Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Black Model Museum [#002]: Beverly Peele

From The Cocoa Lounge

Beverly Peele: All Grown Up
Former supermodel, Beverly Peele

The Fashion Industry is such an interesting beast. It produces the most exquisite creations (human and textile) and throws them out like yesterday's trash at the mere sight of an imperfection--or worse--a new season.

Such is the story of Beverly Peele, who began her fashion career as a teenage It girl in the early 90's, riding in on the steam of Beverly Johnson, Iman, and Naomi Campbell before her. She appeared on and in between the covers of Harpers Bazaar, Seventeen, Mademoiselle, Italian Vogue and a host of other publications across the globe.

Beverly Peele in Black and WhiteYoung Beverly PeeleBeverly Peele, Italian Vogue

But it was the dark side of the fashion world that nearly derailed her career as Peele became involved with hard partying and recreational drugs before disappearing from the scene altogether. After the birth of her daughter, she returned to modeling with a vengenace, sparking hopes in fans and critics alike that--this time--she was back to stay. But in late 2005, trouble came knocking again as Peele was sentenced in a devastating identity theft case.

These days, it seems that Ms. Peele is back on the right track. She has traded in fashion for family and recently appeared on The Tyra Banks Show, to warn young model hopefuls about the dangers of the industry.

We salute Beverly Peele's courage and wish her the best in all her future endeavors, whether it includes modeling or not.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Weekend Winners: Our Favorite Stars Shine at The Height of Award Season

From The Cocoa Lounge

Weekend Winners
Stars are all smiles with their trophies.

A handful of our favorite stars shone bright over the weekend. Picking up high honors at The Oscars, Spirit Awards and in Memphis, TN (of all places):

1. Forest Whitaker, Best Actor, Academy Awards

Forest Whitaker solidified his presence as one of the greatest actors of our time, with an Oscar that was long overdue in the eyes of many. We're already looking forward to his nomination in the Directing category.

2. Jennifer Hudson, Best Supporting Actress, Academy Awards

Vocal powerhouse and current media darling J-Hud, topped off her Cinderella story by capturing Oscar gold.

3. Venus Williams, Championship Title, Cellular South Cup, Memphis

In a campaign that rivals Senator Barack Obama's, Venus Williams has set her sights set on a position in the top 16 on the WTA tour.

4. Shareeka Epps, Best Female Lead, IFC Independent Spirit Awards

Young Shareeka Epps kept up her run as breakout Indie Princess by picking up a Best Actress award on Saturday.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

RIP 'Heroes' Simone Deveaux (2006 - 2007)

From The Cocoa Lounge

Actress, Tawny Cypress
Actress Tawny Cypress took her last breath as Simone Deveaux on NBC's scifi hit, Heroes.

Okay, so we're paying our respects to a fictional television character, but for many, the murder of Simone Deveaux in last night's Heroes plot twist, was a devastating shock to Tawny Cypress fans across the nation (though we've seen it coming since the mid-season cliff-hanger).

The gorgeous actress who has moved up the ranks of TV's food chain since her days on the daytime soap All My Children, had this to say about her character's untimely demise in a recent USA Today interview:

"It feels appropriate to die at the hands of my two suitors," says actress Tawny Cypress, who has played Simone since the pilot episode of NBC's hit superhero series. "All of the deaths on Heroes so far have been very ugly and graphic, and this one was more a beautiful fade-away."

The 30-year-old actress has been in tears on and off ever since show creator Tim Kring informed her in December of Simone's fate. "My story line just wasn't there," she acknowledges. "They just couldn't figure out where to go with Simone."

In Tawny Cypress' case, we hope her post-Heroes afterlife includes reincarnation, with roles on the small and large screens in the future.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Saturday Soul: Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye

FromThe Cocoa Lounge

Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye

Today's Saturday Soul moment is brought to you by the incomparable Motown legends, Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye, both of whom the music world lost much too soon.

Tammi Terrell was only 24 years old when she died in 1970, during which time, Marvin Gaye is said to have taken a 2 year hiatus from performing and focused on creating the introspective masterpiece "What's Going On."

This performance of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" shows the two at their best; flirty and fabulous. Enjoy.

Tammi Terell Button
A Tammi Terrell pin, collected at a Motown show last year.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words [#004]: Separated at Birth?

From The Cocoa Lounge

For your Valentine's Day viewing pleasure:

Salli Richardson and Pam Grier

Separated at Birth: Salli Richardson and Pam Grier

We've come to know these ladies as Pocahontas and Foxy Brown, respectively, but based on how similar they look in these photos, we're calling Salli Richardson-Whitfield and Pam Grier Two of a Kind.

Judy Reyes and Debbie Allen

Separated at Birth: Judy Reyes and Debbie Allen

Is it really A Different World? Looking at these two you wouldn't think so. Judy Reyes and Debbie Allen appear to be from the exact same place.

Jada Pinkett and Zoe Saldana

Separated at Birth: Jada Pinkett and Zoe Saldana

After years of speculation, we decided to put Jada Pinkett-Smith and Zoe Saldana side-by-side to see what would happen. The verdict: If these two decided to put their heads together, they could give the Olsen Twins a run for their money.

Mekhi Phifer and The Late James Brown

Separated at Birth: Mekhi Phifer and The Late James Brown

Here's one we really didn't see coming: Mekhi Phifer and James Brown! With the untimely passing of the Godfather of Soul, Hollywood is surely clamoring for rights to a biopic. Note to agents and execs: Mekhi Phifer should be first in the audition line. There's something about that smile and those eyes that sings I've Got Soul and I'm Superbad.

Like Jamie Foxx before him with Ray, The James Brown Story could potentially earn Mekhi his first Academy Award. And we wouldn't mind if he thanked The Cocoa Lounge after his Mama and agent.

...But maybe it's time for prescription glasses....

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Black Men in Drag: Has it gone too far?

From The Cocoa Lounge

Black Men in Drag: Famous Hollywood Drag Characters

(Black Men in Drag: 1. Flip Wilson as "Geraldine" 2. Jamie Foxx as "Wanda" 3. Martin Lawrence as "Sheneneh Jenkins" 4. Tyler Perry as "Madea" and 5. Eddie Murphy as "Rasputia")

Now, don't get us wrong. We've laughed at the brilliant characterizations over the years of Flip Wilson, Martin Lawrence, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, Tyler Perry (and a host of other comedians) as they've portrayed varying degrees of black womanhood to often gut-wrenching comedic effect.

Eddie Murphy's Norbit

But the joke is beginning to get old, and not only that, it's beginning to get offensive.

'Drag'ging in Old Stereotypes

Charles Knipp as Shirley Q LiquorEddie Murphy's latest venture, Norbit, has been raising eyebrows since its trailer hit theaters, prompting outraged community leaders in Los Angeles to call a boycott. In the wake of Charles Knipp (a white performer, who dresses in drag--and blackface--to portray a stereotypical character he's dubbed "Shirley Q. Liquor,") the lines between comedy and blatant racism, are beginning to blur.

It's easy for the studios that make these films to stand behind their product: Cross- dressing comedies have a proven track record at the box office. And with black men (not white) donning the wigs and make-up, words like "Stereotypical," "race," and "exploitation" don't apply, right?

Martin Lawrence in Drag. Big Momma's House 2

The joke is ultimately on us. So pardon us if we refuse to laugh.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Fresh Face [#010]: Celestina Aladekoba

From The Cocoa Lounge

Cocoa Lounge Fresh Face [#010]: Celestina Aladekoba, Dancer
Celestina Aladekoba: We love the way she moves

Following in the fancy footsteps of such greats as Judith Jamison, Debbie Allen, and Fatima Robinson, Celestina Aladekoba is a dancing machine.

The young star of MTV's pseudo-reality show, DanceLife, made us believers with a recent performance on the Ellen show, where she earned the Cocoa Lounge moniker "Butter," because she's so smooth on her toes.

Celestina Aladekoba in Prince's "Black Sweat"Celestina Aladekoba in Prince's "Black Sweat"Celestina Aladekoba in Prince's "Black Sweat"

The Nigeria native and USC grad danced her way from the background in videos for artists such as Missy Elliot, Will Smith and Beyonce, to a notable solo in Super Bowl King Prince's infamous "Black Sweat" video.

And her feet haven't failed her since.

For more info on Celestina and the MTV's show schedule, visit Dancelife.

Friday, February 02, 2007

A Cocoa Lounge Black History Moment: Billie Holiday in New Orleans

From The Cocoa Lounge

Film: New Orleans, 1947
Directed by: Arthur Lubin
Starring: Arturo de Córdova, Dorothy Patrick, Marjorie Lord

Despite the limitations of her screen credit, Billie Holiday, shone as only she could in her role as a young maid, Endie. She lights up the screen during musical numbers such as the one below: "Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans" (a song that takes on a whole new meaning post-Katrina).

With Louis Armstrong and his band behind her, you can't help but feel haunted by the melody as Billie croons: "Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans /
When thats where you left your heart..."

New Orleans marked Billie's first (and last) acting performance in a Hollywood film and reminds us how far black actresses have come since.