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So a week and a half ago, I appeared on HuffPost Live’s Midweek Cocktail Chatter with Josh Zepps, talking about the lily white Oscars (with Black sprinkles in the audience), white women demanding we thank them for all that we’ve done, and a drug mostly white gay men are using thus far. I got to sip a hot toddy, which I needed at the time. It’s been so cold here, beloveds. Unnatural.

In any event, clips below the hood.


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There’s a difference between making a declarative statement and dancing around one.

So while I totally respect Jussie Smollett’s choice to offer the former during a recent interview with Ellen DeGeneres, I find the narrative surrounding it a bit misleading. Every headline I’ve read speaks to Smollett ‘coming out’ as gay, but to come out as gay is to explicitly say so. Smollett did no such thing, and if anything, stayed true to his previous promise of keeping his private life just that.

Yes, during their conversation, which carried over backstage and was subsequently released to the world online, Smollett had this to say any suggestion that he was closeted: “There’s never been a closet. That I’ve been in. I don’t own a closet, I got a dresser, but I don’t have a closet, but I have a home and that is my responsibility to protect that home.”

I live in a studio apartment in Harlem, but that has nothing to do with whether or not I’m more sexually attracted to Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, or somewhere in between.

Now, when Ellen offered, “You’ve never pretended to be anything that you aren’t,” Smollett did add, “Ever, ever. So lets not read into it the wrong when I say that I don’t talk about my personal life, I’m saying that. But it is in no way to hide or deny who God made me. Ya know?”

In other words, I’m not ashamed of who I am (whatever that is), but I don’t want you people in my damn business either. Fair enough, but again, is that coming out or just expressing a desire not to be categorized incorrectly one way or the other? Smollett did add, “My mama knows. My Mama likes me a lot. And yes I take her to the ‘Sound of Music’ sing-along every, single year. So, any questions?”

I have one: Did Queen Latifah write this?

Read the rest at EBONY.

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Three months ago, I sat in my bed frustrated with myself. I was upset at all the life choices I’d made up until this point. Physically and mentally exhausted, I ran out to get an energy drink; I’d needed a caffeine-enriched charge to help meet a deadline. And then it happened: later, rushing to the bathroom, I tripped and went hip-first into my desk, knocking the energy drink onto my laptop, its red liquid bleeding into my keyboard.

Although the rest of the laptop was intact, the keyboard stopped working, which meant the assignment would have to be written on an iPhone.

I called the only person who felt right at the time: my mother. Sensing the urgency in my voice, she immediately asked, “What’s wrong?” Before I went into detail, I made a request: “Can you please just listen to me and let me finish? I only want to get this out.” “Okay, baby,” she said.

The last twelve months have been trying. I’m either doing a lot of the things I’ve always longed to do or, if nothing else, inching closer to goals I’ve carried with me for as long as I can remember. But it has not come without certain costs. To freelance write for a living is to often play the role of a sadist to your emotions. I regularly joke to my friends and in interviews that I am a writer and bill collector.

Months ago, my bills amounted to several thousands. It was not an unusual situation for me, but one I was tired of dealing with and one I am actively working towards avoiding as I advance in my career. I’m in better standing now, but still paying back the debt I built working with media companies whose existence became the bane of mine.

It took several months for it to happen, but the anger that was boiling underneath finally gave way to the sadness buried even deeper. As the tears began to fall, my mom could not resist her natural inclination to fault my decisions. Crying has never been easy for me, and as soon as my mom interrupted, I stopped.

The exercise lasted less than 10 seconds.

As proud as she is of what I have accomplished, and what other achievements await, her vision for my life is different from the one I presently live. Ideally, I’d be working in a field more secure (finance, corporate law, medicine), one that would make all her sacrifices worth it. I would also be straight and married with kids. We’d all attend mass regularly, and she’d have us over for Sunday dinners. I might even be back in Houston. Maybe not directly under her, but close enough (in Houston, traveling long distances within the city limits is normal).

But I am none of these things. I will never be any of these things.

I came out to my mother in 2009 after I penned an essay about two black boys who hung themselves within the same month. They’d wanted to escape the anti-gay taunts, and the kind of world that supported such behavior, that haunted them. In writing the essay, my sexuality was a statement of fact; prior to this, my love of men only existed as speculation.

Her response to my coming out was nasty, and we didn’t speak to her for weeks.

In February, I called her. Not much had changed since then, but I felt compelled to warn her that I was writing about being a black gay man, and that it would reach people she knew. A photo is going to be included, I said. (Translation: I look just like you and we bear the same surname; your co-workers, your friends, your sisters, and your girls at the beauty shop will all know I’m your son.) In telling her, I tried to be respectful about her beliefs. I tried to talk about God and difference of opinion. Regardless of how she feels, I told her, I do think God is using me, in some way, to help create dialogue.

“Am I happy that you’re gay?” she responded. “No. I’m sorry it happened to you. Am I hurt that you’re still gay? Yes, because I feel responsible.”

I’m not sure why she feels responsible. In her mind, maybe she thinks me being gay is a response to me being raised in house that included a violent and volatile alcoholic father. I made peace with her rationale—”I thought you needed a father; I also did not want to end up on welfare”—a very long time ago.

Months passed before we spoke again.

When she heard me cry, she did what any mother would do: she attempted to provide comfort. But it only irritated me. It somehow became about my need to go to “God’s house,” after which she subtly suggested that my struggles were linked to my sexual urges. She then offered to pay to have my laptop fixed. Too proud, I declined. But she wouldn’t accept it.

One thing I respect immensely about my mom is her faith. What she fails to grasp, however, is that the religion that saved her is my living hell. I don’t necessarily know what I believe in anymore. When I pray, more times than not, I believe someone is listening. There are also the rare times I wonder if I’m talking to myself in the dark.

Read the rest at Gawker.

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There’s a reality show starring two Black women working in music that relies upon several familiar tropes within the genre: infidelity, family strife, finding balance between work and family, seemingly shady business partners, and the pursuit of greater celebrity. However, very few tackle these issues the way WeTV’s Mary Mary does. The show, which launched its fourth season last night, stars Mary Mary members and sisters Erica and Tina Campbell.

The two handle conflict differently because as gospel artists, they are not able to curse people out, throw wine bottles, or snatch each other bald. If either of them did on their reality show, “the Saints” would surely soil their legacy and send them directly into the saturated land of secular music. As an avid viewer of Love & Hip Hop Atlanta, I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem if the Marys did any of the aforementioned, though it is refreshing to see that they do not.

All reality shows need conflict to work, and if the aim is to be truly successful, lots of drama. Mary Mary offers both, but again, without any of the behavior that your more respectable cousin would deem “ratchet.” Feel free to insert your “amen” here. Or a “boo, hiss.” Whatever’s clever, beloved.

Last season, Tina Campbell had to grapple with the reality that her husband, Teddy Campbell, has been unfaithful. Tina revealed this in her EBONY cover story, but as we learned in season three, had no idea that his infidelity included numerous women spanning several years. Her level of anger was equally measured to the number of times in which he played her.

In many ways, Teddy is Saved Stevie J, but Tina is no Mimi or Joseline. She threw him out and contemplated divorce, and while she ultimately decided to take him back, she did not pretend Jesus would lock her out of heaven if she decided to end her marriage because her husband broke his vows several times over.

Read more at EBONY.

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Michael Arceneaux, contributor and Master of Shade, calls out five of his biggest gripes from the past week. Rejoice and be read. Follow Michael @youngsinick.

1. These Gordons Ain’t Loyal: In “Have you no shame?” news, it wasn’t totally surprising to find out that members of Bobby Brown’s family were trying to shoot a reality show that included footage of them at the hospital where Bobbi Kristina Brown lies in a vegetative state. After all, Bobby probably hasn’t so much as sent them a free bottle of his BBQ sauce and chicken fryer mix. However, when it comes to her play brother and fake husband, Nick Gordon, you would hope more for him and his respect for Bobbi Kristina. Unfortunately, word has gotten out that Nick is set to appear on Dr. Phil and will be discussing his battles with his bae’s dad and her kinfolk. If this man had any respect for Bobbi Kristina, he’d be somewhere lighting a candle for her instead of contributing to the very kind of nonsense that made her live so problematic to begin with.

2. You Cannot Beat The Gay, Beloved: Andrew Caldwell, aka the man who says he was “DELIVERT” from homosexuality, is tip toeing back on his infamous declaration that went viral like a shot of Kim Kardashian’s ass cheek. In a new interview, Caldwell shares, “I feel that, if I was delivered, God should deliver me more. But I know it takes a process. But I think it is going a little bit slow. I want God to work on my mannerisms. I want God to stop the switching…talking like a woman.”

My immediate reaction to this is “Girl, bye,” but we have to acknowledge that men – Black men particularly – are often pressed by the larger community (this includes you, whites) to maintain a certain level of hypermasculinity. To not embody that is to be less than, or what misogynists call, feminine. Nonetheless, we are who we are and there’s nothing about femininity that is less than. It takes a secure man to realize this, so here’s hoping the Lord blesses him with a clue to he can go back to twerking to Beyoncé’s “Check On It” in peace.

Meanwhile, Caldwell added that he truly wants to be “delivered,” explaining, “Continue to pray for me because I am going through a lot each and every day.” I’m praying this time next year he’s at the gay club getting his life and realizing his life will be lived better when do so honestly. God bless, saint.

3. That Girl Raps Better Than You All The Time, Bro: For all his talent, Kanye West irritates the living hell out of me. Case in point, a guest lecture he delivered at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. He said many stupid things – including this idea that classism is new and that is supersedes racism – but I also want to focus on his sexist backhanded compliment to Nicki Minaj.

Reflecting on “Monster,” Kanye said: “One of the most memorable things about MBDTF was Nicki Minaj, and the fact that she kicked my ass, on my own song, on one of the best albums…the best album – I’m just saying what the critics said – of the last 25 years. The best album of the past 25 years that I spent a year and a half making, out there. I was exiled from my country, it was a personal exile, but exile. To come back and deliver my magnum opus of a work, and to be outshined…to be beat by a girl, basically.”

When one uses “beat by a girl,” the connotation is that it is the worst thing ever because women are less than men. In reality, though, for all his wit, vision, and talent as a producer, as a rapper, he leaves a lot to be desired – starting with him failing to rap on many of the various beats he crafted. So I’m not sure why he’s surprised that Nicki Minaj bested him given she’s a superior emcee to most of her contemporaries – men and women alike and him included.

Read more at EBONY.

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For many Black children born in the 1980s, Ben Carson is a hero. He is, as BuzzFeed’s Joel Andersondescribes in a well-done profile about the surgeon-turned-GOP-presidential-contender, “an icon of Black triumph.” Carson was never this to me, but his allure amongst the community as a collective is undeniable. That allure, though, has since been tainted by his politics, and to be more specific, his new celebrity — largely owed to exhibiting a caricature-like behavior of Black conservatives.

Carson has compared the country to Nazi Germany over the Affordable Health Care Act, which he has notoriously likened to slavery. Anyone who says this is comically hyperbolic and under no circumstances should be taken seriously. Yet, Carson is among many conservatives mostly because he is a Black face to white, patriarchal views. He is propped up because he says awful things about marginalized groups likeBlacks, women, and gays.

This week served as another example of this, as Carson argued that the proof of homosexuality being a choice lies within the prison system. In an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo, the subject of marriage equality came up and so did Carson’s condemnation of gay people. To Carson, in no way are the struggles of Black people comparable to the struggle of gays.

So it goes:

Chris Cuomo: “You think being gay is a choice?”

Ben Carson: “Absolutely”

Chris Cuomo: “Why do you say that?”

Ben Carson: “Because, a lot of people who go into prison, go into prison straight and when they come out, they’re gay, so did something happen while they were in there?”

This is an idiotic way of viewing human sexuality. Men and women in forced situations acting out their sexuality in the limited options afforded to them is not proof of anyone being gay or straight or somewhere in between. What it does highlight is that sexuality is complicated. Being gay is about having predominate sexual attraction to a member of the same-sex. Being straight is the opposite. Carson must’ve ignored the sex ed classes he took decades ago, but used his HBO Go to watch lots of Oz.

As a neurosurgeon, Ben Carson is a man of science, but in this exchange he sounds like an uncle who has downed a pint of Wild Turkey and suddenly wants to make half the family uncomfortable with his dim views of the world.

The American Psychological Association ruled that “most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.” At Slate, Mark Joseph Stern reveals further scientific studies that point to homosexuality being an inborn trait.

If there’s anything pointing to choice over here, it’s Carson going above and beyond to be purposefully obtuse. Grow up, sir. You sound sillier than usual.

Indeed, Carson has a history of making disparaging remarks about gay people, comparing them to murderers, pedophiles, and those who partake in bestiality. He does this under the pretense of being a religious figure, though it will forever be amusing to me that Black people use distorted interpretations of scripture to justify bigotry given that same scheme was once applied to them.

The very God Carson pretends to speak in support of would not condemn people this way (unless he is going by Old Testament deity, which likely would’ve had him stoned to death over a Maryland-style crab boil long ago) and the white conservatives he panders to won’t get him far in the 2016 presidential primary. Then again, Carson likely knows this. The GOP presidential field has become more or less the American Idol of the conservative media complex.

Read more at NewsOne.

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Amber Rose was correct in her assessment of Kim Kardashian in an interview with Power 105.1’s “The Breakfast Club.” Kanye West has every right to defend his wife. However, the manner in which West did so highlighted that for all his talk of innovation and forward thinking – in both art and perspective – Kanye can be just as much of a misogynistic jerk as many other non-hypermasculine men who present themselves as “good guys.”

When asked about Kardashian in a separate interview with “The Breakfast Club,” Rose argued what many of us believe: she feigns naiveté about her use of sexuality for attention.

In response to his ex-girlfriend about his current wife, West said:

She’s just soaking in the moment. If Kim had dated me when I first wanted to be with her, it wouldn’t be an Amber Rose … It’s hard for a woman to want to be with someone that with Amber Rose. She wasn’t sending me no pictures. I had to take 30 showers before I got with Kim. But I just wanna be respectful, man.

By his own logic, we wouldn’t have a Kim Kardashian had Ray J not ejaculated on her on camera and sold the footage to a porn company, which only sent Kardashian’s star soaring and brought more attention to her looming reality show. Had none of that happen, it’s perfectly plausible to believe that Kim Kardashian may have remained nothing more than Paris Hilton’s closet organizer.

Even so, what’s done is done and no matter how one gets initial attention, it’s up to that person to turn it into something else and sustain it. Both Kardashian and Rose have proven capable of doing just that. More importantly, these adult women are free to do whatever they want with their bodies.

Nonetheless, only West chooses to portray Rose as someone who, after being intimate with, requires an excessive amount of bathing.

This is the same woman who inspired portions of arguably his best album, My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy, and whom he once said in concert in her hometown, “To the city of Philly, I want to thank y’all for making the incredible person that this song was made for.” But you know, now she’s dirty, though one wonders how many showers it took KimYe to wash off the minor R&B singers, strippers, professional athletes between them. Likewise, it’s interesting to see a rapper who has helped celebrate infidelity and stripper culture now suddenly wants us to view him pristinely by comparison.

West went on to argue that his wife is using her naked body to break down class barriers. As funny as it was for West to speak of his wife’s body type as “new,” it’s even more hilarious for him to argue Kim Kardashian is fighting elitism and promoting healthy body types by doing a nude spread in a magazine spread shot by, Jean-Paul Goude, who has a sordid history with this body type and the Black women typically associated with it.

In typical Kanye and Kardashian fashion, they purport their typical antics as atypical because it’s presented in glossier filters. This makes them feel superior despite all signs pointing to the contrary.

Enter Khloé Kardashian refuting Rose’s critiques of 25-year-old Tyga’s rumored relationship with her 17-year-old sister, Kylie Jenner (since she was 16), by invoking her past as a teenage stripper. Of course, I wouldn’t expect anyone living with the confines of their vapid world to realize that if anything, Rose is an expert on the problems with grown men sexualizing teenage girls, but I still want to pass her a dunce cap all the same.

Read the rest at The Urban Daily.

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Whether imagined by a semi-bored press or very real for those the post pissed off nonetheless, the controversy surrounding Mary Cheney’s Facebook inquiry about drag and blackface speaks to many truths.

For starters, it proves for the umpteenth time that no matter what the privacy settings on your social media tell you, if you’re a public figure or, in this case, you just happen to be the daughter of a former vice president, there’s no such thing as privacy. It also shows that the LGBT umbrella is always wider than you think.

She asked this:

Why is it socially acceptable—as a form of entertainment—for men to put on dresses, makeup and high heels and act out every offensive stereotype of women (bitchy, catty, dumb, slutty, etc.)—but it is not socially acceptable—as a form of entertainment—for a white person to put on blackface and act out offensive stereotypes of African Americans? Shouldn’t both be OK or neither? Why does society treat these activities differently?

Now, like Cheney, I’m gay. And, like Cheney, I don’t know a whole lot about drag shows. I’m familiar with some basic tenets of their history and their influence on pop culture through the years. I also know that many a drag queen has interrupted my performances of (insert any Beyoncé song) to perform Patti LaBelle’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or, more recently, Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” way too many times.

But there’s one key difference between Ms. Cheney and me: If I’m unfamiliar with something—particularly an issue with even a smidgen of hypocrisy potential—I generally opt to exercise my intellectual curiosity. I use that magic machine I’ve heard cute, elderly people refer to as “the Google” or I look to friends who may be better versed on the topic at hand. Essentially, I hold off on forming an opinion about a subject until I am informed about it.

What I don’t do is blindly and ignorantly use a public forum to pose a seemingly innocuous, but actually very much insulting, question that simultaneously screams “hyperbole” and “silly things white people say.”

That’s exactly what Cheney did, though, when she took her half-baked query to Facebook.

And she probably thought she was really saying something. It’s just that people like Cheney need to be better about expressing a specific grievance about art without generalizing the entire art form itself. Especially if you’re Cheney and clearly don’t know much about what you’re attacking.

In a thoughtful retort, drag queen Miz Cracker did acknowledge that there is some level of misogyny among some queens. Even so, she warned about using some bad apples to paint a bunch using one brush. Cracker noted, “Just because some drag queens partake in misogyny individually does not make the entire art form inherently misogynistic—and this is where the blackface comparison breaks down.”

Read the rest at The Root.

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For all of Empire’s critics—and admittedly, I’ve been among them—there has been one aspect of the show that fans, skeptics and those residing somewhere in between have all agreed on: Cookie, played by Taraji P. Henson, is the best thing about the show.

Cookie is the ex-wife of Lucious Lyon—a drug dealer-turned-rapper-turned-Jay Z-like figure with Motown-era hairstyles—who helped foster Lucious’ dream of running a major record label by providing the seed money she procured through selling drugs. As a new parolee, Cookie is out to get what’s hers: her piece of the company and her charting her own success within the music industry. The Fox hip-hop-centered soap opera, which continues to make gains in the ratings, has been rightfully described as the Oscar-nominated actress’s moment.

For those who have watched Henson through the years, we knew she had a funny bone, by way of films like Baby Boy, along with the capability to tackle dramatic roles, thanks to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; however, this is really the first time that Henson has had the opportunity to be the de facto showpiece of a project. She has made the most of it.

Cookie is so many things—loud, blunt, hood as hell, smart, funny and savvy—and as such, she is the most fleshed-out character on Empire, and increasingly one of the most compelling ones on television. Much of that is testament to the talent of Henson, who has managed to turn what could easily have been described as a caricature into a multifaceted persona.

In an interview with BuzzFeed, Henson told writer Kelley L. Carter: “I understand that mentality. I am from the hood. It wasn’t upper middle class; it was lower middle class. It was a garden apartment in the hood.” She went on to add that though she didn’t live in the system, she was around those who had, plus people who lost their lives to the crack epidemic that swept black communities in the 1980s. “I have compassion for it because I was around it, so I can’t judge it. I can’t say, ‘Ooh, you’re a dirty bird because you did this, you did that!’” the Howard University graduate explained.

Henson’s compassion is what makes Cookie so endearing. She manages to lend a voice not only to women of color who have been incarcerated—a rising population that’s only now really being represented recently in television—but also to lower-class blacks in general. Yes, similar characters have been featured on reality shows like Love & Hip Hop, but so often the show and all its sensationalism makes it difficult for some viewers to look beyond that.

Empire is no less messy, but it’s scripted, so perhaps that allows some to watch it without feelings of “guilt,” given that we know all of them are pretending—though one can never be too sure with whatever VH1 is airing Monday nights. Funny enough, Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta’sJoseline Hernandez thinks she’s a direct influence on Cookie. Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown and Mary J. Blige’s old wigs may argue otherwise, but even that speaks to the broad appeal of Cookie.

I’ve read comparisons between Cookie and Olivia Pope. Frankly, those feel misguided. Olivia Pope is fine red wine in an oversized and likely overpriced glass; Cookie is like Hennessy, only served in a champagne flute or maybe a mason jar, depending on the day. We can get drunk on both, and it’s about time audiences had the option.

Read the rest at The Root.

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FullSizeRender (2)

Last month, I was asked to share my coming out story in a segment for tied to last night’s episode of Being Mary Jane.

Yes, I used it a Beyoncé analogy. No, I’ll never stop invoking Beyoncé. She’s Beyoncé. Can I never wear this sweater again? Don’t answer that. I’m going to probably put it on in a few minutes.

As for the story: Want to hear it? Here it go (under the hood).


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