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.”

American Horror Story

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Be our guest and watch all of your nightmares come true! American Horror Story (AHS; Ryan Murphy & Brad Falchuk, 2011) is one of the scariest TV shows currently airing. Recognized for its superb plot, writing, and acting, AHS has received nineteen awards and 67 nominations including Prime Time Emmy Awards and Golden Globes. Since its debut, it has received raved reviews from critics and audiences who have felt a sense of insanity from the show’s content of screams, sex and psychopaths. Currently in its third season AHS takes a life of its own with an emphasis on new characters and scenarios. The thread that connects each season is the miniseries’ common goal: to frighten.

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Quite fittingly, AHS has been broadcasted on FX since its US debut in October 2011. A number of clever advertising campaigns were launched including a “House Call,” which gave the opportunity for a viewer to be chosen to meet a character face to face. These strategies are just one of the reasons viewers flock to their televisions every week! The milieu of actors who have graced the silver screen for this show including Jessica Lange, Denis O’Hare, Frances Conroy and Zachary Quinto, convincingly bring horror of the script to life – making it difficult to miss a week of this show!

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Season one of AHS was set in a cursed house where the dead and the living resided in disturbed harmony. Despite the horror, refined photography skills captured the beautiful scenery, one of the highlights of this season. This was the ironic backdrop where the Harmon family moved into an old house with the hopes of repairing a broken marriage and a suicidal daughter. Unfortunately the house itself was grim. Sharing an abode with its deceased previous owners proved to be deadly.

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The second season was set in a mental hospital from 1964, where patients faced torture, pain and prejudice. The abandoned building still held all of its past misery and the ghosts of this horrific institution. A special guest appearance from Maroon 5 vocalist Adam Levine was short lived, as he couldn’t even survive past the first episode. The rest of the season displayed the creepy stories of demon possessions, alien manipulation, and human injustice – a scary combination.

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Presently, season three brings us back to enchanted places where witches try to escape the persecution of the witch-hunting era. Always bringing a polemic sphere from the past, this season involves voodoo, incest, and the brutality of slavery. Oscar winner Kathy Bates, and oscar nominated actresses Gabourey Sidibe and Angela Bassett,  together play three amazing witches with special powers and a horrifying future! It’s impossible to miss one single episode, after all, we are all so eager to know who will take the coveted role of the Supreme – the most powerful of them all, currently being played by the producers’ muse Jessica Lange! Find out which witch will rise to the top!

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Inspired by classic movies like Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Shining (1980), American Horror Story’s opening sequence developed by Prologue (also developed The Walking Dead and Se7en) has original music and pictures that explain its frightening purpose.

You may recognize the show’s creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuck from Glee, but few people know that their desire to create American Horror Story came before that epic show. Ryan and Brad wanted free reigns for their petrifying creativity. Their purpose is to SCARE you with each episode of AHS – and they never let us down! Your Wednesday nights will never be more frightening.

Written By Clarissa Mesquita, from Paraíba, Brazil. This lovely lady is addicted to TV shows and movies, and enjoys fitness, fun and photography. She also loves pets and participates in an NGO to save homeless animals. Clarissa graduated with a degree in Social Communication from the Federal University of Paraíba, Brazil, and is amazed with her new yellow brick road!

 

Carrie

Carrie

Carrie, directed by Kimberly Peirce, follows the Stephen King tale of young girl (played by Chloe Grace Moritz) whose been a social pariah all of her life, mostly due to the unique and heavy Christian homeschooling with which her clinically insane mother has raised her. Eventually though, Carrie must attend normal, “scary,” public high school where she is predictably ridiculed and tormented for being so weird. One day Carrie gets her menstrual cycle in the ladies locker room and has absolutely no idea what it is since her mother never told her, believing even having a period is a sin. Carrie she has a total meltdown much to the delight of the wicked girl-bullies who throw tampons at her and videotape her pathetic, very bloody meltdown. Her life in public school is anything but pleasant. When Carrie discovers that she has telekinetic powers things begin to turn around for her, sometimes in interesting ways, but mainly in a horrifying, murderous, and destructive manner.

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To anyone who’s heard of Carrie, these details shouldn’t be momentous spoilers. The scene of Carrie at prom from the 1976 classic is one of the most famous scenes in movie history – just youtube it. The remake takes the bucket-of-blood bath to whole new extremes, showing you the blood falling not once, not twice, but three times so you can absorb its effects from every angle before it settles into Carrie’s perfectly pink dress. From there the destruction is terrifying and beautiful – and Moretz does an incredible job of becoming an entirely new Carrie; covered in blood and possessed she cowers through the halls of high school so demonically its hard to remember the shy, cowering girl from the beginning of the film. The famous prom scene is amped up in volume by heavy use of CGI. Though its easy to predict where certain things are heading, who will live and who will die, I found myself clutching my jacket and dipping down further into my seat as high schooler’s were flung against glass doors and sent ablaze in flames. Many say that Moretz is a bit too beautiful to play the awkward, pimply faced Carrie referenced in King’s novel – but I found her most suitable as a Carrie-turned-mass-murderer, even if her natural good looks detracted from her performance as an awkward teenage outcast.

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Overall, it was the cast of Carrie that really stood out – mainly Moretz and her mother, played expertly by Julianne Moore. Moore is both terrifying and pathetic, a mother whose own misaligned beliefs lead to shutting Carrie in a tiny closet to pray and continually physically abusing her when she questions her methods. Moore is guilt-addled and terrified, stoically firm in her beliefs in God but totally unaware of how to reconcile those with raising a teenage girl. The result is fantastic, and even if the religious imagery is laid on a little bit thick, Moore finds a way to play terrifying without the over-the-top grotesque that typically accompanies most horror film villains.

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While I found the film highly entertaining, and definitely scary, I did feel as though it didn’t quite know what it wanted to be. At times, its tone almost felt campy and surreal – self aware of its own bizarre plot twists and humorous high school caricatures. Other times however, the film felt morbidly dark and uneasy, wrought with religious imagery and even relevant cyber-bullying questions. Committing to either one of these extremes would have provided a much more satisfying movie-going experience – and probably added a new dimension to the remake that wasn’t present in its 1976 predecessor. As it is, Carrie feels scary, entertaining, and well-acted, just not necessarily new. As the pigs blood dries on Carries face and settles into the crevices of her eyelids you sit back and brace yourself for the inevitable doom that you know is coming.

If you’re brave enough check out the trailer and then go see the film and tell us what you think!
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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 Happenings: 10/13/2013-10/19/2013

San Francisco

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Who: 43rd Annual Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival: The World Pumpkin Capital of Half Moon Bay celebrates its bountiful fall harvest and autumn splendor with a special display of gigantically enormous, heavyweight champion pumpkins, three stages of smashing entertainment, non-stop live music, the Great Pumpkin Parade, a bone-chilling Haunted House, homestyle foods, expert pumpkin carver Farmer Mike sculpting a monster 1,200+ pound pumpkin into a one-of-a-kind masterpiece and more!”

When: Saturday, October 19, 2013 9:00 am – Sunday, October 20, 2013 5:00 pm

Where: Downtown Half Moon Bay, Main Street, Half Moon Bay, CA 94019

Cost: Free

Scotty Boy

Who: Scotty Boy + Fyasko: “Voted one of the Top 10 DJ’s in America the past 3 years by DJ Times Magazine and “Best House DJ” in Las Vegas 2010 & 2011, DJ Scotty Boy has been rocking dance floors across the country for over 20 years. Scotty Boy’s signature style of “Electro Mash” or as he calls it, “Las Vegas Mash Up” has made him a staple in the dance music industry, and one of the most sought after DJ’s in the nightclub scene.”

When: Saturday, October 19, 2013 10:00 pm – Sunday, October 20, 2013 2:00 am

Where: 85 Campton Pl., San Francisco, CA 94108

Cost: $0-$30

Los Angeles

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Who: Skylight Fall Film Festival: “While we prepare the galleries of the Annenberg Space for Photography for our upcoming exhibit, The Power of Photography: National Geographic 125 Years, we encourage you to take part in our Skylight Studios Fall Film Screenings.”

When: Saturday, September 28, 2013 11:00 am – Sunday, October 20, 2013 5:00 pm

Where: Annenberg Space for Photography 2000 Ave Of The Stars, Los Angeles, CA 90067

Cost: Free

Pink Party

Who: The Pink Party: “Each September, fashion meets philanthropy as pink-adorned and-accessorized guests and celebrities join forces to raise awareness of women’s cancers. Style guru Elyse Walker established the Pink Party, now in its eighth year, to benefit Cedars-Sinai Women’s Cancer Program at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute.”

When: Saturday, October 19, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Where: Hangar: 8 Santa Monica Airport, 3100 Donald Douglas, Loop North, Santa Monica, CA 904005

Cost: Varies

Houston

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Who: Glam Shop Girls Fall into Fashion: “Glam Shop Girls will put together an over the top event that will bring out local and non-local beauty, fashion, and lifestyle vendors for a one day pop-up shop seeking product exposure and brand recognition in a sophisticated and refined atmosphere.”

When: October 16, 2013 6:30 pm – 10:00 pm

Where: Mr. Peeples, 1911 Bagby St., Houston, TX 77002

Cost: $10-$25

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Who: Soul Night at Hotel Sorella with Roxy Roca: “Time to throw down in H-town! ROXY ROCA lays down the Dynamite Texas Soul for you in the Monnalisa Bar at Hotel Sorella from 10pm until midnight. FREE SHOW!”

When: Saturday, October 19, 2013 10:00 pm

Where: 800 Sorella Ct., Houston, TX 77024

Cost: Free

New York City 

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Who: The Smith Street Fest: “Smith Street Classic is a cocktail competition between some of Smith Street’s foremost cocktail bars and restaurants. Each restaurant is tasked with creating their own signature cocktail for the event comprised of Green Hook Gin and Lejay Lagoute Liqueur.”

When: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 12:00 pm – Thursday, October 31, 2013 11:30 pm

Where: Dassara Brooklyn Ramen, 271 Smith St., Brooklyn, NY 11231

Cost: $35.00

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Who: Empire Drive-In: “Experience another kind of drive-in movie theater. Climb in and out of 60 cars reclaimed from a New York junkyard as you watch a live show or film projected on a big screen.”

When: Friday, October 4, 2013 10:00 am – Sunday, October 20, 2013 10:00 pm

Where: 47-01 111th Street, Queens, NY 11368

Cost: $5-$15

Atlanta

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Who: Feline Film Festival: “The Feline Film Festival showcases the best in feline cinema from around the globe. One film will receive special recognition and win the Pawe d’Or!  The Feline Film Festival is a benefit event for Lifeline Animal Project (and a bastion for bad puns).”

When: Saturday, October 19, 2013 7:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Where: Studioplex on Auburn, 659 Auburn Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30312

Cost: $10.00

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Who: 3rd Annual Naturally Pretty – “Natural Goes Glam”: We are excited to announce the 3rd Annual Naturally Pretty event hosted by Vlogger Natural Chica and Celebrity Makeup Artist MiMi J, benefiting the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children. This year’s theme is “Natural Goes Glam” and we celebrate with a fashion show featuring designers Rafael Cox, Avnah Long, and Natt Taylor.

When: Thursday, October 17, 2013 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Where: The Defoor Centre, 1710 Defoor Ave NW, Atlanta, GA 30318

Cost: $15-$20

The Walking Dead

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When seen from afar, it is easy to assume that The Walking Dead (Frank Darabont, 2010) is only but a one-dimensional action-packed zombie show that sensationalizes blood, guts and guns – something better to leave for the boys to watch. For those who have not watched the show, don’t cling too tightly to your zombie bias because you’re missing out on a new realm of television, one with avant-garde film-like qualities and on the edge of your seat suspense. The Walking Dead is in its own category, proving literally to be the best show yet in this golden age of television, with the season 3 finale receiving 12.4 million viewers and making it the most-watched drama series telecast in basic cable history.

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Action-packed and full of flesh-eating horror, this series is so much more than an ordinary zombie story, The Walking Dead truly showcases a complex and strategic plot, dynamic themes, evolving characters and relationships, interesting and realistic stylistic choices and syntax, all served up with a big side of gory goodness through its exceptional special effects. The show does an impeccable job keeping the viewer in complete suspense as they are positioned to identify with the surviving group, who must fight for their lives. The Walking Dead is as impeccable as a show could be, congealing the excitement of an action-packed blockbuster with powerful themes, one of which focuses an intellectual and in-depth examination of the inherent qualities that make us human.

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Ready to embark on its fourth season this October 13th 2013 on AMC, The Walking Dead is a horror drama television series that premiered in 2010, written, produced and directed by Frank Darabont. The AMC television show series is based on comic books that go by the same name, written by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard. The series has made itself known on a national and global level, winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series Drama and the Writers Guild of America Award amongst many others. The series stars: Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes), Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori Grimes), Steven Yuen (Glenn Rhee), Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon), Scott Wilson (Hershel Greene), Lauren Cohan (Maggie Greene), Chandler Riggs (Carl Grimes), Danai Gurira (Michonne) and David Morrissey (the Governor).

The Walking Dead focuses on the survival of a small group in their quest to find a safe haven in a post-apocalyptic world where any type of infrastructure is seemingly depleted and humans roam free amongst predatory zombies, lurking at every turn. From episode to episode, the dilemmas the group faces reveal the inherent struggle to keep one’s humanity alive in a cruel and death-ridden world. The viewer is placed in the shoes of the surviving group, lead by sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), who are faced with the daily battle of strategically avoiding the zombies, or ‘walkers’, who now dominate the decaying landscape. With limited resources, the group not only learn to trust one another, but are forced to take on a certain ‘survival of the fittest’ type mentality, as each character fights for their life and only those who are best adapted to the current conditions are able to survive.

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Each character is forced to negotiate their moral code, themes revolving around the inherent good versus the evil of all men, are in constant play. We see the transformation of Carl Grimes, a young boy and the son of Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes, as he evolves from an innocent boy to a young solider – solidified after Carl Grimes unnecessarily shoots a young Woodbury boy who tries to escape danger. When confronted about the situation later Carl said, “I did what I had to do.” One can see that Carl’s sense of morality is effected by his experience in a man-eat-man world. This sparks the though, if put into a certain situations, like a zombie apocalypse, would we too negotiate our humanity in order to adapt? A decision that would result in the compromising of our purity and inherent goodness, as well as the unveiling of the inherent evil in all.

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From season 1 through 3 the viewer witnesses the progression of this group, from defenseless struggling survivors in constant search for a sanctuary, to tough zombie-slaying warriors who are quickly learning to ruthlessly defend their ground both against the dead and living. From the onset of the show, the group is depicted as constantly on the run, forced to uproot at a second’s notice due to unpredictable zombie herds (usually caused by a source of noise such as a gunshot, car alarm or an air plane drawing the zombies together in large groups or herds). However, it is no long before they begin to stand their ground in their makeshift prison home – forced to defend themselves against the power struggles of other living humans, as demonstrated by the Governor and his ‘army’ in season 3.

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The Walking Dead uses the zombies in a dynamic way, serving a deeper purpose than just for the horror and thrill of threatening the characters and exciting the audience. From the onset of the show the zombies and their evil were the focus of the story, but as the series evolved and the characters became more skilled to deal with the zombies, the viewer begins to notice a shift from season 2 into season 3, as the zombies fade into the background and we begin to focus on the human wars underway between the group and another survivors in Woodbury. This focus on the human evils with the zombies floating in the backdrop offers a clear and direct contrast between the two.

The juxtaposition between the zombies and humans poses the question, who are the real monsters? Them or us? As killing, bloodshed and defending one’s life against both the dead and living in an unstructured chaotic world is now an every-day affair, the viewer is forced to examine and take a closer look at this theme of our human condition and all its good and evil depth. In a recent essay deconstructing the show, Scott Elliott wrote, “It’s a caricature of the dangers we face—underlining the reason we have to stick together. Because as in real life as much as The Walking Dead, there are two kinds of dangers: external forces and forces from within. We have to fight the pride, violence and injustice we see in the world as much as we have to fight internalizing these ugly powers ourselves.”

Along with the show’s thematic depth, the verisimilitude of reality in the show’s many components have also helped make the series a complete success. The zombies are depicted not only in the way they look, but their meandering and stumbling walk is depicted as all decayed and emaciated corpses rightfully should be. The camera angles deny any unrealistic choices, leaving most of the angles at eye-level, as the lighting is almost always natural, transporting the viewer into the gritty everyday life of the survivors. Ultimately the ‘mise en scène’ lends itself to a tone of mundane post-apocalyptic life, sensationalizing only when necessary – in the department of special effects.

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When this show ends, I might never recover. Please be mindful that this show contains violent content of which may be intense for some viewers. Don’t forget to tune in this Sunday, Oct. 13 at 9/8c. for the premiere of The Walking Dead season four!

Written By Chelsea Clishem: From San Diego, California to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this bicoastal girl loves all things travel, beauty, nutrition, fitness, fashion and entertainment. Chelsea graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara where she began her journey to be an entertainment journalist. Chelsea drops the word ‘fabulous’ on the regular and believes it’s ‘okay’ to freak out with good music and fashion!

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