Patti LaBelle Is Officially A Jazz Singer, But It Wasn't That Easy

Patti LaBelle has a “new attitude” toward music as she pays tribute to the history of jazz with the release of her new album, “Bel Hommage.”

LaBelle’s 19th solo studio project features renditions of 13 classic jazz standards from the likes of Nina Simone (“Wild is the Wind”), Frank Sinatra (“Softly as I Leave You”) and Gloria Lynne (“The Folks Who Live on the Hill”) among others.

The Philadelphia native tells HuffPost that recording her jazz debut came with a few reservations, as she was initially reluctant to make a foray into the genre because of her over 50-year career as an R&B/soul singer.

“I was very hesitant at first, because I’m not a jazz singer,” she said. “My ex-husband [Armstead Edwards], who’s also involved with the album coming to where it is now, we fought a lot about it. I said, ‘I don’t wanna do jazz, I don’t think I can do it well.’”

After additional convincing from Edwards, who serves as the project’s executive producer, LaBelle says that she began to tap into her early childhood memories of listening to jazz greats including Simone, Sinatra and James Moody.

“[Edwards] kept bothering me about singing this song and that song,” she recalled. “And then I got into the spirit and I started remembering some songs that I loved from back in the day and being much, much more involved than I thought I would be.”

“And now that it’s done I love this project. It took about a year and a half to do something with it and I’m happy about it now,” she continued. “I feel as though I have conquered my fears by doing it.”

Though the album marks LaBelle’s first jazz project, in 2014 the legendary songstress revisited the Jazz Age with her starring role in the Tony-nominated musical revue “After Midnight.” She credits her return to Broadway as inspiration for the album.

Despite her initial hesitancy, she encourages other artists who may be apprehensive to record across multiple genres to face their fears and take a chance.

“There is always room to overcome what you may think of as a challenge and to accept the gift that may be disguised as a challenge because at least you can say you tried,” she said. “I believe in myself even more now that I took a chance on this album.” 

Coincidentally, the release of “Bel Hommage” comes on the heels of the centennial birthday of the First Lady of Jazz, Ella Fitzgerald, whom LaBelle says she has always been fascinated by.

“Her smoothness. Her voice was like … listening to cotton,” she recalled. “She was such a smooth, wonderful singer. I was impressed by her.”

In promotion of the album, the “Lady Marmalade” singer says she has plans to tour the country with a jazz trio, performing her new collection of covers at “dark little clubs” in the vein of Harlem’s legendary Cotton Club.

“Bel Hommage” is the latest of LaBelle’s recent projects and events. Last month, she released her sixth book and fourth cookbook, Desserts LaBelle, and starred on the Cooking Channel show “Patti LaBelle’s Place.” She has a successful line of food products, Patti’s Good Lifewhich are carried at Walmart stores. And on June 1, she will be honored during the groundbreaking ceremony of the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Bel Hommage” hits stores and digital retailers on May 5.

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Alton Sterling's Family Sends Message To America: 'Remember His Name'

BATON ROUGE, La. ― After the Department of Justice announced it would not press charges against two white police officers who killed Alton Sterling, a 37-year-old black man, the victim’s family is still hoping for justice.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department officially announced charges would not come for Baton Rouge police officers Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake II a day after multiple media outlets reported the decision had been reached.

Sterling, a father of five, was gunned down in July 2016 as officers investigated reports of a man with a gun. Sterling, whose death was captured on video, was selling CDs in front of a convenience store when he was confronted by the police. 

Speaking under a highway overpass as rain pummeled the city Wednesday, members of Sterling’s family demanded justice.

“I’m just asking everybody that you just step forward so we can continue to get justice, because it can’t stop right here,” Quinyetta McMillan, the mother of Sterling’s 16-year-old son, Cameron, said at the news conference. “We deserve it, if nobody else, we deserve it.”

Despite the DOJ decision, there’s still hope for a legal remedy for Sterling’s family. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is considering whether to bring state charges.

“So, Jeff Landry, please open up your heart, your eyes, and give us the justice that we deserve,” McMillan said.

Sterling’s aunt, Sandra, cried as she spoke of her nephew.

“Alton was human,” Sandra Sterling said. “He’s no longer here, but his voice still will be heard through us. So stay behind us, because we love Alton. We don’t want this to end. Remember his name,” she said.

In an interview with WBRZ on Tuesday, Sandra Sterling said the decision not to file federal charges “hurts so bad.”

Sterling’s son Cameron will now have to help look after his extended family of 11 brothers and sisters without his father’s help.

“I have my brothers and sisters to look after,” Cameron said at the news conference Wednesday. “Eleven of them. I have to look after every last one of them because, guess what? I’m that next legacy. I’m here after my dad. My dad is now long gone, so now I’m here. I’m that legacy and I have to look after those kids.”

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Lawyer Seeks Release Of Teen Accused Of Killing Her Allegedly Abusive Dad

WARREN, Ohio ― A juvenile judge is considering whether to release Bresha Meadows from jail while she awaits trial later this month. A ruling is expected next Monday.

Bresha, a 15-year-old Ohio teen, is charged with aggravated murder in the death of her father, Jonathan Meadows. She has been incarcerated since her arrest last summer, 279 days ago. Her lawyer, Ian Friedman, maintains she acted in self-defense to protect her family from her father’s unrelenting violence. Jonathan’s family denies that he was abusive.

At a hearing on Wednesday morning here in Warren, just 60 miles southeast of Cleveland, Friedman asked Judge Pamela Rintala to release his client pending trial, arguing that she is not receiving adequate mental health care in the Trumbull County Juvenile Detention Center where she is jailed.

Bresha has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. Her mental condition is being “exacerbated by the continued lack of receiving treatment,” he said. “We have seen the worsening conditions.”

Bresha quietly sat at a table facing the judge with her hair in pigtails, taking notes on a yellow notepad. Once in a while, she stole a glance behind her at the crowd filling the courtroom ― many of whom were her family members and supporters.

Her case has become something of a cause célèbre, with criminal justice reform advocates pointing to her as an example of how black women and children are punished by the state for simply protecting themselves.

In 2011, Bresha’s mother, Brandi Meadows, filed a police report and protective order against her husband, telling authorities that she was afraid for her life.

“In the 17 years of our marriage he has cut me, broke my ribs, fingers, the blood vessels in my hand, my mouth, blackened my eyes. I believe my nose was broken,” she wrote. “If he finds us, I am 100 percent sure he will kill me and the children.”

Several people close to the family told HuffPost that they believe Bresha’s father may have sexually abused her.

A campaign in support of the teen has spread on social media, organized under the hashtag #FreeBresha. More than 28,000 people have signed a petition calling on prosecutors to drop charges. The family is also raising funds to help support the teen when she is finally free.

In February, Bresha underwent a 30-day mental health evaluation at an adolescent treatment facility in Cleveland, returning to jail afterward.

A report prepared by its staff indicated that she is being harmed by further detention, Friedman said, and recommended she receive therapy twice a week.

He asked Judge Rintala to release Bresha into the custody of her maternal aunt, Martina Latessa, who is a Cleveland police officer. Under the conditions of release he proposed, Bresha would be monitored using GPS tracking. Latessa’s home was identified as the best place for the teen because of its location. It is in Cleveland, an hour away from Warren, and is in proximity to mental health facilities where Bresha could be treated.  

“Why not help a child?” Friedman asked, adding that further detention “just doesn’t make any logical sense, except to be punitive.”

Assistant county prosecutor Stanley Elkins objected to Bresha’s release, arguing that she is already receiving adequate mental health care in the juvenile jail. He also said she could be a flight risk.

Her trial date is scheduled for May 22. She is charged with aggravated murder, and has pleaded “not true,” which is equivalent to a not-guilty plea. She is being tried as a juvenile, which means that even if she is convicted, she can only be imprisoned until her 21st birthday.

Bresha’s mother said she was disappointed the judge did not render a decision Wednesday.

“I just want her to get the treatment she needs,” she said. She added that she would be able to visit Bresha that night, and would reassure her not to worry too much. Court dates make Bresha nervous. More than anything, she said, Bresha wants to come home and return to her high school. She wants things to go back to normal. 

Latessa, Bresha’s aunt, said she hopes the judge will allow Bresha to come and live with her so that the healing process can begin.

“I would like to see her released to me so that we can continue her recovery, and get her calm and relaxed for her trial coming up,” she said.

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Melissa Jeltsen covers domestic violence and issues related to women’s health, safety and security. Tips? Feedback? Send an email or follow her on Twitter.

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Barack Obama Reportedly Proposed To Another Woman Before Michelle

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The couple that many Americans consider #relationshipgoals almost never was.

According to a new biography of Barack Obama titled “Rising Star,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer David J. Garrow, the 44th president of the United States asked another woman to marry him before Michelle — not once, but twice.

The book, which was reviewed by The Washington Post Tuesday, features details from an interview with Sheila Miyoshi Jager, an ex-girlfriend of Obama’s who is now a professor at Oberlin College.

Jager, who lived with Obama in Chicago while he was working as a community organizer in the 1980s, told Garrow that Obama proposed to her while they were visiting her parents in 1986. Jager turned him down because her mother felt she was too young for marriage. She was 23 at the time and Obama was 25.

The couple decided to remain together, and Jager told Garrow that shortly after Obama’s proposal, he began eyeing a run for mayor of Chicago, senate or even governor of Illinois, with his sights ultimately on the White House.

Garrow wrote that Obama believed he had a “calling,” and it was “coupled with a heightened awareness that to pursue it, he had to fully identify as African American,” the review quotes. Jager is of Dutch and Japanese descent and according to the book, this created a complication in their relationship.

Right before Obama left for Harvard Law School, he proposed to Jager a second time. She rejected his proposal because she was headed to Seoul for dissertation research. 

Jager explained to Garrow that she thought Obama’s second proposal stemmed “mostly, I think, out of a sense of desperation over our eventual parting and not in any real faith in our future.” 

A New York Times’ review of the book seemed to find Jager a dubious source, referring to her passages in Garrow’s book as “bitter musings.”

It’s also worth noting that Garrow interviewed Obama off-the-record for the book, and Obama read some of the manuscript. Garrow writes in the acknowledgments that the former president disagreed with “multiple characterizations and interpretations,” but that he’s thankful for Obama’s “appreciation of the scholarly seriousness with which I have pursued this project,” according to The Washington Post.

After his first year at Harvard, Obama met Michelle Robinson at a law firm where she worked and he was a summer associate. 

“I remember being struck by how tall and beautiful she was,” Obama wrote of their meeting on Oprah.com.

He asked Michelle out numerous times before she gave in. 

“On our first date, I treated her to the finest ice cream Baskin-Robbins had to offer, our dinner table doubling as the curb,” Obama wrote. “I kissed her, and it tasted like chocolate.”

The couple dated for two years before Obama proposed.

“We were at a restaurant having dinner to celebrate the fact that he had finished the bar,” Michelle told ABC News in 2008. “And that was supposedly the reason. And then the waiter came over with the dessert and a tray. And there was the ring. And I was completely shocked.”

The couple wed in October of 1992, and the rest is history.

Read a full account on The Washington Post.

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Ivanka Trump Says Her Stepmom Melania Trump Has A 'Heart Of Gold'

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Sources quoted in a recent Vanity Fair piece claimed that Ivanka Trump has a “frosty” relationship with Melania Trump ― but Ivanka has nothing but praise for her stepmom in her new book Women Who Work.

“Melania, you are an unbelievable mother with a heart of gold. You give generously of your time and attention and I appreciate your support and friendship,” the first daughter writes in the acknowledgements.

The shout-out follows a similarly complimentary message that Ivanka tweeted out to her 3.6 million followers on Melania’s birthday last week. 

“Happy Birthday to our First Lady (and my incredible step-mom!) Melania Trump. A wonderful example of kindness and grace for us all! @FLOTUS,” she wrote.

As for the first lady’s take on the relationship, in previous interviews, she’s described having an easy bond with her stepchildren: Donald Jr., 39; Ivanka, 35; Eric, 33, and Tiffany, 23.

“They are grown-up,” the 47-year-old told Harper’s Bazaar in 2016. “I don’t see myself as their mother. I am their friend, and I’m here when they need me.”

Since Donald Trump took office in January, Melania has taken a mostly hands-off approach to the role of first lady. She and their 11-year-old son Barron continue to live at Trump Tower in New York, though they reportedly plan to move into the White House this summer after Barron’s school year ends.

In an interview with HuffPost last month, Kate Andersen Brower, author of First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies, said that the Slovenian-born model brings a “1950s approach” to the office of the first lady. She also faces some unique challenges.

“She’s not from the U.S., and I do think that’s part of it. Growing up in this country, the first lady symbolically is a part of your life, and a part of American culture, and so I think people should give her some slack for that,” Brower said. “She didn’t grow up with that, and so in a way, it is a very foreign concept.” 

Ivanka, meanwhile, has served as an unpaid advisor to her father, regularly attending official meetings at the White House and even taking an office in the West Wing. She and husband Jared Kusher ― who is also among the president’s most trusted advisers ― have both faced criticism for not publicly pushing back on some of the president’s more controversial policies

In an interview with “CBS This Morning” in April, Ivanka said her work at the White House isn’t “about promoting [her] viewpoints.”

“I wasn’t elected by the American people to be president. My father is going to do a tremendous job. And I wanna help him do that. But I don’t think that it will make me a more effective advocate to constantly articulate every issue publicly where I disagree,” she said.

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Michelle Obama Says She And Barack Will Keep Fighting For What They Believe In

Michelle Obama isn’t letting anything stop her from fulfilling her commitment to girls’ education.

Just days after the Trump administration denied reports about ending the former first lady’s 2015 global education initiative “Let Girls Learn,” despite the fact that future funding is in question, Michelle is emphasizing her and former President Barack Obama’s dedication to the issue with their planned Obama Presidential Center.

“Excited by the potential of the Obama Pres. Center,” she tweeted on Wednesday. “Barack [and] I will continue to champion the issues close to our hearts, including girls ed[ucation].”

The Obamas traveled to Chicago on Wednesday to preview a design for the forthcoming center in Jackson Park on the south side of the city, the Chicago Tribune reports. Though this is not the former president’s first public appearance since leaving office, it will be Michelle’s first.

At midday, Barack is set to moderate a roundtable discussion on their vision for the Obama Presidential Center. According to the Barack Obama Foundation, the center will include a museum, a library (hosted by University of Chicago), offices and an event space. The center will reportedly cost at least $500 million, covered by fundraising, and is expected to open in 2021. 

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Baton Rouge Residents Demand DOJ ‘Wake Up' To What Justice Should Look Like

BATON ROUGE, La. ― By the time the sun had set in Baton Rogue on Tuesday, the Department of Justice still hadn’t delivered its official ruling against the officers involved in the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling last July.

However, news announcing that both of the officers had been acquitted began to rapidly spread after multiple media outlets ― including The Washington Post, The Associated Press and The New York Times ― were told the outcome from independent sources. The official decision is expected to be announced at a press conference in Florida on Wednesday. 

Baton Rouge residents, many of whom had swarmed the streets for days last summer in protest of Sterling’s death, had been bracing for the DOJ’s decision for months, hoping the officers would be held accountable for their actions. However, their expectations were measured considering the little, if any, faith many have in the ability of President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to see why an indictment would be warranted in this case. 

“When Trump appointed Sessions as the Justice Department head, we knew with his history that nothing was going to change and I think it’s a shame,” NAACP Baton Rouge Vice President Byron Sharper told HuffPost on Tuesday. “This country is at a point where we’re either going to make it or break it. Not just Baton Rouge, but the entire country. And we got a president ― wild and crazy ass Trump – who is not a good fit for anybody. I think a lot of people that voted for him are going to reap what they have sown.”

A vigil was held on Tuesday outside the Triple S store where Sterling was shot. Dozens of people gathered for a peaceful demonstration to grieve as well as express their anger over what they say is another gross act of injustice against black lives. Sterling’s aunt Veda Washington spoke before the crowd, in disbelief of how she found out about the news.

“Now we haven’t heard anything. The district attorney has not called us and told us anything. The lawyer called and said they have not made a decision. Ain’t that something?” she said. “But The Washington Post calls up here. Where’s my mayor, because she promised me she would let us know? Where’s the governor, because they promised my family that they would let us know?”

In fact, it was Arthur Reed, a well-admired local activist known as “Silky Slim,” who shared the news with Sterling’s aunt. She immediately “broke down crying,” he told HuffPost. “It was rough on her.”

“Justice Department? They don’t know what justice means. This is a slap in the face.
Sharon Bethley

Reed is also the founder of the group Stop the Killing, a community anti-violence nonprofit organization. As a former gang leader, Reed transformed his life and became a motivational speaker who has worked to fight back against violence, especially police killings of black people, and demands that Sessions “wake up” to the reality of racism within policing.

“I don’t think people are going to continue to allow themselves to continue to be victims of these individuals who have infiltrated law enforcement and are killing African Americans,” he told HuffPost. “You have individuals who grew up in the Ku Klux Klan, whose parents were in the Ku Klux Klan and now they’re Ku Klux Klan and if they infiltrate law enforcement, they become Ku Klux Klan with a license to kill.”

“So we have to be very real about what’s going on and look at these individuals who have infiltrated law enforcement and are carrying out these assassinations right before our eyes,” he continued. “This is a problem. Jeff Sessions has to wake up.”

Despite not receiving official word from the DOJ and having only reports from national outlets, Baton Rouge residents expressed familiar feelings of pain and anguish.

“Our officials should be ashamed of themselves. This is outrageous. They blew it,” Sharon Bethley, a 59-year-old resident, told HuffPost. “Justice Department? They don’t know what justice means. This is a slap in the face. It is. I think it’s vile because you don’t have to execute someone when they’re flat on their back. It’s senseless. It’s a senseless death.”

“I am tired of seeing black men killed at the hands of police and there never be any justice,” said Meghan Matt, another local resident. “I would hope Jeff Sessions would take his job seriously and protect the civil rights of all citizens. He’s been very vocal about protecting police, but he’s said a lot of things that are contradictory to our constitutional rights. His job is to protect all citizens and even if it’s uncomfortable for him, he needs to step up and do it the right way.”

Others said the outcome from the DOJ was to be expected, and that it is a cry for the desperate need for criminal justice reform in America.

“I’m not surprised,” Donney Rose, a local activist and teacher, told HuffPost. “Donald Trump ran on a platform of being a law and order candidate. Donald Trump believes in stop and frisk. Jeff Sessions believes in the police from an absolute perspective. It’s saddening and disheartening.”

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Black Americans Are Living Longer But Health Disparities Persist, CDC Says

African-Americans are generally living longer than in 2000, but health disparities mean they are still more likely to die at a younger age on average than whites, a federal study showed on Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study of data from 1999 to 2015 shows that younger black people in their 20s, 30s and 40s are living with, or dying from, diseases that are typically seen in older people.

“The disparity in deaths between the white and black populations is closing. Even so, critical disparities remain,” Leandris Liburd, associate director of CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, said in a conference call.

The death rate, which is usually calculated as deaths per 1,000 people per year, fell 25 percent for African-Americans during the 17-year period, mostly for those aged 65 and older, the CDC said.

In 2014, life expectancy was 75.6 years for blacks and 79 years for whites, which was an increase since 2000 of 3.8 years for blacks and 1.7 years for whites, the CDC said.

However, the study also said “blacks have the highest death rate and shorter survival rate for all cancers combined compared with whites in the United States.”

In addition, death rates from heart disease, cancer, diabetes mellitus and homicide have been increasing at earlier ages among blacks than among whites, the CDC study said.

“Blacks were more likely to be obese, to have no leisure time physical activity and less likely to have a normal body weight in all age groups compared with whites,” according to the study.

Timothy Cunningham, a CDC epidemiologist and the study’s lead author, said on the conference call: “Across all age groups, homicide among blacks has two-and-a-half times the death rate as HIV and three-and-a-half times the death rate as suicide.”

The death rate for homicide among blacks has remained unchanged from 1999 to 2015, the study showed.

Deaths from HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, among blacks aged 18 to 49 dropped 80 percent over the period of the study. But blacks in the United States still remain seven to nine times more likely to die from HIV than whites, the study said.

The CDC based its report on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Vital Statistics System and its own Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.

(Reporting by David Beasley; editing by Ian Simpson, G Crosse)

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How Packaging Whitney Houston For White Audiences Contributed To Her Downfall

Five years after Whitney Houston’s untimely death, two new documentaries have evaluated her role as a black pop star packaged for white audiences. Coupled, they present conflicting perspectives on an artist whose personal trials eclipsed her professional triumphs.

One, “Whitney: Can I Be Me,” centers on Houston herself, who experienced a meteoric rise to fame at the untaught age of 22. The other, “Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives,” intersperses the singer’s biography throughout its hagiographic account of the titular record executive’s career. Both premiered at the recently wrapped Tribeca Film Festival, where it was jarring to see the documentaries’ clashing viewpoints within days of each other. 

Whereas “Whitney: Can I Be Me” is critical of the way industry moguls engineered Houston’s image, “Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives” presents a fawning portrait of its subject as the foreman of Houston’s success. 

“Can I Be Me” touts Houston as the first black woman to debut atop the pop charts. Read critically, that’s a euphemism for the effort by Davis and his Arista Records team to make her palatable for white America. As the documentary tells it, Arista didn’t want a female James Brown. The label aimed to bury the New Jersey native’s “hood” upbringing and make her “classy,” according to members of the singer’s entourage. She was a pop princess.

Davis gave her songs like “Greatest Love of All,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)” and “How Will I Know” ― polite bangers that targeted mainstream Top 40 over the less lucrative R&B market. Even though Houston’s hits saw significant airtime on R&B radio, her manicured image angered a portion of the black community, as evidenced by the 1989 Soul Train Awards crowd booing Houston during the presentation of Best R&B/Urban Contemporary Single.

“You’re not black enough for them,” the seven-time Grammy winner later said in an interview, recounting her detractors’ complaints. “You’re not R&B enough. You’re very pop. The white audience has taken you away from them.” 

Across her first two albums, Arista apparently vetoed anything too “black-sounding.” The Soul Train Awards episode became a turning point for Houston, who decided she wanted her next record to be edgier. “That moment was devastating,” saxophonist and collaborator Kirk Whalum says in the film. “I don’t think she ever recovered. When the boxes are ticked on why she perished, that was a big one.”

In “Soundtrack of Our Lives,” Davis, who signed Houston when she was 19, purports to have encouraged the transition she sought. Davis claims an integral role in her rebranding, recognizing that hip-hop was infiltrating music in the early ‘90s. For his part, Davis was hip to the trend, acquiring Babyface and L.A. Reid’s LaFace Records (which housed TLC, Usher and Goodie Mob) in 1989 and Puff Daddy’s Bad Boys Records (Notorious B.I.G., Mase, Faith Evans) in 1993.

But “Can I Be Me” doesn’t make it sound so seamless: Whalum says Houston’s tactic was to avoid making “another Clive Davis record” chasing white acceptance. It was almost an act of rebellion.

When HuffPost sat down with “Can I Be Me” co-director Nick Broomfield on the morning of the movie’s Tribeca premiere, he maintained that Houston’s 1990 album, “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” wasn’t the direction Davis wanted. (Davis was interviewed for “Can I Be Me” but wouldn’t sign the accompanying release form. He declined our interview request.)

At the time, because record labels were segregated, black artists “crossing over” to the pop charts required strategy. Arista brought in Doug Daniels, whose title was “VP of black music,” to help Houston appeal to non-white audiences. The singer’s associates stress she was clueless as to how much the label manipulated her image in the early days of her career.

The notion of crossover artists was like crossing the color barrier,” Broomfield said. “It was an enormous thing. She was very carefully manufactured to make this transition.”

The title track on “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” while still tame, had a certain bite to it, and the music video featured a leather-jacket-clad Houston riding a motorcycle. Ostensibly proving Davis’ point that so-called urban records didn’t sell as well, “Tonight” failed to match the success of Houston’s first two albums. Despite producing two major pop hits (”I’m Your Baby Tonight” and “All the Man That I Need”), it peaked at No. 3, unable to knock Vanilla Ice’s debut from the top spot. Houston didn’t release another studio album for eight years, instead focusing on a movie career.

It’s possible there’s truth to Davis’ summation in “Soundtrack of Our Lives” and the Houston camp’s perspectives in “Can I Be Me.” Record labels are gigantic entities, and they often wield heavy hands over artists’ images. And anyway, Davis has admitted he didn’t do enough to court black audiences: “Frankly, I was color-blind, and perhaps a little naïve in that I didn’t try to find pure R&B songs that only black-oriented stations could claim for their own,” he wrote in his 2013 autobiography, which serves as the documentary’s source material. Houston was Davis’ signature artist, and the two remained fiercely loyal. The night of Houston’s drug-related drowning, she was scheduled to attend Davis’ annual pre-Grammy bash

We’ll never know precisely how much Arista’s supervision affected Houston. Regardless, “Can I Be Me” and “Soundtrack of Our Lives” encapsulate the complicated roles pop stars play in our lives ― or, more specifically, the roles record conglomerates play in how we consume pop stars’ lives. Houston was signed at an impressionable age, only to have her career dictated by older, white, male millionaires. While Houston’s upbringing has roots in drugs and domestic violence, it’s now clear that the manipulation of her racial identity contributed to her waning self-esteem. 

“From just talking to some of those executives at Arista who were involved in that creation, you realize that she was very manufactured, and she paid a massive price for it,” Broomfield said. “They were slightly guilty. I think she was so young. She looked like a young doe. She had no idea what she was in for.”

Whitney: Can I Be Me” airs on Showtime in August. Apple Music acquired the rights to “Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives,” but no release date has been set.

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Source: HuffPost Black Voices

'Dear Black People' Is The Perfect Show For 'Dear White People' Critics

Since Netflix released the trailer for Justin Simien’s “Dear White People,” mainly white social media users have criticized it as anti-white.

Folks tweeted that the show, which premiered on Friday, represents a double standard in how America discusses race. 

“Can you imagine the outrage if there was a show called ‘Dear Black People’,” Twitter user Brandon Groeny asked. “Cities would burn. This anti-white rhetoric needs to stop.”

Others echoed Groeny’s sentiment, ignoring the overwhelmingly white landscape of mainstream television. 

On Sunday, following the 10-episode series’ Friday release, Reginald McGee, a 21-year-old black man, saw one person’s complaint and imagined what “Dear Black People” would be like if it was a real show on Sunday. 

“Dear Black People… I’m sorry for our history of oppression and genocide,” he shared with a screenshot of a tweet from a critic of the show.

McGee told BuzzFeed News that his tweet was intended to help the Twitter user understand the role racism plays in this country and calling the show a “double standard” is an ahistorical cop-out. 

“The media has always been ‘Dear Black People,’” he said. “’Dear black people, speak correct English,’ ‘dear black people, stop being thugs and go to school,’ ‘dear black people get off government assistance and get a job.’”

He added that those who believe that there’s a double standard need to watch the series, which has a 100 percent on Rotten Tomatoes as of Wednesday morning. He also noted that the show actually does include a introspective lens into black people’s intraracial issues 

McGee’s tweet, which has been retweeted more than 30,000 times, prompted other users to follow suit in imagining what “Dear Black People” would be like. 

Largely thanks to this effort, “Dear Black People” began trending shortly after.

Yet again, “Dear White People” is getting the last laugh.

— This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Source: HuffPost Black Voices