Friday, December 26, 2008

One on One with Brandy

By Janaya Black

After a four-year hiatus, singer Brandy Norwood has resurfaced with a hot new single, Right Here (Departed), and is looking forward to the release of her highly anticipated new album, Human, on Dec. 9.
During a brief visit to Detroit to take part in the Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Michigan FrontPage had a chance to catch up with Brandy to find out what she’s been up to.
FrontPage: From the time that you dropped your first album to this point, what has the journey been like for you in the entertainment industry?

Brandy: The journey in the entertainment industry has been exciting! Of course it has its ups and downs but music is my life and in order to get my music out there I have to go through the music business. I have learned so many great lessons being an artist and I have met so many wonderful people to help me reach goals.

FP: On your last album your song Should I Go? Eluded to the idea that you were undecided about whether or not you wanted to continue your music career, so what made you decide to do another album?

Brandy: The reason why I am back with a new album is because I realized that it is my responsibility to make good music. It is the way I give back to the world. God gave me a gift and if I don’t use it by sharing it, then it’s all in vain.

FP: The song Departed is HOT! Who wrote it and what was the inspiration behind it?

Brandy: It was written by the "writing camp" and Darkchild. They were inspired by some of my life experiences. I connected to the song the first time I heard it. Everybody needs somebody and to know that you have people there that you can depend on or call on is a blessing.

FP: At this point in your career do you see yourself doing more albums after this, or do you plan to do more movie projects or a combination of both?

Brandy: I definitely plan to do more albums in the future and expand my acting career as well.

FP: How do you balance motherhood with everything that you have going on?

Brandy: I love being a mother and I always make sure that I get quality time with my girl because I am gone a lot now that I am working. I have a lot of help. My mom and my cousin help me with her when I am gone. I make sure she is loved and happy all the time as if I was right there. I also speak to her everyday if I am working on the road. My daughter understands very well that everything that I am doing is for her and that makes it a lot easier.

FP: Do you have any other projects in the works? Movies, TV, etc...

Brandy: I am developing television projects right now! Acting comes very natural for me and I look forward to playing a character that people can grow and love!

For more information about Brandy, visit To read more stories by Janaya Black visit

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Up Close and Personal with Will Smith

I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Will Smith about his new movie 7 Pounds and how he handles life as a mega super star! Ladies, not only was he one of the most down to earth people I've ever met, but he was FINE! lol. But I digress...the focus of this piece is the interview and it went a little something like this:

Up Close and Personal with Will Smith
By Janaya Black
Managing Editor

Will Smith has been coined the world’s biggest star on the planet, and with the magnitude of his impressive resume one could hardly argue that sentiment.
Will Smith, once known as one-half of the hip hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, has come a long way from the fresh-faced, happy-go-lucky rapper who just happened to land his own television show (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) to becoming one of the highest paid and most beloved leading men in Hollywood.
In celebration of the release of his newest movie 7 Pounds that opens in theaters on Dec 19, the FrontPage had the opportunity to sit down with Smith to discuss his role as Ben Thomas, one of the most challenging of his career, and his life as a super star.

FrontPage: You’ve been referred to a lot in the past year as the biggest movie star on the planet Earth, how does the view look from there?

Will Smith: Wow! (laughing) It’s uh…I read…I wish I could remember! My wife always remembers where she read stuff and it sounds so cool when you can say the author and stuff. [But], I read somebody said that he was a mountain climber and he set in his mind that I want to climb Everest, I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it. And he climbed to the top and realized he couldn’t breathe, right? And the only thought he had was ‘how the hell can I get down off of here as fast as I can?’ And it’s like this weird thing that kicks in your mind, like be careful what you wish for. You know, you go and you fight to get there and there’s this discomfort that sets in and it’s really the last probably year and a half has been kind of scary and a little bit frustrating for me. And I had an epiphany working on 7 Pounds, and I realized that part of that feeling was that I was looking at my life, and I was looking at myself, and my future too much around these movies. And after 7 Pounds, I just had this huge epiphany of how much more I want to do and the idea of living in service to humanity vs. living in service to the commerce of my movies. That explosion just totally washed away that sort of scary, uncomfortable feeling. It’s like however people look at me, as a movie star or not, I want to be remembered as a man who cared about people and dedicated his life to making the world better. So with that I went from thinking of myself in this high place to like ‘Damn, I got so much to do’ or ‘I need to get to work’ and that’s so much better a place for me emotionally.

FP: What attracted to you to this movie?

WS: I was attracted to 7 Pounds not because there was a fantastic one-liner that I could sell around the world very easily. I was attracted to 7 Pounds because there were ideas, there were emotions that were part of this character that I was hiding myself from, so I took 7 Pound as a self exploration. Jada said something to me a few months ago; she said its funny how much I was rejecting this character. She [was] like, ‘you know that you are Ben.’ I was like ‘What?’ She was like, ‘The reason you’re so nice and the reason you fight so hard to be up-tone is because you’re at war with that guy inside of you.’ Then I was like ‘Damn, deep lady!’ And that’s when I realized, it’s like projects I was choosing and everything had to be ok in the end or it emotionally hurt me. So now my sensibilities are becoming slight less delicate and I’m able to venture out a little bit more into the world of emotional and artistic ambiguity in a way that strikes me as more authentic, but it’s terrifying for me.

Just like as a child growing up, I needed to know, and my grandmother made sure that I knew God is going to make everything ok. So however scared you get of how bad life is, just know there’s somebody in a high place that’s on your side. So to play a character who doesn’t necessarily believe that, to feel like he has to fix it , that God made a mistake and it’s his responsibility to fix it, and how to carry that emotional weight is a terrifying space for me emotionally and artistically.

FP: How has this movie impacted you?

WS: I’ve been exploring the idea of trauma and the relationship between trauma and continuing life. Like with I am Legend, in to Hancock, and now with 7 Pounds I’m starting the character on trauma. And then I was asking the question, ‘What’s the difference between someone who falls into depression and someone like Nelson Mandella, or Muhammad Ali, or Ghandi or Mother Theresa that just keeps going in the face of the ultimate weight of humanity and life?’ And the thing that I discovered on 7 Pounds is its purpose. When you wake up and you’ve dedicated your life to something beyond yourself all is bearable. It just to exploded in my mind with this movie and with this character, and if there’s been a movie in my career that I’d say changed my life, it’s 7 Pounds.

FP: Rosario (Dawson) said that you were kind of shy about the love scenes and maybe put them off a little bit. Was that the case?

WS: Yes. See for me, my grandmother was really firm about how men are supposed to treat women. So, it’s like for me, my worst nightmare is for an actress to come on my set and feel like I’m taking this as an opportunity to get a little quickie feel or some legal cheating going on. I just need, specifically women, to be comfortable around me. I just don’t want to feel like I’m that dude.

FP: How does Jada feel about that?

WS: Jada said, ‘Listen, I know you’re uncomfortable but you better not embarrass me!’ (laughing) She was like, ‘When you do that love scene, you better show them what you’re working with!’

FP: Did she come to the set?

WS: No, she didn’t come to the set. I asked her to come to the set and she was like ‘are you stupid?’

FP: There are numerous reports about how grounded you are and how easy you are to work with. How do you manage to stay so humble in the midst of all your success?

WS: I think because I’m scared. I’m so grateful to be in the position that I’m in, to have been blessed with the things that I’ve been blessed with. I was with Redman the other day in Chicago and he came up and we’re sitting down and he said, ‘Man, listen; now I’ve got this relationship that I’m trying to make work and I’m telling you- if you and Jada don’t work, I’m done!’ And I was like wow! And he meant it. He was like the only reason he’s going to try is because of what he saw with Jada and I and he’s believing that there maybe a possibility so he’s going to give it a shot. So it’s like I just don’t want to break that. I don’t want to damage other people’s lives in that way so it really keeps me humble and grounded because I don’t totally feel like I’ve got it. It’s like I might mess something up and that sort of keeps me in a place where I’m really focused and paying attention. I just don’t want to step wrongly.

To read more by Janaya Black visit or check out the Michigan FrontPage Digital edition by visiting

P.S. If you haven't done so already, check out my books! They make great Christmas gifts!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Detroit, be proactive

In the midst of what seems to be one of the most trying times in our state’s economic history, it does not behoove us to sit back and mourn the loss of better days. The time has come for us to take the bull by the horns and get life as we know it back on track.
It can be done; it is just a matter of focus and determination. Applying simple rules of logic to your everyday lifestyle can improve your standards more than you ever thought possible.
For example: yes, we are in an automotive crisis and, yes, gas prices are going down, but car-pooling continues to be a very practical and cost-effective way to save money. Cooking at home, while more inconvenient for some, is still a sure-fire way to save a few extra bucks. And stop throwing out those leftovers! Find creative ways to use your leftovers to create new and exciting meals for your family – stews, soups and casseroles are just a few examples.
Take the clothes that you don’t wear anymore or that your children have grown out of and sell them through consignment shops or boutiques. And don’t be too proud to shop there as well.
The holidays are quickly approaching and if things are a little tight in your household come up with some creative gift-giving ideas for this year. Photos, videos and food gifts are always welcome by friends and family members, and not to mention easier on your wallet.
If you are facing the harsh reality of a possible layoff, begin thinking of creative ways to generate other streams of income for your household. Assess your skills and figure out how to make them work for you. If you can sew, do side jobs making or altering clothing for family and friends at discount prices. Personal shop for your busy acquaintances or go through those over-stuffed closets to find things that you don’t need, then pay a visit to your local pawn shop.
Just because the present may look a little bleak that does not mean that all hope is lost. Things are a little tough right now but they will get better. Struggle makes us stronger and much more appreciative of the good times. And it also teaches us how to better prepare ourselves for the next time hard times hit.
Don’t be discouraged. You can make it, you will make it. We will survive and things will get better. It may not happen overnight but a change will come. Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Oh, what a tangled web

From the time that most of us could utter our first words, we were taught that it’s wrong to lie. We even had cute little movies and stories like Pinocchio or The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf that entertained us as kids but carried deeper moral values that our parents did not hesitate to reinforce. The basic premise was that not only is it wrong to lie but your word is your bond and if you can’t stand on your word, what else do you have? Nothing.
Earlier this week Detroit closed a chapter on a scandal, that has festered in this city like an infected canker sore, when Christine Beatty pleaded guilty to perjury charges in relation to the Whistleblower case. Now that she and former Mayor Kilpatrick have been forced to publicly acknowledge their wrongdoing and pay their debt to society, one is left to wonder was it worth it?
It started with one lie and that lie turned into a series of other lies which quickly snowballed into a plethora of additional lies to cover up the old ones. And what ensued was a vicious cycle of untruths that have impacted the lives of not only the accused but that of their families, friends and co-workers, and has cost the city a lot of money.
No one is impervious to the temptations of life but the valor lies in one’s ability to take responsibility for one’s mistakes. We all make them but the key is to learn from them, not cover them up.
It is a sad, sad situation that two intelligent people who had so much going for them got caught up in a bad situation that has since taken them away from their families and cost a lot of people their jobs. But the lesson that we all need to take away from this situation is that old adage that we were all taught at a very young age: Thou shalt not lie.