that stuff could have been true, but it’s like, as long as you you’re always your real authentic itself, man, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. I think when people get on the show, and I am not naming any names, but I think that and they try to make out something to be what it is and ain’t, and they try to develop storylines, that’s when they get their ass in trouble, you know? But what they see from Housewives, it’s just me being my genuine, authentic self.” Reality television has a mechanism that makes the viewers think they understand and know who a person is. We watch personalities and scenes and leave with a perception that may or may not be true. When it comes to Dennis, I walked into the interview with one objective…to get to know who he is. Dennis is the grandson of “The Bread



Man” who was a WWII vet who lived in and worked for the city Atlanta, Ga. His grandfather would buy bread on Friday’s and distribute it to the community. Dennis is an entrepreneur who took on the same qualities of his grandfather. He harvests the spirit of giving. During the pandemic’s worst moments, he quietly opened his restaurants to make and distribute free food to essential works. He felt that since they were putting their lives on the line to protect us, the least he could do was feed them. “We always give away stuff,” Dennis says passionately. “You know, a lot of people nowadays, especially celebrities, (I don’t want to call myself a celebrity) but most people give away stuff man and film it or try to get some press off of their shit. It ain’t even about that, man. You got to give from your heart…from the right place and then opportunities and the higher-ups reward you for just being a pure giver. Corona or not, I just thought it was important, for people who working overtime, to show a little appreciation. Because people are dying out here, man. Like it ain’t like you’re going to war. You go to war and you know there’s a good chance that you’re going to get shot and killed. But out here with the Corona, people don’t have guns, there ain’t some red mark on the forehead, No red hats to say, “Hey man, I got Corona.” Like, you don’t know. So those guys deserve extra, man. Just cause they fighting an unknown battle.” With all of his business ventures, filming the show, traveling to open new restaurants, helping other restaurants franchise with his investment team, Empire, and acquire more real estate, it’s needless to say that Dennis has a busy schedule and busy life. However, with the addition of he and Porsha’s beautiful daughter PJ, he began looking at his time differently. He makes sure that he spends as much time with his baby and with his family. Because when it’s all said and done, that’s what is most important to him. “I think if anything, man, it makes you prioritize what’s really important in your life,” Dennis says slowly. “You know, I’m busy as hell, but it’s very important. I didn’t grow up with my daddy around, you know, so, I think it’s very important to just prioritize and make time to spend with your kids. It’s really not that hard. Just like you get up and go to work, go spend some time with your kid, talk to her, see her, and develop that relationship. That’s priceless, you know? I don’t work 24/7, but it’s important for me, you know, when it’s all said and done, it, ain’t no amount of money in the world. There’s nothing more important than to just show her and teach her who her daddy is and what a man in her life should be. That’s just valuable.”


In Case You Missed It...


Teyana Taylor She MADE It Photo By Bryce Thompson

Teyana Taylor, whose devotion to community and social activism has been a constant factor throughout her career at G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam Recordings, celebrates the commencement-deprived Class of 2020 in the inspirational video for her new track “Made It,” prominently featuring many of those remarkable graduates. “Made It” and “Bare Wit Me” (with its hard-boiled 1930s gangster-themed video), which premiered across all platforms today, are cornerstones of THE ALBUM, Teyana’s forthcoming new project due this summer. A snippet from the red-hot “Bare Wit Me” dance sequence trended across Twitter.


“I literally can do everything. I never look at anything as being impossible,” she explains. “I exhaust all options to make what happens when I need to make happen.” “Made It” is a very personal journey for Teyana, who never had a formal high school graduation herself. She was already signed to a recording contract during those years, finished up through homeschooling, and ultimately received her high school diploma inside of a Starbucks. When Teyana’s production company The Aunties put out a note on social media a few weeks ago seeking 2020 graduates to participate in the “Made It” production, the response was overwhelming. Teyana is passionate about celebrating these grads who won’t have the opportunity to attend formal commencements this year. She praised the 2020 graduates on Instagram saying, “YOU MADE IT!!!!!!! Class of 2020 this is for you!!!! First and foremost, Thank you to ALL the graduates that contributed to the video! I truly appreciate you & happy to celebrate YOU!!! Unfortunately, this pandemic has stopped us from physically gathering and celebrating all the hard work you’ve put in through the years. This pandemic can’t stop your spirit, it can’t dim your light, and it can’t take your degree away from you!! So when you make it out of this dark time, shine bright and light up the world! Congratulations to the class of 2020, YOU MADE IT!! PEACE & LOVE!” Being a jack of trades has allowed Teyana Taylor to become a master of all. From her smoky melodic vocals to her dynamic dance moves, the entertainer dips in dives between her talents that also include producing, songwriting, acting, directing and everything in between. When it comes to describing herself, the Harlem native can only think of one word: Everything. “I literally can do everything. I never look at anything as

being impossible,” she explains. “I exhaust all options to make what happens when I need to make happen.” Her mantra made her an early favorite to artists like Pharrell, who she signed her first deal with, and later choreographed videos for artists like Beyoncé and Jay-Z. In 2014, Teyana’s love for the arts and R&B earned her the title of the first woman signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music imprint. Between R&B’s identity crisis in the 2010s, Teyana dropped her debut album VII, with tracks like “Maybe” (featuring Yo Gotti and Pusha T) and the sultry “Just Different” shaping her musical persona. The critically

acclaimed album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart in 2014, cementing her position in today’s modern R&B field. “I fought for that raw, hood necessary R&B and now I feel like it’s better than ever,” she says. After spicing up the R&B charts, Teyana was blessed with the arrival of her daughter Junie with her husband and NBA star Iman Shumpert in 2015. “I do all of this for my baby. She’s who I do it for,” she says about Iman “Junie” Tayla Shumpert Jr., her main source of inspiration. “I always show her how to be a leader and a businesswoman.


I want her to believe that she can be anything she wants to be and it not be a shocker that she’s a female doing it all.” Soon after, Teyana went on to star in the internet-breaking video for Kanye West’s “Fade,” and scored her first MTV Moonman for “Best Choreography” at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards. But it wasn’t until the release of her second album project K.T.S.E. (released June 2018) that the world caught up with Teyana’s talents. With her all-female production company The Aunties, Teyana self-directed videos for “WTP,” the RIAA gold-selling single “Gonna Love Me,” (whose remix features Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, Method Man and Raekwon), and recently, “Issues/Hold On.” Teyana has also directed videos for her peers like T.I. (“You”), Monica (“Commitment”), and Lil Duval (“Pull Up” featuring Ty Dolla $ign) with fans like Ms. Lauryn Hill and Elton John praising her boss moves. Part of what makes Teyana stand out from the rest is her ability to move with precision and poise in everything she does. From the studio to the stage, every idea is a project with the singer front and center with a vision all her own. With her musical inspirations like Aaliyah, Teena Marie, Mint Condition, and Janet Jackson speaking to her soul, Teyana is aware her mission is larger than life. “I’m working on me every day and I think that’s my purpose,” she says, comparing her life to a never-ending book. “I’m still going, still mastering and being a better me.” Multi-hyphenate R&B superstar singer, songwriter, producer, director, dancer/choreographer, actor, fitness guru, model, mother, and Harlem native Teyana Taylor continues to gear up for the arrival of THE ALBUM. “Made It” and “Bare Wit Me” follow up the March release of Teyana’s “We Got Love” featuring Ms. Lauryn Hill. Prior to that were consecutive R&B smashes “How You Want It? (HYWI?)” featuring King Combs (Top 20 in August); and “Morning” featuring Kehlani (Top 10 in November). All videos were self-directed by Teyana – aka ‘Spike Tee.’ THE ALBUM is the long-awaited successor to K.T.S.E. (June 2018), Teyana’s second album, one of the five G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam albums produced by Kanye West during his 2018 sojourn in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. K.T.S.E. (acronym for Keep That Same Energy) set off an 18-month chain reaction for Teyana, starting with its summertime Top 10 R&B smash “Gonna Love Me.” She performed “Gonna Love Me” (in a medley with “Rose In Harlem,” another K.T.S.E. track) on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Hip-hop audiences embraced the “Gonna Love Me” remix featuring Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface Killah, Method Man and Raekwon, whose video was directed by Teyana.

K.T.S.E. spun off a hot new single and video for Teyana in early 2019, the explicit “WTP (Work This P***y).” The video was nominated for “Best Dance Performance” at the 32nd annual BET Soul Train Awards. The third single from K.T.S.E. was the evocative “Issues/Hold On.” After slaying the audience with the song live on Ellen in April 2019, Teyana was surprised on-air when Ellen presented her with the RIAA gold award plaque for “Gonna Love Me,” bringing it all full circle.



Simply Design Justin Q. Williams Words By Rashod Davenport Photos by Sean Cason

I

nterior design is a gift that many think they have but don’t fully understand. Some of us can decorate a nice room, and our friends will come in and say “Oh this is nice!” or “Okay, I see you!” However, there are rooms that are DESIGNED and the entrance response is simply “DAMN!”, “WOW!” or “OH MY GOD!”. I’ve learned that those responses are what our parents and grandparents would call “speechless”. Justin Q. Williams is an Interior Designer whose work consistently leaves his clients just that...speechless. Justin was born in the small town of Opelika, Alabama, and would relocate to the southern suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia. While the transition wasn’t easy, Justin often times tells the stories of how his mother made huge sacrifices to make sure that he had a sense of consistency and stability. As he describes it, she was a project manager of his upbringing and every decision mattered. The stories of his morning school commute, after school pickup routine, the involvement of family friends, and more showed that Mama Crystal (as we call her) was willing to do whatever she had to for her child. “Yes... Yes I did,” Mama Crystal responds as I tell her the stories that Justin has told me. “That’s what you do for you kids and your family. And he appreciated it. As he’s gotten older, I could tell that he really appreciates the sacrifices that I’ve made for him...(We take a moment as she tells me that I’m about to make her cry). He told me in 8th grade that he needs to work in order to achieve things like go to college and do the things that he needed for himself. I’m glad that he waited a bit (laughing). I had to take care of my responsibilities as a parent. He has his responsibilities with growing up in to his adulthood. So that in order for him to accomplish what he wanted from his life, I didn’t hold him back from anything. I didn’t put any kinds of pressures on him in any kind of way. When you are a child growing up, you have to find your own niche in life, you know what I mean? You have to find the way you’re

comfortable and knowledgeable of what you want to do. Because this is you, this is your life. It’s not my life. This is his life. And his life is a blessing from God.” He was always considered the popular kid mainly because of his charismatic personality and friendly demeanor. With an inept love for music and instruments, Justin was a band kid who would eventually become a first chair trombone player, drum major, and a Marching Bobcat at Bethune-Cookman College. Yet, there was a moment at 12 years old that really placed this award-winning designer on the interior path. Changing the furniture around in the house was a hobby of his. His bedroom never kept a layout too long, and any other room in the house was always game for a furniture shuffle. When his parents realized how much he loved doing this, they supported him by purchasing two computer programs, Chief Home Architect and AutoCAD. “I bought the AutoCAD Software for him because he kept talking about how he wanted to design his bedroom,” Justin’s father, Mr. Otis says. (Funny... I call his mom ‘Mama Crystal’ and his dad ‘Mr. Otis’) “He wanted to paint his bedroom different colors and do different designs in there. So I told him, ‘Go ahead. If you mess it up, you’re going to pay to get it fixed.’ But he did a wonderful job on it. He was always into architect at first. Every time we wanted to do something to the house, he would draw it up for us “This is how it’s supposed to look”. Justin took the programs and fully designed the addition to the family home and presented it to his parents. Astounded by the design, they called a contractor, shared the plans and Justin gained his first apprenticeship. He spent that summer bringing his vision to life. When the job was complete, the contractor told his parents that not only was Justin great at what he was doing, but he had a gift. Justin would continue to apprentice with the contractor until he graduated from high school. That gift of design would begin to take Justin further than he had ever dreamed. But it


would be that encouragement and support from his family that made his dreams seem a little easier to grasp. “When you are a father, you want your child to be and do good,” Mr. Otis says. “You want them to be better than you are. As long as you are encouraging them, that’s where that push comes from. That builds their morale and self-esteem. You never knock them down when they do something wrong. Even when they mess up, you still encourage them. I always told him, ‘It’s not going to be an easy road but you just have to stay in there and fight.’ If you want it bad enough, you’ll fight. And at the end of the fight, you’ll see that you’ve won. But if you don’t fight, you’ll never know what you could have been.” I met up with Justin at his ceiling to floor, wall to wall windowed apartment in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. To my delight, Justin is making dinner. (Justin makes a mean pot roast.) He asks what I would like to listen to, and seeing that we both love jazz, I suggested it. “Alexa, play smooth jazz volume four,” Justin says in his baritone pitched southern accented voice. He’s chopping up vegetables and herbs and jokes as we talk “Hey guys,

welcome to my YouTube channel, Cooking with Justin. Today we’re making pot roast, YUM.” As we laugh, I ask if he’s ready, and he transparently says, “Not really, but let’s go.” Sitting on barstools facing each other, I take a dive into the unfamiliar territory of Interior Design. Interior Design is a challenging profession. It takes a lot of understanding. The designer has to take the clients wants and needs and implement that into their plan. Some clients don’t know what their aesthetic is or how to describe it. Most of us see things in magazines, on television, or in a store and realize that there is a theme in what we like. When we still cannot come to an answer, that’s where the designer comes in. From fabric types, safety, cleanliness, the shape of the room, the color of the room, the amount of sunlight that comes into place. This all comes down to one word for Justin, functionality. “For me, it’s always functionality,” Justin explains as he takes a sip of his wine. “It’s easier to make a pretty room, but it’s more difficult to make a room that’s functional and also beautiful. You have to make sure that you focus on the function over the style because you’re always happier in a


room that functions well for you and your family versus a room that’s just pretty.” I bring up the fact that smaller apartments like those in New York City or in Los Angeles, have limited storage space and you have to get creative with what you purchase. Justin has an inventiveness for repurposing furniture and items to make them fit the current feel of a room. His bedroom has an antique chest that he turned into a nightstand. Personally, I would have never thought of that. I guess that’s why I own a magazine and not an interior design firm. But those are aspects of design that Justin likes to implement. “I love repurposing stuff,” Justin says passionately. “It’s a great chest. It came from my friend Kenya’s store, Greenhouse Mercantile, in Newnan, Georgia. Think about it. It gives the piece another story. The story’s not over. There’s more to be told. And I really like that because it’s something that you can tell your guests about as a talking point. It’s more than just the chest. This chest was once this, then it was this, and now it’s this. And the great part about it is that it can also double as storage if you need to have some things out of sight.” I’ve watched Justin’s career develop over the years and recall some of his older projects and his older designs, and we joke about how Ikea was his “go to” store to design spaces. In the beginning, Justin was designing rooms for his family and friends. He worked with smaller budgets starting around $1,500 and “turn that thing around” (as he laughs). Now, with the level of experience, training, and skill, he’s become an accomplished and awarded designer who can ask for a minimum of a $15,000 budget (space dependent, of course). But it makes sense. His work has been published, both residential and commercial. He has worked on homes from the bare bones and redesign homes and layouts. When I bring all of that full circle, the question “how does that make you feel” takes a moment to receive an answer. I see a tear welling up in his eye. He curls his lip, and nods... “It makes me feel proud....it makes me feel grateful...and it may sound weird, but it makes me feel chosen,” Justin says slowly. “It also makes me feel obligated to make certain people proud. Every time that I have a client who is happy, that’s a big moment for me. I like those times. And I get anxious at times because you worked hard for months and months, You want to make sure that they like it. It can tend to become heavy at times. Because the more responsibility that you have, the more people depend on you to follow through. So when that happens and I feel that weight, I just get more stuff done. I go back to what I know, which is work. I just focused on work. ”

Design for Justin is his calling, as he describes it. Going to design school wasn’t written in the books for him. Design was his passion and he dedicates his life to creating spaces for his clients to be proud of. However, he would never say that it was just something that he was able to just jump into the industry and start doing to the level that he has. There have been instrumental people in his life that has taught him the specifics of the trade. Helped him perfect his craft. And guided him with many of the business decisions that he continues to make. He reflects back to the contractor apprenticeship and shortly after high school, he was mentored by renowned stylist Annette Joseph, who he refers to as his Jewish mother. Listen, Annette can style the hell out of a room. She taught Justin how to make a room photo ready. I learned that a Designer and Stylist are two very different things. “A lot of people don’t know that, but the rooms that they see done by designers and in magazines are actually styled after they’re designed,” Justin explains. “And a lot of, a lot of times people don’t know that they’re not styling well. I love books. I love smalls. Smalls are like a book that’s laid open on the sofa with a pair of glasses sitting on the pages. What does that tell you? What, what story does that tell you? Somebody was sitting there reading a book and maybe they went to go get a glass of water. So everything tells a story, right? If you style a kitchen and you have a bowl with lemons in it, a pitcher of water and a small cutting board with a knife and some sliced lemons, someone’s making lemonade or making lemon water or whatever. You know, somebody is doing something, there’s activity. This house has life versus just the kitchen being the kitchen. So styling always tells a story. And sometimes it’s just styling for a pretty picture. Annette taught me how to “finish” the product.” While on assignment with Annette for a shoot with Better Homes and Gardens, Justin was introduced to his second mentor, Erika Ward. Erika is an interior designer in Atlanta who had recently remodeled her home office and was having it prepped to be photographed. Seeing her crafty style and unique blend of furniture, Justin was impressed. Erika seeing Justin’s professionalism, and keen eye for detail, she was likewise impressed with him. They talked and laughed together while Justin explained his passion for design. He would leave with Erika’s contact information and to date, they speak multiple times a day. You see, what’s important in this is even though Justin didn’t go to school for Interior Design, he had hands-on experience and understands the importance of mentorship. “I feel like, you know, there’s no better teacher than experience,” Justin says as we discuss the role the two women played in his life. “‘m not a very good textbook learner. I need to put my hands on it. So I know how it reacts when


I do this to it. So that’s super helpful to me. And I actually just said something while I was in here cooking, which was ‘clean as you go.’ That was something I learned from Annette. Do you know what I mean? If you see people who have been in design for a long time that are experienced and well versed in this industry, they’ll be able to show you and teach you things that you are unaware of just because of how new you are to it. So, yeah, I was under mentorship from several different mentors so that I could learn different facets of the trade. Thanks to their mentorship, when I complete a room, there is nothing else that has to be done. That’s because I know how to design a room and style it. All you have to do is come home and enjoy it. That’s why a lot of my pictures look professional when they’re taking on my camera phone.” As we begin to wrap up the interview (mainly because the pressure cooker is finishing up and Justin just let the pressure valve up and it smells AMAZING) I ask the last question and maybe the most important question that Justin could answer. Thanks to HGTV and DYI channel, there is a huge misconception of his biggest pet peeve...the amount of time it takes for a project to be completed once started. I watch a lot of the shows on those channels (as I’m sure you guys do as well) because I love seeing the transformation of a place. But it gives us unrealistic expectations of how long Interior designs take. Justin told me to look up how long the process can take on google. So, I do. A kitchen remodel can be anywhere from 2-6 months minimum. Bathrooms can take about a month if not more. And Bedrooms can take anywhere from a month to 6 months if not longer, depending on the furniture purchased. You see, the process of working with an interior designer means that you are getting custom pieces from different vendors. It’s not like walking into Rooms To Go and putting your couch on a truck and having it delivered to your home that evening. The furniture is ordered from wherever the vendor warehouse is at (hopefully it’s in stock). Then you have the transportation from the warehouse to your house. Hopefully, nothing is damaged in the process and has to be returned, Then there is your install day. All in all, dont expect a 3 day HGTV turnaround on your project. HGTV has numerous people working around the clock to get projects done and they can still take 30-60 days before completion. For that reason, Justin recommends getting referrals before selecting your designer. I mean let’s be honest, your livelihood is in that person’s hands. Also a great reason to be nice to your selected designer. “It’s not, it’s not an overnight process,” Justin says as he shakes his head. “It’s not, and every designer will tell you that you are having something specially curated and made just for you. It’s coming from specially curated vendors that we take the time to seek. And these vendors, we buy

directly from them. I had a client ask me, “Oh, well, what do you think we should do for here?” I’m like, “let me think about it. Let me sit down with it.” She says “Oh, I thought she was going to say something off the top of your head.” No, I don’t. some ideas, Yeah. I do have moments where something just popped off the top of my head, but for everything I don’t. And so it’s important that you give the creative process time. Where I see people making mistakes, is getting ready to redo a living space, like redoing your kitchen or redoing your bathroom, and you’re thinking this will be done in a week. That’s not realistic. So you have to be a realistic client in order to be a pleasant client. Because you also want to be a pleasant client. No one likes an unpleasant person. You’re talking to somebody that’s got your home and the palm of their hands. So you want to be pleasant.” Speaking of pleasant, my plate is in front of me and I’m ready to celebrate with my friend. He has something big on the horizon and even with expressing how proud I am of this accomplishment, I’m even more appreciative of the person I just learned so much more about. However, I’m not the only one proud of Justin’s current place. Remember those parents that Justin called his biggest cheerleaders? Well, here’s a departing rah-rah? “I feel that he’s following a gift that God has blessed him with,” Mama Crystal says. “He has been working in his calling, he does a great job, and he’s doing it from his heart. He is very much focused on what his clients want and how they want to feel in their place, you know? We’re very proud of him and whatever he sows, reaps great things for him.” “It makes me feel really good,” Mr Otis adds. “It’s like an investment that’s paid off. When I see the route he’s going and the things that he’s doing, it’s like it’s non stop for him. That makes me, as a father, feel very proud. Because I can look back and say, “that’s my son”. When I sit around some of my friends, they start talking about him. I don’t even mention his name, they do. “Oh, I need to get Justin to come by and design my house for me” They know about him. I don’t have to say anything. I just sit back and smile with pride.” To follow justin on social media, @justinqwilliams across all platforms and his website is www.trademarkdesignco.com



10 Bedroom Design Questions

with Justin Q. Williams

SUAVV: So you told me that bedrooms are your favorite area of a house to design. Why is that? Justin: Because those are typically the places that you get to create something that looks really warm, flush, and comfortable. SUAVV: Outside of the obvious answer, being the bed, what’s your favorite thing to put in a bedroom. Justin: I like to put sitting areas in a bedroom. If they don’t have one, I’d like to create one. I feel like everyone should have a little private space to decompress after a long day or preparing for one. SUAVV: Okay that makes sense. Now when it comes to

bedroom colors and natural light, what color do you typically go to and for the late sleepers, what should they do about sunlight? Justin: Typically, taupe because it’s different from gray, but it’s also very warm and holds some brightness to it. As far as sunlight, if you can’t find nice blackout curtains I would say invest in some really great blinds or shades. However, still find some nice panels (drapes for those of us trying to figure out what panels are) for those windows. SUAVV: That was for all of my PM and overnight shift friends. (Both laughing). What is one thing that should not go into a bedroom? Justin: (Sits up straight) I kind of go back and forth with


this, but, I think you should not have a TV in the bedroom. Though I have one in my bedroom, I don’t think you should. SUAVV: My grandmother always said that. She told us that a bedroom is for sleeping and sex. (Both laughing) Justin: I was going in a different direction with my answer. (Still laughing) Oh my gosh, your grandmom really said that to you? SUAVV: Yes. My grandmother was not one to hold her tongue regardless of your age. (Both laughing). But I know the Feng shui community believes that TV’s in the bedroom bring too much energy into the room. Justin: Right. But, that’s with all electronics. What do you watch in the bed? I watch the news all the time and I should not be focused on the news while I’m laying down to relax, reset, and regroup because the news is very mentally and emotionally draining. You want to calm your mind and allow it to start shutting down. SUAVV: I’ve noticed that when you have nightstands, I noticed that you like to put photos on nightstands. Justin: Yes. One or two photos are always a good thing. They’re of people and moments that make you happy. Those should be the first things you see when you wake up. SUAVV: What’s a common mistake people make in their bedrooms? Justin: Scaling. People often have these large beds in small rooms or small beds and oversized rooms. They typically just get the scale wrong. I had a client once where I walked into their master and they had the sitting area where the bed goes and the bed in the sitting area, because, (I kid you not) they wanted a sectional in the master bedroom. And that was the only way that would fit. SUAVV: (laughing) Wait. So most seating areas in bedrooms are by a window on the side of the room, like a nook in the room. Right, So they took their bed and put it over there. Justin: They took their four posts, King sized bed, and put it there. So it was like the bed was just in a little hallway. They barely had enough room to get in the bed or either side and a big sectional in the main part of the room. SUAVV: You had to think “damn” when you walked in that room? You don’t have to answer that but they way that description looked in my head just now, I said “damn” for you. (both laughing). How many pillows are

too many pillows? Justin: I mean, of course it depends on the size of the bed. So, you always should have at least two sleeping pillows minimum. So, you should have two sleeping pillows, two formal pillows, and then two to three decorative pillows. That’s enough for me. I say, if you go over that you’re doing too much. You can only sleep on two pillows. Plus, you’ll have to take all of those pillows off every night. It’s too much. SUAVV: One thing I have noticed about you is that you try to eliminate dressers. Justin: Yeah, because dressers can really go in your closet. I like for the bedroom to feel cozy. I also like eliminating those pieces that are really gonna take up space just for the sake of taking up space. Now, oftentimes you can have those “dressers” built into your closet. Plus, people are getting away from that whole “set” thing. I actually love mix-matching. It’s honestly my preference because set’s are something that someone else put together and you’re putting it in your house so there’s not thought into it.


Photos by Bobby Quillard


Tales of a Legend Glynn Turman Words By Rashod Davenport

I

magine doing what you were born to do from the age of 12. Not on purpose, but by happenstance. That’s the story of Harlem-born iconic actor Glynn Turman. Known by many for his role of retired Army Colonel and math professor Bradford Taylor from classic 90’s sitcom A Different World, Mr. Turman has been a blessing to the screen and stage from his debut role of Travis in Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 debut and Tony Award-winning Broadway Classic A Raisin In The Sun, starring Ruby Dee, Sidney Portier, Lou Gossett, Ivan Dixon, and more. Being nominated for 4 Tony awards in 1960, including Best Play, Best Actor in Play, Best Actress in a Play, and Best Direction of a Play, it’s needless to say that the first acting opportunity for Mr. Turman was one that would stand the test of time. However, all he wanted to do was play baseball with the other neighborhood kids. Though born in Harlem, Mr. Turman was raised in the

west village area of Manhattan. Which at the time was an enclave of artistic and talented people including Lorraine Hansberry who was a friend of Mr. Turman’s mother. She told his mother that she had written “a little play” and had a role for a little boy that she needed to have cast. Asking Mr. Turman’s mother if he would be interested, she was shocked when he said “No”. “I was 12 years old,” Turman laughs. “I had no idea of what a play was. And I had things I wanted to do, like play baseball, you know. Right. But I ended up auditioning and these other kids were there and I didn’t have any idea what they were there for because there was only one part for one little boy in the play. And that was me. Well, I guess that attitude won me the role, you know? That’s the kind of play, you know, it changed the landscape of theater and of black performance and Black people in America. It was an iconic story.”


Mr. Turman is on a break in his trailer in Chicago during the filming of the TV show Fargo. We are on the phone and truly understanding the genius that I am having the opportunity to speak with, I squeeze in as many questions with a man I grew up watching on television. I very seldomly get star shocked, but today was one of those days. “Brother, you can just call me Glynn,” he says. We fell out laughing when I told responded “Mr. Turman, if my mom heard me call you Glynn, she would smack me right in my grown mouth”. I shared with Mr. Turman that one of the first roles I landed when I arrived in Los Angeles was A Raisin In The Sun with the Kentwood Playhouse. We laugh about parts of the play and our favorite scenes. We joked about the white shoes my character George Merchinson wore in the play and how Lou Gossett (who Mr. Turman refers to as his big brother) would always dance around in those shoes backstage. To be placed in an atmosphere with some of the most iconic actors of an era, Mr. Turman looks back at that moment as destiny being fulfilled. He had no intention of being an actor. He wanted to become a professional baseball player. Nonetheless, with the success of the play and the recognition of his abilities as an actor, he was landing roles left and right. However, he didn’t look at acting as a career until he arrived at The High School of Performing Arts (yup, the school that classic film FAME would later be filmed about). He would get his first A in that school from his theatre class. He ran home and showed his mother the grade and told her “you know what? I think I’ll become an actor.” and her response was “I’ve been trying to tell you”. As his attitude towards acting changed so did the opportunities. The once endless list of castings dwindled down to nothing. Mr. Turman would go years before his next casted role. He would get the nod of an era when Blaxploitation films began production and made their way to theatres all over the country. Standing in the large shoes of the social impact that A Raisin in the Sun had created, Mr. Turman was very conscious of the roles that he would accept and what they would contribute to Black Culture and the image of Black people. “A Raisin in the Sun was all about characters who had the fortitude, and social consciousness,” Mr. Turman explains “The woman who wrote that play, Lorraine Hansberry was screamingly involved in the social welfare of humanity. So it set a precedent and a bar for the things that would follow in terms of making me try to contribute and keep that standard alive. You know... doing my part. It was intentional, of course, but sometimes you just got to eat. Though we always want to, you can’t always make statements, but for the most part, I’ve been very blessed to have good work come my way.”

Mr. Turman was placed into acting at a very turbulent time in America. The landscape was different. In his day, the entertainment industry was involved with the Civil Rights Movement and then the Vietnam Movement, or as he says “All of the movements” (laughing). They were in the streets, they were marching, they were protesting, they were creating, and they were bold. They understood the risks of volunteering their voice and their presence to the movements. They were unafraid. For them, the movement was bigger than the job. While different, Mr. Turman sees a lot of it being the same. He sees the atmosphere returning to our country. However, he sees a new generation standing up against injustices in a way that they weren’t able to. “I’m actually very proud of all of the young people who are contributing their work both as writers, producers, directors, as well as actors,” Mr. Turman proclaims. “And making statements, telling our own stories, telling stories that we couldn’t have told, from the perspective that we couldn’t have told in my time. We didn’t have many directors, many writers on the scene who were contributing, and whose work was being heralded and whose work was being showcased, you know, it was very difficult. Right. But not with all of the different social media’s and producers, you know, behind the scenes. Some of the stories are being told that we only wish we could have told back then. I’m just glad that I’m still able to be a part of some of these stories. There’s a story that I was very proud to be a part of. My contribution was not long-lived. The character’s still prominent, you know, so I think that’s a prime show, you know, I’m just glad that I’m still here to see and be a part of this new landscape.” The show and role that comes to my mind instantly is that of Nathaniel Lakey Sr. on ABC hit show ‘How To Get Away With Murder’. Mr. Turman plays the role of Viola Davis’ Love interests father. He has been incarcerated for decades for murder and has a monumental monologue at his supreme court trial. If you haven’t seen this, you absolutely need to watch it. The role is one that hit pretty close to home for Mr. Turman. It was speaking about the level of injustices when it comes to Black men being incarcerated in America. It was speaking to the unilateral discrepancies with the judicial system in which Blacks have to fight. It was speaking to a man whose very own father was a victim of that system. “How to Get Away with Murder was a very personal project to me in that it was a tribute to my father who spent over 10 years in the penal institution as well,” Mt Turman reveals and hints that this is a story that has never been told. “He was a man who suffered quite a bit under that incarceration and the time of incarceration. And this was an opportunity for me to dedicate my performance to him.




I was fortunate enough to have them offer me the role and have them ask as well, what my views were on that subject. I was able to tell the wonderful writers, directors, and producer of the show, Peter Nowalk, what I just told you. So right there, my input was taken and what you saw is what they made out of that input.” That role earned Mr. Turman his second Emmy nomination which he is very grateful for. It also placed him in the working arena with actress Viola Davis. Who he calls “wonderful and fantastic”. After filming that show, he was able to work with Viola Davis again in the filming of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom which comes after he did the staged rendition of the play at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles produced by Phylicia Rashad and Denzel Washington. Denzel came backstage after a showing of the play and let Mr. Turman know the play was going to the silver screen. “Denzel and I have known each other for many, many, many years,” Mr. Turman laughs. “And he said, ‘Glynn, I’ve got one for us, just hang in there.’ Three years later he came to me with an offer to do the role of Toledo that I did at the Mark Taper. I more than thrilled to be a part of this time. It was directed by the wonderful George C. Wolfe and costars Chadwick Boseman as well as Colman Domingo, Michael Potts, and of course the title role by Viola Davis. Yeah. So, it’s a fantastic cast and Denzel did a wonderful job producing it.” When asked what his favorite role to date was, he looks out of his window and sees the Chicago skyline which you can hear the smile on his face as he describes the classic movie Cooley High. Celebrating its 40th anniversary, he reflects back to filming in Chicago in the winter and how monumental that film was for the Black Movie Culture. In his opinion, the role of Leroy “Preach” Jackson is the one that put him on the map. For 4 generations, he still has people who come up to him and acknowledges him as Preach before they call him Glynn or even Colonel Thomas. At 73-years young, Mr. Turman has been an actor, writer, director, producer, and mentor to many. Knowing that the characters that he has portrayed will be recognized for generations to come, I ask a question that garnered an answer that was truly humbling. Though I see him as an icon and a way maker of the industry, I ask him how it feels to know that we see him in that light. Mr. Turman sees himself as a student of the craft. “Well, you know, it’s... unexpected,” he says slowly. “You know, you don’t go into the business thinking that you’re going to leave some sort of iconic mark on the world of show business. You know, you’re, just going from job to job trying to survive, trying to feed your family, trying

to maintain some sense of dignity, trying to become as I still am, trying to become a good actor, you know? And so that’s what you look at. For people to say, as you’ve just said, you know, “you’re an icon” or you’re this, or you’re that, or you’ve left such a thing, that’s not anything that I would have ever foreseen. So it’s always a bit of a surprise. When looked at, in that manner, you know, I just try to remain humble and can thank all of those who feel that way.”


Photographer Bobby Quillard


‘RUTHLESS’ Hustle JAIME M. CALLICA Words by Rashod Davenport

A few months ago, someone said, “Tyler Perry has a new

show on TV that you need to watch.” I’m thinking another House of Payne or Meet the Browns was going to be the concept. They said “NOOOOO. This shit is CRAZY! It’s called RUTHLESS.” Now, to be very transparent, I had a HORRIBLE work schedule while still trying to maintain SUAVV, so TV was not on my mind. I received an email request to interview one of the show’s leads, Jaime M. Callica. After being on the phone with Jaime for about an hour, I agreed to binge-watch the show and to text him when I was done to let him know what I thought…. OH MY GOD!!! Let me rewind this a bit. Jaime grew up in Toronto, Canada, and would eventually move to Vancouver with his family. As a kid, he did everything from being a martial arts black belt to ballet and tap dancing. He had what he would call “a pretty good childhood”. Jaime had some bonding

time with his grandmother doing something that we have all had the “pleasure” of doing...watching soap operas. Personally, once I heard the soaps theme songs, I knew it was nap time. For Jaime, it was time for him to watch his idol to see what he would do next. “I grew up watching The Young and the Restless with my grandmother,” Jaime says laughing. “I would always watch Victor Newman, (Eric Brayden’s character in the show). He was a billionaire megalomaniac. He would just buy businesses from people that did him wrong, just to shut the business down in the name of spite. And I was like, Oh one day, I’m going to be that dude. I’m going to be the Black Victor Newman. Not buying businesses to shut them down but buying businesses and being wealthy. And so I really fell in love with the idea of business courtesy of watching YNR. I really loved the character that was Victor Newman.”



During college, Jaime was DJ’ing at a club and was preparing to purchase a Porshe Boxster. The club owner, Justin Strange heard about the purchase and told Jaime that it was a dumb purchase and if he had the money that Jaime was going to spend on the car, he could turn it into a million dollars. He encouraged Jaime to read the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Jaime felt kind of insulted and blew it off because as he says “I didn’t like the guy.” A few months later, Jaime was at a book store with his mom and decided to purchase the book. Reading it in a few days, he went back to the club and found the owner thirsting for more knowledge. “He gave me the second book, the third book, the fourth book,” Jaime explains. “Then I started reading more, taking courses, going every free workshop I could go to on stocks, various investments, mutual funds, segregated funds, or Forex markets for about a six months to a year of investing in the markets. He said, “All right, you’re ready for real estate.” I started buying real estate at 19, just because Justin was mentoring me. So that was the beginning of my investment life at 19. And I regularly big Justin up because if it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have the financial knowledge that I have now. And I would have I have a 13-year-old Porsche Boxster (both laughing).” Over the next 7 years, Jaime would go on to own 9 residential properties and had 4 active businesses. He was on the road of being the Black Victor Newman. Then one day, he popped out of bed at 6am and said today is the day that I sell it all. He got dressed, went to one of his stores and at 9am called his realtor, Ron, who helped him amass his portfolio, and told him that he was ready to sell it all and become an actor. Of course, Ron laughed and thought Jaime was joking only to realize shortly that he wasn’t. That’s where the story of this actor began. SUAVV: So, this had to be a really hard transition. You were not only selling your stake in the businesses, you had your mom on your payroll which means, she now had to adjust her life for your pursuit of acting. Jaime: Man, I think that was one of the hardest parts. I got my mom to leave her job that she was working at previously to come to be semi-retired and work with me in the new family business. So I knew in my selling, it was going to affect her directly because she would have to go get a job and work for someone, whereas over the last four or five years, she was, ultimately, self-employed working with me. But it, it was just like, God came to me and said, now’s the time. And that was that. I couldn’t say no to that. So I sold it all. It took about a year to sell everything, which was actually probably one of the most stressful years of my life. SUAVV: So you sell the business portfolio, take a few

trips, take your mom on a surprise birthday trip, and come back and get into acting. What was that shift in life like for you? Jaime: January 16, 2013, and started acting. So I was taking classes and doing whatever I could do. I started my career as a background actor. I didn’t mind doing background work because I felt like I was helping move a story. So while they may not have any dialogue, they’re integral to the scenes. You’ll never walk through central park and there’s nobody else. On top of that, I got to see what all the other, all these other A-listers and other leads of television shows and movies were doing. I learned a lot on set when I was working, standing in actually considerably more from a technical perspective than I did in school. Things that acting school talks about like the fourth wall, speaking from your diaphragm, and floating eyelines. SUAVV: That’s very true. One thing that I learned during my acting stint in LA was that we typically overthink EVERYTHING. (both laughing) Acting isn’t as challenging as we like to make it. SOme say you just have to release yourself to the craft. Jaime: To be honest with you, I have my acting coach, Jeb. He always says, “listen, you gotta respect the craft. But like, it’s not that precious.” The reason children are the best actors, you say, be a dinosaur. And then whatever dinosaur comes to mind, they do it. They go on two legs, they make their arms short, and then they act like a tyrannosaurus rex. They don’t sit there and say, “okay, well how old is the dinosaur? Is the dinosaur’s dad’s still in the picture? Has the dinosaur eaten?” It doesn’t matter. They act like a dinosaur, but adults, we got to create all this extra stuff. Which we have to have a backstory, gotta know what happened before. What’s their mood like? What if I get an audition that says, you know, he’s a lawyer that is corrupt and works for the mob. All right. What does that mean? I’ve seen Tv before, emulate what you imagined it would look like, and learn your lines. SUAVV: Exactly, But I think that’s just how we operate in life period. Nothing can be simple. Jaime: Yo, like think about this. You’re texting someone back and forth every minute. Then they take 10 minutes before text back. And you’re like, Oh my God, does she not want to talk to me anymore? Did I say something wrong? No, she just went to the bathroom and now she’s grabbing a glass of wine. Like, there’s nothing wrong here. Do you know what I mean? (both laughing) SUAVV: Yeah, I’ve done that. It’s the problem that technology has given us with instant gratification. Now speaking on overthinking, actors have a tendency to do


this when it comes to auditioning and not being selected for roles. Now I know you got into your career and booked over 30 jobs in about 4 years. But, even with that, you faced that emotion. Jaime: It’s not that I’ve ever questioned the plan, but sometimes going through the journey, when you’re not booking, it’s, it’s hard. It’s like, it’s really hard. When you are, booking and you’re going quite literally from like show to show, it’s the greatest feeling. Because for the first couple of years, you might not have booked a job. My first credit, I booked on the anniversary of my grandmother’s passing. And I looked up and my second credit was a year later. But during that year I probably auditioned like a hundred times. One day I pulled my buddy Zack aside, he’s a casting director and his mom is a really big casting director. I was drinking one night and typically don’t try to blend friendship and work but this day, it was going to happen. I just said, man, like, how come I can’t book? Like, what am I missing? Whatever, whatever. And he goes, “all of you actors think it’s all about you,” which i thought was kind of harsh, but I popped open the can and had to take it. So I was like, say more. And he said, “there are a hundred variables that will come into play that when you don’t book a job that you’ll never know, you guys think it’s just you versus him.” SUAVV: You know we never think of the variables when we are going for something. We just want it and don’t understand why we did not get it. Jaime: EXACTLY! They loved you. But then the girl that they wanted opposite, you were too tall or too short or too dark or too light. Or she looks like she could be your sister or just look like you would’ve never been together. So they, they cast her and they cast a different guy, but they loved you. Or, this particular director, has been blacklisted by a particular network. You come in with your resume and you have a bunch of credits from that network. And it’s almost instinctively that person just doesn’t like you because that network fired them and won’t work with them again. And that was one of the most insightful conversations I’ve ever had about it. Because you do as a human, you want to think that it’s something that you did or didn’t do in the room. In reality, you could really be great, but there are a hundred variables that will say, you’re not going to get this job. SUAVV: Soo much truth to that. And it makes sense. But the right thing will always come at the right time. And Hollywood is a place that you have to stand firm on that and keep working. Jaime: I speak to readiness a lot, you know, when the time is right, it’s just right. I wanted to go to LA a number of

years ago and I would’ve failed miserably because I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t strong enough. THis industry is a marathon, not a sprint. Many people have never been on set, and when it comes down to the commitment, they honestly don’t even want to act. They don’t know how hard it is to be on set for 12 hours, filming for 12 hours, but hair and makeup for an hour before or half-hour afterward, a lot of sitting down, time travel time to and from. So in reality, your effective workday is like 14, 15 hours every day. Then you’re memorizing five to eight pages, or, we’re shooting five to eight pages a day, every single day. SUAVV: I think that’s life in general. The public always see the final result. You rarely see the work that goes into that project. And 5-8 pages is a light load. You’re now working with Tyler Perry and we KNOW his shooting schedule is intense. Jaime: Mr. P...Man listen, the way that he shoots, we will do 88 and 105 papers or more every single day. So you’re doing 10 times, in a day, what any other production in the does? Thankfully, I’m pretty good at memorization where others struggle. And it was hard for me. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And you’re doing it for someone who is a self-made boss. So you’re going to set with this person that’s written every episode, directing the episode, he’s executive producer, owns the studio lot that you’re shooting on. He’s an actor himself. And he built all of this from being homeless. The pressure to perform is... just saying it, my heart starts to race a bit like fight or flight because you’re just stressed the whole time. One day I called Matt Cedeno who plays The Highest in Ruthless. I had a couple of days where my character didn’t play. Cause they, they shot a lot of the stuff compound the Rakadushis. It was a Wednesday and I called Matt one night and I was like, “bro, I’m looking at what I got to shoot starting on Friday. I’m looking at what you guys are doing Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, how did you do it? Like, how are you getting through?” I think I was having a little panic attack. He said, “Honestly, man, I cried, I broke down, and there’s so much dialogue. But trust me, somehow you’ll get through it, when you can’t, Jennifer, our script supervisor, she’ll toss you the line. You’ll get through one way or another. SUAVV: You know what the consistent response I get from everyone I’ve interviewed that has worked with Tyler, If you can make it on a Tyler Perry set, there isn’t a set in Hollywood that you cant handle. Jaime: Honestly it’s hectic and stressful. But like you said, once you get that, and you do, you can do anything. I had this 11-page audition, where there were three scenes. It was like three pages, four pages, and three final pages. And I went to the gym, I was on the treadmill, and in the first 20 minutes on being on the treadmill, I memorized the




whole thing. I remember the moment where I stopped, took my feet off the treadmill, just standing there. And I looked at it and started laughing, like, I know this, I can put this away. Typically, as I said, I’m pretty good with words, but that would have still taken me a few hours before working with Mr. P. So I polished it up a bit and working on it a few times and landed the role. Working with Mr. P. and seeing his work ethic and what he has done, you leave that studio lot knowing that if you put your drive into your goals, anything is possible. You just have to want it bad enough. SUAVV: LISTEN!!!! Everything that you want to do in life is obtainable if you are willing to do everything you have to do to get it...Legally….Lord Jesus, let me say legally (both laughing hard). But, that also says a lot about your work ethic. Because it’s not a simple task. What I realized living in LA and being around “actors” is that EVERYONE calls themself an actor without doing the work. And you have to respect the work. Jaime: It’s almost disrespectful. Someone said, “Oh, I’m an actor.” I’m like, why? Because you have a headshot and a resume where you put your stats on paper. Like that doesn’t make you an actor much. It would be insulting for someone to take year one under undergrad studies in science And then call themselves a doctor. That’s ridiculous. You have four years of undergrad. Then you go to medical school for seven years. So you spent about 11 years and hundreds of thousands of dollars before you make a penny to be able to call yourself a doctor. Why don’t you think that acting deserves a quarter of those years? So I’m like, you’re not an actor just because you have a picture that your friend took of you doesn’t make you an actor. You have to put in that necessarily work. SUAVV: Now, you’ve done the work either background or as a main character. So to hear that you are in a Disney project, Upside-Down Magic, made me excited for you. Disney is a big deal. Tell me about that project. Jaime: Super dope. I mean, well, we’ve all been kids loved Disney forever, right? Like I watch every Disney movie. They’ve been doing major things, acquisition, Marvel, Fox, and so on. You could do no wrong to be a part of his new family which now is now my personal massive love. And I love that, but this particular movie is really awesome. I’m playing Augustus. While my role in this first one isn’t huge, I play the father of Nory played by Izabela Rose. And she discovered that she has powers to do somethings and she is learning to control them and fix some mistakes that she made and prove some people wrong. It was really awesome to be a part of it. I look forward to people watching it and loving it. It’s based on four novels. I just look forward to them making number two, three, and four.

Now to finish this off, RUTHLESS which airs on BET+ is about a woman who runs off to a cult only to find that the cult in into drugs, guns, and sex-crazed. There is an undercover agent in the cult but they think he may have been compromised because he has stopped checking in. Jaime plays an FBI agent who is planted into the local police department to get close enough to the cult to check on the agent and see exactly what is going on at the camp. Trust me, the twists and turns and plot are going to make you beg for a second season. So, binge watch it before the next season drops. Thank me later.


Drum Major for Justice

Reverend Al Sharpton Words By Allison Kugel


For many Black Americans, he is next to a Messiah. For

many non-Black Americans, he is thought to be an agitator, riling up already uncomfortable societal quagmires that are better left swept under the rug. Media image aside, Reverend Al Sharpton is neither of these things. The boy raised by a single mother in working class Queens, New York, developed a passion for civil rights activism as a preteen. He began marching alongside Reverend Jesse Jackson and other prominent civil rights activists at the tender age of thirteen, seeking to progress the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of civil disobedience and taking the high road to equal rights under the law for Black Americans. As the years progressed, though the American civil rights movement has remained something of a moving target, much of the fight has landed at Reverend Al Sharpton’s doorstep. Families of victims of police brutality, fatal racial discrimination and other hate crimes come to him in their quest to gain the media attention they need to enact criminal justice and legislative reform on behalf of their loved ones. The powerless and voiceless look to Reverend Sharpton to get their voices heard. As Sharpton, himself, put it to me during our conversation, “People have called me an ambulance chaser, but we are the ambulance.” He is referring to victims’ families who have been helped by Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN), providing everything from the media attention these families need to pressure prosecutors to take action towards justice, to gaining the attention of congress for policy reform, as well as emotional and financial support in some instances. Now, with his new book, Rise Up: Confronting A Country At The Crossroads, Reverend Al Sharpton outlines his unrelenting position on the weightiest political and societal issues of our time, recounts some hard lessons learned, and offers an inside glimpse into the mentors who shaped the man we see today. Most importantly, Reverend Sharpton outlines his plan for an America at the crossroads. Allison Kugel: In light of recent news in the Breonna Taylor case (no criminal charges were filed in her death), what was your first reaction when you heard that decision? Reverend Al Sharpton: It was alarming, but not surprising. I didn’t have confidence in this investigation, because of the obvious policies of the prosecutor. The prosecutor guides the grand jury and there is nobody in there besides the prosecutor. This prosecutor is a protege of Mitch McConnell. I did not think that he was going to do anything. I did feel that the indictment of the other officer, [Brett] Hankison, for the endangerment of everybody but Breonna was just as offensive. What they are saying is that he was

reckless in who he was shooting at and putting others at risk. What about who they shot, and her being at risk? It is one of the reasons why we do what we do, in saying there needs to be new laws. We just had a big march with tens of thousands of us, three weeks ago. Among two of the things we wanted are The George Floyd Policing and Justice Act that sat in the House, but the Senate hasn’t taken it up. It would strengthen the laws that would have eliminated the no knock laws and put this whole thing in a different perspective. That’s one of the things I talk about that in this new book (Rise Up, Hanover Square Press). Allison Kugel: Many people believe that you just show up wherever the action and media attention is. It’s important for people to know that you and your National Action Network (NAN) are the ones who work to bring national attention to these cases in the first place. For example, it was your organization, NAN, that brought national attention to Trayvon Martin’s murder and to George Floyd’s murder. Without your hard work, the world wouldn’t know the names Trayvon Martin or George Floyd. Why isn’t this common knowledge? Reverend Al Sharpton: A lot of the media just doesn’t say it. Ben Crump (Attorney for the Floyd family) and the families have said it. In fact, Breonna Taylor’s mother’s first interview was on my show (MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation”). They couldn’t get a national show before my show. Sybrina Fulton (Trayvon Martin’s mother) wrote about it her book on Trayvon. Ben Crump brought them to New York to ask me to blow up Trayvon [in the media]. Trayvon had been buried for 2 weeks. I didn’t even know about Trayvon until they came and met with me in my office. We made it an issue and called the first rally and had about 10,000 people out there. It ended up being the day my mother died, and I went ahead with the rally anyway. I said in the eulogy to George Floyd that people call me to blow things up, and I have an infrastructure with NAN where we support the family, we help them get legal advice and media advice, and we stay with them. Sometimes people can’t cover their expenses if they need to do a rally. Some of them need to pay their rent, and NAN helps with that. They call us because they know we’ll come. Allison Kugel: Who is your heir apparent once you reach a certain age and you are no longer able to do this work? Reverend Al Sharpton: That would come up through the ranks of NAN (Sharpton’s National Action Network). We have a lot of young people in our youth and college division, and some of them have a lot of potential. It is not up to me to choose who it will be, but I think it will come up from the ranks of the movement. That is why I built an organization. I could have just resigned from NAN several years ago, not worried about raising five to ten million



dollars a year, and just done radio and TV and been a personality. I built a structure because I wanted to go way beyond my viability. I came out of that kind of structure, but nobody anointed me. The point person before me was Reverend Jesse Jackson who was one of my mentors, but he didn’t choose me. Cream rises to the top. You’re going to take a lot of scrutiny. You’re going to take a lot of attacks. I’ve been stabbed and done time in jail for marching. There is a downside to this, and not everybody is built for that. Allison Kugel: What you are saying is actually a great life lesson. Nobody anoints you. Nobody taps you on the head and says, “You are the chosen one.” It has to come from within, and a person takes it upon themselves to take the ball and run with it. That applies to anything in life. Reverend Al Sharpton: Absolutely, and you will only do it if it comes from inside. If I sat down and asked somebody if they would go through what I went through… I’ve done 90 days in jail at one time. Who would apply for that? But if it is in you, you take it as it comes because your commitment and your beliefs are bigger than whatever it is you are going to face. But this is not a career move. I started to write when I was 12, I started preaching before that, and I became youth director under Jesse and Reverend William Jones when I was 13. When I was 13 years old, I didn’t sit down and say, “If I do this, one day I’ll have a show on MSNBC.” When I started, there was no MSNBC. There was no radio show syndication owned by blacks. You do things out of commitment and things result from that, but your critics will act like you just figured out this will make you famous. How would I know at 13 years old where this was going to go? Allison Kugel: After reading your book cover to cover I went to sleep and woke up the next morning with this thought: We are supposed to be the smartest, most sophisticated species on the planet. However, we have trillions of dollars in circulation on this planet, and millions of people are broke. We have more than enough food, to the point that we throw out ridiculous amounts of food every day, and millions of people are starving. So, we can’t be that smart. Reverend Al Sharpton: I think you should be an activist. You are absolutely right. It’s a matter of will and a matter of using the intelligence we claim to have to distribute things more wisely, and to make people the priority rather than greed and ego. It’s a decision that we throw out food and not feed everybody. There is enough food for everybody. It is a decision to allow the water and the air to be polluted for people’s profit. We can clean up the air and the water. That is part of why I’m saying we need to Rise

Up (the title of Sharpton’s new book, out 9/29), and this is not a book that just deals with blacks. I deal with climate change. I deal with LGBTQ rights. I’m saying, across the board, we could be better than this, but we are not rising up and demanding these things. Allison Kugel: In your book you illustrate a parallel between The Great Depression and The New Deal put in place by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and our current economic crisis due to COVID-19 and the potential solution of a Green New Deal. Have you had the chance to speak with Kamala Harris or Joe Biden about this? Reverend Al Sharpton: During the [primary] campaign, yes. There was the meeting when Kamala came to Harlem and went with me to Sylvia’s soul food restaurant. I’ve talked to them separately. I’ve not talked to them at length since they were nominated. Obviously, we’ve talked on the phone, but this is something that I’m pushing out and I’m encouraging them to do. With COVID-19 this country is going to go through a tremendous economic challenge. We need a Marshall Plan and government involvement to bring the country back. If we don’t have that kind of engagement, we are going to have a very difficult 2021 and 2022. Allison Kugel: How do you see a Green New Deal rolling out despite the strong lobby for oil? How can a new administration circumvent that? Reverend Al Sharpton: Rise up and vote in this election and put in office people that will not be in any way swayed by the lobbyists. We have to change the lawmakers. Lobbyists can only go as far as who they can influence. You currently have people in the Senate and the Congress that they can influence. They have to have that majority commit to it; the same way Roosevelt did with The New Deal. That is why I wanted this book out before the upcoming election, to lay all of this out. Allison Kugel: With the worldwide protests that erupted after the murder of George Floyd, what do you ultimately see resulting from all the protesting? Reverend Al Sharpton: The legislation is one, as I said, but the overall result should be how we as a culture redefine policing and move past police being above the law while questioning the actions of some police is thought to be anti-police. I think legislation can enforce this, or we need a cultural shift. One of the reasons the Floyd case caught on the way it did is that it happened in the middle of a pandemic and everyone was in lockdown. There were no sports, so people were watching the news to see what was happening with the lockdown. They kept seeing this foot-


age over and over again, and they couldn’t turn to sports as a distraction. There was no distraction with George Floyd, and I think that caused an eruption. How could somebody press their weight with their knee on someone’s neck for more than eight minutes unless there was some venom there? Allison Kugel: I believe everything happens for a reason. I love how you said that God chooses the most unlikely people to make the biggest impact on the world. George Floyd’s story and his likeness will be passed down for generations to come. Has the Floyd family grasped the enormity of that? Reverend Al Sharpton: Yes, we talk about it all the time. His brother, Philonise, who does a lot of speaking for the family, we talk almost every day. We talked last night, and I think they have begun to understand the impact. Their immediate reaction was they didn’t understand it, because they were suddenly thrust into something [public] and they were also mourning. As time has gone on and they see people responding to George and his image, they understand that maybe God used him as an instrument. I told them God absolutely used him as an instrument. Nothing but God could have brought it to this level, and you have to be at peace with that and also set your responsibility in that. Allison Kugel: I want to talk to you about Defund the Police. I read where you are not in favor of it, and I’m definitely not for it. Rather than defund the police, I am of the mind that some funds should be reallocated towards programs for compassion, empathy, tolerance, psychological competency, and things like that. What are your thoughts? Reverend Al Sharpton: I think that we should redistribute how we do the resources like dealing with some of the things you outlined. A month after we did the eulogies for George Floyd, I did a eulogy for a 17-year-old kid killed by a stray bullet in the Bronx, and a eulogy for a one-year old baby that was killed by a straight bullet in Brooklyn. How can we say we don’t need policing when our communities are disproportionately victims of crime? We are the only community that has reasonable fear of cops and robbers. I think we need to reallocate how we deal with the funds for police. We must have police in presence because right now we are inundating our communities with guns and drugs, and that is reality. Ironically though, I think what people don’t understand, Allison, is the one who has defunded the police is Trump. By Trump ineffectively handling COVID-19, most of these cities are going to be in deficit and will be laying off police. That is a bigger threat than people stating it at rallies. They have run out of funds. They are laying off teachers and policeman in some cities.

Allison Kugel: Good point. And whether you love Trump or hate him, every American should be aware that an important part of our democracy is a free press, as well as our postal service. When you have somebody in the highest office in the land who essentially gaslights the American public and says, “You can’t trust the media, you can’t trust the medical experts; only believe Me,” that is very dangerous rhetoric and undermines our democracy. Why do you think so many Trump supporters aren’t seeing that? Reverend Al Sharpton: It baffles me on one level, and on another level, I think because the country is so divided, and they have been divided by the media. The media has convinced people that everybody but FOX {News] and a few radio talk show guys are buffaloing you or fooling you. They set a climate where a guy like Trump, who really is representing himself almost as an autocrat, can rise up and take advantage of that. He can say, “Don’t believe them, believe me. I’m one of you.” There is nobody more not one of them than Trump, with the glitzy billionaire lifestyle he lives. Whether he is a real billionaire or not, we don’t know. But he’s been able to sell that to people who are suffering through existence issues that are lower-middle class or poor, like I grew up. It’s appealing to them that they are doing this to me, and he has identified “they” as the liberal media. He gives everybody a blame game. In the interim, he does policies that don’t help them, but that they can feel that it is not his fault, instead it’s their fault. Allison Kugel: Throwing it back to the 2016 presidential election, do you think Hillary Clinton was a strong and viable candidate? Reverend Al Sharpton: I think she was a strong and viable candidate, but she did not run a strong and viable campaign. They did not engage the ground enough. To lose Michigan by 12,000 votes, I know three churches that could have given her that. They never went into Detroit. They never really went into Milwaukee. I think there was almost this feeling of, “We got this. Nobody is going to vote for Trump.” She certainly had the credentials. I think she had the vision, and I think she is a decent person. I knew her since she was First Lady, but I think her campaign was too up in the air, too high ground. They didn’t get on the ground, and that is where the voters were. It left an opening for Trump to do it. I think that Biden has not run that campaign so far. He has been on the ground and he has his infrastructure on the ground. Allison Kugel: As a Jewish American, this next question is more personal. There is a faction of the Black American movement that has become antisemitic as of late. It’s confounding to me based on our shared history and a


lot of our shared activism. How can we clear up some of these misconceptions? Reverend Al Sharpton: We need to stand and walk together and go back to the history. When I was a kid, I will never forget, Reverend Jackson brought me to the Jewish Theological Seminary, and I met Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel who marched with Dr. King. Rabbi Heschel gave me a collection of his books and I still have some, like God and Man, and some others. There are people like Heschel, who were part of the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement. I tell a lot of people today that when we talk about voting rights, Goodman, Chaney, and Schwerner, were three Jews who died to get us the right to vote. I don’t think enough of us talk about that in the Black community. And yes, we may have had our disagreements, but the history of it is not put out enough and we have to deliberately deal with the misnomer that we have not come together and suffered together. I remember when 9/11 happened. I went to Mort Zuckerman, who was then the head of the Conference of Jewish Organizations, and I said I want to go to Israel and identify with the fact that they live under this kind of terrorism all the time, and we just went through it in New York. [Former Israeli President] Shimon Peres invited me as his guest to Israel and I went and met with him. He asked me to take that message to [Yasser] Arafat. He set up a meeting with [Yasser] Arafat (late Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization), and I went and worked with them. There are people on both sides that don’t want to let certain things go, but we have to keep standing up and represent the facts of history. We’ve suffered together, we’ve fought together, and at this time we cannot afford to be separate. We are fighting the same enemy. Most people that are racist are also antisemitic, and those who are antisemitic are mostly racist. We are connected and we need to stop acting like we are not. Allison Kugel: I like that. A big part of your organization, the National Action Network, is Criminal Justice Reform. Recently Kim Kardashian worked with President Trump to have the life sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a nonviolent offender, commuted. Would you ever be open to following suit and working with this current administration on Criminal Justice Reform? Reverend Al Sharpton: I don’t trust Trump. I did support the [Emergency Community Supervision Act of 2020] bill that Corey Booker and Hakeem Jeffries came to me with. They said, “Even though we are working with Jared Kushner, would you support this bill?” Van Jones called me, and he was working very closely with Jared Kushner. I said, “I’m not going to do photo ops with them, but I support the bill.” I went on my show and endorsed the bill. I think you have to put principle over personality, but I don’t want a photo opp with this president. He called me after he won

and invited me to Mar-A-Lago, and I wouldn’t go because I believe he is just a cynical manipulator. Even bad people can sometimes deliver good results, and I didn’t want to get in the way of the results. I wanted to support it even though I do not trust him. Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Allison Kugel: (Laugh) Lastly, there has been a lot of rioting and looting mixed in with peaceful protesting. Your organization’s famous slogan is, “No Justice, No Peace.” Do you want to clear up, for people, what you mean by that? Reverend Al Sharpton: It means the only way we are going to have real peace, where we can live together as a society that respects each other, is to have justice. I don’t mean “no peace” in the sense of violence. I am absolutely, unequivocally against violence. I have denounced it everywhere and will continue to. As far as the two cops shot in Louisville, Kentucky, I think it is morally wrong. You cannot become like the people you are fighting. If you become like that, if you have the same values and the same moral code, they have already defeated you. At the same time, I think there’s a difference between peace and quiet. Quiet means just shut up and suffer. Peace means let’s strive to work together even if we’ve got to march and make noise together to get an equal society for everybody. That is what I mean by “No Justice, No Peace.”





Soul Searching Rome Flynn Words by Rashod Davenport

“My break the first big project that I did was a film called Drumline: A New Beat on VH1 and it was the first big film that gave me visibility and got my foot in the door,” Rome tells me. “I got to work with Nick Cannon, Alexandra Shipp, Jordan Callaway, and VH1 and just the entire cast. Drumline was such a cultural film that the second one, even if it was good or not, people just tuned in and watched it anyway. That was the first big role I’ve gotten.” Los Angeles is the home of 170,000 union-represented actors. Let that sink in for a moment. These are just the actors who are qualified to be in the union. There is maybe 2-3 times that number of aspiring actors nestled in the city as well. One of the most challenging tasks of making it in that city. Is getting your face seen and your foot in the door. Rome Flynn did just that. Rome is a guy whose face

you will recognize before the name. Or, you may just refer to him from his characters. Though being on the acting scene for a short 6 years, it’s safe to say that this actor is here to stay. His entry into the industry may have been the sequel to Drumline, but his true start of acting trails back just a bit further. And trust me, the streets were not lined with tinsel. Rome grew up on the southside of Chicago in the Robert Taylor Homes with 7 siblings. Growing up in a house where attention was scarce, Rome found that he had a talent of doing impersonations and accents which would he would show off to try to keep the family full of laughter. He also realized that he had a talent for sports. Eventually, he would end up playing on the same Langford High School basketball team that NBA Champion Andre Ig-



“I mean, I didn’t know what to expect from here. I don’t know if I was going to be successful or not, but I just knew I had to get here.” uodala was previously a superstar. His development as a basketball player did not only make him the popular kid in school, it would be what he felt was his only way out of poverty and the hood. “I just wanted to try to get to college, you know,” Rome says as he explains earning his college scholarship. “I didn’t have the means, you know? We grew up very poor, so I didn’t have a lot of money around. I knew that if I wanted to go to college, I would have to get there on a scholarship. That’s when I started playing basketball and kind of working my way into getting a scholarship from basketball. That was my only option to get there. My thoughts were “let me figure out how I can do this so I can try to be successful in my family”. From what I know, nobody in my family had gone to college and actually finished either. I, consequently, didn’t finish either. I ended up leaving college and my scholarship to come to Los Angeles to pursue acting. I didn’t know anything about acting. You know, I didn’t know what a monologue was. Growing up there wasn’t any, I wasn’t in drama class or anything like that. But that same urge and intuition that drove me to want to go to school, is the same reason I left. I knew that acting was something, if I could do it well, I’d have an opportunity to do well. I could act forever. As for basketball, I figured I’ve got a few years, and I don’t know how far I’d get in basketball. I didn’t have dreams of NBA. I just didn’t think that was obtainable for me. So I just thought it was a little more logical to try to pursue something even though it was really unlikely for me to be successful in acting. I figured at least I could be somewhere warm, you know? I’d rather fail somewhere new instead of failing somewhere I’ve been the entire time anyway.” He is Cuban-Irish-Black American, his mother is black and he was able to trace his father is Irish and Cuban. His paternal grandmother was Irish and his paternal grandfather was Cuban. Rome left Chicago for a better opportunity at life, the same way his great grandmother did when

she left Ireland and arrived at Ellis Island in New York. He was able to catch the eye of an agent whom he and a friend would live with for a few days and then with another friend until they were able to find their own place. Once settled, he did what many aspiring actors did, found jobs and started looking for acting classes and auditions. Working at PF Changs and Macy’s at the same time for a few months, his dreams became bigger than the jobs. “I got fired from both of them and realized that I was wasting my time,” Rome laughs. “I wasn’t okay with people talking to me however they wanted to. Especially where I came from, it was really hard for me to work under people that I felt like the only difference between me and them is that they went to a year of college or got some sort of business degree or a trade. And I was like, I can’t do this. I’m better than that.” After the process of auditioning and earning a role in the Drumline sequel, Rome landed a huge opportunity. He was cast as Zende Forrester Dominguez in long-running daytime soap opera The Bold and The Beautiful. Working that job for two years, he received a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Younger Actor in a Drama Series. After that, the roles and opportunities continued to flow. He found his groove and his determination to succeed was his driving force. All of this for a kid who jumped off of a cliff in hopes of catching flight. “I feel like it was more of a purpose-driven thing,” Rome explains. “I mean, I didn’t know what to expect from here. I don’t know if I was going to be successful or not, but I just knew I had to get here. If i could just get to Los Angeles, everything else would kind of work itself out. I feel like I aligned with part of my purpose. And whenever you do that, you understand that even if you fail, you fail forward, you know? You end up closer to what you want and closer to your goal. Even when even in failing, you ended up closer. So I think that I noticed that I was aligned with that and things weren’t easy, but they weren’t severely compli-



“ I got heat from the fans a hundred percent because they also just kind of attached me to be some sort of replacement for Wes, which wasn’t the case at all. And I had to live in that shadow and also with people not really wanting to be receptive of my character because of the threat that he was to the other characters that they loved.�


cated either. So I knew I was headed down the right path. I just didn’t know how I would get there.” Rome would really catch the public eye by joining the cast of the extremely popular hit ABC series ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ portraying controversial character Gabriel Maddox. His arrival on the show was confusing to many of the fans and just as confusing to Rome, himself. Entering a show that already been on its feet for a few seasons, the untrusted arrival of the new law student, threw many of the fans off and Rome caught a little heat from those same fans. He jokes about not knowing why he was on the show or what his purpose was. As we laugh about how he says 60% of fans didn’t like his character and another 40% just liked how he looked, he digs into Gabriel’s development on the show. “I didn’t know a lot about what was going on with my character,” Rome laughs. “They didn’t know that I was gonna be Sam’s son until I was there already. Maybe they knew, but they didn’t know much about anything else. I got heat from the fans a hundred percent because they also just kind of attached me to be some sort of replacement for Wes, which wasn’t the case at all. And I had to live in that shadow and also with people not really wanting to be receptive of my character because of the threat that he was to the other characters that they loved. I mean this show had a way of making you forget your morals. (both laughing) I mean, in any other sense you would be like, yeah, he should take them down. They killed his dad. But in this sense, you know, people were like, why does he care about his dad? He never even met him. And it’s like, in what world does that makes sense, you know? So but that’s just, you know, that’s the name of the game, man. You just have to roll with the punches.” While rolling with the punches and further developing as an actor, Rome used his pastime to step more into the second passion, music. Though he has always and an affinity for music, he was at a fork in the road and had to pick one. Music has always been a love of his, but acting took precedent in his life due to the ability to make money, gain more visibility, and offer stability. He continued to play his guitar and other musical instruments while running lines and being on set. After making the decision to put out some music, he walked a tight rope between filming and recording. There wasn’t a rush for him because he wanted to focus on the quality of the music. Let’s be honest, once you put it out there, it’s out there forever. When the pandemic hit, it gave the actor some space and a little more availability to solely feed his passion for song. We laughed for a while about how real the “out of sight,

out of mind” saying has been in play with speaking to friends and colleagues during the shutdown of cities. He tells me about how he stopped hearing from a lot of people and how much he wants to get back to his regular life. Rome is still an avid basketball player and works out often to maintain his physique and health. Then I mentioned that he dropped a track entitled “Keep Me In Mind” and his fan base exploded. “Keep Me In Mind” was a song that I put out because I feel like a lot of people could identify with it and it’s just a song that I wrote and liked,” Rome says. “It was something I was feeling, and then, it was so original and I wanted to just give people the opportunity to get their own perspective on it or interpret the way they wanted to. It’s the perspective of a guy who’s on the outside looking in on somebody else’s relationship, wishing that they could see that they could do better, but the other person’s really not seeing it, you know? So without telling her, he’s telling the person, straight up, I can do better. It’s just like subtly reminding that person, like to keep me in mind when you’re going through this stuff that you’re going through. Basically, know that I’m here. So that was partially the reason why I put it out. There is this area of trying to figure out what it is that you want in a relationship and I feel like, in relationships, people compromise a lot and it’s okay to compromise. But when you start compromising internally, I feel like that that works against you.”



A Star is Born Nafessa Williams

Words by Rashod Davenport Photos by Michael Letterlough, Jr. @michaelletterloughjr Makeup by Rodney Jon @madebyrjon Styling by Yvonne @styledbyyvonne Hair by Kee Taylor @sosheargenius

This article not only showcases the amazing talent and transitional role of Nafessa but pays tribute to one of her acting and musical icons and inspirations Diana Ross.

We all grew up with our favorite superhero. For most of

the boys, it was He-Man, Superman, Spiderman, or Batman. If you were a comic book kid, you were more into Green Lantern, Iron Man, and Venom. Nonetheless, we all had someone we would pretend to be. There were fake capes, and makeshift weapons out of all kinds of household items. For Nafessa Williams, her superheroes were the actresses that she saw on TV who looked like her. The actress and model is one of the lead stars in the DC Comics Series Black Lightning which can be seen on Netflix. She plays the role Anissa Pierce aka Black Thunder, the lesbian daughter of Superhero Black Lightning. Acting was her passion and to have that brown girl representation to give her confidence, she knew that it was only a matter of time before she could be that images for other little girls.

While breaking down all kinds of social barriers, The Philly born and bred beauty is up for the task. “I wanted it to be Rudy Huxtable,” Nafessa laughs as we talk on the phone. She is in Los Angeles in her apartment and I am in Atlanta. It’s warm on both coasts and she is just coming in from a run. “I remember watching TV and I was really young and I identified with the brown girls Keshia Knight-Pulliam, Tatyana Ali, and Lark Vorhees. I would watch TV and be like, “I look like them.” I’m really grateful that I had those images to look up to. And let’s be honest, who didn’t want to be Claire Huxtable. I remember watching TV really, really young and being obsessed with TV. Things like coming home, writing down my TV Guide in my composition book of my favorite shows, and I would




interesting. Sometimes, it was too much for me to sit in on. That experience was what would allow me to see that I did not want to be a lawyer. There’s no off button. You become super obsessed with your cases. You get emotionally attached to your cases. Ultimately, I couldn’t be responsible for someone going to prison or not. At the end of the night, when it was time to lay my head down and go to sleep, it would have been way toon much pressure. So I told my mom, I’ll play one on TV and here we are today. (laughing)

imagine being the little brown girl on the shows. I was always fascinated by entertainment, TV, and film. I just didn’t know how to go about it.” What Nafessa would find is that it didn’t matter if she knew how to go about it. When you have a dream and a purpose that is strong enough, you’ll get the needed push from what many call “The Universe” and you’ll start to figure things out from that point. Nafessa is the first in her family to be in the arts. Whenever you are the first to do something there isn’t much guidance that can be given. Mainly because the people surrounding you may not know the details, struggles, roadmap, or emotions that fall in line with your goals. So like many with an unorthodox desire, it was just a dream that she kept to myself for a while. Because in her view, it was “more of a hoop dream than a possibility”. The questions of ‘How do I get started?’ would overcome her every time the dream poked her. “ “I’m a little girl in the hood from Philly,” Nafessa says bluntly. “Like, yeah right. I don’t live in Hollywood. I don’t know anybody in Hollywood. So, I just went and did what most people would think to do…go to school, get a college degree, and do something practical with my life.” And that’s what she did. He went to West Chester University in the Philadelphia outskirts, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, interned that the DA’s office in the homicide unit in Philadelphia, and worked at a couple of law firms. SUAVV: In that time frame when you were interning at the DA’s office, that’s at a time when the homicide rate in Philly was really high. I remember living there when, the murder rate, per capita, was the highest in the country. Nafessa: It was pretty interesting because I actually sat in court cases during homicide trials. When you work in the homicide department of the DA’s office, obviously every case is a homicide. So, it’s very intense. It’s very emotional. It’s very graphic. And it’s a learning experience to see the system at work, firsthand, in your own city. It’s pretty

SUAVV: My mom was a homicide victims advocate in Harrisburg for about eight years and it was kind of the same thing. It became a point where like she would go to sleep and she would see the victims and crime scene photos. And ultimately, thats what took herr awway from the job because it was draining. Nafessa: Because whatever you’re thinking of, you’re going to become obsessed with. If you’re thinking about it all the time, and it’s what you’re working on day in and day out, it just doesn’t leave you easily. I didn’t want that. I was like right under some of the top DA’s. Right. So it’s pretty heavy. It’s also pretty heavy seeing young black men getting sentenced. That’s heavy. It was all way too much for me. SUAVV: I can only imagine what that feels like. When you decided that you’re done and you say, “you know what, this ain’t for me. I’m going to go into acting.” Why acting? How did you get into the industry? Nafessa: After I graduated college, I was an assistant to a worker’s comp attorney and I remember just going to work and sometimes I would cry going into work because that’s how bad I did not want to be there. I hated it and I remember saying to myself, “what can you really see yourself doing for the rest of your life?” Whatever that is you need to start. I really always wanted to act and model. I told myself to, go do it. And I started, I would take auditions after work and on the weekends. Then, there’s one day I had an audition when I had to work and I asked my job if I can go and they said no. And I went anyway. When I got back to work the next day, my computer didn’t turn on (escalating in laughter). So that was the first day of the rest of my life. I had the boldness to say “I’m going to go for what I want.” and I got fired ...and it was the best thing ever. I started going to New York and taking advantage of everything locally that I could. I never stopped. I told myself “if you start, you got to go all the way.” SUAVV: And that’s the thing. Most people aren’t willing or they don’t have the courage to take that first step. That fear of rejection from industry, family, and friends make people put their dreams on the back burner to please everyone else. How did you handle that? Were


“If you know God, and you know God ain’t ever gonna miss you on your blessing, you can utilize your language differently.”



you worried about the rejection? Nafessa: People thought that was crazy because they’re scared of failure. I told them, you’re going to go through years of rejection. So just get comfortable and get acquainted with that. Because if you really say you want to be an actress, that’s like saying you want to be the biggest basketball player, like you gonna have to put serious work in and you’re gonna lose a lot. But you have to be prepared for that rejection and prepare for that failure. I can’t even count at this point how many times I’ve heard no on my journey. That strength and that resilience to get back up after hearing no with confidence is a, beast out here in Hollywood. SUAVV: I tell people all the time. If you want to build your self-esteem, being an actor will do it. You have to be willing to take rejection and then learn that the rejection is nothing personal is all business. Right? You can be amazing and they’ll tell you you’re amazing, but it’s just not right for THAT project. It’s not what we want right now. Nafessa: Are you kidding me? I think it was preparing myself in that and knowing that even then I’m still going to win. That is when I found that fearlessness in myself and I say I won. I knew I won because I decided to do what was really going to make me happy no matter how insane it sounds. People were like, “Why would you leave that goodjob? You had your benefits.” And I’m like, guys, y’all ain’t gone understand cause the same dream doesnt exist in everyone.” SUAVV: Right! Absolutely. So when you’re ready to pursue this dram, Your parents were supportive of this which isn’t common. Nafessa: At first, my mom thought, it was insane, (laughing) but she also said, “I know everything you touch turns to gold. So, if that’s what you’re saying you’re going to do, I know you’re going to be straight.” And I never had issues with my moms support in me along my journey. She always knew that I’d be successful. SUAVV: Was she one of the ones that continue motivating you throughout the process? Nafessa: Oh yeah, for sure. It was my mom and her faith in God that that grounded me and has kept me where I am right now. It was very clear to me that I found my life began when I realized that this is what I was truly about to do because I know it was my purpose and God really quickly continue to show me confirmation to, to give me that confidence to keep going.

SUAVV: A parents faith is always a great tool to have on your belt. How has being in this industry build your own faith and even strengthen it? Nafessa: Lord. You know, a lot of people when they’re having a hard time in, particularly in Hollywood, I encouraged them to have a place to go. Whoever your God is, whatever he looks like, whoever who, however you serve My faith is what I’ve leaned on. Knowing that I’ve already won and knowing that what’s for me is for me has really kept me. There’s a lot of times when you go to those auditions and it’s so easy to be like “she got my role.” If you know God and you know God ain’t ever gonna miss you on your blessing, you can utilize your language differently. I didn’t get some of the other jobs that I thought I wanted because I was supposed to be Thunder on Black Lightning. God made sure I didn’t miss what was mine. SUAVV: And that’s real. I know meditation is also really important to you. So, let’s touch on that. So how often do you meditate? How long do you meditate? When did you start meditating? Nafessa: I started meditating about six years ago, five, six years ago when Oprah and Deepak started their free meditation. (Both Laughing). I try to do at least 15 minutes everyday. Sometimes I fall off and miss a day or so. But on a good day, I meditate, I pray, and/or journal in my gratitude journal. Those are the three things that are must do’s to start my day. I’ll start the first sentence. What I’m grateful for it. And then under it, I write a list and sometimes the list is super long. Sometimes, I’m so bold that I speak what I don’t even have in my possession yet, but I give thanks for it as if it’s already mine. SUAVV: And you have to treat life that way. You get into your career, start growing in your career, and now you are in this role of being in Black Lighting, which is huge. How have things changed for you if they’ve changed? And how are you accommodating something that is that big of a deal? Nafessa: Well the change is that becoming a superhero comes with getting a lot of attention and people noticing you on the street, noticing you wherever you are. And I guess fame, if you will, has slowly been creeping. Since the show aired, that can be overwhelming in a sense. It’s almost like a new identity, but you’re still like, I’m still just the old me. I’m like just little Nafessa from Philly. But there’s, it’s almost like you take on a new identity without realizing that that’s what’s happening. At the same time, it’s also rewarding when you have your fans, who are truly affected, saying that you changed their life or you saved their life by seeing my character on TV or they feel normal being a lesbian because of my character. That’s really




foundation, the love between the relationship of my partner on the show, I’ll be straight. I’m actually proud to do it. I feel like I’m doing my part for the culture and just trying to bring awareness and be that spark of change. That’s what I feel like the producers and the writers or I have done with the show, they sparked change. There will be another black superhero family because of Black Lightning. And that’s rewarding and a blessing. SUAVV: That’s beautiful. Random question, my understanding is that you were very athletic in school. Yeah. Are you still very active?

beautiful to see and hear that I’m touching people’s lives. I feel like I’m truly walking in my purpose with this character. Uso, so, so that’s really beautiful. But, there’s also some adjusting. I had to move from my apartment building and I wasn’t really ready to do that, but I had to realize what was happening with the privacy that I now need. It’s also everything that I asked for when i prayed. You’ve got to be careful what you ask for because you know the fame, the celebrity, and the attention that comes with it. But again I think is the spirituality that keeps me grounded, which helps me accommodate at all. SUAVV: Do you feel like you are still the same Nafessa? Nafessa: Oh for sure. Oprah said, and I’m paraphrasing, but she said someone asked her how she deals with being famous, she said I still have my feet on the ground. I just wear better shoes. It’s very important just to stay grounded and to have that spirituality, whatever that means for you out here in Hollywood. And in life in general, if I’m being completely honest. Because you can lose yourself in a moment very easily. And then again, it’s important to have people that are there that catch you back off that moment. I can say that most of my, most of the attention has been all love and fans coming up saying how they appreciate the show. From seven-year-olds to, I had a woman in a hair store who was in her seventies who watched the show and it’s been nothing beloved for the most part. SUAVV: All right. Now when you get to, I guess the depth of the show being a black family of black superhero family which again is something that really isn’t heard of in industry. How does that make you feel as an actress going into that knowing that? How does it make you feel? Nafessa: I feel honored and proud knowing that I’ve been chosen to give voice over to this character. I feel pressured to bring justice to the character. As long as I study the character as an actor and authentically tell the story, the

Nafessa: Yeah, i was a cheerleader and ran track in school. I’ve been working out a lot and at times, twice a day, but I’m very active when it comes to health and fitness. Which, the role kind of requires for me to be, because of all the training and the fighting and the stunts on the show. SUAVV: That’s dedication. Those stunts are intense. So when you have to detach and decompress, what do you do? Right. What do you do for fun? Nafessa: I love to travel. I love going out with my friends to the club dancing. Traveling is really important to me. I love fashion. I love getting dressed and going out and having a good time with my friends. I love to eat good. I was able to go to Costa Rica, Bali, Kuwait in Abu Dhabi. So, I tried to really use this hiatus to relax and restore. SUAVV: That, I fully understand. And with traveling, I was informed that you want to open up a school in Africa? What motivated that? What kind of school would you want to open? Have you like started putting things into conceptual ideas? Nafessa: I haven’t started just yet. Because there’s a lot of charity work that I want to get off the ground here in the states first, particularly starting in Philly. I have a nonprofit myself. And I’m just really big on philanthropy. I believe that I’ve been given a platform and I’ve been giving this blessing so that I could be of service. So, when I think about a global scheme, a school in Africa is something that I definitely want to do, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done here as well. I have a book bag drive in Philly and just wanting to give back to the youth and create opportunities for kids in the inner city who grew up like myself. That what’s really near and dear to my heart.


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Motivation to Workout Post Covid By Alex Carneiro

I

f your motivation to exercise during the pandemic is as elusive as flour and antibacterial wipes, that’s not surprising ,and you’re not alone. In most states, gyms and studios completely closed down for the general safety of everyone. This left many without a physical location to de-stress, socialize and most importantly take care of their bodies and mind. Several states have re-opened their locations but many of us feel now more than ever unmotivated to get back. So, here’s 4 ways to get your groove back and come back even stronger than ever

-Set New Fun Goals

Working out without a plan ends up being the number 1 reason most people fail in the first few weeks of their new fitness regimen. It’s like driving a car with no destination. Eventually the fuel runs out and you’re stuck. Set some goals up. If you’ve gained 15lbs during the pandemic then set to lose 20-25lbs. It’s not enough just to go back to where you started, challenge yourself to become even better. Perhaps set a friendly competition with a friend and both of you challenge each other during 1 month to see who loses more weight. Loser buys the other a new set of headphones or a new workout shirt.

–Try Something New

If prior to the pandemic you were already unmotivated to workout then chances are you’re not magically going to be now. I suggest you find something new such as a spin class, kickboxing studio or another type of activity you haven’t tried yet. When we change our comfort zone our brains become way more excited to keep focus and attention. It might be slightly uncomfortable at first, but it keeps your system in shock and intrigued for what’s coming next, this in turn keeps you likely more motivated.

-Not Ready for the Gym? Use Technology

Many of us may be worried about going to public places. Totally understandable. A home workout routine is what

I will encourage you to do. With so many online trainers, classes and gyms offering free workouts these days there are hundreds upon thousands of free options for you to try something at home. Don’t forget, your body is the best machine ever created, don’t be scared of trying a full body home workout using a resistance like light a backpack, a gallon of water or milk, or even some books. If you live in a state that has outdoor trails than start working on these and get your step levels up. If you have a dog than start walking him/her more often and challenge yourself to longer walks weekly. The idea is to get up and start moving more.

-Find a Workout Friend

One of the biggest challenges for many during covid has been realizing how much we miss socializing with our close friends and family has become. The things we took for granted are now a luxury. While respecting social distancing and your own state’s laws, find a friend that you trust to keep each other accountable. Whether it’s meeting at a park for a walk or jog, meeting them at your local gym or anywhere else you can exercise, by having someone else there you will feel more energized and motivated to not only exercise but also regain that sense of being social again. You can additionally create new challenges for yourself with them and try different things so you don’t feel bored doing the same activity. Find perhaps a new trail or try a new physical activity with them. The key is basically having an accountability partner to get your moving.


Reinventing Fitness Cassius

Written by Rashod Davenport


C

OVID-19 has created a platform for many people. In the beginning of the pandemic, we said, “if you use this time wisely, this could be the best moment of your life.” There has been no other time when we have had the opportunity to focus on ourselves and be uninterrupted in that process. While we struggled as a community with the lack of ability to go to the gym, there were a few people who brought the gym to us. With many turning to instagram and youtube as a source of workout tips, Cassius put himself out there as a trainer. Cassius began training by happenstance when his father literally kicked him into a training. Visiting his father at work one day, he walked by his father who was holding a meeting. His father’s client stated that Cassius looked like a trainer and asked if he was. His father said “yes he is” and helped arrange their first session. From that moment, not only did Cassius began training multiple people, he and his father started researching how to make that natural skill a paid profession. SUAVV: Leave it to parents to volunteer your services. (Laughing) How were you in shape to a point where someone would think you were a trainer just meeting you? Cassius: I played sports for the majority of my life. So I’ve been playing football, basketball, and track from about seven years old. And as far as, lifting weights and stuff like that, I saw my father lifting weights, at an early age, in our garage. So I was that little kid that would have that twopound dumbbell trying to lift it, like Pops. That’s what really got me started. Cause my dad, he took the supplements, he had the trainer and he had a woman trainer back when I was a child too. She was hardcore. Like she had him built bodybuilder style. So that’s what really got me into fitness. SUAVV: Most women trainers are ruthless. They really don’t care. They tend to push a little harder than the guy trainers do. Then look at you crazy when you’re grunting and yelling. Cassius: Oh yeah. That was a huge rule in her gym. There was no yelling allowed. You know, guys would have a bunch of weight and they would yell and get it up. She did not play with them yelling. She was just like, stop making all that noise. And I remember her telling my dad to stop all the yelling and it’s not doing anything. I’m not going to say I haven’t yelled to get the weight off my shoulders. Because that would be a lie. SUAVV: Likewise. But I try to keep it as low as possible. So when you decide this is going to be your job? Who did you begin training after that first session?

Cassius: That summer I was training kids, some in high school, some on their way to college. I trained the elderly, which are probably the best (clients)I ever had. Those are people who I actually became really good friends with. I actually paid my first semester in cash before my scholarships kicked in because I was training. Yup, yup. I remember I came, I came there and I had all my money with me cause you know, training, they pay you in checks and cash. So we filled out all my paperwork and because my loans and all that stuff didn’t kick in yet because I was still an out of state student. Because, originally, I’m from Virginia. So she was telling me how much money was leftover. And I was like, can I pay it now? She was just like, all of it. And I said, yeah, and I just dumped out all the money and rubber bands and all types of stuff. (Laughing) That lady didn’t know if I was a drug dealer or a stripper. She was like What do you do? I was just like, man, I just had a really good summer. That’s all. It was ones, fives, twenties, and tens in there. SUAVV: That’s the first place they go. Especially if you’re your and fit LOL. Hell, I would have looked at you sideways. (Both Laughing) So you go to school, come home from college, and then did you go right into training? Cassius: I finished around 2018 and then afterward I was actually in the back office doing the accounting for about a year and a half. And then recently I went back into training and then the pandemic hit and all of the gyms shut down. And unfortunately, so did the gym that I was working with, which was probably the best situation for me at that time. Because I was a trainer, I was an ambassador for the gym, and I ran their whole marketing and social media campaigns. And it was clicking on all cylinders. And then when the pandemic hit I literally had to do what everybody else has, I had to reinvent myself. SUAVV: Yeah. And that’s crazy because that’s where we ended up finding your page. We were looking at home workouts because we were looking through for the magazine and like seeing who was doing what and like what to reach out to. Cassius: Yeah. Most definitely. I think this is probably the biggest blessing in disguise that I’ve ever been through because when it happened, I’m not going to lie to you. My world was upside down for about a day and I think I heard Magic Johnson say I give myself one day to be upset and cry about it. And then the next day it’s over and then be on to the next. I gave myself one day of whoa is me. And then I was like, I gotta do something. And I was kinda like, you know what, I’m gonna just grab these bands and workout from inside the house. I hadn’t had a video reaction like that in a while. And then I was like, you know what, I’m gonna do this every day because I know so many different


“I know a lot of people who don’t lift heavy, but they look the part and it’s because they choose the way that works for them and they do it correctly.”


styles and I just kept doing it and doing it. And I lie to you, not when, when everything started about four months ago, I sat at 35K and I just hit 100K Instagram followers. SUAVV: A gain of 65,000 followers in 3 months is insane. Cassius: From literally just doing band workout and giving fitness advice and doing my model and stuff. And then just doing these reviews for these companies and just keeping it based around fitness and doing it all from my living room. It was, it has been amazing. SUAVV: No, that’s dope and again, it’s a matter of making the best out of a moment. Yeah. That’s all you can really do. Cassius: I just pressed the gas. SUAVV: When you’re at this point now and soon you are going to be able to start getting back into the gym and being someone who has been studying fitness, you’ve seen people working out the wrong way. What’s the main thing that you see people doing wrong in the gym? Cassius: The main thing I see people doing wrong in the gym is ego lifting. You know, I think they believe the heavier it is, the more work you’re putting in. And it doesn’t really matter how the weight gets up, as long as they put it up. And the goal is to look the part. I know a lot of people who don’t lift heavy, but they look the part and it’s because they choose the way that works for them and they do it correctly. So probably that’s probably the biggest thing that I see. Then of course there are people staying on the cardio machines too long...if you ask me. The other thing is not warming up. They’ll go straight to the lifting like straight to them. I mean, you’re not even gonna stretch your arm out? Nothing? Just go straight into lifting. Okay. SUAVV: Which is something that I’ve seen you do with your videos. You do a lot of stretching as well. Cassius: Yeah, it’s something that I incorporated into the workout so that they think they’re working out, but they’re really strengthening and stretching. SUAVV: Yeah. A lot of people miss that step and stretching is insanely important. Cassius: It’s actually in your growth as well. Cause you know, the more you lengthen the muscle and then you can practice the bigger lifts. People tend to undermine stretching. That’s actually how you grow. SUAVV: Yeah. Because I know, especially guys, are not stretching. Like men will finish 32 sets of squats, lunges, leg presses, and not stretch the leg out.

Cassius: And they wonder why women can do legs every single day. It’s because they’re the ones that are stretching and taking care of themselves. A lot of the techniques that I got came from woman trainers. Women who train as they do, they do everything right. I ain’t even gonna lie. They just do everything correctly. That’s why they look better than us. SUAVV: Because there’s no ego. They take their time. They breathe in properly. They do all the workout aspects properly. Cassius: Correct! They’re going to eat, they’re going to eat correctly. They’re going to hydrate. They’re going to keep that water bottle with them all day. That big old jug, like they will do everything. And they don’t care. SUAVV: AT ALL! (Laughing) At this point, where do you, where you see your future in fitness? Cassius: As of right now I’m kind of looking at it from the standpoint of I’m actually a brand. I didn’t, I didn’t think that before at all because I didn’t realize how much power you have in your influence. People use the word influencer, but they’re not influencing anybody to do anything or you’re influencing somebody to do the wrong thing. So, when I saw that, if I said, “I use this type of product” there would be 20 of my followers hit me in my dm and be like, “Oh, I bought that today because you use it.” I was like, Whoa. SUAVV: Right. Cassius: That’s a real influencer. So at this point, we’re looking into branding myself. Of course, I love promoting other people’s brands and posting about it. But now it’s time to make my own. So we’re looking into partnering with different manufacturers and coming out with some of the supplements that I use on a regular, but putting my name on it. We’re in talks with a couple of manufacturers with us CLA which is a natural fat burner. Because a lot of people, a lot of people talk to me about abs and how do I get a flat stomach? And I take CLA constantly. So we’re looking into things like that. I’m also working on some casual wear and a few things for the ladies but more info on that to come. SUAVV: I know people who have waist trainers, different creams, the CLA pills and now, people are doing different kinds of CBD supplements. I know when it comes down to it all, it’s still your diet. And to that note, you’re going into your second year being vegan. People don’t realize that you can still have muscle mass and be vegan. Ultimately, it’s because we don’t understand nutrition. Are you typically



carb-loading to gain or to keep mass? How does that work?

Cassius: Leg. Legs are the most beneficial workouts for guys. The reason why guys can burn fat much faster Cassius: A lot of people think, when it comes to gaining than women. Guys have a high testosterone level so we weight, it’s how much protein you ingest. And protein is can do things with our bodies a lot quicker than women used for one thing. It’s the building blocks to keep mus- can. But that’s a crutch because we don’t necessarily uncle mass and to recover. When you work out, you tear derstand that the older we get, the less testosterone our the small muscle fibers. While you recover the muscle body produces. And that potbelly you have, once you swells, protein helps you recover, but your size comes get into those thirties, and you thought that you could from the carbs. So when someone says “I’m cutting just spend two weeks running around a little bit and carbs this month.” And I respond with, you shouldn’t it disappears, that doesn’t happen anymore. So if you cut them, you should just eat the right ones and then eat can, at a young age, understand that all my testosterone it at a good amount. comes from my legs because the blood flows from the bottom half. If you can train yourself at a young age to SUAVV: You know what? I never knew that. I never do legs, that the older you get, you’re still gonna mainknew that. Like you, you gain mass from carbs. tain that ability to have low body fat and have a high metabolism. So I understood that around maybe like Cassius: I eat complex carbs all day and those are the early 20 and then I started hitting the legs super serious carbs that just work for you and not against you, they at that point. give you energy and they don’t slow you down. So pretty much white carbs slow you down. So white rice, SUAVV: Yeah. That’s an area that, especially when you white bread, white flour, all that stuff slows you down. get to the older dudes, they’re not doing legs. It’s like, It raises your insulin levels, which spikes the fat cells they might hit some leg extensions, maybe some seated in your body to react and to attach to all sodium and leg curls, but you get up into that squat rack. That’s not water, which makes you bloat and then et cetera. So happening. They’re like, nah, “I got bad knees”, but it’s complex carbs are your sweet potatoes, your Brown just like, You got bad knees because you never worked rice, or red potatoes. If you eat enough of them, you’re them. going to gain weight. But if you eat the right amount, it’s going to give you energy so that you can actually Cassius: If you actually look at the study of what womwork out to work all that off. Cause when you cut carbs, en look at first, it’s legs and abs. It’s the weirdest thing. there’s no way you’re gonna be able to do cardio. You When I go to the gym, you would think women would have no energy. ask me, what do you do for your arms or your shoulders. NO. They’re like, what you do you do on leg day. SUAVV: And a lot of people don’t understand why they are eating brown rice, wheat bread, and sweet potatoes. Currently, you can find Cassius doing virtual workouts They just know they’re healthier. for individuals as well as groups via social media as well as different communication platforms such as Zoom, Cassius: Well, they don’t necessarily understand that Facetime, and WhatsApp video calls. All you need to one raises your insulin level and one doesn’t. Right? So have is yourself. You can always add a little more resistthat’s kind of how I look at it. You gotta look past the ance with dumbbells, bands, or whatever else you have. label on the back of the box and it’s a lot of work. And a As long as you show up, He will help you get where you lot of people do not want to do that. They don’t want to want to be. research foods and, they want to go to these pre prepackaged places and pay a boatload to get it delivered to your door. I live in an apartment complex and I see them boxes every time I leave out my front door. SUAVV: Yeah. All day. And I’m like, that looks disgusting. breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And there’s no way I’d be reheating eggs. That’s just nasty. Alright. So when it comes to your workouts, what’s your favorite body part to work out?



Post Covid Blueprint to Health By Alex Carneiro

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f one thing the Covid Pandemic has awoken in many of us, it’s that our health isn’t to be lightly taken for granted. Less movement due to closed gyms, more processed foods, higher consumptions of alcohol and higher levels of stress have decreased the overall population’s health and many of us have gained on average 15lbs+ of weight during these times. But don’t stress out, today we will discuss 4 nutritional ways you can start dropping that weight and 4 ways to motivate yourself to get back to working out to start getting back on track with your weight and health.

-Eat Fresh and Unprocessed Foods Every Day

Slowly start moving away from foods that are in cans, plastic wrappers or frozen. It’s understandable that during the pandemic most of us wanted to have foods that wouldn’t go bad so we wouldn’t have to constantly go to the grocery store and expose ourselves, but these tend to have higher amounts of artificial ingredients to increase the shelf life of the product and other chemicals for flavor. When using canned or dried vegetables and fruit, choose varieties without added salt or sugar. The fresh produce aisles are full of healthier options that will be better for your system and immunity.

-Snack Less

I’m sure you’ve heard that healthy snacking is good and it is, however, during the pandemic many of us started snacking too much on unhealthy options. With thousands working from home it’s easy to become stressed and not watch the quantity of snacks we’ve been eating throughout the day by either sitting at home working or watching

television. So, if you are going to snack, make sure you do with healthier options like vegetables and hummus, moderate amount of seeds and nuts or some dried fruit. But avoid the salty crunchy ones that we all love too much as the calories can easily stack up. Again, everything in moderation is key.

-Drink More Water

This can’t emphasized enough. Our immune system operates optimally with water and most don’t drink the recommended daily levels that we need to allow our body to work at its full capacity. One trick I use with several clients is using rubber bands to know exactly how much water they’ve drank throughout the day. Every time they finish a bottle, they wrap a rubber band around it. If you buy the average 16oz water bottle you should be at least wrapping 7 to 8 rubber bands daily.

-Get out, with Balance

So many have been waiting to eat out to their favorite restaurants, but try to limit this if you have gained more weight than you wanted throughout the closures. As a small business owner, I feel it’s important to support local businesses but eat out in moderation. Once, maybe twice a week is good to satisfy your needs to get out and socialize but try to keep most of your meals homemade so you know exactly what’s in your food. With that being said avoid also drinking too much alcohol too as the calories can add up pretty quickly.


Mind Right, Body Right Kevin Dwayne By Rashod Davenport


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ith COVID-19 restricting a lot of our gym workouts a bit and requiring most of us to become creative with our fitness, we decided to sit with trainer, coach, and IFBB Pro-Natural competitor Kevin Dwayne and speak about his fitness journey, gather some tips, and create a plan to start getting our bodies back in shape. Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Kevin shares his workouts and different moves on his Instagram page where you can follow for a variety of options to give you a little muscle confusion and help get your body revamped. SUAVV: How did you first get involved with your fitness lifestyle? Kevin: It stemmed from me growing up. I recall as I was younger, growing up, seeing my mother active, she would work out at home. She would do a lot of exercises and things of that nature. I saw her activity level and how she took care of herself and her health by constantly moving her body, you know? I think I picked up on that as a kid and as I went to middle school and then definitely into high school, that’s when I really got more involved with it(fitness). She got my first weight bench and from there it just kind of stuck with me to continue working out. I actually worked out at home and created home-style workouts for years prior to actually joining a traditional gym. SUAVV: That’s a pretty different path into fitness. But we love it. Now, is that where a lot of your movement come from? From watching your workouts, a lot of it looks like you can do them from your home. Kevin: No, actually it’s a mix of being so used to doing a lot of homework out for many years. Because again, I didn’t join the gym until 2007. But, the years prior, it was a lot of home-based workouts. So, as I’ve grown and evolved as a trainer and a coach it’s become a combination of things that are done from a home-based workout to, just picking up other movements and understanding how the body works even more. And even incorporating some of the things I do from practicing yoga, a lot of stretching, things of that nature and just functional movements of how the body moves. All of that plays a part in me creating the workouts that I create for myself and for my clients. SUAVV: Okay, perfect. There are so many people who don’t understand the importance of stretching. So, I’m glad you said that. When did you decide that you wanted to actually become a trainer? How did that happen? Kevin: I started training part time in 2010 while I was working full-time. But as time went on from 2010, until like 2013, I just wanted to do it more and more. It started with one client and it grew and I continued to build clien-

tele for a while. Then, I ended up taking a break because I moved from Atlanta to New York for work. Remember, I was still working full time and my background is in education. So I moved to New York, to work for the department of education. But after being there for about a year, I just got to the point and said “you know what, I’m ready for a total life change” and I moved back to Atlanta. I went back in education again for about another year or year and a half. And then at that time I say, “I want to take it full time, step out on faith, go full-time with training.” And it just took me up until 2016. That’s when I decided to actually step away from my previous career and go full time to training. SUAVV: I’ve Gotcha. New York is definitely a city that will make you think about the life a little differently, (both laughing). So, we all know that some of the trainers are people who just feel that because they work out, they can train others. Do you think that people should be a little more educated in the body before becoming trainers? Kevin: Yeah. I definitely agree. Yeah, one definitely should take the time to understand the anatomy of the body and how it moves, how it functions, how the muscles work, and how they interconnect with each other, before you go and want to teach someone how to work their body and build their muscles. And granted and unfortunately at times, we do have a lot of people out here, thanks to social media, who have become trainers, but aren’t fully technically trained so to speak. Like I said, my background is in education, so I’m big on knowledge, understanding, and growing. And in that, and I think trainers should maintain their certification, just like any other profession that has to maintain their professional license. You know, you’re dealing with the anatomy of the body and you’re trying to teach people new practices and behaviors so that once their time is done with you, you want them to be able to workout alone in an effective way. SUAVV: Okay. That makes sense. Overall, you want your clients to gain the confidence and knowledge to continue their lifestyle change after their sessions are completed. Being a gym goer, you know we see people working out all kinds of wrong ways. As a trainer in the gym, what do you see as the biggest mistakes you see people making in the gym and making in working out? Kevin: A lot of times it is lifting weight that’s too heavy and it compromises the form. And then to flip that back on the other side, it’s the form. Majority of the time, it’s the form. It’s the improper form and trying to perform exercises where your body isn’t in its right formation to actually fully benefit from the move that you’re doing or the muscle that you’re trying to work. And then you jeopardize yourself with injury. If you don’t perform exercises correctly,


you can create certain imbalances on your body, when you think you are improving it because of how long you are doing the exercises incorrectly. SUAVV: And we always see that. My face cringes because I’m thinking, either you are doing NOTHING effective or too much completely incorrectly. (both say ‘always’ in harmony and begin laughing). Now, a question that a couple of my friends and I go back and forth about pretty often. How frequent should someone work out the specific body parts. What is the suggested timeframe? Kevin: So, I advise my clients that you at least want to give a body part, depending on which one it is, at least a good 24-48 hours of good rest. Again, it depends on your level of fitness. If you’re a more advanced person and you know how to do certain things to allow your body to recover, you’re taking certain supplements, and things of that nature that assist with that, you can go a little shorter. I’m not one to recommend it though. For instance, if you hit legs on a Friday, and a strong leg workout, I don’t recommend going back into the gym and doing another strong leg workout the next day after. SUAVV: And most people don’t give themselves that long. I know people who do full-body workouts 5 times a week and at a heavy weight and tough repetitions and sets. Kevin: And one of the things people make a huge mistake with. You have to realize your body doesn’t grow in the gym. That’s what you break your muscle tissue and muscle fibers down. Our muscles grow in our recovery and we go into our best recovery time when we’re asleep. That’s when your body grows and repairs and also with nutrition. I think a lot of people miss the point that proper sleep is very important and key to your body repairing itself and your muscle getting stronger and developing. SUAVV: I know my sleeping pattern is horrible and is something that I am working on. So we will get there. The next issue for me is diet. And I know a lot of people feel that if they go to the gym and they just workout hard, that they’ll be fine. And then again, it’s the pattern that’s jacked up, you’re at Chick-fil-A right after you leave the gym. So it is like, you’ve pretty much destroyed everything that you just did, but it tastes so good. Kevin: Right? I understand that. At one point in time, from my lack of knowledge when I was starting out early on years ago, I thought the same thing. I thought, Oh, because I worked out five-six days a week, I could eat whatever I want. And unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. And my wake-up call was when I went for my yearly physical checkup. This was years ago, I was 25 at the time. And my doctor told me that my cholesterol level was high

for someone my age and who worked out frequently. And I realized right then, that your eating habits definitely make a huge contribution and difference to your body, your goals, and improving your physical fitness and your health outside of just going to the gym and working out. I would say become more consciously aware of what you’re feeding your system. You definitely have to be aware of what you’re putting in your body from a nutritional, physical standpoint, as well as from a mental, emotional standpoint as well. So that plays a part in how your body functions and operates. SUAVV: And that’s real. You definitely have to make sure your mental state matches your physical. Because nobody wants to see a buff unstable dude. My last question would be what’s your favorite workout or your favorite type of workout? Kevin: A lot of people who know me, train with me, or follow me know that leg day and working back are two of my favorite days to work. And I say for me for leg day, because I can get very creative with leg workouts without just doing regular squats and pressing on the leg press machine. So, it allows me to be a little bit more creative with the workouts. And then back, I mean, I like working on my back and I think one of the reasons is because for many years I neglected my back. I was one of the guys who were going to gym, when I did first start, I would do a lot of pushups, pressing with the chest, and moving with the arms. I didn’t do a lot with my back. And even sometimes didn’t do a lot with my legs. You know, it was a lot of times chest and arms, but again, that was just because of the knowledge base I had at that time. I ended up getting a trainer because I realized I wasn’t doing everything correctly. So, I ended up having a trainer for about two years. But you know, my thing is if you want a well-rounded physique, you have to work out your total body. SUAVV: And most people when they work out, they’ll push herself harder when it comes to upper body. But then it’s like, when you hit leg day, it’s like, okay, I’m done, it hurts. And you stop. But when you’re doing chest or arms, you get to that point where it’s like, my chest is about to break open, but I’m get these last three rounds. Ultimately, they push themselves harder upper body than lower body. Kevin: Right, right, right, right. That’s true man. And you know, unfortunately, that’s when you may see people who looks like the jokes on social media, the guy who has a really big upper body, but really small legs. To view Kevin’s workout videos, visit www.suavv.com , his Instagram page at www.instagram.com/kevin.dwayne_ and his website www.kdwayne.com



Spring Cleaning AD Dolphin

By: Rashod Davenport

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hen your body is operating at peak efficiency, it can help you stave off infections and other health related The Full Body 7 Day Cleanse can assist in achieving optimal results! It has 7 formulas and cleanses all of all of the adrenal channels (liver, gallbladder, lungs, kidney, bladder, colon and digestive track, respiratory system, cardio vascular system, blood & lymphatic system.) This cleanse also increases your circulation and libido; so I’m sure all the ladies and guys will like that!


There are some investments that can save your life. As you rack your brain to think of which is most important, we will give you a helping hand. It’s your health. We can take steps not, while home, to boost our immune system. Health coach and founder of the Dherbs Full Body Cleanse, AD Dolphin tells us how to use this time to clean our bodies, inside and out. AD is a herbal/specialist body cleanse expert who has appeared on the Steve Harvey Show (as well as being Steve’s personal coach) sharing his expertise on healthy living. For more than 10 years, AD has had the number one herbal cleansing company online-- many celebrities use his products, such as Brandy, Nicey Nash, Elise Neal, Darren Henson, and more. At a time when your immune system is the primary weapon in your arsenal, there are many of us who are depleting and weakening that system instead of increasing its value. We have all put on the extra pounds, hilariously coined “Quarantine 15”. Furthermore, with the closing of gyms and most outdoor workout areas, our fitness lives have taken a huge hit. However, all isn’t lost. We were able to talk to AD about how building your immune system could assist your fight to avoid and potentially fight off the Covid-19 virus. SUAVV: How did you get into the Health Industry? AD: I was a basketball player. I played sports my entire life. I was playing professional basketball overseas in Australia and I decided to just stay home and I wasn’t going to play anymore. Then, I started to gain weight because I wasn’t as active as I used to be. At that time, someone introduced me to the concept of cleansing. And I have this crazy, crazy, addictive personality. I did everyone’s cleanse. And when I started noticing the differences between all these different cleanses, they all have one thing great about them. Being a business major, I thought, “Hey, what if you combine all these great things together to get these great results?” And that’s how the DHerbs Full Body Cleanse came about. SUAVV: Recently, we saw a clip of Actor Darren Henson, on The Breakfast Club, swearing by your Black Seed Oil. How do you go about sourcing your herbs for your line? AD: I just looked for the best places on the planet. If there was a particular country that grew particular herbs that we need, we tested them to make sure they had the best quality. We wanted the best source and that’s what we did. So we put out a great product. You got to have great ingredients. And so that’s what we did.

SUAVV: The rumor that is out is that this is the worst time to flush your immune system because it makes your more susceptible to getting sick. AD: Look, all the external things that we’re doing are great. Wearing gloves, wearing a mask, you know, social distancing, all this is great, but your last line of defense is your immune system. So, I always tell people, that’s going to be the most vital thing that you do. Have that immune system strong because it’s those external things that you’re doing, prevent it from coming, but if your body’s not ready for it, you can be affected. So this is the perfect time to do it. Think about it. One, we’re at home, everyone’s at home anyway, there’s social distancing. We can’t go to restaurants, we can’t buy certain things. So therefore if you’re worried about going to the restroom more, you’re home, you’re there, you’re in the most perfect place. And probably And lastly, when you go to the grocery store, produce is plentiful. It’s everywhere, but you can’t find canned tuna anywhere. LOL. SUAVV: Your cleanse is different than most of the products we see on the market. It’s not just a colon cleanse or just a liver cleanse. You’re multiple organs, intestines, and everything at the same time. AD: So most systems give you the illusion of cleansing. People think if they’re just going to the restroom, you’re cleansing. It’s an aspect of cleansing, but it’s only hitting one area. Our cleanse goes up your entire eliminative channel. That’s your gallbladder, your heart, your liver, your colon, your spleen, your lungs, your kidneys, your adrenal glands, your blood, and your skin. It’s going to flush out all the impurities and all those different areas of your body so your body can perform better. SUAVV: The nerd in me is extremely interested in the fact that your research states the average person could be walking around with 20 or more pounds of undigested food in their bodies. AD: You can have up to 25 pounds in your system at any given time, depending on who you are. And some people have even more if they are a heavier individual. It’s the stuff that’s just sitting there and there’s not an exercise on a planet that’s going to help your body to remove it. It’s just sitting there. That’s those situations where you see the skinny person that got the little pop belly, it’s just undigested food. If they cleanse all that waste is going to come out of their system, their stomach is going to become flatter. SUAVV: I didn’t know that was even possible. I think the biggest question most people have about cleanses is “what can I eat while doing this?” Because that lemon and cayenne pepper water cleanse folks have been doing


is not going to work for most of us. We need food! LOL.

AD: I always suggest to people, take one or two things out your diet. You don’t have to do it all at once. Some people AD: It’s not a fast. A fast is when you don’t eat. This is a can do it, some people can’t. Say, okay, you know what? I’m cleanse and during the cleanse we making sure you put not going to do dairy anymore. Okay. Do you know what? healthy stuff in your body and you’re taking out the old I’m not going to do bread anymore. Okay. You know what? stuff. That’s what we do. So you’re on a raw food diet. That I’m going to become a vegan. It’s up to you but do somemeans you can eat fresh fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, and thing. Pull something out that’s going to move you towards raw seeds throughout your cleansing. A salad is considered a healthier path. cleansing depending on the dressing. A smoothie is considered cleansing. Juicing is considered cleansing. Things Check out more about the DHerbs Full Body Cleanse Syslike dry fruit (as long as it doesn’t have sulfur in it) and we tem at www.dherbs.com have thousands upon thousands of raw food recipes that Follow AD Dolphin on Instagram: @addolphin can aid you during your cleanse. So it doesn’t become as monotonous. SUAVV: Okay. That helps out a lot. I can deal with salads and fruits. Now, we do this cleanse, there’s a 10-day and a 21-day cleanse. While on the cleanse you are doing great. What do you do after the cleanse is over to make sure you stay on track?




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hich Supplements do I need to take to burn fat?

Fat burning will mainly come down to your diet. Meaning you are consuming less calories and you are moving more, and this can be done through exercise or daily steps. Supplements for reducing body fat are mostly ineffective, have insufficient amounts of research to back up their fat-burning claims, and some are likely to even be harmful if taken in high doses. If I have high blood pressure, what are some tips you could recommend to help me lower it safely? That’s an excellent question. First thing that I would recommend is focusing on your diet. We’re going to cut back on sugar and refined carbohydrates, we’re going to eat less processed foods, we’re going to consume less sodium, up our potassium intake and drink more water. It’s also really important that we lose weight and this can be done by increasing our activity and exercising more. If you are a smoker, that needs to stop immediately or be dialed back significantly. If you’re interested in supplementing to help, focus on garlic, CoQ10, vitamin D, magnesium and more fiber. But of course, check with your doctor before starting any supplement regimen. What foods should I stay away from? I’m not a big advocate of cutting out any food groups entirely, but having things in moderation I believe is more sustainable for long term success with a healthy lifestyle. As a general recommendation, 80/20 is a good rule of thumb, meaning 80 percent of the foods you eat are lean protein sources, vegetables, fruits and complex carbohy-

Questions with SUAVV Trainer JC White drates, and the other 20 percent will be those fun foods we enjoy. But first try to fill up on the 80 percent before you eat the 20 percent so that you’re eating less of the 20 percent. What foods should I try to eat each day? Some food groups that I would focus on eating each day are lean protein sources, such as chicken breast, wild caught salmon, ahi tuna, lean ground turkey, greek yogurt and lean cuts of steak. For your carb sources, I recommend oatmeal, quinoa, green leafy vegetables, rice, baked sweet potato and fruits, such as berries and citrus. Other foods that will help you to have a well-balanced diet are almond milk, lean regular milk, almond butter in limited quantity, and eggs. How can I strengthen my immune system? This is very relevant with Covid-19 and everything I just spoke about above with overall health. Some of the main things you need to focus on to have an overall strong immune system, include getting adequate sleep (7-9 hours per night), hydration, exercising regularly, eating a diet with plentiful fruits and vegetables, managing stress and making sure you are fully recovering after workouts. If you want to supplement, some things that have decent research behind their effectiveness in helping the immune system or shortening the length of the common cold, include zinc, vitamin D, garlic and probiotics. These are not the end all be all to immune health but they may help improve your chances of fighting colds and infections. But make no mistake- lifestyle, sleep, nutrition, a healthy body fat to weight ratio, and hydration are king.



Where to Begin if you are a Beginner? By Alex Carneiro

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ruth is whether you are beginning your fitness journey or have been training and eating correctly (or so you think you are) this guide might help you set you back on track and line you up to be more successful in this journey. It can be confusing with so much information out there that contradicts itself on a daily basis but these steps bellow are flawless, they are a MUST if you want to succeed in changing your physique and mind. STEP 1: UNDERSTAND YOUR MINDSET WILL NEED TO CHANGE Step 1 can sound easy at first but you will understand more and more what I mean as you embrace the lifestyle itself. You are going to need to have a motivational factor that’s more than a shallow “I want to look good”. That’s not going to be strong enough to carry you over the long hours of training and eating right. You need to understand first that it’s a journey, not a sprint and that if you expect results in just a few weeks than you are planning yourself to fail. You also need to understand that you will need to change your habits gradually and not immediately as that too might cause you to fail. You’re going to need to keep yourself motivated and self encouraged the entire time. No one else will hold your hand in this. STEP 2: SET REALISTIC GOALS What do I mean with realistic goals? “Bro I want to look like [they name a guy who’s been training for 10 or more years] or “I want to gain 20 lbs of muscle and lose 10lbs of fat”. Neither of these goals are realistic. A realistic goal involves a short and long term goal that will slowly be reached and then create new ones based on each achievement you accomplish. So “I want to lose 3lbs in the next 15-20 days” is much more realistic and you will be more motivated when you reach it.

STEP3: UNDERSTANDING THE IMPORTANCE OF NUTRITION When I was young, I thought that supplements were the key to growth. That I needed to take creatine and whey and blah blah blah in order to grow and look like my role models. Truth is if I could go back in time I would educate myself on the importance of nutrition as it’s the true key to changing anyone’s physique. Anyone. We don’t understand the importance of eating for our goals (read more here about this topic) because it’s not as advertised in magazines or in media. Eating for your goals will dramatically change your life but it goes back to step 1; you will need to change your mindset and understand that if you are trying to lose weight it can be challenging to go through those small starvation periods. Your older habits will always want to kick in and take over, shall you allow them? That’s entirely up to you? How bad do you want to change? STEP 4: UNDERSTANDING THE IMPORTANT OF THE RIGHT STYLE OF TRAINING Just like nutrition, there are countless ways to train. The key to finding out which one works best for you is to try them all and figure out which YOU feel responds best to your body. If you don’t try them all and keep a narrow mindset you might not find your true potential inside or outside the gym. Don’t be dumb either, train efficiently, smartly, and consistently. Lifting as heavy as possible will not get you to your goals faster. STEP 5: BEING CONSISTENT WITH STEPS 1-4. Consistency is the key here. You know what you want, you will do everything you can to get there and you are not only training right and eating correctly, then over time, you will definitely accomplish what you are seeking. There’s always going to be the good and the bad days, but don’t allow that to distract you from your end results.



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