Teyonah Parris Teyonah Parris

Vixen Chat: Teyonah Parris Talks 'Mad Men,' Embarrassing First Impression and Natural Hair

Seeing a Black woman on television is nothing new, but watching a brown beauty navigate through the Mad Men mix is an exciting event.

Teyonah Parris just so happens to be that breath of fresh air.

Playing Dawn Chambers, Don Draper's new secretary, Parris is a gleaming representative of the era's racial tensions. Prior to her character's arrival, the show's penmen kept civil rights issues at a dull whisper. Now, however, the talks are loud as Chambers outs the prejudices that her fellow agency dwellers didn't even know they had. (See: "Mystery Date")

Vixen chatted with the ad agency's cocoa cohort to talk her new role, her most embarrassing moment on set and how she tames her natural mane on a daily basis.

VIBE VIXEN: Were you nervous when you got the gig or when you started to go on set?
TEYONAH PARRIS: There’s always that first day of school kind of jitters. For me, it usually manifests itself in some type of clumsiness, so I was very excited or giddy, that kind of thing. My first second on set, they’re like, 'Okay Dawn come see your desk,' [and] I go to the desk--which you guys see me at all the time--and I sit in the chair, but I miss the chair and the chair flips behind me. I was like, Ugh. [Laughs]

Wow! That's a great first impression.
Yeah, everybody had a good laugh and were like, 'It’s ok.'

Now outside of talking to your grandmother, how else did you prepare for the role of Dawn?
It was [listening to] more music definitely, but moreso than that, I wanted to get into the world of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, so it was marathon weekends of Mad Men. I had seen a few episodes but not all of them.

So you weren’t with the Mad Men mania prior to your role?
I had watched the show and enjoyed it but I wasn’t.

What were some of the things that stood out while you were watching all of  Mad Men?
This man (Don Draper) gets around. He definitely has a lot going on in the romantic area. He surely goes through a lot of secretaries, and I really found myself drawn to the story [and how] it’s just so settled. I was really drawn to that aspect of the show. It just seems so perfect and normal on the outside, but they all have this undercurrent rumbling in there.

You’re really drawn to the complexity of each character.
I think that’s what draws a lot of people to Mad Men mania, I would say.

When you were cast, where did you see your character going?
The breakdown for this character said African American, early 20s co-star. I thought I would be there maybe a day, maybe two and I had no clue in what capacity I was gonna be used. I didn’t know I was his secretary or anything, so once I got hired and I found out I was his secretary, I was like, Oh, okay.

Now, you’ve seen how the secretaries are with Draper...
Right, but I have no clue how long I’ll be here, so I don't have any crazy expectations.

What were some of the top three lessons you learned from the other actors and working with everyone?
The other new actor Ben Feldman, we started on the same episode. He does a lot of television, so he and I would kinda talk and he just helped me learn very technical things.

You know, I come from a background of theatre, and in theatre, you got that one time when you’re up there. If you mess up or anything goes wrong, you have to find your way back to the scene and everything without skipping a beat. While filming Mad Men, it’s very rare that they’ll even use one whole take of anything. And I knew that before doing this, but it really hit home for me in doing this.

Which do you love better: the stage or the TV?
I love theatre. I like the immediate gratification or the you suck-ification of it [laughs]. With film, it's just this whole waiting thing. I mean, it's like you wait to get to set, once you’re on set, you’re waiting and you finish the project then you gotta wait some more. But at the same time, I love that cause it’s so different for me. It's so different.

With Mad Men being super authentic, tell me how you got comfortable with the ‘60s style. Was it something that you already loved?
Oh yes, I’ve definitely always loved it. I love playing dress up. If I could wear a ball gown to the grocery store, trust me I would. So the clothes? It was just like, Yay I get to try on clothes and they’re very different! And the wigs? Oh, my goodness, oh my goodness.

They were crazy?
I have a huge afro, so it was very different. I hadn’t worn a wig in so long. In my mind, I imagined that it would be the big Diana or something, that kind of fabulous. Uh, no you’re gonna be this little shy, church-going, homely young lady named Dawn, and we’re gonna comb your hair over, [laughs].

Was it irritating to have the wig on?
It wasn’t irritating, it’s just a lot of work pinning that hair down. When you release it, you wanna look normal for the next day; you have auditions or whatever, and you have to not [have] braids all the way back or twists or whatever. I need my hair to be out so pinning it down and getting it flat every night was a process.

It sounds like a taxing process.
But I would much rather do that than have them try to press my hair. I was totally fine to do it.

What products do you use on your hair?
I got into YouTube and started following this girl, Naptural85, I think that’s her name. She uses all organic stuff: you get raw shea butter. You know how they sell the tubs of raw shea butter? I get that and add essential oils like lavender or tea tree, and whip it up with a cake batter mixer. I whip it up like a cream to put on hair when I wanna do a twist out. Then, Naptural85 has one with coconut oil that’s a little lighter for everyday hair dressing. It’s all natural stuff like coconut oil, shea butter, tea tree oil, lavender, ylang ylang, nothing crazy.

In terms of you being the first African American employee on the show, what other African American actresses or women in the business do you admire right now?
I really admire what Ava Duvernay is doing right now, she’s with the independent films. I had the opportunity to see her film I Will Follow, and I’m just really excited about the work people are making, telling stories about us that need to be told that aren’t necessarily comedic or aren’t necessarily somebody’s mom is on crack. I'm really excited about that, and with Shonda Rhimes and Kerry Washington doing “Scandal”, the first African American woman on primetime [television] with an African American head writer. That is amazing. I am beyond proud and just excited for what that means for us coming up behind them.

What’s next for you? What are you most looking forward to?
Right now, it’s back to auditioning. It’s been pretty busy with that, so that’s always a good thing. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to just work on more good material, more material that challenges me, excites viewers and tells the stories of women, stories that need to be told that aren’t told.

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Aaliyah during TNT Presents - A Gift of Song - New York - January 1, 1997 in New York City, New York, United States.
KMazur/WireImage

Fans Rally For Aaliyah's Discography To Be Released On Streaming Platforms

As another day passes without Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms, fans are looking for answers.

Over the weekend, the hashtag #FreeAaliyahMusic appeared on Twitter in light of song battles between Swizz Beats vs. Timbaland and Ne-Yo vs. Johnta Austin. The latter opponents played their collaborations with the late singer, proving Baby Girl's dynamic relevancy in the age of modern R&B. As songs like "I Don't Wanna" and "Come Over" picked up plays on YouTube, the hashtag pointed out the tragedy of her songs not existing on platforms like Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music.

Aaliyah's only album on multiple platforms is her 1994 debut, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number. Other albums like the platinum-selling One in A Million and Aaliyah are being held in a vault of sorts along with other unmixed vocals by her uncle and founder of Blackground Records, Barry Hankerson.

Hankerson has built up a mysterious yet haunting aura over the years due to his refusal to release Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms. Reasons are unknown but Stephen Witt's 2016 investigation revealed business deals like the shift in distribution from  Jive Records to Atlantic helped Hankerson take ownership of the singer's masters. The deal was made in 1996 when Blackground featured artists like Aaliyah, Toni Braxton, R. Kelly, then-production duo Timbaland and Magoo as well as Missy Elliott.

Sadly, Aaliyah's music isn't the only recordings lost in the shuffle. Recordings from Timbaland and Toni Braxton have been hidden from the world with both taking legal action against the label over the years. There's also JoJo, who had to break from the label after they refused to release her third album. The singer recently re-recorded her first two albums.

With Aaliyah's music getting the attention it deserves, Johnta Austin discussed the singer's impact on R&B today. "It was amazing, she was incredible from top to bottom," he told OkayPlayer of working with the singer on "Come Over" and "I Don't Wanna." "I don't think Aaliyah gets the vocal credit that she deserves. When she was on it, she had the riffs, she had everything."

Earlier this year, an account impersonating Hankerson claimed her music would arrive on streaming platforms January 16, on what would've been her 41st birthday. A docuseries called the Aaliyah Diaries was also promoted for a release on Netflix.

Of course, it was far from the truth. Fans can enjoy selected videos and songs on YouTube, but it's clear they want more.

 

Aaliyah’s music is the landmark for a lot of your favs not only was she ahead of her time with her futuristic sounds she also was a fashion Icon dancer and phenomenal actress . The future generations need be exposed to her artistry and pay homage .#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/LxZfxcqRgF

— Black Clover (@la_alchemist) March 29, 2020

Her first #1 solely based on AirPlay! She was the first ! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/BHlANZjCGZ

— (@hodeciii) March 29, 2020

Makes no sense for someone still so influential to be hidden. Many try to emulate her. On Spotifys This is Aaliyah playlist, theres some great tracks not on her main Spotify #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/vLqLTVxqO9

— Blackity Black⁷ (@ClaudBuzzzz) March 29, 2020

Aaliyah is trending once again. She deserves endless flowers. This is true impact y’all. Her voice, her sound, her music...She’s been gone for 2 decades and y’all see the love for her is even stronger! We miss you baby girl! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/ALDcT0ZQxR

— A A L I Y A H (@forbbygrlaali) March 30, 2020

Aaliyah said she wanted to be remembered for her music and yet most of it is not on streaming services #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/zwk0AWMCoE

— RJR (@MyNewEssence96) March 29, 2020

aaliyah’s gems like more than a woman deserve to be in streaming sites #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/mM2GWEg1pe

— k (@grandexrocky) March 30, 2020

I saw #FreeAaliyahMusic and IMMEDIATELY jumped into action! I can’t express how betrayed I felt when we were supposed to have all her music on Spotify by her birthday. Her discography is deeply underestimated and we need to make it right for our babygirl!pic.twitter.com/GfxBeJxUY1

— jerrica✨ (@jerricaofficial) March 29, 2020

Before Megan The Stallion drove the boat...

Aaliyah rocked the boat...

#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/iXNwssD3sY

— Al’Bei (@_albei) March 29, 2020

i think we should have that conversation #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/cGl269tuTr

— AALIYAH LEGION (@AaliyahLegion) April 1, 2020

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Singers Adrienne Bailon (L) and Kiely Williams of the 'Cheetah Girls' pose for photos around Mercedes Benz Fashion Week held at Smashbox Studios on October 18, 2007 in Culver City, California.
Katy Winn/Getty Images for IMG

Kiely Williams Explains Fallout With Adrienne Bailon Houghton And Alleged Fight With Raven-Symonè

Our current isolated way of life has given some plenty of time for reflection like Kiely Williams of the former girl group 3LW and The Cheetah Girls (ask your kids). The tales of both successful groups have been told time after time by fans in YouTube documentaries and members of each collective but Williams has decided to share her side of the story.

Williams hopped on Live Monday (March 30) where she discussed her former friendship with The Real co-host Adrienne Bailon Houghton and the infamous chicken throwing fight with actress/singer Naturi Naughton. The mother of one didn't pinpoint exactly why she fell out with Houghton but did point out how she wouldn't be interested in appearing on her talk show.

"I don't think Adrienne wants to have live TV with me," Williams said. "'Cause she's gon' have to say, 'Yes Kiely, I did pretend to be your best friend. Now, I am not.' You were either lying then or you're lying now. You either were my best friend and now you're just not claiming me or you were pretending [to be my best friend."

The two remained friends after Naughton was kicked out of 3LW, the platinum-selling group known for 2000s pop hits like "No More (Baby I'ma Do Right)" and "Playas Gon' Play." Williams and Houghton were eventually picked to be apart of The Cheetah Girls with then-Disney darling Raven-Symonè and dancer Sabrina Bryan.

Williams went on to discuss her fight with Naughton, which she denies had anything to do with her skin color. With her mother near, Williams claimed Naughton called her a b***h, leading to the fight. While she didn't clear up the chicken throwing, she stated how she was "going for her neck" and was holding food and her baby sister in the process.

Apologies aren't on the horizon either. “I don’t feel like I have anything to make amends for, especially as it relates to Adrienne,” Kiely said. “As far as Naturi goes, if there was ever a reason to apologize, all of that has kind of been overshadowed by the literal lies and really ugly stuff that she said about my mom and my sister. So, no. Not interested in that. I’m sorry.”

Moving onto The Cheetah Girls, Williams also denied claims she got into fights with Raven-Symonè on the set of The Cheetah Girls films and never outed her as a teen. The rumor about Symonè and Williams was reportedly started by Symonè's former co-star Orlando Brown.

Symonè has often shared positive memories about The Cheetah Girls and their reign but did imply during an episode of The View how co-star Lynn Whitfield kept her from losing her cool on set.

On a lighter note, Symonè, Houghton and Naughton have kept in contact with Naughton and Houghton putting their differences aside during an appearance on The Real. 

Symonè and Houghton also reunited at the Women's March in Los Angeles in January. During Bailon's performance at the event, the two briefly performed the Cheetah Girls' classic, "Together We Can."

Willaims also shared some stories about the making of the group's hits. Check out her Live below.

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Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

Kelis Announces ‘Cooked With Cannabis’ Show Will Premiere On Netflix

Kelis is taking her chef talents to Netflix. The musician will host a food competition show titled Cooked With Cannabis that’ll premiere on the very-fitting April 20 (4/20). According to NME, the show will span six episodes and be co-hosted by chef Leather Storrs.

Describing the opportunity as a “dream come true” since she’s a major supporter of the streaming service, Kelis took to Instagram to share how cannabis and cooking is one of her many creative passions. “As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today’s society,” the mother-of-two writes. “In this country, many things have been used systemically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together.”

Each episode will place three chefs against each other as they craft three-course meals with cannabis as the central ingredient. Each episode’s winner takes home $10,000. Guests will play an integral role in who takes home the cash prize. Too $hort, and El-P are just a few of this season's guests.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

I'm really excited to announce my new show, Cooked with Cannabis on @Netflix!! Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love my Netflix, so this is a dream come true. Interestingly, this was one of those things that I didn't go looking for, it kind of came to me. As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today's society. In this country, many things have been used systematically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together. I hope you all will tune in, it's definitely going to be a good time! We launch on 4/20! XO, Kelis

A post shared by Kelis (@kelis) on Mar 18, 2020 at 7:57am PDT

In a previous Lenny Letter profile, Kelis shared she comes from a line of culinary influences beginning with her mother who owned a catering service. In 2008, the “Milkshake” singer sought to refine her cooking skills by enrolling in the Le Cordon Bleu school. Receiving a certificate as a trained saucier, the New York native put her expertise to the test during pop-up restaurants in her native city, created a hot sauce line, and co-owns a sustainable farm in Quindio, Colombia.

“Food is revolutionary because it is the one and only international language. It’s the most human thing you can partake in,” she said in an interview with Bon Appetit. “We are the only species that cooks.”

This isn’t Kelis’ first foray into the reality-cooking television world. In 2014, she partnered with the Cooking Channel for Saucy and Sweet and published the "My Life on a Plate" cookbook a year later.

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