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Top Executives at Essence Mag Step Down After Explosive Exposé

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From left: Former Essence executives Moana Luu, Richelieu Dennis and Michelle Ebanks – Getty

*Several key executives at Essence magazine have stepped down after they were put on blast in an explosive exposé about the publication. 

As reported by Page Six, a group going by Black Female Anonymous explained in a lengthy letter published on Medium why the magazine is “fraudulent” (among other things).

The group writes:

New owner and CEO Richelieu Dennis, Michelle Ebanks, Joy Collins Profet and Moana Luu collaboratively immortalize an extremely unhealthy work culture. Scores of talented Black women have been either wrongfully laid off or forced to resign from the company in the past two years. Essence’s C-suite leadership team strategically tells the market it “serves Black women deeply” under the safe seal of 100% Black ownership, but for the Black women who makeup over 80% of the company’s workforce, they are systematically suppressed by pay inequity, sexual harassment, corporate bullying, intimidation, colorism and classism. 

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Essence - Beryonce cover

Essence denied the allegations, insisting that the staff shake up was already in the works, and not the result of the group’s letter.

Here’s more from the Page Six article: 

Richelieu Dennis resigned as interim CEO, Page Six reported on Wednesday, but will remain on as the chairman of Essence. Now we’ve heard that COO Joy Collins Profet, board member Michelle Ebanks and chief content officer Moana Luu — who were mentioned in the piece that alleged a toxic workplace at Essence — have also followed suit.

Caroline Wanga was announced as interim CEO. But Essence said in a statement that Dennis “never held a CEO role … interim or otherwise,” after multiple outlets reported he’d stepped down as CEO. The magazine also claimed that Ebanks “has had no role in day-to-day operations since her departure” as CEO on March 31, and that “Profet notified the company of her departure two months ago … before the anonymous blog was posted.”

The company also said, “Luu will be recused from day-to-day operations” during an independent review. The execs have not individually commented beyond Essence’s statements.

A source told the outlet: “This is a very serious situation and there’s more than [Dennis] … There are steps being taken.” Another source said, “People would not be stepping down, or out, unless there was a verifiable problem.”

You can read the group’s full letter here

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Entertainment

YouTube Announces Top Trending Videos of 2020! – WATCH

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*From living room workouts to virtual graduation ceremonies, this year, people came to YouTube in search of content that made them laugh, reflect, move and much more!

This included videos that reflected their emotions and serious conversations happening around the world – including Dave Chappelle’s 8:46, which came in at #1 on the Top Trending Videos list with over 29 million views.

In the video, Dave shares his thoughts on the tragic passing of George Floyd.

And, when viewers were looking to let loose, they searched the top music videos of 2020, exclusively made up of rap songs this year. Coming in at #1 was Future and Drake with Life is Good, which received over 1 billion views.

See below for the list of YouTube’s top trending videos and top music videos. If there’s an opportunity to post either or both lists, I’d love to work with you! I’d be happy to share additional info, photos and other key assets for inclusion – please let me know your thoughts!

CHECK THIS OUT: Snatched: Hot 97 Legend Funkmaster Flex Livestreams Himself Getting Liposuction (Watch)

TOP TRENDING VIDEOS OF 2020

  1. 8:46 – Dave Chappelle – Netflix is a Joke
  2. Building the Perfect Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder – Mark Rober
  3. First Debate Cold Open – Saturday Night Live
  4. We Broke Up. – jeffrreestar
  5. I Bought The World’s Largest Firework ($600,000) – MrBeast
  6. I’m Coming Out. – NikkieTutorials
  7. Minecraft Speedrunner VS 3 Hunters GRAND FINALE – Dream
  8. Ricky Gervais’ Monologue – 2020 Golden Globes – NBC
  9. Quarantine Stereotypes – Dude Perfect
  10. Some Good News with John Krasinski Ep. 1 – SomeGoodNews

TOP TRENDING MUSIC VIDEOS OF 2020

  1. Future – Life Is Good (Official Music Video) ft. Drake
  2. 6IX9INE- GOOBA (Official Music Video)
  3. Lil Baby x 42 Dugg – We Paid (Official Video)
  4. NLE Choppa – Walk Em Down feat. Roddy Ricch (Official Music Video)
  5. Cardi B – WAP feat. Megan Thee Stallion [Official Music Video]
  6. DaBaby – ROCKSTAR FT RODDY RICCH [Audio]
  7. Roddy Ricch – The Box [Official Music Video]
  8. Drake – Laugh Now Cry Later (Official Music Video) ft. Lil Durk
  9. YoungBoy Never Broke Again – Lil Top [Official Music Video]
  10. Lil Baby – The Bigger Picture (Official Music Video)

source: 22PR / Nicole Manigault / [email protected]

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Coronavirus

Rosie Perez Recalls ‘Terrifying’ Battle with Coronavirus While Traveling to Bangkok

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*Rosie Perez is opening up about her battle with the potentially deadly coronavirus.

In an interview with Uproxx, Perez, 56, revealed that she contracted COVID-19 a year ago while traveling to Bangkok to film her upcoming series, “The Flight Attendant” for HBO Max.

“I had contracted COVID when we flew to Bangkok,” Perez recalled. “And at that time, they were saying ‘It’s a new respiratory tract infection. It’s a virus that’s going around. We don’t really know what it is and what it does, but it attacks the respiratory system first and then travels to other parts of your body.’ “

“It was terrifying,” she continued. “I remember my manager was with me, and I said, ‘Tarik, don’t let me die in Bangkok.’ And he goes, ‘Oh my God, you’re scaring me.’ And the head of the ICU says, ‘You should be scared, sir. This is serious. We’re going to have to put her in a separate room.’ “

Perez goes on to explain that at the time, the virus  “was new. [This] was in December.”

“I remember the doctor saying to me, ‘The mask that you have on, the mask that I have on, every time you go outside, every time you meet someone wear that mask — not just for you, but to protect them too,’ ” she said. “And I haven’t forgotten it.”

READ MORE: Ice-T Says Father-in-Law ‘On Oxygen Indefinitely’ After Battling COVID-19

Perez has since been outspoken about taking safety precautions amid the ongoing pandemic.

“In Brooklyn, there’s a saying, ‘Spread love the Brooklyn way,’ “she shared. “Spreading love the Brooklyn way means respecting your neighbors, respecting your communities and the way you can do that is by getting tested, wearing a mask.”

Elsehwhere in the interview, Perez talks about her ongoing fight to avoid being typecast. Here’s what she had to say:

After Do The Right Thing — because that was a predominantly all-black crew — you step out of that and you get into the real Hollywood and you’re like, “Holy crap.” And from day one, I was like, “There’s a lot of racism going on here.” And everyone was telling me to be quiet, specifically the Latino community. And I was like, “No, I’m not going to be quiet. Why aren’t you upset?”

I remember, they took me out for lunch, saying, “Don’t rock the boat. A lot of people worked hard for what we have now.” I said, “What we have now, are you kidding me? There are maybe three or four of us that are doing well, not having stupid roles being thrown at us. No, I’m not satisfied.” It hurt me in the beginning, to be quite honest. It turned a lot of people off because I was holding up a mirror and they didn’t like what they saw. So they just wanted to push me aside. And I just kept fighting for it. When I saw the change – the first one was Raul Julia. He came up to me, and he’s a God, right?

And he said, “F*** them.” I went, “Excuse me, sir?” He said, “F*** them. I didn’t lose my accent. Don’t lose your accent. F*** them. They need to change, not you. I love what you’re doing. I see what you’re doing, keep going.” And I remember, I just fell into tears. He was the first one, the first one.

And then a couple of years later, here’s this hot, young, rising star, Salma Hayek. She came up to me, she goes, “Hello. I always wanted to meet you. You opened the doors for us.” And I went, “Who?” And she said, “You!” It didn’t even dawn on me. I remember just looking at her and she was with Edward Norton and he goes, “Are you okay?” And I shake my head and she goes, “Why? What you do is so amazing. It gave me courage.” And I said, “Wow. I will never forget this moment. Thank you so much.”

I’ve been fighting and I’m still fighting. The fight has changed because I have changed. I do it in a much more mature way, but the fire hasn’t dampened a bit. Things are changing and that’s fantastic. But you know what, there have been ages of this. I’ve seen it before. In the nineties, they got the Latino explosion, and then it went away. You know what I mean? It comes and it goes, but I hope this time it sticks. I really do. The Flight Attendant is fantastic for it, because the level of respect that they offered to everybody on set was immense, with a diverse cast and a diverse crew. This is a good sign, but it’s not enough, to be honest. It’s still not enough. It’s still not equal. I won’t stop fighting until it is. I paid the price, yes, but the ones before me paid even a greater price, and it will continue.

Read her full interview with Uproxx here.

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** FEATURED STORY **

’12 Years a Slave’ Screenwriter John Ridley Exposes ‘The Other History of the DC Universe’ with Black Lightning

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*Step into the DC Universe and history awaits. So much history. So many iconic heroes and villains. Yet only one side of the story.

Until now.

Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley is opening a new door into the familiar backdrop with his new comic book offering, “The Other History of the DC Universe.” As the name implies, Ridley shines a light on different perspectives of the iconic moments of DC history, from the eyes of heroes of color.

‘The Other History of the DC Universe” kicks off with Jefferson Pierce, a.k.a. Black Lightning for its first issue. The inclusion of Black Lightning was a no brainer to Ridley, whose view of comics changed with seeing the hero on the cover of Justice League #173. The sight of Black Lightning talking to members of the legendary Justice League proved to Ridley that someone like him could exist in the same world as the superhero elite.

“I love comics. I read comics, but I remember the first time I saw Black Lightning as a hero. When I went to the comic book shop, this was mid-’70’s and I was young. But I had to pull back,” Ridley, a longtime comic book fan, recalled while speaking at a media roundtable to promote “The Other History of the DC Universe” about his fateful trip to purchase comics the week he was introduced to Black Lightning.  “And I remember getting that bag that week and honestly, I remember like it was yesterday, and spilling the bag out and going through them and seeing Black Lightning and seeing a hero who looked like me, was a teacher like my mother was. That was really, really impactful for me.”

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Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley

Anchored by Ridley, “The Other History of the DCU Universe,” features artists Giuseppe “Cammo” Camuncoli, Andrea Cucchi, and colorist José Villarrubia. Covers for the five-issue bimonthly DC Black Label miniseries were constructed by Camuncoli (with Marco Mastrazzo) and Jamal Campbell. “The Other History of the DC Universe” marks Ridley’s latest venture into the world of comics after finding success outside the genre as a screenwriter with critically-acclaimed and award-winning work in film (“12 Years a Slave”), television (ABC’s “American Crime,” Showtime’s “Guerilla”).

Despite his good fortune in other areas, Ridley’s love of comics and Black Lightning remained as the country transitioned into its current state of strained race relations, a divided political climate and efforts for more diversity. Coupled with frequent protests, the arrival of “The Other History of the DC Universe” couldn’t come at a better time. For the project, Ridley played it close to his heart by selecting heroes “that meant something to me when I was growing up,” while paying respect to DC’s history and readers.

“I didn’t want to do a made-up history of the DC universe. I didn’t want to go through and say, ‘I don’t care about what happened before. This is John Ridley’s version of it.,’ said Ridley. “Honestly, I wanted a reaction…where a fan will look at moments and go, ‘Omigosh, I remember that.’ Here’s some different context.’ It wasn’t about saying the past doesn’t equal the moment that we live in. It was saying we’re here for a reason. We’re here because we’re fans.”

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Jefferson Pierce, a.k.a. Black Lightning

Ridley’s inspiration for “The Other History of the DC Universe” is more personal as each issue reflects the essence of storytelling, with someone telling their version of what happened while relaying their thoughts on how events affected them. With Black Lightning, readers experience his interaction with the Justice League and the world’s view of those with superpowers he felt focused more on worldwide threats than what was going on in his hometown.

“Here’s Black Lightning giving a version of an oral history, saying ‘Yeah, I remember that moment too,’ But it may be a little bit different than an individual would contextualize it, different readers,” Ridley stated. “But also what’s interesting about the series for me is that we also revisit moments from other characters that have a shared moment and may remember it completely differently than Jefferson Pierce did or feel differently about it or feel differently about Jeff Pierce. About, you know, why are you always this way. So for me, more than anything, it was trying to treat these stories as an oral history and getting the reaction that you have.”

Reflecting on stories he heard from his parents, Ridley recounted how moments shared were “were real heartbreak.”

“My dad was in the Air Force. They were all about service. And yet, there were moments where they were treated as just black people. But when we hear stories from people, when people share stories, if you have an ounce of empathy in you, you can hear that pain, that joy, that heartache, heartbreak. The inspiration that comes from an individual. Those stories, again, if you have the slightest ounce of empathy in you, the slightest capacity to see yourself in others, those stories mean much more,” Ridley added. “We definitely could’ve done the other history of the DC universe where it was just about big action moment and here’s Black Lightning just being a hero. Those are great stories because all of these folks are heroes in these stories. But I wanted to try to treat them as though you were listening to your uncle, your brother, your aunt, your sister, your cousin tell these stories in their own voices with their own perspectives and make them in some ways oral histories and so that it wasn’t just about these, a series of giant moments. But these were lives that were being shared. These were perspectives that were being shared.”

Black Lightning’s oral history isn’t the only one readers will be privy to. “Other heroes giving their side of “The Other History of the DC Universe” include Mal Duncan a.k.a. Herald and his wife, Karen Beecher (Bumblebee), Renee Montoya (the Question), Tatsu Yamashiro (Katana) and Black Lightning’s daughter Anissa, a.k.a Thunder.

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Tatsu Yamashiro a.k.a. Katana

“There were many characters that I wanted to try to include. For example, in the first issue, Mari McCabe, Vixen, I did not see the story as having her own story. But there was no way that you could not have Vixen in this series, that her appearances were not just a one and done. There was an arc to it. That is Jefferson Pierce being myopic and underestimating her. I thought that was really important that it wasn’t just characters of color railing against the prevailing culture all the time. Jefferson is a black man of a certain age, with a certain concept of Mari, what she could do and what she couldn’t do. And the next thing, she’s working with Superman. She’s big-time,” Ridley said while highlighting notable appearances from Vixen and John Stewart, one of the most popular Green Lanterns in the comics.

“So his [Black Lightning’s] relationship with John Stewart. A lot of people were like, ‘How could you not have John Stewart?’ John Stewart was always gonna be a part of it. but again, Jefferson’s relation to John and their reconciliation. I wanted to have a very human end.”

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Green Lantern John Stewart, appearing in the pages of John Ridley’s “The Other History of the DC Universe”

The views of black heroes only scratch the surface of “The Other History of the DC Universe.” As much attention is paid to Renee Montoya, a Latinx police officer, as well as Tatsu Yamashiro, a Japanese national living in America during the ‘80s, Ridley made sure these characters’ stories were given their due, adding another layer to his latest opus.

“With Tatsu Yamashiro (Katana), I remember in the ’80s, when America was at its height of anti-Japanese xenophobia. What’s it like for a Japanese national coming to America in the ’80s,” Ridley explained about Yamashiro. “And on the one hand, there are other people who look at her as a hero when she is in costume. There are other people who look at her as a menace when she’s just walking around.

“Renee had to be in it. You want to talk about a character who just started as a minor character in ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ and is now one of the most durable characters in the DC Universe? And played The Question at one point, my all-time favorite character, The Question. So she was gonna be in it. Always,” he continued about his reasons for including Montoya. But also Latinx, a police officer. You know, this series started before our current reckoning on race and police. To tell a story from a police officer’s point of view, who’s Latinx, who’s closeted, who believes in law and order but is also commenting on things like the LA uprising and what that means to her as a police officer.”

Renee Montoya The Question

Renee Montoya a.k.a. The Question

Coming back to Black Lightning,” Ridley examined another side of the hero with his daughter Anissa. The young heroine’s point of view is one that differs at times from her father’s, which is shown in the first issue.

“I just thought it was really important to try to bookend this series with a father and daughter. And there are things that you will see in Anissa’s story that goes back in common with what you have seen or read in the very first issue. And again, Jefferson pierce as a human being and things that she has missed, things that he deals with as a man of a certain age. And some of them positive, some of them, I wouldn’t say slightly negative, but certainly representative of a myopia that we see in the black community,” Ridley told the round table. “So it was not just again trying to pick up the characters from column A and column B. the characters that I felt a connection to because I felt like I had seen them grow up over a certain space and time. They had been part of my life. And wanting to be very honorific with the work the creators had done in the past having them arrive in this space.”

Furthering the diversity, Ridley included Duncan and Beecher in to the mix, knowing a couple with different views of the same happening would be a fun aspect to play with.

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Mal Duncan a.k.a. Herald and his wife, Karen Beecher a.k.a. Bumblebee

“It was very important that in this story, we were going to have at least one that was a black couple who were in love, who were sharing their story together. Also, because I thought it would be fun for a couple to…it was kind of ‘The Newlywed Game.’ ‘Wait. What? How do you remember that? No, that wasn’t how it happened.”

As the series examines unique views from its roster of heroes, it’s worth noting each issue takes place around the time the heroes were created by DC. According to Ridley, the time frame ranges from the ’70s to the early 2000s, a period that supports Ridley’s intent to create a real timeline and add weight to each character’s story.

“It was really important to me because I did think it added to the verisimilitude, it added to the reality to say that Jefferson Pierce is only gonna live in a certain amount of time. When the story ends or wherever he be found, he’d be roughly my age,” he said about placing Black Lightning in the ‘’70s. ”The stories begin essentially and I think you see in the issues, they all have timelines on them. I think roughly ‘77 to ’90-something. Technically, it’s a little bit earlier because he is in the Olympics in 1972. But if he was a decathlete, he would’ve been in the ’72 games. He would’ve been around the Munich massacre. What does that mean for him as a person? What does that mean for a guy who wanted to be better because he lost his father and at the games where was going to show what an amazing human specimen he is. it means nothing, compared to the loss of those Israeli athletes.

The Munich massacre was an attack during the 1972 Olympics, involving members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September. The incident resulted in the deaths of 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team, who were taken hostage by Black September.

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Black Lightning in action as Superman looks from above in the first issue of John Ridley’s “The Other History of the DC Universe.”

“So I wanted those true timelines. Tatsu for example, coming around in the ’80s. What would that mean for a Japanese national? What would it mean for Renée to be a cop in the ’90s,” he added. “We treat it as a timeline. It was important to me because it helps makes these characters and their stories as real

Speaking to EURweb’s Lee Bailey, a humble Ridley welcomed the possibility of ‘The Other History of the DC Universe” crossing over into film as a way for his story to be seen by more people.

“I will say this. I have been very, very fortunate. Obviously, I work in film and I work in television and I continue to do so. So for me, writing a graphic novel was the endgame. It was so special and its’ such precious real estate. I mean I can’t lie. Even if somebody came back and this was successful enough and they said, ‘Hey, we would like to try and make it into a movie or a series or something like that…who doesn’t want to try to reach as many people as humanly possible, said Ridley. “But for me, because I am lucky enough to work in other spaces, it wasn’t about, ‘Oh this only is going to be fun or enjoyable or impactful for me if they make it into a movie. No, I mean the fact that this is going to be out, people are going to, within the confines of the Covid world we live in, go somewhere, purchase it, get it to read it, talk about it, love it, hate it. You know, embrace it. And whatever those things that people do with any issue, I get to be part of that. That is so special, in and of itself. If that is all that happens to it. I could not be more fortunate.”

The first issue of John Ridley’s “The Other History of the DC Universe” is on sale now. The second issue of the miniseries will be available on January 26, 2021.

 

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