Category Archives: celebrity interviews

5 Things With Tracee Ellis Ross

5 Things with Tracee Ellis RossBlack-ish star Tracee Ellis Ross doesn’t think of herself as a muse. The dynamic entertainer has been blessed with an acting career that spans two decades, and her hypnotic, joyful demeanor is in high demand on and off of the screen.

But this woman, someone who can easily take credit for being a motivating force for many Black women and girls, says she is simply living her life. Continue reading 5 Things With Tracee Ellis Ross

Samira Wiley on the Pursuit of Happiness

wileyAs a child, you toy around with ideas of becoming many different things. A police officer. A writer. A teacher. But for Samira Wiley, there was only one option; to be on screen. The 28-year-old “Orange is the New Black” star has been committed to acting for quite some time. And we’ve got news for you. She’s just getting started. Wiley spoke with JET about her unique upbringing, what it’s like to be living out your passion, and the importance of staying true to yourself and your dreams.

SJ: You have a very interesting background. What was life like growing up for you?

Samira Wiley: It’s interesting because growing up, you don’t even realize that your life is different cuz it’s the only thing you know. I was definitely in church every single day of the week. [Me and my brother] didn’t know at the time, but now I’m very aware of how progressive my mother and father was. My parents, (who are pastors), believe that God loves everyone. Anybody can be a member of their church regardless of race, sexual orientation, age, anything like that. I think it takes a lot of courage to be like that. That’s sort of a radical stance to take in a baptist church. But growing up, we were basically free. We just knew we had to do our homework at church every night (laughs).

SJ: You’re relatively new to the acting business, having made this big splash with “Orange is the New Black.” When did you realize that you wanted to act full-time?

Samira Wiley: Honestly, I was one of the few kids who knew they wanted to be an actor since they were like 10-years-old and never changed their mind. That was me. My parents had me involved in theater, arts programs, summer programs at Howard University where I grew up and I went to an art high school and ended up going to Julliard. For a long time, I felt like I had a passion for it, but didn’t necessarily have that much talent. Like when I was a kid, I definitely didn’t get any big speaking roles. I was always an ensemble [cast member with] no lines. Just supporting, but happy to be there on stage (laughs). I definitely hadn’t had an actual thought that I could sustain myself with it honestly until OITNB. My first year working on OITNB, I was a bartender the entire season. Actually, I was bartending even after Season 1 came out until a lot of people started recognizing me and my friend was like, “Samira, what are you doing? (laughs) “You can’t be a bartender anymore. Like maybe this [acting] is actually gonna work.”

SJ: You mentioned that you were always part of the ensemble cast. I think that’s how a lot of greats start out. You being happy in that role speaks to the level of passion that you have for the craft. Personally, I like those people. The person who doesn’t care about being the star because he or she is going to play the best “party girl number 2″ they can play.

Samira Wiley: I guess so. You mention passion. That’s definitely what it is. When I graduated high school, I didn’t get accepted into any single place that I applied for to be in a conservatory theater arts program. I ended up having to go to a liberal arts college and that was sorta discouraging for me. I mean everybody at my school is going on to study at NYU or North Carolina School of Arts and I didn’t get accepted anywhere. I had to sort of swallow it and know that at that point like, “This probably can’t be my career. I’ll be able to do passion projects, but this wont be lucrative enough for me to survive.” But I didn’t care. I still wanted to study theater. Passion is a thing that I feel most people need to survive because there’s nothing like it. It doesn’t matter how much money you’re making. It doesn’t matter how successful you are. So the fact that it’s actually working out where I can make a living off of doing it is over and beyond anything that I could ever imagine.

Click here to read the rest.

Exclusive: The Dream

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As we gather in what is known as the JET War Room at the Johnson Publishing headquarters, The Dream exudes an aura of chill. He’s been traveling for the past few weeks and is quite tired, like anyone with a demanding schedule would be. Dressed in all black with a Contra hat tucked to the back, he casually takes a seat right in front of the JET archives. He seems ready. Ready for the “standard interview.” Ready for the gossip questions. Ready for whatever. Ready. After a few authentic exchanges of words, we get down the why we’re here. We talk about the evolution of The Dream. As an artist, as a producer, as a man. And what fans can expect from his sixth LP, “Crown and Jewel.”

SJ: It’s been a minute. What have you been up to?

The Dream: Just doing my same ole thing. You know writing. Producing. Sangin’.

SJ: So how does it feel to be in the JET/EBONY archives?

The Dream: It feels great. Feels like a lot of people got my back right now.

SJ: I ask that question because I feel like every black person has a memory of the publications. I can’t think of a time when I visited my grandmother and it wasn’t a copy of EBONY and/or JET on her coffee table.

The Dream: Yeah. Even when the JET had like dried up Jheri Curl juice on it back in the ’80s (laughs).

SJ: From Rihanna’s “Umbrella” to Justin Beiber’s “Baby,” you’ve pretty much had a hand in shaping not just the sound of R&B, but pop during the first quarter of the millennium. How did the dream become The Dream?

The Dream: I think it started somewhere around third or fourth grade when I first got into the band. And I know that kids now aren’t introduced to instruments like back in the day. You know they’ve taken instruments out of schools. So for me, I’d have to say that the journey started somewhere in the latter part of the ’80s. You know when I was able to just grab my instrument and just have music as my friend without it being any political gain or any business interests in the music business at all.

SJ: “Music as your friend.” That kind of sounds like you have more of an adult relationship with the craft. It isn’t as innocent. How has being in the industry shaped your perspective on what appears to be a passion of yours?

The Dream: I still put music first. I don’t sell out. I don’t try to change anything that I don’t love. I don’t chase records that don’t sound like me. Being from the South, the church has a lot to do with music period. You have the chittlin’ circuit that used to be like gospel singers that went over to R&B and started singing. Whether it’s Sam Cooke, Otis Redding…it’s like a southern thing to be a part of the church when you’re young and growing up so it’s like a backdrop. I think it was around ’89 or ’90 when we started to understand that [music] was a business other than just showing up on Sundays and being part of the choir. So in the ’90s, I kinda just used what was around me. Atlanta became Motown at that point in time. We were able to kind of be more authentic about the music business per say.

SJ: What do you mean by that?

The Dream: Just to have a hand in on the culture. I mean Atlanta was overlooked. It was New York with this hip-hop thing, it was LA, it was the Midwest because of Motown. The South was just the south nobody said, “Hey I’m from Atlanta. I do music.” But now, most of the writers and all of the trends especially from a hip-hop standpoint, come from Atlanta and in the ’90s you had L.A. Reid move there and then you had TLC that came after that. You had the Dungeon Family. You had all of these things that were going on while I was a teenager that made it authentic. We had real people who went and got Grammys from that stage that was from Atlanta during a time when it was just overlooked.

Read the rest at JET. 

One on One with Ne-Yo

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R&B superstar Ne-Yo is an internationally recognized brand. From his dapper style to his well-crafted artistry, just about everyone knows who the man is. With the release of his sixth album, Non-Fiction, Ne-Yo brings a variety of R&B tracks with just enough hits not to abandon his pop and electronic fan-base. The R&B crooner took a few minutes to speak with JET about his humble beginnings, staying power and what fans can expect from him in the future.

SJ: You were born in Arkansas to two musically inclined parents. Did you always want to do music?

Ne-Yo: I’ve never really wanted to do anything else. I draw and paint a little bit. I’ve actually been doing that as long as I’ve been singing, but music was always the initial passion. It has been pretty much my whole life.

SJ: When did you discover that you had the gift of singing/songwriting?

Ne-Yo: I’ve always been able to hold a note. I won’t say that I could [always] sing, but I could hold a note. I could mimic what was happening on the radio just well enough. The rest of it I had to work for. I don’t know. I’ve been humming melodies since [I was] like little little. You know [age] four and five. My mom said that the first song I ever wrote was about mustard and I was about five years old. I guess five is when I learned that I had the gift.

SJ: Recently, you released you sixth studio album Non-Fiction. What can we expect from this work?

Ne-Yo: I normally don’t let the things I hear or read about in blogs bother me too much, but when I started hearing people saying things like “Ne-Yo abandoned R&B,” that really got to me. So I allowed this album to kinda be that. To my core R&B fans, if not for that R&B foundation that was raised, there would be no EDM song, there would be no Ne-Yo dance song, no Ne-Yo pop song. R&B is my home, it’s my foundation, it’s where I come from. So the majority is R&B, but I had to make sure I did something for everyone. It’s called Non-Fiction because every single song on there is based on a 100% true story. Half the stories belonging to me, the other half belonging to my fans. I reached out via social media asking people questions about their lives and relationships and the stories I dug the most I actually turned into songs for this album.

Read the rest of my interview with Ne-Yo at JetMag.com.

Event Recap: ‘Empire’ Red Carpet event does not disappoint

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I pose with actress Taraji P. Henson who plays Cookie Lyon on the new television series “Empire.” The show premieres January 7 on FOX.

Fox Broadcasting Company hosted its Red Carpet event for “Empire,” the premiere show starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson at PUBLIC Chicago on Monday. I must say that I’ve been to a number of Red Carpet events, but this one is certainly at the top of my list.  Continue reading Event Recap: ‘Empire’ Red Carpet event does not disappoint