Monday, March 26, 2007

I Heard A Word

Sunday. 7 am. Hurriedly, I prepare to hear "the word". As I drive through quiet streets, I pray today's word will give me some profound insights about my life and my purpose in it. It's been a week since my last interview, and I haven't heard a word. So, I hope this Sunday's word at West Angeles will be uniquely designed for me. Selfish prayer, I know, but I am never in the house of God by coincidence. Whenever I ask for direction, clarity, or spiritual comfort God often leads me there.

"Receiving The Truth From Lying Lips," is the title of today's word. Thought provoking title, but the message is relatively simple: No matter what you've done or where you think you are in life, God loves you; He sacrificed His son for you. You need only to believe in Him and His word. Good sermon, but not exactly the word I had prayed for, or so it seems.

7 p.m. I am rushing again. From a church house to a liquor house I go in search of the word, but this time it's what popularly known as spoken word. Miyagi's on Sunset is the place and Spoken Funk is the provider of the message. Every Sunday comics and poets are given an opportunity to do their thing before an audience. But tonight's event serves a greater purpose then mere entertainment. Niecy, one of the Spoken Funk's performers, lost her home in a fire. So donations and gifts are being collected at the door on her and her kids' behalf. Near the end of the show, she takes the stage and delivers a moving testimony. "God is real," she simply states. Fighting back tears, she tells us since the fire, she has been blessed with money and clothing from people and places she never expected. Without anger or bitterness, she reflects on loosing precious personal items that can never be replaced and having only the clothes on her back. Yet, through it all she says she has been shown the true power of God. Then after she speaks, an audience member is invited on stage to make an announcement. He says he heard about her loss from one of the poets. And since he had been blessed with a new car, he was going to give Neicy his old one. I look for her to do a Price is Right reaction across the stage. Yet, she doesn't move. Stunned, she looks at the man as if he had turned into Bob Barker before her eyes. Even after she manages to thank him, Neicy still asks him, "are you serious?" as they exit the stage.

It's now 7 am again. Monday morning. A second week of unemployment awaits me. But I am not worried. God did speak to me yesterday, once at church and then again at Miyagi's. And, yes, God can be found there too! If God can bless a woman who lost almost everything with money, clothing, shelter, and a new car through the generosity of strangers, why should I worry whether I will be blessed with a job? Truly, the blessing is in knowing that my needs and Neicy's needs will be taken care of. It's called faith. Faith is indeed the word.

"His eye on the sparrow, and I know He watches over me…"

Thursday, March 22, 2007

But He's So Talented!



"L. A., L. A. big city of dreams, but everything in L.A. ain't always what it seems. You might get fooled if you come from out of town, but I'm down by law, and I've learned my way around…"


There are thousands of dream-seekers in Los Angeles, including myself, facing various challenges every day in reaching our goals. But not many dreamers are willing to hang on to their vision when the bottom falls out of it. One of L.A.'s own is in that select few. His story may even be worthy of seeing on the big screen, but Will Smith's recent Oscar-nominated performance beat him to it. Still, this artist isn't greedy. He would take a small screen deal, even if it's on an iPod. That's said jokingly to some degree, but work is work when the bills are due. Yet, this creative spirit is hungry not desperate. He desires to work in Hollywood, not get sucked in by it. What's ironic is that he's lived in Hollywood's shadow all his life, but never really benefited from the shade. "But he's so talented!" You might say. Yes, that's very true, but in the showbiz game, talent just ain' t enough.

Meet Enkone Goodlow, 34, visual artist extraordinaire. He's more than talented; he's what church folk call "anointed". We met two years ago at the Baldwin Hills Mall where he owned an airbrush business. What caught my attention first was not his art, but his hair. Enkone (pronounced ink-QUAN-nee) sported long flowing locks that reached the middle of his back. At that time, I had just begun growing mine, so to see a young brotha with such long hair immediately drew my attention. And yes, I did notice he was fine too. I'm not even going to front like my contact lenses weren't working. However, this article is not about his physical attributes. It's about his work, his anointing, and his struggles to follow his dreams.

The interview takes place at his spacious studio in Gardena, California, a little town just south of Los Angeles. I am greeted by his pit bull, Phoenix. She's surprisingly friendly with a gorgeous storm cloud coat. As the woman of the house, she wastes no time introducing herself and inspecting me. Thank God, I passed inspection. Comfortably dressed in his motorcycle gear—obviously, he arrived only minutes before I did—the man of the hour provides a space for us to sit. Surrounded by large art pieces and graffiti painted walls, we begin what Enkone claims is his first interview, ever. I find that surprising, but he explains appearing inarticulate is a major fear. Once our conversation begins, all fear is definitely put to rest. Not only is he articulate, but also well spoken on a range of topics concerning art, hip hop, and spirituality.

Q: What does your name mean?
It was originally Ink One because I was and still am a graffiti artist. That was my original graffiti name, E-N-K One, but as I matured physically and spiritually and culturally, my name changed also. It went from Enk One to Enkwone which is still spelled the same. And what went along with that name is "Supreme being of creativity". It’s a name that I created…I prayed to God what was the meaning [of his name] and that’s what came about.

Q: When did your love for art begin?
When I was a kid I was always into doing something artistic, whether it was destroying artistically or creating artistically…drawing, coloring. I just loved that kind of stuff. My dad is an artist. My uncle, Jesse, is my greatest inspiration. He was a fantastic artist. He was a technical illustrator and architect and also a painter. And my older cousin, Darryl, was a high influence on my art too.

Q: Did you do paint by numbers as a kid?
Yeah, there was paint by numbers, but I can’t actually remember finishing one. There were art supplies everywhere at my grandma’s house. There was this closet I would go into and there were art supplies…oil paints, water-colors, acrylics, boxes of paint by numbers, and art that other people did. I loved paint by numbers. I haven't even thought about that closet in…oh my god! (Laughs to himself)

Q: When did you start recognizing your talent?
When I got into graffiti art in junior high. That’s when I started liking some of the things I did. Before that everything I did I was kind of making it up, nothing in particular. With graffiti there was a type of formula to follow. There were different kinds of graffiti styles to imitate to mimic…the wild styles, the old school styles, block letters, particularly made with spray can or marker

Q: As a kid were you that artist that drew graffiti on anything you could find?
Yeah. Anything. Walls, freeways, buses. I got in trouble doing graffiti. I got kicked out of 5 high schools not for vandalizing…I got caught writing here or there.

Q: When did you start making money as an artist?
I started my own business when I was sixteen while in high school doing art. I was doing graffiti, writing on everything. I got an airbrush, 'cause I wanted to learn airbrush so I could do graffiti. I wrote on one of my shirts at home just all over it. Just gibberish. And of course, I came up in that era—and I am today—where I could care less about what anybody thought about what I was wearing. When I wore the shirt to school one of my teachers went crazy. “Enkone, do me one!” She made a really big deal about it. So she brought me a shirt and said, “just do it like that one!” Then eventually her friend wanted a shirt. I guess that’s the first thing you could say I did professionally. I was maybe about 14 then.

Q: How did your first shop come about?
I airbrushed some overalls for this hip hop dance crew I was hanging with. I was also cutting hair at lunch, doing designs. That was the era when everybody had the high top fade with steps. I was cutting steps and weird haircuts, but couldn’t find anybody to give me a nice haircut, so people told me about this barbershop that did lines and graphics just like I did. It was the Cosmic Store in Inglewood. So I went there to get my haircut. When the owner of the shop saw my friend he went crazy about what I did on my friend’s overalls. “Who did those threads, man? I ain’t never seen nothing like that. Dig that!” Then he pointed up stairs. “You see that balcony up there? That’s going to be your airbrush shop!” So went up there and looked at it, but I really didn’t take him serious. “What you need to start your airbrush shop? Come back tomorrow and we’ll get all that?” I still didn’t take him serious until my buddy took me back up there. And damn, sure enough, that dude put us in his car and drove us all the way to Orange County and bought everything that I needed—the air compressor, paint, easels, he just bought everything. I set up my airbrush shop right there. I was a senior in high school. Every since then I’ve been in business for myself.

Q: Was it a booming business?
It never really did get big. I started doing stuff for my friends but they had no money to pay for it. But it was cool cause it gave me more experience in how to airbrush clothes… At 17 or 18, after I graduated from school, I opened up another shop. And things took of from there. My skills took a turn somewhere. I got away from doing just graffiti to doing logos and illustrations. Started drawing other things. People would start asking me, "can you do this?" And I don’t know what it was, but I would lie every time. So then I would come up with it.

Q: I noticed that you've never mentioned going to art school?
I failed mostly every art class in school because I was a graffiti writer. That was the kind of art I wanted to do. So in high school that’s what I did in class. I was a B-Boy. Period. Plus, I was class clown too. The first art teacher that I did really get along with was Norris Starkey at Locke. He really cared. He was the first teacher that grabbed me and shook me like, “Boy you’re messing up. You’re messing up your life!” So I would come to his class and do what he asked me to do. That was the first class that I ever got a good grade in art…He basically made me graduate from high school. Nobody was like go to school, go to college. …Then two or three years after high school I was running my business. I was doing art for St. Ides, Miller, all sorts of stuff. So by that time school wasn’t really on my mind 'cause I was making money. I was pulling like two to $400 a day sometimes on an average. When my cousin said he was going to art school I said “You going to go to learn how to draw naked people, draw faces, and fruit!” That’s what I thought art school was. He went to Pasadena Art School, the best school. Back then, I wished I had been like “oh let me check that out!” But I didn’t. I had it in my head that art was school was drawing grapes, and naked old people! (Laughs)

Q: You’re not having the same financial success you were several years ago when Reebok, Mattel Toys, and other companies were calling. What keeps you inspired now?
Then I had no agent, no artist guild, no manager and I was getting those job. A lot of them were really, really big. I was only like 20….Now, I just like doing the art. I could shut it down and work for Fed Ex like everybody encourages me to do. But I don’t want to just give it up, 'cause I’m not exactly where I want to be just yet. And where that is, I’m not even sure of. But I know it’s got to start somewhere. It’s got to start with me creating avenues of revenue through my art. Right now I’m stuck between doing it for the love or doing it for the money. Which is the worst place for an artist to be cause it’s stressful and interferes with your creativity and your motivation. I’m worried about how to pay my bills when I could be painting….I’m sitting here thinking, “What could I do artistically that would make everybody want to buy it (his art)?

Q: Would you describe yourself as a struggling artist?
Yes, definitely for right now. But that’s just for right now.

Q: How has this new age of technology affected your business?
I used to be able to just walk in and get work. Now everything is digital. Things are way different than before. I don't know how to do PhotoShop and all that stuff. I can't get work. I've been on Craigslist and other places and they all want graphic artists.

Q: How difficult has it been breaking into the entertainment industry?
It’s been very difficult for me. I haven’t done much celebrity stuff at all. I’ve been trying for longest to hook up with celebrities and get some of that showbiz work. It just hasn’t happened. … I’m sure all of my different art styles could tie in some how or some way.

Q: In Hollywood, you find a lot of creative people. But generally creative people are not business people. Do you see yourself as a business man?
I’m 100% creative person. I can do the art all day…million dollar pieces. But how do I sell it, who do I sell it to?

Q: How do you put a price on your work?
It’s very hard. That’s my biggest problem. It’s the hardest thing coming up with prices for art. Listening to industry [art industry], watching the industry and what they are charging to get around about average prices. Or it could be the time factor or how hard it’s going to be, how much is involved… Honestly when I don’t need money is when I'm most creative. I’m more productive then. But when I need money it’s a bigger challenge. You have to figure out some sort of concept to please the client or then you’ve got the timeline, which artists aren’t good at…There so many things that interfere…Am I charging too much? Am I charging not enough?

Q: What makes you different from most artists?
You know there are inconsistent artist. One day it would it be a nice piece and the next day they really don’t care how it looks ‘cause they’re just trying to get paid. I put my all into everything I do, every single time, no matter what it is. It’s consistent every time.

Q: So do you live to paint or paint to live?
Both! And saying that I’m a struggling artist….it’s almost like I don’t have a choice to paint to live. What better way to make money than to do something that you love.

Q: If you were not an artist, what else would you be doing?
I have no idea. I've never taken it into consideration.

Q: How do you define success for yourself?
I feel like I’m a success because I’m totally self-taught and God has blessed me everything I needed to know to be a really good artist.

Q: You’ve often mentioned God and spirituality. What role do they play in your work?
The leading character ‘cause honestly most of the time when I’m painting I don’t even know what I’m doing. It just flows through me. I have a formula that I use, but a lot of time when I’m just doing some art it just comes about. It just happens. The art flows through me…God is flowing through me to create that piece no matter what it is. I can’t even explain it. And the end result, when I see it, it’s like “I did that?” It’s unbelievable even to me. I can’t do nothing but thank God for that because I know that I wasn’t the one that actually did it. He used me as a vessel to create that piece. I totally dedicate everything to God cause I know I couldn’t do it by myself.

To see more of Enkone's work go to www.myspace.com/30224580. He can be contacted via email at enkafish@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Wanna learn a Lil' Mo?

Wanna See A Lil' Mo?

I've worked in this Hollywood entertainment industry nearly five years now, and sometimes I'm still amazed at the fact that I work with people that often grace magazine covers. Recently, while browsing the magazine rack at Target, I noticed R&B; singer, Lil'Mo, and her husband on the cover of Sister 2 Sister magazine. That alone let me know there was going to be some controversy either about her or about them as a couple. I read the headline, and left the magazine right on the shelf. Truthfully, I didn't want to know what drama they had experienced that was worthy of the cover of the quasi-gossip magazine. Not that I'm above being curious or down right nosy in some cases, but this time I just wasn't interested.

Seeing her picture reminded me of my BET Celebration of Gospel experience. While working the show back in January, I had gotten to know the couple just a little. Both of them were quite friendly. Upon meeting Mo', I instantly realized she made even my 5ft 2 inched frame seem tall. For me, to be taller than anything other than a child is a rarity and a joy. As a talent assistant, it was my job to be their liaison with production. If Mo' needed anything, especially anything relevant to her performance or the show in general, it was my job to supply it. However, most special needs are arranged for in advance. She nor her husband had no "diva-esque" demands. My other important job, is to keep them on schedule. Rehearsals are very important. As talent assist, it was my job to ensure Mo' got to stage on time for a run-through and camera blocking. Her, Coco from SWV, KiKi Sheard, and Fantasia were there to sing "Endow Me" from CoCo's new album. Being able to watch rehearsals was definitely a spiritual and musical perk. All of them can SANG! Just from watching the practice you knew somebody's grandmama in the audience was going to lose her church hat getting her shout on. But even in rehearsal, I knew they were holding back. Many artists don't give it their all in rehearsal, they wait until the camera's are rolling. They also like to feed off the real audience. The crowd around the stage during the rehearsal is minimal and scattered with members of entourages. These folk are generally no longer impressed cause they've seen their client peform ad nauseum. Not to mention, they're usually on phones setting up the next gig or in some cases perpetrating.

Overall, it was a good show and a really long day. From 9am until 11pm I was on my feet. The job of talent assistant requires lots of standing, walking, patience, common sense, and most importantly, a comfortable pair of shoes. The best part of the job, to me, is getting to see the stars before their shine is made viewable to the public. It's easy to forget that celebs are people too. They don't descend from the heavens nor walk on water without help of a green screen and special effects editing. However, that doesn't mean they aren't worthy of special treatment. Most of them are, within reason. You have to give respect where respect is due. Mo' arrived to the show covered from head to toe. It was untypically cold that day and she was prepared. Once her hair and make up fairy godfathers arrived, it took about an hour for her to get ready for the red carpet. The transformation was utterly amazing. The woman that entered the trailer bundled in a cape and hat looked nothing like the bombshell that left it in a black suit that hugged every curve and sexy black pumps. Make-up and hair, absolutely flawless. Even her limo driver did a double take. Dude literally had to pick up his chin and put his eyes back in his head. After several remarks about how sexy she now appeared, I couldn't resist telling him that her husband probably thought the same and might be along for the ride to the carpet. It was the first time, "Celebration of Gospel" had red carpet arrivals. With the Orpheum theater's marquee all aglow it really appeared a major Hollywood event was taking place. Hollywood glitz and gospel royalty looked really good together. After 'Mo took pictures and answered several questions, I led her back to her trailer to "hurry up and wait" for her performance. It was a long wait because "Endow Me" was scheduled near the end of the show. Luckily, she was able to see some of the show before being called backstage. Of course, she and the other ladies sang their faces off. Then, after the peformance there was still one more stop to make--the press room. Gospel shows from around the country were set up in one big room for interviews with show participants. After several one-camera interviews and a press conference Q&A;, Mo's "Celebration of Gospel" experience was over. I led her and small entourage back to the trailer and called for her limo. After saying goodbyes to everyone and seeing them to their waiting car, my long day was officially a wrap.


All that was two ago so seeing 'Mo on the cover reminded me of this: being in the public eye all the damn time is a major sacrifice in order to do what you love doing. Personally, I like anonymity. Not that I don't want to be recognized when deemed necessary; recognition has its place in feeding an ego. But I would not want to have to be "on" every time I'm out in public.
I'm content observing the Hollywood life most often from a distance. Still, nothing is better than seeing a show backstage or playing a role in bringing it to an appreciative audience. I'm so used to working behind the scenes now, sometimes I can't even watch a concert or live event without wondering what's going on backstage.

So, for those of you closely checking the pictures, yes, that is Lil' Mo and the Hallelu-er man himself, Tyler Perry, on the red carpet. And although, he could probably use the top of my head as an elbow rest, I'll gladly stand my little ass next to Tyler Perry anytime, I ain't lyin', I ain't lyin'!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A Cake Job in a Pie Town

After several months of vacationing in the big city of unemployment, a free ticket to full time employment was greatly appreciated. Included in the price of the fare was a much needed health care package and very good hours. You don't get much better than that working in the industry. And like most good things it came to an end. Truly, working as an Associate Producer on House Hunters was indeed but a blessing financially—yes, you do hear a "but" coming—but, it didn't do anything for me creatively. Associate producing at Pie Town was different than I what I was used to. Coming from 5 years of AP experience at a PBS affiliate in NC, I assumed the position required more creatively and technically. What I got instead was a year and a half of paper-pushing and wardrobe purchasing for the show host. That's not to say, there wasn't opportunity to do more—there was—but the motivation just was not there.

Yet, as I reflect on my employment at Pie Town, I realize that I do have some things to thank House Hunters for in addition to the stable paycheck. I probably would have never met Suzanne Whang, the show's host, if I hadn't been employed as the AP. Suzanne is one of the coolest people I've met in LaLa land. She's extremely smart and funny as hell. Truly, she's a strong yellow woman who's more than what meets the eye. Secondly, while working on House Hunters I came to realize that writing may have been my true calling. It began with doing cute staff meeting reminders. Really, how many ways can you creatively say there's a staff meeting at the same time in the same place every week? Actually, a lot of them. So, I did so just out of sheer boredom with the task. Some were funny, others informative, and a few were probably a bit "much" for an office setting, but the staff seemed to like them. Some people even saved them. I came to find out much later than some of my co-workers even saved them.

Fast-forward a year. After several months of cute staff emails, a supervising producer asked me to use the same skills to write a script for the show. I was hesitant at first, but eventually gave it a try. All I had to do was write one act to see if I had the skill. I passed, but what House Hunters considered writing was and still is—in my opinion—story editing to me. Writing for the show required logging hours of tapes and creating what is called a paper cut or paper edit. Technically it's a list of edits points from the field tapes that editor uses to cut the show. Logging is a necessary part of the process that I truly detest. And logging up to 20 tapes per show, just was not anything I was willing to do with a standard VCR and remote, even for the extra check. So I never got a writer's credit for the show, but soon other writing opportunities came my way. My immediate supervisor, asked me to assist in writing episode descriptions and pitches for the network. Okay, it wasn't Pulitzer Prize winning opportunity, but the descriptions did say more than "couple needs more room, see couple buy new house, or which one will they choose?" He, also a writer, liked the fact that I added my own voice to them and so asked me to write more. The more I wrote, the more I wanted to d so—not necessarily episode descriptions and show pitches—but, about things I really cared about or had a strong opinion about.

Movie and television reviews became my new self-imposed creative writing assignment. They received good feedback too. So when more and more people began telling me I should write after reading something I had done, I had to start thinking of truly exploring it. Thus, this blog/website was born. Truthfully, if it hadn't been for my writing experiences at House Hunters, I probably would not have begun this creative endeavor. So now I'm back where I started, in the over populated city of unemployment. But this time I not worried about how soon I'll ge to leave. This extended vacation will be used to explore a whole new side of myself. And hopefully, what I find will be someone confident of her herself and her budding talents.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Queen Latifah: Life Support



It's Saturday night. 9:30 pm. Still early enough to head out to the club, have a late dinner, see a movie, or go out on a date. Yet, here I sit typing with tears drying on my cheeks. No, I'm not depressed, lonely, nor in pain. Actually, I'm inspired—inspired to obviously write, but also to tell everybody I know, especially Black females, about the HBO Film, Life Support, starring Queen Latifah, Wendell Pierce, and Anna Deveare Smith. But merely telling people about this relevant film is not enough. Life Support is about doing more than talking; it's about taking action. To address the alarming fact that more African-American women are infected with HIV than any other race of women, should motivate us to take to the streets, leaving judgments behind. We should be moved to empower sistas from all walks of life to demand more respect for themselves and their bodies. Yet, who's willing to get out of their comfort zone to do that? Not many. This film introduces us to a valiant few.

Meet Brooklyn native and former drug addict, Ana Willis. She has a loving husband, two daughters, an important job, and the virus that causes AIDS. Life Support sheds insight into the challenges she and millions of other women like her face every day. Utilizing a documentary style, it opens with an unscripted dialogue between real women—not actors—living with HIV. Amongst them sits Latifah, as Ana, expressing anger at her husband for his indirect involvement in her getting infected. He too is a recovering drug addict. This meeting occurs as part of Life Support, a fictitious AIDS outreach group in Brooklyn. Ana works diligently for the organization, traveling throughout the city advising women how to use protection and to get tested.

Yet, no matter how Ana tries to positively impact the future of her community, the devastating consequences of her past angrily stare her in the face through the eyes of her teenage daughter, Kelly, portrayed by Rachel Nicks. Due to her addiction, Ana gave custody of her to her mother, Lucille (Anna Deveare Smith). Though family ties are strong, the scars left by her Ana's addiction have yet to totally heal; the relationship between her and Kelly is strained and Lucille may soon take Kelly with her to Virginia when she retires. Any hopes of a second chance with her oldest daughter are almost gone until Kelly asks for Ana's help to find childhood friend, Omari. Played by Evan Ross, Omari, is now an HIV positive gay teen living on the streets without medication. So Ana sets out to save him before it's too late.

But who's out to save Ana from herself, her husband, Slick (Wendell Pierce), or her doctor? Both warn her that the constant street crusading could negatively affect her health if she doesn't slow down. She hears them, but stubbornly continues scouring the streets to find Omari while giving condoms and Life Support pamphlets to those along the way. Such willingness to sacrifice her health and their family angers Slick. He thinks Ana's being manipulated and knows her real motivation is to gain Kelly's favor and respect. Not to mention, they already have a second chance to right the past with their young daughter, Kim.

The underlying theme of redemption makes this story universal. Everyone can relate to wanting a second chance. But how do you determine if someone deserves it? Ana turned her life around and made negatives into positives for herself, her family, and her community. Shouldn't that be enough? She and the other women of Life Support could wallow in bitterness and self-pity, but there's no role of victim for anyone to play in this film. What happened to them doesn't define them as women. They are still capable of loving, laughing, and living life to the fullest, if they choose to do so.

Executive Produced by Jamie Foxx, Queen Latifah, and Shelby Stone, Life Support was co-written and directed by prolific author and columnist, Nelson George. His inspiration for the film was his family, but specifically his sister, Andrea. In an interview posted on HBO's website he states:

"There are characters based on my sister, my mother even a couple of my nieces. But it's not just a family story. The issues that my family is confronting are American challenges. It's a story about the community of people in America who are dealing with the [HIV] virus. And not dying with the virus, but living with the virus. Very few movies have been made about living with it. The past continues to live with you. I think the true strength of the film is that it's about how difficult it is to forgive."

To learn more about this film and organizations addressing the issue of HIV and AIDS in your community please visit http://www.hbo.com/films/lifesupport/. And to read how actress, Sheryl Lee Ralph, uses her talents and activism to address the issue read review, "Sometimes I Cry" here: www.ellenoir1.blogspot.com. Just click her name to the right.

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