SUAVV IN THIS ISSUE...
WWE Superstar talks to us about her entrance into the business, the pains of success, and the feeling of defeat.
Mehcad Brooks 84
Mehcad Brooks in on a new level of life after almost losing his to a parasite. Check out what has been on his mind.
The Simmonsâ€™ Love
One of Hip Hops favorite couples talks to us about life, love, and family. In only a way that Rev Run and Justine can.
David and Tamela 94
Regardless of where you know them from, you know them. The Mannâ€™s have become the model of showbusiness, love, and family. Check out their story and relationship advice.
TItus Makin has made his mark on televison shows like Glee and The Rookie. But find out what makes this actor Spread his Wings.
Atlantaâ€™s Newest Housewife is showing the world what it looks like to get involved in tech.
Mitch Summerfield 58
Just when you think you have it all under control, God throws you a curve ball. Find out how to handle life with Pastor Mitch.
The CBD Industry has hit a new high find out what T-Boz has done to make the herb her own.
Chido has taken the screen by storm. FInd out more about his journey and his plans for the future.
What does it look like to be an interupter of Silicon Valley? It looks like Rhett Lindsey.
SUAVVstyle 14 Krankz Headphones
48 Vuliwear Shades
26 Workout Hours
24 JC White Trainer Advice
16 Write it Out
20 Bear Boards
SUAVV Sessions Coming Summer 2020
Rashod Davenport Editor-In-Chief
Time To Rebuild A friend of mine asked me a question after my birthday. She said “What is it that
you ultimately want SUAVV to be?” I answered “A point of reference for men. Something that not only entertains us, but speaks to us, encourages us, and educated us. I want Suavv to be a conversation starter.” It was in that moment that I restructured this issue. I want to make sure that SUAVV is never a blanket magazine that just fills pages. I want every issue to envoke something in its readers. I want our readers to feel like a story touched them and encouraged them at a time when there isn’t much media doing so. Trinity Fatu is that person. In a era where black women are taking back their image and making young girls hopeful and young boys respectful, she shows strength and leadership as she’s climbed the ladder of the WWE as a wrestling phenom. Travis Cure set in his mind that there would be no obstacle too big for him to accomplish. He started off modeling and made his way to the screen. It wasn’t by accident, he placed his plan in motion. David and Tamela Mann are showing what love and support can do if you just believe it to be true and work hard as a union. Rev Run and Justine Simmons reminds us of the importance of family.Finally, Titus Makin shows what humility can provide in a town of ego. You see, sometimes we allow ourselves to be contained in our situations of life. We find it hard to see beyond the moment. But this issue is all about seeing through... about running a marathon. SUAVV is a marathon. While SUAVV is not the number one magazine in the country, we are in the marathon. Our goal is to keep running. To continue hearing the cheers as we pass strangers on the street. We are rebuilding our house on a stable foundation of giving our readers what they want as well as what they need. I thanked my friend for her question. Because it reminded me of my answer. Stay SUAVV.
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hiMoment: Journaling app Develops an Algorithm for Happiness
The app that makes people happier expands its features: in close cooperation with neuroscientists hiMoment has developed an algorithm, which helps people appreciate their lives more, increase their general level of happiness and focus on the things that are truly important to them. hiMoment makes this possible with the help of an intelligent algorithm that focuses users’ attention on the positive experiences in their lives. hiMoment is more effective than analog journaling. It helps users discover new perspectives. The hunt for personal happiness is still very much on. Dealing intensively with mindfulness, gratitude and personal well-being is important to everyone. Journaling has always been popular, but many find it difficult to implement in their routine. Establishing a new habit as an integral part of someone’s daily routine requires follow-through and training.. Most people want to experience the positive effects of journaling on their lives but have trouble keeping up. This is exactly where hiMoment comes into play. hiMoment is a journaling app based on the widely researched “savoring method”. By focusing on beautiful everyday moments, the user’s perception of the bright side of life is sharpened. Users capture and collect good moments by photo, text or both. An algorithm then shows them these moments again later. The powerful artificial intelligence behind hiMoment helps users focus on what matters to them by learning which topics are important and which moments stand out. The app helps users organize and structure their lives. The team behind hiMoment works tirelessly to expand the functions of the app and to optimize the experience for their users. In close cooperation with neuroscientists, hiMoment has developed an algorithm that helps users focus on the things that matter to them and ultimately increase their resilience, happiness, and joy. Users view two happy moments simultaneously and select one. While thinking about the positive feelings experienced in those moments, the brain reactivates the same regions that were active when those moments were first experienced. The body is flooded with the same positive feelings as then, tricking the brain to give you another boost of that happiness. The algorithm makes it possible to re-experience the feelings of those particular moments. The brain learns to be aware and appreciate such moments, helping you to easily recognize them. After some research and lots of user interviews, the team realized people were mostly focused on the relationship with themselves and others. hiMoment has created seven premium tracks that include 21-day challenges where each user receives a mini-challenge daily that helps them work on a certain area of interest in their life. The tracks focus on self-love, confidence, relaxation, partnerships, relationships, work, and movement. “Everyone agrees that thinking about your own well-being and happiness is important. But what many don’t know is that neuroscientific research sees happiness as something completely different from what we perceive it to be. hiMoment starts at this place and works with you and neuroscience to show you simple methods you can use to increase your personal well-being in the long term,” says Christoph Schnedlitz, CEO and co-founder of hiMoment.
TAYLRD Chinos for the Win. TAYLRD continues to launch new products in the men’s space and to match the quality of their popular chinos and short sleeve button-downs, the company just released Henley and now they have new chinos. While finding a well-fitted pair of chinos is no easy task, if you have an athletic body, it can be a little more challenging. What we all want is a little flexibility and “give” well, TAYLRD has given us the perfect pair of chinos. Allowing the stretch material to not only bend over but squat with mo fear of busting your seam, our new favorite pair of chinos has taken its place in the closet. TAYLRD chinos have a waterproof material that allows them to be breathable as well as durable. Above all else, they are extremely comfortable. Their slim-fit design is true to size and fit. There is sufficient inseam to wear these chinos however you like. The tapered ankle makes them perfect when wearing a low cut shoe or a boot and have them sit on the topline of your boot. We were happy to test these chinos out and give them our stamp of approval. The retail cost for the TAYLRD Tech Chino is $89. Check out their full line at https://www.taylrdclothing.com
Bear Walker From his art studio in Alabama, famed skateboard designer and pop culture/street artist Bear Walker is changing the face of skateboarding with his iconic one-of-a-kind wood carved works of art that have collectors and celebrities buying up his limited edition skateboards as soon as they are released. His collaboration skateboard with actor Zachary Levi (SHAZAM!, THOR) raised over $50,000 for the Covenant House Foundation. Bear is a true pioneer in the pop art/skate world, taking it from the street to your feet, and has an avid celebrity fan base. He has collaborated with Jason Momoa (“Game of Thrones,” AQUAMAN), Grant Gustin (CW’s “The Flash”), hip hop legend Killer Mike, the Paul Walker Foundation and more to create custom boards. What makes Bear Walker Premium Boards different than any other skateboard is their complete lack of grip tape. Instead of applying traditional grip, Bear hand carves the top of each skateboard to strategically gain ultimate traction in his stunning designs, and as a result, each board is a work of art. Bear’s distinctive and pioneering creative process has made his skateboards into must-have, ridable works of pop art. Ushering in a new golden age of skateboarding art, the American-handmade boards are not only hung on the walls of art collectors around the world, but they can also be seen cruising skateparks, pools, and boardwalks. As a diehard comic/sci-fi/horror fan, Bear is also known for pushing his designs into the future by partnering with film and TV studios to produce custom boards featuring superheroes and pop culture legends like Spiderman, Star Wars, The Joker, Stranger Things, Black Panther, Avengers, and The Flash. Bear is carving culture with a distinctively jaw-dropping new approach.
5 Tips From
1. WEIGHTS: For someone who is just starting out and has no injuries or limiting conditions, I would recommend focusing on the core, fundamental movements. These movements include, a pushing movement (bench press, dumbbell bench press, overhead barbell press, overhead dumbbell press, push up), a squatting movement (a goblet squat with a kettlebell or dumbbell, barbell squat with bar placed on your back, or a box squat where you are squatting to parallel and then coming back up), a hip-dominant movement (kettlebell deadlift, hex-bar deadlift, barbell deadlift) and lastly a pulling movement (pull up, lat pulldown, dumbbell row, barbell row, seated cable row). The reason being is that you want to train your body to become familiar with all the compound, multi-joint movement patterns. This is going to maximize your return on investment when you go to the gym as you get the most bang for your buck when doing these exercises. 2. CARDIO: How much cardio someone should be doing, that depends on your goal. Are you looking to lose body fat? Are you looking to gain muscle or strength? Or are you just wanting better overall health? If you’re looking to lose body fat, I’d recommend doing cardio 3 times a week. However, if you’re looking to gain muscle, cardio could impede this as it does reduce the amount of calories your body could be using to build muscle. In this case, I would recommend you do cardio once a week for cardiovascular health benefits. In order to get an effective workout, I would say as a general ruIe you’re going to need at least 30 minutes. The reason is because your nutrition and lifestyle are going to play the most important role in creating change within your body. The workouts and training only stimulate that change. 3. RECOVERY: Here are some key things to focus on: Nutrition - quality and quantity of calories Sleep - 7-9 hours a night Hydration - this is going to vary from person to person but usually consuming more water on the days you workout is a good idea, and on off days drink roughly half a gallon Stress - stress plays a major role in the body because if your stress levels become elevated, a hormone called cortisol is released which can slow down fat loss and even stop it. That depends on how quickly you optimize your lifestyle in order to get the biggest return on your time in the gym. Like i said previously, focusing on the 4 core factors nutrition, sleep, hydration and stress - are going to dictate how quickly you are able to reach your goals. As a rule of thumb, it generally takes about 3 months before you will
see any real, meaningful changes in your body. 4. NUTRITION: The best diet for you to follow is one you can stick to long term. There are so many diets out there such as, Keto, Paleo, Vegan, Weight Watchers, Intermittent Fasting and to be honest, they all will work if done correctly because they are putting your body into a calorie deficit, which means you are burning more calories than you’re consuming. So the question you should ask yourself when choosing the right diet, is whether it fits your lifestyle and habits as this will ultimately dictate the long-term effectiveness. For example, if your friends or family consistently enjoy get-togethers that revolve around soul food, then maybe Paleo isn’t the diet for you because it requires you to eat all earth-grown carbohydrates with no added sugars or processing. In this circumstance, counting calories like If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) may be most suitable for you. 5. SUPPLEMENTS: You don’t need to take any supplements and I will reiterate again that it’s all about the 4 core factors I mentioned above; however, if you do have a little extra money these are some supplements I would recommend you consider taking: • Creatine monohydrate - 3-5 grams on training days. This is the most studied sports supplements since the 90s and may aid in muscle building and strength. • Beta-alanine - 1.6 - 3.2 on training days. This supplement delays the onset of fatigue during strength training and cardiovascular exercise. • Citrulline malate - 4-8 grams a day. This helps with increasing blood flow and nutrient partitioning. It essentially helps to ensure the nutrients from your food reach your muscles to help them grow. • Protein powder - I would only recommend this if you have a hard time reaching your protein requirements throughout the day through food, because in my opinion, it’s best to get it through the food you eat. • Fish oil - again, if you were to eat 1-2 servings of salmon per week you would be able to get all the benefits from omega 3 supplements such as fish oil. Some of those benefits are brain function and health, eye, skin and joint health, lowering bad cholesterol and increasing good cholesterol and overall heart health. • Multivitamin - there has been a lot of speculation surrounding multivitamins in recent years regarding their absorption rate and bioavailability to your body. For this reason, I’m a huge proponent of having a very broad and colorful diet to make sure you’re getting enough micronutrients, but it can’t hurt to add a multivitamin to your daily regimine
Can you workout TOO much? with Alex Carneiro
When it comes to working out at a gym or with a celebrity personal trainer, we want to go with the best. Whether you are new to fitness or in need of an expert and a gym to work out in Colorado, go with the best: we’re talking about Alex Carneiro and Modevo Fitness. Alex Carneiro is a celebrity fitness trainer, author of Fitting In: The Mask of Health and is the founder of Modevo Fitness. Modevo Fitness is a private studio that focuses on caring about people’s transformations and health. Modevo Fitness offers personal training to bootcamp classes. How much exercise is too much? What are the signs to look out for? Outside of physical changes like losing body fat and increasing lean muscle, exercise can help with other aspects such as mood, sleep and stress management. However, there is such a thing as overdoing it when it comes to physical activity. When the physical changes start happening and you are feeling really good about your fitness it’s easy to not take enough time to rest the body or properly nourish it to function optimally. Doing more isn’t always best and you need to allow the body to recover. In fact, recovery is as important as the actual workout one does. Some signs to take notice are lack of sleep, headaches, muscles that don’t recover properly, feeling tired from waking up, loss of strength, to being unable to perform at the same level, and or potential injuries. What can happen if you’re working out too much? How much exercise should you be aiming for instead? The intensity in which you should train weekly will depend on your goals. If you’re currently doing no physical activity, start by doing some exercise and gradually build up. Whether training for endurance, performance, power, size or any other goal, taking a day off every 3 consecutive workouts is highly encouraged. People feel like more is always better but when it comes to working out it should always be quality over quantity. These workouts shouldn’t last more than 90 minutes either. Just because your body isn’t feeling it doesn’t mean your mind and or central nervous system don’t need a break. Aim to train 3 days on and 1 day off. If you feel like this isn’t enough and you still feel signs of over training then add a second day to your rest day. Ensure that you are properly sleeping, hydrating and eating to sustain your recovery. Fitness is supposed to aid you, but when you take it too far the side effects can easily take over the benefits. Individuals should be exercising because of the many proven benefits exercise has, but when exercise starts to become compulsive behavior than the side effects will take over the benefits. Make sure you have a regular exercise routine to help your overall health. If you want to feel energized, motivated, and want the best when it comes to fitness, visit Modevo Fitness. Modevo Fitness is located at 441 Wadsworth Blvd, #215, Lakewood, CO, 80226. Alex Carneiro’s Fitting In: The Mask of Health is available at retailers and online. For more information, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Fitting-Mask-Health-Alexandre-Carneiro/dp/1641110309 For more information, visit: www.alexcarneiro.com Follow celebrity personal trainer Alex Carneiro on these social media platforms: Twitter: https://twitter.com/alex_mcarneiro Facebook: www.facebook.com/alexmcarneiro Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alexcarneiro_
Men’s Fight Against the Silent Malaise: Depression By: Samantha Ruiz
women” (“Recognizing Men in Depression”).
As the holiday season ends and another year begins, the cold months creep in, the shopping and there’s no longer pressure to gather with family and friends can add some unwanted stress to people’s already hectic lives. For those dealing with a mental illness such as major depressive disorder (depression) or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), the winter months can further negatively affect their wellbeing.
During the holidays, men who knowingly and unknowingly suffer from depression are at an even higher risk of endangering their lives. The National Institute of Mental Health has found that men are more likely than women to develop drug addiction and or alcohol use disorder because men would rather “turn to drugs or alcohol to try to cope with their emotional symptoms” than discuss their emotional wellbeing (“Men and Depression”). Additionally, suicide and suicidal thoughts are a common symptom of depression and SAD. Harvard Medical School has found that “four times as many men compared with women die from suicide” due to depression (“Recognizing Men in Depression”). In the end, men’s inability to open up about their emotions leads them to use violent and reckless methods to ease their pain.
People tend to cope with depression and SAD during this time of the year in their own ways, but there are plenty of other people who suffer in silence—particularly men. The discussion surrounding mental health and men is hardly ever discussed because men “are less likely than women to develop depression” (“Recognizing Depression in Men”). However, about “10% to 17% of men will develop major depression at some point in their lives” (“Recognizing Depression in Men”). According to the Mental Health First Aid USA, “more than six million men in the U.S. are diagnosed with depression” each year, yet many more go undiagnosed due to societal expectations (Huggins). Throughout various cultures and societies, men are often taught to assume roles that exercise strength, power, and leadership; any indication of pain or melancholy is automatically portrayed as a weakness. Therefore, men will go great lengths to conceal their sorrow in order to avoid any sort of stigma from their family, friends, and colleagues. When left untreated, depression can have detrimental effects on the male body. Common signs and symptoms of depression in men are anxiety, irritability, sluggishness, trouble sleeping, trouble eating, and physical aches and pains. Moreover, men with depression are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Depression produces a higher risk of coronary artery disease, heart attacks, and strokes. These diseases and illnesses are more harmful to depressed men “because [men] develop these diseases at a higher rate and at an earlier age than
If you or a loved one have depression or suicidal thoughts, please contact a doctor, consultant, counselor, or therapist immediately. Here are other resources you may contact for help: National Suicide Prevention Hotline (United States): 1-800-273-8255 National Suicide Prevention Hotline (United States) TTY: 1- 800-799-4889 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Hotline: 1-800-622-4357 Remember: early-intervention and treatment is the first step in helping someone overcome their silent battles against depression.
Photo Credits: Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Marc Sacro, Penguin Random House
Kickin’ Life Into High Gear Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins
TLC’s Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins’ life is one filled with overcoming insurmountable odds and finding blessings in unexpected places. Watkins was diagnosed with sickle cell disease at the age of seven and spend much of her childhood in and out of hospitals due to episodes with the potentially fatal condition. She was told she wouldn’t make it past early adulthood. Her family’s move from Des Moines, Iowa to Atlanta, Georgia when Watkins was nine, and a chance meeting former singer and music executive Perri “Pebbles” Reid and her then-husband L.A. Reid would launch T-Boz, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas into the stratosphere as the biggest selling girl group in music history, taking home four Grammy awards and selling sixty five millions albums, worldwide throughout their career. For all it’s success, TLC has endured a roller coaster of ups and downs over the last thirty years, the biggest blow being the loss of group member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes in a 2002 car cash, and taking away one third of the lightning in a bottle that made them superstars. Resolute in their will to go on, T-Boz and Chilli have continued to record music and tour, most recently co-headlining a tour with Nelly and Flo Rida which continues through this summer. These days T-Boz is reveling in the most recent chapter of her life as mom to daughter Chase and son Chance, author of the 2017 memoir, A Sick Life, and co-creator of her newly launched line of CBD-infused healthy and beauty products, aptly called TLCBD. I recently caught up with T-Boz, and our lengthy conversation ran the gamut with nothing left off the table. Allison Kugel: Is there a prominent memory or flashback from your life, whether it’s a really great memory that you love to re-visit, or even something that wasn’t so great, that helped shape you?
Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: I always think about the first time I saw each of my kids. No matter what’s going on in my life, that will give me a good feeling and a smile. Anytime I’m having a terrible time, I try to think about what the best thing in my life is, and that is my two kids. I think about the first time I ever saw them, and that’s a feeling you can’t really describe. Allison Kugel: At what age did you feel yourself make the transition from a girl into a woman? Was there a particular event, or did it just kind of hit you one day? Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: You know when I think I felt like a woman? It’s probably when we did the video for the song, Creep. Everybody thought we were so mature looking in that video, and I didn’t think of myself like that until grown men started trying to talk to us. Before that there was always this stigma about us [looking] so young. Allison Kugel: Is that when you felt like a woman, or when you felt like people saw you that way? Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: I think that’s when people saw me as a woman, but then that started making me feel like I was a woman, you know what I mean? And when you start seeing yourself as that, you start acting a little differently, like, “Oh, I got some grown and sexy going on now (laughs).” I used to be so skinny and I would wear two pair of pants to look curvier. I was tired of guys saying, “She’s cute.” I was like, when are they going to say, “She’s fine,” and when am I going to get some grown woman hips? Allison Kugel: Do you talk to Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes when you’re alone? And has there ever been an unmistakable sign that she’s around you? Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: No, I don’t want to talk to anybody who’s passed away, because that’s spooky (laugh).
Allison Kugel: That stuff doesn’t spook me out. I think it’s kind of cool to think we can communicate back and forth with those who have passed. Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: I don’t talk to anyone that passed away in my family. But I think about them, or I talk about them. That’s my way. I’m one of those people where I don’t even like to go to grave sights because that’s not a good memory for me, and I don’t feel like they know I’m there. But I also feel like they know the love I have for them, and I always have psychics come up to me and tell me that Lisa is with me. Allison Kugel: Do they say something specific enough where you know they’re for real? Because you guys are famous, do they give you something to let you know it’s the real deal? Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: Yeah, absolutely, I know it’s the real deal. They tell me that she watches over my kids, but the stuff they’ve told me, there is no way they would know it! Only me and Lisa would know that stuff. At first it creeped me out a little bit, because I was like, “Wait a minute. Does that mean she’s watching me all the time?” Then I got used to it, and it’s not a bad thing because she’s watching over us. Allison Kugel: I’m sure she’s not watching you in the shower and that kind of thing, but who knows (laugh). Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: I hope not, but it’s not like we haven’t seen each other naked before. We were like family, so we did everything together. Allison Kugel: Were you happy with the way TLC’s final album (the group’s fifth and final album, titled “TLC” was released in 2017) turned out? Do you feel it was a good swan song? Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: No, I don’t. I feel like it wasn’t worked good enough. I don’t even like the song Haters; I’m going to be honest. I think that was a terrible choice as our second single. I believe there were better songs we should’ve gone with, that were deeper. We have a song called American Gold. It was right before Trump came into office and there was all this uproar with black men who were dying and being abused and killed by the cops, including my cousin who was murdered by cops and shot 18 times with an AR15, and he was mentally ill. The reason that song is so important is because we hit on all of
that, and you know how you bleed and die for your American gold? Just being American is tough these days, especially when you’re black. That song would have really hit home in a lot of places, kind of the way Waterfalls did, if the right visuals had been put to it. Allison Kugel: You think the music video for Waterfalls was a key element for people getting the song? Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: Some people didn’t get Waterfalls at first, until the visuals came [with the music video] and brought that song to life. If visuals were put to American Gold, it could have been a big song. It could have been deep for certain people, especially for people who fought for our country. At the end, the album was too rushed, and I felt forced to not finish some of the songs that I could have finished. Allison Kugel: Let’s get into your CBD line, which you’ve named TLCBD. Over the years you’ve had a rough time recording music and touring, while dealing with flare ups and hospitalizations from your sickle cell anemia. On this current TLC tour (co-headlining with Flo Rida and Nelly), you’ve said that using CBD kept you healthier. Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: Oh Absolutely! Before I started taking CBD, you can go back through our history and they would tell you, “T-Boz is sick, T-Boz has ruined another tour.” It’s not a cure, but since being on it, I don’t get sick as often. I’m way stronger and when I do get sick it’s not as bad or for as long. On this last tour, I broke my rib and I was able to still perform with a broken rib. A long time ago that would have sent me into a sickle cell crisis. Because I was on CBD, I was able to go to the hospital for one day, get fluids for the pain and some lidocaine patches and take some CBD cream, bomb and tincture, and I made it through. I didn’t ruin the tour. This is the third tour I’ve been on that I haven’t gotten sick or had to cancel. Allison Kugel: Knock on wood, that’s awesome. How did you figure out that CBD could ease your symptoms? Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: The medicines that the doctors give you keep you in a weakened state. If you’re weak, it’s easier to get sick because the sickle cell attacks the weakest part of your body. If you stay weak, you’re going to stay sick, so I was sick
every three months and going into hospitals. Someone suggested CBD and I tried it. At first, I didn’t feel any different. Then I started noticing that I was feeling stronger. I wasn’t getting as sick as often, and I don’t even have a good working spleen. Your spleen is what helps you fight off colds and diseases. I lost my spleen, but I grew two accessory spleens which is totally crazy. I didn’t know you can grow an organ back. God has been looking out for me! Any time someone had a cold around me, I would always catch the cold to the 10th power, but now I wasn’t even catching cooties (laugh). Allison Kugel: For systemic issues you ingest it, and for injuries you use it topically… Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: Yeah, we have a balm which is kind of the consistency of shea butter for our line, TLCBD, and then our CBD tincture is what you drop on your tongue. We have beauty oils for wrinkles and keeping your face together. It’s moisturizing, and after wearing all that make up and being in different climates every other day, it really moisturizes my skin.
Allison Kugel: Was Chilli cool with you naming your CBD line TLCBD? Or was she wanting a cut because you’re using the TLC name? Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: It’s just a play on words. At first it was called Cure Holistic, but there is a Cure CBD. When one of my partners came up with TLCBD, usually I hate using anything TLC-related, but it was cute. I said that at first too, but when I talked to all my people, they said that it’s just a play on words, it’s not a TLC product. I don’t get mad if she goes somewhere and says “Chilli with TLC,” so no, she wasn’t mad. But if it was a TLC product, and it just said “TLC,” then yeah, I would owe her a cut. Allison Kugel: What is the wisest advice you’ve ever been given, and how has it impacted your life? Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: My momma told me if I kept my morals, my integrity and my character intact, she would support anything I did. That’s what’s gotten me through. She also said to always be the best in anything you choose to do. She said, “I don’t care if you choose to be a garbage truckdriver. Make sure you pick up that garbage good, girl.” At the end
When your doctor comes out and says, “I don’t even know how she’s doing this, because I didn’t do it…” Alison Kugel: This is something that I ask everybody, and it’s really something to meditate on if you’ve never thought about it before. What do you believe you are here on this earth, as Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, to learn? What do you think your soul came here to learn in this lifetime?
of the day, it’s about respecting myself. Nobody else will respect me if I don’t respect myself, and it starts with me. Allison Kugel: Good Advice. Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: That’s the best advice I could have been given, especially in this industry, at 19 years old, with a whole bunch of nasty men trying to just prowl and take advantage of young girls. That never bothered me, because I always had my self-respect, self-esteem and self-worth. Allison Kugel: What do you have faith in? Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: God! That’s pretty much it. Period. Allison Kugel: How do you define God for yourself? Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: How do I define God? I’ve never been asked that before. I know I have a relationship with God, and I know that God exists for me. I don’t push my beliefs on anybody else, but I know when people, and even doctors, walk out of the room and they can’t explain why I’m still here (referring to her sickle cell disease). I know there’s something up there higher than me that made it possible.
Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: I used to always wonder why I got through things, like, why I lived and why my cousin died, and why we had the same disease. I used to wonder why I’m here and what my purpose was. Then, not so long ago, maybe the last seven to eight years, I figured my purpose here was to help people, whether it’s through music or through sharing my testimony and being a ray of hope for someone. I’ve also learned to push past my fears. I used to hate speaking in front to people. I’ve learned to face my fears, and I’ve learned that I’m an open book. And I like to learn… about people, about things… it just makes me more of a people person so that I can better help someone else. Allison Kugel: That falls in line with what the late Dr. Maya Angelou said. “When you learn, teach. At our best, we are all teachers.” Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: Yes! When I talk to the kids that I speak to, I try to help them from the inside out. When it comes to health-related issues, for example, if you have cancer, lupus, sickle cell, AIDS, or even if you are 100% healthy but you’re continually stressed out, you can die. So if you already have an ailment and your boyfriend is cheating on you, or you’re getting beat up at home, or your child’s on drugs, or whatever the stress may be; you have to try to control the stuff that you can control and get as much stress out of your life as possible, because it will kill you. But it’s especially true if you’re already dealing with an illness. I’ve just learned to be a better person; the best version of me. I’m working towards that every
day, so I can do what I’m here to do, and live whatever my purpose is meant to be on this earth. I truly believe that’s to help people. Allison Kugel: I was going to ask you what you’re here to teach, but I think you just covered that! Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: (Laugh) That was a good question, though. I like your questions.
ocean, or the big bungalows with the pool. I’m going to one of those countries, if not all three. I canceled a tour that we had around my birthday. They wanted me to work on my birthday, that ain’t gonna happen, especially my 50th! That’s a big celebration. They were going to try to do a big sickle cell telethon type thing. I don’t know if that’s going to happen, because it might take too long to put together, and my birthday will pass by then. Celebrating 50, for me, is a super blessing being that I was told I wouldn’t live past 30.
Allison Kugel: Thank you. Let’s get to some fun stuff. When you’re on tour in your 40s, are there tour shenanigans with the other artists, or are you Allison Kugel: Wow! in bed under the covers by 10:00 PM at this stage of the game? Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: I’m like YEAHHHHH! Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: (Laugh) I’m not in bed, but I am boring. I like to watch movies, but I’m up all night. I’m a night owl, and I go to bed at like three, four or five in the morning. But they always say my bus is the crunk bus, and Chilli’s bus is the grandma bus (laugh). They call her grandma, and they call me auntie. So, my bus is the loud one. It’s music and fun, but we used to get wild when Lisa was alive. We used to have this thing we would do called “penis on the bus.” Anytime a guy would come on the bus, we would be like, “Penis on the bus!” and we would try to act like we were going to pull their pants down. But it was funny, because we would always know who had a little penis or who had a big one, because the people would just lay there, like, “Go ahead.” And the ones that had little penises would almost, like, kill us before we could pull their pants down. So, we were like, “Dang, we just playing! Don’t kill me. We weren’t really gonna pull your penis out.” Hello! Allison Kugel: And they say only the male artists are bad on tour. Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: Yeah, we were really bad, but penis on the bus was fun. Allison Kugel: That’s funny, okay. How are you feeling about your upcoming 50th birthday in April? Tionne: I want to do something special, because usually I just go to a Mexican restaurant to eat for my birthday. I don’t really do much, because I’m kind of a homebody. But for my 50th, I think I should celebrate all year long, because I never go on vacation. My plan is to go to Bora Bora, Tahiti, Thailand. I’ve always wanted to stay in one of those huts in the
Allison Kugel: That’s amazing! Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: That’s a celebration within itself. Yeah, it’s a blessing and I love it. Allison Kugel: What are you hoping the year 2020 brings you, in all areas of your life? Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins: Health and joy, because joy to me is better than happiness. Happiness is momentary. You can get a car, and then a new car comes out and you want that one. So, joy, to me, is the kind of peace that you can’t buy. If you have joy in your heart, that has to be the most peaceful kind of love and light. I just want to reach that, whatever that is. I want peace, love, joy and health, and that’s it. I want all my loved ones around me to be healthy, too. If we have that, I’m Gucci. Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins established her CBD line, TLCBD, fueled by the desire to share ethical, effective CBD products with her fans. Visit TionneWellness.com to learn more about TLCBD. For TLC’s upcoming tour dates, visit OfficialTLC.com.
Spread My Wings Titus Makin by Greg Poblete
Titus Makin has been setting the television and film industry on fire in the last few years. Growing up entertaining his family by performing at homestaged talent shows, he was a natural when it came to sports, gymnastics, dancing, and singing. Recognizing this, his parents encouraged him more to when he believed gymnastics would be his career of choice. However, it would be an outing to a movie theater during his senior year in high school after watching the movie hit dance movie Step Up, that the military born singer and dancer began realizing that his love for dance may lead him to take his shot at tinseltown.
idays. He has just wrapped up holiday traveling and was happy that he was finally able to rest. Ultimately, I wanted to know about how he initially got his start in entertainment, the difference between being an actor and musician, and the growth of his character, Jackson West, on The Rookie.
Titus took his talents to The New York Conservatory and took jobs as an acrobat with the New York Knicks and a dancer/tumbler with the WNBA’s New York Liberties. Knowing that his opportunities would be more attainable if he was in Los Angeles, Titus packed up and relocated. Two years later, he was booked for FOX sensation GLEE for 3 episodes. After 2.5 seasons of working with the show, he was booked for the GLEE 3D CONCERT MOVIE and national tour.
Titus: I was a military kid, so I moved all over the place every 2 to 4 years. So being in different countries and seeing different ways of life I think played a huge factor into my creative side and opened me up.
Stretching his talents across multiple fields, not only is Titus is a self-defined storyteller and a talented actor who’s had roles in Hulu’s The Path, A Cinderella Story: Once Upon A Song, Pretty Little Liars, Star Crossed, and most recently The Rookie in which he plays a police officer, Jackson West. He also creates music under the name Butterfly Ali with his most recent single being the smooth and soulful “Rose.” Titus is excited to share his life experiences and make the world feel a little less lonely. I had the honor of briefly talking with the charismatic and extremely delightful Titus Makin after the hol-
Before we get into all our current projects going on, I want to get a sense of where you started. What was your upbringing like? What kind of kid were you, and where did all this creativity initially come from?
We know how you got your start in the industry. What were the main challenges you faced upon entering such a competitive field? Titus: I feel like the typical hardship, at the time when I was starting, the industry was just then awakening its more ethnically diverse lead casting, so I kinda started at a good time. They were more open to cast people of all ethnicities, and every show wasn’t typically cast. So it was a good time for me, but obviously it was still difficult not having as many credits as the people you’re in the room against. Before we move forward with what you have going on, I feel like a popular trend right now is people reflecting on the past decade and highlighting all the things that they’ve accomplished and achieved over the last 10 years. Looking back, what would you say is the project or role that you are most
proud of in the last 10 years and why is it significant to you?
ping into a time where I really feel like I’m doing me for the first time and really recording all this music that I want to do, personally. It’s kinda equivalent, in Titus: There’s a few, but if I had to choose one I would my head, to a mother giving birth and naming her probably say Glee, only because it was the one that kid. It’s like I’m birthing this new music that’s fully catapulted me into all things industry. It was, honest- me. And I just wanted to name it. I just wanted it to ly, kind of a whirlwind. It gave me a stepping stone, have a name that I feel inspires my artistry. And it’s credit wise, as far as being able to audition for other the same person. I don’t view it as an alter ego. It’s stuff, but it also showed me the world. You know, go- just like this is, if I can name my music, this is what I ing on a world tour with Glee and all that stuff. It was would name it. It feels like this energy. very eye-opening. It gave a lot to me right up front. Instead of asking what inspires your music because Yeah, definitely, because that was such a monuI feel like that’s a very generic question, I want to mental show. ask, if you weren’t able to create music how would your life be different? Titus: Exactly. It shows you can handle a lot. That show had a lot of attention, so it definitely set me up Titus: If I wasn’t able to create music? I would probto be able to handle the other shows. ably be expressing myself in some other quirky way, I’d probably be an artist like a painter. I like loud, As mentioned, you’re an actor and a musician, but things that are loud. Not necessarily in sound but what do you anticipate being your main focus if whether that’s color, I like to express in some way. So there is one within the next year and do you ever I would probably be a painter. foresee these two worlds colliding anytime in the future? I was watching an interview you did with Riker Lynch and I found out that you were very close to Titus: Yeah, I think they work together beautifully getting the opportunity to be one of the leads in a now. The same following, the people that support Star Wars movie not just once, but twice. Looking you in the roles you do typically are pretty excited to back on those experiences of auditioning and getsupport your music as well. They’re just excited to be ting call backs then eventually not getting the role, apart of your journey. So I think both worlds exist what do you think is the most important thing that quite nice actually. you learned from these experiences and do you think you have grown as a performer because of it? How would you say the way you express yourself through your music is different from your acting, Titus: Yeah, absolutely. It definitely teaches you huor is there even a difference? mility. It baffles me how there are some artists who can be arrogant because this keeps you humble. No Titus: Oh, yeah. Huge difference. With acting, I’m matter how famous you get there’s still always someplaying a character that somebody else designated body that they’re optioning you against, for the most for me. And with music I get to speak from my own part. And honestly, it taught me when the timing’s experiences. Growing up a Southern church boy, I right, timing’s right. Don’t freak out because that’s liked to infuse a lot of my music with those Southern just kinda the name of the game. When it’s your role feels and bring a modern twist to it all. But yeah, it’s it’s yours. quite honestly, polar opposites. I’m obsessed with quirky fashion, and I typically play pretty straightYou currently play one of the main characters, laced characters. Jackson West, in The Rookie. On the surface, he is this all-knowing and experienced police officer You previously released music under your name, when in actuality, he definitely has a lot more to Titus, but with your new song, “Rose,” you released learn. And over the course of these 2 seasons he’s it under the name Butterfly Ali. Why did you degrown a lot and has definitely shown his rightful cide to go with the name change? place on the squad. What do you enjoy most about playing Jackson West and how do you see his charTitus: For a while I was playing by Titus, but I felt acter progressing in the show? like I was releasing this new music and kinda step-
Titus: I think we’re going to keep seeing him grow in general, taking on the streets a little better. Throughout these 2 seasons so far he’s been running into some pretty big learning curves. But I think we’re just going to see him continue to come into his own and kinda be that boss cop that he assumed he was in the first place. Do you have any personal connection with Jackson West? Do you feel like you can relate to any of his struggles? Titus: Not really. We’re pretty opposite. I’m pretty, I guess, be perceived as a confident dude. He’s a lot more rule-following than I am, to put it like that. He kinda likes to stick to the book and I don’t think I have enough discipline to actually be a cop for real. But I admire his dedication and drive because he knows what he wants and he’s going for it. So you’re still shooting the latter half of season 2, and I’m not going to ask what is going to happen next in the show, but during shooting has there been any new challenges or unexpected things you had to learn how to do as an actor? Titus: Some of the cop things. We’re constantly learning more cop jargon that I’ve never heard of. And you’re just learning these massive terms. But other than that, just the action of it all. Every episode kinda introduces us to new situations that cops deal with on a daily basis. From playing this role, do you feel like you have found a new appreciation for police officers? What is your opinion on their place in society now having put on the uniform for TV? Titus: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Before I would just view them, you know, cops are kinda viewed as the people you never want around until you need them type thing. And this definitely changed that. I think the show does a great job about painting them in a very human light, not people who are trying to ruin your day but are genuinely trying to help you. And their call is to make very tough decisions on a whim. Obviously, just like there’s tons of bad people, there’s tons of bad cops. But there’s also many who are good ones who get caught up in situations that are hard to make good calls in within point-five-seconds. So it definitely opened up my heart a lot.
This next question is a Nathan Fillion question. With classics such as Firefly and Castle under his belt, he’s gathered this almost nerd-cult type following to any of his projects. From working with him on The Rookie, have you ever witnessed or encountered this dedicated fanbase in person, and what is the most memorable moment you can remember? Titus: Well, everybody respects his body of work everywhere we go but the place I saw responded to the most was Comic-Con this past season. And it was insane. It was actually really cool to see so many dedicated fans he has from a lot of his shows. There is a Nathan Fillion cult. And that’s so cool to see that he’s created a career that is so respected like that. That’s awesome. Did you get to enjoy the Comic-Con at all for yourself? Was there anything you got to see? Titus: Not really. I didn’t get to see much because they issue us around and we do our signings and stuff, but from what I did see just looking out into the sea of people, it was really cool. To wrap things up, what is the main thing you want readers to know about you, whether it be a piece of advice or a little inspiration? What keeps Titus Makin waking up every morning and wanting to create and trying to make an impact on the world? Titus: Honestly, I’m a religious guy and prayer changes things. Prayer changes things. I’m all about taking time to just sit and meditate. Think, pray, and gather yourself and go out and conquer.
To keep up with everything that Titus Makin is doing, you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @titusmakin. Make sure to be on the lookout for Butterfly Ali’s new single, “Righteous,” coming out early February as well as the return of season 2 of The Rookie on Sunday, February 23, 2020.
Rev Run and Justine Simmons Photo Credits: Joseph Rev Run Simmons’ and Justine Simmons’ personal collection In a time when life feels fragile and love can seem fleeting, there are signposts reminding us that life holds immeasurable meaning and love can last a lifetime if we have vision and faith and accrue the tools to sustain what we hold dear. Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons is a living example of iconic musical accomplishment and steady business acumen, but more importantly, as he sees it, he is living example of how to live one’s life in faith and love. As Rev Run and his wife Justine Simmons speak with me about their marriage and their new book, Old School Love: And Why It Works, it further brings home the lesson that faith and love are actions we must take every day to ensure a life of substance; one where our relationships and being of service to others takes center stage. During the 1980s and 1990s, Simmons’ rap group, Run-D.M.C. pioneered a powerful hip hop sound that acted as a wrecking ball to break new ground and cross into the mass consciousness. Run-D.M.C. helped pioneer rap music’s journey from underground urban sensation to mainstream cultural phenomenon. According to Simmons, the fame, wealth, product endorsement deals and magazine covers did little to quell what was lacking within. His first marriage had ended, and he felt he had no spiritual center from which to rebuild. For him, Christianity was the catalyst that helped him find his center and higher purpose, which created the foundation from which to build his marriage to his beautiful wife, Justine Simmons. Audiences then fell in love with their blended family on the long-running MTV docu-series Run’s House, and subsequent television shows on
The DIY network and the Travel Channel. Their new book, Old School Love, certainly saves the best for last as they open up like never before, sharing the ups and downs and intimate details about their life and their marriage. Simmons’ performance at the 2020 Grammy Awards was, indeed, a full circle moment for the artist, reverend and mentor to millions. Below, Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons and his wife Justine Simmons, discuss what makes their marriage and their family rock-solid, and the journey that has gotten them here. Allison Kugel: I want to compliment you on a job well done. I’ve read many celebrity-authored books, and rarely do I feel compelled to recommend a book. This one I’m going to recommend. I’m a single mom, like your two daughters, Angela and Vanessa, who you write about in the book. Dating can be disheartening, and I found this book inspiring as well as healing. Joseph Rev Run Simmons: What made you feel that way? I’m very interested… Allison Kugel: Reading about your loving, old fashioned courtship makes me feel quite hopeful that such a thing exists. The two of you are emotionally responsible with one another. I love how you speak about being mindful during a conflict, and not being cruel or hitting below the belt, but really taking care of each other’s feelings. Joseph Rev Run Simmons: Well, thank you!
Allison Kugel: You’re very welcome. I watched your family’s show, Run’s House, when it was on, but this book is different. The two of you get very intimate and really take your fans inside your marriage, and even into your sex life. That’s private stuff. What made you want to share those parts of your marriage? Joseph Rev Run Simmons: People have been asking us for the longest to do a book, so we wanted to be very transparent and give people as much help as we could as to the dynamics of why we’re here, and how we arrived at this place together. The only way to do that is to go as deep as we could into ourselves, to pour it out to you.
Allison Kugel: Justine, what do you have to say? Justine Simmons: Joey and I so wanted to help people in their marriage, so much so, that we wanted to give them our all and say, “This is what we are doing, and hopefully if you try it this way it could help you in your own marriage.” We know it’s not easy. We were blessed to have mentors that were trying to make their marriages work, so we had that early on to look at and see how to make our own marriage work. We just wanted to make sure we gave you all the lessons we’ve learned over the years. Allison Kugel: Are you that couple in your social circle that people go to for advice about their
relationships? Joseph Rev Run Simmons: We feel it when we walk down the street. We feel people wanting to look up to us. Because of the television show, Run’s House, not just close friends, it almost feels like the world, whether they know us or not, feel that way. Run’s House was so impactful in that way. I don’t really get cornered by couples per se, but I get cornered by the world at large, to just feel admired by them. Justine Simmons: Maybe one or two couples have come to us, but I’d rather not say names. If you notice, on Run’s House, we showed ourselves going to church and different things like that. We tried to lead by example. Even on our cooking show (Rev Run’s Sunday Suppers) and our renovation show (Rev Run’s Renovation), we always tried to lead by example.
I didn’t have what I needed. I was too young. Later, I went to church, and I had time to slow down and really be more attentive. Allison Kugel: Like other famous families, your marriage and your family are also a brand and a business. Are there ever times when the brand clashes with your personal relationship? Joseph Rev Run Simmons: No. We never leaned too hard on making it a brand. It was always a tool to help. Run’s House wasn’t about trying to sell clothing or sell jewelry, or to sell anything. We were trying to convey a message of family, of love and of being connected. That’s all it was ever about. We never tried to turn it into a booming business. Justine Simmons: My husband also really tried hard to not take things in that direction, like, “No, we’re not doing that, because it might start this.” Joseph Rev Run Simmons: Right, it might bring a wedge between me and my wife. We were very careful with that. I put a little bit into business, but I think I put more into my family than I do into chasing business deals, my ego, and trying to be the top entrepreneur, or the top rapper, or top anything anymore. I can see the pitfalls coming towards me, and I’ve watched it too much. I can just feel that if I put too much energy in another direction it will hurt my family. My intuition knows best.
Joseph Rev Run Simmons: Do as we do, not what we say. That’s what was so good about our reality shows. Michael Jordan never told people, “Here’s how to dunk the ball.” He just dunked, and (the late) Kobe [Bryant] became inspired. You can feel our truth, and it’s been inspiring.
Allison Kugel: Your faith in God and the guidance that both of you get from your bible study, it’s a tremendous part of your life and your marriage, and it’s woven throughout your book. We know that everyone has different beliefs when it comes to God, religion and spirituality. Do you think it’s possible to get through this earthly life, to weather the storms, and to be able to answer the big questions, without having a relationship with God?
Justine Simmons: So many people would comment on my husband’s Instagram, asking us to please put out a book, or saying, “You guys should write a book!”
Joseph Rev Run Simmons: No. I believe that you do the best you can; you push, and then you hope for the serendipity and the grace. You want that favor. I read a quote that once said, “I don’t believe in miracles, I depend on them.” I love that quote. Justine had a friend years ago and she used to just say, “Jus, He did it again!” I thought it was so cute. I didn’t know how religious her friend was, but that used to always touch me and tickle me. God really likes to come and play with us, talk with us, help us, encourage us. I know that faith without works is dead. But works
Allison Kugel: Rev, what have you done differently in your marriage to Justine that you didn’t do in your first marriage? Joseph Rev Run Simmons: I was young. I was on the road, and when I came back home and off the road,
without faith is also dead. Allison Kugel: Let’s talk about parenting. I am of the mind that if a child is starting to go off course, or anyone you love for that matter, my feeling is the last thing they need is screaming and yelling, and punishing, and being made to feel further isolated. I feel that if a child is making poor decisions, it’s because they’re in pain and in need of healing. I think the best thing you can do is to move closer to them, communicate with them, show them compassion, hug them, and listen to what is causing that pain or confusion. Joseph Rev Run Simmons: Yes, people around me were very shocked because when my daughter Vanessa first got pregnant, everybody thought all these things about how I would react, because it feels like I’m such a disciplinary type of figure. But I’m actually loose on people, because I don’t want the same reaction to my mistakes. I go hard to make life better if I can, but I don’t judge. I’ve let many of my children walk through whatever they had to walk through until they figured it out. The Bible says, “Teach your child, and they should go when they get older and they won’t depart from it.” I’m a firm believer in that. Justine Simmons: These days you can try your best and kids are going to do what they want. As parents, of course, we can try to shorten the distance for their mistakes, but some of them want to make their own mistakes. It’s not easy, but you’re going to have to let it go and let them learn from their mistakes. Joseph Rev Run Simmons: Let them learn and let them figure out their life for themselves. Allison Kugel: Was there ever a make or break moment in your marriage, a time when you thought, “This is either going to split us up, or it’s going to make our marriage rock solid.”? Justine Simmons: For us, no, not at all. The word “divorce” isn’t in our circle. Phrases like “split for a minute,” or “need a break, and you do your thing for a minute,” those words and statements weren’t even in our [vocabulary]. We don’t let that into our marriage at all. No separation option, no divorce option. You don’t bring those in. Joseph Rev Run Simmons: Don’t even bring that up in conversation. We’ve been very fortunate to not have had to experience that. We’ve been very bless-
ed in that area of marriage, so I don’t want to take all the credit. We’re going to give it to God, but we conduct ourselves with a lot of love and with a lot of respect for one another. When you have that respect, you’re not going to do something so hurtful to get to that place. The thing that breaks up relationships is the lack of respect. That’s it. If I think I’m about to do something that is going to make her very mad, I don’t do it. I do annoying husband stuff, like put my clothes on the floor and little stuff that she can get over, but I try my best not to do anything that is extremely hard to forgive. Justine Simmons: I don’t want him walking around angry at me all day, and he doesn’t want me walking around angry at him all day, so we’re trying to make each other happy and you would think more people would think like that. Joseph Rev Run Simmons: We forgive a lot. A lot of people are selfish instead of selfless. You’ve got to be more selfless and less selfish. You’ve got to meet in the middle. It’s all about giving. It’s all about forgiving and giving and respect. Period. Justine Simmons: And we argue all the time Joseph Rev Run Simmons: All the time, like an old couple does. One of my favorite memes is an old couple sitting in the rain, pissed off, but the gentleman is still holding the umbrella over her head. It’s a beautiful cartoon picture that I’ve posted before, and I see it all over the internet. Allison Kugel: That sums it up. Joseph Rev Run Simmons: Yeah! I’m mad, but I’m not going to let the rain get on you. Allison Kugel: Rev, I want to back up a bit and talk about Run-D.M.C. In those days, you hadn’t found your faith yet, but as a young man something gave you the faith and the courage to believe that you
could, not just become a hip hop artist, but that you could revolutionize pop music culture. What fueled you? Joseph Rev Run Simmons: I was just making music. I give a lot to God because you’re making music, you’re having fun and you have a lot of people working with you. The mainstream thing has a lot to do with our producers. Larry Smith, Russell Simmons, Rick Rubin… all these people around you. Run-D.M.C. and Jam Master Jay weren’t alone. There were producers, record companies, managers, publicity people. No man is an island. I knew I had a God given [talent] and you go really hard because you’re born with this ambition. You have ambition and competitiveness to back up the talent. All of it added up to success. Allison Kugel: Speaking of the late Jam Master Jay, how do you process loss? And how do you process the death of a loved one, especially when it appears to be under tragic circumstances, at least from our side of things on earth?
Joseph Rev Run Simmons: I get very spiritual during times of loss. I’m able to mourn and comfort those around me as I mourn. I get comforted by comforting, and by being comforted by loved ones. Allison Kugel: Do you get angry at all? Joseph Rev Run Simmons: I don’t, no. I don’t get into those emotions often. I’m a very non- confrontational type of person. I’m a “live and let live” person, so I don’t get caught up in too much conflict with people. At least, I try my best not to. Allison Kugel: You both talk in your book about your little girl, Victoria, who died shortly after birth; and then the adoption of your daughter, Miley. The way I interpreted all of it was that Victoria came to you briefly to teach you some profound lessons about love, loss and about trusting in God. Miley came to you as the child you were meant to raise for a lifetime. Does that make sense?
Joseph Rev Run Simmons: Agreed! You hit that right out of the park. You said it perfectly. Justine Simmons: We could not have said it better than you. Joseph Rev Run Simmons: I was humbled. You don’t have babies; God gives you babies. Justine originally wanted to adopt and I said, “Let’s just have a baby.” God showed me after we lost our baby Victoria, that for me, personally, you don’t make babies. That was the first lesson. The second lesson was that my wife is so sweet, she had wanted to adopt. Finally, the third lesson was that Miley needed us and we needed Miley. Sometimes Justine forgets that she didn’t carry
Miley, and that’s the real crazy part. Justine Simmons: So many women who cannot have babies, I want them to know that adopting is so amazing. Because I carried Victoria full term, it would make me forget that I didn’t carry Miley. And she has so many traits of mine. We eat the same types of things, and sometimes I just say, “Girl, you came out of me,” and she laughs. Allison Kugel: What advise do the two of you have for single people of this generation who are dating and looking for a partner? Joseph Rev Run Simmons: Go where you’re celebrated, not where you’re tolerated. Go where you’re
inspire through my marriage. Allison Kugel: What are your thoughts on celebrities as role models for young people? Good thing, bad thing? Can it be a positive thing in the right context? Or do you think role models should be sought within your family, community or place of worship? Joseph Rev Run Simmons: Everything around you can inspire you. Beyoncé inspires you to go hard when you make your music. Jay-Z and Puff Daddy inspire through their entrepreneurship? Leonardo DiCaprio inspires people as a great actor and with how hard he works. And you have those that are your mother, your father, your pastor, but there’s inspiration everywhere. Justine Simmons: I have to concur with my husband. You can learn through anything. You can even learn from a homeless person, from how they endure and how they get through a whole winter. They’re so resilient. They make it through. Even a homeless person has something to teach. Joseph Rev Run Simmons: The Bible says, “Go to the ants, you sluggard; consider their ways and be wise.” Ants work hard all day long. You can learn something from an ant, according to the Bible. Old School Love: And Why It Works (Dey Street Books) by Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons and Justine Simmons is available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.
adored, not where you’re ignored. If the person is not answering the phone, not answering your texts and they’re playing little games and you can feel it, be ready for the red flags. People will show you who they really are. Believe them. Justine Simmons: That’s good. And if you have children, make sure they love your children as much as they love you. If they don’t show that, you’ll see it in the beginning and that person is not for you. Allison Kugel: Rev, do you see yourself as a teacher, first and foremost? Joseph Rev Run Simmons: I believe I’m here to inspire people. I inspire though music, and I think I
Allison Kugel is a syndicated entertainment columnist, author of the memoir, Journaling Fame: A memoir of a life unhinged and on the record, and owner of communications firm, Full Scale Media. Follow her on Instagram @theallisonkugel and at AllisonKugel.com. This article is dedicated in memory of Kobe Bryant (1978 – 2020), Gianna Bryant, John Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, Alyssa Altobelli and other victims of the Calabasas helicopter crash.
Straight Buggin’: Vuliwear Shades
A Philadelphia native, Dionne Ellison, found herself a part of the fashion industry by complete happenstance. One day while sitting at work browsing photos of a photographer who magnified insects, her inspiration was sparked. She saw beautiful eyes from some of the most ignored organisms on the planet. Knowing absolutely nothing about the fashion accessories industry, beyond being a consumer, Dionne wanted to create a line of sunglasses emulating the bugs’ eyes. “I was dumbfounded,” Dionne laughs. “Who knew that horseflies, which we swat at all of the time, had the most beautiful color eyes? I started googling and looking at other insects to see what their eyes were like. It’s a range from horseflies to dragonflies to beetles, and ants. It was amazing. The first thing that came to mind was, wow, this would make a fly pair of sunglasses (no pun intended). I slept on it then ran it by my sister and my best friend.Their response was, ‘Ewww, the bug is ugly,’ (laughing). I’m like, I know, but get past that for one second and just look at the color and pattern. Then I heard, ‘wow, you know, you’re right.’ And I had no clue. I mean, absolutely no clue what the eyewear business was like or even where to start. But Google’s a wonderful thing.” For Dionne, the cheaper option of precut and predesigned frames from the typical China-based company wasn’t an option. When narrowing down the frame style and lens design, she decided that she
would go in the direction of making her aviator-style frames unique by closing the bridge and placing a solid focus on the lens making the frames just as recognizable. Creating a unique frame would push her price point a bit, however, she understood that quality was the most important aspect of this venture. Dionne sourced a manufacturer in Italy and the pieces of her dream began to fall in place. She began working on the business plan and had her artist sister sketch up the design concept that was in her head. While style is important, functionality and purpose are just as relevant for Dionne. Her research led her to find that 30% of glaucoma patients comes from UV ray damage. Therefore, she made sure that her lenses would be fully polarized as well as stylish. Dionne decided to name her line Vuliwear pronounced (vooh-lee). She wanted to make sure that there was some type of inspirational message behind the name. VULI means shade and autumn in Swahili. It was catchy, it was one syllable, and easy to remember. She was happy. As with many businesses, the biggest initial obstacle came from financial investment. To her surprise, that would work itself out by doing something that she wasn’t supposed to… working on leaving her job, while being at work. “I’m at work sitting at my desk looking through all of
this information and I happened to have one of the bug pictures on the screen. My boss at the time was walking past and asked, what are you doing? We had a great relationship, so I was honest and said “I’m actually working on something. Do you want to see?” He’s said sure. We sat down, and I showed him the business plan. He was excited to read it but wanted me to explain the line to him. By the time I was done he said ‘so what do you need to get this thing started?’ I laughed and said, “Well, money. At the end of the day, we’ve got to get some prototypes made, you know, get some inventory. I’m working at getting my website done, et cetera, et cetera.” So he said, let’s do some financials and put the numbers together. He was my first investor. That was enough for me to start getting inventory. He told another coworker that I know and worked with, he also invested. Both of them talked to another coworker and she invested. I was able to get three investors to invest in me.” Dionne was able to get her Vuliwear off of paper and into fruition because she was consistent, efficient, and open to sharing her dream with someone whom she had no inclination would become a business partner. This is why it’s extremely important to have integrity. Dionne learned the lesson that many of us entrepreneurs have... in many cases, your immediate circle will not always be your support system. Your biggest supporters and clientele will come from people you don’t know, don’t look like you, and may have
different life experiences. To go a step further, when an entrepreneur really deals in the world of social media, business, and friendships, they may find that there is even less support from the familiar faces. “You learn so much,” Dionne says with a laugh of shock and revelation. “It costs our friends absolutely nothing to share a post. My glasses may be out of your budget. You may not even like my glasses. I’m okay with that. You don’t want to buy them. You’d rather spend your money and/or more money on Gucci or whoever. I’m okay with that as well. That’s what this world about. It’s all about choices and opportunity and you’re free to make them. But, it costs you absolutely nothing to share a post. And people will make a conscious decision not to share a post before they make a decision to help you. It’s like I said, this entrepreneurship life is something.” Being a one-woman show has its benefits for Dionne. She knows all aspects of marketing, shipping, design, styling, and publicity. When she is inspired, she is able to add new items to her line. After seeing her son carrying a tote, she asked him why he was suddenly traveling with the bag, and as most men will tell you, all of our necessities won’t fit in our pockets. That moment pushed a new item into development. While men, in general, have always faced the stigma of not splurging on fashion, the trend of the industry
your whole goal, especially as a nuance or a new product or service, is to have access to reach the audience, right? Brand awareness. People need to know you exist. You will not get any sales if no one knows you exist. That’s the bottom line. Right? I’m still really trying to learn the whole social media thing.” While still navigating the social media platform, Dionne made real progress when she had a stylist place her shades on rapper Future for the cover of Oyster Magazine, her appearance at the George Lopez Celebrity Golf Tournament, trade shows in Paris and Las Vegas, and her shades being featured by fashionista Raquel Riley Thomas on Good Day Fox and Good Morning DC. Continuing to gain ground, Dionne knew there was something important to do while promoting her bug-eyed influenced eyewear.
has changed drastically over the last decade. Men are becoming an accessory purchasing power. We spend money on items that pull outfits together. Things like belts, shoes, hats, scarfs, sunglasses, and jewelry have become pivotal in our styling regimen. $36 billion over the next 4 years is the growth scale of the fashion accessories and bags growth industry. Dionne has a product line that is not only stylish, durable, unique, and reasonably priced, she has a line that has the ability to be in the mainstream market. Her challenge to accomplish that goal is very simple, she needs exposure. “An influencer can be a wonderful thing, right?” Dionne says. “Because you can reach the world in an instant. But when it comes to the influencer title and promotion, where is the real value? Where’s the real return on investment from influencers? Sure, they have an audience, but if their audience just really likes them, thinks they’re cute, or likes their style, all the audience really does is like or comment on the post. “You look great.” “You look beautiful.” “That’s sharp.” “Oh, I love that.” Right? Are you influencing them enough to purchase? That’s the part, for me, that has not been tried and tested. It’s a necessary evil because they have the audience and in your mind,
“I feel like there always needs to be or should be some type of philanthropy. Especially when you’re talking about fashion and accessories, right? This is something that we want to have, and definitely not a necessity. So, I thought it was appropriate that we give a portion of our proceeds to the organization Nothing But Nets. They provide treated mosquito nets to families that are threatened by mosquitoes carrying malaria. Since we are promoting the bugs’ eyes, we have to still be aware that all bugs aren’t cool. All bugs aren’t pretty. And some of them are deadly. I felt like it was a really good organization and an ironic program to help give back to.” Visit the Vuliwear website: Vuliwear.com Follow Vuliwear on social media: @Vuliwear
Leader of the Flock It’s a rainy day in Atlanta and I showed up at the W Hotel in Midtown. As I walk into the lobby, I’m looking for a man that I wouldn’t recognize. In fact, I walked by him twice. I checked my phone for his photo and realized that standing 15 feet beside me, there was a large statured man doing the same thing I was. I turn to him, “Pastor Mitch?” He responds “Rashod!” We embrace the way that Black men do. (you know what I mean...dap and bring it in). Pastor Mitch Summerfield is dressed in a pair of blue jeans, a crisp white button-up shirt, a blue blazer, brown monk strap shoes, and a colorful silk pocket square. He lets me know that he found a small space that should be relatively quiet for us to conduct the interview. We go down the hallway and duck through a low passageway into what feels like a Morrocan styled library/den. The colors, lighting, and music in this room are laid back and chill. There are books all over, different sizes, colors, figurines, statues, small plush stools, and chairs. He sits on a couch against a maroon wallpapered wall (ironically right under a recessed light giving him this dramatic presence) and I sit in a leather chair off to his left. I say out loud what I thought in my head, “this would have been a great video set up.” And we both start laughing in agreement. I turn on the recorder on my phone and place it close to him, “So, Pastor Mitch…” he cuts me off. “Today, I am just Mitch.”
Pastor Mitch Summerfield
Mitch didn’t have aspirations of the cloth. He graduated college with a degree in Mass Communications and a vision that included production, writing, and directing movies. He went on to open his own mental health agency as a way to help others deal with the harsh realities of life. While having a very lucrative and fulfilling job for 15 years, Mitch found himself in the family business. He joined his father, Bishop Frank Summerfield and his mother, Pastor JoeNell Summerfield at Word of God Fellowship Church and Academy where Mitch became an associate pastor. He was the Chief Operations Officer of the church and placed number 3 in charge. Things lined up in a way that he didn’t expect. “Preaching and pastoring is dealing with the psychology at its highest form,” Mitch says as he sits forward. “You’re constantly having to talk to people, talk to their mind, and their soul of course. But primarily if they cannot think about what you’re saying and how to rationalize what we’re saying, they’re not going to listen. They’re going to get up and leave. They’re struggling with poverty, struggling with grief, struggling with lost, and struggling not having hope. They have to go back to all of that when they leave a church. You just sat, preached, encouraged them, and told them to have faith, but then they gotta leave and go back to a house where their husband is beating them, where a child is on drugs, you know? And, and how do they hold on to faith through all of that? I’ve got to deal with
that psychology, open reality and, and paint the picture that even in your reality, God still wants us to have hope. Bridging those together, it takes the understanding of psychology. Knowing how to tell a story, how to pull them to the sermon, and effectively communicate how their reality and the stories of the Bible go hand in hand and you’ve got to make that story come alive. So that’s something that my background in mass communications and writing has helped me understand.”
about it. Do you know what I mean? It’s always that masculine mentality, you know? But I try to encourage all the Black men, not only mental health but make sure you are physically, all right. I watched my father, who was physically fit, played basketball all through high school, college, one of the top athletes in his, scouted to go to the NBA and all of that and to die of pancreatic cancer at 67 years old. That is really, really young. His father outlived him and died at 98. So, we have to take care of us.”
While learning the curve of ministry, Mitch would have his faith and hope tested by the God he is encouraging others to follow. His world was turned upside down when he found out both parents were battling a different type of cancer at the same time. His father passed away in July 2017 and his mother took her final breath 2 months later, September 2nd.
This is where I threw in the pun intended, “Isn’t that you preaching to the choir?” Being a pastor is tough enough as it is. You’re wearing everybody else’s problems. And not to mention being taken for granted all day, every day. People pulling on you, you’re up all times of the night praying and thinking about people and trying to figure out how to cover this, how to take care of that… it is enough to wear your body down. It sounds a lot like the everyday man with work, family, friends, and life. But we, as men, have to be smart and know what’s going on with ourselves. We’re no good to anyone if we don’t know what’s going on with us. Especially with the stigma of depression.
“I thought they would live forever for some odd reason,” Mitch says with a bewildered tone. “My parents were my rock. We ran everything together, we did everything together. I would definitely say it was challenging. Living 38 years of my life with them and then losing them to the battle of cancer. I’m trying to do what I’m called to do and grieving the loss of the two most important people is definitely challenging. That’s when I realized I was being groomed for the leadership role and not just to help keep it going.” While living in a moment of sorrow and grief, some pastors will tell you that the job of being a shepherd doesn’t stop. The expectation of a congregation is for their pastor to always be around and available. You can have grief on one side of your being, but preach, teach, uplift, and get them through every problem as well. Yes. That is the expectation of people. However, Mitch’s staff and congregation are “really, really good” to him. They’re sensitive to him being emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually sound. To be there for them is probably more so about his not wanting to take the time off, even though they would encourage it. As we talk, Mitch has a moment of explaining how men need to think of themselves the same way. “It’s almost like it’s understood,” Mitch explains. “You deal with it (life stresses), be strong, pray
“When you think of depression, I think if you don’t have somebody in your circle that can help you snap out of it, you will stay there and it’ll eat away at you internally and emotionally,” Mitch says as he sips on a bottle of water. “And before you know it, it’s too late. There’s suicide, you’ve died from illness or anything like that. I think we need all the friends in our lives that can recognize something and check you. We should all also check our circles. I think we should really focus on getting the negativity out of the circle. There’s too much going on in the world today to have people so close to us being negative. As challenging as life is, on a daily basis, I do not have time for negativity. I don’t even have time for you to allow me to be negative. The minute you hear me speak negatively, I need you to fill me with faith, hope, encourage me, and if that’s not part of my circle, I don’t want you around me. I’ve got to spend my days pouring into people who need it. That means I’ve just given out everything that I have. I need somebody to pour back into me. I’ve got to keep negative energy away.”
“As challenging as life is, on a daily basis, I do not have time for negativit y. I don’t even have time for you to allow me to be negative. The minute you hear me speak negatively, I need you to fill me with faith, hope, encourage me, and if that’s not par t of my circle, I don’t want you around me.”
Often times, it is a challenge to not only recognize the negativity in your circle, but why it’s there. Many of us will find that the negative person that is present is the one that we have the hardest time letting go of. This may be the person that has been around the longest, the person whom we know all about ,and knows all about us. Or, it could be the person that has just arrived but has moments of exhilarating fun that we enjoy. They allow us to be that person that we aren’t able to be within other crowds. You know that person whose advice you take because you know it is going to be of the mindset that you want it to be. Nonetheless, this is the person that brings the most turmoil, the person who takes advantage of the relationship, and adds pain to your space. So why is it so difficult to let that person go? “So by nature, we’re good people,” Mitch says with a smile. “And we’re attracted to pain, think about it. Every time you’ve got a cut, every time you got a bruise, every time something that happens to your body, your first reaction is to what? GRAB IT. (you probably said that in your head before you read it) Because you don’t want it to hurt. So because you don’t want it to hurt, you think grabbing it harder is going to stop it from hurting, which makes it hurt more. It’s like the natural reaction should be to let go of it and then heal. Most relationships, when there’s a pain in a person, we feel like we have to save them from their pain. We hold on to them hoping that they’ll change. We don’t want to feel pain, so we think that we got to look it up. I have to Google, I have to fix this, I have to put a bandaid on or whatever. I have come across that myself. Just always feeling like I have to fix every person and everything. At the end of the day, I don’t know if it’s because I don’t feel like I did anything. I don’t feel like I accomplished what I was trying to do. And at that time I think it’s that I feel useless or inadequate. So, therefore, you keep trying to meet the mark. But you’re not responsible for fixing people’s problems. You’re not responsible for healing people’s pain. We’re responsible for our own healing. That’s it.” In today’s society, we see most of that pain in the social media generation. One of the main factors is found by what Mitch and I agree to be lust of the eyes. We lose ourselves in our jour-
ney by chasing the successes of another person. You may say (or may hear someone else say “I don’t have that house. I don’t have that car. I don’t have that type of money. I don’t have that type of job.” When we evaluate our lives by looking at what others have, it puts stress on each and every one of us because we are so impressionable. “Every person has to have their own prayer,” Mitch says. “What’s for me, is for me and what’s for you is for you. Ultimately, I need to be okay with it. I realized that having the church I have, the ministry I have, that blessing came with a certain level of burden that the average person probably couldn’t handle. That’s why it’s for me. Now, you’ll have your moment when you have your burden and your blessing, but they’re going to go hand in hand. The Bible says that every man was dealt their measure of faith. I don’t care whether you’re saved, not saved, or Buddhist, you have a certain level of faith. It doesn’t mean that every person that has faith is a Christian.” “Now, if you believe, that takes you to a certain category. The faith that I have, knowing that what’s for me is for me, I know that I don’t have to be worried about anything. I have to be able to put the rest of my concern at the time that it takes to get there, not what’s going to stress me out. It may take me a year it may take me a month. It may take me 10 days and they take me 10 months. Then at the end of the day, I’m going to rest in the fact that it is coming. That promotion, house, car, business, whatever...that someone may have gotten or you may have gotten, whatever the case may be, rest easy knowing that yours is coming. If it’s in the vicinity, it’s somewhere on the way.” Mitch and his congregation decided to continue embarking upon solidifying the legacy that his parents started. That’s what he feels is “for him”. Word of God Christian Academy is one of the last three black-owned Christian academies in the state that have the same level of education. With 46.4% of adults 18 and older experiencing a mental illness in their lifetime, and it’s still rising. So at the rate, we’ll probably be at 51% by the time 2021. Mitch wanted to find a way to impact the kids before they become an adult. Along with the academy, the church has
“I would’ve never thought that I would be here today,” Mitch says looking off into a corner. “In fact , so many moments of giving up, quitting, or stopping. I would close this out by telling anybody who is struggling with feeling like giving up, go for it . All I can tell you is to go for no matter what it looks like, you have to get up in the morning and go to bed at night thinking, GO FOR IT.”
purchased the 115 acres surrounding its 12acre campus in 2005. Mitch’s father felt that if he didn’t acquire the land, he would be boxed in by whoever made the purchase. In 2007, the church teamed up with a local real estate developer and built 200 homes, leaving them with about 75 acres. “We want to try and help cut down on gang activity,” Mitch explains. “We’re in a very urban community and our kids are getting in the wrong type of atmosphere because they don’t have any place to go. So we want to provide it. It’s always been in our vision to expand for the community. We want to provide a senior living facility, a medical care facility, and a sports complex for the community. So we have been partnering with the state, the mayor, and the governor determining what the city is asking for in order for people that are in that area to benefit from.” The city of Raleigh isn’t the only place that has taken notice of all of the works that Mitch and his staff have been doing. As we sat in the hotel, Mitch was on the eve of his celebratory weekend back home. He was in town to do some promotional work as well as have a face to face meeting with Dr. Jamal Bryant, senior pastor of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church here in Atlanta, Georgia. They teamed up to bring awareness to and raise funds for the academy. Washington Wizards player and graduate of the academy, John Wall, would also be in attendance to have his jersey retired in the gym. As we begin to wrap up and speak of all of the things that Mitch is doing and plans to do, I ask a question that seems typical, “In your wildest dreams, did you ever see this as your life?” his answer was the perfect way to close out our interview. “I would’ve never thought that I would be here today,” Mitch says looking off into a corner. “In fact, so many moments of giving up, quitting, or stopping. I would close this out by telling anybody who is struggling with feeling like giving up, go for it. All I can tell you is to go for no matter what it looks like, you have to get up in the morning and go to bed at night thinking, GO FOR IT. I’m here, I’m a product of my decisions to go for it. That is the most opportune time to do it. When you feel empty, that is the biggest
time to go for it. It’ll give you a new sense of awareness, sense of strength, you know? I think about it even now, everything that started for me in 2001, when I started this group home with my friends, to 20 years later, right? It’s like they had to be lining up for a purpose, for a reason. Sitting in those boring classes in college every day (laughing). It was working out for me and I didn’t know how, and there’s a saying that I tell people all the time, he’s preparing you for your future responsibilities, period. It’s those moments that I have to sit back and say, God, had to do this. For people to come week after week and want to hear anything I have to say, God did that.”
Perspective of ONE Rhett Lindsey
Words by Rashod Davenport
29-year-old Rhett Lindsay is being considered as the Silicon Valley disruptor. Rhett has become very well known for transforming relationships in one of the largest dating apps in the world. Stepping into a lane of creating a table instead of pulling up a seat, he created a social platform called The Diverse Perspective which allows dialogue and viewpoints from people of diverse backgrounds and experiences. This past October the Atlanta native was selected as one of Forbes 50 Upcoming Startup companies. Having his platform engage in honest conversation on a laundry list of topics, Rhett has created an unapologetic forum where race, culture, politics, relationships, and all things lifestyle geared can be openly debated. Rhett had a childhood that many can relate to. Growing up in a single-family household with his mother as the primary breadwinner and his older sister living with them, he was an explorative kid with a boundless imagination. He loved Tv, books, and playing. Nonetheless, Rhett was a shy kid that struggled with self-identifying. Most boys will tell you that when it comes to speaking on male issues, we love our moms, but they aren’t our comfort zone. Rhett looked up to an unlikely source after watching The Jacksons: An American Dream. He thought Billy Dee Williams’ portrayal of Berry Gordy was the epitome of what he wanted in a father figure. It was the way that he talked to the Jacksons and how he cared for them. Billy was a charismatic man in everything that he was involved in. His personality and presence were always SUAVV (pun intended). But Rhett also knew that this was a superficial portrayal, so he turned to a more familiar option. “Billy Dee Williams was someone that I admired,” Rhett says as we laugh about the series. We’re on the phone and he is in the middle of his workday, sitting in his home office. “In elementary school, middle school, high school, the male teachers I had, or male teachers that just worked within the public school systems that I attended, they were like father figures. I played a lot of sports. So I would seek their guidance and counsel on certain things that you need advice from a man about, whether that’s related to just developing, social questions, or whatever the case may be. As kids, we spend a lot of our time in the school systems more than at home. The men at my school became an outlet of being able to express whatever concerns I might have that I may not have felt comfortable talking to my mother or my sister about or any other relative, for that matter.”
When it came to an outlet, acting was the channel that Rhett turned to the most during this chapter of his life. He was naturally talented and a family friend would be the one to point out this talent to his mother. Chip Fields, esteemed actress, and mother of actress Kim Fields took Rhett under her wing and not only got him in front of the right agents and talent managers, but she also taught him the business of the industry. Chip introduced Rhett to Joy Pervis who was noted for discovering Dakota Fanning and Raven Simone. Rhett was signed and found himself opposite Martin Lawrence and Brandon T. Jackson in the third installment of Big Mammas House. After levels of amazing success in the industry, Rhett questioned the stability of an acting career in a fickle industry. That internal conversation pushed the college student into another passion...writing. “Writing for me has been a forum to be self-expressive and an outlet of escape when I’m stressed, just wanting to create, or take what’s in my mind and put it on paper,” Rhett explains with a tone of excitement and clarity. “I never had the chance to really own it or to really fine-tune the craft and the technique because I was so focused on acting. When I started writing more, it really just consisted of journaling, writing a couple of articles, then had my review on TI’s album, Paper Trail, published in a newspaper. I graduated from the University of Kentucky back in 2014 with a degree in social work. After graduation, I moved out here to Los Angeles, to keep pursuing my dreams as an actor, as an artist, and also help start my creative writing. I recently started taking graduate classes at Harvard. I really take my craft seriously and just as I’ve done with acting classes, you have to do the same with writing. So, I chose the institution that has been very successful in producing very, very talented writers. I want to be a part of that legacy.” Starting the platform The Diverse Perspective was a way for Rhett to expand on his writing, and have an outlook that was available to critique and discussion. He ultimately wanted to get to a place of comfort and confidence with his writing. Furthermore, Rhett knew that writing about things that were considered risque or taboo would allow him to speak his truth in confidence as well as invite the potential dialogue. Being a Black man with soo many layers, he didn’t understand that even with all of his different life perspectives, that there were others who would gravitate towards them.
“I didn’t realize how many people would want to engage in conversations on certain topics I have covered on this platform,’ Rhett explains. “When I noticed the traction that the site was making and the attraction from August 4th till today, I’ve had tens of thousands of hits to the website. Nothing’s going to change if we don’t talk about it. Change does not happen by silence or by not taking action. So you have to be strong in your stance. Meaning strong within your demeanor of knowing that people are not going to always agree with you. You have to respect other people’s perspectives whether you believe that they’re wrong or not because the other person, they believe that they’re right. So, it’s not about trying to change them, it’s about influencing them and just putting your message, putting your perspective in their ear to give them something to question. That’s the goal because you can definitely, absolutely influence them by allowing yourself to speak your truth and being strong within that. That’s what’s keeping me going and really wanting to get my voice out there and get other people’s voices out there.”
Rhett’s platform, working in his masters program, running his department in Silicon Valley, married life, and continuing to push himself to learn more and more is a lot for one man to put on his plate. He tries to live as regular of a life as possible. Rhett loves movies, speaks to his friends and family as often as possible, and tries to spend as much time as he can with his husband and his dog Charlie. He wakes up in the morning, reads, does his workout, has breakfast, checks emails, and structures his day. He understands that life doesn’t slow down for anyone. Nonetheless, that doesnt mean that we have to speed up. “Life is not going anywhere,” Rhett says. “We’re all dying at some point, so you don’t have to speed the process up by being stressed out and overwhelming yourself. Just take your time and have a good balance of work and life. I’m learning to manage that and to put myself as a priority for that self care, that self-help, that mental health, that’s really needed. In everyday lives, no matter if you’re starting a business or if you’re not, I think self care is very important.”
NOT YOUR AVERAGE HOUSEWIFE Tanya Sam
is the newest cast member on the Bravo TV series The Real Housewives of Atlanta. The Toronto transplant and local Atlanta business mogul has captured our attention when she appeared on the show while shopping at a boutique owned by friend and “Real Housewives” veteran, Nene Leakes. Tanya’s fiancé, Dr. Paul Judge, is also quite successful himself in Atlanta’s tech industry as an entrepreneur and investor. When we had the chance to talk to the newest member to hold the peach, we took it. Women are full of strength, beauty, intelligence, love, everything. All of those traits made it hard for me to watch most reality shows that didn’t showcase the amazing qualities of women. Instead, jealousy, bickering, drunken fights, pettiness, and catchphrases were placed at the forefront of our television screens and we ate it up. However, I am seeing a show slowly changing the atmosphere. Housewives of Atlanta has become a discussion amongst men. “Why,” you ask? Well, it’s
simple. We see our wives, fiances, girlfriends, sisters, cousins, aunts, mothers, and friends in the characters. They are showcasing more of their business minds, overcoming issues, and what being a black woman means amongst other black women. The husband and boyfriends are included to show how the dynamic of female friendships can play a part in their lives. Ultimately, the show has won us over. SUAVV: From what I’m seeing as far as the housewives of Atlanta franchise, you’re coming in a little different than other people being that you are the business owner going into the show. Were you at any point afraid of how that would affect your business world, your business model, your brand, anything like that? Tanya: Not really. When I decided to come on housewives, and really start building with the ladies, I was excited. It was a great opportunity. I will say you pretty much have to be crazy to be an entrepreneur because most times people will be like, “Well, I don’t know” “You might fail” “That might not work” and everybody gives you the “what ifs”. So I’m used to the “what ifs” and the naysayers. So I kind of was like,
Yolo, let’s do it. SUAVV: We are huge fans of the go-getter personality types. How did you get to the show? Tanya: I have been living in Atlanta for seven years. My experience has been amazing and I’ve gotten to meet so many people. I will say the people in the south are so friendly. So, I popped in NeNe’s store and we became friends. She kind of put a little bug in my ear saying “Oh, you should meet my other friends.” Then there’s Eva, her husband and my fiance went to Morehouse together so they know each other and they work together. So it was just really easy and organic. That was really how I started hanging out with the ladies. And then, yeah, I was like, okay, let’s do that. SUAVV: Yes, Atlanta natives are extremely nice and welcoming. Southern Hospitality is a very real thing. Just getting more into the mentality of going into reality TV, what was your biggest concern in going into the show? Tanya: I think the biggest thing for me with how I was going to be able to balance my work life and filming life because you know, it’s a commitment. We film a lot. We film for several days. I think that was the biggest thing. I’m already like super busy. I’m kind of a “yeah” person, so a lot of things come along and I go, “yeah, I’ll do that.” SUAVV: You’re engaged and for anyone watching the show, we see that husbands take a huge hit from the show as well, even though, they are more background. How did he feel about going into the show after seeing what other husbands, fiancee, boyfriends have gone through on the show, in the past?
out a supportive partner. You just couldn’t. This is about relationships and you have to commit together or else that’s how the stress kind of leak then. SUAVV: You’re in the tech industry, which is something that a lot of black people in general just don’t see us in and we definitely don’t see women in. How did you arrive in technology? And ultimately, how important do you think that is to show your involvement to other people of color? Tanya: So, I’ll start that answer by telling you a little bit more about me and my background. I come from a family of doctors and I received my first degree in genetics and cell biology. I thought, “oh, I’ll be a doctor like my dad and my sister.” My mom and one of my aunts were nurses as well. I ended up doing a second bachelor’s degree in nursing. I decided to specialize in oncology bone marrow transplant. I did that for a very long time. I made the leap to get into entrepreneurship first when I met my fiance, this was about seven years ago and he really inspired me to become an entrepreneur. I started a beverage company back when he was starting a new company and he just gave me the push I needed. I’m very grateful for that and he has been probably one of the most motivating and driving forces for me to get into tech. SUAVV: Wait! We didn’t know you have a beverage company as well. You have to tell us about that. Then we will get back into technology.
Tanya: (laughing) Yeah. I was working in nursing and, I kept talking about this product idea that I had. I go to work every day. I work with super smart people, doctors, and nurses who have gone to school forever. And yet when we come into work, we are expected to use our brain to perform, right? An athlete has to rely on their body or physical activity. There’s all these performance enhancing beveragTanya: He would say, “Look, I’m solid”. We have es like Gatorade or Muscle Milk that helps them worked together and you know, it’s really important perform better. What helps smart people perform that we get to live, work, laugh, and love together. better? I’ve always circled around some type of beverWe have built businesses, I’ve helped him build his age or dietary supplement that can help increase your cybersecurity companies, and that’s a hell of a ride. brain function. So I launched the Smart Shot and it No, it is not without its own stress in and of itself. So, was a two ounce beverage that basically worked to we look at it like this is just another company. So he’s create increased focus, attention and memory for like, “they want to do this...alright.” And then he asks people who needed to be thinking and being smart what it is and what does it take? He’s incredible. He’s all day. I worked to formulate it, develop it, bottle it, the type of person where he’ll make me spreadsheet put it out on the market and sold online. I worked on on things to do for housewives work versus things to that company for three years with like all my blood do for our businesses. I can’t imagine doing this with- and sweat and everything I had. And it was insane. It
was great. I was very proud of myself. SUAVV: As an entrepreneur, I always love to ask how embarking on our vision made you feel. It’s like that is our entrepreneurial bonding moment. (Laughing). How scary was that for you? Because again, as you said, you were in a job that was solid. So you were fine. But there was more that you wanted. What was that like for you to push yourself away from one area into another? And how long did that process take for you? Tanya: Horrifying. Probably the scariest thing ever. I’ve never cried so much or had so much stress or anxiety, I promise you, that wrapped up pretty present of entrepreneurship, which oftentimes people are like, “I can’t wait to be an entrepreneur” or “I want to be a CEO of something”, I’m like, it is so loneliest and scariest job ever. Absolutely. Because you are absolutely responsible for every piece of it. Whether the trash is emptied to whether you have revenue for marketing...all of it. You know? I also think I came from a job, which was pretty high stress. I worked in oncology nursing, which is inherently life or death situations, but I found this to be more stressful. SUAVV: I know the technology world is very male heavy. Did you find a lot of the same, um, barriers by being a female going into the tech world that women see in corporate America? How about the diversity in technology? Tanya: Were there obstacles that you know, normal people would see in corporate America? Yeah. There’s not a lot of, there’s not a lot of women in technology. There’s not a lot of women in color. I spoke on a panel at CES in Las Vegas, which is the biggest technology and innovation conference in the world. We were talking about artificial intelligence and gender and bias and there were four women on that panel and when we looked back, in the end, I think that’s the first time that’s ever happened at CES. There were two black women, an Indian woman, a white woman, sitting on a panel talking about AI. The conference debuts all of the latest technology coming out. It’s everything from commerce, it’s electronics, anything you could imagine. There were bread makers that spoke to you and mirrors that analyze your skin to give you product recommendations based on machine learning. There’s every little piece of everything. We are moving to like the Jetson-like society. However, I’d walk around there and look at people who are working in a booth talking about a
product and inevitably it was very pale male. We’re trying to change the representation and show a different side of what people can look like. But it takes people that speak up and go to change that as well. SUAVV: So, you know, people don’t apply for those jobs because they feel like they’re not experienced or qualified. But there’s marketing, operations, there’s development, it’s a little bit of everything. Is it challenging to find a mentor in technology that looks like you? And how did you overcome the boundaries that you encountered? Tanya: I often tell women, you know, there’s not a lot of women, there’s not a lot of women of color in technology. So you have to find your mentors where you can. Sometimes it has to be a guy, unfortunately. So, you just have to learn the lessons you can. I look back at men, men are oftentimes a little bit more the risk taker. They’re the ones who, you know, it’s been said in an organization is some of way, “Hey, we’ve got this job.” A man will put up his hand before they even know what the job is and will say, “I can do that!” Whereas women were more likely to say, “tell me more”, “well, let me see”, or “maybe I’m not qualified”. I really started to jump into things more because of how that attitude has impacted on how they look at me, too. I might not be the most technical person, but I was in a technology company and there’s a lot of different aspects you can get into. I just encourage people that if there’s something that you’re interested in, some passion, there’s some piece of technology that will touch it. So, don’t limit yourself to thinking, “Oh, I can’t code.” “I can’t get into tech.” There’s still companies like Facebook which has hundreds and hundreds of employees and everybody has different responsibilities. I’m all, “hey, you can work in technology too.” However, I will say, one of the things that really inspires me about being in technology and making that jump, is being able to broadcast that and show that to the viewership of RHOA.
Denise Boutte Cooking Up Hollywood By Rashod Davenport There are certain people who you can remember the first time that you saw them. With actors and actresses, I can most times do the same thing. There was this one woman who caught my eye the very first time I saw her and I couldn’t wait to get more of who she was. Denise Boutte hit the big screen as the mistress, Trina, in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married. She was beautiful, and while I didn’t like the character she portrayed, she still had this grace and mystery about her that I wanted to learn more about. A little over a year later, I got that opportunity. She landed on his 2nd Hit TV show Meet The Browns as Sasha, opposite of her movie castmate, and now TV husband, Lamman Rucker. Meet the Browns gave Denise a chance to show a range of who she was. Sasha was funny, smart, loving, sarcastic, supportive, protective, cool, and sweet. All of the things that you would expect from a southern woman. As Hollywood would say, she made it. The show was the #1 rated show for TBS and Denise was along for the ride. However, getting to this place wasn’t as easy as she made it look. We were able to sit with Denise and talk about her journey to stardom, her upbringing, her view of the future, and why this southern girl has a little spice to her. SUAVV: I know I’ve seen you on screen starting with Why Did I Get Married? Is that when you got your acting break? Denise: You know what, here’s the deal. That was pretty much a year and a half after I’d moved to Atlanta. When I actually had the audition and didn’t realize that it was Tyler [Perry] in the room when I went to the callback. At that point, he had established himself as Medea, but a lot of people didn’t know Tyler out of that costume. I personally didn’t. So when I went in for the callback and he shook my hand and was like “I want to congratulate you”. I was reading for Meet The Browns, but he said in addition to the show that I have, I would also like to
have you do my next movie. I don’t know if he told me the title of it or not, but I just remember breaking down and crying, of course, at the moment. But, then I got on the phone with my manager afterward and I’m like, “This guy shook my hand and told me that I was the one. I think this guy works really closely with Tyler and they must really like me.” Not knowing that that was Tyler Perry and gave me the job on the spot. That’s not how it goes. That person in the room doesn’t necessarily give you the job on the spot. But again, that’s testament to the man that Tyler is. When he sees what he wants, has in mind, or whatever particular character, he’s the one-man show in the regard that he doesn’t have to hear from anybody else. If he says yes, it’s a go. So I’d say that I was very, very fortunate, very early on. SUAVV: That’s amazing. And you started working with Tyler Perry while he was building his empire away from the stage. How was it working with him while he was in that development stage? Denise: I will say appreciation for working at Tyler’s studio because he shoots a lot faster than most. Most sitcoms you got five days to film an episode. Well, with Tyler, we would put them in the can by evening, you know, start in the morning and the episode is done by the end of the day. There is a luxury in being able to find nuances or whatever you know, that you may not be able to find if you’re going so quickly. So there are benefits to both sides of it, you know. But, when you come up with that under your belt, You get this crazy self-confidence because you’re like, if I could do that with that amount of time, imagine what I can do with that extra time in rehearsals. So, just a really awesome confidence builder and one of the best places to hit the ground running. Um, you know, you might see me in some really interesting horror films. Uh, that was pretty much the gist of what I did. Um, yeah. So what the revenge of bloody bill and way of a vampire sucking blood in one. And I was running in Stiletto heels through a desert and the other one. So yeah, there wasn’t
that much up until that point. Everything kind of took off really early on. But when you’re young and hungry, honey, you just do what you got. I have the war wounds from that time, but you know, I just, you know, keep it moving. SUAVV: What would you say thus far has been your, I guess, favorite role? A lot of people say it’s hard to say what favorite role is because you’re really concentrating on the role that you’re currently in, but did have you had a favorite role thus far?
to Los Angeles. That’s when acting really began. Being more dedicated that is. When I came to Los Angeles, I had a couple things under my belt, but it was more so things like print ads. The only thing on screen was the Texas lottery girl. I had big hair, glitter dresses or whatever when the lotto numbers would roll out. So that was exciting. One random day, somebody was like, “did you do pageants?” I was like, “yeah”,(laughing). That was the closest I got to a pageant. I am not that coordinated. Falling in gowns coming down the stairs…that’s not my thing.
Denise: I guess I have to go for nostalgic purposes. Of course. My first series ‘Meet the Browns’ first and foremost. Oh my gosh, because we became a family. So it sounds very cliche, but it was more than just a job. Doing that for I think seven seasons, you come back[from the off season], you have a family reunion, and you play and create and you get paid for it. So that, of course, will always stand out. Of course, ‘Why Did I Get Married?’ Because that’s the fan-favorite. That’s the one that stands out to everybody. I mean for goodness sakes, being like right next to Janet Jackson. I mean somebody I got to look up to and love, you know, my whole life. And then all of a sudden I’m like, we’re working together. That’s surreal. Sometimes it was like, is this really happening? It’s really happening, you know? But of course, Lammon (Rucker) and I met or whatever when we were doing that, we, he actually was the person, the first person that I saw when I came out of that audition room when I was trying to dry my eyes, For some odd reason, he was like “are you okay?” And I was like, “yeah”. He said “well dry your eyes. Is it good? Is it something good?”. And I’m like “Yeah, it’s great.” I was like, “oh my God, this man told me I was the one. Oh my gosh.” He was like, “Okay. So just keep it to yourself because there’s a lot of other people out here that are auditioning for this same role that they aren’t gonna get (laughing).” Lammon at that point, was a veteran. He was on soap operas and he had been in the game for a moment and then there’s little old me. Low and behold, that was my husband for all that time.
SUAVV: That’s hilarious. So, what were you like as a kid? Were you the glamorous girly girl type?
SUAVV: How was it to be in Atlanta? Because you aren’t from there. Correct?
Denise: Well, just really laid back. I’m not prissy, If you see me on the streets, nine times out of 10, there’s no lipstick, there’s no hair done, it’s not flying in the wind with wind machine. Like everybody in California, I Guess yoga pants is just a way of life now instead of mom’s jeans and tennis shoes. I’m just that girl. I like to get out and jog, rollerblading, and riding my bike. But, only on the beach. I’m not a big bik-
Denise: I would go there and relocate for the time that we were shooting, but I never actually lived in Atlanta. I’m from Louisiana. After graduating from LSU, I lived in Dallas, Texas because I was in advertising for about four and a half years and then moved
Denise: I was actually kind of a Tomboy, so I’m not really that girly girl. But you would never know it from the characters I’ve portrayed. I was this smart kid. I liked to go out in the yard and rough and tumble and play in the dirt and stuff, but I was not very coordinated. So, while I was on the basketball team four years in a row, it was more so like, you know, can I get you anything? “Can I refill the water bottles” because I just wanted to go to the games. My parents were really strict so that’s kinda the only way I could go to the game. I would just basically do it to ride the bus and hang out (laughing). Athletics in high school were so competitive and you have to try it. If I had to try out, there’s no way I would’ve been on the team, but it was a little small country school, so pretty much anybody who was interested got on the team. So, if you bought some tennis shoes and you could wear the uniform, you were in. No, I was a student class president. I was the student body, whatever, this, that, and the other. Anytime there was a regional competition of any sort or whatever, I was the one that was leading the way. I’m a great talker, I’m a thinker, and I’m a people person in that regard. But yeah sports….it’s a no. SUAVV: I got you. So you’re tomboys as in like, you just like to get your hands and do things, but you’re not going to go play sports because you didn’t have coordination.
er because there are too many hills where I am and that’s overexertion. So, I don’t do all of that. SUAVV: Okay. that makes sense. So, we found out that you are a cooker. You put out a cookbook. Now two things that kind of go together but not really is southern food and Los Angeles. When I was there, it was hard to find some good southern food. So what made you make this cookbook?
SUAVV: That’s dope. We love some good food in this office. LOL. Now, what I find amazing is that not only do you have this cookbook, but you also created your own signature spice line.
Denise: So the seasoning, which was another part of that, I’ve been using that in my kitchen since I moved to Los Angeles because in Dallas I was just learning how to cook and I’ll call my mom on Saturdays and we would talk and I’d be like, how do you do such Denise: Well, because everybody here is Vegan and and such. So she told me the night before, I went to living a healthy lifestyle. Everybody’s really into being the grocery store Saturday morning she would kind healthy, conscious of what they put in their bodies. of coach me through how to make it. So, I was doing And for instance, which Kinda sucks. Southern food it the good old fashioned way. But when I came here has a stigma of being unhealthy, which doesn’t have and pursuing, acting, I’m like, oh, I got to do someto be. So that’s kind of where the concept for souththing. I have to firm and tone and do some things ern modified came from a chef Jenard Wells who’s a right. I adopted the California healthier perspective. frequent face on food network. He and I met about And then I mixed that seasoning because I love trathree years ago and just kind of built up this rapport. ditional southern seasonings like Tony Shahoes and He and his wife and my husband and I would get Black Your Mama. Which was a new one. I loved it together. Sometimes they would come over here and but it was too much salt. So, in an effort to cut back overtime built this friendship and started supporting on salt, I would just mix this little plastic container one another. We were talking about him being from and over the years my friends and family that would Mississippi, me from Louisiana and how we had all come, they would ask for it. these heart issues and everybody’s, unfortunately, being diagnosed with diabetes. And so we were both And so when we’re doing the cookbook, I was like talking about individually and how wanted to do a why don’t I go ahead, partner these suckers up and cookbook and I’d already started cookbook, but that make this a great partnership. So in the cookbook, I was one more so homage to my grandparents and use Louisiana Girl Low Sodium Seasoning. It’s just how I grew up on a farm in backwoods Louisiana. kind of something that evolved over time. I finally My grandmother was one of the most amazing cooks had the guts to follow through and then Jenard, gave I’ve ever met, my mom also. I mean that’s what she me culinary credit because, if you look at my caliber did until she retired just a couple of years ago. But all of characters, half the time they’re too “up in there”, of these dishes they used to prepare. I wanted to put they don’t know, they’re too busy stealing men and it in a place where, as a family, we could all cherish money to cook(laughing). So Denise is very different and keep it alive. from the characters I portray. I was like, you know, people are never going to believe that my behind When Jenard and I started talking we were like, can cook(laughing). We finished it, wrapped it up, why don’t we do something different? What kind of and lo and behold, we got hard copies. So yeah. It angle could we come from? Why would somebody was awesome. Everybody wants instant gratification want to buy a cookbook from us? We started talking and nothing, for the most part, happens overnight. I about maybe a niche or whatever we could target mean, you gotta work at it and you got to really have that wasn’t very prevalent and that’s where it came the guts to follow through. So that’s where Southern from. And the tagline is, Southern Dishes Modified Modified and Louisiana Girl all came from. for Today’s Healthier Lifestyle. That’s what Southern Modified is all about. Modified took common dishSUAVV: I think I have one more thing. I know you es, like for instance, my section takes Gumbo and do a lot of charity work and you’re involved, like a modifies it. Like for instance, instead of using all this lot of different things that happen. Are you show sausage and all this other fun stuff that has all these up to them. Um, are there any particular charity calories and stuff you’re using smoked Turkey and that you’re very fond of? getting a flavor from that. Instead of using a big block of butter, grease, or whatever, you’re using alternaDenise: I’m always up for anything that says female tive, ingredients. It’s a tweak. empowerment or it has to do with a kid not to put a
Denise Boute and Chef Jenard Wells
finger on any one charity in particular. A lot of the work back home in Louisiana. So talking with kids from the church, from the elementary school and just showing up and being a small-town girl. Sometimes, If I go to a mall or whatever, sometimes you can just see me in the food court just talking to people, but small-town folks that are looking up and saying, hey, you know, you did it. How can I get involved? I always encourage folks, I know it looks like an easy sport and I know that for some it’s true. It can happen overnight and I guess you could kind of say that’s what happened with me. It’s the reason why I’m able to persevere, the reason why I’m able to take the highs and the lows is because of my faith, my family, and the fact that I know I’m not a one-trick pony. I’ve come from business. I come from the world. That’s the reason why I’m branding with regard to the cookbook and the seasonings and all that. I know that I have the business savvy and I have this under my belt. Rather than using it for the agency, I’m using it for myself. So a lot of the reason you can persevere and ride the rollercoaster is that you have something else to put your energies into between waiting on the next auditions. I hope it wouldn’t be over. So, you know, being that it has so many family
members, you know, who had been affected by breast cancer. So, you know, just again creating awareness, talking to people, making people able to support a friend or a family member to walk that walk and again. Black women have a higher rate of having breast cancer and are affected by this disease more than anybody because we don’t get checked, I’ve been getting mammograms since like 26 or 27 because it runs in my family and I had a scare or whatever and ran to the doctor and they were like, because of your history, you should continue to get them every year. So I’ve been getting mammograms ever since then. So it’s just, we have to be aware, we have to do better and we have to be able to know the facts and know the alternatives and get second opinions. So, I would say there’s not one particular cause I would love to say that there is, but whenever asked and presented with an opportunity, I’m very willing to be there, between the youth and just making people more conscious and opening their minds and educating them. Especially, if I’ve had personal experience with it, I don’t like to talk from non-experienced or not knowing. But I would say if my presence makes somebody listen up and pay attention, I’m honored.
Death Mehcad Brooks Photography: Michael Letterlough, Jr. @MichaelLetterloughJr Grooming: Rodney Jon @IamRodneyJon Sytyling: Andre Hammonds @all_about_andre
At the age of 15, Mehcad Brooks knew he wanted to be an actor. While watching Eddie Murphy, he realized that he wanted to entertain people. He wanted to make them laugh, think, cry, and begin conversations. Starting out as an underwear model for Calvin Klein, the 6'4" 200-pound artist wanted to be more than just something to look at, more than a human mannequin. Mehcad wanted to give the world his personality. He wanted to use his gift. SUAVV: You had Ivy League college offers and scholarship opportunities that you turned down to act. How did you know this was what you wanted and how do you feel USC changed your life.?
experience like? Mehcad: Tyler Perry called me up and said “I have a role in a film for you” and he asked if I could do him a favor and come play with them down in Atlanta. After I read the script I realized I wasn’t doing him any favors, I am very grateful because he gave me the opportunity to explore a part of my talent that I don’t often get to, my comedic side. Which brought me back to the reason I started in entertainment in the first place. And it’s always an honor to be amongst the greats. I could not be more grateful. I grew up watching Whoopi Goldberg and just to be in the same conversations as this legend is an indescribable honor.
Mehcad: I knew around 18 years old that no matter what my choice was I had to be happy or upset with SUAVV: You went to Africa and contracted a myself about that choice and the idea of entertaining parasite. The parasite starts to take hold of your people made me happy. USC Film School exposed body and you end up in a hospital bed with IV's me to films I would have never seen, stories I never and medication, then you have an allergic reaction would have heard and some of the films that have to the medication that is supposed to fight the inspired me parasite. What the most were happens next? “Part of being a black homework male in today’s society is Mehcad: May assignments at USC. 20, 2009, I died. understanding that you I passed away. Making his I crossed over don’t have to discuss mark in tinsel to the other what it is to be a black.” town under a side, I saw few roles such all the things as Matthew Apthat people plewhite in the second season of ABC's series Destalk about, the light, waiting through a field of thick perate Housewives, Jerome in The Game, Terrance darkness yet knowing you’re in a loving harmonious "TK" King in the USA series Necessary Roughness , oneness with the universe. I’ve seen it, I’ve felt it. and as James Olsen on Supergirl, the role that many I’ve tasted it, I understand what it means to disaswere introduced to Mehcad Brooks was Eggs in the sociate yourself from who’ve you’ve always thought hit HBO series True Blood. you were and the body you thought was yours. And I guarantee you at the end of this beautiful journey Mehcad was easy on the eyes and his character you are going to ask yourself the same question that development was growing with each role. But he I asked myself. Did I do what I agreed to do before wanted more. His personal life would be under the I was born? Or did I just somehow allow my life to media microscope, his words would be listened happen to me? The answer to that question for me to, his stance will impact any current or future job was music. No bullshit, 2 years later to the date, May opportunities. It's a game that many actors do not 20, 2011, I got hit by a car head-on. She was going understand about Hollywood. Mehcad was prepared 65 miles per hour, I was stopped at a stoplight. Next for it. We sat with Mehcad after his cover photoshoot thing I know I was in a coma and I had a very similar and asked him some of the questions that were on experience and after I got out of that hospital I was our mind. ready to fulfill my agreement but it took a long time to heal. That following year, May 20, 2012, I met a SUAVV: Tell us about The Tyler Perry film Noholy man who opened my eyes to a connection that body’s Fool which you were able to work on last these experiences kept reminding me of. He showed year. How did this come about? And what was that me a way to connect to that voice of oneness without
having a traumatic experience invoke it. The next day I began my music career and I never looked back, so what you hear in my debut album “MAY20th” is me fulfilling an agreement before I was born but with the benefit, the pain and the passion that comes with overcoming very unique and traumatic experiences in life. My album called “May 20th” really tells my story and I’m very happy that I was brave enough to put that out there in the world. It touches on some of the weakest moments of my life and I’m grateful to be able to share this with the world from such a position of strength and positivity.
floor or an unruly general election debate. Growing up for me was debating political issues over homemade roasted chicken. My idea of summer vacation was my parents dragging me and my brothers to political conventions, town hall meetings and tagging along in various forms of community organizing all across the country and frankly, it wasn’t kicking and screaming, we actually liked it. I watched my parents fight for marginalized communities before I even knew what marginalized communities were. I watched my parents win and lose battles against the system that had predetermined their value, they often beat that system but sometimes they did not SUAVV: Your activism has been a large part of and it made me realize at a very early age that things what we have seen in America from you recently. need to be “My idea of summer vacation was You've stood up fair. That’s my parents dragging me and my for reproductive all anybody’s rights, marriage asking for, is brothers to political convenequality, and most a fair chance tions, town hall meetings and recently sexism to reach tagging along in various forms (which we will their full touch on in a potential. of community organizing all moment). What I think the across the country and frankly, do you say to the reason that it wasn’t kicking and screampeople who say I am more ing, we actually liked it.” "What about the interested Black agenda"? you in politics recently shared a than I am in screen with a friend of SUAVV, Omari Hardwick. sports like most men, is because politics is the only Did you two talk activism and what could be done game where the consequences truly matter, so I’m for the Black community? competitive about that. I also campaigned for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, damn near moved to Mehcad: Part of being a black male in today’s society Philly. I spent the entire summer registering voters is understanding that you don’t have to discuss what in Philadelphia and I carried that on into the future it is to be a black male in today’s society. Everybody giving a speech for Bernie in Wisconsin, or as I like who is a black male already understands what it’s to call him “Uncle Bern-Bern”. like to be a black male. We have it much better than our ancestors ever did and hopefully much worse SUAVV: You spoke recently about realizing that than children. Although we have to be very careful you were a bit sexist before filming Supergirl. about homogenizing the experience and the concept Though you are seen publicly as more of a feminist of blackness. While Omari’s and my experience in sympathizer. How are you maneuvering to change America I’m sure is very similar in some ways it is that? undoubtedly different in many ways. Mehcad: All men who are raised in a patriarchal soSUAVV: You grew up in a house with a lawyer and ciety are sexist whether you support gender inequalan editorial writer. and you’re very heavy in the ity or are a feminist you have a responsibility to take political realm. Even with campaigning in the past a good look at all of the ideas that you have about with Former President Barack Obama and Senator gender. There were agreements about gender defined and Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. What by a power structure before any of us on this planet drives you? got here. If you blindly accept these without question then it is likely that you are unwittingly harboring the Mehcad: Dinner at my house was like the Senate subconscious bias that our country has for women.
SUAVV: You actually put out a single recently along these lines entitled OCEANS. How did this come about? Mehcad: “’Oceans’ is about female empowerment and female independence, free of the opinions of men and however he may feel about how & what she uses her attributes for. I think the world that we live in right now is extremely shallow however is it truly my place to judge a woman who’s able to exploit that shallow culture for what she wants?" SAUVV: From our understanding, there are some business ventures that you have also taken on. Mehcad: I have invested in Tocaya Organica, which are modern organic Mexican restaurants. I’m also a founding father of the company, Onnit Labs, which is a human optimization company based in Austin and I own a record label called Our Movement Records. Currently, living his life like it's golden and pushing the 40-year-old mark, Mehcad has also decided to dabble a bit in the comedy realm. Using his voice for change and his platforms to encourage, he's a down to earth guy who may chat it up with you a bit if you run into him in public. (Just try not to be too much and actually have something to talk about). All in all, we like the guy. We look forward to his growth and to his impact on culture and entertainment.
Photography: Michael Letterlough, Jr. @MichaelLetterloughJr Grooming: Rodney Jon @IamRodneyJon Sytyling: Andre Hammonds @all_about_andre
30 Years of Words: Rashod Davenport Guest Interviewer: Tyrese Thomas
When you combine one of the funniest men on television and stage with one of the most powerful voices in the music industry, you may not come up with much. However, when you add in love, friendship, respect, commitment, desire, encouragement, fun, and a love for God, you have just stepped into 30 years of marriage with David and Tamela Mann. We live in a time where being married for 30 minutes is an accomplishment. 30 day, weeks, or months, may be the extreme for some. But what does it take to sustain a marriage, family, careers in the entertainment industry, and still smile and love through it all? These two would know. David and Tamela put out a book and a CD celebrating their love for one another while also giving the new generation of lovers some advice on what to do when love is not enough. David and Tamela are in their home on a dry Texas day. They have been traveling a lot and promoting the project and I was able to catch them on an off day. Rashod: I didn’t know that you guys were friends with Kirk Franklin in high school before any of this gospel world started. What’s that like to be able to look back and see the growth that you all had been a part of? Tamela: Amazing. It’s almost like living in a dream. Like, you never would have thought. David: We started off just around town, you know when you’re local famous. That’s what you call it... “local famous”. When you go to every musical, everything that’s happening at every church, and
everybody knows you. You never could have imagined that this thing could turn into something that you make a career out of. I mean it went from singing on the weekends for maybe a little of offering or some chicken, to making a great living. Tamela: Or sometimes it’s a “Bless you. God gonna bless y’all”. And He did. But, then sometimes we just needed some gas money. We were kids and riding around in Darrly Blair’s car. He also played with us in the beginning. Actually, it was those three. It was David, Kirk and Darryl, who is our pastor now. So everybody has really succeeded. I mean it’s just the grace of God and you know, we’re all still right here together... in the faith together. Rashod: What was that like in the early days for you guys? With developing, not only a personal relationships and friendships, but learning how the industry works. What did that feel like for you? David: you know, for us (David and Tamela) it kind of naturally evolved into the friendship stuff. It was, it was like we met and I mean we hit it off as friends because we just, we enjoyed each other as people. Not even as it relates to a couple, as boyfriend and girlfriend. We enjoyed each other’s personality as people and who we were as people and to see that grow into this business model and start evolving into, what people know as the brand of “The Mann’s” or whatever/however you call that. For us, that’s uncomfortable because it just started glorifying self and we don’t do that (laughing). But you know, to see how God started blessing, maneuvering, and putting us in the right places in the right season. That’s the thing. It was like in the right season with Kirk Franklin and The Family, the right season with Tyler Perry to do the plays, the movies, and television, in the right place for Tamela to do solo projects. And you know,
it just, God is always put us in the right place. Tamela: I felt that! God is real and has shown up (speaking in tongues and laughing.) Rashod: The first time I remember hearing both of your voices was on the Kirk Franklin track Now Behold the Lamb. Then, I heard Kirk say “sing David”. And I was like...Hold up….that’s Mr. Brown from the Tyler Perry play, I Can Do Bad All By Myself. Then, Tamela, I heard your voice on the track Lean On Me. If you could get a Grammy for a piece of a verse in the song, you would have gotten it for that song. I was like, I don’t know who she is, but she is singing to my spirit. For you guys, at this point, people recognize you. When did you say, wow, we’re actually doing this for real? Tamela: Well, I mean even with The Family because we were with Kirk for like nine years traveling and of course not local famous anymore because everybody kinda knew us here in the Dallas, Fort Worth area. But, I think it really did start with some of those songs because like the Now Behold the Lamb kinda took hold. It took off from there. It’s like with the song that they came for me, it’s just so many people with this Christmas song and even with Don’t Take Your Joy Away, but just both of the songs, you know? I kind of hate to talk about myself like that, but it’s just it kind of just happened. How about that? Rashod: I like that. So you are, you’re making music, your music is touching people. Do you ever have a goal when making the music that says like, I want to touch them? Or is this something where it’s more of, I need to just get this off of me? David: When selecting music for Tam, we know not to even bring the music if the lyrics aren’t right. I don’t care how the beat sounds. It could be somebody beating on a desk if the lyrics are right, they’re right for her because she only listens to the lyrics first. She’s like, I have to make sure these lyrics are going to impact people and is going to encourage them. She really doesn’t care. She really doesn’t care what the beat and the music is doing. You know? Some people try to hide everything behind this big bad beat. She’s like, no. What are the lyrics saying? Simply tell me is it encouraging? Is it going to inspire somebody? Tamela: It’s very important to me. It’s good to have a happy song like when you’re riding in your car, but then when you’re down you want to hear something that’s going to help give you some hope and lift you
up, you need lyrics. So that was important to me because all of us don’t have happy days, you know, it’s not a happy day every day for everybody. So we’re going to have those days where we’re kind of gloomy and even outside is gloomy so it makes us feel even more down. So we have to have something to give us that “pick me up”. Rashod: Exactly! Now, you go from music, into plays, then to television. What was the transition like? What made you say yes to going into the Theatre world? Tamela: For me, I was just going to sing (laughing). But David… David loves to act, so that’s kind of like his world. I was coming along to do the solo. I was the doowop girl. Once we got going, they was like a position came open and Tyler said, she’s going to do this part. We were taking a little break between shows and Tyler said, “David, you go home, you get her ready.” So when he took me home, oh, he was drilling me and of course I was getting mad at him. Because you know, us as black people, when you go to the play, we talk to them, we talk to the stage, we’re talking to whoever’s going on stage. So he was acting as the audience and saying stuff as I was saying my lines, I was like “stop it! You’re throwing me off.” And he said “Well, people are gonna be saying stuff from the audience so you can’t let that throw you.” And it was so true. My first night I opened back up, we came back into the show in Detroit and when I tell you he was right, the ladies would scream “uh uhn don’t let him do that, get him. He can’t talk to you like that.” Oh he was right. He was so right. Rashod: (laughing) Yup! That’s us. So basically all of your training started at home. David, what about you? What was your transition like? David: The transition from stage to television was a bit interesting for me at first because, you know, from the theatre, you have to be overdramatic. You have to make big movements, with television, You’re only performing for a little lense. You’re not performing for somebody to sit in at the top tier of the balcony. I had to learn to tone all of that down. I had to learn to tone all of that down. I had to . Reel it in, reel it in, did it work for me. Tamela: But for me, I’m born again. I was really afraid. But David was like, you can do it, you can do it. He’s been such an encourager. Our whole career. And I say our career because he’s kind of been my
leader. So it’s like I’m just kind of following along. But I’ve enjoyed it, but what keeps me on stage is my passion for the message to touch someone. The acting guidance from him is how I became better, honestly. Rashod: Which leads me into my next question. The support of a relationship and you both being in the entertainment industry, how important was it to have each other through the trials and the beginning and getting to the success? How important was the relationship aspect for you guys?
Tamela: Yes. Years. Every time I asked him, he comes up with some type of excuse. Rashod: So you know, my question is why? David: Well, you know, especially with her, she such
Tamela: For me, it meant everything. It was something that I’ve always prayed for, I wanted someone that was doing and love doing the same things I did. To love the same things that I loved so we could actually do it together and we wouldn’t have to explain where we are, what we are doing. Which has been the greatest thing ever for me. That two people who love each other can work together. Not to say that we don’t have difficult days. We do, but we’ve learned how to separate our relationship from work. So it’s like, we may come back to it after work and talk about whatever the issue was, but to have him with me has kind of been my everything. It really has. It’s like he’s been my saving grace. David: Ditto. (laughing) It’s that accountability. It’s that someone on set that has your back. When I’m on stage, you know there’s someone in the audience that has your best interest. I know that if anybody’s rooting for me, I know she’s rooting for me. To have that level of support and love in the audience, to have that beside you, It just makes you always feel like, I know I’m gonna win. I’m winning now, you know. So that’s what it’s been for me. Rashod: Last year, you dropped a CD and a Book. What was that like for you? David: The book is Us Against the World. It’s our secrets to love, marriage, and family. It’s about a 30-year journey of marriage and the CD is the soundtrack to it. It talks about how we met and it’s some really good life lessons. It’s our special little way of teaching. The album is a duet album from both Tamela and I, and I’m actually singing on the album. Tamela: Because he’s been running. Rashod: Oh, so you’re singing again? I realized we haven’t heard much from you vocally.
an iconic voice and to try to match the intensity of that voice was like, I couldn’t honestly, I ain’t doing it. Laughing. The songs talked about our love for each other, so it was easy to do when you talk about something like that. Rashod: You guys have five kids, 12 grandkids, and 30 years of marriage. There’s a lot of wisdom in that. What’s the life lesson that you would give a kid going into marriage at this point? The 20 something year old guy, girl that thinks “I’m ready to go get married”.
David: Make sure you build the foundation on friendship with your spouse. Because a lot of the stuff that you encountered going to require that you guys are based and grounded and rooted in something other than sex, something other than money. It’s going to have to be based on, “Okay, we may not be agreeing as a couple, we may not be agreeing as husband and wife, but as my friend, I do realize that we’re on the same team and we have the same goals in life.” So, I would definitely tell them root and ground your marriage in relationship in friendship and everything else will be covered. And the love, the love that y’all have for each other. Will definitely grow. Tamela: Ditto. (laughing) Rashod: That’s a word! So, I have a question from our guest interviewer, Tyrese Thomas. He’s the director of a group named The Healed Project. Tyrese: I’ve taken a lot from what you guys were saying, but one question I did have for you on both you is, what wisdom would you give someone, like myself, who’s up and coming, trying to get into industry, may not necessarily be signed with a label? What would be your wisdom? Tamela: Well, what we would give is don’t take no for an answer. Keep working, keep working your craft. Even though you may not take off as soon as you think, because a lot of times, a lot of us, just want it to happen quick. And it doesn’t come quick. I mean, for some people, it might, but you just keep going and don’t take no for an answer. Because some people are dream crushers. But you always remember that you believe in that gift that God has given you, and that you can take off and you can do what you’re called to do. You just keep working on it. Just don’t forget about it and just go work. You know? Keep working at whatever job that you’re working and you’re not practicing your gift. Keep practicing your gift. David: and never expect anybody else to invest in you if you won’t invest in you. When I say invest, I mean not just money. That’s time. That’s effort. You have to invest in honing your craft. You have to invest money sometimes, so invest money, you know? Don’t ever expect anyone to invest in you if you’re not willing to sacrifice and invest in you. Tyrese: I appreciate that. I love when you both were
saying when you guys listen to new music, one of the things that Tamela really focuses on are the lyrics. I’m a writer myself, so I tend not to go with trends. I like to write relative to passion and items where you’re driving your car and you’re by yourself in the lyrical content hits you because life is very interesting. It’s a journey. I’ve learned that and at that really encouraged me to kind of stay the course, write the music, write the story, to touch someone, so they can be lifted. So that was very encouraging for me and that inspired me to stay on the course and continue to write the way I write and not think that I’m weird like that. So I really appreciate that. David: Because like you say, trends will fade, but that’s why we have the classic music from back in the day because they wrote from the heart, they didn’t write the trend, they didn’t write to have the latest pop hit they wrote for the test of time. So I think that’s what we need more of.
Chido Nwokocha Number One Gunner
Within roughly five years of beginning his acting career, Chido Nwokocha has already made a name for himself in Hollywood and does not have plans of slowing down anytime soon. Chido was originally born and raised in Sacramento, California and is the son of Nigerian immigrant parents. Growing up, he excelled in sports and dreamt of becoming a football player. However, Chido was forced to make a career change after suffering a major knee injury on the field. After taking acting lessons in the Bay Area, he had decided to pursue a career in acting and moved out to Los Angeles in June 2015 to follow his dreams. Chido has already amassed himself an extensive filmography list. He is more commonly known for his roles as Nathan Woodward on Steven Bochco’s Murder in the First and has guested on variety of television shows including Scorpion, Shooter, The Night Shift, and The Rookie. His most current lead role was the charismatic CEO Gary Marshall Borders in Sistas, which is written, directed, and produced by Tyler Perry. Similarly, Chido has starred in a few films including Destroyer (2009) alongside Nicole Kidman and soon Top Gun: Maverick (2020) with Tom Cruise. I had the honor and pleasure to talk to Chido and discuss his life as an upcoming actor, growing fame, and plans for the future. SUAVV: My first question for you is that after doing some research about your life, I realized that acting did not always seem to have a precedence. I had discovered that you previously dreamed of being a football player, but you took acting lessons after sustaining a knee injury. I wanted to know what did you find the most interesting that compelled you to pursue a career as an actor? Chido: I think the most interesting thing I found that was pretty challenging was just the work required to put into it. When I first wanted to act, I would see people on screen and was like, “This guy is good-looking and I’m good-looking. I guess I could go ahead and be an actor.” But then, I go in, get the script and as I’m reading it I realized that there’s so much more that goes into it. I really caught the “bug” when I first started taking classes and it was something that I’ve always wanted to do after football. Once I saw what else went into it, I was like “this is something I can really sink my teeth into, work hard,
and really get the chance to focus on” which I was really passionate about. SUAVV: Although your days as a football player are behind you, do you find a way to incorporate any of the lessons that football has taught you into your acting/career in general? Chido: Absolutely! I talk about what drove me to acting like wanting to perfect the craft and dive into stuff emotionally. With football, there’s so much you have to do like play one game a week. Up until that point, it’s just practice, practice, practice! That’s real similar with acting. There’s so much training that goes involved to get your one moment. In an audition, there’s so much work that goes in to preparing for it and studying and you can’t just “show-up.” It’s so competitive and so many other people are trying to do it that you have to be on top of your game. You also have to continue to grow as well. That’s one of the things with football. We’ll practice, work, lift weights, study tapes, and then watch that tape again. Then, you’ll go back and play the game and hope it goes well. If it doesn’t go well, you go right back to the drawing board. Acting, auditioning, getting to the set, being punctual, and working well with other people in the team—it’s some of the similarities that it shares with football and it absolutely helped me transition really well. SUAVV: Would you say that there’s a lot of discipline that goes into acting and football as well? Chido: Absolutely. There’s a lot of discipline and a lot of focus. For me, it’s a lot of perseverance as well because you hear of so many “no’s.” I didn’t know how much rejection was going to be involved. You’re constantly going out and you can only control what’s in your control. So yes, you have to stay focused and you have to stay disciplined in your craft. Especially out here in Los Angeles, you can get caught up in the nightlife and extracurricular activities that could pull you away from your craft because you’re not experiencing a certain amount of success that you want to experience at that time. SUAVV: I understand that you’ve only been living in Los Angeles for a few years, but I wanted to know what are some of the difficulties and challenges you have faced as an actor. This could range anywhere from rejected roles, learning lines, or perfecting a character—andhow you might manage to overcome these obstacles.
Chido: I understood that you’re going to grow and may not have it down right away, but that comes with more experience as an actor. I think the toughest part is the rejection. You move out here, you’re wide-eyed, you’re excited, and you’re ready to book work. You take your first class and start to wonder, “When can I start to audition? When do I get a manager?” You then go through that process and realize that it is hard. It’s not easy to walk right in and get a manager or agent. There are steps you take as you enroll in acting classes until your first audition for T.V. and film. Just the rejection was one of the toughest parts to overcome because there is a lot of “no’s” that send you right back to the drawing board. It really tests your will and your wants. Everyone dreams of a story about coming here and immediately landing a big T.V. show. That probably happens for 0.1% of people, but everyone else has to lay the groundworks for a, hopefully, long-lasting career. SUAVV: But how do you find yourself usually overcoming these obstacles? Do you train yourself? Does this go back to whole idea of discipline? Chido: I train myself and, yes, this does go back to discipline. For me, fortunately, I have the background in that I understand this part of it. I do go right back to my acting classes, studying, and connect with my actor circle who I read the script and lines with to help me in an audition. It’s all about building that solid foundation of having something else to fall back on. Also, having other activities to keep your world just from acting. I enjoy working out, hanging out with my friends, and having a nice balanced life to where can I hear “no” from an audition and know I’m not going to be just sitting around for the next three or four days dwelling on it. I’ll go to class and then get my workout in. Then I’ll come right back to it and pick myself up again. I’d also like to focus a little on your acting career and the roles that you have played. SUAVV: Within almost five years of moving to Los Angeles and becoming an actor, you have already had the chance to work with Hollywood legends like Tyler Perry in Sistas, Nicole Kidman in Destroyer, and Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick. Do you feel a sense of accomplishment knowing that you have worked alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest names within a relatively short amount of time or do you believe that these roles are stepping stones to even bigger accomplishments/opportuni-
ties? Chido: It’s a bit of both. For myself, it was a personal accomplishment because I knew what it took for me to move out here and staying in the game along with working, finding jobs, auditioning and booking the roles. Even seeing how they conduct themselves on set and to understand what type of production I’m in has been instrumental to my mindset as an actor. This lets me know that this is something I can be a part of, watch, see, and have now potential to take things to another level because I definitely want to tackle bigger roles and bigger opportunities. That experience that I’ve gotten right now, I wholeheartedly believe is going to allow me to do that. SUAVV: Not only that, but you have definitely been challenging the types of roles actors of color can play in Hollywood. One of your most recent roles was on Tyler Perry’s television show Sistas where you play a CEO named Gary Marshall Borders. How does it feel to be an African American actor portraying a successful character during an era where viewers are demanding to see diverse casting and representation in media? Chido: It’s everything for me because I am definitely very wary of what role I take on. It’s just cool to see the shift in Hollywood and the movement that’s been going on that’s allowing—especially myself—an African American actor to take on these roles. Growing up, I was around a lot of successful black men who were lawyers and doctors, which I do have in my family. I would definitely love to pursue these types of roles. There are going to be some roles that you can have that stretch like “bad guy” roles. It’s just cool to see someone you grew up with and have representation for. SUAVV: I would also like to go back and touch on you starring in Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick which is premiering June 26th, 2020. The original film was a huge success and it has developed a legacy/name for itself as a cult-classic action film. Were you in any way anxious or excited to take on a role in such a highly-anticipated sequel? Chido: I was super excited! I remember getting the call at the airport saying I booked a roll in the film. I think there was some anxiousness because it’s such a big production and you’re just like, “I want to go in, do my part, and I don’t want to mess anything up!” You also have to remind yourself that you do belong.
That was one of things that really grounded me. I was able to go to work, enjoy it, see all the moving parts, and be on a big-budget film. It also made me realize that this is just the beginning because I’m going to be doing way more of this in the future, so just enjoy it. SUAVV: Over the span of your acting career, you have played numerous roles. Out of all the characters you have played on film and television, which has been the most challenging for you to portray and why? Chido: All of the roles have certain challenges that they bring. I think my most challenging but also enjoyable roles was a lawyer I played on Murder in the First. It was hard handling the lawyer jargon. With me as an African American who is playing a very successful young lawyer coming up, it was really cool for me to get that type of job. Laying the groundwork to sit and watch and read a lot of lawyer stuff and how they go about themselves was really fun. That role made me realize that these are the types of rolls I want to take on and know I can handle. SUAVV: Did you feel yourself coming out of your comfort zone, by any chance, in assuming in this role? Or was it more difficult for you to portray because it was something you have never experienced before? Chido: It’s a little bit of coming out of the comfort zone because it’s not something I went to school for. I didn’t study to become a lawyer, but I do have to immerse myself in that world and learn how they would think. It was something that I really felt strongly about in terms of the character and it was something that I always wanted to do. I really felt like that was one of the roles that I was so ready to tackle and dive into! It made for a great experience and it was really fun. SUAVV: We’ve spent some time looking at your current and most recent projects, but I would like to spend some time looking towards the future. Are there any roles/characters that you have not yet played but would like to play? Chido: I guess I really want to play a superhero. I work out a lot so I got to get on it! I would love to star in my own action vehicle movie similar to John Wick. I really want to have my own franchise which would be incredible. I keep my head up and think,
“One day, I’m going to my own film!” Superhero for sure! It has to happen! SUAVV: So when you feel as though when you have filmed a superhero movie, you know that you have made it as an actor? Chido: I’m in! People have all these other roles that they do that’s gonna win them an Oscar or whatever. That’s pretty great, obviously, but I have to get a superhero role! I would have a lot of fun with that! SUAVV: In a previous interview, you mentioned that you also dream of creating your own projects that would hopefully inspire and create other opportunities for others. What types of projects are you most interested in creating in the future? Chido: I definitely want to write and produce some great content. I definitely want to tap into that mindset and create opportunities for African American males so that they see themselves portrayed in a different light on T.V. which there is a strong market for that and has not been tapped into. There are so many roles and rich stories that we have. Growing up, I would turn on the T.V. and only see roles here and there. For example, when I saw young males growing up on shows, these roles revolved around a gangster lifestyle or a single-parent home. There should stories where a kid struggles coming up with two parents in the household, growing up in the suburbs, learn to take care of their families, or even become the breadwinner early on in life and must try to find financial stability. I’ll sit down with my buddies and we’ll be writing and telling stories. It would give people a chance to gravitate towards it because there aren’t many people out there who write black content and tell our stories. People are wanting it and they want more of it, but they’re hypocritical because they want it to be good. I understand all of that and I feel like it’s going to be nice to bring that to the table. There is a huge market for diversity right now in Hollywood more than ever. SUAVV: I want to touch on that. With young African American growing up, you always have to think about their future. Right in the black community, mental health and awareness is finally starting to show its light. Touching on topics like this in my content are things that I’m really passionate about. We are one month into 2020. What do you hope to accomplish this year in terms of your career?
Chido: I want to continue going on with my show for a season two pick-up. I mainly want to continue on my path and do good work and keep being well received in the acting community and industry. I think everything else will fall into place. I really try to control what I can control. If I continue to do good work, be positive, and show myself in a good light, then roles will continue to come as they have been coming. I feel like that’s been working for me in the short time period of time I have had since moving
out to Los Angeles. I’m just looking out for a lot more opportunities this year. I think it’s going to be a really big year for me and I’m excited about it! Be sure to catch Chido Nwokocha in Top Gun: Maverick with Tom Cruise in theaters on June 26th, 2020. You can also follow him on Instagram @yea_imchido and on Twitter @Yea_imChido.
QUEEN of the RING Trinity Fatu
Professional wrestling has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Growing up, Dusty Rhodes, Hulk Hogan, and CoCo B. Ware were my favorites. Then there was The Hart Foundation, The Rockers, Randy Savage, and Jake the Snake Roberts. Fast forward to the late 90’s and two men took wrestling to another level. The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin’s arrogance, comedy, agility, and catchphrases were echoed throughout society. Wrestling was at a peak and Everyone wanted to be a character in the ring. Everyone except Trinity Fatu. Born TrinityMcCray, Trinity was raised, with her brother, by a single mother and a huge family in Orlando, Florida. She was always surrounded by a lot of love and extremely talented people. Her family was full of singers and Trinity wanted to dance. She started taking dance classes at age 8 and knew early on that she wanted to be some type of entertainer. She wasn’t sure what but knew that it was in her cards. At that moment, dance was her outlet. Trinity was graduated from high school and had taken that experience from the years of tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical, modern hip hop, as well as competing all over the nation and began trying to figure out what was her next step. Initially, Trinity wanted to go to the renowned Alvin Ailey Dance School in New York City. However, at the time, with that dream, where her life was at the time with finances and ultimately leaving so far away from home for the first time, urged her to push her dance dream to the back burner. The decision to stay home led the lover of dance to her first audition for NBA team The Orlando Magic, which she made the team and stayed there for two and a half years. One day, randomly, she went to a wrestling event. She had no idea what it would lead to and where she would go. But, the opportunity came, she took on the stage name Naomi, and she went and became a professional wrestler. The rest is history. Trinity: My parents and my family thought I was crazy. The show came to the Amway, the Orlando magic
center at the time. A friend of mine, one of the Magic dancers, told me about it and we went together. I was just blown away when I saw the women perform. I didn’t know women could go like that and actually wrestle. Right then I was like, man, I could do that. I want to do that or at least want to try. At the time, the wrestling developmental audition was only about an hour and 45 minutes. I drove from Orlando to Tampa to audition, you know, just on a whim, just giving it a try. Nobody else wanted to try and do it with me, but I was crazy enough to attempt it. Months and months went by and honestly, I kinda forgot about it and didn’t think I would get picked to their developmental program. I was about to start my third season with Orlando magic and that’s when I got the call saying that, WWE would like to have me in their wrestling journey. My mom couldn’t believe it because, I was taught for a very young age, to be the complete opposite. To be a dancer, to be graceful, you know, all these dance skills, it was kind of like going to wrestle and beat people up was the complete opposite. She was very concerned about my health, my wellbeing, and me getting hurt. Obviously, she did support me and I swear I love about my mom. She’s always the most positive influence in my life and she just kind of waited it out to see how it was going to go. She came to those little shows at the little arenas all around central Florida. That really gave me the confidence to keep going because man it was hard in the beginning. It was really rough. SUAVV: I can, I can believe it. I’m gonna I’m to jump from wrestling and bounce back to Alvin Ailey. I know that they have adult training. Do you, do you see yourself at any point going back to classical dance? Trinity: Absolutely. I love dance and I love the arts and I love theater. So that’s still something that I would love to pursue is some point. Dancing on Broadway. Oh yeah, that’ll always be a passion. SUAVV: Now does your, your agility from being a dancer, does that correspond within your wrestling? Have you added implements of that?
Trinity: Absolutely. I feel like a lot of what I do is definitely influenced by dance. But, at the same time, it is kinda been a double-edged sword because in the beginning, it was a little difficult to adjust to be more scrappy and not look so choreographed in the ring. But at the same time, it totally helped me with my agility, athleticism, and a lot of the move set and stuff I do is totally from, from dance. But yeah, it has its pros and cons. SUAVV: All right, cool. Now you and Jonathan, how did you guys meet? Did you meet in wrestling? Trinity: Yes, we just so happened to start training together. I pretty much got signed around the same time he was there. Maybe like a month or two before Then I got in the ring and I was like, hi. He was like, Hey, how are you doing? Little did I know. Boy, Little did I know that he was going to be my husband. He was like, I’m going to have to fight you in a second. So pretty much he definitely gave me some tackles and rough me up a little bit when I first got there. SUAVV: When you did your photoshoot with Mike and Rodney, they were like, you would never think that they’re wrestlers. Is it challenging for you guys to leave the wrestling persona at work and have a life outside of wrestling or are you always in some kind of character? Trinity: Um, I think it has is definitely has its challenges because work is so hard to turn it off sometimes because work is so much a part of our lives. We’re performing on the road 300 days out of the year. So, and a lot of times when we do come home, our days off, we’re still working. You know, we’re still watching the product, we’re still watching the shows that come on, we’re so watching the pay per views, or we’re filming Total Divas. So that’s something we’ve had to learn and adjust to with as we’ve gotten deeper into our careers and become a little more popular and living in a small town. We do get recognized a lot, but it just comes with the territory and it’s something we’ve had to adjust to and really set boundaries so that we can be healthy as a family and operate and function normally. I have two stepkids who are 11 and 13, so the days we are home, it’s very important like to be there for them and give them everything they need and be really present. So we’ve learned how to adjust. SUAVV: Okay. Okay. Gotcha. Now, I have Jeffrey from Jeffrey Show Live on with me. Jeffrey is a wres-
tling enthusiast. So he’s going to ask you some of the wrestling-related questions that I don’t know. Jeffrey: SmackDown Women’s Championship. How were you feeling when you found out that you were going to win it at the elimination chamber? Can you take me back to that moment? Trinity: I just felt it like, at that time, I was hearing the reactions I was getting, you can just feel it when you’re in that moment and when your time is coming. So I knew it was coming. I just didn’t know it was going to be that night. It honestly just felt like a huge accomplishment and relief to me because it just took me so long. Like I always knew I would have that moment, but I never expected it to be six years. Especially seeing so many women that I started with and came in with have that shot at that moment and then (for me) to still not be here. I’m the only one from that time period, of those women that I came in with, the original NXT group, that was still there at the time and that hadn’t held the championship. Then seeing the new women come in and kill it and be champion. It was really frustrating to me, that I hadn’t accomplished that yet. So for me, it was huge, it was validation for me and something that I really needed at my point in my career and that I wanted to achieve. Jeffrey: I love it. We’ve talked about that Kofi mania moment. You were the first African-American woman to hold the WWE Women’s Smack Down Title. I feel like you have one of your own at WrestleMania 33 when you regained the title after your injury. Trinity: I did. First of all, how amazing was, Kofi his moment? I was crying. It was so crazy. The energy and just knowing the struggle. And that’s something not everyone will understand. For me, being a woman and being a minority, I know I’ve faced certain challenges that others haven’t had to face. And I think it is beautiful because it makes me who I am, makes me stronger, and it makes it so much sweeter when you do finally climb that mountain and accomplish what you set out to do. It was just great to see that for Kofi. We’ve known how dope and amazing Kofi’s been for years. But to see it happen in front of everyone, and to be the first African-born World Champion in WWE history, it was beautiful. So, yeah, definitely had a taste that I hadn’t experienced winning the championship back at WrestleMania. I had a lot of my family there. So it just made me feel like it was all worth it. The last 10 years since I’ve had
this career, I really haven’t been home and around my family, so they don’t really understand the grind and you know what it is. But it’s different watching me in the arena at WrestleMania to see how what we do, how it impacts so many people and the power it really has. I was glad that it happened at the time it happened and having it twice, you know? I wasn’t sure if I was gonna be able to retain it or get my championship back because I really did get injured, which is why I had to relinquish it. And that was all real. People think that was a storyline, but that was real. Jeffrey: I remember the blog saying “Oh, she doesn’t want that moment for WrestleMania.” I don’t know if you saw those reports, but like she doesn’t want us to have storylines. Trinity: No, when I won the championship in the chamber on the finish, I actually tore my MCL. It wasn’t that bad, but it was bad enough to where I had to be off of it and I’ve fought. I told them (WWE executives) please don’t take this championship off me. I’ll be good (healthy). I’ll be fine. And literally I had to fight even up until WrestleMania because they were worried about me hurting my knee more. But it all worked out and people really don’t know how I was really fighting for that moment behind the scenes. Thankfully it all worked out and I didn’t get hurt again. It was painful and I had to rehab it. I was rehabbing it like crazy. Nobody thought I would make it back in time, but I did everything and beyond to get that knee at least good enough to where I could perform. Jeffrey: I’m always asked about restlessness because a lot of people question if this is real or not and then injuries happen. I want to talk a little bit about mental health. During the injury, a lot of wrestlers talked about how being an entertainer, they sometimes get down, like “I was at the top and then like all of a sudden sidelined.” How was that experience? Did anything mental go on with you during that time? Trinity: A whole lot of things. We are still in work mode and we’re so ambitious and driven like all of our wrestlers. One of the most important things is staying healthy because the second you’re not, there’s always someone there to take your spot or to fill your shoes and all you can do is hope and pray that when you do come back, you pick right up or you do better. So that’s definitely stressful when you’re used to being in the groove or in a routine and then it gets taken
away from you and not on your terms. So it’s definitely stressful during those times. But, that’s a part of the game and it really just puts life and things into perspective when stuff like that does happen. It gives you a lot of time to think. And for me, it definitely gave me time to think of more ideas and storylines so that I could come back with something new and something fresh. Overall, it’s always scary because you just never know what the outcome is going to be. You don’t know if the injury is going to be one month, if it’s going to be six months, or if it’s going to be a year. Meanwhile, you’ve been doing this your whole career. It’s like, okay, what am I going to do for a year? I want to be on the road, I want to make my name, I’m on a mission, I got a journey. When that just gets stopped it’s very, very stressful mentally. But I think it makes everyone stronger when they do go through that because everyone comes back with more fire than they had before. SUAVV: I know with wrestling, overall, it’s still a business. So when it comes to the business aspect, I read that the MIZZ, Mike, when he saw your talents and all that you were striving for, he pushed himself in a way to help build your career. Is that accurate? Trinity: Yeah. Mizz has always been super supportive and super informative. I got to work with him on The Marine 5: Battleground. To me, he’s one of the hardest working people in our business and he’s so talented. He’s so smart. It’s definitely been a great help to me throughout the years, a good friend, and I love him. SUAVV: I remember when he was on The Real World and he created the character “The Mizz”. To see him fully become that, has been an amazing journey to watch. Trinity: It’s crazy. And he didn’t have it easy either first coming in, but it just goes to show how relentless he is. He’s been consistent and he’s incredible. Like he’s great. He’s helped me a lot, especially when we did the movie. I was so nervous but, he had so much to remember and so much of the movie was on him and he was so professional, gave me pointers, taught me how to read my script, and went over my scenes with me. Just a lot of stuff that he did not have to do. He just really made sure I was good at it. That’s the type of person he is. He’s an awesome guy and a very hard worker.
SUAVV: You’re now 32 years old, you walk into an arena with tens of thousands of people cheering for you. What does it feel like walking through that curtain? Trinity: It’s a feeling that I feel like a lot of us are addicted to. It’s an adrenaline rush and it’s a feeling of belonging and your hard work paying off. It’s so fulfilling and it’s a feeling you can’t get anywhere else. Performing in front of a live audience is, just real. You know? No matter what, these people are going to either connect with you or they’re not going to connect with you. And if you’re good at what you do, and if you leave it all out there, you’ll get the job done. And that’s just something that I need in my life, my personality, and it really makes me happy.