Review: ‘Black Is King,’ starring Beyoncé

July 31, 2020

by Carla Hay

Beyoncé in “Black Is King” (Photo courtesy of Disney+/Parkwood Entertainment)

“Black Is King” 

Directed by Beyoncé, Kwasi Fordjour, Emmanuel Adjei, Blitz Bazawule, Pierre Debusschere, Jenn Nkiru, Ibra Ake, Dikayl Rimmasch and Jake Nava

Culture Representation: This visual album of Beyoncé’s original songs for the 2019 “The Lion King: The Gift” soundtrack features a predominantly black cast (with a few white people, Asians and Latinos) primarily representing life in Africa in a musical format.

Culture Clash:  Many of the songs’ lyrics and the movie’s narration are about pushing back against fear, bigotry and self-doubt.

Culture Audience: Beyoncé fans are the obvious target audience for this movie, but “Black Is King” should also appeal to people who like to see visually stunning musical numbers set to contemporary R&B music.

Beyoncé (center) in “Black Is King” (Photo courtesy of Disney+/Parkwood Entertainment)

People already know that Beyoncé is capable of making a collection of memorable an impactful music videos, so it’s not too much a surprise that she has done it again with “Black Is King,” a visually intoxicating and emotionally empowering movie that celebrates self-confidence and Afro-centric culture.

Whereas Beyoncé’s visual collection for her critically acclaimed 2016 album “Lemonade” was her feminist response to issues going on in her personal life at the time, “Black Is King” is more of a rousing anthem directed at generations of people, especially those whose ethnic roots are in Africa. There are no conversations in “Black Is King,” but the messages are loud and clear.

Because “Black Is King” is a visual representation of Beyoncé’s 2019 soundtrack album “The Lion King: The Gift,” the songs themselves (and some of the music videos) were made available a year before the full “Black Is King” movie was released. But seeing all of these songs together as musical numbers in “Black Is King” puts the soundtrack in a whole new light.

“Black Is King” is not a traditional movie, since there is no real plot. Rather, it’s an atmospheric journey of eye-catching sights, sounds and philosophical thoughts. The choreography? Spectacular. The hair and makeup? Gorgeous.  The costumes? Unforgettable.

Folajomi “FJ” Akinmurele portrays Beyoncé’s fictional son Little Simba throughout “Black Is King.” At the end of the film, this dedication appears on screen: “Dedicated to my son Sir Carter. And to all our sons and daughters, the sun and the moon bow for you. You are the keys to the kingdom.”

The movie has narration that includes lines from the 2019 “The Lion King” movie, which had Beyoncé as the voice of warrior lioness Nala. But the most intriguing narration comes from a script whose credited writers are Beyoncé, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Clover Hope and Andrew Morrow, featuring poetry by Warsan Shire.

James Earl Jones provides the opening voice narration as he intones in “Balance (Mufasa Interlude)”: “Everything that you see exists together in a delicate balance. You need to understand that balance and respect all the creatures, from the crawling creatures to the leaping antelope. We are all connected in the circle of life.”

Beyoncé also voices several messages of Afro-centric pride, including “Black is the color of my true love’s skin” and “Let black be synonymous with glory” and “Black is king. We were beauty before they knew what beauty was.”

There are also calls of empowerment, such as “Life is a set of choices. Lead or be led astray. Follow your light or lose it.” And she also speaks about the importance of representation: “To live without reflection for so long might make you wonder if you even truly exist.”

It wouldn’t be a Beyoncé visual album without cameos. They include members of her immediate family: husband Jay-Z (real name: Shawn Carter); their children Blue Ivy, Sir and Rumi; and Beyoncé’s mother Tina Knowles Lawson. “Brown Skin Girl,” with Saint Jhn and Wizkid featuring Blue Ivy Carter, celebrates inner and outer beauty and includes visual appearances by Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong’o and Kelly Rowland, who is one of the original members of Destiny’s Child with Beyoncé. Jay-Z, Knowles Lawson and Rowland can also be seen in “Mood 4 Eva.”

And several artists on the audio soundtrack can be seen in “Black Is King,” including Jessie Reyez (“Scar)”; Nija, Busiswa, Yemi Alade, Tierra Whack and Moonchild Sanelly (“My Power” ); Shatta Wale (“Already”); Tiwa Savage and Mr Eazi (“Keys to the Kingdom”); and Salatiel and Pharrell Williams (“Water”).  Meanwhile, Beyoncé hands over the spotlight to Lord Afrixana, Yemi Alade and Mr Eazi, who perform “Don’t Jealous Me.”

Noticeably absent from “Black Is King” are Kendrick Lamar, Major Lazer and Childish Gambino (also known as Donald Glover, the voice of adult Simba in 2019’s “The Lion King”), who are featured artists on the audio soundtrack’s songs but don’t make visual appearances in the “Black Is King” movie. Lamar can be heard on the duet track “Nile,” while Major Lazer is featured on “Already.” Childish Gambino/Glover is a featured artist on “Mood 4 Eva.”

Speaking of “Mood 4 Eva,” it’s one of the highlights of “Black Is King” and it has explosion of beauty that’s both raw and luxurious. (And there’s also a scene of Beyoncé and Jay-Z holding hands that’s reminiscent of their famous 2018 “Apeshit” video that was filmed in the Louvre Museum.) “Don’t Jealous Me,” another standout segment, conjures up African tribal imageries that includes giant yellow python around the neck of certain people, including Beyoncé. “Water” is pure glam, with Beyoncé in outfits ranging from a stunning magenta gown to flared ’70s-styled denim with Rapunzel-length hair.

Although “The Lion King” takes place in Africa, and “Black Is King” is very Afro-centric, “Black Is King” was actually filmed around the world: Africa, New York, Los Angeles, London and Belgium. However, the movie prominently several African actors in the story segments, including Folajomi Akinmurele, Connie Chiume, Nyaniso Ntsikelelo Dzedze, Nandi Madida, Warren Masemola, Sibusiso Mbeje, Fumi Odede, Stephen Ojo and Mary Twala.

Not everyone likes Beyoncé’s music. Not everyone likes the 2019 movie version of “The Lion King.” However, “Black Is King” is a perfect example of why Beyoncé is a superb entertainer who’s a major influence on pop culture while speaking out on issues that are important to her.

Disney+ premiered “Black Is King” in July 31, 2020.

Amazon Prime Video announces fashion-competition series ‘Making the Cut,’ hosted Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn

June 26, 2019

by Carla Hay

Tim Gunn and Heidi Klum (Photo courtesy of Lifetime)

Amazon Prime Video has announced details of its fashion-competition show starring Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, the Emmy-winning former hosts of “Project Runway.” The show is called “Making the Cut,” and it will premiere sometime in 2020.  British supermodel Naomi Campbell, fashionista Nicole Richie, journalist Carine Roitfeld and fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra will be judges or guest judges on the show, which began auditioning contestants in January 2019. There will be 12 contestants (whose identities are to be announced) on the first season of “Making the Cut,” according to an Amazon Prime Video press release.

The executive producers of “Making the Cut” are Klum, Gunn, Sara Rea, Page Feldman and Jennifer Love. The show’s production company is SKR Productions.

The show’s grand prize has not yet been announced, but designs that win a challenge in each episode will be available for purchase on Amazon. The grand prize will also likely include some kind of deal where Amazon will sell the clothes of the winning designer.

“Making the Cut” joins a growing list of fashion-competition shows for contestants who are designers. Gunn and Klum were part of the original “Project Runway” team when the show debuted in 2004, and the duo left in 2017.

The “Project Runway” reboot in 2019 included the show moving from Lifetime back to Bravo (the show’s original network) and an almost complete recasting of the show’s stars. Karlie Kloss is now the host of “Project Runway,” which added mentor Christian Siriano (a former “Project Runway” winner) and new judges Brandon Maxwell (fashion designer) and journalist Elaine Welteroth. Nina Garcia, who has been a judge on “Project Runway” since the beginning, has remained with the show during its numerous changes.

Netflix also has a fashion-competition series: “Next in Fashion,” hosted by fashion expert Tan France (of “Queer Eye” fame) and model Alexa Chung. There will be a rotating group of guest judges. Elizabeth Stewart and Eva Chen are the guest judges announced so far. The premiere date for “Next in Fashion” is to be announced.

 

Tiffany & Co. teams up with Zoe Kravitz, Naomi Campbell, Karen Elson and more for ‘Believe In Dreams’ 2018 holiday campaign

November 20, 2018

Zoe Kravitz
Zoë Kravitz behind the scenes of the 2018 Tiffany & Co. Believe In Dreams Holiday campaign shoot. (Photo by Lewis Mirrett)

The following is a press release from Tiffany & Co.:

This holiday season, Tiffany & Co. introduces the latest chapter of its “Believe in Dreams” campaign, which takes viewers behind the scenes of a Tiffany workshop where surprising and surreal moments unfold, featuring a star-studded cast of characters.

The campaign film opens at Tiffany & Co.’s iconic Fifth Avenue flagship store, where actress, musician and style icon Zoë Kravitz stars as a Tiffany sales professional working late into the evening. Kravitz is drawn from reality into a Tiffany Blue® dreamscape infused with pops of neon. At the heart of this whimsical wonderland is an underground holiday workshop with craftspeople, and at the helm is a quirky manager played by model Xiao Wen Ju. The exquisite workmanship and masterful artistry of Tiffany & Co. are brought to life in a series of witty vignettes with cameos from models Karen Elson and Maye Musk, among others. The journey culminates in a “madcap tea party” hosted by Naomi Campbell, complete with a delectable selection of pastries from The Blue Box Cafe™ and housewares and table settings from the Home & Accessories collection. By the end of the story, Kravitz discovers that the magic of Tiffany & Co. is where creativity and craftsmanship come together.

The holiday season is a time of year when more than ever, we’re inspired to dream,” said Reed Krakoff, chief artistic officer, Tiffany & Co. “At Tiffany, our artisans work to create magic and beauty in every piece. We created this film to bring their artistry to life and capture the spirit of a Tiffany holiday where anything is possible.”

The “Believe in Dreams” holiday campaign showcases both Tiffany & Co.’s iconic and new collections, including Tiffany Paper Flowers™, Tiffany HardWear, Tiffany T, Return to Tiffany® and Tiffany Keys. The fantastical film set draws inspiration from the accessories and home collections, with life-sized designs adding another layer of surrealism. The film was directed by Mark Romanek, most recently known for creating Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and features Aerosmith’s 1973 hit “Dream On,” sung by superstar vocalist Steven Tyler. The campaign film launches globally on November 16.

To coincide with the craftsmanship theme for holiday, the Tiffany New York flagship store will feature an actual workshop that will house jewelers, stonesetters and engravers. The Tiffany workshop will be on display, from November 16, 2018 to January 1, 2019.

About Tiffany & Co.

In 1837, Charles Lewis Tiffany founded his company in New York City where his store was soon acclaimed as the palace of jewels for its exceptional gemstones. Since then, TIFFANY & CO. has become synonymous with elegance, innovative design, fine craftsmanship and creative excellence. During the 20th century its fame thrived worldwide with store network expansion and continuous cultural relevance, as exemplified by Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the film starring Audrey Hepburn.

Today, with more than 13,000 employees, TIFFANY & CO. and its subsidiaries design, manufacture and market jewelry, watches and luxury accessories – including more than 5,000 skilled artisans who cut diamonds and craft jewelry in the Company’s workshops, realizing its commitment to superlative quality.

The Company operates more than 300 TIFFANY & CO. retail stores worldwide as part of its omni-channel approach. To learn more about TIFFANY & CO. as well as its commitment to sustainability, please visit tiffany.com.

 

2018 CFDA Fashion Awards: Raf Simons, Supreme, Mary Kate and Ashley Oslen among winners

June 4, 2018

CFDA Fashion Awards logo

An unidentified man, John Varvatos, Vera Wang, Thom Browne, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Diane von Furstenberg, Donna Karan, Jason Wu, Alexander Wang, Tommy Hilfiger, Marcus Wainwright at the 35th annual CFDA Fashion Awards at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City on June 4, 2018. (Photo courtesy of BFA)

The following is a press release from Council of Fashion Designers of America:

On June 4, 2018, the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) paid tribute to the winners and honorees of the 2018 CFDA Fashion Awards in Partnership with Swarovski at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. Issa Rae, the star of HBO’s hit show “Insecure,” was the host for the evening. The Awards took place in partnership with Swarovski for the seventeenth consecutive year.

The evening’s Womenswear Designer of the Year honor went to Raf Simons for Calvin Klein, presented by Cate Blanchett. Supreme took home the Menswear Designer of the Year award, presented by Trevor Noah. Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen were named Accessory Designer of the Year, presented to them by Julia Garner.

Karlie Kloss presented the Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent to Sander Lak for Sies Marjan.  The designer will receive generous financial support from the company as well as exposure to the company’s vast and innovative crystal products and applications for fashion.

Busy Philipps presented Kim Kardashian West with the CFDA’s first Influencer Award.

Naomi Campbell was named Fashion Icon, presented by Lee Daniels.

Oprah Winfrey presented Edward Enninful with the Media Award.

Donatella Versace was recognized with this year’s International Award, presented by Lupita Nyong’o.

The Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Narciso Rodriguez by Claire Danes.

The Founder’s Award in honor of Eleanor Lambert was presented to Carolina Herrera by Caroline Kennedy.

The Swarovski Award for Positive Change was presented to Diane von Furstenberg by Parkland student Delaney Tarr.

In one of the highlights of the evening, Ralph Lauren received A CFDA Members Salute by designers Vera Wang, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Alexander Wang, Thom Browne, Jeffrey Banks, John Varvatos, Donna Karan, Marcus Wainwright, Jason Wu, and Diane von Furstenberg. Tory Burch, Carolina Herrera, Marc Jacobs, Norma Kamali, Calvin Klein, and Reed Krakoff participated in the salute via a soundscape.

“The range and depth of talent honored at the CFDA Fashion Awards is the perfect proof that American fashion is a global powerhouse,” said Steven Kolb, President and CEO of the CFDA. “I would like to thank Nadja Swarovski and Swarovski for their continued support of the CFDA Fashion Awards and American fashion.”

“It has been 17 years since Swarovski and the CFDA first partnered to recognize the talented minds of our industry at the CFDA Fashion Awards. Having the opportunity to witness the change and evolution of the American fashion industry over the last two decades has been a true inspiration and honor,” said Nadja Swarovski, Member of the Swarovski Executive Board. “In my mind, we celebrate fashion not only in its purest form of creating beautiful fabrics that adorn us, but as a true reflection of the Zeitgeist. It serves as a reminder that we influence so much more than what’s ‘in season’ – through fashion comes powerful self-expression and continuous empowerment.”

The 2018 CFDA Fashion Awards red carpet and ceremony were broadcast on Facebook Live at facebook.com/cfda.  Additional highlights will be featured on www.cfda.com and CFDA’s YouTube channel on Tuesday, June 5th.

CFDA & SWAROVSKI:

Diane von Furstenberg, Steven Kolb, Nadja Swarovski

AWARDS HOST:

Issa Rae

CFDA FASHION AWARDS NOMINEES:

Womenswear: Raf Simons for Calvin Klein, Gabriela Hearst, Marc Jacobs, Virgil Abloh for Off-White, Ashley Olsen & Mary-Kate Olsen for The Row

Menswear: Raf Simons, for Calvin Klein, Virgil Abloh for Off-White, Supreme, Thom Browne, Tom Ford

Accessory: Stuart Vevers for Coach, Irene Neuwirth for Irene Neuwirth Jewelry, Rachel Mansur & Floriana Gavriel for Mansur Gavriel, Paul Andrew, Ashley Olsen & Mary-Kate Olsen for The Row

Swarovski Award for Emerging Talent: Mike Amiri for Amiri, Laura Vassar Brock & Kristopher Brock for Brock Collection, Aurora James for Brother Vellies, Kerby Jean-Raymond for Pyer Moss, Sander Lak for Sies Marjan

HONOREES: Naomi Campbell, Edward Enninful, Carolina Herrera, Kim Kardashian West, Ralph Lauren, Narciso Rodriguez, Donatella Versace, Diane von Furstenberg

PRESENTERS:

Issa Rae (Host), Cate Blanchett, Claire Danes, Lee Daniels, Julia Garner, Caroline Kennedy, Karlie Kloss, Trevor Noah, Lupita Nyong’o,  Busy Phillips, Delaney Tarr, Oprah Winfrey

CELEBRITY GUESTS: Sarah Paulson, Brooke Shields, Diane Lane, Liya Kebede, Julianna Margulies, Jessica and Jerry Seinfeld, Katherine Langford, Lili Reinhart, Cole Sprouse, Amber Heard, Gigi Hadid, Anwar Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Rosario Dawson, Whoopi Goldberg, Kaia Gerber, Lewis Hamilton, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Laura Harrier, Julia Garner, Olivia Culpo, Jourdan Dunn, Ashley Graham, Victor Cruz, Jasmine Sanders, Irina Shayk, Erika Jayne, Lily Aldridge, Emily Ratajkowski, Shanina Shaik, Chanel Iman, Lais Ribeiro, Elsa Hosk, Josephine Skriver, Martha Hunt, Stella Maxwell, Sara Sampaio, Winnie Harlow, Grace Elizabeth, Hari Nef, Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, Paul Wesley, Marley Shelton, Alessandra Ambrosio, Tracee Ellis Ross.

DESIGNERS: Alexander Wang, Tommy Hilfiger, Michael Kors, Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim, Donna Karan, Vera Wang, Erik Torstensson, Brett Heyman, Eva Zuckerman, Rachel Zoe, Rafe Totengco, Tanya Taylor, Kobi Halperin, Carly Cushnie, Nicole Miller, Danielle and Jodie Snyder, Zac Posen, Alexandre Birman, Rebecca Minkoff, Stacey Bendet Eisner, Sarah Flint, Tabitha Simmons, Sachin and Babi Ahluwalia, Christian Siriano, Joseph Altuzarra, Reed Krakoff, Prabal Gurung, Telfar Clemens, Phillip Lim.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS

The CFDA Remembers segment honored the passing of Amsale Aberra, Azzedine Alaïa, Pierre Bergé, Benjamin Cho, Hubert de Givenchy, Lance Karesh, Judith Leiber, Bernadine Morris, and Virginia Thoren.

As part of the CFDA’s commitment to design education, CFDA member Phillip Lim acknowledged the following scholarships and post-graduate opportunities and their recipients.

CFDA Scholarship Awards: Hannah Hyesoo Kim, Rhode Island School of Design; Yayi Chen, Parsons School of Design

Geoffrey Beene Design Scholarship Award: Kritika Manchanda, Fashion Institute of Technology

Liz Claiborne Design Scholarship Award: Cameron Orland, Academy of Art University

Kenneth Cole Footwear Innovation Award: Susan Zienty, Academy of Art University