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Celebrities who changed their names
June 6th, 2013
08:56 AM ET

Adios Charlie Sheen, hello Carlos Estevez

By Cindy Y. Rodriguez, CNN

(CNN) - Are the days of Latinos in entertainment changing their given names to appeal to a broader audience long gone?

That's what it looks like now that former "Two and a Half Men" star Charlie Sheen has dropped his stage name for birth name Carlos Estevez for Robert Rodriguez's Latino-centric new action film "Machete Kills."

The film is second in a series after the 2010 film "Machete" starring Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba and Michelle Rodriguez. In "Machete Kills," Trejo returns as ex-Federal agent Machete, recruited by the president of the United States, played by Charlie Sheen, asked to go on a mission to take down a madman revolutionary and eccentric billionaire arms dealer, played by Mel Gibson, who has come up with a plan to spread war across the world.

This second installment will star Sofía Vergara, Demián Bichir, Antonio Banderas, Zoe Saldaña, Edward James Olmos, Vanessa Hudgens, Cuba Gooding Jr., Alexa Vega, and Lady Gaga.

According to Sheen's representative, it was his idea to use his birth name for the film. However, there's no confirmation on what spurred the decision or whether Sheen will stick to Estevez from now on.
Some call the change ironic in light of comments last year by Sheen about his heritage. "I don't wake up feeling Latino. I'm a white guy in America, I was born in New York and grew up in Malibu," he said in a 2012 interview with Univision.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Ethnicity • History • Latino in America • Pop culture • Who we are
'Star Trek's' Zoe Saldana on racism: 'I’m not going to talk about it'
May 17th, 2013
06:31 PM ET

'Star Trek's' Zoe Saldana on racism: 'I’m not going to talk about it'

(CNN) - Zoe Saldana is one of Hollywood's leading actresses, and she's making headlines as Uhura in "Star Trek Into Darkness." She crossed barriers as the lead in "Avatar," the highest grossing movie of all time. But how does being a woman of color impact her career choices and options? The actress, who is of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent,  spoke about it in an interview with Ebony magazine's Kelley L. Carter:

EBONY: Speaking of color, it doesn’t seem to limit you. And it almost appears seamless. Is that true? Or have there been bumps along the way because you’re a woman of color?

Zoe Saldana: Nothing in life is just one layer. It’s one-layered (but) it’s multifaceted, and there are various factors that take place into making a decision or something happening. So the one thing I will say is, what has not changed is what I feel and think of myself and how I interact with the world, how I handle myself. I feel like I’m very confident. I’m going to have my moments of weakness, but I like who I am and I don’t want to be anybody else. I don’t want anybody to tell me to change when I don’t want to change.

So that’s just who I am. And when I approach something—whether I’m fighting for a role or I’m being offered a role—I’m not thinking whether or not anybody is doing me a favor or if I’m doing somebody else a favor. I’m just thinking, as an artist and as a woman, “is this something that best represents the craft that I want to be known for?” Or is this an accurate representation of what a woman is supposed to be?

And do I like this story? Do I like this director? Do I think the studio is going to manage and sell it properly. That’s where my head is at. I’m not thinking, “Oh, I’m a woman of color, are they gonna want me?” I don’t give too much energy to that, because my time is very valuable, and something that exists to others is not going to exist in my world. That’s how I think I get by, by not giving it any validation by wasting more time investing into thinking about it. FULL POST

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Filed under: Ethnicity • Pop culture • Race • Who we are
May 3rd, 2013
08:42 AM ET

Opinion: What's racist about a talking goat?

Editor's note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs.

By LZ Granderson, CNN Contributor

(CNN) - I went online this morning to see the Mountain Dew ad - the one some are calling the most racist in history - expecting to see some really offensive stuff. Instead, I saw some really silly stuff.

The goat's funny.

The names of some of the black men in the lineup are hilarious.

The premise: ridiculous.

And I would think that's the point of a commercial with a talking goat. It's meant to be ridiculous and not taken seriously. It's comedy of the absurd, along the lines of Del Shores' "Sordid Lives," Jerry Seinfeld's parents on "Seinfeld" or "Dude, Where's My Car?"

Does it play on stereotypical imagery?

Yes, and because of that, I can see how some could be a bit put off by a police lineup featuring all black men before a frightened white woman. But come on, one of the suspects' names is "Beyonte."

The circumstances surrounding the scene in the commercial are so outrageously over the top, I found myself snickering more than anything. Similar to the way I snickered during a skit featuring Dave Chappelle, who was making fun of racism with the creation of his character Clayton Bigsby, a blind white supremacist in the South.

And he's black.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Pop culture • Race • What we think
We'd watch these ladies on late night
April 10th, 2013
01:54 PM ET

Once more, with feeling: Where are the women in late-night TV?

By Breeanna Hare, CNN

(CNN) - With Jimmy Fallon's takeover of "The Tonight Show" destined for 2014, there's the tiniest glimmer of hope that NBC will do something different with the vacated seat on "Late Night."

For once, maybe we'll see something fresh, something other than the established white-guy-in-a-suit-sitting-behind-the-desk tradition that's held on since the show debuted in 1982.

Longtime TV critic Ken Tucker indulged in the wishful thinking, asking on Grantland if he "may really spit in the wind and suggest that maybe, finally, for the love of God and Totie Fields, maybe it's time (once again) to give a woman a chance behind the desk?" Rather than traditional stand-up comics, Tucker hoped to see Paget Brewster, Julie Klausner, or, hope against hope, Amy Poehler, even.

But none of those women was among those named in the gossip surrounding the proceedings - and the one woman who was, ever so tentatively, mentioned by the New York Post's Page Six, Tina Fey, was said to be "too busy" for the nightly grind.

That left Seth Meyers - Fey, Poehler and Fallon's "Saturday Night Live" co-star - carrying the bulk of the speculation that he'd move to "Late Night," along with rumors that Alec Baldwin might be in talks to join the post-prime-time lineup. It's thereby signaled another round of the now time-honored question, "Where the (bleep) are the ladies in late night?"

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Filed under: Gender • How we live • Pop culture • Women
March 1st, 2013
11:00 AM ET

Magazine sorry for model in blackface

(CNN) -- A French magazine apologizes for using a white model in black face for an editorial called "African Queen."


Filed under: Black in America • History • How we look • Pop culture • Race
February 28th, 2013
09:58 PM ET

What the "Harlem shake" has to do with Harlem

By Raelyn Johnson and Alicia W. Stewart, CNN

(CNN) - It begins rather innocently.

An infectious track, a conservative, solo dancer and a few oblivious observers.

A mere fifteen seconds of pelvic thrusts, then, a roar of a lion, a drop of a beat...

Then, everyone goes CRAZY.

The “Harlem Shake” is the No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 for the second week in a row, a top 10 iTunes download and the meme of the moment. Millions are watching variations on the “Harlem Shake” video theme in which the dance starts with one person thrusting their pelvis or dancing solo for 15 seconds, while the people in the background ignore them. Then when the beat drops, a group joins in bizarre, repetitive movements. The whole dance lasts around 30 seconds.

While this latest trend is built around the “Harlem Shake", it has scant ties with the New York neighborhood, and very little in common with the original dance that shares its name.

So just how did the phenomenon begin? It starts with a dancer in Harlem, a producer from Philadelphia and ends with you.

FULL POST

Opinion: 'In Memoriam' Oscar snub of Lupe Ontiveros reflects limited roles for Latinos
February 25th, 2013
06:10 PM ET

Opinion: 'In Memoriam' Oscar snub of Lupe Ontiveros reflects limited roles for Latinos

Editor's Note: Alberto Ferreras is a New York City based writer and filmmaker, who created the "Habla" documentary series for HBO Latino, and co-creator of "El Perro y El Gato" for HBO Family. He is also the author of  “B as in Beauty” .

By Alberto Ferreras, Special to CNN

(CNN) –When I interviewed Lupe Ontiveros in 2009 for the HBO Latino special "Celebrity Habla", she told me: "You gotta have a lot of chutzpah, cojones, huevos, capisce? Specially a woman middle age like myself,  4-foot-11, and a Latina ... And all I can sell you is ... raw ... survivor ... talent."

Lupe represented a whole generation of talented Hispanic actors who had been denied the chance to play anything but maids, thugs and drug dealers.

According to Lupe, she had played a maid more than 150 times.

But at the time of our interview she was tired of complaining: She had a juicy part in "Desperate Housewives" and  preferred to talk about the roles that she was planning to do "now that things are starting to change".

Stars left out of 'In Memoriam' Oscar tribute

I am tired of complaining, too. Tired of explaining why it's so important for Latinos to see ourselves on the screen, that movies give us the chance to see ourselves as lawyers, doctors, and heroes.

That every time Latinos are acknowledged for their contribution in the media, it makes a huge impact on the dreams and aspirations of the largest minority in the country.

So while I was deeply moved to see Lupe featured in the in memoriam montage of the Screen Actors Guild Awards,  I don't understand why she wasn't included in the Oscars tribute on television. FULL POST

At 75, Judy Blume draws crowds with first film adaptation
Judy Blume worked with son Lawrence Blume, right, and husband George Cooper to bring Tiger Eyes to the big screen.
February 19th, 2013
05:27 PM ET

At 75, Judy Blume draws crowds with first film adaptation

By Emanuella Grinberg, CNN

Alpharetta, Georgia (CNN) - Before we had "16 and Pregnant," push-up bras for tweens or mandatory sex education, girls like Donna Liska-Johnson learned about the birds and the bees from author Judy Blume.

Liska-Johnson was 11 years old when her aunt gave her a copy of Blume's breakthrough novel, "Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret." She formed an instant bond with 12-year-old Margaret Simon who, like her, was embarking upon puberty at a time when people didn't talk openly about boys, bras and periods. She had finally found someone she could relate to.

"I would close my door and the world would fall away," she said. Blume's first-person narrative "always connected me with the character because she wrote so close to the heart."

Believe it or not, it's been nearly 43 years since "Are You There God?" jump-started Blume's prolific career, which changed the way a generation of readers learned about menstruation, masturbation and sex, among other growing pains. Though she's had her critics over the years, Blume, who turned 75 last week, can still draw a crowd in this latest chapter of her career, which includes a forthcoming novel and the first major motion picture adaptation of one of her novels - and it's not "Are You There God?"

"Tiger Eyes" may not be Blume's most popular book, but it's the one she and son Lawrence Blume (the inspiration for Fudge) had always wanted to bring to the big screen. Both said they felt a strong connection to lead character Davey Wexler, a teen whose mother uproots her from New Jersey to visit relatives in New Mexico after her father is killed in an armed robbery. Plus, it was the only novel they could film in 23 days on a budget that only allowed them to cast three professional actors from outside New Mexico, said Lawrence Blume, who directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay with his mother.

FULL STORY
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Filed under: Age • How we live • Pop culture • Relationships • Who we are
Opinion: Django, in chains
The character played by Jamie Foxx, right, in "Django Unchained" is subordinated to that of Christoph Waltz, Jesse Williams says.
February 19th, 2013
11:33 AM ET

Opinion: Django, in chains

Editor's note: Jesse Williams is an actor/producer who plays Dr. Jackson Avery on the TV series "Grey's Anatomy." He is a Temple University graduate and former public high school teacher. Williams founded the production company, farWord Inc. and is an executive producer of "Question Bridge: Black Males." Follow him on Twitter and Tumblr. Note: This article contains offensive language.

By Jesse Williams, Special to CNN

(CNN) - Films such as "Django Unchained" carry with them an uncommonly high concentration of influence and opportunity. Due to the scarcity of diverse and inspiring representations on screen, Quentin Tarantino's latest movie casts a longer shadow than many are willing to acknowledge.

In a recent interview with UK Channel 4, Tarantino stated his goals and interpretation of the Oscar-nominated film's impact: "I've always wanted to explore slavery ... to give black American males a hero ... and revenge. ... I am responsible for people talking about slavery in America in a way they have not in 30 years."

He went on, "Violence on slaves hasn't been dealt with to the extent that I've dealt with it."

My personal biracial experience growing up on both sides of segregated hoods, suburbs and backcountry taught me a lot about the coded language and arithmetic of racism. I was often invisible when topics of race arose, the racial adoptee that you spoke honestly in front of.

I grew up hearing the candid dirt from both sides, and I studied it. The conversation was almost always influenced by something people read or saw on a screen. Media portrayals greatly affect, if not entirely construct, how we interpret "otherness." People see what they are shown, and little else.

Read Jesse Williams' full column
Opinion: Where are the female and minority farmers?
February 8th, 2013
12:06 PM ET

Opinion: Where are the female and minority farmers?

Editor's note: Diana Prichard lives and works at the intersection of the alternative food movement and the reality of modern agriculture and believes that a finer-tuned food future is possible without all the in-fighting. She operates a small, niche pork operation; running a few hundred hogs per year in the heart of Michigan's farm country. You can follow her story at RighteousBacon.comTwitter and Facebook.

By Diana Prichard, Special to CNN

(CNN) - I’ll never forget my first agriculture conference. I carefully selected the sessions I wanted to attend and made sure I arrived at the one and only panel dedicated to women in ag early. I picked a seat, pulled my favorite pen and a trusty notebook out of my bag and got ready for what I assumed would be an education-filled hour.

And I suppose, in hindsight, what followed was an education – just not in the way I’d expected.

I will never get back the sixty minutes of my life I spent in that room and all I have to show for it is the knowledge of how a couple dozen women met their husbands. Or, as they were lovingly referred to that day, “their farmers.” I suppose I could have shared a video of my own birth to shake things up a bit. That is, after all, when I met myself, but at the time all I could muster was stunned silence.

The sexism wasn’t new, of course. It was sitting in a room full of other women that I had wrongly assumed would understand it that caught me by surprise.

Read the full post on CNN's Eatocracy blog
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