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2018 Tonys: 14 Facts About The Black Nominees

These creatives are more than just their roles.

This weekend's Tony Awards is expected to bring plenty of thrills as the nominated plays break genre and creative norms. Part of that includes the many faces leading such plays as the dynamic "Donna Summer Musical," Tiny Fey's "Mean Girls," the elusive "Joan of Arc" and this year's breakout, "Spongebob Squarepants."

As Essence notes, the Tony Awards have led the wave when it comes to representation for people of color. In 2016, plays like Hamilton and The Color Purple made history with Daveed Diggs, Leslie Odom, Jr., Renee Elise Goldsberry and Cynthia Erivo taking home the awards for Featured Actor, Lead Actor, Featured Actress and Lead Actress respectively. It was also the first year that all major four musical categories went to black actors.

This year, history is bound to repeat itself as the Tonys have reserved nominations for standout performances from Denzel Washington, Joshua Henry and LaChanze. R&B and hip-hop heavyweights like John Legend and T.I. could also take home a Tony for their contributions in the "Spongebob Squarepants" musical.

But these creatives are more than just their roles. Take a look below for fun facts behind our favorite theatric mavens.


Denzel Washington

Nominated for: Best Leading Actor in a Play (“The Iceman Cometh") as Theodore "Hickey" Hickman

Fun Fact: As a child at his Boys Club community center, Washington performed The Beatles'  "I Want to Hold Your Hand" with the late Wayne Bridges–the father of Chris "Ludacris" Bridges.

Condola Rashād

Nominated for: Best Leading Actress in a Play (“Saint John”) as Joan of Arc

Fun Fact: The daughter of Phylicia Rashād and sports caster Ahmad Rashād is one of the youngest actresses ever to be nominated in the category. This is also her first nomination in the leading actresses category as she's been nominated for her feature roles in “A Doll’s House, Part 2,” “The Trip to Bountiful,” and “Stick Fly."

Lauren Ridloff

Nominated for: Best Leading Actress in a Play (“Children of a Lesser God”) as Sarah Norman

Fun Fact: Born  deaf, "Children of a Lesser God" is Ridolff's first theatric role as in the past she was a sign language-tutor.

“If you didn’t know her résumé, you’d swear she’d been doing this her whole life,” her co-star, Joshua Jackson told The New York Times. “You’re dealing with an actress that doesn’t know what she’s doing, and communicating with her in a language she doesn’t speak, and trying to connect another actor to her — but she had a presence that I thought could transfer easily to the stage, and she has instinct enough that she can’t make a false move.”

Yolanda Adams

Nominated for: Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre ("Spongebob Squarepants: The Musical")

Fun Fact: Adams's glow has also brightened film scores. The gospel legend's song, "Believe" was featured in 2003's Honey soundtrack.

T.I. "Tip" Harris

Nominated for: Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre ("Spongebob Squarepants: The Musical")

Fun Fact: Tip's quickest shopping spree–$20,000 in 30 minutes–happened in 2017 when he took care of single mother's shopping lists during the holiday season.

John Legend

Nominated for: Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre ("Spongebob Squarepants: The Musical")

Fun Fact: Legend was featured in his first Super Bowl ad with Pepsi's LIFEWTR in 2017. “It’s all about creativity, it’s all about inspiration, and it’s all about art,” he previously told VIBE. “I thought that the combination of that and imagery looked really beautiful together.

Domani (L) & Darwin "Lil C" Cordale Quinn (R)

Nominated for: Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre ("Spongebob Squarepants: The Musical")

Fun Fact: As the son of T.I., Domani has the gift of making music in his DNA. “Music was just another way for me to create," he told Respect in 2017. "I had always liked music, but when I was like nine, I was like, let me do something. I got in there, put it down and kept doing it.”

Before being the go-to producer for T.I. and the Grand Hustle Records family, Lil C produced his first hit–Young Jeezy's "My Hood"–at the age of 17.

Hailey Kilgore

Nominated for: Best Performance by Leading Actress in a Musical ("Once on This Island") as Ti Moune

Fun Fact: Her fandom for Ariana Grande has led the actress to some interesting places. While performing in her hometown of Portland, Ariana's brother Frankie was also on the bill.

"He sang this rendition of ‘I Believe’ from The Book of Mormon, but he changed the words," she told Broadway. "He was just like ‘I’m here. This is my personality; this is what I’m like. You can like it, or you can leave it.’ We were backstage, and he walked up to me and said, ‘I love your outfit, and you are so beautiful. Your voice is so beautiful.’ I remember just being like, ‘Wow!’”


Nominated for: Best Performance by Leading Actress in a Musical ("Summer: The Donna Summer Musical") as Donna Summer (Diva Donna)/ Mary Gaines

Fun Fact: The Broadway legend actually originated the role of Ti Moune, which Kilgore is nominated for. While she's been beloved in the theater, LaChanze has been adamant about roles for black women.

"I have had success in certain types of roles. I am an African-American woman of dark skin tone, and there are very specific roles that are usually given to African-American women of a darker hue," she told Backstage"Let’s start with “Once on This Island”: peasant girl. Let’s go to “The Color Purple”: young girl, beaten. Let’s go to “Ragtime”: Her baby’s taken. The majority of the roles I’ve played are women who have been either impoverished or subjugated in some way. So while I’ve been fortunate enough to have success because these roles exist, they are stereotypical roles."

Ariana DeBose

Nominated for: Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical ("Summer: The Donna Summer Musical") as Donna Summer (Disco Donna)

Fun Fact: DeBose is used to making "first" moments. In addition to this being her first Tony nomination, she created the role of Jane in the musical version of Chazz Palminteri's A Bronx Tale and originated the character Bullet in Hamilton. 

Joshua Henry

Nominated for: Best Leading Actor in a Musical (“Rodgers & Hammerstein's Carousel”) as Billy Bigelow

Fun Fact: Henry is one of the few actors to span theater musical genres. He's starred in Kander and Ebb’s “minstrel show” in Scottsboro, punk rock vibes in American Idiot, R&B and hip hop grooves in In The Heightssoul vibrations in Violet, rap and jazz in Hamilton and classical sounds with Carousel. 

Brian Tyree Henry

Nominated for: Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play ("Lobby Hero") as William

Fun Fact: Henry's theater career has been a long one and he's had quite the pal along the way–Sterling K. Brown. The two have been friends for over a decade, in which they've worked together in Public Theater projects like 2009's “Marcus; Or the Secret of Sweet” (The Brother/Sister Plays).

The two earned Emmy nominations together in 2017; Sterling for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in This is Us (which he won) and Henry for his guest role on the hit series. They're also co-starring in the futuristic thriller Hotel Artemis, which hits theaters Friday (Jun. 8).

Noma Dumezweni

Nominated for: Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play (“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts One and Two”) as Hermione Granger

Fun Fact: The regal actress wasn't fazed when trolls took to social media to protest a black Hermione in 2016.

“[People] go, What? What do you mean Hermione is black? No — it’s me, Noma, who happens to be black and the directors have chosen me,” she told The Cut in May 2018. “That weight of expectation, I’ve never felt it as a burden. The only burden that I put on myself is: Am I good enough in each day? What can I find? What can I do? If I don’t believe I’m doing the work well enough, that’s what hurts me more than anything, and that’s what keeps you reaching, reaching and reaching.”

READ: 12 Good, Bad & Political Takeaways From The 2018 Governors Ball Music Festival

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Remain Calm: 5 Ways To Curve Negative Effects Of Coronavirus Isolation

Self-isolation during the coronavirus outbreak seems to be best practice in keeping our families and peers safe but it's also a shift in our normal social behavior. As millions of families around the country get adjusted to self-isolation, the state of our mental health and how our bodies react to the practice are changing by the day, especially lower-income and marginalized groups.

Speaking with Wired, John Vincent, a clinical psychologist at the University of Houston, shared how apathetic behavior can rise to the forefront, making space for anxiety and depression.

“People start getting lethargic when they don’t have positive inputs into their small worlds,” Vincent says. “We can expect depression to kick in, and depression and anxiety are kissing cousins.”

But the biggest reason behind the uneasiness isn't the self-isolation but just how long it will last. Details of COVID-19 are changing by the day with the most cases now coming out of New York. Yet, there's still little to no information on what happens next.

“Open, transparent, consistent communication is the most important thing governments and organizations can do: Make sure people understand why they are being quarantined first and foremost, how long it is expected to last,” Samantha Brooks of King’s College London told the outlet. “A huge factor in the negative psychological impact seems to be confusion about what's going on, not having clear guidelines, or getting different messages from different organizations.”

Uncertainty hitting low income and marginalized groups is also a problem within itself. As virtual parties and celebrities opening up on social media happen on a daily, there are people who might not access fun distractions on the web.

“Some people have posited technology as a means of connecting people, but lower-income groups might not even have FaceTime or Skype or minutes on their phone,” Thomas Cudjoe, a geriatrician researching the intersection of social connections and aging at Johns Hopkins University says. “People take that for granted, using their devices can be a strain on people’s incomes.”

To make self-isolation less than a bore or a daunting task, experts suggest creating a schedule to dictate control in your home.

1. Work It Out

Gyms are closed, but your home can be transformed into a personal training center. Use heavy bags for weights and if you can, create a playlist of workouts on YouTube. For those who have memberships for Blink or Peloton, the platforms have streamed their workouts on apps.

2. Mindful Meditation

Meditation isn't about dumping your thoughts, it's about staying aware and mindful. AQUA has developed online that leverages the power of "Mindful Meditation and Mobility Movements" for flexibility and fluidity in the body. Classes are free of charge but feel free to donate.

3. Take It Back To High School

Give your friends a call or indulge in a FaceTime party. Feel free to use the Wifi in your home to reduce the amount of data used on your phone. Lala Anthony held a too-cute FT birthday party for writer Kiyonna Anthony with a 70s theme. You can also find creative ways to hop on the phone with friends and family instead of constantly chatting about 'rona.


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We made the best out of our quarantine situation🎉‼️FACETIME 70s Party💃🏽🎉HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY NIECE @kiyonnathewriter ❤️❤️💃🏽💃🏽SHOUT OUT TO ALL MY ARIES ♈️ MAKE THE BEST OF IT!!!😘

A post shared by ℒᎯ ℒᎯ (@lala) on Mar 23, 2020 at 7:14pm PDT

4. Start A Journal

Journals just aren't for kids. The practice not only gives you something to do, but it fuels creativity and a new level of self-awareness. Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently developed Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice, with over 150 inspiring questions and quotes that connect to key themes in her memoir. The journal will also help bring readers to terms with the importance of family and personal reflections as well as the goals they'd like to make a reality.

5. Have a Dance Party or Enjoy Lo-Fi Beats To Quarantine To

If you don't have data or battery power to watch a virtual DJ party, make your own. If you have to pull out your record player, do it! You can also hop on your favorite streaming service and create a playlist all your own.

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From Teen Sensation To Vocal Bible: Brandy's 15 Best Songs

September 27, 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of the multiplatinum self-titled debut album by one of R&B’s greatest voices, Brandy Rayana Norwood, or simply Brandy. She was already well on her way to stardom prior to her debut as a background vocalist for Immature and one of the stars of the short-lived ABC series, Thea. However, it was the album Brandy that set her on the path to tremendous success.

Since officially bursting onto the scene in 1994 sporting her well-known braided crown of glory, she has been a force to be reckoned with. She was handpicked by her idol, the late Whitney Houston, to portray the role of the first Black Cinderella in the 1997 film Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Her show Moesha was one of the longest-running black sitcoms. Brandy was also a CoverGirl in 1999 and became a friend of Barbie that same year when Mattel released the Brandy Doll. In music, she’s released six studio albums, sold more than 40 million records worldwide, headlined three world tours, and won more than 30 awards including seven Billboard Music Awards, a Grammy and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award. Brandy deserves her flowers.

Let’s check out the top 15 songs that helped solidify Brandy as your favorite singer’s favorite singer (just ask Solange) and earned her the title of the “Vocal Bible.”

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In this photo illustration Dollar and Euro notes are displayed, on November 26, 2010 in London, England.
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Money Trees: 10 Tips On Managing Your Finances During The Coronavirus Pandemic

The COVID-19 outbreak has shifted the lives of millions as self-isolation has become a brief normal. With students and some people working from home, many folks have also seen a vast change in their finances.

The latest U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows increases in claims for jobless benefits for the week of March 14 with California taking the top spot with 58,208 claims, District of Columbia second at 16,120; Washington state third, with 14,846 and North Carolina rounding out the top four at 14,413.

As the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports, Gov. Gavin Newsom told reporters the state received 80,000 unemployment applications last week. “We average about 2,000 unemployment insurance claims a day,” Newsom said. “Two days ago or three days, we saw about 40,000 applications. After that 70,000 applications. Yesterday, 80,000 unemployment applications.”

But each state, job, and situation are different. One thing that remains the same is staying ahead of your finances the best way possible. Hailing from a community who barely enjoys money talk, I know how hard it can be to work against the forces that include Sallie Mae, rent, credit cards, and UberEats orders. It's why I indulge in the gift that is The Financial Gym. With a fitness-inspired take on finances, the company works one-on-one with each client to ensure everyone gets to one step closer to financial freedom.

Below are some tips from the gym as well as your favorite hip-hop songs to keep you accountable and financially healthy.


1. Scale Back On Extra Expenses

Non-essentials like to hide in plain sight. If there is a service you no longer need but still pay for, now is the best time to cut the cord and pad your bank account.

2. Create An Emergency Fund (If You Don't Have One)

According to Finder, the US average of savings accounts in 2019 was $16,420 with the median savings account holding $4,830. It can be very difficult to keep a savings account due to unexpected expenses but it doesn't hurt an emergency fund for rainy days.

“If you think we’re heading into a recession and you want to be extra safe, then you may increase your emergency savings to 8 months or longer,” suggests Shannon McLay, founder of The Financial Gym.

If this isn't realistic, adapt to your salary and build from there.

3. Don't Forget About D.E.B.T

If you have to adjust payments to fit your current situation, do so. The one thing that can harm you, is ignoring a bill. It won't go away until you make it.

Also, check-in with your bank. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, banks have waived fees and other costs. For example, Ally Bank is waiving fees for overdrafts, excessive transactions for savings and money market accounts for 120 days with expedited shipping of checks and debit cards. They've also pledged $3 million to help the communities where their employees live and work, with special hometown locations of Detroit and Charlotte.

4. Have Some Talents? Use Them!

If kids can make millions on YouTube by playing with toys, imagine what you can do simply by funneling your other talents. Create a YouTube channel. Make a blog. Get into photography. Start making clothes. Don't allow fear and panic to reduce your creative spirit. You might even make some money out of the deal.

5. Look Back On Life Goals

If you're planning on taking a big vacation or making a big purchase, put it on hold. “If your life goals are between two and five years, then you may want to think about a more conservative asset allocation, depending on your risk tolerance,” says Shannon. “However, if you’re life goals are beyond five years out, then the best thing you’re going to do is avoid looking at your statements, watching CNBC, and doing anything rash like selling at the wrong time.” Sure her sentiments were for facing a recession but the gospel applies here.

6. Sell Gently Used Items Online

'Tis the season for spring cleaning. While you're at it, you should empty your closet and fill your pockets. From electronics to gently worn shoes, clothes or accessories, feel free to turn your possessions into gems for the next person.

Also a tip from The Financial Gym:

Since you want to avoid conducting pick-up arrangements, you’ll want to sell on a platform where shipping is the standard. A few places to sell your pre-loved items online include, eBay and ThredUP, buy-sell-trade Facebook groups, and Gazelle for electronics. Just make sure your listed price accounts for costs, like platform fees, PayPal fees, and shipping.

7. Purge Your Photo Library...For Cash

We take a lot of photos we never share. Instead of letting them collect digital dust, sell your images of that sunset in Bali or crowd photos from Afrochella to sites like Shutterstock and iStock Photo.

8. Take Online Surveys

Platforms like Swagbucks and Survey Junkie provide cash for your time but don't quit your day job. Taking surveys online requires a lot of time so don't dump it all there.

9. Prepare For The Next "Pandemic"

Nipping the excess now only makes you a stronger financial warrior in the future. In addition to securing your pockets, accountability is a great quality you will likely spread to other aspects of your life.

10. Join The Financial Gym

The Financial Gym is currently offering a 20 percent discount to join. To get started schedule a consultation call here. All their events in NYC and D.C. are currently virtual experiences through the end of March.

Learn more about The Financial Gym here.

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