2018 Essence Black Women In Hollywood Oscars Luncheon - Red Carpet
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Amandla Stenberg Talks Walking Away From 'Shuri' Character In 'Black Panther'

The actor turned away from the role out of social duty because she didn’t think that a biracial woman would fit into the milieu.

The Black Panther cast is still leaving some aftershock. It’s not very often, even in films with black leads, that the major characters are all portrayed by dark-skinned actors. The film, before ever having been released, set off conversations about representation not only for black people in general but for those of a darker complexion.

For Black Panther, the three leading women (Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, and Danai Gurira) were not in competition with one another at any point. The angry, dark-skinned trope was not welcome. And their roles all fit them like gloves; they were nothing short of tailor-made.

Wright’s portrayal of 18-year-old Princess Shuri resonated particularly well. The British actor intently made Shuri fun. "I watched YouTube videos of real African princesses: they're normal girls who happen to be royalty, and I wanted to hijack that idea and make her really fun," the actress told Essence recently. The 24-year-old tossed hyper-regality for a blase approach to royalty. But there wasn’t a single moment when viewers could imagine another actress in her shoes.

Despite that, there was another actress in the running for the Shuri role: 19-year-old Amandla Stenberg, who told CBC Arts at the TIFF Next Wave Festival that she took a step away from the biggest movie of the year. Rejecting that opportunity doesn’t seem right but there’s more.

Stenberg is not unqualified. She’s best known for her role in the 2012 film adaptation of The Hunger Games, for which she received a Teen Choice Award and has been recognized for her roles in other movies. But she didn’t think Black Panther was right for her.

Stenberg, every bit as much an activist as she is an actress, turned away from the role out of social duty. She didn’t think that a biracial woman would fit into the milieu, it being a fictional space where colonization never made it. And she wouldn’t pass, without question, for a woman who’s solely African in East Africa.

“One of the most challenging things for me to do was to walk away from Black Panther. I got really, really close and they were like, 'Do you want to continue fighting for this?’ And I was like, ‘This isn’t right.' These are all dark-skin actors playing Africans and I feel like it would have just been off to see me as a biracial American with a Nigerian accent just pretending that I’m the same color as everyone else in the movie,” she told CBC.

It wasn’t easy for Stenberg but her consciousness was well-received. Her character may have inspired unanswerable questions or even required an additional storyline.

“That was really challenging, to make that decision, but I have no regrets. I recognize 100 percent that there are spaces that I should not take up, and when I do take up a space, it’s because I’ve thought really, really critically about it and I’ve consulted people I really trust and it feels right,” she continued.

The opportunities allotted to biracial women are also quite limited. And there's even less space in the realm of activism. Biracial women are often asked not to attempt absorption of black pain and to step away from critiquing black issues, though Stenberg does it all. While the decision was tough, she made it without regret, considering its effect on a larger scale.

Stenberg already has another big project. She's set to appear in the August release of The Darkest Minds and in The Hate U Give, a film adaptation of the book by the same name.

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An Unofficial Documentary About Drake Is Currently On Streaming Services

An unauthorized documentary about the rise of musician Drake can be viewed on video distribution services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. Drake: Rewriting the Rules initially dropped on Vimeo in Nov. 2018, and now, fans of the "God's Plan" musician will have a chance to watch it at their leisure on other platforms.

The documentary chronicles the music superstar from his days growing up in Toronto, to portraying Jimmy on the hit-teen drama Degrassi, to becoming a hip-hop star and working with musicians from Kanye West to his Young Money leader, Lil Wayne.

"Discover the untold story of how Drake rewrote the rules and rose from a child actor to become a cultural phenomenon and global musical icon," writes IMDb of the film's synopsis. "He is the king of pop and hip hop, combining many musical styles into one mainstream sound." The film runs 74 minutes long. Interviews from media figures and writers are included in the doc, which was directed and written by British filmmaker Ray King. However, no representatives from Drake's team are included.

Drake has not commented on the doc as of press time. He has been relatively quiet in the news, however, it's being reported that he is close to securing a residency of sorts at the Wynn's XS Nightclub in Las Vegas.


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Stream: Hulu's 'FYRE Fraud' Doc Examines The Festival That Scammed Thousands

In 2017, rumors of an exclusive festival taking place in the Bahamas took over social media. Organized by Billy McFarland and promoted by Ja Rule, the FYRE Festival was the new, cool kid on the festival block and quickly put other more seasoned festivals to shame.

But all that glitters isn't gold.

FYRE FRAUD, the new documentary streaming on Hulu, takes an intimate look at the scam that left thousands stranded on the island. Directed by Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason, the dark-comedy interviews whistleblowers, victims, and the convicted con-man himself, McFarland.

In a press release, Fraust and Nason said the goal isn't to make light of those who were scammed.

"Our aim was to set the stage for a strange journey into the moral abyss of our digital age, going beyond the meme to show an ecosystem of enablers, driven by profit and willing to look the other way, for their own gain.

"We draw on countless cultural references, on true crime tension, and on humor - but we did not intend to create a toothless comedy about the Fyre Festival. We hope this film can pierce our collective apathy and disrupt our own millennial peers, if only for an instant - to look at these stories for what they truly are, and to halt this algorithm before it devours us whole."

FYRE FRAUD is now streaming on Hulu.



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Dave Chappelle Isn't Sure His R. Kelly 'Chappelle Show' Skits Were Insensitive

The Surviving R. Kelly series may be over, but the fallout from it has seemingly just begun.

Director dream hampton took to Twitter during the airing of the Lifetime documentary and spoke honestly about the several celebrity men she contacted in hopes they'd speak on camera about R. Kelly and the years of sexual allegations that have shadowed him. Among them was Dave Chappelle.

The beloved comic famously made a music video entitled "Piss On You" mocking the real-life video of R. Kelly urinating on an underage girl. During the Chappelle Show heyday, he used R.Kelly's legal woes as material for years.

TMZ caught with Chappelle in West Hollywood and asked him if he regretted not being featured in hampton's series and instead he dodged the question.

"Jesus Christ, I just had dinner," Chappelle said in between taking a drag of his cigarette. "I just ate. Strop bringing that motherf**ker up."

When pressed about whether or not he thinks his old skits were insensitive, the 45-year-old said "I don't know. I'd have to watch it again."

D.L. Hughley joined Chappelle for dinner and commented on R.Kelly and the forthcoming Michael Jackson documentary, Leaving Neverland, which outlines sexual assault allegations against the late singer.

"If you can be mad at R. Kelly, you should be mad at Michael Jackson," Hughley said.


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