Black Hollywood History

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Celebrities in Black Hollywood are on fire! This talented class of artists continue to perfect their craft and fight for recognition among their peers.  African Americans undoubtedly contribute their creativity to the entertainment of the world. But, before modern day superstars there were great musicians and actors that paved the way – making it possible for us to enjoy the sensations we all know as household names. Cheers to African American entertainment greats in music, television, and film!

Music

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Music

Before musical icons such as Beyonce, Whitney Houston, and Michael Jackson topped the charts there were a host of African American artists who paved the way with their music talents. We may be used to these aformentioned artists toping the charts but when Rock & Roll, Jazz, and Blues were king artists such as The Platters broke racial barriers as the first to reach the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for their song “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” in 1958.  Proceeding them were the Mills Brothers “Paper Doll” in 1943 as the first African AMerican artists to hit #1 on the Billboard charts and in 1950 Nat King Cole become the first African American solo singer to have a #1 hit on the Billboard charts for his song, “Mona Lisa.”
Perhaps the biggest accolade of any musician, is a Grammy win. Though modern day couple Beyonce and hubby Jay Z are two of the leading African Americans with the most Grammy wins, in 1959 Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie became the first African-American Grammy Award winners. Ella won Best Female Vocal Performance for “But Not For Me” and Best Individual Jazz Performance for “Ella Swings Lightly.” For his role as a musical composer in the film Duke won two Grammys for Best Sound Track Album – Background Score from a motion picture and Best Musical Composition.
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Television

Many of us love leading ladies such as Kerry Washington and Gabrielle Union of Scandal and Being Mary Jane respectively. Their shows and talent have won accolades during this award season but before HD, DVR, and Internet television, African American actors paved the way for these lovelies to shine on the silver screen.  In 1939, Ethel Waters became the first African to star in her own television show, The Ethel Waters Show which aired on NBC.  Bob Howard was the first African American to star in a regularly scheduled network television series, The Bob Howard Show in 1948. That same year Amanda Randolph starred in the television show, The Laytons. Several years later, before his widely known success on The Cosby Show, Bill Cosby became the first African American to star in a network drama, I Spy, for which he would later be the first African American male to be nominated for and win a Primetime Emmy Award.

As a television actor, winning an Emmy is a golden moment where you are recognized by peers for your talent and artistry. Before Halle Berry, Lauretta Divine, and even Bill Cosby won their awards, African American actors proceeding them paved the way. Notably, Diahann Carroll was the first African American to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Comedy Series in 1969. She was nominated for her role in Julia in which she became the first African American to play lead in a role outside of being a domestic. She won a Golden Globe for this same performance. Later, in 1979 Ester Rolle became the first African American and person to win an Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Miniseries.

Film

2013 marked an incredible year for Black films such as Fruitvale Station, 12 Years a Slave, and Mandella. Before big time actors such as Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Idris Elba, and Halle Berry commanded millions of dollars for their Blockbuster and award winning films, African American cinema stars years before led the way. Ethel Waters was a prominent actress with roles in such films as Pinky. Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee led the way for power couple movie stars like Will and Jada with their decades of film success. Remarkably, not only have African American actors blazed trails in their roles in front of the camera but also behind the scene. Before independent directors such as newcomer Ryan Coogler, or veterans such as John Singleton, and Spike Lee there was Oscar Micheaux. Widely credited as the first African American director, Micheaux made his cinematic debut with the silent film production of his famed book, Homesteaders in 1919. Before there was Tyler Perry Studios, Oscar founded the  Micheaux Film and Book Company to independently produce his own feature films and books.

The success of a movie star is crystalized by recognition from the Academy Award. Denzel Washington and Halle Berry  both made history with their 2001 Oscar wins. Before these greats were African American actors whose performances demanded the attention and recognition of the Academy.  In 1940, Hattie McDaniel was the first African American to win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in her role in the 1939 classic film, Gone with the Wind. In 1954 Dorothy Dandridge became the first African American women to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Carmen Jones. Halle Berry would later win an Emmy, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Award for her role as Dorothy Dandridge. Sidney Poitier won an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1964 for his role in Lilies of the Field. During Denzel Washington’s own Oscar acceptance speech he stated about Poitier, “I’ll always be following in your footsteps, there is nothing I would rather do.”

JOBS the film

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Admittedly, I knew very little about Steve Jobs before going in to see the new film, JOBS based on his life. Of course I knew who he was, I’d seen him talk at World Wide Development Conferences and picked up the book on his life (never to actually delve into the pages). I heard rumblings of his unfair labor practices and was, like everyone else, blinded by media coverage of his untimely death and fascinated by his refusal of anything non-holistic. He was a name associated with a brand that infiltrated every space of my technological self, and yet I knew very little about who he was and why he did what he did.

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JOBS, directed by Joshua Michael Stern and featuring a surprisingly serious Ashton Kutcher as the titular character, did little to illuminate my knowledge of the man behind the laptop on which I write this review. The film begins with the reveal of the iPod and then takes us all the way back to Jobs’ non-college years at Reed where he dropped out as an undergraduate, but continued to sit in on classes. We follow him from early days at Atari, to co-founding Apple Computers with Steve Wozniak (played incredibly well by Josh Gad) in his father’s basement, to becoming a computer megastar. Of course there are trials and tribulations, bumps that send Jobs scurrying away from his own company and eventually bring him back. Overall these interesting and complicated transitions, integral to Jobs’ own personal philosophy as a visionary, seem glossed over. Even moments of drastic change for Jobs feel so perfectly laid out and anticipatory that their drama is thwarted.

In choosing to focus solely on the major company-centric moments that lead up to Jobs’ rise and fall and rise again as Apple’s CEO, the film skims over the personal details about Jobs that feel so incredibly needed for the story’s heart and emotional foundation. A pregnancy scare with an old girlfriend followed by her eventual replacement by a blonder and skinnier wife provides a glimpse into Jobs’ life beyond the office walls. It is evident that he is a workaholic with no time for himself, or his family, or his love life, but this reviewer find is hard to believe that Steve Jobs’ own harsh personality and penchant for revolution (often on the brink of insanity) appeared out of thin air.

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To the films favor, for the most part it treats Jobs as a flawed man, an anti-hero whose behavior makes your cringe but whose philosophy feels marvelous and brilliant. It does not shy away from showing his defects as a growing man, as an absent father or a bad friend – it puts them on fair display.

By the end of the film, while the words of Jobs blast over a montage of the people who he’s met, and some whom he has taken advantage of, his words feel idealized, his dialogue feels so stale, so recorded. Though Kutcher manages to carry the character with a marginal amount of grace, and though many of his angry moments feel real, there is a wishful desire to hear authentic dialogue from the technological giant. His sly Jobs smile, however, is pretty spot on.

For the little knowledge I have of Steve Jobs, I do know he was interesting; flawed, brutal, antisocial and brilliant – some would even say, a revolutionary. JOBS the film however, delivers a nominal amount of the former leaving its audience with poignant opinions.

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Written By: Sarah Dunn who is 25 and has been living in New York City for the past 8 years. A graduate of Columbia Film Studies program, she is a film-fanatic, trailer-obsessed lover of movies, and currently works as a post-production supervisor for Treehouse Pictures. She’s been known to comb through entire TV series on Netflix in a day, knows far too much about feminist film theory, and consistently prefers to dump her M&Ms inside her popcorn rather than eat them separately.

The Spectacular Now

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As I was leaving the theater after seeing The Spectacular Now, directed by James Ponsoldt, I heard a group of 20-something girls talking about the film with a mix of confusion and curiosity. “I thought it was supposed to be a teen drama, but then things got…real,” one of the girls proclaimed.

Such a simple statement perfectly encompasses the joy of watching this film–a seemingly straightforward coming of age drama, which slowly reveals layers that render it both emotionally profound, and incredibly relatable. The film, based on a novel of the same name by Tim Tharp, follows a young man, Sutter Keely played expertly by Miles Teller. Sutter is the guy in high school that we all knew (and maybe even dated) but would never consider beyond senior year: silly, interested in maintaining a good buzz, and steadfastly unserious. After being unexpectedly dumped by his generically popular girlfriend, Sutter parties himself right onto the lawn of fellow high-schooler Aimee Finicky, played by Shailene Woodley. The two are quickly drawn together even though they seem to be on completely opposite sides of the social spectrum. Aimee is interested mainly in science fiction and bound for college in Philadelphia, while Sutter is resolutely stuck in the illusion of a “spectacular now” which cracks and fades as the movie chugs along and Sutter is confronted with the inevitability of having to live beyond the whiskey shots in front of him.

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The strength of the film, and the reason why it ends up feeling so refreshingly real, is in its perfectly drawn leads, Sutter and Aimee. These are two eighteen year olds who look, talk, and act, their age; their dialogue consistently awkward and unharmonious. They fumble over each other’s attempts at flirting, giggle entirely too much, and proclaim love almost immediately. Their physical contact with each other is either too delicate or overbearing, devoid of the too-perfectly orchestrated chemistry that belies most sexual encounters on screen. These are teenagers, after all, and they feel like people you knew, people you probably were.

Woodley and Teller have elevated these characters into the realm of the imperfectly real, and both show incredible promise as young actors to keep an eye on. Teller strikes you immediately as most comfortable in the comedic, but he hits the movie’s low points with elegance and restraint. Woodley, fresh faced and naïve is completely beautiful and even tragic in her optimistic belief in promises made by a boy who can’t remember to hang his mothers shirts up to dry.

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As the film progresses we delve into the reasons behind Sutter’s insistence-on-the-now persona, punctuated most clearly by a visit with his absent father, who Sutter chooses to believe is a pilot but is clearly a professional alcoholic (played by Kyle Chandler). Here is a man whose entire life has been spent living-in-the-moment to the point where he’s lost everyone and everything around him, and forces his son to pay for pitchers of beer while he takes home a woman he meets at a bar.

The encounter is just one of many that begins with promise, and ends in disappointment – and is ultimately emblematic of the films beauty. It isn’t trying to insist that anything is perfect, that anything works out, that anyone, or any couple, is special. It just is. It is a glimpse into lives that intersect, bounce off of each other, depart, and then maybe converge again. But just maybe.

The film forces us to question, to doubt, to consider Aimee and Sutter as real people who exist beyond the ninety minutes we share with them. Of course we want them to be together, of course we’d like them to ride off into the sunset (or onto the bus to Philadelphia in this case), and live happily ever after, but we also have a nagging feeling that maybe that isn’t the best thing for these characters. We’ve already seen that story, and this film just isn’t it. In fact, by the time the credits roll it’s easy to see that The Spectacular Now isn’t a story at all. It’s a window.

Written By: Sarah Dunn who is 25 and has been living in New York City for the past 8 years. A graduate of Columbia Film Studies program, she is a film-fanatic, trailer-obsessed lover of movies, and currently works as a post-production supervisor for Treehouse Pictures. She’s been known to comb through entire TV series on Netflix in a day, knows far too much about feminist film theory, and consistently prefers to dump her M&Ms inside her popcorn rather than eat them separately.

Préity Üupala, Actor, Writer and Brand Ambassador

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Préity Üupala, the words unique, sophisticated, intelligent and haute come to mind at the utterance of her name – although after getting to know her, daring, courageous and invincible strike a chord. It is a rare find that you meet a person who truly lives life to the fullest, with determination in place of worry. Most people seek answers to the questions that life presents, in the case of Préity, the journey comes first. Beauty is her natural charm, but there is certainly more than meets the eye.

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Half Indian and Portuguese, born in Dubai, Préity’s name, pronounced “Pree-Tee,” is most fitting. After living in France for a year, her family moved to Sydney, Australia, where she continued her education and graduated with two degrees, in IT and Marketing. Following the completion of her undergraduate studies, Préity joined the corporate world as an investment banker, but it was not long after that a deep sense of dissatisfaction pushed her into a new direction. While doors began to close, the universe provided guidance and she began to listen.

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Through her struggles Préity started to the explore the world of mediation and after attending a seminar she began to wonder, “what do I want to do with my life…what is my life about…what is my gift to the world?” Questions she had not previously pondered. In a moment of honesty, Préity realized that her passions lie in the arts, and while the pathway through the corporate world provided a safety net, it was not fulfilling.

Spirituality is the cornerstone of Préity’s methodology of life. She recalls the moment of which things begin to shift for her – a shift that began internally. “I think the universe works in miraculous ways, at least for me or maybe because I was making a career change. All the universe was waiting for, was for me to genuinely and sincerely declare what I wanted to do, to be honest with myself, to state this is who I am and this is what I want to do. Once I did that, “boom” almost the very next day doors opened.”

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Over the period of a year, Préity found herself studying at one of the top acting schools in Australia, working as a model, actress and host, and signed to one of the best agents in the country. The icing on the cake came when she was awarded a scholarship that she had not even applied for – one that lent her the opportunity to come to Los Angeles.

Préity was a National Finalist in Miss Earth Australia 2009, where she was the first candidate of Indian or Portuguese origin to be a finalist in the competition since its beginning. The winner of Miss Bollywood in Australia 2009, in 2011 she became an overnight star in China when she was awarded 3 film awards at the Asia Pacific Film Festival. Currently holding the title of Miss India International AP 2012, with a number of achievements under her belt success is a natural occurrence for Préity.

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Her mission is to inspire and empower people through her work and her presence – her work in film, writing, and imaginary and her presence as in her “being.” “I want to use beauty and glamour for a purpose,” spoken like a true U Blush Woman. As Préity is currently working on her first autobiographical novel you can look forward to a piece of literature filled with comedic stories fueled by luck and chance, spiritual guidance and bold adventures.

Believing that “you are who you think you are,” Préity makes only conscious decisions, following her heart and only going where she is intuitively guided. Growing into the woman she wants to be, Préity encourages others to be their “authentic true self,” though this is not the easiest thing to do it is well worth the pay off!

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As an avid traveler, Préity has been to countless cities – Paris, Cannes, and Mykonos all in the last two months. In her spare time salsa dancing, reading, yoga and astrology are just a few of her favorite activities. At first glance she may seem like a girly girl but she loves to plays sports and does not mind getting her hands a little dirty.

Over the year Préity has shot two pilots, one of which is an original reality show, where she will have the opportunity to share her day to day life with the world. In the coming months she will also be on set shooting a film in London.

In the meantime, check out a day in the life of Préity Üupala on her personal websitefacebook, twitter, and youtube.

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