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Michelle Obama is as likely to run for office as Lil’ Kim is to present a lifetime achievement award to Nicki Minaj with a speech penned by Foxy Brown.

Or, as Obama’s former communications director, Kristina Schake, once explained to Politico in 2014, “She is as likely to put her name in contention to be the next pope as she is to run for political office.” President Obama echoed a similar sentiment recently in an interview on Sway in the Morning.

Despite the First Lady’s own long history of dismissing the idea of entering politics as a candidate, questions as to whether or not she should and what sort of reactions she could expect have followed her for years now.

It’s easy to peg why the speculation has never wavered: people know a natural when they see her.

FBI Director James Comey’s poor letter writing skills may have distracted many from the sight of our current First Lady supporting a former First Lady’s historic presidential bid last week, but white noise does not drown out another instance of Michelle Obama proving herself to be a gifted speaker and campaigner.

Beyond her eloquently expressed disdain of Trump, Obama has been effective in stressing the severity of voting to Black people without the sort of condescension we tend to hear from her husband. Whereas President Obama speaks of this caricature known as “Cousin Pookie,” the “lazy” person sitting on his couch who “hasn’t voted in the last five elections,” she speaks more empathetically. Some may not agree with her positioning, but it’s hard to argue that she is not at least more thoughtful and considerate in her explanation.

On why Michelle Obama has been so effective, political scientist William A. Galston, a former aide to President Bill Clinton and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told The Washington Post, “She has a kind of informality that comes off as very natural, and in a generation that is searching for authenticity and connection, I think that helps.”

There are obvious other factors behind Michelle Obama’s popularity – most of them rooted in her not doing much in the way of policymaking. Even when it came to the issue of tackling childhood obesity, Obama was attacked by the likes of Sarah Palin. Others, including Governor Chris Christie, Fox News host and Trump University varsity cheerleader, Sean Hannity, and other wastes of time have harshly criticized her through the years.

If Michelle Obama opted to entertain a political career on her own, our current political climate suggests that the attacks on her would be as vicious as those on her husband. Actually, maybe even worse. See: Hillary Clinton’s life. That said, with her skill set, name recognition, and eager support from her party, she would be a formidable candidate. She could easily win a Senate seat. She could very well go on to become our first Black female president.

I imagine she’d rather go live in private, and have the likes of me go back to minding my business.

It’s understandable why Obama will never run for office, though it does highlight an ongoing dilemma. The Democratic Party, whose survival relies so heavily on the support of Black women, doesn’t have enough Black women on the national scene or elected office in general. There has been some progression in terms of visibility at this year’s Democratic National Convention and the likelihood of Kamala Harris quietly making history next week for being elected California’s first Black and South Asian female senator.

Read the rest at Essence.

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Atlanta opens its season finale with Joe delivering a word to Earn. The party’s over, it’s the morning after, and he’s ready for this last straggler to get going. “I mean, it’s like I know y’all, but I don’t know y’all, you know?” he says. I know, Joe, which is exactly why I would have told Earn to get out of my apartment, too.

Joe knows Earn and Paper Boi enough to let them have a party at his spot, but not well enough to allow Earn to sleep over until noon. Not after someone set a trash can of his on fire. (Put out your blunts before tossing them, beloveds.) And especially not after someone poured a beer in his Brita pitcher. Have you had that delicious filtered water? Brita deserves respect!

In this way, the unseen party in Atlanta‘s finale is like a one-night stand. Yeah, we had sex, but although I may be more familiar with your cheeks now, I don’t know your ass like that. Leave (get out) right now.

Of course, Alfred left long before a hung-over Earn woke up. And once he rolls off that bean-bag chair, Earn needs to find his missing jacket. It isn’t at Joe’s place, so we spend a chunk of the finale watching Earn retrace his steps as he goes on a hunt for it. His drunken self doesn’t exactly remember what all happened the night before, but thankfully, that’s what Alfred’s Snapchat is for.

First, Earn heads for the strip club. Along the way, we see some randoms in cow costumes giving Chick-fil-A witness. Then a kind soul shouts at Earn, “Free-chicken-sandwich day, nigga.” God, I love southern hospitality and free chicken sandwiches.

Once Earn makes it to the strip club, he is asked to pay a cover. “I was just here last night.” Oh Atlanta, where people just casually have lunch in strip clubs like it’s a Chili’s. You know that excuse won’t work, Earn. It is a brand-new day and a new entrance fee.

Earn gets the security guard to check inside for his jacket, except it’s not there. Ever distrustful, Earn pays the cover anyway, looks for himself, and proceeds to waste $10 and a couple minutes of his time. While inside, Earn meets a stripper who campaigns for herself to get a spot in a future Paper Boi video. In 2016, she’d make more money just stripping or even selling trinkets on Etsy, but perhaps she thinks the fame procured from doing a video will get her a lucrative detox-tea endorsement. Maybe even a weave commercial. Dream big, girl!

Jokes aside, what I liked most about this scene was the woman and Earn trying to locate a particular dancer. In the process, that have a pretty fascinating discussion about complexion: “She was kinda light-skinned, but not super light-skinned.” This may not make sense to those living in northern states, but in the South, there are levels to this issue. This is why I tell people in New York that I am light-skinned adjacent. Insert your shade here.

Anyhow, after leaving the club with no jacket, Earn finds his cousin and Darius outside, chilling on that couch we saw in the pilot. Reflecting on the previous night, Alfred makes claims like: “We need to start stunting on niggas more.” I appreciate him taking his rap career more seriously.

Earn disagrees, seeing as they actually need to make money to, you know, truly stunt on niggas. Darius pegs him as a killjoy, declaring, “Black people’s No. 1 problem is we don’t know how to have fun.”

Here’s a good tip: Whenever someone says, “Black’s people’s No. 1 problem is …” a lie will quickly follow. Folks like Darius have been saying this nonsense for years. Poor racial generalizations aside, Earn finally solves the puzzle of his drunken night and realizes he left the jacket in an Uber. During his flashback, we catch Earn doing a slow Milly Rock to old Nelly and Alfred sings along to J.Lo and Ja Rule’s “I’m Real.” These things are all considered old now, which in turn makes me feel a lil’ old — a feeling I’m not at all pleased with.

Earn calls the Uber driver, Fidel, who demands $50 to drop it off, which prompts Alfred to drive his cousin over there after hearing his pleas. While waiting for Fidel, Earn gets a call and finds out that Senator K wants to take Paper Boi on tour. Everyone, take a swig of something strong yet smooth in jubilee. Paper Boi is finally on the rise! It will be hilarious to watch these fools go on tour together, if that’s where season two is headed.

But first, “The Jacket” suddenly jolts into more serious terrain. The silence feels too eerie to Alfred, and after noting as much, he drives off only for the cops to roll on them, guns drawn. It’s easy to assume this is about that whole “the cops are looking for y’all” thing from earlier in the season, but as it turns out, Fidel is the one they want. He’s got the weight and the weaponry.

Earn spots Fidel wearing his jacket as he flees the scene, and moments later, the cops kill him. Earn had been stressing the importance of the jacket throughout this episode, so despite the fact that a dead man is now wearing it, he asks the cops to check the pockets. For a second there, I questioned how desensitized he must be for Earn to make such a request. Then I thought, Hell, I probably wouldn’t flinch either. As the orange politician would say, “SAD!”

Read the rest at Vulture.

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On the latest season of Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood, which airs its third-season finale tonight, one of its stars, Nikki Mudarris, is in a love triangle involving a man, Safaree (a.k.a. Nicki Minaj’s ex), and a woman, Rosa Acosta. While much of the conversation around this story line focused on whether Nikki was faking a lesbian relationship as a stunt for attention, it distracted from a more notable undercurrent on the show: This was just one of many instances of the Love & Hip Hop franchise exploring relationships that include LGBTQ people. For every supposedly fake bisexual woman, there are plenty of real members of the black LGBTQ community who have had their experiences chronicled on the Love & Hip Hop franchise.

While the docu-soap franchise — which follows the lives of young hip-hop musicians in New York, Hollywood, and Atlanta — isn’t an after-school special by any stretch of the imagination, it stages real and substantive conversations around gender and sexuality in ways the rest of TV hasn’t yet, particularly when it comes to racial minorities. Recently, reality television has begun to pick up the slack with shows like The Prancing Elites, and the Oxygen series featuring trans models, Strut. The Love & Hip Hop franchise is perhaps the most outwardly tacky, as it falls into the brand of reality TV that thrives on conflict, often in its most vicious forms. Take the relationship between rapper Miles Brock and producer Milan Christopher on the last season of Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood, which focused on Miles’s reluctance to come out to his ex-girlfriend and family. While the story line brought up controversial tropes like the widely debunked “down low” phenomenon — which posits that some black men who are trapped in the closet date both men and women, therefore spreading HIV/AIDS — it also left a lasting impression: There are still black men out there like Miles who struggle with their sexuality, particularly in hip-hop. The attention Miles and Milan’s relationship gained in the press eventually led to the VH1 special Out in Hip Hop, a forum in which cast members, religious leaders, artists, and journalists (including myself) had a dialogue about homophobia in the industry.

The most recent season of Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta explored gender identity in two narratives that were most fascinating because of how honestly they exposed prejudices. Mimi Faust introduces her new beau Chris Gould to her best friend, Ariane Davis, who wrongly assumes that the new couple is in a lesbian relationship. Mimi explains that Chris is a transgender man: “I identify myself as a female. Chris identifies herself [sic] as male. So we are not in a lesbian relationship.” Ariane, who is a lesbian herself, doesn’t understand, and asks Chris, “So you have an identity crisis?” Chris goes on to explain in the confessional, “Mentally and spiritually, I identify as male, just in a female vessel.” The conversation highlights the biases within the LGBTQ community itself, where being gay or lesbian doesn’t automatically mean you know everything about sex and gender.

Whereas Chris’s conversations about gender are largely cordial, D. Smith, a Grammy-award winning producer and trans woman, often found herself in contentious settings on Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta with co-stars Waka Flocka Flame and Scrappy. In an interview with Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, Waka declared Caitlyn Jenner was “rebuking God” by being trans and alleged that “the devil” was playing tricks on her mind. (Following intense backlash, Waka “clarified” his comments on Twitter.) Scrappy, too, attacked trans women, writing on Instagram, “You a man with a penis with a wig on. I gotta check these motherf*****s’ baby pictures nowadays.” D. Smith confronted Scrappy, explaining that his social-media posts were transphobic; they ended their conversation in an uneasy detente. D. Smith has said that her participation on the show was an attempt to bring about awareness. “This is the demographic that people need to see the most,” she told the New York Post. “Fifteen years from now, some trans girl is going to have it so much easier than I did because I helped out.” (Smith has since said that she “barely made it through” the season and she wouldn’t be returning.)

Things didn’t go D. Smith’s way, but even these confrontations — which are often contrived by producers to bring about the conflict necessary to keep the melodrama going and fans tuned in — feel purposeful, and don’t let ignorant comments stand alone. While D. Smith may not have fully enlightened Scrappy or Waka, she likely impacted at least some of the minds of those watching at home. And more than anything, they feel like candid dialogues. It’s a stark contrast to Jenner’s E! docuseries, I Am Cait, where the artifice of staged conversations is more apparent.

Read the rest at Vulture.

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The most sensible thing Raven-Symoné has ever said on The View is arguably the announcement that she would be leaving the show and returning to acting.

The announcement itself is not surprising. Raven-Symoné had already been relegated to appearing only once a week, but on Thursday, she revealed her absence was rooted in a reboot of her hit Disney series, That’s So Raven. As both lead actress and executive producer, she’s too busy. So bye-bye-bye to The View.

If I were her publicist, I would be doing every single dance I’ve ever seen on Vine (R.I.P.) in celebration. Free from this show and focused on acting, Raven-Symoné’s likability can be salvaged. As of now, her work on the talk show has been the equivalent of Donald Trump’s presidential bid soiling his brand.

When Raven-Symoné played Olivia on The Cosby Show, I found her adorable – even if she kind of made Rudy Huxtable obsolete. As one of The Cheetah Girls and the star of That’s So Raven, she provided my oldest niece endless joy. However, the more she teetered off script as a panelist on The View, the greater urgency I had for a real racial draft.

Like the time she defended Elisabeth Hasselbeck for asking a loaded question about Sandra Bland: “I do not judge every single white person in the history of America for something that they did 17 million years ago.”

Or the time she said this about Rachel Dolezal, aka Fake Ass Freddie Brooks: “It’s the same thing dealing with transgender, [Rachel Dolezal] said she’s felt like she’s Black since she was 5 years old, we’ve had to have these conversations with transgender, and other identity social unbalances in the brain.”

There’s also the following declaration: “I’m not about to hire you if your name is Watermelondrea.” Raven-Symoné ultimately apologized for this stance on “ghetto names,” which had her lending her Black face to the issue of job discrimination. Yes, with a name like Raven-Symoné.

Unfortunately, just a few weeks later, she spoke about a Black teenage girl who was a victim of police brutality in a South Carolina classroom: “The girl was told multiple times to get off the phone. There’s no right, or reason, for him to be doing this type of harm, that’s ridiculous, but at the same time, you gotta follow the rules in school.”

She also wasn’t sold on Harriet Tubman being on the $20 dollar bill: “I don’t like [the idea of having Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill]. I think we need to move a little bit more forward.” To her credit, Raven-Symoné did name Rosa Parks one of the alternatives, but I imagine the ancestors remain displeased.

Raven-Symoné also made the mistake of co-signing Mike Huckabee’s criticisms of Beyoncé, quipping, “I just need somebody to put some pants on when people are performing nowadays.”

And who can forget when she spoke on behalf of Univision host Rodner Figueroa, who was fired after comparing First Lady Michelle Obama to a character from Planet of the Apes. “Don’t fire me from this right now, but some people do look like animals,” she argued on the show.

Read the rest at Essence.

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It’s not Madea money, but as far as box offices grosses go, Moonlight is off to a very solid start.

 Based on Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, Barry Jenkins’ beautiful queer coming-of-age drama made $414,740 its opening weekend. Screening in just four theaters, that comes out to an impressive $103,675 per-location-average.

As Forbes ’ Scott Mendelson notes, it’s one of only 26 film to earn more than $100,000 per theater, and one of even fewer that wasn’t an early Disney release.

This weekend, Moonlight expands to theaters in Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco and Washington D.C., before, eventually, making its way across the country.

Of course, a strong showing in L.A. or New York does not guarantee a film will yield similar results nationwide.

So, a plea: go see it.

Help Moonlight make its $5 million budget back and then some. Prove that now, more than ever, there is a need—and an audience—for wider representation of LGBT people of color.

Whenever there is a black-centered project on a mainstream platform—be it a film or TV show—there is a sense of urgency. Those of us that are black and aware know how quickly major studios and television networks can dispose of us. We know our visions are quickly relegated to the “niche” category should we dare include more than a speck of color.

The burden is even even greater when you’re black and not straight: So often we as gay people of color are told our stories don’t have wide appeal. Sadly, even some who purport to care about African-American narratives don’t share that same sense of urgency if the story focuses on something other than straight men.

Read the rest at NewNowNext.

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When Michelle Obama said, “When they go low, we go high,” she offered a succinct and strong defense of dignity. The idea is that simply because someone else—in this case, Donald Trump—resorts to a certain level of campaigning that many find debasing doesn’t mean everyone else should join him in the mud pool. It’s a moral lesson easy to decipher, but like any exemplum offered, there are levels to the s–t.

Not to mention, there is a difference between flying above another’s lows and overextending one’s self, e.g., willing to lend charity or forgiveness to those who mean you harm. Recently, there have been two separate instances of the latter. Sure, each is an example of good intent, but that doesn’t blind some of us from the reality that their willingness to go above and beyond is directly tied to the fact that they haven’t been attacked as much as others have been.

 In the essay “I’m a Democrat. Here’s Why I Helped Raise Money for North Carolina Republicans,” David Weinberger details why he decided to donate to the North Carolina GOP after one of its offices was firebombed by unknown arsonists. Weinberger did not launch the GoFundMe account created for it, but he did stress, “This crowdfunding effort was an opportunity for many of us to state in public, with some of our hard-earned money, that democracy trumps threats, intimidation and violence.”

Weinberger went on to add, “The North Carolina GOP’s need was a chance to remember the norms democracy needs to survive: decency, respect, empathy and a sense of commonality.”

Hillary Clinton caught a lot of flak for referring to Republicans as her “enemies” in a Democratic presidential primary debate, but she had every right to use that descriptor. Republicans have been horrible to her for decades, and there are already signs they plan to continue that upon her being elected president. If they’ve been that brutal to a white, wealthy woman of power, imagine how they’ve treated the rest of us.

Weinberger is distraught about the violent act committed against the Republican headquarters in Orange County, N.C., though he and others gloss over the reality that for many North Carolinians, Republicans have long committed heinous acts against them. This would include North Carolina Republicans attacking the voter rights of black people, helping to assist in the resegregation of schools, and infringing upon the rights of trans men and women in the state.

It’s not the lighting of a literal blaze, but if you are nonwhite and LGBTQ, it is fire and brimstone upon you all the same. And considering that this is the party working to elect Donald J. Trump—a racist, sexist, xenophobic vile waste of humanity, as president—they are not at all concerned about embodying the tenets of decency, respect, empathy and a sense of commonality. A donation won’t change that. Besides, they’ve already got insurance.

Their donations are about nothing more than giving the immoral money that they do not deserve. Maybe these donors felt good about themselves, but they were not doing anything but feeding their own flawed ideas of morality. If they really cared about goodwill, we would have heard from them sooner about the evils of that party in that state long ago.

Some people simply don’t deserve acts of kindness. The same goes for forgiveness. On Twitter, I stumbled across a ridiculous meme depicting the rainbow flag, a symbol for the LGBTQ community, hugging a figure with Confederacy imagery. The meme was apparently inspired by a bumper sticker of a Confederate flag kicking the ass of the big gay flag.

Read the rest at The Root.

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For black professionals who do reality television, there often needs to be a middle ground in terms of entertainment value—as in, some kind of balance between Olivia Pope at a Jack and Jill banquet and Joseline Hernandez, inebriated and full of rage.

Anything besides shows like The Real Housewives of Potomac, which spent far too much time discussing degrees, pedigrees and musings on race largely shaped by a brown paper bag.

Bravo’s Married to Medicine perfected this last year. So when it comes to the question of whether or not we needed a legal equivalent of that show, the answer is yes. Oh, hell yes, if you’ve refused to stop quoting Maya Wilkes when the spirit moves you.

WE tv’s legal-centered docuseries Money. Power. Respect. is definitely that companion show. Instead of doctors and doctors’ wives, here, each of the women is an entertainment attorney with greater ambitions with respect to her career, clientele and bottom line.

The cast includes Dana Whitfield, who aims to transition more into artist management. Whitfield is married to Lord Jamar, who behaves exactly as I expected he would. There is Kelly Shapiro, who looks like “What if KeKe Wyatt went to law school?” She’s one of those “I didn’t come here to make friends” types and put her Los Angeles boyfriend on ice in the coldest of ways upon her move to New York City.

Another cast member is Kendell Kelly, who has already given us a storyline molded after Changing Faces songs like “That Other Woman” and “G.H.E.T.T.O.U.T.”

By episode 2, she has confronted her man, Glenn, after another woman he’s been cheating on her with confronts her. What I like about Kendell is that she made an addendum to their lease that if Glenn cheated on her, he had to get out of her house within 48 hours.

After being confronted by the two women, Glenn doesn’t show any signs that he really gives a damn, but Kendell, knowing that the cameras are rolling, continues to follow him. She probably could have kept the line “J.D. beats Ph.D., boo. Run that” to herself, but she wanted to sell this scene, so I appreciate the vigor.

The same goes for Kendell taking an HIV test on air in light of the debacle she’s been placed in.

There’s also Nakia Thomas, who is friends with Glenn and thus isn’t exactly fond of Kendell out of loyalty to her cheating homeboy. And Wendy Crendle, who used to be married to Andre Harrell, and as an OG of the group, is quite forthright about restructuring her career and finances, since the abundant days of the 1990s are over. There’s one scene between the couple in the premiere when Andre quips that if she wants their son to stay in college in Paris (as opposed to at Howard), she ought to pay for it.

Last, but certainly not least, is Tiffany Ballard, who seriously looks like “Remy Ma, Esq.” Some of the women look down on her by claiming she’s too hood, but she’s the one who quickly calls some of the women out on their bougie and reminds them that she has an active clientele (unlike others on the struggle).

Read the rest at The Root.

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I grew up knowing of female rappers from all over. Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Yo-Yo, Mia X, and Queen Latifah were huge names who could boast of platinum and gold albums. But by the late 2000s, women’s visibility in hip hop had steeply declined.

Then, a Queens-bred rapper by the name of Nicki Minaj released her second mixtape, Sucka Free. Minaj would go on to single-handedly revive women’s presence in hip hop and be the only woman in several years to break out as a star who could boast of mainstream success. Given Minaj’s success with her debut album, the double platinum smash Pink Friday, conventional wisdom suggests that should have opened the door to other female rappers.

We did get Iggy Azalea and “Fancy,” though the Australian white woman laying claim to the same cadence as, say, the southern Black rapper Diamond of Crime Mob fame has roundly been dismissed as gimmicky at best. Maybe she’ll score another hit—or maybe she’s the female Vanilla Ice. As for Azealia Banks, well, self-destructive behavior has made her the new Foxy Brown, but without the hits.

When it comes to veterans, Remy Ma has enjoyed a resurgence recently thanks to her time on Love & Hip Hop: New York and, more importantly, the success of her single with Fat Joe, “All The Way Up.” A joint album with Fat Joe is due by year’s end and plans of a solo album are also afoot; Remy is enjoying the kind of stardom we expected before she served an eight-year prison sentence. There’s also Lil’ Kim, who will be celebrating the twentieth anniversary of her debut album, Hardcore, next month, and released a mixtape this year that was her best in quite some time.

Minaj remains the only woman with star power like that of her 1990s and early 2000s predecessors. But as far as women in rap go, it hasn’t been this great in years. And the shift comes courtesy of the many new female rappers who have entered the space.

Admittedly, it may be hard for many to notice that. The music industry is still in transition: in the past year, streaming has become the U.S. recording industry’s biggest revenue source; artists are less ambivalent about bypassing major record labels and working as independent acts; and the Internet is a better barometer of who’s hot than terrestrial radio. Even so, there are so many women releasing great rap music right now; it’s a noticeable pattern that deserves greater recognition and, for the artists who make it up, larger support.

One obvious success is Young M.A., whose single “OOOUUU” has amassed more than 45 million views on YouTube, and earned nods from Beyoncé and remixes from Nicki Minaj and Remy Ma. Young M.A. also appears in a newly released Beats By Dre ad, alongside Minaj, Pharrell, and other luminaries. That on its own is impressive, and her short spot—in which M.A. checks out another woman—is also groundbreaking. In the past, an out queer female rapper was a rare thing, yet in 2016, a Black lesbian who does not cater to male sexual fantasies is enjoying a breakout year.

She is not the only queer rapper, thankfully.

Read the rest at ELLE.

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I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Van is better than me. When it comes to the practice of patience, she operates at a level that I find befuddling. If I could gather Van’s homegirls for red wine and Drake, I’d love to know what they make of her dealings with Earn. There has to be a gaggle of them gagging over how much she bends for this dude.

Like, would you pick up your ex at his girl’s house? If so, you also operate at a level of maturity I’m two Star Wars prequels away from accessing. Yes, we begin the latest episode of Atlanta with the sight of Earn in bed, next to what’s-her-name. As Earn realizes he’s late for something, he rushes to get dressed and she asks, “Coming back tonight?” After a moment of hesitation, Earn answers, “Uh, no … thanks.” How nice of him to thank her for sex. Then he heads outside and into Van’s car, smelling like a one-night stand.

Van asks Earn if he’s high and his response is “… not really.” Technically, that’s a Vanid answer. The two are en route to the home of Monique, another one of the bougie people in Van’s life, for a pretentious Juneteenth celebration. If you’re wondering what Juneteenth is, let the Google guide you and may the white guilt flow freely thereafter.

As a Texan, I’m quite familiar with Juneteenth celebrations — but they don’t include black men leaning on a staircase, singing songs. I mean, Zapp & Roger might be playing, but it’s a much less formal affair than what’s going down at Monique’s place.

Consider their fixed cocktail menu, y’all: Juneteenth Juice, Frozen Freedom Margarita, Emancipation Eggnog, Plantation Master Poison, Abolition & Absinthe, Underground Railroad, and Forty Acres and a Moscow Mule. This is the kind of menu Phaedra Parks would create for a very special episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Monique strikes me as the type that would be on The Real Housewives of Potomac, though: I kind of hate her, but I do like that she likes Van. As she explains to Van, “You are a smart, beautiful, and determined lady like me.”

As far as Monique believes, Van and Earn are married, Earn actually finished Princeton, and they are the kind of adorable black couple her stuck-up ass can appreciate. Monique refers to Earn as Van’s “fancy Ivy League husband.” Why are they lying? Well, Van needs Monique to help out her career — you know, since she admitted to smoking weed after botching a drug test and all. We also meet Monique’s husband, a white dude named Craig who strolls down the staircase and shouts, “Happy Freedom Day!” Yes, he’s as annoying as he seems.

Earn isn’t eager to be at this party. You certainly can’t blame him after his interaction with Craig, who takes a liking to him. How awesome for Craig that he’s tolerant, but in a separate scene, he tries to scold Earn for having not gone to Africa yet: “You gotta go! Man, it’s your motherland. What are you thinking?” This guy is way too comfortable in how he talks to black people; just look at how often he reaches out to physically touch Earn, or wrap his arm around him. I guess I should be mad that he poured Earn a glass of Hennessy, but stereotypes like that and the splendor of Popeye’s Chicken are fine on my watch.

Read the rest at Vulture.

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Last weekend, at the Tidal X 1015 concert in Brooklyn, N.Y., Nicki Minaj delivered a pointed critique that echoed a sentiment that quite a few share about Melania Trump. After reciting lyrics from “Win Again,” she said: “It’s O motherf–king K, ’cause Barack needed a Michelle, bitch, and Bill needed a motherf–king Hillary, bitch; you better pray to God you don’t get stuck with a motherf–king Melania. You n–gas want brainless bitches to stroke your motherf–king ego.”

When a fan on Twitter claimed that she “dragged” Melania Trump, Minaj wrote in response, “Wasn’t ‘dragging.’ She seems nice. But a smart man knows he needs a certain ‘kind’ of woman when running for President/attempting greatness.”

Donald Trump is not a smart man. Shrewd as he may be, this presidential campaign has best highlighted Trump as an egotistical blowhard who whores for attention. So even if Melania had objections to Donald’s run, he doesn’t strike me as the type to be told what he can and cannot do. Ask any of his former campaign managers. Ask his current campaign manager.

There’s also the long-standing suspicion that Donald Trump didn’t expect to get this far with his presidential bid. Stephanie Cegielski, the former communications director of the Make America Great Again super PAC, wrote in xoJane.com, “Trump never intended to be the candidate. But his pride is too out of control to stop him now.”

Donald Trump, presidential candidate, has long come across as a stunt that went too far. And when it comes to Melania, it seems as if she signed up to be a rich man’s wife, and if there were any grand entrance into public life for her, the entree point would have been a spot on The Real Housewives of New York City, not the pursuit of life as the Republican Jackie Kennedy. After all, she already had a QVC line going for her.

I don’t think she signed up for all this attention—notably being exploited by way of the New York Post’s publication of nude pictures that she had taken decades ago.

Still, to some extent, Melania has shown up—only the end result has been her humiliation. Look no further than her disastrous speech at the Republican National Convention, in which her speechwriter lifted heavily from remarks made by first lady Michelle Obama years prior. More recently, she re-emerged to talk to the press, but only to try and defuse accusations that her husband had sexually assaulted more than 10 women.

Their politics aside, there is a parallel between what Melania Trump just did for her husband and the fact that Hillary Clinton did the same thing for her husband, Bill Clinton. That said, Melania did manage to offer her own digs at her husband, quipping to CNN’s Anderson Cooper: “Sometimes I say I have two boys at home. I have my young son and I have my husband.”

As for Michelle Obama, she, too, has recently offered a critique about political spouses that one might easily assume applies to Melania Trump. When late-night host Stephen Colbert asked if she had any sympathy for political spouses, she answered: “Because if—you know, you have to be, you know, in it. If you’re in it, and if you don’t agree, you should have agreed before they ran. Bottom line is, if you didn’t agree with what Barack was saying, I would not support his run. So I stand there proudly, and I hope they are, too, standing with their spouses proudly. So no, no sympathy.”

Well, Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump has largely served in the role some might have expected Melania Trump to fill. Earlier this year, Melania told GQ: “I chose not to go into politics and policy. Those policies are my husband’s job.”

As far as whether or not she has her own political opinions, she stressed that she did, only, “Nobody knows and nobody will ever know. Because that’s between me and my husband.”

It’s hard to feel sorry for anyone with as much wealth and access as Melania Trump enjoys, but as far as being a political spouse goes, she’s dealt with Donald Trump’s presidential run better than many might give her credit for. She’s been placed in a tough position—although, despite my own feelings about her husband and what he represents, I question whether she, as a political spouse, is functioning all that differently from how others function, particularly when met with scandal.

Read the rest at The Root.

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