“Mary Queen of Scots”: A Tale of Two Queens

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“A woman is like a tea bag—you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” –Eleanor RooseveltAnd like former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, both Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Elizabeth I exhibit unbelievable strength and fortitude during difficult political times. In Josie Rourke’s “Mary Queen of Scots,” challenging political conflicts bring out the best and the worst in both female rulers.

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“Mary Queen of Scots” explores the turbulent life of the charismatic Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan). Queen of France at 16 and widowed at 18, Mary defies pressure to remarry. Instead, she returns to her native Scotland to reclaim her rightful throne. But Scotland and England fall under the rule of the compelling Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie). Each young Queen beholds her “sister” in fear and fascination. Rivals in power and in love, and female regents in a masculine world, the two must decide how to play the game of marriage juxtaposed against female independence. Determined to rule as much more than a figurehead, Mary asserts her claim to the English throne, threatening Elizabeth’s sovereignty. Betrayal, rebellion, and conspiracies within each court imperil both thrones—and change the course of history.This film of two strong, independent royals interestingly coincides with 2018 being deemed ‘The Year of the Woman’ and a surge of female empowerment evidenced in the US 2018 Mid-Term elections where an unprecedented amount of female candidate ran and won federal and local offices. Though female empowerment during the Elizabethan era rested almost solely in the province of male sovereigns with women mostly being benign consorts who helped bring wealth and power to the throne, Mary Stuart and Elizabeth Tudor, respectively Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I, were decidedly different, having inherited their thrones because of a lack of male heirs. (At that time, England and Scotland were two separate kingdoms.)

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Related through their ancestor Henry VII, though divided by religious affiliations—Mary being a devoted Catholic and Elizabeth a confirmed Protestant—both Mary and Elizabeth wore their respective crowns in a man’s world. And Josie Rourke highlighted this struggle—whether factually or fictionally—brilliantly in this film.

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Rourke also managed to take the well-known historical fact of Mary Queen of Scots’ struggles with her throne and with Elizabeth I and inject a modern sensibility into a film that could have been just another dusty journey down a historical path. Rourke’s infusion of modern elements includes diverse, multiracial casts with black ambassadors and aristocrats, as well as Asian and Latin courtiers. Initially this mélange of diversity was a bit offsetting, but after a short time, due to the incredible script and acting chops of the cast, the cast diversity began to actually add to the film.You cannot talk about historical dramas without looking at the costumes. Oscar-winning costume designer Alexandra Byrne was historically accurate and revelatory with her costume choices in this film. Understanding that bold color was a luxury that even most royals didn’t have access to, Byrne attired the cast, for the most part, in the neutral colors of black, grey, white, with some occasional blue tones in for good measure. Only Queen Elizabeth I’s costumes exhibited a small injection of bold color. Byrne also did a great job with Queen Elizabeth I’s headdresses and Mary’s battle attire was both powerful and feminine at the same time.

Images courtesy of nytimes.com

Costumes and multiracial casting aside, this movie would have had a powerful impact with the well-skill abilities of the two main characters. Audience members will readily sympathize with Mary’s (Ronan) almost insurmountable task of ruling a divided Scotland, and the many obstacles to her sovereignty. And Robbie skillfully demonstrated Elizabeth’s transition from a young female ruler to a woman who had no choice but to defeminize herself in order to rule the throne.“Mary Queen of Scots” displayed the inordinate sacrifices that both rulers made in order to be sovereigns. And in the end, neither Mary nor Elizabeth won. Mary lost her life, and Elizabeth gave up her right to womanhood.

“Mary Queen of Scots” opens in limited release on December 7.

—William S. Gooch

Gather NYC Brings New Yorkers Together

We are living in very in challenging times. Times that are dividing us because of disparate political sentiment and life challenges that are causing us to tune out because there are just too many tragedies to digest. Everything seems to be collapsing around us with many of cultural and social institutions failing to give the support and stability we need.

In these very difficult times, we need to find a way to come together, and its possible!! And if you live in New York City the possibilities expand exponentially with Gather NYC. Founded by Laura Metcalf and Rupert Boyd, Gather NYC meets most Sunday mornings at SubCulture on 45 Bleeker Street. “Gather NYC was started in the spring of 2018 as an all-exclusive way for people to get together on Sunday mornings and enjoy classical music, spoken word, and a brief celebration of silence and find a sense of a community in a way that is a non-religious equivalent of church. Every week we have brought in different musicians and storytellers. We serve coffee and pastries and before and after the performances, people strike up conversations and friendships,” explains Rupert Boyd.

GATHERNYC Founders Laura Metcalf & Rupert Boyd

Past performers at Gather NYC have been Attaca Quartet, Joshua Roman, Russian Renaissance, Banda Magda, Rupert Boyd and Friends, and Bridget Kibbey. Upcoming performers include Rachel Barton Pine on December 2 and the Claremont Trio on December 9. “We chose artists for this gathering from artists that we already know and for the most part these musicians are from New York City and they are the best of the best. And we have had 21 shows so far,” Rupert Boyd detailed.On November 18, the Grammy-nominated IMANI WINDS performed at Gather NYC, performing five works from a 20th Century repertoire. The musical choices for the November 18 were eclectic, particularly the Indian composer Reena Esmail’s work “Delight Is the Same,” Jeffrey Scott’s “Starting Something,” which is a take on a jazz shuffle, a work by Astor Piazzolla, Lalo Schrifin’s “La Nouvelle N’Orleans,” and a traditional take on the Negro spiritual “Go Tell It on the Mountain.”

Photos courtesy of Terry Doe

“IMANI WINDS started 21 years ago with African American and Latino musicians with a different take on how they would interpret classical music. We were put together as experimental fun and we morphed into a stable music ensemble that now has management, touring and residencies and many awards which was not envisioned 21 years ago when we formed the ensemble,” explains IMANI WINDS’ Jeffrey Scott. “We are all of based in New York City and for 17 years now, we have been a full-time recording and touring ensemble.”Gather NYC is giving New Yorkers the much-welcomed opportunity to come together on a Sunday morning experience some great music and enjoy each other’s company. Hopefully, this will spread to other major US cities.

Why not? If we can distance ourselves over things that divide us, why not come together and celebrate great music, conversation, and libations. And hey, the coffee and breakfast snacks are free!!

—William S. Gooch

The Most Authentic Callas: “Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words”

What is to be said about opera legend Maria Callas that hasn’t always been said? Not much. There have been several documentaries and movies her life—“Callas Forever,” “Maria Callas: La Divina: A Portrait,” Callas Assoluta,” “Maria Callas: Life & Art,” and “Maria Callas: Living and Dying for.” So, is another documentary or movie about La Callas necessary?

Perhaps, Tom Volf’s documentary “Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words” will give Callas’s diehard fans a reason for another film about the great diva. “Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words” is the first documentary where Maria Callas tells her life story in her own words. The entire documentary is told through performances, TV interviews, home movies, family photographs, private letters and unpublished memoirs—nearly all of which have never been shown to the public—the film reveals the essence of an extraordinary woman who rose from humble beginnings in New York City to become a glamorous international superstar and one of the greatest artists of all time. This documentary is a loving portrait of one of history’s most extraordinarily talented women, told in a way that is revelatory, unprecedented, and authoritative.

Interestingly, “Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words” is perhaps the most authentic reflection on Callas’ life and there is no doubt that Callas’ life was a life that great dramas are made from. From her up from the almost bottom in the Bronx—most people don’t know that Callas is actually a New York native—to the beginning of her operatic career in Greece to her dramatic weight loss, to her becoming a style icon in the manner of Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren to her reputation as a difficult diva, to her affair with Aristotle Onassis everything is documented through interviews and photographs in the diva’s own words.

What is most evident in this documentary is that though Callas was a very complicated woman whose life and career was just as complicated as the woman herself is that Callas was totally invested in the complications in her life and her passions. “Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words” is perhaps the first documentary that records in an artist own words the angst and frustrations of a great artist torn between career, family life and personal obligations.

Photos courtesy of Sony Pictures Classic

And though there is some sadness and regret in this film due to Callas’ tragic life and untimely death at the age of 59, there are some great footage of her performing great operatic roles—Norma, Tosca, Lucia di Lammermoor—as well as great interviews with Dick Cavett, particularly after her breakup with Onassis. There is also great footage of Callas’ fans queued outside of the old Metropolitan House in New York City.

For those Callas diehards this is a must-see film. In “Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words” still lives and lives, through her own words.

Photos by REX/Shutterstock (25089c) MARIA CALLAS WITH PHOTOGRAPHERS
VARIOUS – 1968

“Maria by Callas: In Her Own Words” is directed by Tom Volf and opens in limited release nationwide on November 2.

—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

 

“The Happy Prince”: A Different Oscar Wilde

It is not uncommon for an actor to change their appearance for a role. Often this transformation, if the script is good and the film is well directed, can render an Oscar nomination, if not an outright win. Looking back who can forget Charlize Theron’s transformation to the serial killer/man hater Aileen Wournos in “Monster” or Alfred Molina putting on a lot of weight when he played Frida Kahlo;s husband, Diego Rivera, in “Frida?” And what about the late Philip Seymour Hoffman drastic alteration of his body and visage to portray an effete Truman Capote in “Capote.” (In retrospect by Theron and Hoffman won Academy Awards for their characters in “Monster” and “Capote.)

In Sony Classics’ “The Happy Prince” so does Rupert Everett morph his well-chiseled physique into a bloated, oversized, sotted, mess of a man in an attempt to give visual relevance to Oscar Wilde in the last years of his life. In past films. Everett mostly portrayed urban, sophisticated, body-beautiful men who always had the last quip and were the love interest of both women and men alike. Everett’s Oscar Wilde is far removed from the well-heeled gay characters that Everett has portrayed over the last two decades. His Wilde is desperate, morose, down-on-his- luck, and lost in menage of remembrances past and unfulfilled opportunities.

Though “Happy Prince” is written and directed by Everett, Everett ingeniously mines out a performance that is stocked full of nuance and depth. He even manages to project beyond Wilde’s miserable state of a penniless outcast who depends on the kindness of friends, fellow miscreants with an occasional rent boy thrown in for good measure. In spite of Wilde’s pitiful state, Everett injects a wealth of charm and vibrancy coupled with Wilde’s incomparable wit into his portrayal.

In a cheap Parisian hotel room, in declining health, Wilde looks back on life, his fall from grace, his imprisonment, and his many loves—Lord Alfred Douglas (Bosie) and Wilde’s wife and two children. His retrospection details good times and great losses; his life as a libertine and dandy of sorts, as well as the fame that came with the production of his plays and written works.

“The Happy Prince” includes a stellar cast that includes Colin Firth, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson, and Edwin Thomas. Still, “The “Happy Prince” is a star vehicle for Rupert Everett. And with his portrayal of a downtrodden Oscar Wilde, we get to see Oscar Wilde in a different light, and how deep Rupert Everett’s well of talent can go. With “The Happy Prince,” Rupert Everett proves he is much more than a pretty face with a British accent. Is there is Oscar nomination in the works? Fashion Reverie thinks so!!

Photos courtesy of Sony Classics

“The Happy Prince” is distributed by Sony Classics and opens in limited release on October 10.—William S. Gooch

Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion & Disco

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It is amazing how one person can touch the lives of so many people. Antonio Lopez is just that person. Though Lopez only lived to the ripe age of 44, his influence in the fashion industry is immensely important and still felt thirty years later.The documentary “Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion & Disco” carefully and brilliantly details Antonio Lopez’s rise from humble beginnings in Puerto Rico, and later the Bronx, to his prolific, though short, career as a fashion illustrator and designer. Interestingly, Lopez’s ascent in the fashion industry—in the mid 1960s—came at time when there were few people of color in positions of influence. Still, Lopez with his magnetic charm was never an outsider, always pushing the proverbial fashion envelope, ultimately expanding fashion’s palette of what is beautiful and relevant.

Lopez, singlehandedly, used his familiarity with urban and street culture and infused his illustrations with that specific influence. This was perhaps the first time that major fashion publications had a person of color in their employ that paid homage to diversity and urban culture.

“Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion & Disco” gives a purview into how the worlds of urban street culture, pop music, and the downtown arts scene were beginning to influence the fashion industry. Lopez was at the epicenter of this particular cross-pollination of cultures and infused his art and craft with this mélange of influences.

From his fashion illustrations that demonstrated that black and brown is beautiful to his renderings that expressed male sexuality and sensuality in ways that were both erotic and sophisticated, Lopez helped forge a new consciousness in fashion that went beyond the fashion elites and well-heeled ladies with deep pockets. And this documentary gives credence to Lopez’s mastery of fusing a plethora of pop cultural experiences.

Director James Crump carefully examines Lopez’s unique ability to excavate inchoate talent and pushing that talent to the forefront of fashion. Without Lopez there probably would not have been a Grace Jones, Pat Cleveland, Patti D’Arbanville, Corey Tippin or Jerry Hall. And it was Lopez and his partner Juan Ramos that sparked that creative fire and sensibility in Karl Lagerfeld early in his career. Without Lopez and his coterie of creative merry people, perhaps, Lagerfeld would not have developed into the genius who could masterfully combine a variety of influences and popular trends into a seamless expression of beauty and adventure.

Blending video footage, photographs, Lopez’s fashion illustrations, disco music and some very well-placed interviews from Jessica Lange, Grace Coddington, Bill Cunningham, Pat Cleveland, Joan Juliet Buck, Andre Leon Talley, Corey Tippin, Bob Colacello, and others, James Crump artfully creates the mood and motivation of the late 60s and 70s. This collision of cultures and aesthetics is set against the backdrop of New York City and Paris. In fact, Crump creates such well-collaged kaleidoscope of images, sounds and colors that is almost like being in the New York City and Paris of Antonio Lopez. Still, Crump does not leave out some of the vices that drove Lopez’s creative genius. Though these vices—sex, sex, and more sex—are not the focus of the documentary, Crump does detail Lopez’s excesses without simulating titillating voyeurism.

Sadly, like many artists of Lopez’s ilk, his glorious flame burned out way too early, succumbing to HIV/AIDS in 1987. Though Lopez is gone, he most certainly is not forgotten. And “Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion & Disco” shows us why!!

“Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion & Disco” is currently playing at the IFC Center in New York City through October 4.

—William S. Gooch

The Old and the New Collide in “Crazy Rich Asians”

                Image courtesy of joblo.com

Film critics knew it would happen. We just didn’t know when. We all understood that is was time overdue for a mega box office Asian film that put Asians as the main characters and spoke to the growing number of wealthy Asians globally.It has been 25 years since the US has had an Asian film—“The Joy Luck Club”—with a majority Asian cast. And though “The Joy Luck Club” had a stellar Asian cast and did well at the box office, Hollywood did not really stand up and take notice and nor did “The Joy Luck Club” spur Hollywood to invest dollars in other Asian films with a mainly Asian cast.

                Image courtesy of vanityfair.com

That said; 25 years after “The Joy Luck Club” things have changed. Asians are the largest group of new millionaires and billionaires globally. And “Crazy Rich Asians” reflect this new wealth demographic. Though most Asians are not wealthy, in fact, globally, most Asians live below the poverty level; this fact did not stop Hollywood from producing a cinematic look in the luxury lifestyles of the Asian one percent—and in “Crazy Rich Asian’s” case, Asians from a former British colony, Singapore.“Crazy Rich Asians,” a romantic comedy based on Kevin Kwan’s novel, centers on Chinese American Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), a New York University economics professor, who travels with her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. Rachel does not know that her boyfriend’s family is the wealthiest and most esteemed family in Singapore.

                  Image courtesy of variety.com

Excited about visiting Asia for the first time, Rachel is not prepared for the rigors of Singapore’s elite class and in particular the expectations of Nick’s disapproving mother (Michelle Yeoh). Feeling out of place, Rachel reaches out to college roommate Goh Peik Lin (Awkwafina), whose family is a part of Singapore’s garish nouveau riche, for support and a quick lesson in the morays of Singapore’s elite class. What ensues is a layered romantic comedy that gives insight into the East meets West culture of Singapore and a universal love story about the clash of culture and class.Director Jon M. Chu gives audiences an inside peek into how very rich Asians live, outside of the US, and how Western culture has permeated Asian countries. And though this film is very funny, particularly the scenes with Awkwafina upstaging, in a good way, almost every actor in sight, Jon M. Chu touches on some very important elements of Asian culture that, in spite of Western assimilation, has not been uprooted. Michelle Yeoh represents those old world values; values that contradict Western attitudes toward individualism and personal achievement. Rachel, who was born in the US, is pitied against these old world standards and most find a way to adapt.

            Image courtesy of nymag.com

At first glance, “Crazy Rich Asians” is formulaic and could be about any wealthy ethnic group grappling with fading, old world values and the inchoate morays that can accompany great wealth. However, at closer examination, Chu is asking audiences to re-examine neo-liberal concepts of wealth and status. In this way, “Crazy Rich Asians” has more depth and texture than more recent films of this ilk.Interestingly, Jon M. Chu displays an excessive amount of the Western influences of decadence, greed, and individualism compared to his examination old world Asian values of family, saving face, and sacrifice. Perhaps, Chu is saying that these decadent Western influences don’t work so well outside of Western countries, making folks a little schizoid and crazy. Or, at a deeper level Chu is demonstrating that old social norms die a hard death or never really disappear.

           Image courtesy of hollywoodreporter.com

Whatever Chu’s motivation, “Crazy Rich Asians” is a lot of fun and a great addition to the end of summer blockbuster season. Standout performances, and there were many, include Awkwafina’s (Goh Peik Lin) over-the-top, hip hop–embellished portrayal of Rachel’s college roommate; Michelle Yeoh’s dogmatic, steely portrayal of Nick Young’s mother; Constance Wu as the Chinese-American girlfriend caught between two worlds; Lisa Lu as Nick’s stoic grandmother, and Ken Jeong as Goh Peik Lin’s nouveau riche dad.”Crazy Rich Asians” opens nationally on August 15.

—William S. Gooch

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

Judy Gellman Makes Excellent Costume Choices in “American Woman”

Alicia Silverstone is currently singing her dramatic song in Paramount’s new television series “American Woman.” The show, based on the childhood of actress and socialite Kyle Richards, takes us through 70s wave of feminism as women began entering the workforce in higher numbers, seeking independence from traditional roles.

Costume designer Judy Gellman managed to capture the wealth and wonder that went into the wardrobes of those upper crust Beverly Hills women in the 70s, showing us how women communicated through 70s fashion their style and passion. Fashion Reverie had the privilege of speaking with Judy Gellman about her role costuming “American Woman.”

                  Judy Gellman, Costume Designer for “American Woman”

Fashion Reverie: How did you get involved with this project?Judy Gellman: The guy who created the show and I had worked together before. When he was putting it all together he contacted me and asked for my input on what things would look like in 1975, and so I helped him put together some things to show prospective writers. I became involved when the project was bought and he got a green light for the pilot.

FR: Where did you get your inspiration for the garments in “American Woman”?

Judy Gellman: There was so much actually. It was a complicated process, but one that costume designers always relish. There is the research of trying to bring the period to the screen without it being “Hello, here’s a fashion show of the most iconic things that happened in 1975 for characters like this.” The main thing is to serve the story. We wanted very much to have the clothing be fun, evident, and exciting, but to support the characters. My inspiration came from the fashions that were promoted at the time, the culture, and people of Beverly Hills, and the economic bracket these three women lived in.

FR: How did you do your research?

Judy Gellman: I first started with things like Time magazine copies from that era, other vintage magazines, and of course the Internet, as well as information about New York in the mid-70s. Alicia’s character came from New York, which made her unique in that her look had to encompass what a woman from New York would dress like going to Beverly Hills.

FR: Is that why she had that mink coat?

Judy Gellman: Yes, that was an iconic look from that era, the Diane von Furstenberg dress, and the mink coat.

FR: What other fashion brands did you use?

Judy Gellman: There were so many, we found, Pucci, Chanel, Hermes, Pierre Cardin, Halston, even jackets from Fiorucci. There was a designer who did his own prints out here whose worked I managed to find. We also used Mary McFadden and Fendi. There were tons of designers that I really wanted to present.

FR: Did you have difficulty finding clothes that were in good shape?

Judy Gellman: In some cases, I did have difficulty. The two biggest issues were condition and size. Sizing was very different then. Everything that I acquired or made for the show had to be measured. A size 4 back then was like a size 0 today. The sizing was a challenge, as well as, the condition of the pieces. Sometimes, I’d find something and we’d have to remake the lining or buttons would be missing, a new zipper would be needed. All sorts of things needed some attention. However, we found some amazing things.

FR: Were replicas made?

Judy Gellman: I can’t say I actually needed a specific garment that I had to have copied, but there were things I had made. I found a pattern for a Peignoir coat, and I found vintage fabric and to make a top for a nightgown. I was able to find vintage patterns on etsy.com and different Internet sites.

FR: What can viewers expect from Alicia’s wardrobe next on “American Woman”?

Judy Gellman: What we’re going to see is more things she has to work in. At the beginning of the series, Alicia’s character doesn’t have a job, and doesn’t know where to get employment. You see her a few times working at a department store. You’ll see her in things that would be suitable to that environment. Her character also grows in many different ways between levels of independence, self-confidence, and her romantic life.

FR: Talk to me about feminism wave one and how that affected fashion in the show?

Judy Gellman: One of the things that is really important in “American Woman” is what a professional working woman of the 70s needed to look like. Nowadays, fashion has exploded to such a level of freedom in the workplace that didn’t exist back then. If you look at Jennifer Bartel’s character Diana, who worked in a bank, her wardrobe is very conservative. What was appropriate back then was to support designers like Calvin Klein and Anne Klein. It was the whole development of suits that were appropriate for the workplace and had some style to them. That was an important visual that I was glad to have there. Things couldn’t be considered provocative in any way. Women were trying to be treated as equal, but fashionable at the same time. If you were working in a law firm or bank, you had to be concerned about certain things to be taken seriously.

                                All images courtesy of the Paramount Network

Judy Gellman: Alicia is so easy to work with, there was nothing that was a challenge, except, trying to acquire and make the things we felt were appropriate, as she came into being a working woman, I think what you’ll find that in work suits back then the fabrication was much different. The fabrics were not stretchy, even though there was a lot of polyester. In the workplace, the suits and other garments were more rigid.For me, what I wanted to do was to give Alicia’s character things that were appropriate to work in that might not be a suit. I wanted to put her in things that still showed off her figure and had texture and color. It’s a complicated process to find things your character can stand out in and work with the color scheme of the set. It’s kind of a complicated process to make sure that the colors, styles, and silhouettes don’t disappear and don’t clash with what’s happening on the set.

“American Woman” stars Alicia Silverstone, Mena Suvari, Jennifer Bartels, Lisa McHugh, and James Makenna. “American Woman” premiered on June 7, 2018 on the Paramount Network and continues through August 23, 2018. 

—Kristopher Fraser

 

 

Boots Riley Gets it Frighteningly Right in “Sorry to Bother You”

                                              Image courtesy of nymag.com

What can be said about Boots Riley’s “Sorry to Bother You”? A lot can be said. There is humor in this film, a love story, juxtapositions of wealthy elites against the working class, and most of all a phantasmagorical surrealism. All these disparate elements and sub-stories are all rolled into one surprisingly cohesive story. Which is a testament to how good of a writer and storyteller writer/director Boots Riley is.Known mostly as a political activist and lead vocalist of The Coup and Street Sweeper Social Club, Boots Riley in his directorial debut has spearheaded a film that is apt for our current, tumultuous political climate. “Sorry to Bother You,” though infused with humor, metaphor, and satirical commentary on the growing rift between economic elites and everyone else, is still entertaining in spite of the film’s harrowing message.

“Sorry to Bother You”—which some film critics might deem a science fiction comedy—follows the journey of a young African American telemarketer, Cassius Green, as he adopts a Caucasian-sounding sales pitch and rises to the top of the sales/marketing ladder. During his ascent Cassius Green is faced with choosing the wealth and creature comforts of his recently acquired success or helping his fellow workers organize a labor union. (Consider the play of words with Cassius “Cash” Green’s name that references money and sports icon Cassius Clay aka Mohammad Ali. And like Cassius Clay, Cassius Green has a ‘eureka’ moment that changes is ideology and life perspective.)

                                     Image courtesy of theatlantic.com

At first glance, “Sorry to Bother You” is reminiscent of Spike Lee’s attempt in the late 1980s and early 90s to make socially relevant films that commented on race, class, and social mobility. (Riley even uses some of Lee’s cinematic techniques.) Still, Riley’s foray into cinematic expression is different from Spike Lee because there is a lot more humor and Riley’s metaphorical, phantasmagorical images, though harrowing and rooted in science fiction, when examined more closely, those images reflect accurately the times we are living in. Which in some ways makes those metaphorical references tangibly eerie.There are some very strong performances and standout moments in “Sorry to Bother You.” Though Danny Glover has a small supporting role as a fellow telemarketer, he almost singlehandedly is the deus ex machina of this film, expertly providing the momentum to push the film forward. Omari Hardwicke as Mr. _________ is brilliant as a clandestine character that aids Cassius Green in his transition from worker drone to successful marketer. And LaKeith Stanfield as Cassius “Cash” Green brings nuance and depth to Cassius Green nerdy, and ship-without-a-sail character. Stanfield also craftily navigates Cassius Green’s evolution from aimless worker drone to informed citizen.

                                         Image courtesy of syfy.com

Standout scenes include, but not are not limited to, the scene where nerdy Cassius satisfies his rap music thirsty white co-workers by shouting the N-word every two seconds; Cassius stumbling upon equine/humans in the men’s room, and Cassius becoming more sexually appealing after he becomes more successful, even though his physical appearance has not changed. And even more impressive is how strategically Riley handles crowd scenes, a real accomplishment for a first-time director.In this current political climate, one would wonder how “Sorry to Bother You” has achieved nationwide release. Perhaps, this film slipped through cracks because of its criticism of capitalist elites and big business and not the Trump Administration directly, even though they are one in the same. At any rate, “Sorry to Bother You” is a film that must be seen.

                                       Image courtesy of theatlantic.com

In “Sorry to Bother You, we finally have a film with a strong people of color cast that makes you think. We need many more films just like this!!”Sorry to Bother You” is playing in cinemas nationwide.

—William S. Gooch

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