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Oprah & HBO Accused of Taking Advantage of Henrietta Lacks … So Says Lacks Family




**Crown Publishing is pushing back on Lawrence Lacks’ “inaccurate portrayal” accusations  and has responded via “a spokesperson from the Crown Publishing Group” with this statement:

“Rebecca Skloot’s critically acclaimed and prize-winning book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, is a meticulously researched and reported work of independent journalism that we have been proud to publish and that we fully stand by.

“In advance of the book’s publication, Ms. Skloot provided multiple copies of the manuscript to members of the Lacks family and solicited their comments and corrections, which were subsequently incorporated in the book. Lawrence Lacks consented to be interviewed by Ms. Skloot during her reporting and attended meetings with Ms. Skloot and other family members at which the contents of the book were discussed at length. The manuscript also went through an extensive fact checking process.

“The veracity of the book, which has brought heightened awareness to the significant contributions of HeLa cells to medicine and modern science, has not been challenged in the seven years since its initial publication in February 2010. In the subsequent years, numerous members of the Lacks family have participated in interviews and public events in support of the book and of the importance of telling the story of Henrietta Lacks.”

Earlier we reported ….

*Lawrence Lacks, the executor of his mother Henrietta Lacks‘ estate, says Oprah Winfrey, OWN, HARPO, HBO, Crown Publishing, and Random House’s upcoming movie, based on Rebecca Skloot’s book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” is an inaccurate portrayal of his family.

What’s more, he says, these entities continue the cycle of profiting from Henrietta’s legacy without giving back. Worse yet – they’re telling people they’re helping the family when they’re not, he added.

“Not only are they making money using my mother’s name – they’re telling people they’re supporting us when they’re not,” said Mr. Lacks. “It’s embarrassing. And when we try to raise money for our foundation or to help our family people say “you don’t need money – you’re rich. Oprah and HBO gave you all that money. Johns Hopkins paid for college.” None of it’s true. And now people ask us for money and not only is bad we can’t help our family – we can’t help others.”

“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” was published by Crown Publishing Group in 2010, and is marketed as a factual book. It’s now required reading in several universities and high schools across the U.S. HBO and OWN will debut their movie based on the book April 22, 2017.

The Lacks family argues that the book doesn’t do his mother’s legacy justice, and inaccurately depicts the Lacks family as impoverished and uneducated farmers. “It’s part of Skloot’s mythology and it feels very racist,” said Mr. Lacks. “If she can present the family as poor and uneducated, she can present herself as spokesperson for the family and make money and promote herself on her lies. It makes a better story if we’re poor and dumb.”

Mr. Lacks has been trying to set the record straight for years, and he’s hoping with the proof he now has, people will listen. Contrary to popular belief the Estate of Henrietta Lacks has not received any money from Johns Hopkins, the NIH, Crown Publishing, Oprah Winfrey, pharmaceutical companies, HBO or OWN. In fact when the Lacks family approached these entities for help with medical bills – they were turned away.

“It’s bad enough Johns Hopkins took advantage of us,” Mr. Lacks said. “Now Oprah, Rebecca and HBO are doing the same thing. They’re no better than the people they say they hate.”

Oprah & HenriettaLacks

Oprah and the real Henrietta Lacks

HBO and Oprah Turn A Blind Eye to Factual Errors Lacks Family Says
Mr. Lacks says he told Ms. Skloot there were many factual errors in her book and asked her not to publish it. Mr. Lacks was 17 when his mother died and vividly remembers details of Henrietta Lacks life and death. Other family members, including Deborah Lacks, also told Ms. Skloot her book was wrong. She ignored them. Factual errors include:

• Henrietta was a share cropper when in fact her family owned land.
• Henrietta couldn’t sign her name or read – when in fact the family has handwritten documents.
• Mr. Lacks hates white people. He does not.
• Ms. Skloot says raises money for the Lacks family. She made one small donation in 2011, although she continues to raise money. No one in the Lacks family knows where the money goes.
• Ms. Skloot used Lacks imposters to make money on speaking engagements.
• Deborah Lacks was very upset by the errors in Ms. Skloot’s book, Mr. Lacks says.

Crown Publishing issued letters through their spokesperson saying The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was vigorously fact checked. Mr. Lacks says Crown may have called some people but no one called him. He was there during her life and her death. What’s more, he adds, Ms. Skloot only spent an hour with him researching her book.

In a strange twist, Mr. Lacks says there are two women posing as Lacks family members to make money. Mr. Lacks says he’s told Ms. Skloot many times that Veronica Spencer and Victoria Baptiste are not his granddaughters (their mother erroneously told them they were related to Henrietta Lacks. Mr. Lacks has told these women for years they are not.)

Both women are identified as Henrietta’s great-granddaughters by the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, which is managed by Ms. Skloot. The women posing as Lacks family members are just below the donor solicitation button on Ms. Skloots Fundraising page. Yet Mr. Lacks says Ms. Skloot told people these women are Henrietta’s grandchildren and uses their names to raise funds. Please see how these women are listed on the front of Ms. Skloot’s Foundation page. The Baltimore City Police have been notified of possible fraud, Mr. Lacks said. Skloot and both women have made money traveling across the country on what Skloot (through her lawyer) readily agrees are lucrative speaking engagements.

oprah - henrietta lacks

HBO and OWN were told these women were imposters and they paid them any way, Lacks said.

He adds Skloot says she paid for his hearing aids. “It’s a lie,” he said. “The VA paid for my hearing aids. That woman never gave me a dime and she needs to stop saying she did. She’s hurt our family as much as Johns Hopkins.”

When asked if HBO or Oprah would consider a donation to the family, Mr.Lacks said both companies declined through their lawyers. Now the family sees that Oprah is making even more money by putting her picture on the cover of Skloot’s book and are hurt.

“Henrietta’s two other sons are in shabby nursing homes and Oprah won’t help,” said Mr. Lacks. “Everyone is going to assume we got paid or a got a car, like that you get a car thing. I asked her for help with medical bills and she said she and HBO declined. It’s her money and she can do what she wants. I just don’t want people to think she’s helping us.”





The Henrietta Lacks Family
Via: [email protected]




  1. Zenobia Waller

    March 18, 2017 at 7:58 pm

    I hope there is no truth that Oprah is taking advantage of this poor woman’s family too..


  2. Maria

    March 20, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Perhaps Henry Louis Gates can do a show on the Lacks family and set the record straight (at least about who really is related)

  3. Eira Long May

    March 21, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    I’m one of the Lacks family’s speaking agents, and I wanted to post the following statement from the family:

    Deborah Lacks’s wish was to educate the world about her mother’s tremendous medical contributions. As members of the Lacks family, we are committed to upholding that mission. We support Rebecca Skloot’s meticulously researched and award-winning book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. While the book was in progress, Ms. Skloot provided members of our family with copies of the manuscript and solicited our insights and corrections, which she faithfully incorporated into the book before its publication in 2010. Since then, members of our family have participated in media and public speaking events, helping to raise awareness of Henrietta’s legacy and her myriad contributions to scientific advancement and medical breakthroughs.

    Despite the pain we have experienced, we are committed to supporting the miraculous advancements facilitated by the HeLa cells and to moving forward in a meaningful way. To this end, we support the ongoing work of institutions that use Henrietta’s cells in research to save millions of lives, and we acknowledge their efforts to preserve Henrietta’s rich legacy. Our goal is to continue advancing medical science while protecting our family’s privacy and telling Henrietta’s story.

    The Lacks family is a large and diverse group whose members have distinct opinions, but we are all entitled to speak publicly about our family’s legacy and our individual experiences. We will continue to spread our positive message to schools, libraries, associations, and community organizations worldwide, ensuring that Henrietta Lacks’s contributions to humanity are never forgotten. We will also continue to support the book, the forthcoming HBO film, and speaking opportunities for our family.

    March 21, 2017

    David Lacks, Sr. (Henrietta Lacks’s son)
    Shirley Lacks (Henrietta Lacks’s daughter-in-law)
    Alfred Carter, Jr. (Henrietta Lacks’s grandson)
    Jeri Lacks Whye (Henrietta Lacks’s granddaughter)
    David Lacks, Jr. (Henrietta Lacks’s grandson)
    Kim Lacks (Henrietta Lacks’s granddaughter)
    LaTonya Carter (Henrietta Lacks’s granddaughter)
    Victoria Baptiste (Henrietta Lacks’s great-granddaughter)
    Veronica Robinson (Henrietta Lacks’s great-granddaughter)
    Davon Meade (Henrietta Lacks’s great-grandson)

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Pastor Cal Keeps Love Alive on ‘Married at First Sight’ (EUR EXCLUSIVE!)




Pastor Cal - Calvin Roberson

eur mafs poster

*For 11 seasons, “Married at First Sight” (MAFS) has been the ultimate experiment in matchmaking as couples who have never met – complete strangers – tie the knot.

If you are not familiar with the popular Lifetime series, people looking for love are matched by relationship experts (Dr. Pepper Schwartz, Dr. Viviana Coles, and Pastor Calvin Roberson-known as Pastor Cal) and agree to tie the knot before meeting their mates.

The show follows the couples for a few weeks as they experience their first meeting at their weddings, their honeymoons, meeting each other’s families, and other milestone events all the while being counseled by the experts. At the end of each season, the couples are given the chance to continue in their marriage or get a divorce.

MORE NEWS: The Pulse of Entertainment: Gospel’s Brianna Collins Shows God ‘Honor & Praise’ with New Single

eur CalvinRoberson_MAFS_S6

Pastor Calvin Roberson (Pastor Cal) is one of the experts matching couples on “Married at First Sight.” (Photo: Lifetime)

While some may question the show’s premise, the EUR spoke to Pastor Cal recently and he said the series is genuine.

“My job on the show is to get these couples, put them together, and make sure they stay together,” said Pastor Cal. “My goal is to look at their differences, see where they’re compatible, counsel them and in some cases, threaten them, to make it work. All the experts, our focus, is simply making sure the couples stay together.”

As for a method in which the couples are matched, he added, “There isn’t a solid formula we apply to every couple. It has to be tweaked as we find out people’s peculiarities. It can be nerve-wracking but it’s rewarding in the end.”

Like many MAFS seasons, there are surprising revelations and this one, featuring couples from New Orleans, is no exception.

“Season 11 has brought us so many surprises,” Pastor Cal said. “Even in casting, one of the couples we thought would get along much quicker is one of the ones lagging behind. And one couple we thought would move slower to intimacy are moving ahead. And that’s with Miles and Karen being the slower and Woody and Amani being the faster of the two.”

EUR MAFS-S11-Couples_Woodrow-Amani

Woody and Amani in current season (11) of “Married at First Sight.” (Photo: Lifetime)

He continued, “Also, by my own admission, I fall on the sword on this one, I was not expecting Bennett and Amelia to get along so well. I thought she would be put off more by his lack of profession. It was a big surprise to me.”

The next MAFS season will include Atlanta couples and after that the show heads to Houston, which is casting now. Pastor Cal told the EUR that the show adapts to the couples from each city.

“I believe that every city we film in brings a certain flavor and the participants from that city take on the flavor from that city,” Pastor Cal said. “New Orleans is laid-back, they party, and it’s a very fun city as opposed to a city like D.C. that is very political, buttoned up, and tight. But definitely we found that every city influences the participants. We definitely see different personalities coming out of each city.”

MAFS Houston Flyer

Speaking of Atlanta, Pastor Cal is the lead pastor at Progression church in the peach city. He and his wife Wendy have a marriage coaching organization that offers marriage and relationship conferences, boot camps, and seminars worldwide.

While COVID-19 may have slowed down the in-person events, that has not stopped people from contacting Pastor Cal for love connections, “Because of COVID, we’re online. I get more people through DM’s, email, etc. asking me to match them.”

And how does the church feel about the show?

“My church actually loves it.” Pastor Cal said. “They are so supportive and such an incredible group of people. They tell people about the show. Our church was actually founded on relationships, so it was an easy fit. Our church was founded on positive marriage and positive family.”

Look out for Pastor Cal’s book, “Marriage Ain’t for Punks,” slated to come out next year.

If you are interested in being on “Married at First Sight” and live in Houston, click here to apply.

For more information on MAFS’ current season, click here.


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Apple News

Nigerian Bread Seller Lands Modeling Contract After Photobombing Rapper’s Shoot



Olajumoke Orisaguna

*27-year-old former bread seller Olajumoke Orisaguna captured the world’s attention a few years ago when a photo of her carrying a massive bag of bread loafs ontop of her head went viral.

She was discovered on the streets of the city of Lagos by international photographer Ty Bello, who was shooting with English rapper Tinie Tempah. Unintentionally, Orisaguna came out in one of the images.

Days later, Bello shared pictures from that shoot on his social media but with interest of finding out who the bread seller was in the photo.

“WHO IS SHE? Everyone has been asking if this lady is a model… She definitely SHOULD be a model… I’ll find a way to track her down somehow. You guys can also help,“ the photographer captioned the post.

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As PEOPLE notes, from that moment on, her life changed forever. In less than a year, Orisaguna managed to sign contracts with recognized agencies. Earlier this year, she wrapped up her tour of South Africa and she also launched a vlog and reality show.

“I never expected this would ever happen to me,” she told CNN. “My friends have told me they saw me on the TV and they are really happy. My parents cannot believe their own child can become such a success.”

In March, she celebrated the one year anniversary of her discovery. In an exclusive interview with Pulse in January, Orisaguna spoke about the people who have been influential in her rise to fame. During the interview, she thanked Azuka Ogujuiba of ThisDay Newspaper, as she was instrumental in Olajumoke’s success story.

Orisaguna, who left her two children and husband to sell bread, is now being offered by a bank to pay for her kid’s education through college.

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‘Origin of Everything’ on PBS Sparks Interest with Controversial & Everyday Topics (EUR Exclusive!)




Origin of Everything

*“Origin of Everything,” available on, has been exploring topics since 2017 that run the gamut. The show jumps into a variety of subjects by investigating daily life like the words we use, pop culture, and why we are hooked on technology.

The show does not shy away from controversial topics such as slavery, race and ethnicity, and mass incarceration of African Americans.

Danielle Bainbridge, Ph.D., the host and lead writer of “Origin of Everything,” told the EUR in a recent interview that the series is about making people think beyond the restrictive ways we have been taught to view history.

“It’s a show about our collective story and how we are envisioning history,” Dr. Bainbridge said. ”How do we think about history that includes all of us and just not the figures and facts that we were taught in school. So, it’s a show about under told and underrepresented history. We’re trying to make history feel very present to the people who watch it.”

She continued, “One of the reasons to watch it is if you’re curious about how did we get to our current moment? How do small things such as why do we eat popcorn at the movies or what is the origin of ethnicity and how do these things still impact the way we think about the world?”

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EUR PBS Danielle Bainbridge

Dr. Danielle Bainbridge, host of “Origin of Everything,” available on (Courtesy of PBS)

Deftly equipped to talk about controversial topics, Dr. Bainbridge holds a Ph.D. in African American Studies and American Studies from Yale University and graduated Cum Laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in English & Theatre Arts. She is also a faculty member at Northwestern University in Theatre and African American Studies

In early 2017, when she was a graduate student, she was contacted by PBS about working on the show and thought it was a joke.

“When they first reached out to me, I thought it was a hoax,” Dr. Bainbridge said. “I was thinking how would they even know who I am because I was a graduate student? But I think they found me through a since defunct janky website that I had set up. They reached out to me, I auditioned, did a screen test, and a writing sample and after that I was hired to help develop the show.”

Viewers are encouraged to be interactive with the series because it is digital. With instant commentary from the audience, the show knows immediately what viewers think, which for the most part is positive. However, when it delves into controversial subject matters things can get sticky.

“I would say overall people are pretty positive about the series because most of the folks who watch it are longtime watchers who tune in every week for episodes,” Dr. Bainbridge said. “The only exception is if we cover more sensitive topics like, race, gender, or sexuality we will get some pushback. I think that’s just the cost of doing business with open discourse.”

One of the most controversial shows was about the transatlantic slave trade.

“We did one episode on why Europeans enslaved Africans and that was probably our most viewed episode as well as our most critiqued one,” Dr. Bainbridge said. “I think often times if you view yourself as pretty well versed in history from what you learn in school and then you learn something that goes in the opposite direction it can be jarring or for some people upsetting. We think of it as our value or service to our audience to present accurate history or history that doesn’t get told that often so that people can be informed with the whole picture.”

She added that she has an answer for those who point out that Africans sold slaves to Europeans.

“Slavery was not invented with West Africans and Europeans,” Dr. Bainbridge continued. “Some form of enslavement – whether through war, becoming a prisoner of war, or through different systems – goes back to ancient societies from around the world. So, it is not distinct to West Africa or Europe or any other region of the world.”

Dr. Bainbridge added, “But the difference with this particular moment in slavery was that it intersected with capitalism in a way that was very different with slavery that preceded it. People were taken into the system and their children inherited their status as a slave and that is where the differences started to emerge. We have to think about these things as distinct only because the system that existed with chattel slavery was so radically different than the slavery that existed around the world beforehand.”

With the ongoing protests against police brutality, “Origin of Everything” has also tackled the racist beginnings of United States law. Dr. Bainbridge breaks down the discriminatory history by looking at colonialism, slavery, the Jim Crow era, and mass incarceration.

“I decided to write this episode about legal discrimination, and I didn’t have a particular agenda in mind,” she said. “As I started doing the research it was overwhelming. I started to find (material) that just dealt with legal discrimination about black people in this country from its origin to now. I thought it was something that people needed to know.”

“I was never taught in any history class that I took through high school any of the information from that episode. I was taught that things are fair and that a lot of the blame was placed inadvertently or inherently on black communities, impoverished communities, or communities that struggle. When I saw that in some ways the law was stacked against black people and certain other populations, I thought that was important to bring to light. In this moment, people are looking for reliable sources and this could add to the conversation.”

New episodes of “Origin of Everything” are available on and the PBS Digital Studios’ YouTube Channel. Join the conversation by visiting Twitter-@PBSOrigin and Instagram-@pbsoriginofeverything.

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