Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Interview With Gina Cheatham of 'BAPS' on Lifetime!

The success of the reality show, Sweetie Pie's, put St. Louis on the reality show map. Now, Lifetime is debuting a new docu-series that features a group of black affluent friends from St. Louis, who self identify as BAPS. (Black American Princesses and Princes). BAPS, as with any reality show, brings the drama. The show, featuring Anisha, Brandon, Gina, Jason, Kristen, Kendrick, Rai-Rai and Riccarda has already stirred up controversy from viewers who got a sneak peek at the first episode at the Essence Music Festival.

I sat down with one of the show’s stars, St. Louis native, Howard University graduate, world traveler and accomplished cellist, Gina Cheatham. As part of St. Louis’ privileged community, Cheatham ‘s path led her to develop a background in marketing and business development as well as education. In addition to her professional accomplishments she also has a passion for working with youth and community services. This versatile woman lets us know what we can expect to see on BAPS! 

When asked to define the terms BAPS Cheatham admits it carries a negative connotation, and that calling oneself that is not something one does in public, but is more for “kitchen table talk”. However, she has her own definition of the expression. 

(BAPS are) a celebrated child of the struggle. We’re the first generation of material success who seek not to celebrate classism, but to enjoy some privileges our families have earned, coming up from slavery….We do not believe we’re better than anyone, we’re just happy to be better off than this (former) generation. 

How were you cast, and why did you decide to do the show? 

Riccarda asked me if I was interested in an opportunity to be part of a show that was more or less A Different World and the Cosby Show smashed together, fast forward twenty years, and put it on today’s platform, and give America a look into African American affluent culture….so when they pitched to me, that’s what it was supposed to be about….I was excited. 

From left to right: Kristen, Gina, Rai-Rai, Brandon, Anisha, Kendrick, Riccarda, Jason
How do you know members of the cast? 

Kristen, her and my parents went to college together. Jason, I’ve known him all his life. Our parents went to college together and his sister and I are close friends. My mother was his seventh and eighth grade teacher. Rai-Rai and I got to know each other through the show. 

Gina also shared that she knows Brandon from family connections in Texas. 

There are some moments where black women are not depicted in the best light. As with all reality shows there will be criticism about that. How do you respond? 

I can’t speak for anyone else, and I won’t. To know me is to understand that I don’t have a lot of tolerance for buffoonery, so I probably have the same response that other people share. 

In terms of my own behavior you will see me be tested. Mine is more or less, a bicker, I’m very animated…So in terms of my reactions I typically live by the three strikes rule. So when you see me get excitable, it’s because you’ve had warning after warning after warning. And now you’ve really crossed the line, and the line for me is when you don’t tell the truth…..The one time I show this reaction is when this line has been crossed and I’ve asked you two or three times, politely, to stop. 

The fact you are single and unmarried comes up on the show. Do you feel stigmatized by that? 

I don’t feel that way, but I think other people may perceive me that way. It’s a decision I have made. When the right one comes along, you know, I’m ‘bout it. I welcome that. However I’m not going to get married just for the sake of saying I’m married. I’ve been engaged twice, and I broke off both of those engagements. When you see the red flags, that typically means, stop. 

What can we expect from you this season? 

The same person you see every day. Fun, goofy, loving, caring. Don’t get me wrong, you know, I’m human. And there comes a time that I have to draw a line in the sand to let them know don’t let the smooth taste fool you! I’m a nice girl, but you keep stepping across this line and I have to bite you. 

What perception of you do you want people to come away with after watching the show? 

I live life on my own terms. I treat people the way I want to be treated. I give a lot of love. I try to be the voice of reason, the peacemaker. God says blessed is the peacemaker and I want to be blessed in this life. I’m truly a bubbly, outgoing, fun person. 

Why should people watch BAPS? 

Hopefully people will continue to tune in and see that there’s a lot of positive stories and messages and lessons in the show. I think everyone will be able to identify with each and every one of the characters on some level, whether you really, really like them or you don’t really like them. But there’s something about their individual story that (will make the viewer say) okay I get it. I’ve seen that before and it answers a deeper question you may have had.

It was great getting to know Gina! You can catch the debut of BAPS on Lifetime on Wednesday, July 23 at 10/9c

Monday, June 30, 2014

Spike Lee's Film 'Do The Right Thing' Turns 25!

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the release of Spike Lee’s iconic and groundbreaking film, Do the Right Thing. The movie took place on a hot summer day in Bed-Stuy Brooklyn, and explored polarizing issues of race. Debuting in 1989, it was Lee’s third theatrical release, and one of the first movies in the modern Black Renaissance that produced films authentically exploring the experience of Black America.

Do the Right Thing featured a lineup of legendary actors, as well as introduced new faces. Alongside the celebrated duo of Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, we were introduced to Rosie Perez, whose dance routine at the opening credits remains unforgettable. Other players in the film include: Danny Aiello, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito, Robin Harris, Samuel L. Jackson, Martin Lawrence, Bill Nun, John Tuturo, and Spike Lee, of course, who portrays Mookie, the irresponsible pizza delivery guy who’s at the center of the escalading racial tensions.

Recently Spike Lee threw a block party on the same Bed-Stuy block the film was shot on to commemorate the anniversary. Public Enemy performed the signature song from the soundtrack, “Fight the Power”. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also recognized the film with a panel discussion about the movie and its impact.

photo credit: The Academy
In addition to the events, a book featuring behind-the-scenes imagery is being released to celebrate this profound cinematic work.  You have a chance to win a copy! 

Just leave a comment about your experience with the film Do the Right Thing, and a winner will be chose and notified. Good luck!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Major Shakeups at 'The View'! Will the Daytime Talk Show Survive?

By now you’ve heard of the major shakeup at The View! Co-hosts Sherri Shepherd, Jenny McCarthy and even the show’s co-creator and Co-Executive Producer, Bill Gedde, all got the big chop and were fired from the daytime talk show. Reportedly, the only one the powers at ABC kept on is Whoopi Goldberg. (Um… why? I LOVE Whoopi as an actress, but I wouldn’t say her strength lies in being a moderator.) Word has it that Sherri and Jenny will be replaced with younger hosts, and that a MAN will possibly be joining the roundtable. 

All this went down on a Thursday, and then they pre-taped Friday’s show, the one where Barbara Walters was a guest. So how does this work? They pre-taped Friday’s show with Barbara Walters, and then everybody went into the offices while Babs sat there while folks got fired??? Ummm… my prediction is that The View is over…

The View has been going downhill for a while now. They seemed to change up the format and no longer discuss weighty topics, opting for lighter conversation. The show also toned down when Elisabeth Hasselbeck left the show last year, and no longer has her inflammatory political views to keep things spiced up. And the absence of Joy Behar, who also vacated her spot last year, has left a noticeable void at the roundtable that benefited from the comedian’s signature witty snark. 

I always felt the addition of Jenny McCarthy was a mistake. (And clearly so did Barbara Walters, as she barely let the girl get a word in. Watching the two argue about who can and cannot speak was very awkward.) So I'm not sorry to see McCarthy go. I will actually enjoy not having to hear about her libido, or who she’s dated every day. But I have a feeling Jenny’s not that bothered because she’s looking forward to being Mrs. Donnie Whalberg. And no hate, but I’m happy we won’t have to hear about it all the time any more.

I am a little sad about Sherri, because this only adds to an already tough year for her, with her pending (and messy) divorce from her second (and ridiculous) husband, Sal. Ain’t no good gon’ come to you until you do right by Sherri Sal!!!

Now, I do have some questions. 

I wondered how does a co-creator of a show get fired??? How did they give Bill Geddie, co-creator, and co-Executive Producer and Babs’ producing partner the boot?? I had an informative Twitter chat with Joey O’Hern who said ABC owns more of the show than Bill, AND that word on the street is Babs was on board with him getting fired! SHADE!!!

O’Hern also speculated that the departure of Diane Sawyer this week from ABC World News is not coincidental, implying that she is up for a spot on The View. Since Meredith Vieira left I’ve always said a journalistic presence was needed to add heft to the roundtable and handle the more intense interviews. This leads me to wonder how the other spots will be filled. 

If they’re adding a man I think it will be comedian Mario Cantone. I love me some Mario, but I don’t want a man on The View. It would be a complete departure from the original vision and intent of the show. But if they decide to add some testosterone, Cantone can handle the job.

I also think they will add a Latina co-host—finally, simply because there’s never been one. But the question is who? I can’t think of one Latina celebrity, media personality, especially if they’re going younger, who has the chops to join The View. So it will be very interesting to see who winds up at the table in the next season. It will be VERY interesting to observe the vibe of the show when they return from their week long break. (Yes, the announcement of neck chops was very well timed!!!)
And who will be the new Bill Gedde? Since Babs’ departure, Bill is the only original member of The View that was left!! The only constant is change, but not all change is good.

So what do you make of all this? Do you think The View will survive the roundtable shuffle? I think people will watch the new season out of curiosity, but it will be such a different show that the authenticity of the original format will be lost, along with longtime fans. It’s funny because Barbara Walters would periodically comment that there are a lot of imitators of The View that haven’t lasted or just aren’t as good. But now The View will be in fierce competition with those very shows as they attempt to figure out their new identity.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lifetime Announces Biopics of Whitney Houston and Aaliyah! Controversial Casting?

Celebrity biopics are typically a crowd pleaser, and Lifetime recognizes that it’s a viable niche for black audiences. The women’s network is getting it in with the announcement of TWO upcoming movies featuring the lives of beloved entertainers, Whitney Houston and Aaliyah!

There has been controversy surrounding Whitney’s movie (of course), which will chronicle her life with Bobby Brown, and be directed by Angela Bassett. It’s reported that Houston’s family doesn’t want her story to be told on the small screen. The fact her story is getting told at all-even the undesirable parts, is a testament to the impact Houston had on music and fans of the gifted singer. I would like to see the entirety of Houston’s life, not the just the “hot mess-ery” with Brown, but we’ll see how this turns out.

Yaya DaCosta has been cast to play Houston. Hmmm… this is an interesting choice, but a great “get” for the former America’s Next Top Model contender.

I am definitely interested in checking this out next year when the film debuts. What do you think about casting DaCosta to play the iconic singer? Who do you think should play Bobby Brown? For some reason I think singer Jason Derulo might be a good choice.

Lifetime will also produce a film about “R&B Princess”, Aaliyah, known not only for her sexy street delivery and style, but her controversial marriage to R. Kelly. And again, reportedly her family, namely her uncle and owner of Aaliyah’s music label, Barry Hankerson wants Aaliyah’s story to be a full theater release and not a made for television movie. (Do people understand how HARD it is to get a theatrical movie done???) Well, big screen or little screen, I’m watching. And I want details! What happened???? HOW/WHY DID AALIYAH MARRY R-UH KELLY???????

Disney star Zendaya will be playing Aaliyah in the film that will be produced by Debra Chase Martin. Some aren’t in favor of this casting, but I think she’s a great choice. She actually pulls off the look quite well!

Don’t know who she is? Well, she was on Dancing With the Stars-didn’t win, but she was good! And she sings that song, “Replay”, which apparently has become the unofficial theme song of The View. (They play it, a…lot…) 

If this movie is done right, I think it will be extremely engaging. Aaliyah was an interesting artist in that she (with the help of Timbaland), helped to change up the style of R&B and demonstrated that a female R&B artist can be edgy, sexy and classy.

It will be very interesting to see who else is cast as R. Kelly, Timbaland, Missy Elliott and the whole Aaliyah crew. I like Zendaya in the lead role. What do you think? 

Will you be watching Lifetime's biopics of these beloved superstars?