Amber Chardae Robinson Speaks about Her Role in “Judas and the Black Messiah”

Actress Amber Chardae Robinson is now proud to say that she’s been a part of a film that received the Oscar nomination for Best Picture. “Judas and the Black Messiah,” where Robinson plays Betty Coachman, a supporter of the Black Panther Party, tells the story of party chairman Fred Hampton and FBI informant William “Bill” O’Neal who went undercover to gather intelligence on the civil rights martyr. The role of Betty Coachman was a turning point in Robinson’s career, and she got to work with an amazing group of actors including Academy Award nominees Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield, and rising star Dominique Fishback. Fashion Reverie recently sat down with the actress to discuss the importance of this film, the history of the Black Panther Party, and how this project changed her life.

Fashion Reverie: How did you get cast in this film?

Amber Chardae Robinson: It’s a funny story. I was living my regular actor life in Los Angeles, and I got a phone call from my agent to do the table read for the parts they hadn’t cast. Ryan Coogler, Daniel Kaluuya, and LaKeith Stanfield were all going to be there. The casting director said there was no promise of a role, but I took it as an opportunity to deliver the material the best way I know how

 When I went in, I met Ryan Coogler, who sat directly across from me. After that, I did everything I was supposed to, some folks would say I went in and ‘dropped the mic.’ I thanked everyone when I left, and I didn’t hear anything for two weeks after that. In the meantime I just became obsessed with the history of the Black Panther Party.

FR: Were you aware of Fred Hampton and his story before you found out about “Judas and the Black Messiah?”

Amber Chardae Robinson: No, I had no idea who he was. After I did the table read, all this extra research I was doing on the Black Panthers was leisure, but some people would call it manifestation. I went to Florida on vacation, and I was speaking at Bethune Cookman University about “Always a Bridesmaid,” another movie I was in. Two weeks after that, I got a call from my agent saying there was a role in “Judas and the Black Messiah” for me. I hopped on a flight to Cleveland and lived there for three months shooting this film with these amazing people. It felt so divinely ordained. What are the odds you get cast from a table read?

FR: Do you know the producers came up with the name of the film, “Judas and the Black Messiah?”

Amber Chardae Robinson: For the longest we were shooting; we didn’t have a title for it. It was called “The Untitled Fred Hampton Project.” When the story of the film broke in the press, that was when I learned about the name of film. The entire time we were shooting the movie, we didn’t know what it was going to be called. It was like raising a child without a name, saying you’ll let them find themselves. The producers wanted to finish the project and feel what works.

FR: Talk to me about the preparation to play your character, Betty Coachman?

Amber Chardae Robinson: I engulfed myself in the culture of the women in the Black Panther Party. They played such a vital role in the movement. I listened to speeches from Angela Davis—who coincidentally was never a member of the Black Panther Party—and Kathleen Cleaver, just hearing the intelligence and gravitas they spoke with was very similar to who I am today.

I have an MFA in acting from Columbia University, and I did my undergrad at an HBCU, so I went from a predominantly Black environment to one with a lot less people who look like me. I had to constantly remind myself who I was and that I was worthy of being there.

Thinking about on my time in graduate school, there was a parallel for me. I tapped into my own strength of being a Black woman at a predominantly white institution. I had to learn to assert my intellect. I’m a Black girl from the South with a country accent. People don’t think Ivy League graduate when they see me. White people back then did not look at these women as intellectuals, they were seen as demonizing, rebels, or radicals. These women need their stories told. We need an Angela Davis and Kathleen Cleaver biopic next.

FR: What do you think you brought to the Betty Coachman character?

Amber Chardae Robinson: I brought myself and all of the things I possess as a Black woman in this time. I’m growing up in a time that’s very similar, but where racism isn’t as overt. I tapped into my real life and used those feelings as fuel for this character.

Growing up in the South and being Black, smart, and loud, and going off to do things like art weren’t supported. I brought strength, power, and knowing who I am to this role. I learned so much about myself doing this movie as well, and I’ve been fueled to chase after my purpose. Learning about Fred Hampton and the vision he had for us as a collective of Black people really changed me and has fueled me in my current process as an actor and person.

FR: Fred Hampton’s murder has been documented in Black Panther Party documentary films, but there’s never been a feature film about his life. His murder happened decades ago. Why do you think “Judas and the Black Messiah” needed to happen at this time?

Amber Chardae Robinson: So many people are uninformed or just don’t know about this history. I heard the name Fred Hampton before, but I didn’t know the history and issues surrounding his murder, the FBI’s involvement, or the role J. Edgar Hoover played. To this day, Fred Hampton is still held on this pedestal, and there’s a reason for that. This movie has given people the initiative to do their research and learn about the actual issues that are going on. The conditioning of this country has led us to believe things that aren’t true or accurate.

FR: Although the film takes places in the 1960s, many of the issues of race and civil rights are still relevant today. Do you think the story and issues of racial justice will appeal to current audiences? If so, why?

Amber Chardae Robinson: I hope this film educates. The reasons I tell stories is to liberate people through art. The people who don’t know anything about Fred Hampton, Bill O’Neal, the FBI, and J. Edgar Hoover will be educated from this film. One of the things that was really astounding for me about this film was someone in the FBI pushed for a bill to take J. Edgar Hoover’s name off the FBI building after he watched this film. The amount of black civil rights activists that died under J. Edgar Hoover’s watch was astonishing. Films like this cause us to reflect and make adjustments to our society. That’s why I do the work I do.

FR: Most people don’t realize the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover were involved in Fred Hampton’s murder. Do you think the film conveys the historical accuracies and horrors of the situation well?

Amber Chardae Robinson: The film does an excellent job of that. It really gives just insight and peaks into just the surface of what happened. I hope people will be motivated to go do more research about what the FBI did to the Black Panther Party and see what else really happened.

FR: Many people know very little about the Black Panther Party and don’t realize the party was established to uplift all people. How does this film help clear up some of the misinformation about the Black Panther Party?

Amber Chardae Robinson: It shows people Fred Hampton’s mission. The party was created to take care of Black people with clinics and free breakfast programs. We had to protect ourselves because they were killing us. It wasn’t about rebelling against white men. That narrative was constructed because people were scared Black people would want revenge for oppression, but Black people wanted to live and be taken care of after we helped build this country.

FR: How has working on “Judas and the Black Messiah” enriched your life?

Amber Chardae Robinson: For a long time, I had imposter syndrome. I kept telling myself get it together, and I forget that I am worthy and ready to be where I am. I spent the money and had the training to be at the point I’m at in my acting career. After working on this film, I have more confidence in my work. I don’t want to say this movie showed me my worth, but it allowed me to watch people who are where I want to be career wise, and I had intimate conversations with them, and built a familial relationship with them. Working on this film changed my outlook on this business and showed me how I’m going to grow in this field. After this experience, I feel like my opportunities are limitless, and I’m so excited about it.

FR: What did you take away from working with a cast of incredible actors including big names like Daniel Kaluuya, LaKeith Stanfield, and Dominique Jackson?

Amber Chardae Robinson: I think I’ve gained another family. I learned so much being around these people, because they are so rooted in themselves. If they are ever second guessing themselves, I can’t see it. Their confidence and knowing who they are and what they bring to the table and knowing no one can get in the way of their journey was a privilege to witness. It helped me so much with myself. It helped me understand myself and made me feel more comfortable about what I do. Going on to the next set, I won’t be as nervous. “Judas and the Black Messiah” is the biggest set I’ve worked on. I’m grateful to have experience people who are strong in their foundation.

FR: What are some projects you have coming up this year?

Amber Chardae Robinson: Right now I’m in the process of taking a couple meetings and auditioning. We are still in a pandemic, but I’m using the time to write my own feature film. Writing has always been something I’ve done since I was a little girl. Being able to write a feature has been an interesting process. It’s kept me busy through such turbulent times, and it’s given me a foundation to come back to while the world has felt like its collapsing around us. I’m excited to share it with the world.

“Judas and the Black Messiah” is currently in theatres and streaming on HBO Max. The film was directed by Shaka King and is a contender at the 93rd Academy Awards for Best Picture.

—Kristopher Fraser

In This Season of Change, Gary Quinn Sets Us on the Path to Success, Wellness, and Growth

Have you noticed that we are on the precipice of great change? We have a new administration in the White House, we are slowly getting a handle of the COVID-19 pandemic with more and more people getting vaccinated globally, the new $1.9 billion economic relief packaged has been signed into law and we are just a week away from the season of budding flowers and chirping birds.

All things appear to be looking up. Still, everything is coming up roses only if you can tap into positivity and this new great shift in consciousness.

Author and Motivational Speaker Gary Quinn spoke to Fashion Reverie about what it takes to live a life of joy, fulfillment, and positive change. This detailed and much-needed conversation fits perfectly into this season of change, if only we pay attention and apply some of these incredible, life-affirming principles.

Fashion Reverie: How did you get on this path to positive thinking and transition your approach to positive thinking into being a life coach, a motivational speaker, and author?

Gary Quinn: I started training for the Olympics when I was very young, and I was fortunate to have great coaches and all these opportunities. Like most kids, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. From swimming I developed a great work ethic and I parlayed that work ethic into working in the entertainment industry.

I have done everything from writing situation comedies to working and representing actors, writers, and directors to being a music producer.  In other words, I have run the gamut of things you can do in the entertainment industry.

Jonelle Allen was one of my first celebrity clients and she recognized that I was very intuitive, and she prompted me to do something with this knack I have for seeing potential in people. I do have the ability to connect to a higher energy and the divine in people and help them connect or reconnect with that divine or higher frequency.

From recognizing that I had this gift, I started doing life coach work privately and from that I wrote my first book “The Yes Frequency.” This book launched a global 37-city book tour.

When I had written my first book, I was at a wellness conference and I met Dan Millman, I told Dan Millman how much admired his work and how his work had influenced and helped me. Millman took me to this crew that was interviewing him for some television show and tells the crew, “You need to interview this guy, also.” I never forgot that moment because that televised interview really helped my burgeoning career.

FR: In your life coaching, what do you teach your clients?

Gary Quinn: I teach people how to be the master of their mind and living their vision is not scary. I teach people how to activate their greatness. I teach how to work with the principles of grace, gratitude, opportunity, and knowing that every day we can do something great. My work is about rejuvenating your thought processes and your perspective on your own life.

FR: You have a book “Living in the Spiritual Zone: 10 Steps to Change Your Life and Discover Your Truth.” Quickly, name a few things people can do to facilitate change.

Gary Quinn: I start with having my clients make a list of all the stress and anger they have had in their life. You cannot upload any positive affirmations or positive change if you have not cleared the cupboards or the subconscious of all the anger and negativity that might be there.

As you right down those things that are negative or cause a lot of anger, if you need to forgive someone that has caused that hurt and anger, you should right a forgiveness letter to that individual, and read it out loud. (Often when clients do this, they began to cry which means they are beginning to release the toxins that came from living in a space of resentment.)

Then I instruct my clients to start to speak positive affirmations for 21 days. As you start to act on those affirmations, you will begin to see a shift in perspective and a shift in behavior. I also get my clients to make a mission statement of what they want their life in this new place of forgiveness and positivity.

FR: Why is making these list so important?

Gary Quinn: Making lists of what you want is very important, if you make a list, you probably will not forget and take your aspirations more seriously. From the list, you can identify events in your life where you felt diminished and felt disempowered and I can help you work through that. From these lists you can began to create the life that you want. It does take work and some research, but it is possible, if you are willing to do the work. It is about putting in  the work, doing the affirmation exercises, and restoring yourself daily.

FR: In this time of rejuvenation, a new presidential administration, and coming into a new season, what can people do rejuvenation their perspective and life?

Gary Quinn First, you should figure out if the career that you are in is the career that feeds your passion. If not, you need to change it. Secondly, you should access and look for things that will cause you to grow. You also need to monitor your diet because what you are eating affects your mood and your thought processes. During this time of activating the new you, changing your diet, exercising, positive affirmations, finding something that inspires your soul that is removed from your work life, and accessing new learning opportunities will put you the track to rejuvenating your life.

FR: We are slowing coming out of this terrible health pandemic. What positive things can people take away from being isolated, shutdown, and not experiencing life as we once knew it?

Gary Quinn: This health pandemic has caused many of us to look within, simply because some of the quarantining has slowed some of our daily activities. And because of this slowing down of our lives, we now have the time to closely examine our lives and look at the things that make us happy. This shutdown has been a great opportunity to focus on change. We all must be willing to accept change. To grow, embracing change is necessary.

This pandemic put us in front or ourselves, and we can look in the mirror and figure out what is not working. We should release what is not working and embrace change. You should also make a daily list of things that are working and things that make your feel good.

FR: Because of this health pandemic, we will be experiencing a new normal. What might this new normal look like?

Gary Quinn: Our new normal is about people looking within to take inventory of what does work. The new normal will be about more efficiency, and not wasting time.

People have been waiting for something to bring them happiness, and during this health pandemic experience, the new normal is about encouraging ourselves and others to use empowerment tools. The new normal is also be about honoring other people more because we are all connected. And this health pandemic dramatically demonstrated that.

Images courtesy of VERY New York

FR: We are now in Women’s History month. What can everyone learn from women?

Gary Quinn: Women are the power of the future and men need to get more into their feminine side to learn mindfulness and compassion, attributes that some women naturally have. Most women are very in touch with their emotions which gives them the ability to be more compassionate. Women can run this country and right now we need compassionate leaders.

Women have helped my career enormously. In fact, my book deals where orchestrated by women in positions of power.

FR: What’s next for you?

Gary Quinn: My next book, “Be Your Business Guru,” which is coming out in the fall, is about how business folks can find their own path to happiness and success in their business. This book will come out in Italy and the rest of Europe in the fall and be released in the US in 2022.

William S. Gooch

For SUEDE There Was a Lot of Life to Live After “Project Runway”

Have you binged on fashion reality television shows since the COVID-19 health pandemic? If you have, you’ve probably wondered what has happened to many of the talented fashion designers from “Project Runway.” In the 18 seasons of “Project Runway,” only Christian Siriano has become a household name.

Still, there was a lot of fantastic design talent on the show. (Fashion Reverie is very familiar with several designers from “Project Runway.” Some of them are friends to the site.) Did most of the contestant leave the fashion industry, move to other countries, become reality television has-beens, or just quietly get jobs in the fashion industry without much fanfare?

The latter is true for most. And that is true for SUEDE (Stephen Whitney Baum) from season 5 and “Project Runway All-Stars.”

You may remember SUEDE for his witty comebacks, blue spiky hair, and avant-garde fashion creations. And if you do, that was the plan!! However, SUEDE is so much more than that.

In this revealing interview, SUEDE talks about his stint on “Project Runway,” the opportunities that opened up for him after “Project Runway,” his love of fashion, and his new passion.

Fashion Reverie: First, how did you get the name SUEDE?

SUEDE: I attended Kent State University, where I have a lifetime endowment. Back in the day when I was just a student, I was the only guy in one of my fashion classes. We had this project, which was a very challenging project, and everyone was on edge. So, to take some of the edge off I had every gather around the fabric bin and pick a fabric. Whatever fabric you picked, you had to be that fabric for the entire day. I choose suede and the name just stuck and it became my nickname all through college.

When I auditioned for “Project Runway,” I was trying to set myself apart from all the other potential contestants, so I resurrected my nickname from college for the show. I am so glad I did that because it separated me from other designers, and it helped with branding after the show.

FR: Was fashion always something you wanted to do?

SUEDE: When I was a kid, I wanted to be an actor. I would get the Village Voice every week and look at all the apartment listings and dream about living in New York City.

Still, early in life, I was not tuned into a career in fashion. I applied to NYU to Tisch School of the Arts and my parents would not let me go to school in New York City at 17. I knew that I was creative, but I didn’t know what to do with my creativity. I knew that Kent State had a fashion program. I applied and got accepted. Even though, at the time, I wasn’t sure if a career in fashion was what I wanted, I excelled in all my classes, and over all Kent State was a great fit for me.

I moved to New York City soon after graduation and started working for Geoffrey Beene. I ended working with Alber Elbaz while at Geoffrey Beene.

FR: How would you describe your design aesthetic?

SUEDE: I believe I am very street savvy and edgy. However, when I design it is not about my personal taste, it is attempting to embody that brand. I worked for Jordache for five years, FUBU ladies, Rocawear, Polo jeans and a bunch of denim brands and working for those brands was a part of who I am because I love denim. Still, you must be able to put yourself in the consumer’s head.

FR: What brands have you worked for and in what capacity?

SUEDE: Polo jeans company, Lee jeans girls and junior division, and I worked for Geoffrey Beene on two separate occasions, Van Heusen on the sportwear side, Rocawear jeans, a lot of denim-based brands. This was in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Interestingly, that is what made being on “Project Runway” so challenging for me, is that because I had worked at these denim brands for so long and had not created or sewn a garment in some time. I was involved with merchandising and designing the denim collections and the actual production was done in some factory in another country.

When you are working for brands that are very consumer-based and mass-produced it is a huge challenge to incorporate embellishments and more advanced design aesthetics. For the most part those things don’t fit into the budget of mass-produced garments because you are making everything on a much larger scale.

FR: Everyone knows that you were on Season 5 of “Project Runway.” According to your bio, you dreamed about making friends with Tim Gunn and being on “Project Runway.” Is that true?

SUEDE: Yes, that is true. Prior to being on “Project Runway,” I was working at fashion brand that was racist and treated it’s African American and Latin workers very badly. I was having battles daily and I ended up leaving that job.

While I was in between jobs, I had a dream that Tim Gunn asked me to be on “Project Runway.” At the time I was living in Sullivan County, New York, and I decided I needed to work on my sewing skills if I was going to be a contestant on “Project Runway.” From scratch, I created this beautiful black dress which served as my audition garment for the show. And that garment got me pass the first “Project Runway” audition process.

FR:  What is your biggest takeaway from your appearance on Season 5 of “Project Runway”?

SUEDE: My participation on the show did open a lot of doors for me. That said; the fashion industry does not respond well to the talent on “Project Runway.” I was hoping that all these great fashion opportunities would come my way from the show. And that did happen to some extent.

However, what did happen from the show was the amount of notoriety that I got from appearing on “Project Runway.” I was quirky and spoke in the third person and that was a good sell for the show. And even though Obama was running for president and we were in a deep recession, people would stop me and ask me about fashion and my turn on “Project Runway.” Crazy, right?

“Project Runway” opened my eyes up to what it means to be a celebrity of some sorts and to be constantly identifiable and recognized. So, in a nutshell, “Project Runway” opened doors for me, making things easier and difficult all at once.

FR: What doors did “Project Runway” open for you?

SUEDE: I started making money by doing public appearances. You would be surprised the organizations, group, and people that will pay good money to have some one who has been on television show up at their event, party, etc.

Simplicity Patterns approached at an event, where I was making a public appearance, about working for them and making patterns and designing fabric for their company. Within a week, I had my first licensing deal with Simplicity Patterns.

FR: What was not so great about appearing on “Project Runway”?

SUEDE: I was not prepared for the hate and viciousness that was directed at me because of “Project Runway.” There was a certain drag artist that really came for me in the gay press in a series of interviews. Because I was under contract from Bravo at the time, I could not respond to this person’s venom and lack of respect.

FR: Apart from Christian Siriano, very few contestants from “Project Runway” have gone on to became household names. What is your take on that?

SUEDE: First, we are talking about two different things. We are talking about pop culture versus the fashion industry. The fashion industry is a very tight market. When you look at the fashion industry closely, the movers and shakers in the industry mostly concentrate on luxury or high-end fashion. 

Christian received a lot of support after his stint on “Project Runway” to get him to where he is now. Most of the contestants did not get that. Also, you should consider that “Project Runway” makes good television; however, good television is not the fashion industry. There is this trickle-down process in fashion and certain folks in the industry really decide who gets support and who makes it in this industry. “Project Runway,” even though there were very talented designers on the show, does not fit into that paradigm.

FR: What has your life been like after “Project Runway”?

SUEDE: My lifestyle brand SUEDEsays did very well after the show and the brand was in over 4,000 stores. I had mass brands that were buying my patterns and products and before my mom based away, we were trying to get a stronghold in the craft industry. That said; once you get into a particular market, it is very hard to go back into ready-to-wear fashion.

FR: What exactly was SUEDEsays as a brand?

SUEDE: SUEDEsays was fabrics that you could purchase to make clothing. We also produced patterns that was geared toward that home crafter. With every SUEDEsays package, I offered three patterned looks. We gave the consumer the ability to put fashion in their own hands.

Images courtesy of VERY New York

Re: You are currently selling real estate. Could you talk about that?

SUEDE:  I was recently recognized for having my real estate business increase over 2000 percent in 2019. Real estate is a great fit for me after my mom passed in 2017.  I become very depressed after my mother died. Within the two years after my mom died, I took and passed my real estate exams. And of the end of 2020, I passed the $4 million sale mark which is huge in Ohio.

FR: Are you still designing clothing?

SUEDE: I am working on a project with a company that is working on designs for the government. So, I am still working on fashion projects on the side, but it is very, very niche.

—William S. Gooch

 

 

Sy Smith’s “Perfect Love” Takes You to that Perfect Place

This is a time of deep reflection and acknowledgement of things accomplished and things not yet down. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us all to reconsider what is important to us and look at the things that really brings us joy and fulfillment.

In this time of reflection, music can take us back to a time that was joyful, peaceful, and loving. Particularly music that speaks to the heart, music that arouses in us that need to connect, that need to share, that need to love. Sy Smith’s music does just that!!

Known as the Queen of Underground, Sy Smith always infuses her music with lyrics that speak to the best in all of us, that love that passes all understanding, that love supreme. And with her new song, “Perfect Love,” in collaboration with Rachel Eckroth, Sy Smith speaks about a “Perfect Love,” a love that takes you to a place of euphoric peace and contentment.

Fashion Reverie was granted the privilege to speak to Sy Smith about her life, her endeavors, and her “Perfect Love.”

Fashion Reverie: What is your musical background?

Sy Smith: I started playing piano as a kid. And then I did the chorus thing, county and state choruses. After I finished high school, my mom let me play keyboards for an all-girl, go-go band. While I was at Howard University, I joined an acapella group called In Time.

I was exploring lots of musical genres and expressions. And it wasn’t until I came to Los Angeles and started singing background for whole lot of top musical artists did I begin to discover what my musical path would be.

FR: Who are your musical influences?

Sy Smith: Easily Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, and for people who know my music, you can hear a lot of brass instrumental influences. Growing up I loved bands that had a strong horn section—Cameo, Earth, Wind and Fire. I was also influenced by Patrice Rushen.

FR: How would you describe your musical style?

Sy Smith: My musical style is all those things that kind of make up black music. Lyrically, I am a person who loves language and vernacular. If someone sits down and listens to my lyrics, you can tell that I am a writer at heart. And that might mean that my music is influenced by Toni Morrison or Octavia Butler, and any of the writers that I love.

FR: When I listen to your sound it is a fusion of many things, a musical hybrid. For me, your sound is reminiscent of Minnie Riperton.

Sy Smith: You are right, my musical style does harken back to some of the female singers of the late 1960s and early 70s that fused their music with a lot of different influences. I do try to remain true to myself because I also have a story to tell.

FR: Sy Smith, you have been described as the “Queen of Underground Soul. How did you acquire that moniker?

Sy Smith: About twelve years ago at a conference someone use that name to describe me. The person was referring to the fact that at the time I was one of the few musical artists that was doing everything myself—booking my own gigs, running my own label—and doing everything well. I was making a solid living from my music and didn’t need to have a day job.

Folks were kind of shocked that I could create underground music, make a living from it without a machine behind me. I was landing my videos on “BET Soul” without having a major financial backer. So, when I was called the “Queen of Underground Soul,” I felt like I could answer to that.

FR: How were you able to accomplish all the things that you’ve accomplished without major financial backing?

Sy Smith: A lot of times it’s about learning how to do a lot of things by yourself. I had to learn how to do graphic design and run my website 15 years ago when I didn’t have anyone or could afford anyone do those things for me. That said; I did have  people in my life that showed me how to do things.  I had to rely on my friends and use the resources around me.

FR: What was the genesis of “Perfect Love”?

Sy Smith: My friend Rachel Eckroth is a keyboarder and producer. We used to tour together. A few years back on the road she asked me to help her finish a song that she was writing. Things happened in both of our lives and we never got around to completing the writing of the song. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we were in quarantine, so we went back to completing the song because there was really nothing else going on.

Anyway, I finished writing the lyrics at home and I recorded the vocals, thinking I was just completing a demo for Rachel. Rachel liked what I had done so much that she felt we should release the song. The next thing I knew, Rachel has the song remixed and mastered. So, we put the song out.

We released the song and then we decided to do a video. Rachel came up with the video concept, and I shot the video at home with my husband. Later Rachel found an animator. So, “Perfect Love” was basically art made during a time of quarantine.

FR: Why the title “Perfect Love”?

Sy Smith: The title came from the hook in the song. Rachel had penned that already, and I felt it was a great title. We could have chosen another title, but I felt “Perfect Love” is what the song is about.  It is about feeling that sensation that puts you in a perfect place, finding that love utopia in your heart.

Rachel Eckroth and Sy Smith

FR: How are you keeping busy during this COVID-19 pandemic with touring on hold?

Sy Smith: In this things-on-hold-time I am doing a lot of recording sessions at home. My husband and I have been recording old school variety shows.  We do them live on Facebook.

FR: You mean singing, dancing, acting, juggling?

Sy Smith: Yes. My husband is a classically trained musician and he sings a little bit. We have a couple of skits that we do, some pre-recorded skits that we will put in the show. My husband is also a filmmaker, so this fits right up his alley.  He is turning these Facebook variety shows into elaborate short films.

FR: Do you expect touring to pick up any time soon?

Sy Smith: Right now, I am speaking to you from the sound check at my show in Charlotte, NC. I have a three-night stint. They had done everything they can do to social distance the customers, reducing capacity drastically, and checking everyone’s temperature.

I have also been doing livestreams where people by tickets for those events. This is done from my house, using a platform called ‘Stages.’ That said; I don’t think we are going to see regular touring resume any time soon or until 2021.

 

 

FR: This is a fashion site, so I must ask you who are your favorite designers?

Sy Smith: Everyone who knows me knows I have a deep love relationship with Gucci. I really like the brand Hanifa and I what she is doing. I love the whole3-D virtual model thing that she is doing. Normally, I go into small boutiques and see what catches my eye.

FR: If you had a wish and could musically collaborate with someone dead or alive who would that be and why?

Sy Smith: I would to collaborate with Prince, particularly the last part of his career where he was getting back into some conscious writing where he was standing up for black people, especially black women.

I would love to get down with Quincy Jones, Greg Phillinganes, and Sting.

Images courtesy of 2R’s Entertainment & Media PR

FR: What’s next for you?

 Sy Smith: I haven’t been able to think about what is next because the COVID-19  pandemic forces you to live in the moment. There is no worry about the future right now. For so many artists right now the immediate is all about how the rent and other living expense are going to be met. My plans for recording in album have been put on the back burner.

I will say this, I have a meeting with an acting agent, so, I may get back into that. When I first arrived in Los Angeles, I did a lot of commercials and was on “Ally McBeal” a few times. All these skits that we are doing live on Facebook has stimulated the acting bug. Despite the pandemic, I am keeping busy and pursuing life and love!!

—William S. Gooch

Danny Santiago and Carol Cutshall Bring Their Exquisite Styling Skills to “Filthy Rich”

Carol Cutshall and Danny Santiago

Can wealth, be tainted, almost filthy? Well, it will be in Fox’s new television series, “Filthy Rich.”

Coming September 21, “Filthy Rich,” starring Kim Cattrall and Gerald McRane,y spins an elaborate tale of wealth, faith, and fashion all rolled into one. McRaney plays Eugene Monreaux, a mega-rich TV minister who owns a Christian TV network, and Cattrall plays Margaret Monreaux, his Oprah-like southern belle wife. The show focuses on the death of McRaney’s character  and the drama of Monreaux’s estate, as he wrote three illegitimate children in his will.

“Filthy Rich” was created by Tate Taylor, the acclaimed director behind “The Help,” “Get on Up,” and “The Girl on the Train.” A show about money and power is not complete without a great wardrobe.

 Noted costume designer Carol Cutshall was employed to bring a distinct fashion sense—with the exception of lead Kim Cattrall, who had her own fashion team—to the characters on “Filthy Rich.” Cutshall is no stranger to the world of costume design having worked on six seasons of The WB’s hit TV series “One Tree Hill.”

Carol Cutshall spoke with Fashion Reverie about how she managed to bring style to Filthy Rich.

Fashion Reverie: Was this your first project you worked on in New Orleans?

Carol Cutshall: I’ve done a few projects in New Orleans, but this was the first thing I’ve done here that wasn’t an independent film. For the first time, I got to work on a television series in New Orleans.

FR: How did you get involved with the project?

Carol Cutshall: I got a call from my agent that Tate Taylor wanted to speak with me, and that was the moment. I said, ‘I would love to work with Tate Taylor.’ At the time, the network had already shot the pilot, so I came to work from the second episode on. It was an amazing coincidence that I am based in New Orleans. I was in between jobs, and I had nothing slated.

Both Tate, I, and the show’s premise are southern. Tate was familiar my work. We have a lot of people we really admire in common.

FR: What’s it like creating looks for characters of such various socioeconomic backgrounds?

Carol Cutshall: For the three children outside of the marriage, you have an MMA fighter, a Pacific Northwest guy who’s a little indie rock, and you have a Vegas webcam business owner, and you have to bring them into the southern world of khakis, chinos, and seersucker. The southern world is preppy. It’s a world of Brooks Brothers, white bucks, and country clubs.

You see very little denim in that world. You also see no animal print in this world, until Ginger from Las Vegas walks in. Imagine the three children walking into a country club. I had to set up a real tone for the whole of the show so when these outsiders walked in the audience felt it. I had to edit fabrics and color palettes we weren’t going to use with the southern characters versus the other characters.

FR: How did you create the characters looks post-pilot?

Carol Cutshall: I went and looked at these characters and put in dynamic tension when they all come together in a room. There are so many different characters coming from different places into this wealthy southern environment.

There’s the character Ginger, one of the daughters outside of the marriage, who’s coming from Vegas, and she runs a webcam girl business. She was a perfect mix of all things Vegas. She is tenor meets baroque and venetian casino. There are characters you think would be so diametrically opposed that somehow came together.

FR: What references did you use for character inspiration?

Carol Cutshall: I looked at issues of Garden & Gun and Town & Country magazines. For the legitimate son, Eric, I looked for a lot of incredible southern designers that would be youthful and have slim-cut silhouettes. I used a lot of Billy Reid on him. I used this suiting brand, Strong Suit, which is an incredible brand out of Arkansas. They have incredible blazers and suits. I also used a lot of Theory suits for Eric, along with Theory polos paired with Bonobos chinos. I did use a little bit of J. Crew. There was a lot of Club Monaco. When you see him at the family country house, he’s wearing plaid flannels from Billy Reid and L.L. Bean duck boots. Eric’s look had to have the look of someone that had an Ivy League education: casual with the “Dead Poets Society” vibe.

I was really invested in dressing the character Ginger, but I also loved dressing the character Rose, the legitimate daughter. She’s such a pivotal and rich character. You sense that Rose is not really with her people. She’s creative and a free spirit. She’s a fashion designer. I modeled her after Jane Aldridge, the fashion blogger well known for her blog Sea of Shoes. Aldridge is known for mixing her mom’s old designer clothes with thrift store finds and new stuff she shopped. Aldridge’s style was a huge inspiration for the character of Rose. A lot of times I would find a piece that might’ve been nice, but it wasn’t quite there. Luckily, here in New Orleans we have this amazing couture fabric store called Promenade Fine Fabrics. If I found a pencil skirt, I would take it there and have incredible French laces put on it.

 I created a lot of pieces for Rose that were custom. One of my favorite looks on Rose is a vintage white blouse with crystals on the collar, paired with overalls, and a big old Chanel overcoat that looks like it came from her mother.

FR: Let’s talk more about how your sourced clothing.

Carol Cutshall: I literally looked everywhere! I shopped for clothes, I got custom clothes, I went thrift shopping. It’s important to show viewers you can get incredible looks and it doesn’t have to cost a ton of money. Sometimes, I got so many incredible things from consignment stores.

One of the things that was limiting was the color palettes that are current. Trends can also make it look like everything is cut from the same cloth. When you go shop at a consignment store that opens up your color palette options.

FR: Who was your favorite character to dress?

Carol Cutshall: I could say absolutely any one of them, but I will say Ginger and Rose were fun to dress. The actresses were so fun to work with and the characters in the script were delightful. When Aubrey Dollar, who plays Rose, and Melia Kreiling, who plays Ginger, would come in for a fitting, we had so much fun.

I also really loved dressing Franklin, who was the character of Margaret’s attorney. He wore a lot of Brooks Brothers, Zegna, and Billy Reid suits. He had all the fashion details of being an HBCU graduate. The details for his fashion were meticulous down to the pocket squares and his ties. When you look at all his fashion layers, he was the character who could wear a windowpane double-breasted suit, a striped shirt, medallion print tie and floral pocket square. He always looked like someone who had the answer.

Danny Santiago has spent over two decades as one of the most highly respected stylists in the fashion industry. His work has appeared in Vogue Italia, Vogue Russia, Vogue Spain, Vogue Mexico, Harper’s Bazaar, Elle, W, and other publications. He’s costumed the television show Burn Notice, and has costumed films Confessions of a Shopaholic, Sex and the City, and Sex and the City 2.

 Santiago found his way into the film industry via famed stylist and costume designer/designer Patricia Field. His past experiences working with Golden Globe-winning actress Kim Cattrall brought him onto her new project “Filthy Rich.” Santiago spoke with Fashion Reverie about how he created a glamorous wardrobe for a character for which money was no object

FR: What’s your background in the fashion industry?

Danny Santiago: I started in the fashion industry doing photoshoots for fashion and lifestyle magazines. I was brought into television and film by Patricia Field. Pat and I had known each other for a few years. I knew her from her store she had had on Bowery. We ended up working on a few print jobs together, and she always told me I’d be great for costuming television and film. She got a call for a job that was in Miami and I was lucky to be in Miami at the time, so she referred me.

FR: How did you become part of Kim Cattrall’s fashion team?

Danny Santiago: I knew Kim from working on the “Sex and the City” films. Pat was the one who started working with her on “Filthy Rich.” Pat came up with the overall look for Kim, and then handed over costuming duties to me because Pat went to work on another project.

FR: What was your reaction when you learned about Kim’s involvement with this project?

Danny Santiago: I thought it was a great project for Kim. I think she’s perfect for the role. It’s a very interesting story. Kim has a great sense of the role and her character, and I thought it would be a lot of fun to work with her on this project. Her character is very over the top, so there’s a lot of room to play with fashion.

FR: What type of references did you use to create the wardrobe for Kim’s character?

Danny Santiago: One of the things we talked about and something we wanted to have throughout the wardrobe was a sense of luxury. We worked with certain fabrics and textures that would typically be more fit for eveningwear, like metallics and sequins, but with a special tailoring we were able to transition these fabrications to daytime looks. It was day looks with a glamorous luxury evening feel. Bold jewelry would also come into play. It really gave her character a truly unique look for the show.

FR: Were there any brands that you sourced for the series?

Danny Santiago: Alexander McQueen, Lanvin, Badgley Mischka, Tom Ford, Michael Kors, Akris, and other luxury brands on that level. We also focused on pieces with beautiful tailoring and suiting.

FR: What was your favorite look?

Danny Santiago: I found this beautiful vintage fur. It was a one-of-a-kind piece and it had this netting that made these beautiful unique stripes. It was one of the more special pieces worn by Kim in the series. I got it from a rental house in Los Angeles called Replica Vintage. It’s a showroom in Los Angeles with a lot of designer and one-of-a-kind pieces.

FR: Kim plays this wealthy Southern belle. How would you describe the quintessential rich Southern Belle look?

Danny Santiago: I don’t feel like her character has the quintessential Southern belle look. It’s not just a Southern look. She is very regal in what she wears. She has all this control. She runs the family. She has such a voice with the show and everything that she has.

FR: How were you able to dress Kim’s character to contrast with some of the other characters?

Danny Santiago: We kept the color palettes very different with what we were working with. We tended to use colors that weren’t being used so much on other characters. That’s where the metallics, silks, and satins also came into play because we had to separate her from the rest of the characters on the show.

FR: The billionaire’s wives look is one-of-a-kind and not easy to create. What challenges were there in dressing a character who had to look filthy rich?

Danny Santiago: The challenges were more in how we built her costumes. I was between New York and Florida while Kim was in Louisiana. I worked remotely with putting all the outfits together. I would do my outfit look combinations, photograph everything on my phone, then send it to the costuming department in New Orleans. Then, Kim would have her fittings which I was there for remotely. This was before that was this “new normal,” now everyone is working this way due to COVID-19 pandemic.

All images courtesy of FOXFR: How did costuming Kim Cattrall’s character Margaret compare to costuming her iconic character on “Sex and the City”?

Danny Santiago: Margaret is more conservative than Samantha. There are still beautiful silhouettes that have a sexiness to it, but in “Sex and the City” Kim was sexier. Samantha wore more lowcut dresses, clothing was more fitted, skirts were shorter and had higher slits. With Margaret, she is more elegant and there was more focus on the silhouette of clothing rather than exposing the skin.

Filthy Rich will premiere on Monday, September 21 at 9/8c on FOX. The show stars Kim Cattrall, Gerald McRaney, Aubrey Dollar, Corey Cott, Benjamin Levy, Mark L. Young, Melia Kreiling, Steve Harris, Aaron Lazar, and Olivia Macklin.

—Kristopher Fraser

Rhyan LaMarr: Speaking Truth to Power and Encouraging Others to Do So

We are just a few days from Independence Day, America’s declaration of freedom from colonial rule. July 4 marks that historic day of liberation. Still, that historic day left so many folks behind. On July 4, 1776, women had not achieved the right to vote, Native Americans were not considered first-class citizens of the US, only white male, property owners could vote, and African Americans were at the bottom of the rung, only considered three-fifths of a man, with most in bondage.

Much has changed since July 4, 1776, but there is still so much to accomplish. These last two months, the US has experienced a consistent round of social protests. The cacophony of voices demanding an end to police brutality, expanded access to capital and social programs for the underserved, and the defunding and a reordering of the police state is an astounding move of solidarity among many marginalized communities.

On the heels of this resurgence of social activism, filmmaker and Christian Hip Hop artist Rhyan LaMarr has produced a protest anthem, “Fight Another Day,” that aptly expresses this historic moment. In an example of his unique prescient skills, Lamarr wrote “Fight Another Day” a year ago, foretelling the recent social protests.

Fashion Reverie had the great privilege of speaking with Rhyann LaMarr about his protest anthem, his filmmaking career, and his love of the people.

Fashion Reverie: What is your musical background?

Rhyan LaMarr: I have been involved in music since grade school. I grew up in the city of Chicago and my musical influences range from Da Brat, Twista, Bone Thugs N Harmony to Michael Jackson, and Quincy Jones. I have always gravitated to telling stories. I have found my niche in creating stories, be it through music or film.

FR: Where did you study music?

Rhyan LaMarr: I studied music on the Southside of Chicago in the backseat of my Dad’s car.

FR: How would you describe your musical style?

Rhyan LaMarr: When it comes music, I am very eclectic, you could say I am a sponge. I grew up listening to everything from Michael Jackson to Adam Levine to Smashing Pumpkins to Outcast, I just love good music. There are different mediums to tell good stories. Sometimes, I want to move and groove, sometimes I want to chill, and sometimes I want to bring my story ideas to life through music and film. And literally that is how aPerfectmess came about. If you listen to the album you hear different style and influences.

FR: Could you define the album aPERFECTmess?

Rhyan LaMarr: I have been a mess my entire life and through the grace of God, God is perfecting this perfect mess called Rhyan Lamarr. That is my testimony.

When you consider your life, you think about the world as it is right now, and right now, the world is a perfect mess. It couldn’t have been designed to be more of a mess. I hope people will look and listen to the album, aPerfectmess and equate it to situations in their own life.

FR: What was your motivation behind “Fight Another Day”?

Rhyan LaMarr: There are songs like Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Going to Come” that’s so iconic and timely. When I wrote “Fight Another Day” I was writing about a moment that was a year ago. In fact, the song was written a year ago. “Fight Another Day” was based from a year ago. Strangely, a year later, we are still living with social injustice and police brutality. “Fight Another Day” is about how we are conditioned to live with adversity, but also how we are going to move past that reality.

Shirley Murdock, Ta’Ronda Jones, Angie Rose, and other artists are all on this song. And some of them wrote their own verses. We wanted to create something that would move the people and move the needle of justice.

FR: How did you assemble these incredible artists on “Fight Another Day”?

  Rhyan LaMarr: Shout out to Shirley Murdock’s husband and manager, Darryl and Michael Wayne, who had a hit song out called “Instant Replay.” I was so fortunate to work with them in the studio and they taught me how to stack a song.

FR: What is stacking?

Rhyan LaMarr: Stacking is a technical moniker. Kendrick Lamar does a lot of stacking on his songs. So, does Drake. Stacking is when you digitally amplify your voice to make it sound fuller. You layer your voice on top of your voice. You can also stack your background vocals to make them sound textured and rich. I have a small voice, so I often stack my voice on songs.

FR: So, let’s go back to you getting these great artists on “Fight Another Day.”

Rhyan LaMarr: I wrote the lyrics to “Fight Another Day” with Shirley Murdock in mind. I contacted her, explaining what I wanted to do with the song. I sent her the lyric I wanted her sing. She loved it and sent back her vocals with the lyric.

I also reached out to Destorm Power. We have worked on a couple of projects previously. I knew Destorm to be a great artist and lyricist. He has seen a lot, experienced a lot, so I knew he was going to bring a unique approach to the theme of the song.

I knew Ta’Ronda Jones through Bryshere Grey from “Empire.” I was introduced to them by Jussie Smollet. I knew Ta’Ronda more as a spoken-word artist, but she came into the studio and slayed her verse in the song.

I included Angie Rose also on “Fight Another Day.” Angie is a prolific minister and Christian hip hop (CHH) artist. She has done a lot of volunteer relief work in Puerto Rico. I knew I needed someone that had Angie’s passion and dedication to working class and poor people on this song. Additionally, on the song, there is Mod G and Jack Red who brought incredible musicianship to the entire album.

FR: “Fight Another Day” was conceived before the recent protests, but it is so timely. What were you connected to in your head that you understood how relevant this song would be?

Rhyan LaMarr: I have been African American my entire life which means I have been forced to get over stuff. At the time I conceived “Fight Another Day,” there were lots of school shootings happening. However, the schools that were getting media coverage were schools that had a majority white student body as opposed to schools where the student body was mostly kids of color. And there was a host of other things going on that I was able to pull from.

I was observing folks experiencing discrimination based on their race, sexuality, and gender. I wanted to create a song that would touch on all these things and be universal. I wanted to create a song that champion the everyday fighters and warriors who everyday fight injustice and inequality.

FR: The lyrics to “Fight Another Day” are so powerful. Particularly, the lyric “our lawyers they shoot, our doctors they shoot them.” Who wrote the lyrics and what process did you use to plumb so deeply to get to the core of what is going on right now?

Rhyan LaMarr: That particular lyric at the end of the song was written by Ta’Ronda Jones. I told her I wanted to write about what was going on and keep it real, and she did. I wanted her to have a very militant stance.

FR: Were there other lyricists for “Fight Another Day”?

Rhyan LaMarr: Yes. Everyone wrote their own verses. I told everyone on the song to come from their perspective.

FR: In the video you curated a lot of images and videos that detail the protests and police brutality. What was your process to be able to get the rights to use some of the footage in the video and what process did you use to select the footage?

Rhyan LaMarr: I have an amazing team that has worked with me on some of my films, so we have an incredible synergy. And they understand how important it is to select the right stock footage. We shot the video and then went back and injected and modernized some things because we recorded and shot most of the video over a year ago.

It is sad that very little has changed, and in some instances, things have gotten worse since we recorded and shot the initial video. It is disturbing that you could replace images of police killings from a year ago with current police killings. It is incredible that the footage is not outdated.

FR: What do you hope “Fight Another Day” inspires?

Rhyan LaMarr: I hope the song inspires folks to educate themselves and use their voice and platform wisely. Whether you are talking to two people or a million people, you have a platform.

We want people to feel uplifted and encouraged from “Fight Another Day.” We want this song to encourage folks to use the gift that God gave them to help facilitate change, be the change that you want to see. If you are protesting, understand why you are protesting and what you are fighting for.

FR: You are also a filmmaker, could you talk about that?

Rhyan LaMarr: I am a storyteller. I have been a filmmaker for the better part of 17 years. I believe that art should imitate life, so I probe real stories. My production company is Reel Stories. I became a filmmaker to change the landscape. I was tired of seeing voices and stories that were misinterpreted.

So much has changed in the time I have been a filmmaker. We are now starting to see filmmakers like Donald Glover, Lisa Raye, and a whole range of black filmmakers that are telling stories that speak to the black experience in nuanced ways.

My feature film Canal Street come out in 2019 on Martin Luther King Day. It is doing very well in the market, and it is currently streaming.

FR: You are making a film about Sean Bell, the young African American that was murdered by NYC Police in 2006. Could you talk about that?

Rhyan LaMarr: Sean Bell was an unarmed African American male that was gunned down by the NYPD in 2006, a day before his wedding. We are telling a lot of the backstory behind this tragedy. Most folks don’t know that Sean had been drafted by the LA Dodgers. We delve into what was going on in the minds of the police that murdered Sean.

Images courtesy of 2Rs & Entertainment Media PR

FR: What’s next for you?

Rhyan LaMarr: I have a couple of videos coming out from the album aPerfectmess. Of course, “The Sean Bell Story.” There are some phenomenal voices on the soundtrack of “The Sean Bell Story,” I cannot reveal who is singing on the soundtrack just yet. Lastly, I have a comedy coming out, “North of the 10.”

— William S. Gooch

Ryan Murphy’s “Hollywood” Is a Gold Mine of Period Fashion

“Everybody comes to Hollywood, they want to make it in the neighborhood,” sings Madonna in her 2003 single “Hollywood.” Last year, Ryan Murphy, the famed television producer behind numerous acclaimed TV series including “Glee,” “Nip/Tuck,” and “American Horror Story,” inked a 9-figure deal with Netflix to create original projects. The latest in Murphy’s pantheon of TV shows is “Hollywood,” a retelling of Tinseltown’s golden era in post-WWII America.

One of the best parts of any period piece is the fashion. Seeing how people dressed in different eras always adds an extra layer to production value beyond that of the actors’ performances and the set design. Fashion Reverie spoke with “Hollywood” costume designers Lou Eyrich and Sarah Evelyn about working with Murphy and recreating 1940s fashion for this new series.

Fashion Reverie: How many Ryan Murphy shows have you costumed so far?

Sarah Evelyn: Lou and I worked on two seasons of “American Horror Story” together, specifically “American Horror Story: Hotel” and “American Horror Story: Cult.” Lou usually works with the co-designers of the TV shows, so Ryan only has one main costume designer he’s working with.

FR: How was the team effort for both of you?

Lou Eyrich: I’ve been with Ryan for 20 years since “Popular.” I have costumed “Niptuck,” “Glee,” and “American Horror Story.” I hitched onto his star early on and did not let go. Ryan’s really made my career, so I’m forever grateful to him. I just love his genius mind, it’s exciting to work with him. When we started working on three to four shows at a time, it was becoming too much for me to handle by myself. So, we decided I’d start costuming the show from the beginning, get the designers up and running, and move onto the next project. At the time, we were taking assistant designers and promoting them to lead designers to keep the flow going. It got to the point where there were so many shows being produced, we were running out of assistants.

Sarah came in, and she had been a stylist for the promotional posters, advertisements, and video clips for “American Horror Story.” I brought her on “American Horror Story: Hotel” to help costume Lady Gaga’s character. I loved her style and work ethic and it mixed in well with our TV world. When we needed a designer for “American Horror Story: Cult,” she did a fantastic job. When I asked her about “Hollywood,” she had just finished “Fast and the Furious: Hobbs and Shaw,” and wanted to stay in town to try working on a period piece. It was perfect timing.

Sarah started working on the costumes for “Hollywood” and we worked together to get the tone of the show right. We met with Ryan and he had a very strong view of each character—the color palette, the set, the locations, and even a list of movies to watch, books to get, and fashion designers from the ‘40s for inspiration.

Sarah Evelyn: Ryan and Lou meet, and they refined the vision for the show. They have a language between them, and it’s great, because then Lou gets the co-designer involved. You have her wealth of 20 years’ experience with Ryan. She knows what he likes, and it seems like sometimes they don’t even need words. Getting to work with Ryan is incredible; getting to work with Lou via Ryan is also incredible. Creativity and the look of the show are always a number one priority. Everything it set up so you can maximize the visual level of the show. You have to build trust with someone. Lou and I are very like-minded and getting to create with Lou is super special. If you have a problem, Lou is the person that gets to help you think through how to solve it, and that’s so important.

FR: What types of references did you use to stay true to the period of the 1940’s?

Sarah Evelyn: Ryan came to us and said, “The Golden Age of Hollywood.” He had some movies he really liked. We watched so many movies. We put photos of the ‘40s images and fabulous outfits we loved all over our office space. We wanted to have like a 1940s Instagram feed office. We also looked for behind the scenes material.

We looked at this great book called Jean Howard’s Hollywood which showed the behind the scenes of Hollywood back then. We hired a fashion historian in New York who brought written resources to us. Back in the ‘40s, so many of things weren’t photographed or were photographed in black and white, so she helped us figure out how those things should look.

FR: What movies did you all watch for inspiration?

Lou Eyrich: I have watched “Woman of the Year,”, “Laura” “The Fleet’s In,” and “His Girl Friday.” There were also an endless number of movies with great fashion.

FR: Were there particular people you modeled any of the actors looks after?

Sarah Evelyn: Patti LuPone was very Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck. With her and her character we did a lot of the risky, glamorous stuff. Holland Taylor was very Marlene Dietrich with the restrained, tailored, menswear-inspired pieces. Holland also brought us a picture of her mom who had very fabulous style, so her mother became an inspiration for her character’s style. Laura Harrier was very Lauren Bacall. Samara Weaving was a young Marilyn Monroe and Ava Gardner type. Jake Picking, who played Rock Hudson, was obviously Rock Hudson. Jeremy Pope was our jazz baby who had his own style. David Corenswet was a young James Dean. Michelle Krusiec who played Anna Mae Wong was obviously Anna Mae Wong, and we were inspired by her 1930s style. Mira Sorvino was more of a Lana Turner type. Dylan McDermott was our Cary Grant and Fred Astaire.

FR: How do you dress characters who are a rewrite of history?

Sarah Evelyn: For me, it really starts with the character. I ask myself where would this person hang out, what would they have seen? Jeremy Pope’s character Archie is a good example. He’s an African American in the 1940s who’s a writer. He’s an artist who’s going to blaze his own path. Laura Harrier’s character Camille is the ‘It Girl.’ She would’ve been blazing her own path. She would’ve been doing things differently, including her fashion sense. That’s why she wears pants.

Lou Eyrich: Ian Brennan, Janet Mock, and Ryan Murphy were the writers. Often in the script there would be a description of how the character should present themselves. 

FR: Did you source actual vintage garments or recreate garments?

Sarah Evelyn: We did both. We created a lot of pieces, and we definitely sourced from vintage vendors and went to costume houses. There aren’t that many ‘40s clothes, and men didn’t work out in the forties, so that didn’t leave us with many vintage options. During production of the show there were so many other period productions happening at the time, so we were competing with Europe for clothing. Lou has a special relationship with a lot of vintage and costume vendors, so we were able to call in favors. We probably ended up making 50 to 60 percent of the costumes for the principal characters.

FR: What were the challenges of dressing the series’ actors in 1940s clothing?

Sarah Evelyn: The cast was amazing. They were so generous and giving and so excited about the costumes. However, 1940s clothes were made for 1940s bodies. People were smaller in the 1940s. This is one reason we needed to create a lot of costumes versus shopping vintage. To make David Corenswet look like a young James Dean, his suit had to hang like he was young James Dean. With the punk jockey uniforms, we had to figure out how to make high-waist, high-leg pants fit the guys and look sexy. We had a whole series of waist and body proportion fittings .

Lou Eyrich: None of the shirts and pants were long enough. The average shoe size in the 1940s was a 6, now average the average women is a 9. We couldn’t use any vintage shoes, they were too small and narrow, plus by now the shoes were in a decayed state. Those were the most basic challenges. The hair department did a fantastic job with the wigs, but sometimes the female casts wigs didn’t fit with the hats, which was something we didn’t think of.

FR: Who was your favorite character to dress?

Sarah Evelyn: Not fair; that’s like asking me to pick a favorite child. Dressing Patti LuPone’s character was a once-in-a-lifetime dream. Working with Patti LuPone was a bucket list dream for me. That said, I don’t really have a favorite.

FR: What costume piece was your favorite?

Lou Eyrich: The pump jockey uniforms that were worn at the gas station with the character of Ernie played by Dylan McDermott were my favorite. When Sarah and I were working during prep we met with Matthew Ferguson, who was the production designer for “Hollywood.” Matthew Ferguson had worked on getting the right feel for the gas station and had gotten Ryan’s approval on the gas station. Together, we decided on white uniforms that had this super clean vibe.

Fitting all the pump jockey uniforms was fun, particularly sourcing the fabrics, buttons, tie chains, and belt buckles and see everything come together. That whole process was fun as opposed to just having one favorite outfit.

Images courtesy of Netflix

FR: What was the greatest challenge in costuming this film?

Sarah Evelyn: One of the challenges of working on a television season with high production value is timing and turnaround, and creating beautiful, cinematic garments on that tight turnaround schedule. You can get any custom-made piece done right if you have two weeks to do it, but two days is tough.

We are lucky to have had had an incredible team. This system with Lou works so well because as a member of the Lou and Ryan Murphy team, you can access the best resources and call in favors.

FR: How close do you all work with Ryan Murphy for final selection of costumes?

Lou Eyrich: Ryan has a 200% final say in the costumes. If a character is cast at 4 pm one day, Sarah is fitting them the next morning. Then, the tailor will fit the actor while they are in the hair and makeup chair, then pictures of the looks are sent to Ryan.

You can binge season one of “Hollywood” currently on Netflix. More of Lou Eyrich’s costuming work can be seen later this year in Ryan Murphy’s upcoming projects “Ratched” and “Boys in the Band.”

—Kristopher Fraser

PORCELAN Sets the Record Straight in “Act Out”

While you are home sequestering or self-isolating, this is a good time to listen to some self-empowering and life-affirming music. Staying informed about the coronavirus is essential, but you cannot spend your day only listening to health updates. Relax, enjoy some good music from some up-and-coming musical artists.

One of those artists is PORCELAN. Based in Tennessee, PORCELAN’s parents were musicians and exposed her to music early in life. An elementary teacher recognized her talent, spurring PORCELAN to perform in school musicals. PORCELAN also discovered that she was good at writing poetry which gave her the impetus to combine songwriting with her vocal talents.

In keeping with that momentum, PORCELAN focused on building her reputation in music circles, doing everything from appearing on BET’s “106th & Park,” collaborating on material with super-producer Timbaland, opening for Tank and gaining invaluable performance experience via a three-month tour of China with a cover band. “Doing show bands is totally different from being an original artist, so I had to learn how to entertain in that realm. Even though I was new to it, I started being around a lot of seasoned people who showed me the ropes,” explained PORCELAN.

Images courtesy of 2R Entertainment and Media PR

PORCELAN’s single “Lois Lane” landed her single in Billboard R&B chart’s top 15. Her new follow-up single “Act Out” speaks to a woman’s frustration with her man’s infidelity. “I wanted to capture the intensity of how broken she was from her past and how he came along and made her think he was different, all while he was playing games the entire time,” PORCELAN adds.

Fashion Reverie was fortunate to speak with PORCELAN before “ACT OUT’s” release on February 28. See video interview below:

J. Brown Conjures up Classic R&B in “Forever Yours”

Do you love R& B crooners? If you do, iconic R&B crooners like Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Peabo Bryson, and Jon B come to mind. You can now add J. Brown to that list.

Though is not yet legendary, with his musical chops, it is only a matter of time that J. Brown will be in that constellation of iconic male R&B songbirds. With his new CD “Forever Yours,” J. Brown sings about love, relationships, and honesty. Something that is solely missing in the current roster of top-charting songs.

And when it comes to chart-topping, Brown has charted at #16 on Billboard and according to MEDIABASE is the 34th top-played artist on urban radio. J. Brown graciously spoke with Fashion Reverie as he was on tour with Elle Varner’s “Evolution” tour.

Fashion Reverie: What is your musical background?

Brown: My musical background is Christian music and gospel music. I started singing in the church. From there I transitioned to singing in youth theatre and stage plays.

FR: You are from Detroit, correct?

Brown: Yes, I am.

FR: Your mother was a background singer working with Smokey Robinson. Could you talk a little about that?

Brown: My mother and my aunt had a singing group. Where my family lived there were a lot of Motown artists that lived in that vicinity. And new groups were popping up all the time and there were lots of school talents shows to hone your craft.

My mother and aunt’s singing group got signed by Smokey Robinson for Motown, but their careers were short-lived because my mother became pregnant with my oldest brother and that ended the singing group. My father was a pastor, so my mother continued to sing, mostly in church.

FR: What inspires you musically?

Brown: I would say my children and my overall love of music.

FR: Who are some of your favorite musical artists?

Brown: Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, James Brown, Gerald Lavert, Next, Silk, and  Ted Riley. As you can tell, I love R&B crooners. I also love Sting and Bon Jovi. My taste is rather eclectic.

FR: How would you describe your sound and music styling?

Brown: My sound is rather unique because I tend to combine different music genres. And I don’t think I sound like anyone else.

FR: To prepare for this interview, I listened to several tracks from your new CD and your sound is very heartfelt.

Brown: That is an important part of my music. I want my music to really touch the soul. I want my music to be sincere and have substance.

FR: You are from Detroit so how does the musical stylings that comes out of the Motor City influence your sound and musical stylings?

Brown: Considering that a lot of R&B greats came from Detroit, I wanted to be a part of that old school sound and have that sound as a strong base of my musical style. And because that is so much of my inspiration, it is not a huge jump to understand that you find that Motown sound reflected in my music.

FR: Let’s talk about your current CD “Forever Yours.” What was the evolution behind this project?

Brown: This project was based on me wanting to put a sound I always wanted to have in my music. I wanted to talk about things that inspire me like love and relationships. Old school music is full of those musical conversations and I wanted to go back to that with love being the primary focus.

I wanted my music to detail how a woman should be treated. And the man who is not afraid to be transparent. Sometimes, the current music is all about a catchy beat with no real message. I wanted to bring back that R&B feel.

FR: Who is your audience?

Brown: I would say my demographic is early 30s to 60s.

FR: That’s what you think?

Brown: Yea, from shows that perform in that is who I see in the audience.

FR: I listened intently to three tracks on your CD and I think your demographic is much wider.

Brown: I think my listening audience and demographic should be and is much wider. But, at the end of day it is all our promotion and marketing. The music needs to be heard by a larger audience. The first track, “Allison” on the CD is for a younger audience. I have something on “Forever Yours” for everyone.

FR: You are currently on tour with Elle Varner’s “Elevation” tour. Could you talk a little about that?

Brown: The tour has been a phenomenal blessing, considering that I have always been a big fan of Elle Varner. Basically, this is a love tour. I am man, she is woman, and we are both singing about love and relationships.

The tour came about through connections and the overall respect that Elle and I have for each other. And it has gelled and here we are.

FR: How would you describe your personal fashion style?

Brown: I have a Euro style in that I like my clothes well-fitted, not too tight, but comfortably fitted. I am simple with my style, not too all over the place.

FR: Who are some of your favorite fashion designers?

Brown: I love Moschino, Lagerfeld, Gucci, and Fendi. I like some of things of Kanye West is doing.

FR: Wow, you have expensive tastes.

Brown: I do. Now, that doesn’t mean I can afford the clothes I like. However, I do have a lot of Lagerfeld shoes and boots.

FR: The music industry has changed so much with everything being digitized and consumers can download music for free or at a very low cost. That said; how are you managing to financially continue to create music and perform your art?

Brown: It can be a real financial struggle, especially when you have a family to support. What keeps me going is my love of music and my belief in my talent. You may have to grind and grind, but at the end of the day its about your belief system.

Images courtesy of 2R Entertainment & Media

FR: What’s next for you?

Brown: What’s next is getting more airplay and recognition with my new CD, “Forever Yours,” which is available on I-Tunes. I also trying to get my social media following up. I can be found at Jbrownmusiconly on Twitter and Instagram.

William S. Gooch

 

 

 

 

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

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