NYC Women’s Empowerment Summit Electrifies The Big Apple

L-R Abby Ellin, Abiola Abrams, Valerie Smaldone, Alycia Kaback, Judith King, Pat Addiss, Laura Fredricks

The release of Beyonce’s “Run the World (Girls)” this April seemed to be a felicitous occurrence that conceivably set the tone for the summer’s activities; imagine my surprise when I was invited to cover The 1st Annual NYC Women’s Empowerment Summit, set to take place in the summer, a month later.  The brainchild of Alycia Kaback, a powerhouse and owner of six businesses including Kaback Models and VIP Talent Connect, the NYC Women’s Empowerment Summit is a comprehensive one-day event aimed at creating networking opportunities and bringing awareness to causes that are imperative to women.  Intimate, exclusive and extremely affordable, the summit was capped at 100 attendees and the proceeds from the $45.00 ticket price went to Make a Wish Foundation.

Alycia Kaback and Vivica A. Fox

 Summer weekends in Manhattan generally consist of trips to the Hampton’s for NYC’s social elite and Coney Island and Rockaway Beach for everyone else.  The humidity hit-parade smacks us with sweltering temperatures and tourists are allowed to take possession of the city.   Saturday is generally the day of the week to kick back, but on July 16 NYC was all about business.  As I walked to Bennett Media Studios, located on 723 Washington Street, I had no idea what to expect.  At the most I thought I would hand out a few business cards and gain more awareness for F.A.M.E NYC.  I had no suspicion of the reward that was waiting beyond the doors of this building.  The summit surpassed my greatest expectations.  Along with the chance to meet women from various professions, The NYC Women’s Empowerment Summit provided a rock star panel of guest speakers from a variety of business fields.  Each of these women injected the attendees with doses of hope, determination and lessons the audience could take with them as they conquer or change their career path.

 What first impressed me as I looked for an open chair was the wide range of

Fran Kirmser

women that were present.  Women representing diverse age groups and ethnicities (and even a few good men) eagerly found open seats in anticipation for the presentations from the speakers.  The summit began with a few words from Alycia Kaback then radio personality Valerie Smaldone took the mic.  A five-time Billboard Magazine Award winner and the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation (GCF) spokeswoman, Valerie recommended women to find the people around them that they wanted to connect to, be a maverick and back up their natural talents by furthering their education in their desired career.  Chelsea Krost, media personality and author of the book NINETEEN: A Reflection of My Teenage Experience in an Extraordinary Life. What I Have Learned and What I Have to Share, was the youngest speaker on the panel.  At 20, she is well on her way to becoming the voice for the Millennial Generation by bringing a new demographic to AM radio, covering President Obama’s Inauguration and documenting the aftermath of the deadly tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri.  Her heartfelt message stressed persistence, turning dreams into reality and that age should never be a factor in pursuing one’s dreams.  Chelsea’s exuberance served as an inspiration to the panel as most of the women following her chose to speak from the hearts as well.  Pat Addiss ran a promotions company for 30 years before switching careers to become a theatre producer.  She produced The Fantasticks, the longest running musical of all time.  By joking that the panel shifted from the youngest member its oldest, Pat reminded the attendees that it is alright to have more than one dream.  “If you find out your dream is not your calling…change,” she said.   

The subject of change flowed into the message of Fran Kirmser, the next speaker.  Fran’s theatre production company produced Lombardi, the longest running play of the 2010 season.  Starting out as a professional dancer, she like Pat also transitioned into another career, but her message was not about career changes.  Instead, she focused on attitude changes.  Women are conditioned to think of everyone else, especially when taking on the roles of wife and mother.  Fran advised women that it is okay to put self first and to make time for one’s passion, even if that passion is not business related.  The thread of self was woven into the uproarious commentary of Judith King.  She is the lead partner and co-principal of The Morris + King Company (MKC).  Through laughter Judith drove home the points of staying true to one’s self, being fearless without being reckless and losing the fear of failure.  Subsequently, she also may have discovered a new career path as a stand up comic. 

Innovation was the theme for speakers Sibrena Stowe, Gala Darlin and Vikki

Valerie Smaldone, Sibrena Stowe, Judith King, Gala Darlin

Ziegler.  Sibrena, having virtually no experience, became one of the leading media buyers in the urban music market working with Jive Records, Kedar Entertainment and Universal Music.  She is the founder of La Chic Media and a proud mother.  In fact, one of her career goals was to do something her daughter could be proud of.  Along with having pride in one’s work, Sibrena emphasized the importance of associating with positive people, visualizing goals and learning new things.  Gala Darlin’s unique approach to blogging, fashion and the power of practicing radical self-love has given her a cult following.   Creating a strong, identifiable brand from scratch, she did so by having faith and the desire to write and work for herself.  Gala’s distinct methodology for life also resonated in her speech suggesting that audience members write down every compliment, start a bible filled with feel good paraphernalia and occasionally take yourself on a date.  A child of divorce, Vikki Ziegler transformed a painful chapter in her life into a lucrative career.  Although she has carved a niche as a successful divorce lawyer and television personality, Vikki also offers her wisdom to help couples overcome their issues and stay in their marriages.  She shared with the audience one of her favorite quotes, “God’s delays are not God’s denials.”  She also stressed the significance of knowing your worth and learning from personal experiences.

Prevailing over one’s shadow presented itself as the motif for Abiola Abrams,

Abiola Abrams

Lubna Dajani and Wendi Caplan-Carroll.  Abiola is the go to girl when it comes to sex, love, dating, lifestyle and pop culture news.  She is BBC Radio’s Entertainment Correspondent, blogger and editor of Abiola’s Passionista Playbook and host/producer of her own award-winning web series.  Abiola’s message was, “How we do anything is how we do everything.”   Her spirited speech specified the need to let go of old excuses, take risks and trust.  Lubna Dajani was named as one of Mobile Marketer’s “Mobile Women to Watch” in 2010.  A pioneer in digital and mobile media and technology, Lubna has held positions as a consultant, senior manager and new business developer for multi-national companies and non-profits.  Accentuating the concept that everyone is a brand, Lubna suggested that at times we are our worst enemies and sometimes we must step out of our own way, find the good residing inside you and follow it.  Wendi Caplan-Carroll is a social media and digital marketing guru.  After working with companies such as CBS Radio, Infinity Broadcasting and Emmis Broadcasting, she is currently the Development Director for Constant Contact.  She implored everyone to be what you meant to be, never abandon your dreams and stay focus on what your business and customer should be like.  Most importantly, she left the audience with the theory of the red thread stating that we are all connected.

Finance, energy and freelance were the topics that ended the summit as

Laura Fredricks

speakers Laura Fredricks, Judith Glaser and Abby Ellin took the stage.   Any artistic or business endeavor requires money; Laura Fredricks has raised millions for several organizations.  A bestselling author, she runs a boutique consulting business that trains and coaches non-profits and companies on how to ask for funds and get it.  Her tips for raising funds are: tell your story, create a business plan and organizational structure, quantify and follow up.  Judith Glaser thinks of herself as Organizational Anthropologist.  An author of three bestselling business books on leadership; she is the Founder of Benchmark Communications, Inc., the Co-founder, Chairman of Creating WE Institute and founding partner of Creating WE, LLC.  The story of who Judith is today started with a homeless man.  She left the audience with the knowledge that energy connects and binds us when it is positive.  Abby Ellin is a freelance subject-matter expert crafting a career as a writer without ever accepting a position in a company or publication.  Her pieces have been published in The New York Times, Self, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, Sassy, Seventeen, Cosmopolitan and Glamour.  In 2005, Abby published Teenage Waistland: A Former Fat Kid Weighs in on Living Large, Losing Weight and How Parents Can (and Can’t) Help.  Her witty and keen observations about her 20-year career educated the audience on how not to worry about things that are beyond the scope of their control, to stand still if you are unsure where to go and to find out what works for you.  “There’s no recipe for success,” she advised.  Keynote speaker Vivica A. Fox eloquently summarized the points offered by the guest speakers.

Inspirational, exhilarating, engaging and extremely time worthy, The 1st Annual NYC Women’s Empowerment Summit left me well fed.  Not only was the lunch provided by BBQ’s tempting, but the thought-provoking speeches given by the panelists gave me much to chew on.  It was refreshing to be around women that were willing to share their knowledge, become connectors and seemed genuinely concerned about helping other women achieve their career goals.  The intimacy of the venue and the size of the attendees made networking less intimidating.  I doubt that any woman left the summit feeling anything less than enriched for the experience.  Hats off to Alycia Kaback for organizing such a wonderful event, go Girl Power!

 To learn more about Alycia Kaback or The Women’s Empowerment Summit, click

 Photos courtesy of Touch of Menel Photography

Giving NYC Nightlife What It’s Been Missing

As the editor of F.A.M.E NYC, I can testify that the phrase, “It’s not work when you love what you do” is true.  But I am not the only one that comprehends this sentiment. It is obvious from the picture above that Isreal Hagan (pictured left) loves his job.  Isreal is the co-founder of A-List Entertainment, a multifaceted marketing company that specializes in nightlife, fashion, nonprofit, brand endorsements, corporate liaisons and advertising.  On the company’s website Isreal says, “I honestly felt like NYC needed a facelift.”   A-List Entertainment has been injecting the life back into NYC nightlife one event at a time.  Their mission is to restore Manhattan as the place to be when it comes to partying.  Judging by the size of the crowds at their events and range of artists that they work with, it will not be long before A-List Entertainment can take their place in the pantheon of legendary promoters.  There is always pure electricity permeating through an A-List Entertainment event and Isreal is the Pied Piper in sunglasses, ensuring that each affair tops the previous one. 

Conquering the NYC party scene is not child’s play – it is a 24-hour hustle.  There is barely time for sleep, but Isreal took a moment to speak with F.A.M.E NYC and shared his thoughts with us about Manhattan nightlife, fashion and his favorite places in the city.

You stated, “I honestly felt like NYC needed a facelift.”  What prompted you to make this statement? 

New York City is supposed to be the Mecca of all things entertainment! Back in the days, way before my time, events had more meaning.  There was a hunger in the artists and the promoters to make as big of a statement as possible. I remember hearing stories of people who actually saw artists like Big Daddy Kane in a bath tub on stage and leaving with a spiritual fulfillment kind of like church [laughs].  And don’t even get me started with the party scene; people don’t even “dance” anymore.

How has A-List Entertainment assisted in giving NYC this facelift?

We are connecting the dots. Recently, we formed partnerships with CEG the company that represents the majority of Pop Culture like Jersey Shore, MTV Real World, etc. We also signed a strategic partnership deal with Buzz PR and their events are legendary! By combining our outlets and working diligently, we are bringing some of the most sought after events NYC has seen in years.

Those who know about NYC Nightlife know that the city is the main culprit in the decline of NYC nightlife.  How do you circumvent issues that some promoters and marketing companies have had with their parties and urban parties in particular?

There is no vision anymore. There are hundreds of nightlife hosts that don’t really understand what it means to host. It’s honestly the promoter’s job to make sure that people have as much fun as possible and that starts with the promoters themselves. I mean hey, take a trip to LA and then tell me what’s wrong with the promoters in NYC.  Furthermore the urban scene is tricky, as a lot of club owners don’t really want a dark crowd in their establishment.  Maybe it’s because statistically urban crowds ring higher bar numbers or maybe it’s the fashion statements they make to become trendsetters.  All jokes aside, business owners need a reality check. The year is 2011, cut the racism.   And promoters stop settling for used up venues to host your “urban event,” instead do something undeniable, contact your celebrity friends, lock in a few performances and get sponsors to back your endeavors. Keyword…sponsors.

If you could hop into a time machine and revisit any era in NYC Nightlife, which would it be?

Take me back to the days of Lotus, Tunnel, Lime-Light (House Heads) Eugene’s, the old Latin Quarters, etc. Speaking of LQs, I remember when the promoters at the time named Sergio Productions started merging crowds putting Latinos with African Americans…talk about hot.

What are the three most important components for producing a great event in Manhattan?

I could answer this question, but then I’d be giving our secrets away.  Just be very unique in your event planning, and be hands on with your Community Board.


A-List Entertainment also produces fashion events as well.  Do you guys have anything in the works for September?

We are in talks with a few special major brands! All I can say is Fashion’s Night Out will be a night to remember [smiles].

 Which brands/labels are essential to wear for a night out in NYC?

Well my style is a lot different from everyone else’s [laughs]. I don’t really spend money of the conventional things because I work out [smiles], so I can only suggest what I wear.  First go to American Apparel and get an assortment of deep V-necks, the more color the better, price $25. Then head over to Banana Republic and get a fresh pair of Black Chinos, price $50. Next stop is Alexander McQueen for some high-top Pumas, price $250-$300. Add a summer jacket from Zara or Kenneth Cole and your all set!  Oh and accessories are a must.

Tell me more about Prostar.

Prostar is our way of providing the lost art of A&R. Through our connections with Universal Music Group and CEG, we are able to provide artists with professional development, product endorsements, branding and PR. We also get artists booked all over the country. The harder they work, they harder we work!

What does A-List Entertainment have planned for NYC this summer?

Besides our weekly events, I have taken a special interest in Katra on Friday nights. I have the Heavy Hitter DJ Big Ben, Mickey Factz, MTV’s Charlie B and La Mega making special guest appearances. This summer will be filled with surprise performances and celebrity guest every week.  We also have our hands tied into a few concerts to benefit charities; it’s always good to give back to the community.

Give us five of your favorite places to go in NYC.  They can include restaurants, theatres, museums and places to relax.

 Pinkberry in SoHo.  Don’t knock it till you try it.

American Museum of Natural History.  By far the coolest exhibitions I’ve ever seen.

Prospect Park in Brooklyn.  Take a date here … you can thank me later. 

Dylan’s Candy Shop.  Feels like you’re in the Willy Wonka Movie; try the Ice-cream.

Del Frisco’s.   A local celeb spot with great food. 

To learn more about A-List Entertainment and their services click,

Photo courtesy of Isreal Hagan

Spiderman 2.0 The Future of American Musical Theatre Personified

If I was presented with the task of summing up Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark in two words, I would adamantly choose creative and ambitious.  If given a bonus word, I would throw in persistent.  Indeed it was persistence (perhaps plain stubbornness) creativity and ambition that has powered the engine of this production as it steamrolled its way onto Broadway.  More often than not, Peter Parker’s journey to the stage has been the equivalent of a run away train with several derailments.  In 2002, Marvel announced that film and theatre producer Toney Adams would produce a Spiderman musical.  Three years later he would suffer a stroke and die while the creative team, which included U2’s Bono and Edge and Julie Taymor, gathered to sign contracts.  An omen perhaps, but the production found a new lead producer in Adams’s partner David Garfinkle and carried on.  During its push to opening night, the musical has obtained a ballooned budget of over $70 million, received the honor of having the most previews of any Broadway production in history and endured cast injuries, multiple tongue-lashings by the critics as well as creative and cast changes.

Despite the rollercoaster ride during its prolonged preview period, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has prevailed (at least over its former obstacles) and officially opened at The Foxwoods Theatre, located at 213 West 42nd Street, on June 14. The story of Peter Parker aka Spiderman is well-known. He is Marvel’s lead character and one of the most commercial superheroes.  His sagas have been depicted in comic books, newspaper comics, cartoons, televisions and on film with Tobey Maguire in the lead role.   Although the producers and creative team behind this production overcame epic hindrances that would have frozen most shows quicker than a gaze from Medusa, the real encumbrance was creating a musical about a character whose story is so popular.

Spiderman 2.0 begins in school with the Peter Parker reciting his oral book report, the story of Arachne the world’s first with spider, to the class.  Suddenly, Arachne descends from the ceiling ala Cirque du Soleil complete a Greek chorus visually bringing the myth to life. It was then that I realized this adaptation of the Spiderman story was going to be different than any I had viewed or read before.  The introduction of the Arachne myth was a refreshing and integral component.  In the first incarnation of the stage production Arachne was Spiderman’s villain, but in Spiderman 2.0 she is transformed into an ethereal guiding force, appearing when Peter is most in doubt about his gifts and his purpose.  I found the intertwining of Greek mythology to the Spiderman legend to be a marvelous addition to the story.  

The book is a mélange of the comic and film series; besides the insertion of Arachne (characterized by T.V. Carpio), the book brings no surprises to Spiderman’s character, which should be a relief to die-hard Spiderman fans.  Peter Parker (played by Reeve Carney) is a highly intelligent student, with a keen interest in science.  He is tormented at school by Flash Thompson (portrayed by Matt Caplan) and his band of hooligans.  He is secretly in love with Mary Jane Watson (played by Jennifer Damiano) who harbors a desire to be an actress and get away from her home life.   Peter is an orphan and lives with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben (portrayed Isabel Keating and Ken Marks).  During a field trip to Norman Osborne’s genetics lab Peter is bitten by a genetically altered spider.  From the bite he develops a muscular frame, 20/20 vision and other spider-like abilities including releasing webs from his wrists.  At first, Peter seeks to capitalize from his new powers, but after his uncle is murdered by a thief he is persuaded by Arachne to use his powers to fight evil.  Donning a costume, he becomes his masked doppelganger Spiderman and begins taking down Manhattan’s criminals.  He also gets a job at The Daily Bugle as a freelance photographer catching exclusive photos of Spiderman for EIC J. Jonah Jameson (played by Michael Mulheren) who adamantly believes that the masked crusader is actually a criminal.   Meanwhile, Mary Jane pursues a career in the theatre as a romance with Peter heats up and Norman Osborne (played by Patrick Page) convinced that Spiderman pilfered his research decides to experiment on himself, kills his wife Emily (portrayed by Laura Beth Wells) in the process, goes insane and mutates into the Green Goblin.  As a Green Goblin Osborne manufactures a troupe of similar mutants that he labels the Sinister Six, together they unleash a terror-spree, the likes of which have never been seen, on Manhattan.  Spiderman, who contemplated retirement to protect his loved ones, must now live up to the phrase, “With great power comes great responsibility,” and has a showdown with the Sinister Six and the Green Goblin, who kidnap Mary Jane with purpose of drawing Spiderman out of hiding.  Spiderman defeats the Green Goblin, rescues Mary Jane and all is right in New York City for now.

After viewing Spiderman 2.0 I took some time to brood over what I saw.  I did not see Spiderman during its episodic ramp up period, so I researched articles from critics that had seen both versions.  Most critics did upgrade their marks from an F to a C+, but at best most of them saw the production as a boilerplate musical.  I must admit that I was ambivalent to the musical when first leaving Foxwoods Theatre.  My immediate thoughts summoned another musical that the critics impugned during its run, Taboo, the musical based on the life of Boy George.  It was edgy and ahead of its time.  There were components that worked extremely well and if not for the internal issues and the critic’s harsh reviews, it might have had a longer run.   Although there are parallels in Taboo’s Broadway story with that of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, I firmly believe that a premature closure will not be its fate.  The diligence of everyone involved in this project will not let that happen.  Also, Spiderman is a character loved globally.  If New Yorkers do not want to pay the price of admission, there are plenty of tourists that will.  I propose that as long as our friendly neighborhood superhero is starring on Broadway, this musical will be a stop on any vacationer’s list, ranking just below The Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Times Square.

Like the weaver Arachne, Spiderman 2.0 weaves an intricate, innovative web; bottom line: Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark turned Broadway out! Critics, including myself, are so used to the status quo musical paradigms, that it became laborious rating the production using the standard criteria.  There is a tendency to reject something that is new, but there is no doubt that a shift has happened in the theatre, a changing of the musical guard literally and figuratively.   It is trailblazing, pushing the envelope of musical theatre into the 21st century.  But like any pioneer there still bumps along this unforged path.  As a new production, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is greater than the sum of its parts, but there is no denying that certain elements function effectively better than others.  Although the book sticks close to the Spiderman comic, it is mediocre. I am a huge fan of U2 and could not wait to see what Bono and Edge would do, needless to say, it is no Tommy.  Bono and Edge’s imprint is present throughout the music and lyrics, Edge’s guitar licks and Bono’s writing style are beyond reproach.  However, there are numbers that worked to perfection while others were just average.  “Behold and Wonder,” “Bouncing Off the Walls,” “Rise Above,” “If the World Should End,” “Turn Off the Dark” and “I Just Can’t Walk Away” were pleasers with myself and the audience.  When it comes to crafting a musical Bono and Edge are not as great as Andrew Lloyd Webber just yet, but give them time and they will be.  The choreography infused urban movements like krunking during “Bullying By Numbers” as well as hip-hop/African heel-toe dance steps.  The urban choreography was not executed as strongly as other musicals that I have seen that have used these dance styles. 

Overall, the cast triumphantly works with the material they are given, and are the real success story.  It is their execution of the material that is the raison d’être why the elements that do work operate brilliantly. The sets use screens and are stimulating and visually engaging  as a 3D pop-up comic book. But it is my sincere belief that the most outstanding part of the show is Spiderman, or should I say Spidermen and the death defying aerial stunts that he and Green Goblin engage in.  Although Carney plays Peter Parker and Spiderman, there are other stuntmen and dancers that portray Spiderman throughout the show.  The martial arts inspired choreography the dancers perform is enlivening.  As much as your eyes are on stage, your pupils will be fixed on the ceiling, the balcony and all over the theatre as Spiderman uses the entire theatre to fight crime and combat the Green Goblin.     

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is a boundless ride that rivals any rollercoaster at Six Flags Great Adventure – a spectacle P.T. Barnum would be proud of.  At best, Spiderman 2.-0 is an exhibition of what American musicals could be – a shining glimmer of the future.  At worst, it is a science experiment that works but still needs some fine tuning.  Personally, I reside comfortably on the fence neither loving it nor hating it completely.  Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is unlike any musical that has come before it, in my opinion it is not a musical at all, it is art on a Broadway stage –pure inspiration and that is the most paramount reason to go and see it.

Photos courtesy of O&M Co.