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Costume Design

Fashion, History, On the Carpet, On the Street

Met Gala – We still ain’t over it

May 15, 2017

 

By Dominique M. Davis

Eric already ran down the tea but I wanted to review the Met Gala from a lens of art being a realistic and economically viable career path. I wonder how often we as a society steer away from pursuing dreams and the creative arts from a lack of knowledge about the career paths and opportunities the field has to offer. Or maybe, I’m just speaking from personal experience, but had I known all of the different options that were available in the creative arts space and the ability to parlay academia into a creative niche I might have taken other paths in college. Or for that matter an overall working knowledge of multiple career paths in general. The ability to choose and make informed decisions in planning for one’s future is diminished by ignorance. So often in communities of color the lack of knowledge becomes the burden of the oppressed which can lead to a perpetual cycle of paucity; not only economically but in intellectual capacity. Scarcity of resources and financial means to support one’s self reduces higher order thinking in that the basic needs for self actualization are difficult to achieve under those circumstances. So the cycle of poverty persists. Reduced funding for school programs in communities heavily populated by black and brown people makes the access to career paths even more challenging.

The Former First Lady recognized the need for arts in education and led a national campaign to re-engage arts education in early childhood and elementary schools. The arts is and has been a source for escapism in transforming intangible concepts of pain and love into tangible, physical material. Symbolic representations have the ability to create space for dialogue, reflection, self expression and serve as a conduit or vessel for cultural exchange. The use of the arts as a practical tool in education could provide youth the skills to utilize multiple forms of intelligence and develop transferable skills for careers, having the ability to separate vocation from avocation or combine the two. Knowledge or lack thereof is one of the biggest challenges with gaining access to opportunities.

We know the Met Gala started as the annual fundraising benefit for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute. But what you probably didn’t know is that the Costume Institute was started by two women who’s life work was rooted in community social work. Irene and Alice Lewisohn worked at the Henry Street Settlement house which worked with immigrant families from underserved communities in New York City. The Anna Wintour Costume Center is the home of the collection of The Costume Institute and was formally opened by Former First Lady Michelle Obama of the United States of America.

It’s our duty as leaders of the future to recognize talent and assist with the progression of transforming communities by providing information to the un or misinformed, and directing peoples to resources. How does this all relate to pop culture and the Met Gala? The arts have provided a national platform to combine social work initiatives with creative expression. To understand and realize that such careers exist and are attainable is the work that needs and must continue to be among the conversation when structuring early childhood and educational programming for students. Leaders recognize the need for change and work to achieve to make it happen.

News, Pop Culture, Television

‘The Wiz’ Through Time: From Broadway to NBC

November 19, 2015

by Eric Darnell Pritchard

“The Wiz” is, by far, my very favorite musical ever. When I was a child my mother would often sing “If You Believe,” Glinda’s inspirational anthem sung to Dorothy in the musical, and immortalized forever in the movie-musical version by the famous Lena Horne. In college, around midterm and final exam time, my mother would send me me cards to encourage me through my studies and would always sign those and anything she would send to me the famous lyrics from that song, “believe in yourself, as I believe in you! I love you, Mommy.” The Wiz, and its original source material The Wizard of Oz are, I believe, the key to pretty much any existential crisis one might be having in life. Don’t take my word for it? Oprah has said that “Glinda the Good Witch” has been one of her most important role models for her life. She even chose to pose as Glinda in Harper’s Bazaar annual ‘Icons’ fashion editorial, edited by Carine Roitfeld.

Oprah-Glinda

While one of Oprah’s favorite spiritual gurus, notable mystic Jean Houston, once a trusted advisor to Hillary Clinton, wrote a whole book The Wizard of Us:Transformational Lessons from Oz,” in which she shows how the now legendary tales of Dorothy’s journey through Oz – with the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Lion, and her dog Toto – offers key lessons on how to journey well and come to find that you, like Dorothy, are not just ordinary, but extraordinary. And all you need to do is believe in yourself.

So naturally, when it was announced that NBC’s third production in its live musical series would be The Wiz I lost my damn mind! I immediately started dream casting who would play which role (“Miss One”/Addaperle was my favorite, and one I obsessed over the most), who would direct it, and of course, how would the costumes look?

In recent months the answer to many of those questions have come, as the cast for the December 3 The Wiz Live! has been announced, preview trailers have begin to air on NBC and online, and we’ve even gotten to see video of the cast members performing some of the most memorable songs including Shanice Williams who landed the coveted roll of Dorothy singing “Home” with Stephanie Mills, who played the role in the original broadway production of 1975, as well as Williams and Mills, along with Amber Riley (Addaperle the Good Witch), Ne-Yo (Tin Man), Elijah Kelly (Scare Crow) and David Alan Grier (Lion), performing another favorite from the music “Ease on Down the Road.” This week, pictures of Queen Latifah as “The Wiz,” and orange Is The New Black’s Uzo Aduba as “Glinda” have got the Twitter-verse and Facebook-ville turned up for the The Wiz Live! while I and many other enthusiasts noticed Mary J. Blige’s “Evilene” conspicuously missing from photos and commercials promoting the show, which has us even more convinced at how epic both she and this production will be.

But as we anticipate the latest reimagining of The Wiz, it brings up so many memories of how it has moved through our popular culture and costume design lives for four decades. So it feels appropriate to, on the occasion of the both anniversary of The Wiz, look back at some of the ways its characters have been represented across time from the Geoffrey Holder directed broadway musical, with a score by Charlie Smalls and libretto by William F. Brown and earned 7 Tony Awards, to the latest Kenny Leon helmed production with a book by Broadway legend Harvey Fierstein that will likely be a big ratings win for NBC. Let’s ease on down the road:

Dorothy and Toto

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The Original: R&B legend Stephanie Mills, then a teen, as Dorothy with Toto in The Wiz 1975.  Mills will play Aunt Em in The Wiz Live! this December.

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The iconic Diana Ross as Dorothy in 1978’s movie-musical version, directed by Sidney Lumet with a screenplay by Joel Schumacher. Berry Gordy, founder of Motown Records, produced the film. Critics threw shade at the film version mostly because they were like Miss Ross tried it playing a geriatric Dorothy (she was 31, while previous Dorothy’s were teens), and they also claimed it was too scary for children (side-eye). But, the movie got the last laugh because it is a cult classic and still airs pretty regularly on television. Also, Miss Ross is and always will be Miss Ross so she’s not bothered. And Berry Gordy is even richer, so he’s good too. So, take that critics.

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Yes, Ashanti played Dorothy. Why are you acting like you ain’t know? I’ll just leave this right here and keep on easin’ on down this road. She does win for best baby hair sideburns of all the Dorothy’s, so there’s that. And I have bought Ashanti music. Ya’ll remember “oh, baby!” She’s a great songwriter as well, don’t sleep.

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Shanice Williams as Dorothy and our new Toto of “The Wiz Live!”

Scarecrow

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Hinton Battle as the original Scarecrow in the 1975 broadway production.

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The one and only Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow in the 1978 movie-musical.

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Scarecrow as portrayed in 2009’s production at New York’s City Center

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Elijah Kelley will portray the Scarecrow in The Wiz Live!

Tin Man

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Tiger Haynes as Tin Man in 1975

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Beloved comedian and actor, the late Nipsey Russell, portrayed the character in the 1978 film

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2009’s stage production saw Joshua Henry as Tin Man

THE WIZ LIVE! -- Season: 2015 -- Pictured: Ne-Yo as Tinman -- (Photo by: Paul Gilmore/NBC)Singer-songwriter Ne-Yo portrays the Tin Man in December’s The Wiz Live!

Cowardly Lion

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Ted Ross played The Cowardly Lion in the 1975 musical, for which he earned a Tony Award…

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… Ross then reprised his role for the 1978 film.

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James Monroe Iglehart in the role in 2009; Iglehart later won the Tony for portraying the Genie in the broadway music “Aladdin” based on the Disney film.

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David Alan Grier as the Cowardly Lion in The Wiz Live!

Glinda, The Good Witch

photocredit: TheWizTheMusical.com

photocredit: TheWizTheMusical.com

DeeDee Bridgewater was the original Glinda, for which she won the Tony Award in 1975.

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The legendary Lena Horne as “Glinda” in 1978’s film.

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LaChanze, winner of the Tony in 2000 for her role in Aida, portrayed as Glinda in the 2009 production. The costume of LaChanze’s Glinda is my favorite as the color choice reminds me of artistic renderings of Yemaya, an Orisha ( within Yoruba religion and culture.

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Uzo Aduba as “Glinda” in The Wiz Live!

Addaperle,  The Good Witch

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Clarice Taylor as the original Addaperle The Good Witch in 1975

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In the film version, the character Addaperle was renamed “Miss One” in a nod to the character’s northern work as a numbers runner/illegal gambler. Thelma Carpenter played the role, and marvelously so.

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Dawnn Lewis as Addaperle in 2009’s production. Lewis is best known for her role as Jeleasa in the 980s-1990s sitcom “A Different World” and also as Robin on ABC’s “Hanging with Mr. Cooper.”

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The magnificent Amber Riley, formerly of Fox’s “Glee” and winner of “Dancing With the Stars,” will portray Addaperle in The Wiz Live!

Evilene, The Wicked Witch

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Mabel King as the Wicked Witch Evilene in 1975. King also portrayed Mabel “Mama” Thomas on the 70s sitcom “What’s Happening?” …

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King also reposed the role in the film version in 1978.

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Actress and Tichina Arnold portrayed Evilene in the 2009 production. Arnold is best known as Pam on Fox’s sitcom “Martin.”

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And finally, “The Queen of Hip Hop Soul,” Mary J. Blige rules the stage as Evilene in “The Wiz Live!”

The Wiz

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Choreographer and actor, Andre De Shields, portrayed “The Wiz” in 1975.

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Comedian and actor Richard Pryor as “The Wiz” in the 1978 film.

wizcitycenter460eOrlando Jones portrayed “The Wiz” in 2009.

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Of all the most exciting things of “The Wiz Live!” on NBC, the fact that Queen Latifah will portray The Wiz has me most excited. Get into this hair chile.’ I love the gender neutralness of how she is costumed, and that the producers went for a nontraditional casting choice.

There you have it folks, thanks for easing on down the road with me looking at highlights and key players from 40 years of The Wiz. What are you most excited to see in The Wiz Live! ? Comments, Facebook us, and Tweet us too. Would love to hear from you as we gear up for the latest iteration of the musical December 3 on NBC.

 

 

 

Television, WERK!

Web-series “An African City”: Smart, Funny, Political, and Fashionable!

April 23, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 7.50.10 AMHoney, I live for the fashionS on the web-series “An African City.” They’re always so fearless, original, chic, elegant, and beautiful. The show takes place in Accra, Ghana and follows the lives, loves, and ambitions of five friends. It is part drama, part romantic comedy, and part political commentary. Some have called it the “Sex and the City” of Africa, but I think it is in its own lane and is quite a bit stronger than “Sex and the City” in the way it seamlessly incorporates political commentary on issues effecting all people, but particularly on women’s lives and Black women’s lives. It is very entertaining and informative. Season 2 should be starting soon. Check it out if you can!

 

 

 

Film

Dr. Tanisha Ford on Fashioning Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” !

April 22, 2015

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Really wonderful article in The Root by historian and “haute couture intellectual” Dr. Tanisha Ford (@soulistaphd on Twitter and Instagram) titled “Selma Costumes Reveal Class and Consciousness of the Movement.” The article looks at the film  about new film “Selma,” directed by Ava DuVernay, and costume design choices demonstrating attention to “class and consciousness”in the civil rights movement. The film stars David Oyelowo and Carmen Ejogo as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King. Check out Dr. Ford’s article at the link, and I hope you will also see the important film by one of my very favorite directors.

Television

Fashioning “Empire” (Part 1): Notes on Cookie Fierceness

April 14, 2015

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If you are not watching “Empire” and getting into this haute-ness they are giving you each week, I don’t know what to say. Luckily, you have us to keep you posted through a series of posts called “Fashioning Empire” in which we’ll focus on one character each time. First up, the Queen of Empire Records herself, everyone’s favorite television drama character of the moment, Cookie Lyon as played by Oscar nominate actress and NAACP Image Award Entertainer of the Year, Taraji P. Henson.

When the show starts Cookie is released from prison after serving seventeen years in prison separated from her (now ex) husband and three sons. The major plot line is that the company was founded with money that belonged to Cookie, and after seventeen years she is returning to what is a multimillion dollar company and looking for her cut of the riches while looking *Nene Leakes voice* “rich, VERY rich” while doing it. Every damn scene Cookie is slaying life with her fashions and looking at everybody like  you not ’bout that Glamourtunist life! I mean, in just the one photo above — get into his fur stole, this dress tailored within an inch of its life, this cuff, this lipstick, this hair! Girl, werrrrk !!!! Life has been given ! The costume designer and stylist Rita McGhee is killin’ it with these fashionS on the show. I especially enjoy and see lots of references for Cookie’s fashion on the show. From the characters Domonique Devereaux on “Dynasty” as portrayed by the one and only Ms. Diahann Carroll …

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… To the hip hop glamour and luxury of the Empress of Hauteness herself, stylist June Ambrose, and another legendary fashionista, stylist and socialite Misa Hylton Brim. I’m here for it! We will be watching and tweeting the show and commenting on its fashion each night it airs. Come join us over on twitter following @Glamourtunist each week an original episode airs.