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LisaRaye Dishes on the Women and Second Season of 'Single Ladies'

To celebrate the return of VH1's hit series "Single Ladies" produced by Queen Latifah, VIBE caught up with one of the show's leading ladies LisaRaye McCoy, otherwise known as Keisha. She dabbles in her relationship with Malcolm, the new girl (Denise Vasi as Raquel) and what viewers can expect this season.

VIBE: The last time we saw your character Keisha, she was torn between so many different things. What does the second season hold for her?
LisaRaye: I think that Keisha is a bit more vulnerable. When we left off, she was torn between this man that she loves, and says loves her, has left her. She doesn’t know where he is. The FBI has been uncovering all this stuff that she knows nothing about from one of these pictures so it’s kinda like well did he play me? Keisha’s not the type of character to get played you know. So she feels torn: does she give him up? Does she get revenge? And you know the trials and tribulations that her and Malcolm go through this season is an up-and-down rollercoaster as it is very real in real life about relationships. So I think the real the stories are, the better they are for teaching viewers because then you can relate to them much easier.

Somebody said that there is one guy who can have your heart and come back at any time, all the time and that’s my Malcolm for me. Keisha gets a job. Besides playing the high stakes of poker and making her money that way, she gets a job. She wants to be more like in the norm of doing something and making money and I think that comes from Malcolm. He’s an entrepreneur and he starts his business with the family. She’s like ok I want more stability for my life. The relationship with the new character, Raquel, introducing her and where she comes from and how our relationship is and what she brings to the table and how Keisha helps her fit in with the other two characters, which is Omar and April, showing that friendship can supercede a lot when you have a support team and that’s what I really like a lot about it because it really bridges the gap between showing that you go through hard times, but you just can’t do it alone. So when you have close-knit friends that know you and have some things to bring to the table as far as helping you out with your ups and downs, it just makes it more easy to find the comedy in that, the funny in that and the real in that.

Right and that’s why so many viewers tune in because they can find a piece of themselves in each of the characters and storylines. But going back to Malcolm, how has working with D.B. really helped your character develop?
He is the best costar male that I ever worked with. Our chemistry is just undeniable. It’s easy and he said to me that I can bring out this quality in him that makes him feel very relaxed and for me, it’s just, you think about what type of man Malcolm is and you think who wouldn’t want that type of man? That’s also half of the battle won right there. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a nice, attractive brother too.

You also said that Keisha’s gonna be more vulnerable but also more focused in the sense that she has a new job. Is there anything else that’s gonna really add to her character that we didn’t see in the first season?
Well she’s dating. There’s some back and forth with her and Malcolm so she’s trying to, let’s see how I wanna say it, mask the pain of not having Malcolm or him playing games so I try to forget him but do you ever really forget them?

Now that’s the question. And you also mentioned a little bit about the new character Raquel that Denise (Vasi) will be playing. What else can you tell us about her character and what she’ll be bringing to the table now that Val (as played by Stacey Dash) is gone?
Raquel comes from a well to-do family that has always wanted her to marry the guy that is in the socialite kind of world, the predictable guy, the guy you’re supposed to be with and she’s just like I don’t want you to pick who I’m supposed to marry. I want to marry someone because he has my heart, not because he has a great job, we grew up together, not because he’s going to be well to-do, but because I love him. And she’s the kind of girl who grew up with the silver spoon so she knows how to horseback riding, she’s used to going out of town, she’s very cultured and she’s not too much of a hustler. She’s not that street girl so she wants to kind of get out and kind of feel like am I single too? So we introduce her with having a fiancée and getting married. So you have to see how long that’s gonna last, haha.

It always seems like as soon as someone’s about to have a happy ending, something twists and turns in the plot that makes you requestion everything and what’s been going on.
And I tell ya she has a lot of happy endings!

So basically the second season is going to show Raquel looking for “the one?”
I think the whole show is about dating and feeling free, the whole taboo saying that men can sleep with five different women and they’re still a man. A woman does it and we’re a whore so it’s a stereotype. It’s like when you’re dating, you’re going to go through a couple guys to find Mr. Right so do you let yourself feel bad about that because you met a guy you thought you were going to be with, in three weeks it’s over and you’re on to the next guy? Hell no! You keep going till you find him.

Amen to that and similarly, we found your co-star Charity who plays April at a turning point in her love life as well. What does the second season hold for her?
In the first season, April was married we saw that she had an affair and that tore her marriage up. And so now how does she reclaim and rebuild her life and that’s what she shows and she hasn’t been single since she was 18 years old. Very very new thing for her so I think that story lends to people who have been married and probably divorced at such an age that they thought they would never be alone at. So that’s a lot of demographic of people. So for her, it’s her getting her silliness on, her girlyness on, her high school on, she don’t know how to date really so she really leans on the other characters to say “Am I doing this right? Is he supposed to be saying these things to me? Am I supposed to be feeling this already?” And there’s no perfect man but there’s perfect attributes in every one.

And on the professional side, she’s an aspiring music executive. Will we see a promotion in her near future?
Yes because she takes over her life. When you become single, you have to assess where you are and where you wanna go and that’s what she’s done. She’s like you know what? I’ve had some dreams on my own that I’ve put on hold because I was married. Now I can explore all of those possibilities and so she really branches out, she really turns up the heat. And she’s so beautiful on-screen and she’s such a natural.

I feel that all of you have that something that you bring on the screen and are very natural at doing it. You each represent like a different phase of love but what do you think each character stands for in terms of being a strong, single woman?
I think what it brings everything that we’re looking for and trying to date in this day and age, in this generation. We deal with the cougar phase, like which one of us is going to be a cougar, like which one is going to date the younger guy and how young is he going to be? How young is too young then it’s like we deal with the married man situation. What if it’s a married man that’s separated or how about going through a divorce? Is he ready to commit again while he’s going through this divorce? What about that one night stand? What about that long-time love? What about that past love that comes back into your life? Hmmm. There’s so many ways to really twist the story of dating till the writer Stacy A. Littlejohn, she does an incredible job with the way that she writes these scripts. I don’t know how she holds all of that shit inside of her head. We do have a team of writers but she’s the show runner and it’s a bit of everybody’s life combined into this show that I think makes it that more exciting, to know what’s going to happen or how you’re going to handle certain situations.

Do you think, that with the movie “Think Like A Man" out in theatres that the men can find something valuable in this show too?
Absolutely. You know why? Because it’s an educating show as well with the process of dating. They need to get inside of our heads. You know the saying men are from Mars and women are from Venus? It’s true. We don’t think like they do and they don’t think. If we’re going to be as one, you got to know what I’m thinking. So when you watch this show, it shows you how each character deals with each situation separately. Maybe the way that you do it is the way that your boy does it. Maybe that’s how your father dealt with it back in the ‘80s but this is a current show, a hot, sexy show now so we’re showing you how we’re dealing with things now.

Do you think that younger, college girls can find something in this as well or is it more for the mature audiences only?
Ooooh. I’m a little biased because I am a mother. I’m the oldest one on the set and I’m the mother hen. So I have a daughter that’s in college and it came into mind that she could be doing all the things that we’re doing on the show, I wanna say oh my god. I don’t even want her to go through all the things these ladies are going through. I think this is something for them to look out for: for the guy that’s in the club, for the baller that’s in the club, the wall street guy that’s in the club. How will he approach them? How will she approach them? What’s appropriate – if he buys you a drink or if you buy dinner the first time. There’s a lot of qualities that show perhaps this is a different way of doing things in life.

Do you allow your daughter to watch the show at all?
Oh yeah, she loves it because mommy’s on the show. She says that I’m a MILF. She was like, “Mom, I think you’re hot.” And I was like oh you think I’m hot? You think I’m cool? And I love it because she keeps me current, keeps me fresh ‘cause I’m from another generation, haha.

Anything else we should look out for in the second season?
Fine, sexy co-stars! Eye candy!

The new season of "Single Ladies" will premiere on Memorial Day, May 28 on VH1, 9/8C.

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Issa Rae And Kumail Nanjiani Talk Their Black And Brown Dynamic In 'The Lovebirds'

As our latest op-ed points out, black romance films are having a moment, and The Lovebirds is adding a comedic twist to the matter. Ahead of the MRC/Paramount Pictures' premiere on streaming platform Netflix, VIBE correspondent Jazzie Belle sat down with the film's lead actors Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani to discuss the refreshing black and brown dynamic between their characters.

"I think it was just more exciting to me [to take part in a different romantic dynamic]. It was just that, and I didn't realize until later," said Rae. "Obviously with working with Kumail, it just like 'Oh, I haven't seen an on-screen pairing like this' and [I] was excited to play with him cosmetically. But yes, it's exciting to see a new and fresh dynamic in movies like this."

"When you see a portrayal of Pakistanis in American pop culture, generally, you're seeing certain lanes. You don't see us being light or funny or fun that often," said Nanjiani. "My family is very, very funny. My friends are very funny, so it wasn't even an attempt to try and show that [brown characters can be portrayed differently]. I just wanted to show how the people I know are. My mom and my dad are some of the funniest people I've ever met."

Watch the full interview above. The Lovebirds is streaming on Netflix now.

Interview's music bed provided by Gus.

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Lakeith Stanfield and Issa Rae in 'The Photograph'.
Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Opinion: Black Romance Films Are Having A Moment

It began with a kiss. Just one decade after the birth of cinema, vaudeville actors and dancers Gertie Brown and Saint Suttle gleefully embraced one another on film. They held hands and locked lips, giving the world its very first image of Black romance and intimacy on-screen. 1898's Something Good-Negro Kiss proved that love and affection was at the center of Black life. More than that, intimacy has always been essential to the survival of our people. Now, some 120 plus years later— cinema has finally reached the point where it has expanded to allow complex images of Black love, across time periods, between same-sex couples, and more recently, without being bogged down in trauma and pain.

Before Good-Negro Kiss was discovered in 2018, one of the earliest versions of Black romance in cinema was 1954's Carmen Jones starring Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge. Filmed in sweeping cinemascope, Carmen Jones follows a soldier named Joe (Belafonte) who gets so enamored with Carmen (Dandridge) that he becomes obsessive, even going AWOL to be with her. Though the film is sexy, and the tension between the actors is palpable — the romance in Carmen Jones is stilted to make white audiences comfortable. Hollywood was only willing to see Black intimacy through the lens of a renowned musical, wrapped in what ultimately becomes a tragedy. By the end of the film, Joe murders Carmen out of obsession and jealousy. Despite Belafonte and Dandridge's determination to showcase their sensuality, the material only allowed them to go so far. This sort of restraint would become the blueprint for generations of Black romance films.

Considering the utter chaos of the 1960s, it's a wonder that 1964's Nothing But A Man was ever made. A decade after Carmen Jones, Hollywood felt it was time to roll the dice on something different. Starring Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln as Duff Anderson, a railroad worker, and Josie Dawson, a Birmingham school teacher, respectively, Nothing But A Man isn't packaged for white audiences like the musicals of the previous decades. However, the burdens and pains of the couple's relationship, namely Duff's flakiness about commitment and the rage he feels as a Black man living in the South, fall on Josie's shoulders. Moving into the 1970s with films like Claudine and Mahogany, and certainly, in the 1990s and early 2000s, Black romance on-screen would either be shrouded in comedic relief, or the relationships became the sole burden of the Black woman to bear. Often, both tropes were present.

Still, Black romance stories were always evolving. The 1980s sparked something new for Black sensuality in the movies. Though these were still heteronormative depictions, (aside from 1984's The Color Purple), films made significant steps forward in terms of diverse images of Black people. However, they still held on to sexist ideals. 1986's She's Gotta Have It used a Black woman's rape as a form of character development while 1988's Coming to America — billed as a comedy, rewarded its protagonist for lying to his love interest. This would become the formula for the many Black romance movies that came to fruition in the 1990s. Cheating, lies, abandonment, lack of accountability, and trauma are all very present in some of our most beloved films. Poetic Justice, Love Jones, Jason's Lyric, The Best Man, and Love & Basketball, all have some form of struggle love embedded within the narrative — typically leaving Black women wielding the shorter end of the stick.

Poetic Justice is riddled in misogyny, The Best Man has a serial cheater as a leading man, and in Love Jones, the lack of communication and accountability from both partners is dizzying. Moreover, women are often asked to overlook cheating, lying, manipulation, or being friend-zoned to present themselves as worthy of their male partner by the film's conclusion. Yet, in our quest to connect and see brown bodies sensually and romantically in cinema, we hold these films close to our hearts, overlooking many of the toxic traits of the characters.

Despite the mega success of Black films in the 1990s— following the debut of Gina Prince-Bythewood's Love & Basketball in 2000, Black stories in cinema, aside from a few here and there, were all but erased in Hollywood. Throughout this near decade-long drought, prolific director Tyler Perry was one of the only voices in the game. However, the quality of Perry's storylines, as well as the portrayal of his female characters, have proven to be problematic. These characters are often emotionally broken, angry, and at times unhinged. If and when they do find love in movies like 2005's Diary of An Angry Black Woman, 2008's The Family That Preys and 2009's I Can Do Bad All By Myself, it's after they suffer some dire consequence or horrific punishment. This was particularly jarring during a time when there were hardly any other mainstream film images of Black people on-screen.

Thankfully, as we pressed forward into the second decade of the 21st century, Black filmmakers, writers, and producers were knocking down doors in Hollywood once again. In 2012, Ava DuVernay stepped onto the scene with her stellar film, Middle of Nowhere. The film follows Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi) grappling with the choice to leave her incarcerated husband, Derek (Omari Hardwick), to follow her dreams and possibly find new love with a bus driver named Brian (David Oyelowo). Though this was a significant shift in the way Black intimacy, sensuality, and romance was depicted in movies, the real transformation happened in 2016, with Barry Jenkins' Academy Award-winning, Moonlight.

Loosely based on screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney's real life, Moonlight puts the Black male coming-of-age story center stage. However, instead of honing in on the violence and despair of the inner city, like the hood homeboy films of the 1990s — Moonlight focuses on Black love between Black men. First, there is the relationship protagonist Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert) has with his father-figure, Juan (Mahershala Ali). Later, Chiron explores his queer identity with his classmate Kevin (Jharrel Jerome). The film is a sumptuous duality of hypermasculinity against lush sensuality. With this film, Jenkins effectively shattered our expectations regarding Black intimacy on-screen, while unraveling why Black love in all of its varied prisms deserves a spotlight in cinema.

Moonlight would pave the way for 2019's Queen & Slim and 2020's The Photograph. Two vastly different films, one— a harrowing dramatic thriller, centering Queen (Joe Turner-Smith ) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) who are forced together by circumstance. A dull Tinder date paves the way for a standoff with a racist police officer who eventually lays dead, prompting our leads to run for their lives.

Penned by Lena Waithe and directed by Melina Matsoukas — the film is almost an antithesis of what we've seen before when it comes to Black romance in the movies. Instead of the tried and true formula of a meet-cute, conflict, and resolution, Queen & Slim unites a Black man and a Black woman through Black radicalism. They come to lean on one another, inadvertently building a foundation when there is no one else either of them can trust or turn to. The weight of their relationship rests equally on both of their shoulders, as they become each other’s ride or die.

In contrast to Queen & Slim, writer/director Stella Meghie's The Photograph, is a much-deserved presentation of soft Black romance, without the trauma or brutality. The film follows Mae (Issa Rae), an art curator grappling with the death of her estranged mother, and Michael (Lakeith Stanfield) — a journalist who crosses paths with Mae's late mother's work. The film follows the typical romance formula, but the conflict and resolution aren't gut-wrenching or emotionally tumultuous. Mae and Micheal deal with real-life issues without being battered or broken. Both parties —like the lead characters in Queen & Slim, share the weight of their missteps and miscommunication. The Photograph is a recognition of straight-forward Black sensuality and love without the heaviness of Black pain. Despite all of this, the film has garnered mixed reviews. Since there isn’t any toxicity between the main characters or much comedy in The Photograph, it appears foreign to us. As a community, we’ve been conditioned to only recognize Black Love shrouded in chaos. Presently, Black women in particular, are asking Black people to look beyond archaic examples of love that are rooted in sexism, misogynoir, and rigid gender roles. Instead, Meghie presents two grown people who must hold themselves and each other accountable to have a chance at a loving and modern relationship.

Black women are also getting the opportunity to be seen as romantic leading women, in the broader scope of cinema alongside leading men from different cultures. Following the footsteps of the 2006 film Something New, where Sanaa Lathan's leading man was Australian actor Simon Baker, Issa Rae will become a leading lady once more in Netflix's The Lovebirds. The Insecure actress stars as Leilani, opposite Pakistani-American actor Kumail Nanjiani. Rae is a woman who is grappling with her strained relationship with her boyfriend, Jibran (Nanjiani). The couple's commitment to one another is hilariously put to the test when they suddenly find themselves in the middle of a chaotic murder mystery.

Black film, and undoubtedly Black romance film, has come a long way since that very first kiss was captured on-screen in 1898. With more women filmmakers at the helm, diverse projects, and the current wave of Black cinema in Hollywood, Black romance movies have the opportunity to give the next generations more nuanced depictions of connection, sensuality, sex, and intimacy. With films like Queen & Slim, Moonlight, The Photograph, and The Lovebirds — we have witnessed Black people from all walks of life and sexualities dive into romantic relationships with love, accountability, and self-awareness, which are truly the ultimate relationship goals.

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Black Thought And Questlove Secure First-Look Deal With Universal

Amir “Questlove” Thompson and Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter landed a three-year first-look deal with Universal. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the founders of the Legendary Roots Crew will create scripted and unscripted content for Universal Television Alternative Studio and Universal TV under the duo's Two One Five Entertainment imprint.

“This deal is very important to us as we've been content producers and storytellers for our entire career,” Questlove said in a statement on Wednesday (May 13). “A significant investment from Universal Television Alternative Studio and Universal Television in our vision allows us to share these stories on a much larger scale. Tarik and I see this as the next chapter to our careers, and we are very involved in the entire process. I'm directing, Tarik is writing and we both are producing.”

The deal extends the Roots decade-long relationship with NBC, first on Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night talk show in 2009, and serving as the house band for NBC’s Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, which premiered in 2014. Questlove is also music director for the Tonight Show.

“Many of our initial projects have been music-centric content, and one of our goals is to become the premiere hub for music storytelling — a safe space for these stories to be shared across a variety of platforms,” added Black Thought. “Eventually we will expand outside of music with our stories. However, as we all know, every story has a rhythm and Two One Five Entertainment will harness that rhythm and create well-produced, compelling content.”

Two One Five Entertainment's roster of projects include the AMC docuseries, Hip Hop Songs that Shook America, along with Black Woodstock, chronicling the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. The company has also had a hand in the Broadway productions, Black No More and Soul Train the Musical.

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