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Gay Ballroom Doc 'KIKI' Shines A Timely Light On Today's Most Pressing Social Issues

'KIKI' chronicles the harsh reliaties of the LGBT ballroom scene, and spotlights the youth who are brave enough to spurr a change. 

By 1991, New York City's queer drag balls were finally exposed. Paris is Burning, a documentary style film took a look inside of what mainstream media had swept under the rug, and what was causing a silent blazing fire of self-expression within the city’s marginalized gay community.

“Drag balls, the product of a poor, gay and mostly nonwhite culture, had been held in Harlem since the 1920's. But it wasn't until Jennie Livingston's award-winning documentary, "Paris Is Burning," was released in 1991 that anyone outside that world knew much about them,” wrote Jesse Green for The New York Times in 1993.

Viewers saw black gay men in heels and extravagant outfits. What appeared to be even more outlandish, however, was all of their larger than life personalities. There’s Pepper LaBeija, the fierce drag queen who many queer kids called mother. There was also Willi Ninja, best known for his influence in the dance world and ball scene.

“I’ve been a man and I’ve been a man who emulated a woman. I’ve never been a woman. I never had that service once a month,” LaBeija affirmed during a clip of Paris is Burning. “I’ve never been pregnant. I can never say how a woman feels. I can only say how a man that acts or dresses like a woman feels.”

Not only did the film unleash the inner city ballroom culture, it also placed a magnifying glass on the social-economical issues that engulfed those who were a part of it. It showcased the different ballroom houses that populated the community, which served as safe havens for those who no longer had a biological family but were adopted by a gay one. These houses or families were like gay street gangs all fighting for acceptance and freedom. Instead of guns and knifes, lipstick and high heels were their weapons of choice.

With time, the world began to catch up. Madonna hand picked two young Latino dancers from the House of Extravaganza, and took them on her Blond Ambition Tour in 1990. (One of the dancers, Jose Gutierez, originally appeared on Paris Is Burning.)

Now, twenty-five years later, Swedish filmmaker Sara Jordenö’s KIKI attempts and succeeds at showcasing the present day ballroom culture known as the "KIKI scene." The personalities, costumes, attitudes, strengths, struggles and vulnerabilities are all there. Jordenö partnered up with one of the documentary's subjects, Twiggy Pucci Garcon, (né Ryan White) a member of the ballroom scene and a Senior Program Officer at True Colors Fund, a non-profit that serves LGBT homeless youth, to write the film.

More importantly, the film touches on the advocacy work that many of these LGBT youth of color within the ball room scene are involved with to help make a difference. Through interviews and revealing scenes of raw conversations, the film excels at depicting the many issues that encircle this community. For Jordenö, it was imperative to get the story as accurate as possible, by representing this community in an authentic way.

"We were really attempting to make an honest project," Jordenö says over the phone, adding on that recognizing her privilege as a white woman was imperative in helping her tell this story. "I think that every person with white privilege has some work to do. A constant work that will never end to figure out their place in the world, and know what that privilege is. It’s a work that never ends."

"I always had white privilege and I grew up in Sweden, so I was never at risk," she continues. "Even though my life wasn’t always easy growing up. Of course, it can’t be compared the struggles I had to the struggles the youth in the KIKI scene have."

Those struggles include HIV, homelessness and substance abuse, among many others. For fellow cast member, Francisco Gonzalez Jr., better known as  "Mother Chi Chi Unbothered Mizrahi," his transparency about substance abuse in the film was helpful for many. "It’s all about what one watches and what one grasps from it," he told Remezcla last year. "For me, most of the time, when I talk about my issues with overcoming substance abuse, that’s what people connect to with me. I have people come up to me who are fighting their own demons. A lot of them tell me, “Wow, watching this movie really makes me feel like I’m not alone and that people care."

In efforts to highlight the many topical issues KIKI shines a light on, we've compiled a timely list of seven social issues the documentary educates the masses about. Peep the rundown:

1. Identity, Religion And Discrimination
For most people who identify as LGBT, navigating the rocky road of self-acceptance is a steep one. It’s even harder if bias religious views are involved. KIKI touches upon the subject when you see Twiggy trek back home to Virginia from NYC. There, he explains what he dealt with the church and the small-minded town he comes from. Like him, Jordenö also relates to this, as she is a queer woman who grew up in a very religious home.

2. The Police Force Against LGBT Youth 
The Christopher Street pier is one of New York City’s enclaves for LGBT youth of color— especially for those who are homeless and/or are part of the ballroom scene. Through various testimonies from the film’s different subjects, you’ll see the injustices that the NYPD serves these young people. One of the film’s main characters, Divo Pink Lady, a 25 year-old black gay man from Brooklyn, says he’s been arrested three times around the area. In the film, he admits it was a humiliating experience. He says he feels the discrimination stems from the pre-conceived notions the police have of the ballroom community.

3. HIV
Through a heart wrenching confessional style scene from Kenneth “Symba McQueen” Soler Rios, a young Latino gay man who confesses he is HIV positive—vividly remembers when hearing the news, the only thing he could think of was becoming another statistic. The Center For Disease Control and Prevention reports that Latino and African-American gay men, ages 13-24 are infected with HIV at higher rates than their white counterparts (at a 38% rate for black men in 2015) These are staggering numbers, but the more visibility the issue gets, the closer a solution is on the horizon.

4. Street Harassment And Discrimination
LGBT people are subjected to vast amounts of street harassment for simply being themselves. When Gia Marie Love, a black transgender woman and Christopher Waldorf, a young Latino gay man are captured walking through the streets of Harlem, a group of little kids start yelling anti-LGBT slurs. As the tensions rise, viewers see Gia getting flustered. While these were most likely harmless kids, the engrained homophobia and trans-phobia instilled in them at such a young age is dangerous. Nonetheless, but just as important to showcase considering how at-risk the trans population is. In 2016, 26 trans people were reportedly killed—making half of them African-American trans women. Additionally, a report by Save Dade, an LGBT advocacy organization, states that 53% of transgender people experience street harassment and disrespect in public. 

5. LGBT Youth Homelessness 
LGBT homeless youth is one of the community’s biggest problems. Essentially, it’s the entry way for the spread of other unfortunate things like, HIV infection, poverty and drug use. Through Izana “Zaryia Mizrahi” Vidal, a 20 year-old transgender woman from Harlem you’ll see the intricacies that come with being transgender and living on the street. The film chronicles her transition from the inception to its final stages. Through the process, she is forced to live on the street because of her family’s disapproval. In various clips, she talks about this and the hardships she’s endured; like having to resort to sex work for survival.

6. Sex Work And Gender Identity 
Over a discussion group about sex work, Gia Marie Love and another member explore the topic of transgender women participating in the trade. The participant, a young black gay man, says that during his time as an escort, he noticed transgender women making more money than he did. He also mentioned how many young men even go through transitioning in efforts to make more money. While this may be true, he admitted to not counting that as a real transition because of the reasons behind it. Still, Gia affirms it does not matter where an individual started for their identity as a transgender person to be validated—no matter how your gender expression in viewed.

“To people if you’re a certain type of trans-woman they place a little bit more value on your identity,” she explains over the phone. “Or if your story matches this mold or this representation of what is trans or if you look a certain way. My argument is that we need to stop placing values on people’s identity based off their narratives or how they look. At the end of the day that person is trans woman if that is how they identify, and we need to respect that.”

7. Gay Identity And Machismo
For most gay men who are black or Latino, the hyper-masculinity they are subjected to by their peers is intense. And often times, the young-gay men of color experience isn’t something that is as talked about in main stream media. Through out the doc you’ll see Christopher Waldorf’s own issues with his family, and trying to be himself. As he was growing up in a Latino household in Harlem, he had to often suppress his feelings in fear of what his family would do. It's an all too common story, yet refreshing to see an image of oneself on screen. More of these are needed.





































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Eunetta T. Boone, TV Producer, Writer And ‘One On One’ Creator, Dead At 63

Eunetta T. Boone, veteran television producer and writer, creator of sitcoms One on One and Cuts, and showrunner of Raven’s Home, died Wednesday (March 20), Deadline reports.

Boone died of an apparent hear attack in her home. She was 63.

Boone’s long list of writing, production and story-editing credits include Living Single, My Wife and Kids, The Hughleys, The Parent ‘Hood, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Lush Life, the latter of which co-starred Fresh Prince actress Karyn Parsons. Boone also taught screenwriting at UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, and wrote the film Who Is Doris Payne? about the infamous elderly jewel thief.

Last November, Boone signed on as showrunner and executive producer of the Disney Channel’s That’s So Raven spinoff, Raven’s Home. Production on the sitcom has been shut down for the rest of the week in wake of Boone's death. Series star Raven Symone posted a tribute to Boone on Instagram Thursday (March 21).

“My heart is heavy following the loss, of RH EP, Eunetta Boone,” she wrote. “Eunetta was a pioneer and an inspiration to everyone she met. She was a masterful story teller, an empathetic leader, and a beacon of light to so many. Sending love and my deepest sympathies to Eunetta’s family and friends and all who knew and loved her. She will be missed. Thanks for everything Eunetta.”

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My heart is heavy following the loss, of RH EP, Eunetta Boone. Eunetta was a pioneer and an inspiration to everyone she met. She was a masterful story teller, an empathetic leader, and a beacon of light to so many. Sending love and my deepest sympathies to Eunetta’s family and friends and all who knew and loved her. She will be missed. Thanks for everything Eunetta.

A post shared by Raven-Symoné (@ravensymone) on Mar 21, 2019 at 2:41pm PDT

The Disney Channel released a statement praising Boone for her storytelling and leadership. “She did so well what she enjoyed most — mentoring creative talent,” the network said in a statement, per The Wrap. “Eunetta will be dearly missed and fondly remembered by everyone who knew her. All of us at Disney Channel grieve her passing and send our deepest condolences to her family, friends and colleagues.”

Boone earned a journalism degree from the University of Maryland, and a Masters from Columba University. She began her career as a sports writer in Baltimore, and became the first black women to cover sports in the city, as well as one of a few black women sports writers in the nation to work for a major outlet.

See more dedications to Boone below and watch the video above for some of her writing tips.

Eunetta Boone. One of our vets. You have seen her work on television comedies from “My Wife and Kids” and “The Hughleys” to “One on One” and “Living Single.” She worked as a screenwriting instructor at UCLA Extension in between gigs. Rest well, sweet lady. Thanks for the laughs.

— Ava DuVernay (@ava) March 21, 2019

She was a few of the black female showrunners during the 80’s & 90’s..once The UPN network shut down it was hard to get a show on the air..#RIP & thanks for your creativity.. Eunetta T. Boone Dies: ‘One On One’ Creator, ‘Raven’s Home’ Showrunner

— Loni Love (@LoniLove) March 21, 2019

Eunetta was a pioneer in the entertainment industry.

— Shaun Robinson (@shaunrobinson) March 21, 2019

RIP Eunetta T. Boone.

— The Black List (@theblcklst) March 21, 2019

My cousin Eunetta T. Boone created the shows "One on One" and "Cuts" and was the first person to welcome me to LA and showed me Hollywood! She was such a good person and genuine soul. Smh. #RIPEunetta

— DJ Steph Floss (@djstephfloss) March 21, 2019

I'm very sad to learn about the passing of Eunetta Boone. When @JohnDBeckTV and I were on our very first writing staff (The Hughleys), Eunetta went out of her way to teach us how to behave in room. I don't think she would call herself a mentor, but I will.

— Ron Hart (@Scatter) March 21, 2019

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‘American Soul’ Episode 8 Recap: The Crossroads

Tessa is back, and not only do we finally get the tea on her backstory, but it’s also a full tea party.

Still focused on reclaiming her dance career before she’s too old, Tessa prepares for an audition and comes face to face with her former best friend and former fiancé—the very people who drove her away from dance years ago. We learn that she didn’t just lose her dance career, she lost an entire life—including a baby. And then, she met Patrick. Over the course of the episode, Tessa has long overdue conversations with Prescott, her former fiancé, and Evelyn (Nikeva Stapleton), her former friend. Even though Evelyn played Tessa back in the day, she drops some gems and asks her if she’s really moving forward, or trying to hold on to what was. Tessa ponders the question and, in response, delivers a final audition routine she created during her old dance life in Germany, updated with moves influenced by the Soul Train Gang—a reflection of her new life. After finally having an honest, vulnerable conversation with Patrick, it seems Tessa is ready to genuinely move forward, whatever that may mean.

JT’s brothers in the Continuous Revolution in Progress offer him a chance to “prove (his) worth,” after Detective Lorraine set him up to look like a snitch (which we still don’t understand). Of course, that means participating in another illegal endeavor. We really don’t like Reggie, nor can we understand why JT feels such a staunch loyalty to him, but peer pressure—and thinly veiled threats—are real.

When JT gets “home,” he faces another course-altering decision. After finding a random street character holding his little sister while his mom is in a mid-drug nod, JT finally makes the difficult call to have her committed. We’d be relieved and excited about what this means for him and his little sister if he hadn’t just become more deeply entangled with Reggie and the CRIPS.

The Clarke siblings are ready to assert their independence. Kendall is taking his John Denver albums and moving out (with Flo? Already?); Simone is bucking up to her mom about JT (Simone, your mama might be right on this one); and Encore gets a surprise half-off deal at the studio to record their demo. We owe JT—who we realize is not a real person—an apology for assuming he was going to lose the studio money. He had it in his sock. Smart man. But holding the money might be the only role JT plays in Encore’s recording. While the Clarke siblings are stanning over Lionel Richie and getting ready to go in the booth, JT is at the hospital with his mom. We have a feeling his path will only take him further away from both Kendall and Simone for the last two episodes of the season.

Brianne comes face-to-face with the old life and dream she buried out of necessity for the life she chose to have with Joseph. At the beginning of the season, Joseph mentioned Brianne’s former singing career to Simone, and Simone was shocked even as her mother deflected. But she clearly never let it go—seeing a reminder of her singing days sends Brianne into a rage. Not because something terrible happened (that we know of, yet), but because she’s still so hurt over sacrificing such a big piece of herself. When Nate asks her if she wants to cut the visit to San Diego and her brother’s nightclub short, she says she needs to do something first. Is Brianne going to let the music back in?

Don already made one choice: Soul Train over his family. Now, he faces a fight for the show to survive against Dick Clark’s Soul Show, which airs on ABC, one of Don’s essential syndication partners. The next decision is whether to trust the protest and boycott methods suggested by his friend Conrad Johnson (Todd Anthony Manaigo) or take a more ruthless route with Gerald. Frustrated when the civil course doesn’t seem to be working quickly enough, Don lets Gerald off the leash to execute an alternate plan. But when he realizes Gerald’s tactic—placing plants at the Soul Show protest to start a fight—Don’s bothered. Especially when Conrad’s method ends up yielding results. Don will always be in conflict because he’s rarely comfortable with his decisions. When he operates in the straight and narrow, he feels like he’s being taken advantage of; when he plays dirty, he worries about his public image. When Don tries to detach himself from Gerald’s antics, Gerald checks him. He’s already peeped Don’s struggle between being the respectable negro and being a street dude when the situation requires. “It ain’t like you didn’t know, you just chose not to.”

Don’s hot-and-heavy relationship with Ilsa has fizzled out, Tessa’s quit, Brooks doesn’t see the big deal about a competitive show, and Gerald’s idea of being supportive is sketchy at best, highly illegal at worst. Don has presumably slayed the Hollywood dragons that tried to take him down and should feel victorious. Soul Train is a hit, is officially greenlit for a second season, and is still his. But Don’s realizing he doesn’t have true, close allies around him (Clarence Avant once said of Cornelius in real life that you could fit all his friends in a phone booth, and still have room). Delores is not only ignoring his phone calls—more phone calls than we’ve seen him make the entire season—she’s busy with plans that involve separate bank accounts. Don calls his wife one more time to plead for their marriage on the brand new answering machine he bought her. As he hangs up and the episode closes, he collapses—an early glimpse of the brain trauma that plagued him for the remainder of this life.

What the episode got right: Conrad “CJ” Johnson represents young Jesse Jackson, who partnered with the “Godfather of Black Music,” Clarence Avant, in successfully pressuring ABC to take Clark’s Soul Unlimited off the air.

What we could have done without: The scene with Gladys and Don in the lounge. While it was great to see Kelly Rowland reprise her role as Gladys Knight, and we recognize that she’s supposed to serve as some kind of conscious/guide/good luck charm/something for Don, that conversation didn’t move the plot forward in any real way.

What we absolutely don’t believe: That a black mother in the 1970s—the old school black mama prototype—let somebody call her daughter an “uppity b**ch,” then let the same daughter get in her face and slam doors in her house without some hands flying, somebody getting cursed out, or that door coming off the hinges.

What we don’t understand: The relationship between Brianne and Private Nate Barker. He’s fine and all, but what’s his purpose? Maybe there’s more to come in the next episodes.

We’re excited to learn more about Brianne Clarke in the next episode; she’s been an underutilized character so far. There’s a lot to cover, still, in the remaining two shows of the season: Is Simone going to pursue a career in NY? Is JT going to get his foolish self arrested or worse? Is Kendall going to end up with another baby he can’t support? (We feel like Flo has more sense than that, thankfully). Is Brianne going to get it poppin’ with Nate? Is Don going to somehow end up on Gerald’s bad side? We do know Don is getting a divorce, we just don’t know when. Let’s see what happens next.

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'Boomerang' Episode 7 Recap: Family Matters And Pride

Bryson and Simone are a thing, like for real for real. They can’t keep their hands (or tongues) off of one another. As the two of them get steamy in the jacuzzi, a sexually riled up Simone tells her new beau that she wants to treat his face like a bean bag. They are in it, y’all. There’s just one problem — they may be half-brother and sister (insert vomit emoji here). The excitement of finally landing the girl of his dreams is shut down when he reveals that his mother, Jacqueline, informed him that Marcus Graham may be his papa. (Wait. Does that mean Marcus cheated on Angela back in the day? Regardless, what a way to ruin a mood.)

As they wait for the DNA test results, Simone and Bryson still try to be business as usual, you know, chillin’ like they used to. Speaking of business, Bryson is all that. Ari may be his boy and all, but when it comes to directing Tia’s music video, Bryson wants an Italian dude to shoot it instead. He just doesn’t believe Ari can execute. All great directors have vision and through Bryson’s eyes, Ari has none. Simone can’t help but agree. It’s obvious that Tia and her bae are not at all pleased with the video production of her single. Bro gotsta go. Tia has never been one to hold back and in a fit of frustration, she does what Simone couldn’t verbalize; she fires Ari.

Like the “big bad boss” he is, Bryson harshly tells Ari that not only will he basically fail at being a producer, but people will notice that he doesn’t belong here. Hold up. Are we sure Bryson and Ari are friends? Tough love is understandable but to completely obliterate the dreams of someone you’ve been rocking with? That’s foul. Unlike Ari, Bryson knows that he was brought up with the keys and basically helped himself to whatever role he wanted in the industry, a luxury he can afford to extend. Why not help your friend out now even with a little guidance knowing his career aspirations?

Bryson may be able to but Simone is not willing to give up on Ari just yet. She lets Ari collaborate Bryson’s pick, Shayan, who is also seemingly having a hard time capturing dope shots. A conversation with Simone about perfecting his craft leaves Ari somewhat disappointed but open to the constructive criticism.

While enjoying the Atlanta Black Pride festivities, an old filing recognizes Ari and waves him down. In catching up, the discussion quickly takes a turn to sexual orientation labels with a judgemental tone and Ari is not having it. Sure, while he was with her, he liked women but sometimes he’d rather be with a man. “Bisexual,” “Gay,” call it whatever, he just likes who he likes, refuses to be put in a box, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What is not about to happen is him being judged by a woman with five kids and three baby favas. Yikes.

That frustration instantly births inspiration. Instead of dryly shooting Tia performing with Pride weekend just happening around her, Ari points out how the world needs to see all black people not caring about what anyone has to say about them, especially when the world includes women rocking $12 jewelry. Sashayers, milly-rockers, and twerkers galore, the video shines on the culture, highlighting Kings and Queens of all shades, ages, genders, and sexualities. It’s a good time. Even Bryson can give up his props and that lead director credit to Ari. You see, Bryson? You gotta have a little faith like David always has.

Speaking of our fave pastor, unlike many Baptist churches, it’s amazing to see that David embraces and participates in the Atlanta Black Pride weekend. With the help of Crystal, David is preaching a message of loving who you are and loving others. His sermon last week no doubt spoke to the soul but if you recall, Crystal did notice that a lovely lady attended the service moreso for David and less so for Jesus. That obviously triggered something. Crystal and David may not have been able to work out their marriage but the attraction is absolutely still there. Could it be one-sided though?

You didn’t think we forgot about Bryson and Simone, did you? It should be noted that for his entire life, all Bryson ever wanted was to be like Marcus Graham, but not like this. David is right: be careful what you pray for. No matter the outcome of the paternity test, Simone and Bryson will undoubtedly be in one another’s life (maybe less like Whitley and Dwayne and more like Denise and Theo).

Well, folks, the results are in (insert Maury voice). In the case of Bryson J. Broyer, Marcus, you are NOT the father! But, you may still have some ‘splaining to do. Now that they are officially not related, Simone can finally go ahead and have that seat. We know, sis has been tired all day. Ow!

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