Day Kornegay in “Automatic” Brings Back New Jack Swing

 

Image courtesy of 2Rs Entertainment & Media PR

If you haven’t notice, vintage is all the rage in fashion. From collections that conjure up images from the disco era—lots of glam and glitter—to collections that are find new ways to interpret 80s street style. It’s all good because in fashion, everything old can be new again.

The same applies to music. There is nothing new under the sun, as was so eloquently put in Ecclesiastes. For music, it is not always about creating something new, but how you put familiar musical elements together in ways not experienced before.

Day Kornegay is one such artist, an artist that combines the familiar together in ways that will keep music lovers humming his tune but also in ways that advance music genres. As his debut five-song forthcoming album can attest, Day’s done his homework while developing a sound that’s fresh, vibrant, and accessible. Day himself refers to it as “Urban Intellectual.” “I can be edgy, but in a subtle way,” he says.

And with the late summer release of “Automatic,” Day has scored a top 40 R&B hit and is on his way. Day Kornegay took time from his very busy schedule to speak to Fashion Reverie about “Automatic,” his love of music and how he is bringing back that late 80s/early 90s ‘New Jack Swing’ style.

Image courtesy of 2Rs Entertainment & Media PR

FR: What is your musical background?

Day Kornegay: I grew up in Brooklyn and raised in the church. My parents have decent voices and they had in my church. I got the musical bug singing in the choir. I went to high school at Music and Art or as it is better known as LaGuardia High School, the famous school from the 1980s iconic film “Fame.”

FR: What is your musical training?

Day Kornegay: At LaGuardia the curriculum is very serious. You spend half of the day training in your art. You learn orchestral composition, all the Italian, German, and French classical artist. You really get your music foundation at LaGuardia.

You literally have a full arts curriculum and that doesn’t include your academic classes. It like going to high school for music.

FR: After college, you became a backup singer/vocalist.

Day Kornegay: That’s correct. For a long time, I toured for Atlantic Records that would pair me with different artists. I graced the stage with Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Erykah Badu, Common, J.P. Taylor from Kool and the Gang, and other great artists.

Image courtesy of 2Rs Entertainment & Media PR

FR: What were the motivations behind you breaking out and becoming a solo artist?

Day Kornegay: I really love music and I believe music can change the world. Music can transform people. There are folks who cannot speak a word of English but know all the lyrics to Michael Jackson songs. It is the closest thing we have to a love emotion, and people get energy from music.

Being a vocal musician is my way of sharing love with people. I love seeing people happy. That is my gift and that is how I share love with people.

FR: What do you prefer and why, singing/performing or songwriting?

Day Kornegay: As a performer you literally get to touch people with your music. You can see from performing on stage how your music can change, transform, and bring up all kinds of emotions in the audience.

With songwriting you get to consider how your words and music can affect people. Songwriting is more long term. Hopefully, people will hear your work again and again, and get to process it. Singing is in the moment. It is hard to choose between the two. They are both equally gratifying.

“Automatic” image courtesy of vimeo.com

FR: Let’s talk about your top 40 hit, “Automatic,” that was released at the end of August. Your sound harkens back to late 1980s R&B crooners—Bobby Brown, Keith Sweat, Alexander O’Neal. How did “Automatic” come to be and be infused with that 80s/90s R&B sound?

Day Kornegay: The 1990s is where I started to form by thoughts and opinions about music. That was a huge influence on me. I love all eras of music. However, the 90s was special; there were so many talented artists. There was such a creation of new sounds; sounds that we hadn’t exactly heard before.

Think about it, look where hip hop went in the 90s; it exploded. Then, there was ‘New Jack Swing’ and Teddy Riley. My mom was a huge Keith Sweat, and Guy fan. She played their music continuously. So, that sound was drummed into my head.

We now have artists that are tapping into that 90s R&B/hip hop sound. Bruno touches on; Lizzo has her take on it. Still, there is a bit of gap of that live band sound. So, I decided with “Automatic” to give a bit of that in the song.

FR: And your “Automatic” video is so much fun. It reminds me of a male version of a 90s Brandi video for 2019.

Day Kornegay: There we go again, Brandi, a huge 90s R&B artist.

Image courtesy of vimeo.com

FR: What are trying to say in “Automatic”?

Day Kornegay: “Automatic” is about having fun!! Certain people you click or connect with automatically. This song it is about that fun, flirty romance that happens between two people who like and love the same things in life. As the guy in the song travels around the world, the girl he has this connection with always pops up because she likes the same places he likes, globally.

The world is so much smaller now thanks to technology and social media. We were thinking about that and “Automatic” came to me and my producer Rick Steele.

FR: Aside from being a very fun song, “Automatic” is a very family-friendly tune; no profanity or nudity. That might not have been your intention, but it is somewhat refreshing. Did that happen organically, or did you plan for a family-friendly song?

Day Kornegay: I have young nieces and nephews and they send me little videos of them singing “Automatic,” and it is so nice that there’s no lewdness or profanity because that is not a part of the song. We did not intentionally design the song that way, and I have nothing against strong language in music; however, in “Automatic” there was no need for strong language or lots of booty shaking.

FR: Now you refer to your sound as urban intellectual, could you speak about

that?

Day Kornegay: I am from New York City which is a huge melting pot of everything from fashion, entertainment, nightlife, finance, you name it. You can literally find everything in New York City. As someone who comes from an urban city and is comfortable using my mind my musical style is defined by the urban intellectual vibe as it relates to New York City.

FR: Fashion Reverie is a fashion magazine, so some fashion questions are a must. Who are some of your favorite fashion designers?

Day Kornegay: I am a fan of local New York City-based fashion designers. I have a lot of friends who are amazing fashion designers. ME, which is a NYC-based fashion brand, is one of the menswear brands that I love. I wear a lot of the brand’s clothing. The clothing is top notch, everything down to the stitching and the fabrication. The brand is about self- expression and sometimes has messaging about love or defining oneself.

That said; I will also go shop at Zara and find some great clothes there. I try to stay with boutique brands from anywhere in my travels. I love to support indie brands.

Image courtesy of 2Rs Entertainment & Media PR

FR: How would you describe your personal style?

Day Kornegay: My personal style is urban chic, urban intellectual. I am not afraid to throw some sneakers on with some skinny jeans and a blazer. I am also comfortable with suiting it up. I love bold colors, but I also love minimalist style incorporating neutral colors and tones. Fashion for me all depends on my mood, and my mood is generally fun and adventurous.

FR: What’s next for you?

Day Kornegay: We are working on the release of my EP; however, we are waiting for the single “Automatic” to get more traction and sit with people. I would love to get “Automatic” in a commercial. And there is a world tour in the works, on the heels of my current national tour.

William S. Gooch

Fashion Reverie Exclusive: Air Culinaire Worldwide CEO Cliff Smith

 

Image courtesy of Fred J. DeVito

Since 2000, business and private aviation operators have relied on Air Culinaire Worldwide to serve their onboard dining experience. Celebrity chefs, as well as fourteen international aviation trained chefs gathered at 15 Hudson Yards to celebrate the arrival of Air Culinaire Worldwide’s New York Lifestyle Menu and the future opening of their largest US flight kitchen. The event was sponsored by luxury watch company A. Lange & Söhne and Gama Aviation Signature. Select VIP and media attendees had the privilege of attending a tasting of the menu.

Featured dishes included Air Culinaire Worldwide’s chef Sal Lano’s cajun scallops, chef Todd English (Plaza Hotel)  shaved wagyu shabu shabu tacos, and chef John Doherty’s (Black Barn Hotel) butter-poached Maine lobster and butternut squash ravioli. For dessert Lano provided lemon tarts and Doherty provided bread pudding. Moët & Chandon served as the champagne sponsor, Sazerac served as the cocktail sponsor, and Vias Imports served as the wine sponsor for the festivities.

Image courtesy of Fred J. DeVito

The interior décor was designed by Aman & Meeks. Hampton Bishop, the owner of HK Ballons, created exquisite balloon art that was donated to the grand ballroom at 15 Hudson Yards. There was a wonderful selection of modern and post-modern artwork curated by Vanita Gallery and E.D. Enterprises.

 After the celebration, Fashion Reverie got a chance to speak with Air Culinaire Worldwide’s CEO, Cliff Smith, on the future of the company, why they decided to launch a newly curated New York menu, and how to best serve A-list clients’ food needs.

Air Culinaire Worldwide CEO Cliff Smith

Fashion Reverie: What inspired you to create a newly curated New York lifestyle menu and open your largest US flight kitchen?

Cliff Smith: Our company has grown holistically through the years. We have global locations and we are continuously trying to evolve the company. We decided that it was time to evolve the food into more farm-to-table and adapt to current food trends. Basically, I handed off the idea to the chefs, then the chefs created their lifestyle menu for New York. We did this same type of event in Paris, and the response was phenomenal. We also did this in London six months ago

FR: Who are your clients?

Cliff Smith: We have a variety of clients from international businessman to celebrities, and other elite celebrities. We also service rock concerts, as well as FedEx crews throughout the world.  We also service elite Middle Eastern clients, as well as heads of state.  Our business is a very niche business, and we are the largest food supplier in that niche.

Image courtesy of Fred J. DeVito

FR: Why are you looking to take these airline meals to the next level?

Cliff Smith: In the private aviation business we have an open menu, so customers can have whatever they want. In the food business, it’s very hard to produce everything well. People ask for global cuisine ranging from Halal food to cuisine from Paris. We have a very diverse group of culinary workers throughout the country, but it’s hard to actually make sure we are supplying the top shelf product with all of these different recipes. What we’ve done is channel the best food we can possibly produce into this menu. This gives customers a wide variety and we get a product we source and produce ourselves in house.

FR: What was the greatest challenge in making this happen? This does not sound like an overnight endeavor.

Cliff Smith: This has been a year-and-a-half in the making.

FR: When did Air Culinaire Worldwide launch?

Cliff Smith: Air Culinaire Worldwide launched 19 years ago. I have been the CEO for 13 years. We continue to grow every year, and continue to be successful because we evolve service, quality, our product, and food presentation.  Our clientele is the richest 1 percent of the world. They’ve eaten the best of the best food. We are just trying to give them elements of that kind of that quality food they are accustomed to.

FR: What’s been the biggest change in the business that you evidenced as CEO?

Cliff Smith: The growth of the private jet market has been huge. Back in 2008,  during the beginning of the recession , we had a slowdown, but then there was an increase and it’s continuously grown. Private aviation is morphing into so many things, and I believe it is going to grow incrementally in the next ten years. It’s becoming more accessible to people thanks to technology and apps.

There are companies now that facilitate consumers purchasing an airline seat for $5000, which was unheard of five years ago. Previously, that same seat would’ve been $25,000.

Image courtesy of Michael Ostuni

FR: How did you come to get know with all of these chefs?

Cliff Smith: I’ve been in the food business my whole life. I was the former CEO of Balducci’s in New York City. Air Culinaire Worldwide approached me when it was still a small company. I had run markets in Dallas, Texas, Connecticut, and Washington.  Air Culinaire Worldwide was going through some growing pains, and I came on board.

FR: What’s the biggest global market for Air Culinaire Worldwide?

Cliff Smith: The biggest private aviation market is right here in the United States.  So, it seemed appropriate to launch this new lifestyle menu in the US, and more specially in the New York City.

FR: So, what’s next Air Culinaire?

Cliff Smith: We are continuing to look at growth areas around the world. The last three years we built a facility in Paris, France. We’re looking at a facility in Asia. We are pretty built out in the United States. We’ve got facilities in every major market in the U.S. where we need to be. We’re going worldwide.

Kristopher Fraser

Fashion Reverie’s Fall 2019 TV Preview Roundup

Images courtesy of tvguide.com

When Hulu and Netflix began dipping their toes into the world of scripted television many predicted the end of the fall television season. Years later, fall TV is still going strong! These are the shows that has Fashion Reverie throwing the popcorn in the microwave and getting excited for quiet night at home in front of the tube!!

Image courtesy of cwtv.com

Katy Keene (The CW)

This Riverdale spinoff features Lucy Hale as the titular Katy and three other creatives as they pursue their dreams in New York City. Katy dreams of becoming a legendary fashion designer, so expect some fantastic clothes. It’s the CW so expect amazing production values and fun soapy twists.

Image courtesy of Alan Markfield / FOX.

Filthy Rich (Fox)

While Sarah Jessica Parker was hailed as the style icon of “Sex and the City,” eagle-eyed viewers knew it was Kim Cattrell’s Samantha who had style and attitude to make insane outfits work. She returns to TV as the widow of high-powered TV preacher, shocked to discover he has three children outside their marriage. Set in the Texas church community, the budget for hats alone will be through the roof.

Image courtesy of tvline.com

Bluff City Law (NBC)

It has been decades since he appeared on “LA Law,” but Jimmy Smits is back as a Memphis lawyer fighting alongside his daughter to hold big business and corrupt institutions accountable. The fall 2019 season sees a glut of legal show, but this one stands out.

Image courtesy of hollywoodreporter.com

Tommy (CBS)

Four-time Emmy-winner Edie Falco returns as Tommy the first female police chief of Los Angeles when the city is forced by a federal judge to hire a woman. Equal parts political, procedural, and family drama, this show was created by Paul Attanasio, the mind behind “Bull” and “House MD.”

Image courtesy of ABC/Kelsey McNeal

Mixedish (ABC)

The producers of “Blackish” and “Grownish” are back with “Mixedish.” “Mixedish” tells the story of Bo, the matriarch of the “Blackish” clan, and her life growing up in the 80’s. After the government breaks up the commune she lives on with her family, a tweener Bo heads to the suburbs and a mainstream school with her two siblings. Set in the 80’s, this will feature a lot of neon, giant hair, and new wave music.

Image courtesy of tvline.com

Nancy Drew (The CW)

“Veronica Mars’” fans, disappointed with the recent reboot on Hulu, will be thrilled to learn a new “Nancy Drew” will be coming to the CW this fall.  Played by Kennedy McMann, the teen swears off detective life until she finds herself accused of murder. Still reeling from the death of her mother, she’s forced, along with several other teens, to find the real killer and clear their names.

Image courtesy of tvguide.com

Sunnyside (NBC)

Ready for a break from the tragedy of current immigrant life in America?  Check out this bright, lively comedy from the creators of “Brooklyn 99.”  Kal Penn stars as a former New York City councilman who after losing career, finds a new job helping some residents of Sunnyside, Queens become US citizens.

Image courtesy of monsterandcritics.com

The Good Place (NBC)

OK, Fashion Reverie is cheating a bit. This is a returning show, but it’s a favorite. Coming back for its fourth and final season, this fantasy tells the hilarious story of four humans navigating the afterlife. It also features clotheshorse Tahani Al Jamil (played by Jameela Jamil )who upon dying on earth and being plunged into a void, screams for help when she realizes she’s wearing a VEST!

—Cameron Grey Rose

 

 

The Moulin Rouge: 130 Years of Brilliance

Moulin Rouge can-can

OK, you probably have seen “Moulin Rouge!,” the 2001 jukebox musical that starred Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, and John Leguizamo. You may even be aware that the musical version of the film opened on Broadway on July 25.

What you may not know is that the film and the Broadway musical are based on a French music hall theatre, of the same name. And the famous can-can dance took root in the Moulin Rouge from its inception in 1889.

After 130 years, the Moulin Rouge is still going strong. And though many of its traditions are still in place, there have been some upgrades and modernizations.

Fashion Reverie spoke with the Moulin Rouge’s principal dancer Claudine van der Bergh Cook and Moulin Rouge press agent Fanny Rabasse about this Paris landmark, its history, and why after 130 years the Moulin Rouge is still attracting large audiences.

Claudine van der Bergh Cook

Fashion Reverie: Claudine van der Bergh Cook, could you discuss your dance background?

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: I am from Dublin, Ireland. My mother was a classical dance teacher, so I started taking dance lessons at a very young age. I moved to London when I was fifteen and studied full time at the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. I did my degree in ballet and contemporary dance and after graduation I auditioned for the Moulin Rouge.

FR: Was dancing for the Moulin Rouge something you always wanted to do or did the opportunity just happen?

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: It was a bit of both. I explored lots of option when it came to auditioning and perspective dance jobs. I thought because of my height—5`10.5—I would be well suited as a dancer at the Moulin Rouge. (The height requirement at the Moulin Rouge for female dancers is 5`7 for females and 6`3 for males.) Though my training and my aspiration was to be a ballet dancer, at 5`10.5 and over 6`2 on pointe, I was very tall, perhaps too tall, for a ballet dancer.

I danced for five years in the chorus at the Moulin Rouge and I also served as a replacement dancer for solos. Two years ago, I was promoted to a principal dancer of the Moulin Rouge and I am very happy in the role.

FR: What is your day like dancing with the Moulin Rouge?

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: The Moulin Rouge is open 365 days a year and we work six days a week. My day is kind of backward because we work at night. We have two shows, one at 9pm and the other at 11pm. The Moulin Rouge is true French music hall which ties into the history of the Moulin Rouge. We don’t just have dancing, we have acrobatic acts, jugglers, ventriloquists, and lots of other types of acts. All the acts give the audience a break between all the tableaus and set changes.

I go to bed around 4am because I have a lot of adrenaline after the show and it takes me a while to wind down. I get up around 12 noon the next day. I must keep my dance training in check with classes provided by the Moulin Rouge. Classes could be dance classes, yoga, or pilates which is great for stretching and core building which is so necessary for being able to dance with the headdresses with giant plumes.

I also must eat well throughout the day so that I can perform well two shows, six days a week. I eat about five small meals throughout the day.

FR: How did you train to be able to move and dance in the Moulin Rouge’s elaborate headdresses and costumes?

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: The classical ballet training did help with knowing how to pull up and support my body, particularly my neck. We also these back packs which are a part of the costumes that help us support the large plumage that extends out the back of the costumes.

We have a month of training to learn how to move and work with the big headdresses and feathered backpacks. There are 60 dancers in the show and there is a lot of traffic backstage, so we must learn how to get around each other and not slow the show down.

Fanny Rabasse: There are 23 dressers backstage to assist with the 1000 costumes in the show. Each dancer has 12 changes in the show and because Claudine is the lead dancer, she has her own dresser and dressing room.

FR: Do you do your own makeup and hair?

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: We take a special makeup class when we get hired at the Moulin Rouge. And after that we are responsible for our own makeup. I can do my makeup now in about 20 minutes.

We do our hair at the Moulin Rouge and our wigs are looked after by the Moulin Rouge staff. We are not allowed to change our hair color because then all the wigs would have to change. At the Moulin Rouge we only use real human hair and hairpieces because it is easier to style.

FR: The costumes at the Moulin Rouge must require a lot of maintenance. Could you please talk about what goes into their maintenance?

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: Our costumes are maintained by the Moulin Rouge staff. The staff also looks after our feathered headdresses and backpacks, as well as our shoes. Our shoes are made by the Maison de Claire Foy.

Fanny Rabasse: The Maison de Claire Foy was established in 1945 and the Moulin Rouge bought the footwear company in 2007. The Moulin Rouge also own the feather company that creates all our headdresses and backpacks. Maison de Claire Foy is the only company that makes the secret fabrication for our can-can boots. With our can-can boots you can perform 2,500 can-cans.

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: Our can-can boots are very important because the dancers jump high in the air and land in splits and the boots must support all these acrobatic movements. I no longer perform the can-can; but I did in the beginning of my career at the Moulin Rouge. I now open the can-can by portraying the character of La Galoue, who was a famous can-can dancer, and star of the Moulin Rouge. She is immortalized in the can-can painting by Toulouse Lautrec.

FR: Is there topless dancing at the Moulin Rouge?

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: We have beautiful costumes in the show, all beaded, using Swarovski crystals. In a very elegant way, there is a little exposure, but not in a way that children cannot come to the show. Children, as young as six years of age, can come to the Moulin Rouge. We are a family show.

Fanny Rabasse: When a dancer is first employed at the Moulin Rouge there is one month of training required. You are dancing the can-can and other chorus roles where there is no nudity or topless exposure. Can-can dancers are never topless in the show. Then after one or two years, you can dance with more topless exposure. It is totally up to the dancer and the ballet mistress. Our topless exposure is not covert, but very tasteful. And when we tour, there is no topless exposure at all.

FR: Has the Moulin Rouge ever been closed?

Fanny Rabasse: The only time the Moulin Rouge has been closed since it opened in 1889 was in 1985 for a special performance for Queen Elizabeth in London. The Moulin Rouge only closes for five weeks when we have a new show. The show that is currently running has been on stage for 19 years. We try to keep the show fresh and interesting, so some aspects of the current show have been updated.

FR: The Moulin Rouge is one of the oldest cabaret houses in Paris and famous for the can-can. How has the Moulin Rouge’s shows changed over the years?

Fanny Rabasse: We had a new artistic team arriving in the 1960s. Jacki Clerico took control of the Moulin Rouge in 1962. The new artistic team of Ruggero Angeletti and Doriss Haug have created 10 shows for the Moulin Rouge since the 1960s. The current show at the Moulin Rouge was created by that artistic team. The investment for the current show was $10 million dollars.

The Moulin Rouge has lots of traditions and one the things that has stayed the same since the time of Mistinguett is lots of people on stage and lots of beautiful costumes and sets, beautiful music, and of course the can-can. What has changed is the technical aspects to the show. The Moulin Rouge is going green. Our lights are now solar powered.

FR: Why is the Moulin Rouge, after 130 years, still appealing to tourists and consumers?

Fanny Rabasse: We give people what they want to see. The Moulin Rouge is famous around the world, and it is one of the places you must go and see when you come to Paris. The venue is amazing, the atmosphere is very warm. For an hour and forty-five minutes you forget everything and experience the excitement and the beauty of the Moulin Rouge. It is the pure tradition of French music hall and people want to see and experience that. 

FR: How much would an evening at the Moulin Rouge cost?

Fanny Rabasse: If you come only for the show, the cost is $150 euro which includes champagne. If you want dinner to accompany the show it costs more. There are many famous people that have performed at the Moulin Rouge from Mistinguett, Edith Piaf, Lena Horne to Josephine Baker, Frank Sinatra, and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

La Galoue as characterized by Toulouse Latrec and in photos

FR: Let’s talk about the origins of the can-can.

Fanny Rabasse: Most people don’t know this, but the can-can was a dance of protest. Originally, the can-can was called a quadrille—which is a traditional French dance style. However, in 1862 Charles Moulton renamed the dance the can-can because the dancers make noise with their boots, clap, and scream. Can-can means to make noise.

In the 19th century the can-can was a way for women to mock the government, the army, and the church. We have a step in the can-can called the cathedrale. Two dancers hold hands and put their legs together so that it looks like the spire of a church. This step mocked the church. The heel stretch step was a way of mocking the army because it looked like a soldier carrying a gun.

The can-can was a dance of freedom women, symbolizing that they were free and didn’t need anyone.  La Galoue, who danced at the Moulin Rouge in 1889, didn’t need a man to support her because she was a dancer and made her own money. La Galoue was the first woman in Paris to have her own carriage. At the time of Mistinguett in 1910, we had the first topless dancers at the Moulin Rouge, while in the rest of France, women could not go topless at the beach until the 1970s.

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: Overtime, the can-can has become more acrobatic. Currently, our can-can lasts six minutes and dancers are doing lots of splits, kicks, walkovers, and somersaults. The timing of the can-can kicks must be very precise or you will accidentally kick another dancer.

Could you talk a little bit about the couture costumes?

Fanny Rabasse: All our costumes are made in our workshop and they are designed by Claude de la Bonucci. The show has been running for 19 years so sometimes we have to remake the costumes. When we do remake a costume, we remake the costumes exactly as it originally was made. The costumes are the expensive part of the show. Some of our costumes can cost up to $12,000 for each costume.

Images courtesy of Moulin Rouge/Fanny Rabasse

FR: What’s next for you?

Claudine van der Bergh Cook: I am constantly trying to grow as a performer. I am two years in my roles of ‘nostalgie,’ ‘red,’ and ‘Medusa.’ So, I am trying to grow more in these roles which are so different from each other.

—William S. Gooch

Keith Jacobs’ R&B Formula for Truth Telling

In case you haven’t noticed, R&B is back with a vengeance. Just when you thought singing about true love, emotional rapture, and vulnerability had gone out of style, the sexy pangs of love have come back into style, taking on a new level of authenticity and vibrancy.

Keith Jacobs is one those new R&B vocalists that is facilitating this new explosion of R&B. Defining himself as more than an R&B crooner, Jacobs is the penultimate example of this new breed of R&B artist; an artist that mixes the street-wise, truth-telling of current hip-hop with the soulful melodies of old-school R&B. And his recent single “Saucy” speaks to the melding of these musical genres.

Keith Jacobs spoke with Fashion Reverie about his 90s R&B roots, his musical journey, and his passion for truth-telling.

Fashion Reverie: Where does your love of music come from?

Keith Jacobs: I have been involved in music for almost my entire life. I sang in the youth choir in my local church choir in Houston, Texas. I always looked at music as a chore until I got to college, where I got more involved in the art of music. I always knew I could sing, but in college my perspective changed by taking music classes and understanding my voice and my sound. I began to perfect how I wanted to sound and now I feel I am finally speaking my truth through my music.

FR: Did you major in music theory?

Keith Jacobs: No, I majored in Psychology at Southern University. I wanted to be able to support myself and I wasn’t convinced when I was in college that music was going to provide an income or a lifestyle that I wanted. I thought I would be an industrial organizational psychologist.

I later received my MBA from Southern University so that I would understand the business side of music. Now, as an independent artist I do know music theory; but I am also well-versed in the business of the music industry. I can control my own narrative and how I am represented.

FR: Who are some of your musical influences?

Keith Jacobs: Musiq Soulchild, John Legend, and Frank Ocean. I love Frank Ocean because he has a song for whatever mood you are in.

FR: How would you describe your musical style?

Keith Jacobs: My style is an urban R&B with a hint of 90s nostalgia. Some of the old-school narrative styles of music spoke about love, transparency, and being authentic. So, the goal for my music is to be authentic, thoughtful, and lucid.

FR: Your style has been described as a throwback, like Jodeci, Mint Condition, those R&B boy bands of the late 80s and 90s. Why have you adopted that brand of musical styling?

Keith Jacobs: That was the kind of music that I grow up on. Also, being from Houston, we were introduced to some of the greatest musical artists of those eras. That said; I must make sure I am being truthful and authentic in my music the way some of those artists of the 80s and 90s were truthful in their lyrics.

FR: Your style has been described as a blend of R&B with some hip-hop influences. Could you elaborate on that?

Keith Jacobs: Going back to my Houston roots, I grew up on Screw. Screw music is a very upbeat tempo radio-based music that is slowed down, with a pop placed on top. The southern style of urban music is based on Screw, where the bass or core of the music is ‘screwed,’ so to speak.

You will find those elements of Screw or the Dirty South sound in my music. I would not call myself a crooner because you will find a lot of different southern urban sounds in my music that go beyond just crooning a tune.

FR: There was a time in hip-hop culture where the music was very self-absorbed and misogynistic. However, that point of view has changed. Hip-hop and popular music now appears to be a lot more inclusive, introspective, though still provocative. The current crop of black male artists seems to be forging this new musical perspective. Where is all of this coming from?

Keith Jacobs: Some people think that this social media-driven culture funnels a lot of negativity. However, social media may have caused an awakening, allowing some black male artists to expose their truth. In past, musical artists were controlled by record labels and those labels could exploit artists and promote propaganda. And fans were forced to believe anything that the record labels put out there.

That is all changing with the direct-to-consumer technology. With this new technology it is a lot easier for artists to define who we want to be and put that out into the world. The paradigm has shifted, and it is time for that. Social media has helped change ideas about masculinity, facilitating a variety of voices on male identity.

FR: Let’s talk about your new single “Saucy.” Where does the concept around “Saucy” come from?

Keith Jacobs: The concept around “Saucy” comes from being in Houston and being in love. I have a love for old school cars, music, fashion, and all those things come together in “Saucy.” I wanted to paint a picture of what was like to be in love with a lady and being in love with her in Houston.

FR: “Saucy” has been that song that is played on late-night radio stations; the song that everyone waits to hear on late-night radio. Could you elaborate on the success of “Saucy”?

Keith Jacobs: “Saucy” is an example of the shift that is happening in contemporary music. It is a shift that needed to happen. People want music that speaks to authenticity. I must make sure that I remain authentic as an artist and continue to give the people what they want and deserve.

FR: Who are some of your favorite fashion designers?

Keith Jacobs: I love nostalgia. I know that I can never go wrong with Ralph Lauren. I grew up on Ralph Lauren. For me, Ralph Lauren is quick go-to for that simple school-boy style, which I love.

FR: You are appearing at Essence Music Festival for the first time. Could you talk about that?

Keith Jacobs: I am very excited about it. We are doing this show entitled “If It Don’t Feel Like 90s R&B.” That show also includes R&B artist Mya. She is also appearing with me in my Houston show before we appear together in New Orleans at the Essence Music Festival.

Images courtesy of 2Rs Entertainment

FR: Who else is appearing with you on “If It Don’t Feel Like 90s R&B” at the Essence Music Festival?

Keith Jacobs: Angela Yeats is on the program, as well as Mya. Additionally, we will be performing some great moments from 90s music. We will do a Jodeci set, as well as other similar sets. Growing up in the 90s, Jodeci and similar groups were the pinnacle of 90s music.

FR: Could you talk about your current tour and what’s next for you?

Keith Jacobs: Currently, I am on the southern tour for my latest album and I will be starting a radio tour after this tour ends. I have crazy project that will drop in October.

William S. Gooch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fashion Reverie Exclusive: Berry Boo, Doing It Her Way

Lady Gaga she aint, she’s something better, she is herself, Berry Boo.

In an industry that is oversaturated, it is extremely difficult to get market traction. Every record label is looking for the next best thing; the artist with that extra special something. Well, look no further, Berry Boo is in the house!!

From performing backup vocals from such top artists as Nicki Minaj, Kanye West, Melonie Fiona, and Robin Thicke to branching out and creating her own solo projects, Berry Boo is ready to take the music world by storm. With the release of her chart-topping female-empowering hit “Gunz and Black Roses” from her EP “Clutch” to her recently released R&B single “Uncertainty,” Berry is posed to make her mark in the music industry.

Never apologetic about who she is and with a fashion style that is all her own, Berry Boo creates lyrics and performs on stage like there is no tomorrow. While on tour, Berry Boo graciously spoke with Fashion Reverie about her love of music, her personal style and her no-holes-barred bravura.

Fashion Reverie: How did you get the name Berry Boo?

Berry Boo: Berry is my last name. As a kid my last name was always made fun of. I was called berrylicious and all kinds of variations on my last name and my best friend always called me Boo or ended our conversations with calling me Boo. So, I took my last name and the affectionate nickname Boo and came up with Berry Boo.

FR: What is your musical background?

Berry Boo: I grew up in church and almost everyone in my family sings. I always listened to a lot of Motown, R&B, Pop, and Hip Hop, especially Hip Hop. So, you could say my musical background and taste is very blended.

FR: What musical artists inspire you and why?

Berry Boo: I always listened to Aretha Franklin. She is the diva of all divas. I also listened to Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliot. I always have admired female rappers because I sing, and I rap.

FR: When did start singing background vocals, and how did that all come about?

Berry Boo: The legendary Ashford and Simpson had an open mike at their bar/club, The Sugar Bar. This was in 2009 before Nick Simpson passed away. I started singing at The Sugar Bar and from there, I started singing background for a lot of artists. People would hear me sing at The Sugar Bar and I would be asked to sing background which eventually turned into me singing background for major recording artists.

FR: Now, you are performed background vocals for such artists as Nicki Minaj, Melonie Fiona, Robin Thicke, and many others. What are some of the biggest challenges when singing background?

Berry Boo: I lot of people in the music industry don’t give background singers the respect they deserve. You really must learn how to blend your voice with other people. Also, now that I solo recordings and solo projects in the works people expect my music to be like people I have sung background for. I can only give you Berry Boo!!

This is a challenge for most background singers when they go solo or create sole projects. People in this industry want to put you in a box.

By the way, I still sing background for various artists. I love singing background and it has great for my career. It also pays well, and you get to travel the world at the expense of the label. It is wonderful to travel the world and get to do that.

FR: Who were some of your favorite artists to sing background for and, why?

Berry Boo: My favorite artist to perform background vocals for is Melonie Fiona and that is because I have witnessed her evolution and growth as an artist. I started singing background vocals for Melonie Fiona before she become a household name and before she scored a number one hit on Billboard. She is also won of the most humble and down to earth people you will ever meet. We became very close as I was touring with her. Most artists I have performed with have been wonderful.

FR: You recently transitioned from singing background to your own solo projects. What has that transition been like?

Berry Boo: I dropped my solo project in 2017, and when the project as first released it took a minute of folks to get used to me as a solo artist because they were so familiar with me doing background vocals. One of the challenges was being understood as an artist because my solo work is so different from my background vocal work. So, an adjustment has been made to accept me as someone so different from singing background and dancing behind established artists.

Once folks have came to my show they began to realize my intention and my creative point of view, so perceptions around who I am are changing. I know that I am sing, I am going to rap, I am going to dance some; and it’s all good.

FR: I love “Gunz and Black Roses.” How did you come up with the title “Gunz and Black Roses”?

Berry Boo: I wrote “Gunz and Black Roses” with my co-writer JJ (Jonathan Jennings). We’ve been working together for a very long time. We came up with the concept of “Gunz and Black Roses” together. The song is speaking from a woman’s perspective. It is about a woman being confident and knowing who she is and she’s telling a dude that she is not like the average woman.

 Most of the times you hear about a woman from a man’s perspective. This is the reverse, a woman is telling a man who she is.  And “Gunz and Black Roses” really showcases my vocal ability.

FR: Let’s talk about your new single, “Uncertainty.” You go from female empowerment in “Gunz and Black Roses” to a woman who hasn’t quite found herself in “Uncertainty.” Could you talk about that and what was the motivation behind “Uncertainty”?

Berry Boo: I wanted “Uncertainty to be about all the emotions women experience. I think women can identify with this song.  All women experience insecurities, whether they are insecure about a new job or career move or a new relationship, it is a challenge to adjust to new experiences. And sometimes women want to hold on to their former life or relationship, even if it’s not working.

“Uncertainty” has an R&B, soulful vibe. And I wanted to show that I am adept at singing R&B. People know I can sing pop and hip hop, and I wanted to demonstrate my versatility with “Uncertainty.”

FR: You wear a lot of provocative clothing in your videos and on stage. Where does your sense of style come from?

Berry Boo: My style is just who I am. I love a woman’s anatomy. I work out and stay in shape and I like showing off all my hard work in the gym in a tasteful way. I like to dress based on what my mood is. I am just having fun with fashion. I like to express myself through my clothing and I am expressing myself for me and no one else.

Photos courtesy of 2R Entertainment Media PR

FR: How would you describe your fashion style?Berry Boo: My fashion style is sexy with an edge. It is very street style. I was not to the manor borne, so I had to learn how to mix and match and find ways to develop my own signature look without spending a lot of money. I shop a lot of vintage stores and outlets.

FR: Now, that your pockets are deeper, who are some of your favorite designers?

Berry Boo: Interestingly, I sample product from emerging designers. I love Brooklyn Creative, Gifted Apparel, and Kicky Wicky. I am not big on name brand designers. Sometimes, I will purchase a garment and by the time I render that garment, sometimes die it a different color, it could be unrecognizable from the original garment. I also at a lot of boutiques in the East Village.

FR: What’s next for you?

Berry Boo: Right now, I am on a domestic tour. I did the Grammy’s this year. Things are popping up all the time and I am still in the studio creating new music.

Berry Boo is currently on her “Clutch” promotional tour in support of the recently released EP. Stops includes; Washington, DC, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Miami and Philadelphia.

William S. Gooch

Omar Wilson Is on his Way to Legendary Status in “Living Legend”

One thing that can be said of R&B artist Omar Wilson is that he is in love with life. And who wouldn’t be if you had been recently nominated for an NAACP Image Award and on tour with your highly acclaimed new album “Living Legend.”

Omar Wilson’s love of life is infectious. And even more attractive and charming is his soul-stirring vocal style. Reminiscent of Otis Redding mixed in with a little James Brown and Wilson Pickett for good measure, Omar Wilson conjures up these R&B greats while infusing his distinct qualities into his stage performances and recordings.

“This project [“Living Legend”] was a year in the making and I wanted to make certain that this album embodied organic truisms of music from the greats of yesterday, while keeping it real for the listeners of today. I wanted this album to showcase the remarkable vocal prowess that Omar is quite unique in delivering. “Living Legend” will stand the test of time,” says Lou Humphrey, CEO of BSE Recordings.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Omar Wilson keeps his eyes on the prize, the prize being R&B mega stardom with a legacy that can inspire others. Fashion Reverie thinks he is going to do it!!

Fashion Reverie: How would you describe your vocal style?

Omar Wilson: My vocal style is emotional, and intense, precise and above all, it is honest.

FR: You have a raspy quality to your voice which harkens back to some of the old school R&B singers of the 1960s and 70s. Is that raspy quality natural or have you worked to achieve that effect in your voice?

Omar Wilson: The raspy quality in my voice is a gift from God. I have had that quality since I was 16 or 17 years of age. My father’s voice is even bigger than mine and has a similar quality.

FR: Who are your musical influences?

Omar Wilson: Initially, I was inspired by the many things I was experiencing in life. So, if I heard music that was about what I was experiencing at that time, I would be inspired by that. After I had the experience of winning the Apollo Amateur contest, my musical influences started to change and evolve. The tutelage I got from winning at the Apollo caused me to research great singers that had left a legacy.

From this research, I discovered that there were great R&B singers from the past that sang about the same things I was feeling and experiencing. Some of these experiences and feeling were embedded in love songs. Before I started doing my research, I wasn’t that interested in love songs. But I found that R&B greats like Donny Hathaway, Sam Cooke, Al Green, Marvin Gaye, James Brown, and Otis Redding were singing about the things I was feeling, and they also had great voices.

I realized that I could sing about love but still maintain the intensity and power of my vocal style. I describe myself as a lion in a tuxedo.

FR: You are a three-time Apollo winner. What was it like singing on that iconic stage?

Omar Wilson: It was one of the most intense moments of my life because you are in an arena where the audience can tell you what they think about in the first 20 seconds of your act. Also, performing at the Apollo inspired me to acquire the soul music education so that I could begin to understand what my purpose was and where I stood in the music industry.

I was inspired to work hard and aspired to achieve what the great R&B legends like Marvin Gaye, Al Green, James Brown and others had achieved. The Apollo helped create living legends. And that greatness was made and is still alive at the Apollo. And I am honored to have performed there.

FR: What are the essential qualities that’s needed to be successful as an R&B artist that goes beyond talent and working hard?

Omar Wilson: Talent and hard work is important; however, a lot of talented artists work hard and get no where fast. You also need a team around you, and you especially need good fortune, or what I call, God’s favor.

You must be willing to go on a journey to get to where you want to go even when it doesn’t seem to be working out. But even, when it doesn’t seem to be working out, it is because you are growing and evolving. And you must be prepared for every opportunity.

You must believe God gave you the talent for a reason, and with his help you will exceed expectation. I have been working for almost two decades to get to where I am, and I believe this is my harvest season. And my new album “Living Legends” and my NAACP Image Award nomination speaks to that.

FR: I love the song “The Sh*t,” one of my favorites, how did that song come about?

Omar Wilson: “The Sh*t” was written by Mike City and myself in 2001. The song is about a young bougie girl who gets mixed up with the wrong crowd and ended up on the stroll. I recorded that song in LA with Mike City, and later I found out that Nate Dogg liked the song and did his own version of “The Sh*t.”

We are in the process of working out the legalities of “The Sh*t,” so that we can re-release it as a single.

FR: Let’s talk about your new album “Living Legend.” Why an album that conjures up some of the greatest soul singers of time?

Omar Wilson: This album has been a part of my journey. It is not something I just conjured up. The making of “Living Legend” was an organic evolution of everything I am becoming and paying homage to great R&B artists. I wanted to inject into this album the energy that is sometimes missing from R&B, and make goose bumps stand up on the neck of listeners. Right now, R&B is about moving audiences. It is more than singing well. Remember, the great R&B legends always moved folks.

FR: One of my favorites is the James Brown classic “It’s a Man’s World.” That said; we are living in the “Me Too Movement” generation, why did select that song as we are living in an era of women’s empowerment and calling out sexual aggression against women?

Omar Wilson: “It’s a Man’s World” was recorded almost fifty years before the “Me Too” Movement. When I was to perform the song on a few television shows, it was requested that I perform another track from the new album. I reminded the television networks that the lyrics of the song detailed that a man’s world would be nothing without a woman or a girl.

Anyway, I went through that storm with that song, but when I perform it and get to the line about women, the women in the audience go crazy. Women at my concerts understand that the song does not demean them, but that the song gives them equality and empowerment.

FR: How would you describe your personal fashion style?

Omar Wilson: I would describe my personal style as a kind of calm intensity. My call myself the ‘Black Sinatra.’ Back in the day Frank Sinatra had a great sense of style. He was smooth and moved like the Boss. Sinatra was buddy to the biggest gangsters of his day and to President John Kennedy. He was also was involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

Now, I may not be in a suit every time I am out and about, but even when I am dressed down, there is a sophistication and gentility about the way I have put myself together. There are a lot of great R&B singers on the market; however, there is no one with a 007 or “Ocean’s Eleven” style. I really do attempt to bring back that kind of style to R&B.

FR: Who are some of your favorite designers?

Omar Wilson: I just wore Calvin Klein to the NAACP Image Awards’ Brunch. I love Tom Ford, Fendi, Prada; hey if it looks good on you, it probably feels good on you.

Images courtesy of 2R Entertainment PR

FR: On your albums, you always have on a great jacket. Could you talk about your love of jackets”?

Omar Wilson: I always feel that when I guy puts on a great blazer, he is transformed. A great jacket or blazer gives a man a certain kind of sophistication that deems respect. A great blazer is just a part of wardrobe and reflects my personal style.

FR: What’s next for you?

Omar Wilson: I am currently on tour with my new album “Living Legend” which comes out on March 22. I am currently nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding New Artist. The sky is limit!!

—William S. Gooch

Ayodele Casel: A Joyous and Nuanced Tap Journey

When we think of dance, rarely is dance considered a masculine pursuit. Though progress has been made in that respect with great dancers like Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Gene Kelly, and Gregory Hines, and great hip hop artists, dance is still mostly reserved for women.

Tap is the one dance form where the male presence reigns supreme. There have been some great female tappers—Mable Lee, Elvera Sanchez, Bunny Briggs, Brenda Buffalino, Michelle Torrance, and Dormeshia Sumdry-Edwards. And, of course the great female tap artists from the Golden Age of Hollywood—Ginger Rogers, Eleanor Powell, Ann Miller, and Vera-Allen have made their mark.

Still, female tap artists get far less recognition than their male peers and are often expected to look glamorous and refined while their feet are performing incredible feats. Ayodele Casel is changing all that.

As one of the few Latina tap artists with international recognition, Ayodele Casel is forging a new path for female tap artists. For Ayodele, tap is more than a syncopated expression of steps from the tap dance lexicon, but a way for an artist to express a range of emotions, told along a narrative arch.

In this Women’s History Month, Ayodele Casel compels us to re-examine this truly American artform through a more expansive lens, celebrating the women who have given so much to this artform. May Ayodele’s star continue to shine!!

Fashion Reverie: Lets first begin with your first name, Ayodele, what does it mean?

Ayodele Casel: My name is from the Yoruba culture and in that language, it means joy has arrived. I love my name.

FR: In reference to your name, there is nothing more joyful than tap dancing. How did you come to tap dancing?

Ayodele Casel: My interest in tap dancing peaked when I was about 18 years old, my senior year in high school. I was taking a course on the history of the movies. I saw Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in film in this course. And that was the first time I had really paid attention to tap dancing.

I was so impressed with what Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire were doing on the screen that I started trying to teach myself how to tap, imitating what Fred and Ginger were doing. I had varying degrees of success and it brought me great joy to be trying to do what they were doing in movies.

While I was an acting major at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (NYU), during my sophomore year, we had to take a movement class. I had the choice of taking Tai Chi or tap. Of course, I enrolled in the tap class and fell in love with the training immediately. Naturally, we were doing very basic things, but I still loved it.

By luck, one of my best friends was friend with Baakari Wilder who was a freshman at the time at NYU in the acting department. Baakari is an incredible tap dancer. And through that friend I was introduced to Baakari because we were both tap dancers.

Now, at that time, I was the best tap dancer in my class, which is not really saying much because I was in a beginner’s class. Baakari and me rented a studio to start working together and in that dance studio I realized that tap was an artform. Baakari was already a master tapper and he taught so much about the artform and the history of tap.

FR: How did realize you could turn tap dancing into a professional career?

Ayodele Casel: During the mid-90s diversity and inclusion were not buzz works in the performing arts. However, when I became interested in tap dancing, tap was having a resurgence. Savion Glover was one of the major forces behind this resurgence. Gregory Hines also used his celebrity to shine a light on tap dancing.

That said; Baakari invited to come see him in the show “Bring in the Noise, Bring the Funk” while that show was still at the Public Theatre. I still didn’t have a reference point for young people of color taking up any space in theatre. When I attended the show, I witnessed Savion Glover dancing so authentically and joyfully, I just knew I wanted to immerse myself in tap and be surrounded by the genre.

My professional career came out of joy of learning and performing the artform. I would practice incessantly. If Savion was doing a tap jam at the Nuyorican Café, I would go and participate. At the time, there were not a lot of women getting into the jam with men. But, I am from the Bronx, so I was not intimidated.

About two years into my deep immersion into the artform, Savion started a group called Not Your Ordinary Tappers (NOT), and he asked me to join. This was Savion’s first professional venture after he won the Tony Award for “Bring in the Noise, Bring the Funk.” I toured with NOT for about three years.

FR: When people think about tap dancing, they rarely think of women tap dancing and certainly not Latina women tap dancing. What challenges have you experienced around this misperception?

Ayodele Casel: In the mid-90s there were practically no roles for female tap dancers. Most of the tap-dancing jobs for women required you to be in high heels and fishnet stockings. I was not interested in that.

That said; I was the only woman in NOT and very few people had seen women tap dance with the intensity that I brought to NOT. I was told that I danced like a man, but I knew I wasn’t an anomaly. This prompted me to research and learn about women of color that were tap dancing along side men in the 1930s and 40s.

FR: You trained at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and the William Esper Studio as an actor. How do you combine tap dancing with acting?

Ayodele Casel: Dance is a form of storytelling. You have a clear point of view and there must be an arch to your storytelling through your performance and your interpretation. I am really interested in making dance theatrical and accessible in ways that go beyond just dance audiences.

I performed a piece entitled “Diary of a Tap Dancer.” In that work, I wanted to reveal the people behind tap dancing. Tap is very joyous, but sometimes it is seen as a gimmicky element to a production; an energetic, virtuosic dance expression. With “Diary of a Tap Dancer,” I wanted to create a piece where the tap artists got to speak about who they are and how they arrived at where they were in the artform.

FR: How did “While I Have the Floor,” your one-woman show at the Spoleto Festival come about?

Ayodele Casel: That show was borne out of a seven-minute piece I did for Encores! Off-Center at New York City Center. That seven-minute work was me talking about my roots, my passion for tap dancing and my fear of having poured my life into this artform and no one even knowing I existed. Which was much like the female tap dancers I had researched who had worked so hard at the craft, but many died without being acknowledged for their art.

The work was very well received and when I did the work at Fall for Dance Festival at New York City Center, I was asked if I had a longer version of the piece. Then, I was asked to perform the seven-minute piece at Broadway for Hillary Clinton. I began to flush out the seven-minute show into a longer more extensive work which I later became “While I Have the Floor” that I later performed at Spoleto.

FR: Could you talk about your best performing experience, and your worst? 

Ayodele Casel: My best performing experience is performing “While I Have the Floor” at the Spoleto Festival. I was so nervous leading up to performing at Spoleto. And writing this piece was the hardest thing I have ever done. I had to tap into a lot of personal and emotional stuff to be able to write this piece. I really exposed myself in this work.

I became ill with everything from sinus infections to the flu and loss of voice right before I performed at Spoleto. However, when I got to Spoleto magically all my illnesses disappeared and “While I Have the Floor” was well received. I performed six performances of the work and people came back several times to see it. I still get emails from people praising the work.

My worst experiences have been performing at events where people don’t really appreciate what you are doing and in the end all you get is a cold meal. Fortunately, I have had many of those.

FR: How do sustain yourself financially from your tap dancing?

Ayodele Casel: Like a lot of dancers I maintain myself financially by teaching. I acquire work as a dance educator and teach tap at dance conventions and workshops. I have been fortunate in the last three years mainly performing and choreographing which has kept be very busy.

Choreography by Ayodele Casel

FR: You have been a frequent collaborator with New York City Center. Could you talk about that?Ayodele Casel: They have really adopted me. I first started performing at City Center as an artist in their Encore! Series. In 2016, I was a member of their artists’ board for Encores!. I also choreographed “Really Rosie” for City Center Encores! in 2017.

I was involved in a dance festival with them recently and I am now participating in City Center on the Move. I just love them. And they are champions of tap dancing!!

FR: With the advance of the marley floor, tap dancing is taking a beating. Could you talk about that?

Ayodele Casel: One of things I have done to deal with the absence of wood floors in some dance studios is open my own studio with wood floors. The Original Tap House is in a brownstone in the Bronx. The space is a full floor where I practice and is open to other tap dancers to come and practice and hold rehearsals.

FR: Is tap dancing growing in the US? 

Ayodele Casel: Yes, it is. The resurgence is due to being included more in musical theatre. Tap dancing is magic. You can have a show that has nothing to do with tap dancing and you can insert a tap routine in the show and that routine will bring the house down every single time. Remember, tap is joyous and not limited by age and size. Everybody wants to be a tap dancer. People are just curious about it.

All Photos courtesy of Ayodele Casel/Michael Higgins

FR: What’s next for you?Ayodele Casel: I am excited about creating work for other tap artists. I am so excited about the young people that are doing tap right now and they are bringing a richness and depth that is amazing.

I have the privilege of working and creating work for so many of them. The artform is going to do well in their hands.

—William S. Gooch

Raheem DeVaughn Still Reigns in “Decade of a King”

Fashion Reverie had the opportunity to sit down with Raheem DeVaughn at the listening party for Raheem’s sixth studio album, “Decade of a Love King.” “Decade of a Love King” was released on October 19 via all streaming platforms. 

Raheem has had a decade-long steady climb to international R&B prominence. And with his soul-satisfying musical style, Raheem has become many things to contemporary music culture and his ever-expanding core audience.

“There’s a lot of talk about ‘King of R&B’ and ‘King of Soul,” but I’ve got enough music for the next ten years,” says the three-time Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter.  “I literally have enough music for a decade to release. If I stopped recording now and said I wouldn’t record for five years, I’ve got enough music for ten. So I can’t wait, because I’m just warming up.” 

His latest single, “Don’t Come Easy” is currently the #5 R&B song in the country. 

Fashion Reverie: When it comes to your top 5 R&B hit “Don’t Come Easy” what’s the inspiration behind the song?

Raheem DeVaughn: The inspiration is the words; it’s the message “Love Don’t Come Easy.“ You’ve got to put in the work; you gotta be willing to change. It really speaks to turmoil that all relationships go through. I think the message that I want to put out there is that when dealing with the matters of the heart and love, it’s worth fighting for. Fight for the things that matter to you and in some cases you even have to challenge that person that you’re into, in love with, dating, or courting.

Fashion Reverie: This is your sixth album! That’s a lot. Tell us about your growth since the first one. How much have you changed and evolved? 

Raheem DeVaughn: I think that’s for people to decide. Artists are very vulnerable, whether they want to admit it or not and you don’t know what the response will be when you put your music out. You are exposing yourself and you are taking a chance, you are taking a risk of being a failure. It takes a lot of guts. Because I could easily put this record out and although the feedback has been great thus far, it could’ve been the total opposite.

Fashion Reverie: How do you cope with reviews that aren’t exactly the best?

Raheem DeVaughn: First and foremost, you have to have tough skin in this business. If you are going to worry about what somebody thinks and responding to every negative tweet or Facebook message, there is just not enough time in a day. You can’t please everybody all the time.

Fashion Reverie: How would you describe your fashion style? 

Raheem DeVaughn: I have a wonderful stylist, Tiffany Barenger. Shout out to my previous stylist, Bria Stantson, we have a great relationship. All the years I worked with Bria and with Tamika Foster, they were always telling me fashion is important and early in my career I was hard-headed. I was one of those people that was very music-driven, and I felt as long as I make great music it shouldn’t matter if I come out there in my socks or in a bathrobe. I’m still one of those guys that dislikes shopping. I’m a hustler’s hustler so I could wear the same clothes seven days in a row on a rap boy song; however, I’m now enjoying style and fashion, and leading by example. Because of my community work and my foundation we do talk to the young children and challenge them to pull their pants, getting young people to realize that you are treated you differently when you are well dressed. You feel good, you feel good when you’re groomed. These are things that I encourage my sons to do as well. 

Fashion Reverie: You are wearing a double-breasted suit, is that your usual choice when it comes to suits? 

Raheem DeVaughn: This is what I am wearing today. When I was told that there would be best of the best of the influencers at this listening party, I knew I had to look the part! 

Fashion Reverie: Do you have any favorite designers? 

Raheem DeVaughn: To be truthfully honest, my team has been kind of designing my looks. I got a real dope tailor named Barry that helps my stylist envision my looks. We buy the fabrics and Barry puts it together and we’re smashing it!!

I do have a secret; I love Zara. I would love to do something like a type of brand ambassadorship or endorsement with Zara; they have some dope pieces and it’s very affordable and you can be fly and find ways to still make it stand out.

Fashion Reverie: Who are some of the music artists you still haven’t collaborated with, but you would like to? 

I’d love to pin a song for Beyoncé; I’d love to work with Lauren Hill; I’d love to work with Shade, and I’d love to do an entire album with The Roots—the Roots are the Rolling Stones of hip hop or the Beatles of hip hop when you talk about bands, music and progressiveness—I had the opportunity of being on The Roots last album.

I’m really studying South African culture and music, and my sister Zonke and me are working on a project that will include those South African influences—she is a huge talent in South Africa. Zonke and a lot of the other dope artists would like to bridge the gap with Caribbean sound, Nigerian artists, and mixing it up a little bit.  I have a Caribbean, I guess you could say reggae album, in the can. 

Photos courtesy of 2R’s Entertainment & Media PR

Fashion Reverie: You mentioned in your press release that you would like this album to be a shock to people’s system. What do you mean by that? A shock for people, hmm; well, this album is my futuristic 90s time machine. The only thing I could compare it to is when D’Angelo dropped his first album 1995. It sounds like nothing that was out in ‘95. And what I’m also discovering is that this album sounds like nothing that’s out sonically in 2018. 

Raheem DeVaughn can be seen in a comic role in the upcoming film “Love.com.” Raheem continues to focus on his Love Life Foundation whose initiatives include domestic violence, art and education, HIV/AIDS, and text book scholarships for in-need students.

—Tijana Ibrahimovic

 

R&B Music’s Triple Threat: Porcelan

R&B singer Porcelan is a triple threat. She’s got talent, looks, and intelligence. In an age when market traction can be about how great an artist looks in a video or magazine spread, Porcelan harkens back to a not-long-ago era when R&B singers had great looks and a great voice. (Think Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Tamia, Toni Braxton, and Deborah Cox.)

Add brains to beauty and talent, and Porcelan’s success is guaranteed. With her top 30 R&B hit “Lois Lane,” Porcelan is on her way to R&B stardom. Still, Porcelan is not an overnight success story or a one-hit wonder. She has been in the music game for a few years with her freshman release last fall earning her a Top 40 debut. And Porcelan is the R&B-Soul Chanteuse and Apple Music Independent Artist for the month of June.

Porcelan graciously took time out of her busy schedule and spoke with Fashion Reverie about her music, her personal style, and being an empowered woman.

Fashion Reverie: Where does your love of music come from?

Porcelan: My love of music comes from growing up around music. My mother loved music and my father was in a small band, so music has always been a big part of my family. As a child, we would take long rides and my mom would play R&B classic and oldies on the car radio. Some people say they can hear those influences in my musical styling.

FR: You are from the South, more specifically Memphis, how does being from the South affect your musical tastes and style of music?

Porcelan: Being from the South where music is heavily steeped in Gospel and Blues influences, you cannot help but have those influences in your music and stage performances, particularly when you sing from the heart. I sing from the heart so that conviction and those Southern influences are evident in my musical choices.

FR: How would you describe your musical style?

Porcelan: My style is young and fresh, yet relatable. I would say my music is melodic and connected with my emotions. My music has a message and is definitely crafted about and for strong women.

FR: Let’s talk about your name, Porcelan. Is that a stage name or your real name?

Porcelan: It is my birth name.

FR: Since that is your birth name, how did your parents come up with that name?

Porcelan: My mother is always very well dressed and polished. She was the only woman in my dad’s band. My mom’s hair was jet black and worn in a ponytail like Sade; so, because of her look, her stage name was ‘Porcelain Doll.’ When I came along, they decided to name me, Porcelan. As an R&B artist the name really fits me well.

                               Porcelan in “Lois Lane” video

FR: Interestingly, your name is Porcelan, which infers something that is beautiful, yet delicate. In your new song and video “Lois Lane,” you talk about a woman looking to a man or needing a man to rescue or protect her. Did your name influence the “Lois Lane” song in any way? Porcelan: I do see the correlation and it meshes well together; however, that is just artistic irony and it was not something that was thought about or planned. There was no intention of connecting my actual name with the “Lois Lane” song. Now, there is the blond coif and my name that some folks try to tie into “Lois Lane.” Which I understand, but it is all coincidental.

FR: That said; how did you come up with “Lois Lane”?

Porcelan: The “Lois Lane” concept came about through the writer Denarious Holmes. He is a great friend of mine and he knows my background and my life challenges well. All this makes for a very easy collaboration with a songwriter. He writes songs specifically that align with me and what I am experiencing as a black woman and musical artist. So, we sat down with the producer Hamilton Hart and magic was made.

FR: Did you have any trepidation about creating a song in which women speak about the need to be protected, particularly in this Cardi B, female-empowered moment in music?

Porcelan: Depending on how the concept of “Lois Lane” was put across I knew that some clap back could happen. However, I put trust in my creative team and I knew, especially after the video came out, that we were good!!

I loved the “Lois Lane” concept. I believe the character in the song came across as sexy and empowered, not desperate or a victim. This song was about those moments when you are strong and confident, but you need support and assistance. Everyone needs that. And I heard from a lot of male consumers who love the song and video, and like the fact that this particular woman is asking for help. Men like to feel that they can assist a powerful woman.

Sometimes, women in put in positions where they are forced to be strong, even when they don’t feel so powerful. This song is about a woman who needs a break, and is not afraid to ask for help!!

FR: I noticed that in one point in the “Lois Lane” video you have your love interest walking with you and protecting you on the red carpet. As you have become better known, do you feel that you need more protection or have you become more cautious about outside forces?

Porcelan: I am very cautious and always have been. As my career builds, I will need more security; however, I am always around people who love and respect me. So far, everyone has been great. I currently have no stalkers. Right now I am fine and keep myself out of situations where I would feel threatened.

At the moment, fans just want to take a picture with me or get an autograph. And I am always up for that.

FR: Right now, you are doing a lot of touring. Could you talk about that?

Porcelan: It has been really great. Currently, I am on my radio tour, doing lots of interviews and appearances. I have thoroughly enjoyed all the personalities I have met since I’ve been on the road.

I am very busy, sometimes in two cities in one day. However, I am not tired because I am doing something that I love. I was recently on TV One’s “Sister Circle,” and I performed at the 2018 Essence Music Festival.

FR: What other musical tracks are soon to be released?

Porcelan: I am in the studio right now recording new music. So, the new releases are coming!!

FR: How would you describe your personal style?

Porcelan: MY fashion style is very statement based. When it comes to jewelry, I am a minimalist. I like to mix classy and regal garments and them combined with edgy pieces. You could say, I am a classy chic with a bit of an attitude, a good attitude, that is.

FR: Who are some of your favorite designers, and why?

Porcelan: I love Alexander Wang. Though I still shop on a budget, I have fallen in love with this LA–based company, Dark Star, and Elisabetta Franchi. Elisabetta Franchi’s clothing looks amazing on me and it is always the perfect fit.

FR: Who styled you in your music video?

Porcelan: Ken Law styled me in the “Lois Lane” video, in fact, that is when I fell in love with his work. He researched my personal style and brought clothes to the video that reflected that. He actually brought a lot more garments to the video than we used. We used a baby blue ensemble in the video and I had never worn blue before, except for blue jeans.

I loved his work on the “Lois Lane” video so much that I decided to keep working with him as my stylist. He is very talented. 

        All images courtesy of 2R Entertainment and Media PR

FR: What’s next for you?Porcelan: I am continuing my radio tour. I will be making some appearances at New York Fashion Week: The Shows spring 2019 in September. I have an event coming up in October with Vivian Green in Grand Rapids, Michigan. And I have new music coming out in late September.

—William S. Gooch

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