Behind the Curtain Unveiled


On the 14th, Raandesk Gallery unveiled its first exhibition for 2010 with Behind the Curtain, featuring artists Jason Bryant and Kevin Cyr.  I was introduced to both these artists in 2009 while visiting separate exhibitions at different galleries; from my initial introduction these two men left an indelible impression.  Although both artists showcase contrasting subjects, the realistic quality that exudes from their work makes them a match in art exhibition heaven. And indeed it was fate that brought these two men together having first met as assistants at Kehinde Wiley Studios where they first discussed the possible collaboration of an exhibit.  Thanks to Jessica Porter and Raandesk Gallery, their idea came to fruition. 

Jason Bryant’s portraits are inspired by pictures of models, actors and various ad campaigns, although at first sight, you would never know.  Removed from the closely cropped images are the eyes, thus removing the souls, but like an individual stricken with sudden blindness whose senses compensate for their lack of sight, other features of the face are highlighted to reveal the essence of the portrait.   A laugh line here, a wrinkle there, the positioning of the lips and check bones reveal a deeper story than the eyes ever could.   The richness of color coupled with the superimposed skateboard graphics gives the portraits a 3-D aesthetic and the earnest quality of the portraits combined with the whimsical effect of the graphics provide each work with sublime balance.

What is more New York than delivery trucks parked on every corner?  We curse them as we navigate through traffic and scramble to find parking. It is our traffic nightmares that provide Kevin Cyr’s inspiration.  Kevin takes the dilapidated delivery trucks and other vehicles and places them on large panels of wood using striking palettes of color.  Jason Bryant removes the eyes.  Kevin Cyr removes the background scenery making the trucks and cars the single focus in his portraits.  By placing the vehicles behind a solid colored background, the trucks become omnipresent – they could be anywhere.  The vehicles’ details seem to be enhanced and give them a new found charm.   

By featuring unconventional subjects, both Jason and Kevin challenge the audience to pay attention to the details – the various fragments within our society and even ourselves that tend to be dismissed.  Each time you peer into their portraits a new layer is exposed, a new detail is revealed and your sense of awareness is heightened.  The exhibit is designed to build on the color and themes of the portraits accomplishing a harmonious synergy against the white and bricked walls and provides a new meaning to the words “parallel universe.”  Bravo to Jason Bryant, Kevin Cyr and Raandesk Gallery for pushing the concept of portraiture into a new, intriguing territory.

Behind the Curtain is currently on display at Raandesk Gallery at 16 W. 23rd Street, 4th Floor until March 12, 2010.  You can also view more of Jason Bryant’s and Kevin Cyr’s work on

Photos courtesy of

Cielo Opens Its Doors To Help Haiti

As stated in my previous post Help for Haiti, I will report about events going on in the city that are helping raise much needed aid for the Haitian earthquake relief.  Today one of the Meat Packing District’s hottest clubs is opening its doors for an event that is any dancer’s wet t-shirt dream.  Club Cielo, located on 18 Little West 12th Street, is hosting Song, Dance & Love for Haiti.

This event is organized by Joann Jimenez, Jephté Guillaume and Antonio Ocasio and features some of the most legendary DJs and Producers of house music as well as some of NYC’s most talented underground DJs.  Each hour the audience will move, shake, gyrate and produce its best baby powdered foot work to sets spinned by Jellybean Benetiz, Louie Vega, Danny Krivit, Joaquin “Joe” Claussell, Francois K, Josh Milan and Sabine Blazin.

The event is from 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. with proceeds being donated to Doctors without Borders in Haiti, $20 is the suggested donation.  The combination of Club Cielo and the line up of DJs signifies an event of epic proportions.  Dance…dance…dance is the theme for this gloomy Sunday.  Before manic Monday morning comes, I suggest all FAMERS get out the house and shake a tail feather for a good cause.

To learn more about Doctors without Borders please visit

Fond Farewell

Last year we said goodbye to icons, athletes and politicians.  We also said goodbye to a landmark.  On December 31st, Tavern on the Green opened its doors for the last time in Central Park.  Over 1,000 people from across the U.S. came to take part in the closing of NYC history. 

Tavern on the Green opened its doors in 1934 during the Great Depression; it is almost storybook that its saga should end during the Great Recession.   It was known for its grand décor – a restaurant that presented a magical aesthetic for its patrons. 

Like most New Yorkers, Tavern on the Green was not one of my favorite eateries.  In recent years the cuisine developed a subpar reputation and the décor was not as splendid as it was in its heyday.  It had become one of those places in the Big Apple that garnered a lot of attention from tourists and bridezillas, and was not necessarily considered a restaurant that a “real” New Yorker would go to. 

In New York City restaurants come and go.  A hot new eatery springs up and is all the rage one day and it is cold as day old Manhattan clam chowder the next.  Still, when I learned that the iconic restaurant was closing its doors for good I experienced a sudden pang of nostalgia and regret.  Tavern on the Green was as New York to me as Rockefeller Center, The Empire State Building, Saks Fifth Avenue or The Met.  It was just as an important fixture in Central Park as Strawberry Fields or Wollman Rink.  I developed my deep love for the landscape of the city through my father.  When I was a child, we would go on day trips every Saturday, embarking on a new landmark each time.  It was through my father and those day trips that I developed my affinity for music, arts, culture architecture and style.  As an adult, I have left those landmarks to the tourist to gawk over taking them for granted.  Tavern on the Green was one of those places.

After the loss of the World Trade Centers I swore that I appreciate the landmarks that make NYC so spectacular a little more, but I know realize that I haven’t really lived up to that promise.  As much as New York City is a place of history and landmarks, it is also a metropolis for the latest and greatest.  I had been so busy chasing what is new and hot, I had forgotten about the places and sites that make New York one of the most visited places in the world.  With a New Year come new promises, one of mine is to revisit my childhood and make new memories by visiting more city landmarks before they too disappear and become pages on Wikipedia.

Central Park won’t seem the same without Tavern on the Green, sometimes you don’t know what you have until it’s gone.  Sure, it may have become a little tattered and torn over the years and the food could’ve been better, depending on your taste buds, but nonetheless it was staple and part of New York history.  Items from the famed restaurant have been liquidated and sold; it has been reported that Jennifer LeRoy, manager of Tavern on the Green, is fighting to retain its name so she can open a new restaurant at a new location.  Only time will tell if Tavern on the Green will ever open its doors again, but for now I bid it adieu.

How Precious is Precious?

On Sunday Mo’Nique added Golden Globe award winner to her list of accolades after winning Best Supporting Actress, hairy legs and all.  Since the release of Precious, I have debated whether or not to comment about this movie.  The movie, based on the 1996 award-winning novel Push by Sapphire, is set in Harlem and was filmed on location.  Its breakout star Gabourey Sidibe is a New Yorker and was raised in Harlem.  A New York film about a New York girl played by a New York born actress made it perfect for F.A.M.E NYC.  Still, I had trepidation when thinking of writing about this film.

Precious is set in Harlem during the ‘80s.  Anyone living in the city during that time remembers how grimy the city was.  While the film was shot on location, it doesn’t display much of the neighborhood.  Instead the griminess is shown in the character driven story of Claireece “Precious” Jones, played by Sidibe and her mother Mary, played by Mo’Nique.  The mental, sexual and verbal abuse Precious suffers from her mother, whose only obsession appears to be ensuring her welfare doesn’t get cut off, is mind boggling and spine curdling.  To say that Mary is a horrible mother is a gross understatement.  A stray animal has more of a motherly instinct than she.  Instead of protecting Precious from the sexual abuse she receives from her father, she is jealous that Precious has been impregnated twice by her father.  Her jealousy spawns a cyclone of cruelty that could shatter any soul beyond repair.

At the beginning of the film Precious is illiterate and being removed from school because she is pregnant with her second child and begins to attend an alternative school.  It is through the help of teacher, played by Paula Patton, that she begins to learn how to read, how to open up and how to push through her current circumstances to improve her life for herself and her children.

Mo’Nique, known for being one of the queens of comedy, is frightengly convincing as Mary.  The depth of true talent is exposed in this film; her Golden Globe win was more than deserved.  She plays Mary with all the devilishness of a true villain yet she burrows so deep into Mary’s pain that you begin to have empathy for her, asking yourself “What did this woman experience that made her into the monster she became?”

Newcomer Gabourey Sidibe truly embodied the role of Precious.  She gave a performance expected of a seasoned actor.   The role seemed tailored for her and should no doubt have a great career ahead of her.  Sidibe wore the pain of Precious in her expressions, her muffled speech and her walk and showed her transition from hopelessness to hopeful.  No matter how dim the scene, Gabourey Sidibe was a ray of light.

Precious is a film that will stick to your subconscious like hot grits on skin.  It will not go away easy and that is exactly the point. The film should inspire dialog about the myriad topics that are taboo in our society such as incest, abuse, illiteracy, poverty and AIDS – subjects that are especially forbidden in the black community.

After watching Mo’Nique give her acceptance speech, I realize why I contemplated commenting on this film.  The story of a 16-year-old illiterate, obese, HIV positive girl and mother of two children by her father was an idea that was overwhelming.  After the release of the film, many critics praised the movie as a must see.  While I do agree that the movie is compelling and probably director Lee Daniel’s finest project to date, I am concerned about Hollywood’s propensity to grab from the worst of the black experience.  Indeed, wasn’t the prerequisite of this film The Color Purple?  While it is no secret that the entertainment industry as a whole profits off of the pain of the black experience, the lack of diversity in black cinema is troublesome to say the least.  Are we only compelling if we are HIV positive, abused, illiterate, obese or on welfare?  Isn’t the complexity of living day to day compelling enough without such extreme circumstances?  Why aren’t there more multifarious projects being produced out of Hollywood and why only films like Precious receive critical recognition from the industry?  What message does this send to black screenwriters and directors?

In 2008, Miracle at St. Anna was released.  I found it to be one of the best modern war films I have seen, portraying World War II from the black perspective, a side that is rarely seen.  The film received few critical acclaim and was virtually ignored the Motion Picture Association of America and the other powers that be, which I find to be a gross error in judgment.

So, with yet another downtrodden story about a black person on the big screen, is Precious truly precious?  I say unequivocally yes.   It is an exquisite film about a despicable set of topics; however it is my hope that with the success of Precious, more dramatic films will be released that covers the entire spectrum of the black experience.

Can A Sneakerhead Be A Fashionista?

To say that a fashionista follows fashion fervently would be an understatement; to inhale and exhale fashion is the purpose of any true fashionista.  Style is the code in which she lives by. She can be spotted in the hottest labels. Keeping abreast of the latest trends, colors and accessories are a necessity.   For a fashionista to sacrifice a meal or two to buy the new Dior bag is not a far stretch of the imagination.  After all, that is what a paycheck is for.  Combing department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales, and designer flagship stores to acquire the garments that feed her obsession is merely a form of exercise.   Publications like W, InStlye and Vogue must be absorbed like holy texts.  Events like Fashion Week are like pilgrimages to Mecca.  Fashion isn’t just an industry, it is a religion and a fashionista is a willing apostle.

Generally, the term fashionista is associated with high fashion.  Labels such as Christian Loubatian, Yves Saint Laurent, Zac Posen, BCBG, Herve Leger, Rock & Republic, and Diane von Furstenberg are frequent visitors to a fashionista’s closet.   But can Puma, Nike, Adidas, and Supras sit in the same closet as Prada?  Can a sneakerhead be considered as a fashionista too?

Sneakerheads are generally addicts of a male persuasion, but there are female sneakerheads. A sneakerhead is a person who is obsessed with the quest of owning multiple pairs of footwear.  This passion does not only extend itself to fascination of collecting, but also extends to the religion of fashion.  Sneakerheads are zealots.  Like an archeologist searching the graves of ancient lands in search of priceless relics, the goal of a true sneakerhead is to collect as many rare, vintage and limited edition sneakers as possible.  Sneakerheads accept the charge of a lifetime journey that can be costly; however the ends definitely justify the means.

Just as a fashionista creates a look that encompasses the right outfit, accessories, make-up and shoes; sneakerheads do the same.  For a sneakerhead, the sneaker is the foundation of the outfit and maximizing the hotness of the sneaker with the proper garments is absolutely necessary.   Also a sneakerhead needs to own a pair of sneakers that fits every occasion.  A female sneakerhead must have a pair of sneakers to go with jeans, skirts, slacks, and even evening gowns.  Don’t scoff, Cybill Shepherd once wore hi-tops to the Emmys and D. Woods of Danity Kane has worn hi-tops on the red carpet as well.   So yes Virginia, a sneakerhead can also be considered a fashionista.

She has boxes of Dunks proudly stacked by boxes of Jimmy Choos.  She has an outfit and accessories to go with her custom pair of Pumas as well as having the perfect outfit for taking her new Michael Kors bag out to play.   She is an aficionado on Versace and an authority on kicks.  She is a sneakernista.

Help For Haiti

Last Tuesday the tiny Caribbean island of Haiti was torn asunder by a 7.0 earthquake.  Since then we have seen images of a landscape in ruins and a nation dealing with unfathomable homelessness, hunger and death.  Indeed the enormity of devastation that has been witnessed can no doubt be compared to the tragedy that happened in 2005 when the levies broke in New Orleans.  What makes the images and reports more tragic is that Haiti is the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere.  Our Caribbean neighbors have had to combat poverty and subpar living conditions for decades and have been overlooked by all its neighbors, including the U.S.  How much can one small country endure?

News stations have dedicated countless time to report on the aftermath of the earthquake and the relief efforts that have been initiated to help aid the people of Haiti.  CNN has become “earthquake central” with constant updates regarding the conditions of Haiti and its people following the earthquake as well as the stream of support both nationally and internationally.  It is shameful to believe that it took a catastrophe of this magnitude to shine a spotlight on Haiti, but now that Haiti has the world’s attention, it is imperative that we do what we can to ensure that this nation can finally rise from the deplorable conditions that Haitians have been living in even before the earthquake.

We have read and seen countless celebrities donate their time and money to help in the relief effort.  On Friday George Clooney, Anderson Cooper and Wyclef Jean, Grammy award winning diplomat and Haiti’s biggest champion, will team up to host the “Hope for Haiti” telethon, which is set to air commercial-free on ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, BET, the CW, HBO, MTV, VH1 and CMT on at 8 p.m. ET/PT. The telethon will be hosted by Clooney in Los Angeles, Jean in New York and Cooper in Haiti. All donations will directly benefit Oxfam America, Partners in Health, the Red Cross, UNICEF and Wyclef’s Yele Haiti Foundation.   Yele Haiti has already raised $2M in text donations.  I urge all FAMERs to watch and donate whatever they can, even a donation as small as $5 can collectively make a huge difference if we all contribute.

New York City is known as a Mecca for Fashion, Art, Music and Entertainment, but I say it is also a microcosm for our global community and an epicenter for the most creative, resilient citizens on the planet.  In an effort to help in the relief effort, there are plenty of events going on in the Big Apple that are donating proceeds to various charities such as Yele Haiti, the Red Cross, etc.

On Wednesday, Soulgasm, one of NYC’s most successful underground parties, is having their weekly party at Sin Sin, located on 2nd Avenue.  They will be taking up a cash collection with the proceeds going to Americares.   On Saturday, S.O.Bs will host AYITI DEPLOGE: Special Earthquake Benefit Show with proceeds from ticket sales going to UNICEF and the Red Cross.  On the 28th Libation, held at the Sullivan Room, will open its doors to Urban Sanctuary to help raise money and supplies for the earthquake relief, I urge everyone to attend at least one event in the city that is donating proceeds to help aid the people of Haiti.

As I learn and attend events like these, I will continue to share them with you.  Now more than ever we are becoming one global village.  It is up to each of us to ensure that as citizens of the world we do all we can to assist each other as we move forward into the next decade of this millennium.

Photos of Haiti courtesy of AP and Getty Images

Times Square 2009


“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…”  Fair to say about any city, New York in particular, Times Square is Manhattan’s busiest bee hive of activity and one of the reasons this town never sleeps.  With its gigantic screens, Times Square is one of the best places for New Yorkers to gather to hear the news that shape and affect our world. Two events that brought New Yorkers together at Times Square are the Inauguration of President Obama and the memorial service for Michael Jackson. 

New Yorkers stood in the crispy January air to witness history as the first Black president took the oath of Commander in Chief.  Whether you voted for Obama or not, no one could dispute the importance of the day.  For those who couldn’t get to D.C., Times Square was the next best thing.  Standing in the cold gave a sense of unity as New Yorkers stare into the face of war and recession, but staring into the faces of those that were shivering beside one another, New Yorkers also received a dose of hope as change had come to Washington D.C., America and the world.

When news that Michael Jackson was rushed to the hospital, my jaded journalist mind thought it was a publicity stunt.  Or maybe I just wanted it to be a publicity stunt as some human beings seem immortal.  When I heard that he had actually passed away, I refused to believe it was true until I saw a member of the Jackson family confirm it.  Once Jermaine made a statement, I knew the horrible news was true.  Again, Times Square played host as the jumbo screens showed the memorial service in L.A.  People wore his t-shirts, danced like Michael, sang his songs and dressed like him.  It was a day filled with somber celebration and Times Square offered a place for so many people close to Michael’s music a place to go and mourn.

Times Square has seen it share of memorable events over the decades and will see many more.  Each year people from all over the world choose Times Square as the place to shed the old skin of the past year and welcome the possibilities of the New Year.  As the editor of F.A.M.E NYC I hope every FAMER has a bountiful, healthy 2010.  As we cross the threshold into a new decade let our past help to shape our present as we create the mold for the future. 

The slate is clean and I can’t wait to share with you the goings on of NYC for the next year.

Lady Gaga Top Artist for 2009


Since the world is revisiting the ‘80s again, with its economics, fashion and music, I was waiting for the neo-Grace Jones to appear, and finally she has.  Native New Yorker Lady Gaga has emerged from LES to take the world by storm.  The proof was delivered at the MTV awards.  Everyone was waiting to see who would be the victor of the Beyonce and Gaga showdown. 

Grace Jones was clearly ahead of her time, but the new millennium was ready for an artist like Lady Gaga to captivate the world.  Artists like Madonna, Grace and David Bowie laid down the ground work.  Lady Gaga has taken influences from all these legends and created a persona which she owns with utter fierceness.    

She delivers a vocalist’s trifecta lyrics, vocals and a stunning on stage performance.  Gaga understands the meaning of being an artist in the new millennium, delivering shock and awe everywhere she goes. 

Her sense of fashion is completely editorial, with every piece contributing to the overall story.  Whether you think of her as a genius or a walking car crash, people can’t help looking at and listening to Lady Gaga. 

Her edgy style has influenced other artists from Rihanna to Christopher Lambert.  Even Beyonce has collaborated with this young prodigy.  I firmly believe that Lady Gaga will be to future generations what Madonna was to Generation X, and with the way this artist pushes boundaries we ain’t seen nothing yet.

Empire State of Mind Top Single for 2009

Not since Frank Sinatra’s rendition of New York, New York has the Big Apple had a theme song that unites, describes and inspires the way Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” has.  Jigga hit pay dirt with this single and the feature of Alicia Keys, another fellow New Yorker, on the hook.  Both these artists are at the top of their game musically and could make for no better New York duo.  The song seemed to be perfect for the time since the Yankees used it as their theme song while clinching their 27th World Series victory.  “Empire State of Mind” took on a life of its own; from ringtones to victory parades, this single was everywhere.  It took more than 30 years for hip hop to deliver an anthem dedicated to the birth place of hip hop.  Thanks to Hov constant creativity, “Empire State of Mind” has reached beyond hip hop’s global borders with a timeless anthem that will carry us into the next decade of the new millennium.