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Vixen Chat: Elijah Kelley Reveals What It’s Like Working With Oprah, Discusses His Thoughts On Amanda Bynes

Elijah Kelley danced, sang and acted his way into our hearts as Seaweed Stubbs in the big screen adaptation of Hairspray. Since then, he’s continued to make major Hollywood moves, appearing in box office hits like Red Tails and the upcoming The Butler. Playing the son of Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey may seem a daunting task, but the 27-year old makes it look easy as their youngest son “Charlie Gaines.”

During our exclusive Vixen Chat, Elijah told us how he won over Lee Daniels, why he gets along with other actors and working with the queen of talk. He also dished on “the perfect woman” and former co-star Amanda Bynes’ Twitter antics.

VIBE Vixen: How has The Butler journey been so far?
Elijah Kelley: It’s been a dream come true. You get to see your heroes acting on a daily basis. Everybody from Oprah to Lenny Kravitz—it’s amazing.

Is Oprah really as amazing as she seems?
(Laughs) You know what? I think she’s better than what people imagine. I think if she had the time, she would go through person by person and help out because that’s her spirit; that’s her heart and that’s what she does best.

elijah kelleyDid you get any one-on-one time with her behind the scenes?
Absolutely. She gave me some incredible wisdom. She will put her neck on the line and say, ‘This person is talented. This person is the next. This person has such a bright future.‘ People listen to her. She’s so generous in that way. She taught me it’s all about the hard work. Success, the money, the fame- everything is secondary. It’s a by product of how hard you work. It’s vital to your staying power because I can go so far with talent and charisma and everybody can do that. But, at the end of the day, who’s working and who’s sleeping?

How did you get involved with this project?
When a film like this comes around, everybody in Hollywood wants to be a part of it, period. It’s like rappers. When a dope song comes out, everybody wanna be on the remix. Lee Daniels announced that he was doing this and I went to audition for the role. The audition was at this really famous hotel in LA called the Chateau Marmont. We get there and everybody is in the lobby. You’ve got everyone from David Oyelowo to Michael B. Jordan is in the lobby. You go there and it looks like an awards show downstairs because everybody wants to be a part of it. I went in and we (Lee) had a conversation. He’s looking at me and I’m looking right back at him. I tell him, ‘I can do this role.’ And he’s like ‘What?!’ I told him I want to be brilliant and he said, ‘Let me show you brilliance.’ And then he proceeds to pop in one of his movies. And so for 35 minutes in my audition, we sit there and he shows me a movie that’s not out yet and he said ‘that’s brilliance.’ After he said that to me, I looked him in his eyes and said ‘I can beat that.’ And he said ‘You gon’ have to show me.’ He gave me the role right there, before I even read for the part.

Tell us about your character.
I play a character by the name of Charlie Gaines. I’m the son of Gloria Gaines (Oprah) and Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) and the younger brother of Louis Gaines (David Oyelowo). I get my jokes in where I can. If something serious is going on, I try my best to make light of it.

elijah kelleyAre you anything like your character?
Absolutely. I’m a grandchild of the civil rights movement. My mother went to a segregated school. My grandmother and grandfather worked in the field. It wasn’t something out of the history books for me.  It was more so looking through a portfolio of your family and seeing what they did. Seeing the blood on those leaves is the same blood that’s running through my veins, so it was very important for me that I be a part of this.

Who were you closest to on set?
Me and David bonded on Red Tails together, so him and I always had a bond. A lot of things were shot separately so there weren’t many characters that were on set at the same time. You might be flying out when Jane Fonda or Robin Williams could be coming in for three days to do all of their work. I find it very interesting that now is the time that a lot of people are getting to bond during this press run and the green rooms and red carpets.

What will a young person living today get from this film?
Number one: We sometimes don’t acknowledge the severity of the actions that went down in the civil rights movement. It’s hard to grasp that these kids younger than us were being hosed down, dogs were being siced on them. They were even working at the White House for a number of years and being treated unfairly. There’s so much that we don’t revel in because we have it so good, but we have so far to go. The Trayvon Martin thing just happened and everybody’s in an uproar about that, but there’s so many Trayvons and Oscar Grants.
Number two: There are not a lot of movies that [positively portray the] relationship between father and son. It shows that not all of our sons are in jail. Not all of our fathers are out of control. There is love in the black household.

Is there camaderie between you and other black actors in Hollywood?
There’s something that happens in Hollywood. A lot of the time, it pigeonholes you against you’re brother. And I’m not saying that in a sense of the color thing. They make it a competition, like there’s one spot. So there’s an immediate tension that is created. You’re competing with Tristan (Wilds). You’re competing with Michael B. Jordan. Within that, finding the camaraderie is easy, but it can be difficult, too. I don’t feel like any other man is better than me at all in what I do. But, what’s for me is for me and what’s for them is for them.

elijah kelleyYou’re a triple threat: you sing, dance and act? Will we be hearing more music in the future?
It’s always been on the horizon. I just had to wait for the right time. I like the quality in what I do and when the market is sometimes oversaturated with things that aren’t so good, the greatness can be lost inside of that. Right now is a time where I think real music is making its way back and artists like myself will be acknowledged. My time is coming and you’ll be one of the first to hear and you’ll listen to it and go out to it and party to it and all of that stuff (laughs).

Whose music are you enjoying most right now?
My boy Tristan (Wilds). I like his songs. There’s actually a song I just produced for a girl group. This is something most people don’t know, but I produce. I’ve been working with these two wonderful ladies; their name is Faarrow. Right now, they’re the faces of the Diesel Studio Africa campaign. The song is called ‘Say My Name.’ I’ve been doing it secretly for awhile. I do what I do when I feel the impulse to.

Speaking of girls, do you have a girlfriend?
(Laughs) Should I?

Should you have a girlfriend or should you answer the question?
Should I have a girlfriend? Because a lot of girls tell me that I don’t need to have a girlfriend. I do want a girl in my life and there is someone special, but I’m working out the kinks.

So you’re casually dating?
You’re going to get me in trouble because…well…I’m single. I’m dating my job.

What type of girl are you looking for?
I love strong, assertive, driven women. Very, very clear vision in what they want. Somebody sexy, stylish and very centered. Somebody I can walk into a room with and no man in that room can say, “Oh, I been with her” or “I had a date with her last night.” I pride myself on being able to say, “That’s me and nobody else.”

What is sexy to you?
A conversation. I’m very witty and charming and as a guy in this industry, you learn to be able to say the right things at the right moment. I think it’s sexy when a woman can totally call me on my B.S. and I’m speechless. I think it’s extremely sexy when she can say “boy, stop doing this and that.” I love that. It’s not a lot of women that can do it.

What’s next for you?
There’s a couple projects that I’m very interested in that I can’t actually talk about because they’re not set in stone. But the next thing that I do I can tell you will be life changing and you guys will probably remember me forever for it.

You worked with Amanda Bynes on Hairspray and she’s had her share of bad press lately? What are your thoughts on her situation?
A lot of publicists and managers tell me to stay away from the question, but I’ll say this. Amanda’s a beautiful person. She’s strong, I’m praying for her and she’ll get through it. She has a beautiful family and support system and she will get through it.

Anything else our vixens should now?
I’m dark skin and dark skin is beautiful (laughs).

The Butler is in theaters now. Will you be watching? Check out the preview below.

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Vivica A. Fox Explains Past Hesitance Behind 'Two Can Play That Game' Script

In a new interview with Essence, actress Vivica A. Fox discussed how she initially turned down her role in Two Can Play That Game based on the script. The established entertainer said it's her mission to ensure that black people are positively portrayed onscreen, and noticed the aforementioned film's prose didn't live up to those standards.

"I think the reason why—no I know the reason why—I've been doing this for such a long time is that I fight," Fox said. "When we did Two Can Play That Game, I fought for the way we talked, walked, the way we loved each other." The Set It Off actress continued to state that she consistently declined Two Can Play That Game before signing on to play the lead role. "Because the script, when I first got it, I turned it down three times because it just wasn't a good representation of African-Americans, so I fought them on everything," she noted. "I want to make sure that the images of African-Americans are as positive and as true as they can possibly be."

In 2001, the romantic comedy debuted to fanfare, boasting an all-star cast of Morris Chestnut, Mo'Nique, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Brown, Gabrielle Union, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and more. Directed by Mark Brown (Barbershop, Iverson, How To Be A Player), Fox plays a career driven person named Shante Smith who navigates a curveball when her boyfriend Keith Fenton (Chestnut) cheats on her with a co-worker.

After its release, Two Can Play That Game raked in over $22 million at the box office.

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Actress Gabrielle Union attends the Being Mary Jane premiere, screening, and party on January 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)
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BET To Unveil Edible Billboard For 'Being Mary Jane' Wedding Finale

As Being Mary Jane comes to an end, BET is willing to offer fans a taste of what's to come in the series finale.

The network has enlisted the help of Ayesha Curry, celebrity cook and cookbook author, to create an edible billboard that also doubles as a wedding cake. The sweet treat will commemorate Mary Jane's (played by Gabrielle Union) nuptials in the two-hour series finale.

On April 20 from 1:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal in New York, fans will be presented with the edible billboard. At the intersection of Ashland Place and Hanson Place, the closer Being Mary Jane enthusiasts get to the billboard the quicker they'll notice that the four-tiered wedding cake is created from individual boxes, each containing a slice of Curry's prized wedding cake.

All fans have to do is pull a box from the billboard, snap a picture for the 'Gram, take a bite and enjoy. Although lovers of the show won't be able to celebrate with Mary Jane herself, biting into a slice of her wedding cake, for free, is the next best thing.

Don't forget to tune into the series finale of Being Mary Jane on Tues. (April 23) at 8/7 c.

Also, check out what's to come on the series of Being Mary Jane below.

Save the date! 👰🏾It'll be worth the wait. Join us for the series finale of #BeingMaryJane TUES APR 23 8/7c only on @BET! pic.twitter.com/jEwkbC71OW

— #BeingMaryJane (@beingmaryjane) March 29, 2019

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The North Face

Ella Mai On The North Face's 'Explore Mode' Campaign, New Music And Living In The Moment

Ella Mai is in her own age of exploration. Her eponymous debut album scored her a platinum plaque with her breakout hit, "Boo'd Up" earning her a Grammy for Best R&B Song. But the accolades aren't driving her creative path. The arc in her compass is all about the places she's traveled, the people she's met and the lessons learned along the way.

"To be honest, personally, exploration is like growth. I feel like if you don't explore new things, whether it's going outside, meeting people or trying new food, you won't ever grow because you're just stuck in your little comfort zone which can be super scary to come out of," she tells VIBE at The North Face's Explore Mode event in New York on Monday (April 15). The singer is one of three women (including model-activist Gabrielle Richardson and chef Angela Dimayuga) who teamed up with the brand to share a message of enjoying the outside world without digital confinement and the global initiative to make Earth Day a national holiday.

The London native's urge to explore came in handy over the weekend when she performed in the brisk desert of Coachella. Inspired by artists like Rihanna and Ms. Lauryn Hill, Mai helped fans enjoy the hazy sunset as she performed hits like "Trip" and her latest No. 1 song, "Shot Clock."

"It's such a good feeling, especially when it comes to radio," she shared about her track reaching No. 1 on the airplay chart. "I wasn't even sure if people listened to the radio because people have so much access to streaming platforms, but obviously having all three of my singles from my debut album, go number one on urban radio is incredible."

That energy was brought to the Coachella stage with the festival being her biggest artistic exploration so far.

"My favorite part of the performance would have to be when I performed "Naked" and because it was dark, and I performed when the sun went down, I couldn't see how far the crowd actually went back. But during "Naked," it was such an intimate moment I asked everyone to put their lights up (phones) and when I saw how far it went back I was like, "Woah." That moment sealed it for me."

"Even there were two people in the audience, I still would've done my best," she added. "But just to see the crowd be so engaged, even if they didn't know the music, was a really good feeling. I had so much fun."

As the festival energy in Indio, Calif. continued to thrive, another rested on the streets of Los Angeles following the loss of Nipsey Hussle. With the singer having ties to those close to the rapper like DJ Mustard, she says the shift in the city was hard to ignore.

"As weird as it sounds, you felt it," she said. "Even in the weather, it was super hot and then everyone got the news and it started raining. Just a weird energy shift." As a new L.A. resident, the singer says Nipsey's influence cannot be denied.

"I feel like the energy shift went both ways; everyone was really sad, grieving and mourning but everyone feels more inspired by what he was doing that they want to go out and do something and change in their community. It's still a very touchy subject in L.A., especially the people that I'm around since they were very close to him. I think everyone is super inspired to do better and try to be more like him, which is great to see. YG's whole set at Coachella was dedicated to him, I know Khalid had a dedication to Mac Miller. Everyone is super aware of what Nipsey was trying to do and how he wanted to change the world."

Engaging in The North Face's mission to explore seemed to be in the cards for Mai. Like many of us, Mai was familiar with the brand's effective coolness factor. "I remember running home and telling my mom that I needed a Jester Backpack because my cousin had one as well, and it's similar to the other stories, I wanted to be like my older cousin (laughs) so my mom ended up getting me one." But there's also the incentive to showcase the importance of stepping away from the phone screens and into leafy green forests.

"I'm such a live-in-the-moment person," she says of her lack of identity on social media. While she might share a thought or two on social media, Mai is interested in appreciating the world around her. "I feel like everyone is so consumed about documenting the day, you don't really get to live the day. You just watch it back but I like to have the memories in my head. Of course, sometimes, I'll take out my phone but I try to live in the moment as much as possible."

Part of that mission is ensuring Earth Day is celebrated the right way. With the support of Mai, Richardson, and Dimayuga, The North Face officially launched a petition to make Earth Day a national holiday.

“The North Face is no stranger to exploration and this Earth Day we are proud to join our partners and fellow explorers in a global effort to make Earth Day a national holiday,” said Global General Manager of Lifestyle at The North Face, Tim Bantle. “We believe that when people take time to appreciate the Earth, they feel more connected to it and are more likely to protect it. Explore Mode urges us to unplug from our digital lives to connect in real life to the world, each other, and ourselves in the effort to move the world forward.”

Mai hasn't hit her all of her exploration goals just yet. "I really want to go to Indonesia or Bali," she said. "That's one of my Bucket List places I really, really, really wanna go." For her essentials, the singer knows she has to bring along a windbreaker set and of course, a jester backpack. "I think the backpack is the most important thing."

In addition to a few trips around the globe, one destination includes the studio for new music. While she hasn't had time to lock down a moment to record, the inspiration is sizzling.

"When I work in the studio, I like to be like there for a good amount of time," she explains. "I like to block off two to three weeks at a time, I don't like to go to different studios and different places, it's just a comfort thing but I'm very excited to get back cause I have a lot of talk about. I've seen so many different places and met so many new people and a lot that I didn't get to experience last year."

Learn more about The North Face's petition for Earth Day here.

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