Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - NajaHill-portfolio-EMAIL-01292015-SMALL
H A P P Y N O W Y O U !
mind, body & soul
KeKe palmer and
Rochelle Aytes on season two of Mistresses, success
and staying grounded
elevision used to be sacred ground that rarely included
strong character based African American actresses, but
the climate for seeing women of color on TV is changing.
Keri Washington is no longer the only starlet representing
the immense female African American talent pool making
breakthroughs in a competitive business. On the cusp of Mistresses
season two, Rochelle Aytes, makes her mark and presence undoubtedly
The strikingly beautiful actress plays the only character on the show
that is not a mistress. Her character, April, a widow and single mother,
discovers her deceased husband had a secret child with his mistress.
Aytes was attracted to the role because of April’s strength and multi-
Strength is an attribute that I immediately sensed Atyes has a profound
understanding of. When asked why she thinks she is successful in a
very competitive business, she notes with certainty that hard work,
determination, and a thick-skin, combined with a pure calling to be a
performer have been the ingredients that have propelled her success.
brother’s comedy, White Chicks. “That was the beginning because I had
never done anything before that except one scene in Sex and the City and
a bunch of commercials,” she humbly notes, “then I shot right up to a 30
million dollar budget movie.” She goes on to describe her surprise that
she beat out many actresses she had watched on television for years. It
was in this unexpected moment of victory that a light went on revealing
the possibility that even she, who constantly second guesses her abilities,
must have that special something.
Tyler Perry also caught on to Aytes special something when he cast her
opposite Blair Underwood as a battered wife in Madea’s Family Reunion.
She then went on to play Pebbles in Crazy Sexy Cool: The TLC Story.
Aytes described the pressure she felt in playing Pebbles. “I absolutely felt
more pressure because I was playing a real person. I wanted it to be as
honest as possible. I watched lots of interviews with Pebbles and studied
her behavior and mannerisms.”
As we continued to speak, I realized how extremely hard Aytes had
worked to consistently book roles. With the constant pressures of
being in the entertainment industry, I asked her how she maintains
her spiritual and emotional health. God and prayer have been a very
instrumental part of Atyes life. She lowered her voice as she discussed
her realization that life is bigger then her and how she stays humble.
“I make sure to stay grateful and thankful for what I have. I am always
appreciative of what I have because it could be taken away at any
As Aytes described her humble beginnings in more detail I began to
understand where the grace she carries comes from. Besides giving
gratitude, she purposefully stays connected to her humble Harlem roots.
“I go home often and spend time with friends I grew up with, people
that know exactly who I am. I stay at my parents simple two bedroom
apartment and take the train.” She notes that in Los Angeles it can be
easy to get caught up in the glamour of it all but that making a point to
be, “…”regular” helps keep her grounded”.
I delve deeper with Aytes on her career experiences inquiring if being an
African- American actress has its restrictions in the roles available to her.
After a long sigh she admits it is a bit more limiting. Though, she adds,
she has been the lucky one to often play the one black role on a white
show. In spite of these challenges, she feels TV is expanding and giving
black actresses more of an opportunity to showcase their talent.
As the sunset and our interview winds down, I ask Aytes what is next
for someone with such a successful career and if she has any one special
a serious commitment. She lights up as she expresses her hopes for a
the conclusion the Rochelle Aytes is more than a graceful beauty, she
By Naja Hill, For more entertainment updates follow Naja on Twitter@
Rochelle’s Beauty Secret Box
Hair: Wen Hair Care by Chaz Dean.
Secret weapon: Applying coconut or olive oil on the ends of
her hair to prevent splitting.
Skin: Natural face serum called Face 4 Humanity
Body: Bath Bar lotions and body scrubs; a product you can
create your own scent with oils of your choice.
Favorites Side Box
Favorite Color: Red
Favorite Food: Pasta
Favorite Hangout: The Grove outdoor shopping mall in La
: A man’s eyes
MY FAVORITE THINGS
lonGon love, the Best
man holIday, And
the one thing every
mother needs to
The Pink issue BreAst cAncer AwAreness
mind, Body & soul thAnksgiving
drops some wisdom
takes a stand
the mAgic of
BIG lezshAres some post
hen The Best Man first debuted in 1999, it was a pioneering film
that portrayed a group of successful, upper-middle class African
Americans. During this time there were few films that show-
cased well-to-do, thriving, educated black characters.
The highly celebrated film told a story of black people whose experiences were
not defined by their race; instead their stories were defined by a universal famil-
iarity that we all could identify with. Many grew to love these refreshing charac-
ters and the film became known as a classic.
Director Malcolm D. Lee waited fifteen long years before he decided to do the
sequel, The Best Man Holiday, debuting on November 15th. He brought back all
of the original cast, and then spiced things up, introducing new characters like
Eddie Cibrian (Good Deeds).
“The first movie was inspired by The Big Chill, in that it was a reunion of college
friends,” says Malcolm. “For the sequel, instead of a group of people coming
together for a wedding, they are coming together for a funeral.”
The film revisits these rich characters played by Morris Chestnut, Taye Diggs, Re-
gina Hall, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long, Harold Perrineau, Monica
Calhoun and Melissa De Sousa. Audiences see how they have evolved through
marriages, divorces, children, and career ups and downs. Centered around the
themes of love, laughter and loss, the group plays out life’s tribulations relying on
friendship and faith. Faith, an ongoing theme in the storyline, played a personal
part in this incredible reunion for Diggs and Lathan.
FAITH FINDS A
WAY TO SHINE
ON AND OFF
“THE BEST MAN
By: Naja Hill
Lathan comments that she was moved by the fact that she and the eight other Af-
rican American actors, were able to reunite fifteen years later, all still going strong
in their acting careers. “The fact we were able to get each of us together,” says
Lathan, “is a testament to some kind of faith in all of us in pursuing this career
and living life. It was a blessing to have all of these characters lives represented
again; for these stories to be told once more for us as a community, especially
when we don’t usually see African American characters depicted so well and in
such a variety of ways on film.”
Diggs commented that he considers himself to be a spiritual man. He uses his
faith to keep himself emotionally and mentally healthy in a difficult business.
“There is so much pressure and negative energy around this holy art form that it
can distract you from what you are actually supposed to do. There will always be
people saying you shouldn’t do this or that, but I choose to just put that behind
me and be in the moment.“
Lee noted that though he revamped a film engulfed in the ideas of spirituality,
he purposely chose not to do so in an obvious way. “I incorporated faith without
pushing for any kind of message, or doing so in an in your face type of way. ”
We asked the beautiful, Melissa De Sousa of The Best Man Holiday, how she
keeps her mind, body and soul thriving:
Mind: Silent meditation in the mornings. I also listen to Joel Osteen and T.D.
Jakes for inspiration. I am not perfect, so whenever I feel overwhelmed, I look to
meditation and the bible to block out the noise and get centered.
Body: I love salsa and dance. I used to dance for Alvin Ailey, so I have a back-
ground in movement. I do Pilates and cardio at the gym as well.
Soul: I have seen the power of prayer at work! I lost my father three years ago. It
was the hardest time in my life. I found myself so close to God during that time. As I look back, I feel grateful for the experience.
By Naja Hill
I remember the first time I saw Taraji P.
Henson in “Baby Boy” directed by John
Singleton. I wouldn’t have guested that
thirteen years later I would be sitting down to
chat with the multi-talent actress. Her energy
and enthusiasm immediately caught my
attention and I sensed she was very down too
earth and knew how to have a good time. Her
personality was honest, free and inviting. She
also had a beyond adorable, infectious giggle,
that would spontaneously burst out.
Henson found a way to break out of the
stereotypical or type casted roles many
actresses are faced with. She even managed
to work her way up the Hollywood ladder to
be considered an A list actress with an Oscar
nomination for her role in “The Curious Case
of Benjamin Button,” opposite mega star
In her latest endeavor, hitting theaters this
Friday April 25th, Henson plays Catana
Starks in, “From the Rough.” Based on a
true story, Henson portrays how Starks, an
everyday woman, overcomes the unthinkable
and manages to become the first female
and African American woman to coach a
men’s college golf team. “Dr. Catana Starks
was a regular women, she wasn’t a celebrity,
she wasn’t a movie star, she just believed in
something and did it,” Henson said.
Henson teamed up with the late Michael
Clarke Duncan and Tom Felton as she depicts
the strong minded and resilient Starks.
Henson lowered her voice in remembrance as
she spoke of Duncan, “…it was such a joy to
work with Michael. We formed a little family
and Michael was part of our family, so when
he died it felt like we lost a family member.
The character he plays in the film will steal
Seeing the role as an opportunity to showcase
a positive image to young girls, Henson was
immediately compelled to play the part. She
was also enthusiastic about playing the role of
a female coach, a character that is rarely seen
Henson was able to meet with Starks and
described her respect and astonishment for
her record-breaking championship wins.
Starks told Henson not to worry about
walking and talking like her in the movie but
that she had faith in Henson to tell her story
the way it should be told.
Henson however, felt that the film was not
about her, “this project is beyond me. It
has nothing to do with me, I was just an
instrument in helping to get this amazing
story out,” she notes.
As we discussed Starks perseverance, I asked
Henson how she found strength in her own
life, “I believe in something more then human.
I believe in God. I also believe in myself. I
believe in hard work. Any successful person
will tell you that you have to work hard and
believe in yourself, even when everyone else is
laughing at you. It takes that kind of tenacity,”
she said with conviction, “and that is what I
do. There is no secret formula, anyone can do
the same thing.”
In addition to her belief in God, Henson also
feeds her spirit by mediating and finding quiet
time so she can take inventory of her own
As we further discuss Henson’s career and the
many characters she has played, I asked her
what excites her about acting. The arts are very
powerful for Henson because it is the vehicle
that helped her move forward in life. “ I grew
up in the hood,” Henson admits, ”and the arts
saved my life and got me out of the hood. It is
a big part of my life. It has made me who I am
and the woman I am. I know how powerful
that is, because through this gift God gave me,
I can touch other people. I can change a life,
like how the arts did for me.”
The longer we spoke, I could see that Henson
was a woman who not only aspires to help
others but also has a strong character not
afraid to push the envelope. She doesn’t
shy away from playing characters that may
be considered by some unworthy of being
portrayed. “A lot of times I play characters that
other people would judge. People may ask why
is she playing that pregnant ho, or the baby
mama. The reason I play them is because they
exist also and they need a voice. They need
to see their story too. They may come to the
theater and say oh my god, that is me and I
need to change.”
Just like Starks has changed the course of
many lives, I get the sense that Henson is
doing just that.
By Naja Hill; For more entertainment news
follow me on Twitter @najahill.
For additional video clips visit the official web
Kimberly Elise, best known for her roles in
“Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” “John Q,”
“For Colored Girls,” and “Hit the Floor”
stars in cable channel UP’s original movie
“Apple Mortgage Cake.” Based on the true
story Elise plays Angela Taylor, a single
working mom faced with losing her home.
I sat down with the kind and thoughtful
actress to discuss the film and her personal
Tell me what Apple Mortgage Cake is
about and why you wanted to be in the
Apple Mortgage Cake is about a women
who was faced with foreclosure on her
house and got the idea to bake 100 cakes
and sell them for $40 a cake to raise
enough money to pay her mortgage. The
press catches wind of it and it becomes a
phenomenon. You have to see the movie to
see what goes on after that.
What drew you to want to play Angela
I read the script and thought it was so
inspiring and uplifting. It was so relevant
to the financial crisis many people in our
country have faced. I thought it offered a
ray of hope and inspiration so I wanted to
be apart of that.
Did you meet Angela Logan?
Yes, Angela is actually an actress so she had
a small part in the film. She was on set for
a portion of filming so I got to spend a lot
of time with her. We also had some scenes
together. It was great!
What was your interaction with her in
regards to you preparing your role to play
It was great because I got to hear her story
in her own words and connect with her
emotionally. As an actress I was able to
hear her voice and see her mannerisms,
which I was able to incorporate into the
character when I played her.
Was is strange or nerve racking to play a
real person who was literally right there
with you on set in real time?
It was interesting, but I always felt very
supported by her. She was very happy I was
playing her, which was comforting. Beyond
that, on set, it was just us working actress
to actress. She was really focused on her
part and what she was doing. It was a really
Who does she play in the film?
Ironically she plays a person that I reach
out to for help at a shelter my character
This film is about perseverance and
drawing strength; how do you draw
strength in your personal life when you
are faced with adversities?
I have a lot of inner strength but I also
reach out to my loved ones for support.
You have to realize that people are there
and that we are all in this together.
Especially being a single mom, I can’t do it
all. I am not a super woman so I depend on
those around me that love and support me
to help me get through things.
How do you maintain yourself
emotionally, mentally and spiritually?
I do yoga and exercise regularly. It is
important to do regular exercise. Also
"Apple Mortgage Cake"
it’s important to get out in nature, and do
things like hiking or bike riding. I also have
three animals in my house who are very
grounding and serene. The love you get
from animals is astounding and their needs
are so simple. Laughter is really important,
my children and I laugh a lot. Journaling
is equally important. Also having people
you can talk to as well as finding quiet time,
meditating. To stay centered you need to
take time to be still so you can hear your
inner voice. I use all of these things in my
You mentioned that you are a single
mother, can you talk to
me a little bit about your
life as a mother and what
that means to you and how
becoming a mother has
changed and effected you as
Well, I have been a mother
my entire adult life. My
oldest daughter is twenty-
four so I really don’t know
what it’s like not to be a
mother. Motherhood has
always been a part of me, a
great part of me! It has been
the highlight of my life. My
daughters are amazing. They
are two of my greatest and
best friends and they make
life easier. We move as a unit
and are very close. They are
my base and my anchors. I
am very blessed to have my
two daughters in my life.
What is your experience
being a single mother? And
do you have any advice for
other single mothers out there?
I think it is important to know and except
that you do not have to be a super woman.
To know that it is okay to reach out to others
for support and help when you need it.
When you are tired, lay down and take a
nap, don’t try to push through it. Take care
of yourself first so that you can be a strong
source for your children.
Also look for the joy in your children.
Children have so much light and energy.
Cherish motherhood because it goes so
fast. Don’t focus on the challenges of being
a single mother but instead really enjoy the
time you have together in that moment.
I watched an interview you did for “Hit
the Floor” and in it you said; “I know
that what ever has happened to me, that
I perceive as good or bad is in my best
interest.” Tell me how the bad things that
have happened in your life could have
been in your best interest?
When something bad happens, it is in those
times that we have the opportunity to grow
the most. Those situations can set us up for
something more positive. It is important to
be open to the idea that the thing that didn’t
go our way will be, in the end, in our greater
interest. I ask myself, how did it serve me
or what is it teaching me? I ask how I can
grow and learn from it. Even things that are
more out of my control. For example – there
was a time where I didn’t get a part I really
wanted. I did all the right things and it didn’t
happened but had I gotten the part I would
not have gotten this other opportunity that
was even greater! And at that time I didn’t
even know it existed. It was this amazing
opportunity that took me all over the world.
I met wonderful people and made great
relationships. None of that would have
happened had I gotten the part I wanted in
the beginning. So rather then sitting in the
dark and feeling bad about something you
perceived as negative reflect on why it didn’t
happen and know that in retrospect it will
usually make sense.
You can look at it the same way in a
relationship. When you have a break up you
are opening your life to the right partner
coming your way. You have to trust that
everything is on your side.
You have a tremendous emotional life
that some actors have to really work at to
get – has your access to extreme emotions
always been easy for you?
I never really analyze it or think about it.
I just tap into the character and what the
character is going through and let that
speak through me. I don’t give a whole
lot of thought to how it happens. I don’t
have a special technique. I simply play the
character and it happens.
You mentioned you don’t
have a special technique;
did you train at an acting
school when you first
I have never taken an acting
class. I did a lot of stage
work and that is where I
really came into touch with
my instrument. The theater
really helped me connect
with my own gift. That is
where I came to understand
what I can do. I never
wanted to get in my head
with acting. I know some
people like to read books
about it and take classes but I
just like to jump in and do it.
Do you work with an acting
No never. God is my acting
Who has been a mentor in your life?
Cicely Tyson has been a great mentor in
my life. She reached out to me early in
my career and remains a great friend and
advisor. She is someone I admired as a
young girl so I feel very blessed and lucky to
have her in my life.
You can find Kimberly at the following
social media sites:
Facebook: Kimberly Elise
By Naja Hill; For more entertainment news
follow me on Twitter @najahill.
Michael Clarke Duncan Remembered in His Final
Role by Producer Jamie Kennedy
7:03 PM PDT 3/20/2013 by Naja Hill
The cast of“A Resurrection”pays tribute to the late“big-hearted,sweet”actor who died in September.
Michael Clarke Duncan’s co-stars remembered the late actor as
“He was a big-hearted, sweet man,” Jamie Kennedy told The Hollywood
actor, an Oscar nominee for The Green Mile, died in September at age
J. Michael Trautmann
red carpet giving his best Zoolander look as he excitedly pointed to his
Kennedy told THR
Rosemary’s Baby and Amityville Horror
StreamyAwards 2013:Jamie Kennedy Mulling
Idea of‘Faux Reality’Web Series
9:48 PM PST 2/17/2013 by Naja Hill
Awards show creator Drew Baldwin,Soulja Boy,Vanilla Ice
and Epic Rap Battles of History’s members also talked to
THR about the importance of online media at the third annual
performance in a comedy -- that he has been talking to several people
reality,” he said on the red carpet of the event, which was streamed live
Singer-songwriter Vanilla Ice also hit the carpet before his performance
Soulja Boy, who also performed
Lil Wayne,” he told THR
Nice Peter and Lloyd Ahlquist performed their viral famed comedic rap
The docuseries follows LaToya
Jackson as she juggles her personal
life and the complications that come
with her famous family name.
With La Toya
complications that come with her iconic
Life With La Toya
Paris Hilton’s mother, Kathy Hilton
OWN Unveils First‘LifeWith LaToya’Trailer
10:04 PM PST 3/9/2013 by Naja Hill
The Design Network (TDN) -- a crowd-sourced, video sharing online network for home design which launched April 10 -- is about to launch
a new web series from celebrity favorite interior design experts.
Designer Michelle Workman, will be leaving her Los Angeles home for the reality series, Glamour Goes South. Workman has designed
homes for many of Hollywood’s biggest names like John Travolta and Kelly Preston and Jennifer Lopez. For the series, she takes her
talents from the glitz and glam of entertainment to the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. “I expect my future southern clients to be much
more traditional,” says Workman, “I will have to push them outside of the box.”
Workman explains that designing a house means tapping into a client’s personality. “Jennifer is very glamorous and believe it or not
understated, while John Travolta and Kelly Preston are both very sweet and happy people,” says Workman, “I used gray palates to
glamorous side. We used a lot of happy bright yellows and reds for John and Kelly.”
Viewers can expect similar design tips from the large selection of digital series that run on the network. They include videos with L.A.
designer Donna Livingston and Rebecca Robeson (said to have the most watched interior design channel on YouTube), while House Trip
with Leah & Mary brings viewers inside the residences of tastemakers. On the Couch with Gretchen + Shane features interviews with other
high-end designers like Madonna’s designer, Jamie Drake.
TDN founder Jason Harris created the network in the hope that it will become the authority on interior design, renovations, garden
design and entertaining. “Home decor and interior design is not mainstream and was not resonating with consumers,” says Harris. “They
rarely have awareness of the brands of home decor and basic design principles.” He formed the network to build a library that provides
entertainment, inspiration and instruction reaching viewers through a multitude of screens, from computer monitors and televisions to
smartphones and tablets.
A key element of Harris’ approach is creating an interactive environment where any home enthusiast interior designer or trend-setter can
create content and submit it. Videos submitted are reviewed and approved by the network’s team of experts and the site’s online viewer
panel. Each video provider has the chance to star on the network based on ratings calculated by viewer votes.
“A lot of people don’t have the funds to go out and produce great video content,” says Harris. “We want people who have a good idea
within this genre to be able to have an opportunity to pitch a show to TDN, the audience will vote on it, then we will commission the work
and give them a budget.”
TDN’s founding sponsors include Baker, Four Hands, Harden, Serta, Stanley, Sunbrella, Surya Rugs, Thomasville and Young America.
The Great Gatsby Celebrates in Style
10:21 AM PST 4/2/2013 by Naja Hill