Tatyana Ali Talks Global Feminism and Women's Empowerment

Tatyana Ali certainly has done her fair share of work and growth since her days of playing Ashley Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. With a career that has continued outside of her legendary childhood role, Ali has also had success starring in films and television shows, and continues to make great music with her powerful vocals.

VIXEN caught up with the 36 year-old artist to see what’s been on her agenda, and found that although she played a sheltered rich girl on television, Tatyana certainly is a socially conscious and morally-driven woman, who knows a bit about celebrity culture, women’s empowerment, and finding her center.

Vixen: As someone who’s had success in entertainment, how do you manage to stay grounded in such a pressure-filled industry?
I think it’s mainly because I grew up in a time before gossip blogs and TMZ. The concept of "celebrity culture" is much different than it was when I was growing up. But I also think it’s because some things about my life are privileged information for family and friends, so only do certain things or say certain things to people. As someone who likes to play different characters and identities, I think it’s important for me to present myself in a way where people will believe any character I play; I like to think that, in the public eye, I’m at a place where people don’t know so much about me that it’s hard for them to perceive me any other way.

What’s your advice for women trying to break into an industry be it entertainment or otherwise?
My number one piece of advice is to seek out role models and mentors who have the type of career you want to have. Women should always be supportive of each other, and it’s equally important to seek support. Whatever your dream may be, don’t sell out in order to make it happen. Be confident in your goals and aspirations and remember you don't always have to be the face of a company or brand. No matter what your craft is, know that your skills are valuable.

Do you feel society still underestimates the power of a woman, or do you think they’re starting to get respect?
I think women are being taken more seriously as power players. Though there are still strides we can make as a society: women’s pay isn't up to par to what it should be to a man’s. I think that’s a very real issue in every industry. And we must also remember and take into consideration the treatment of girls all over the world. The school girls in Nigeria are still missing and sex trafficking is such a huge issue abroad and even in America. We need to remember women all over the globe whenever we discuss feminism or women's rights or what have you. It's up to these women in power positions, from female celebrities to CEO’s, to stand up and saying we’re all worth fighting for. To the women with privilege and power: it’s up to us band together and remember to not get isolated in our own little worlds. We need to band together and take unification and ourselves more seriously. It's up to us to be global.

Women’s empowerment seems like something you’re passionate about. What work do you do to give back to women?
I love working with community organizations and schools, sitting on panels and having dialogue. I partner with Boys and Girls Clubs across the country. I also work closely with the Peace Corp, as they have a global initiative for women’s empowerment, and I especially like the work they do with working towards closing the gender gap. I wish I had those kind of resources as a young girl - I think they're so powerful and beneficial. Empowerment was like water for me when I was younger and I try to do as much of that work as I can.

In the 60s women got into the workplace. Now we need to come together and create a lasting change. It feeds and affirms my work - the types of roles I play. It makes me conscious of the stories I tell and the work I do, because not only do roles speak to me, but I want to use those roles as a vessel to speak to others. Films and shows tell us so much about who we’re capable of becoming, and I want to show that young woman that they can become anything they put their mind to.

When you speak to these young women, what is the one thing you hope they take away from your panels and workshops?
I hope they walk away with: knowledge that fear is a real thing. Don't be ashamed of fear. If you can spend time with what you're afraid if or tackle it head on, those are the times where you find out just how strong you are. Whatever you're afraid of doing or saying - if you sit in what you're afraid of, you'll find the most growth. If the thought of something I’m considering or want to do incited fear or nervousness, to me that means I should definitely try to do it. You may fail, but it won't be the end of the world.

Many young women, especially in the social media age, feel the need to be perfectionists. What do you say to those women who don’t step out on fear because they can’t handle failure or rejection?
Don't be afraid to do the work involved in doing what you want to get. Everyone has had to do some work. Celebrity culture makes it look so easy. Reaching your goals requires doing the work to achieve.People don't see all the work you did, even if in the end you get told no or it doesn't work out how you planned. People don't see all the ‘no’s' that it took to get to the one ‘yes’. But don’t ever quit working. Just pick yourself up, seek that support, and go again. Keep your focus on the goal and not those ready to tear you down.

Personal Affirmation:
When I do empowerment work with girls I talk about [the word] "affirm." Have people in your life that only affirm you. They can encourage you when you're right and tell you when you're wrong. I also meditate. When I'm feeling out of sorts or overwhelmed, I go to my meditation to reinforce a sense of self. Sense of self-confidence. Sense of self-love. Having that me time that allows me to reflect and re-charge and really be in tune with myself. I think it’s so important to have time for you. As women, we give our time to so many people in our lives. We have to remember to save some time for ourselves and keep ourselves inspired so we can continue to change the world.

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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.

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.


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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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