Saturday, June 4, 2016


"I’m young, I’m handsome, I’m fast, I’m pretty and can’t possibly be beat. 
They must fall in the round I call."

– Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., age 16

Those were the words of a confident young man from the West End of Louisville, Kentucky. The year was 1958 and back then, Jim Crow held a tight grip on the southern states. But not even the burden of racism could contend with the bravado of a teenaged Cassius. After all, it was he who would grow up to become the most famous person in the world, literally.

From the beginning, he talked a good game and from the beginning, he had the skills to back up his lyrics. He was a man of power and poise, one whom, at 18, won Olympic gold, and six years later, embraced Islam and became Muhammad Ali. We believed that he could float like a butterfly and sting like a bee and we watched him perfect the “rope-a-dope” while defending title-after-title, round-after-round. Ironically, his battles outside of the ring would require just as much finesse, which he realized when he refused to be drafted in the military. He paid dearly for it – losing his passport and boxing privileges for the three-plus years – but he stood his ground and proved his point. He always did.

By the mid-1970s, he headed to the Motherland for the now-infamous Rumble in the Jungle and Thrilla in Manila bouts – defeating George Foreman and the late “Smokin’” Joe Frazier, respectively – and had the world’s full attention. He rarely disappointed, but soon after he hung up his gloves, we began to see a change in him. Just as we cheered for him in the ring, we prayed for him when Parkinson’s disease began to dim his light a bit.  We could still see the man inside, though, the one who’d conquered so many firsts and seemed to have so much more to do and say.

Muhammad Ali remained the ultimate champion because he persevered. When he was no longer able to use his voice or swing his fists as quickly as he once did, he refocused his energy on humanitarian work.  A sportsman at heart, he made history, yet again, by lighting the torch for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and was later named as a United Messenger of Peace by Kofi Annan. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, the same year he opened the Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center in his hometown to raise awareness and funds in the fight against the disease. 

If you weren’t around to experience his magic during his prime, perhaps your parents or grandparents have shared their memories of him. Or maybe you got a glimpse of his life via the big screen in films like The Greatest, in which he starred as himself, the Academy Award-winning documentary, When We Were Kings, or the 2004 biopic, Ali. He lived quite a life and leaves behind an incredible legacy. Muhammad Ali was one of a kind and he sure was pretty. 

Monday, January 4, 2016

farewell, Ms. Natalie...

“Natalie Cole, Dead at 65” 

Seeing those five words displayed across the computer screen last Friday was quite jarring, especially on the first morning of this new year. She’d passed away the day before. But while those five words are technically true, what’s also true, and what we must remember, is that her timeless music will always live on. And thankfully so. That’s the power of legacy and Natalie Cole was — is — a legend, in every way.  

In 1977, when Don Cornelius introduced her to the Soul Train audience before her performance of I’ve Got Love On My Mind, he kept it real, and simple. “Our next guest is probably the most important talent discovery of the decade,” he began, “and as the old saying goes, she got it honest. Let’s welcome not only the daughter of the immortal, Nat King Cole, but in her own right, an incredible talent…Ms. Natalie Cole.”

Following her first chart topper, 1975’s This Will Be, the hits just kept coming — from Our Love, Sophisticated Lady and La Costa to I Can’t Say No, Pink Cadillac and I Miss You Like Crazy, among the many. Along the way, she won nine Grammys, sold millions of records and earned a devoted fan base that defied demographics. She was beloved for her talent, of course, and while it seemed as though she’d been born into such a charmed life, it wasn’t always so easy for her.

Astounding success was coupled with incredible darkness in the form of addiction, which she remained honest about in the years following her successful rehab stay in 1983. She also detailed her many struggles in the best-selling memoirs Angel on My Shoulder and Love Brought Me Back: A Journey of Loss and Gain, the former being the basis for the Lifetime biopic, Livin for Love: The Natalie Cole Story. Actress Theresa Randle portrayed Cole as a young woman, while Cole, herself, narrated the story and slipped into the role at the end. In addition to the very sad times she endured along her journey — including her father’s death, just nine days after her 15th birthday, her spiral into drugs and the breakdown of three marriages — there were triumphs, too. Cole, who is survived by her son and two sisters, always triumphed and fought her way back to music and to herself.

The pinnacle of her recording career came in 1991 with the release of Unforgettable…with Love, a tribute album dedicated to her father. For the updated version of the title track, which he originally recorded in the early 50s, the father-daughter duo’s voices were merged and the ever-touching video featured footage from the family’s home movies. The album sold over 14 million copies and scored six Grammys, including the coveted award for Album of the Year. “I didn’t shed really any real tears until the album was over,” she once said of the experience. “Then I cried a whole lot. When we started the project, it was a way of reconnecting with my dad. Then when we did the last song, I had to say goodbye again.”

She had such a lush voice and could sing any kind of song, but what endeared her to so many people was the fact that she continued to stand up no matter how long, or how far down, she’d fallen. In 2008, she was diagnosed with hepatitis C and spoke openly about how the disease, which had been dormant in her system for over two decades, was linked to her past intravenous drug use. She fought the good fight to survive and after undergoing treatment, her kidneys began to fail. What followed was three-times-a-week dialysis and in 2009, she had a kidney transplant. Even as she battled serious health issues, she continued to record and perform for audiences around the world. Her final album, Natalie Cole en Espanol, was released in 2013 and garnered her three Latin Grammy nominations.

One thing that’s certain about Natalie Cole is that she will not be forgotten. She left us with beautiful music to cherish and also, a few life lessons to ponder. “I think that I am a walking testimony that you can have scars," she told CBS Sunday Morning in 2006. "You can go through turbulent times and still have victory in your life."

Thank you for your contributions, Ms. Natalie. Rest easy…

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

it's March (on newsstands)!

When I think back to Christmas 2014, the first things that come to mind are transcribing, writing, editing and conducting last-minute, I'm-so-glad-I-have-my-recorder-with-me-today secondary interviews for this amazing cover story on Tracee Ellis Ross.  I think I pulled an all-nighter in there, too, but really, it's all a blur.

When I saw this double issue on the newsstand, I was thrilled and immediately forgot about how stressed-out I was over the holidays...well, kinda.  All that said, I'd love if you picked up a copy (or both).  You won't be disappointed.

At the moment, I'm knee-deep in award season, but I promise to create a more fulfilling blog experience after I've taken a breath.  For now, I'm washing off my make-up and hitting the hay.

Until we meet again, I'll leave you with these parting words -  "Happy March, almost!"

Thursday, January 1, 2015

let's get it!

New year, new adventures.
I'm ready.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

doggie heaven.

RIP Winnie (nee' King Winston).
We all loved you, little man.

I hope that your forever is overflowing with lots of green grass, endless sunshine and your favorite kibble.


Love, Auntie Regina

Monday, September 8, 2014

Joan was a riot!

Joan was laid to rest yesterday.  I still can't believe she's gone.  She was one of those people that so many of us thought would always be around.  After all, she was always around.  She was everywhere, for decades.  And she always made me laugh - out loud!

I grew up watching Joan Rivers.  She was a force all her own, funny as hell and as inappropriate as she could be.   As she got older, she became even more vicious, which seemed an impossible feat.  Even at 81, she remained on her A-game.  Although I can't claim to have watched every episode of Fashion Police (I know some folks who have!), whenever I tuned in,  I'd be sitting here clutching my pearls, in utter disbelief.  The things that flew out of her mouth were, in her words, "justttt..."  Ha.  Classic Joan!

Aside from her in-your-face, acid-tinged brand of humor, one of the things that I admired about Joan was that she was a survivor.  I remember when Edgar died.  Man, that was blow.  She talked about him all the time.  Edgar and Melissa.  That was her family.  When it came to her work, she rode the wave of fame like a champion surfer and no matter what happened - that now-infamous estrangement from Carson, the cancellation of her talk show and even the dry spells that audiences were likely unaware of - she always came back stronger and funnier.  She seemed unafraid to try something new and as a result, her fan base spanned multiple generations.  And to be clear, the only reason why anybody cares about red carpet coverage is because Joan Rivers did it first.  Come on, "Who are you wearing?"  All Joan.  She was a trailblazer.

When the news came that she passed, I wasn't totally shocked because the prognosis seemed rather grim.  I was sad, though.  I still am, but every time I think, "Oh, wow, Joan Rivers is gone," one of her wicked one-liners comes to mind and I just bust out laughing all over again.  And I also think about her advice to the world - "If you can laugh about it, you can deal with it."  Those are words to live by because, really, if you can't find some humor in the madness, life will surely wear you o-u-t.

As I await the Fashion Police marathon (it has to be in the works), I've been watching all of the specials and even catching up on her hilarious web series, In Bed with Joan.  Yes, I've been laughing all weekend, but I was also struck by a clip of her giving advice to Louis C.K.  When he asked her if it gets better with time, she responded without missing a bit.  "It doesn't get better," she said, "you get better."  Right.  Right.

All that said, she gets props for being a kick-ass broad who came, saw and did her thing.  And yes, she left us all laughing, which was exactly how she would have wanted it.  The mold is broken.

So, rest easy, Joan.  And much love to Melissa and Cooper.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

office envy (starring Aisha Tyler, written by yours truly)

With her jam-packed daily schedule, Aisha Tyler often finds herself in need of a place to unwind, recharge and get her creativity flowing. In addition to her daytime gig as cohost of the Emmy-nominated gabfest The Talk, Tyler, 44, serves up improv on The CW's Whose Line Is It Anyway?, lends her voice to the animated FX series Archer and hosts the popular podcast Girl on Guy, which sparked her desire for an office to call her own. "For the first year of my podcast, I was working from a hotel bar," she says. "The doors didn't open until five o'clock, but someone would inevitably walk in and start talking, not realizing I was recording sound."

After a lengthy search for the perfect spot for her own production office, Tyler found an 800-square-foot loft in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley, ten minutes from her house and the CBS lot where she tapes The Talk. "It's a perfect triangle," she says. "I almost rented an office in a beautiful, historic building in Hollywood, but there was no parking and no kitchen, and the bathroom had to be shared with everybody else on the floor. Then, at the last minute, my husband [Jeff Tietjens] said, 'Let's keep looking.' "And she's glad she did. Since securing an official home for her podcast, Tyler has expanded the utility of the space, using it to write, catch up on e-mails, watch screeners and even play Xbox on the flat screen. And when she's gearing up for a big event, she'll have a wardrobe fitting too. "My stylist will come by with racks of clothes and lay jewelry selects out on the table. This is definitely the female version of a man cave."

Having gutted and remodeled both her home and her dressing room at The Talk, she was excited about getting to work on her office. "Finding this place was magical, so I took my time with decorating because I wanted it to feel personal," Tyler notes. Her goal was to create a cozy, welcoming environment, but first there was the matter of the refrigerator. "Because I'm in hotels almost every weekend, I've come to appreciate a well-curated minibar. I stayed at a hotel that had beautiful Italian fridges and I said, 'When I get an office, I'm getting one of those!' " Not surprisingly, a red Smeg refrigerator was her first purchase, but her better half, who oversees the finances, wasn't so thrilled. "My husband was like, 'You could get four refrigerators from Costco for that price,'" she says, laughing. (The Smeg, by the way, retails for $1,999.) "I've also got a full bar, so if a guest comes by and wants a drink, I can make them a cocktail," says the self-proclaimed bourbon sipper.

For the walls she opted for gray, in varying shades. "I hate to be the person who says that gray is the new black, but I think it's such a grown-up, sexy color," she says. Adorning the walls are personal photos (some of which she took herself) as well as artwork that makes her laugh. "As a comedian I'm really into collecting art that has a sense of humor." Another prized piece is her guns and roses vase. "I like the juxtaposition of feminine and masculine," she states. "I'm kind of a guy's girl and a little bit of a tomboy, so I think it's indicative of who I am. Perhaps that's why I love skulls, too."

Just as the sun begins its descent behind the mountains, Tyler leans back and peers out of her window. "This is a place I created for myself, so at the end of the day, I feel like I'm climbing down from my tree house," she says. "But there are also times when I think, I love my office and I'm never going to give it up; I'm never going to leave. They'll have to drag me out of here!"

ESSENCE, September 2014