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Seeing Broadway’s First Black Cinderella

Cinderella on Broadway Shop Tees | The Girl Next Door is BlackWhen I heard of Keke Palmer’s casting as the first black Cinderella on Broadway, I didn’t imagine I’d end up seeing the show in person!

It was a girls night out: sisters and groups of friends; an adorable Girl Scout troop of mostly pre-tween and tween black girls and quite a few mother/daughter pairings attended. One little girl dressed like a little lady wearing pearls and donning an updo, accompanied by her very chic and sophisticated mother who wore an enviable black cape, melted my heart. I attend a lot of plays and as I snarked to my sister, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many black people at a play in my life” [Chitlin’ circuit excluded]. I’m so used to being one of few. Even when I saw Porgy and Bess recently, whose cast is majority black, my friend and I were two of a countable number of black people in attendance. I found the audience diversity refreshing.

Keke Palmer delighted as Cinderella. To think that she’s only 21 and has already accomplished so much in her life. Her talent seems boundless.

Sherri Shepherd starred as Cinderella’s mean stepmother. I have had mixed feelings for Sherri in the past. I attended the same acting school she did, years after she moved on, and as one of the school’s success stories, Sherri was often a topic of conversation. It was her stint on The View that soured me though (“I don’t know if the earth is flat” anyone?). I wasn’t sure what to expect from her performance. I’m happy to share that she played the hell out of her character – a hilariously wicked stepmother. I enjoyed ever minute she spent onstage.

The show itself was wonderfully produced, surprisingly funny, and even magical at times. They pulled off the fastest, most seamless costume changes I’ve ever witnessed. After the show, I hustled my sister to the side stage door to wait for the cast to come out and sign autographs.

Both Keke and Sherri braved the chill to take photos with and sign autographs for each and every fan waiting. Impressively, Sherri listened patiently as one fan tried to promote her singing talent to Sherri. Even though the woman had no demo, no videos of her performing or even business cards, Sherri gave her helpful tips for building a foundation for a singing career – even though as she said, “I can’t really do anything for you. I don’t have those connections.” That really endeared her to me.

After our successful celebrity encounters, we headed to Junior’s for a late post-show dinner and to relive our fantastic evening over cheesecake.

With Keke Palmer After Broadway Show | The Girl Next Door is Black
Keke is the sweetest. She told my sister (who is around the same age, has loved her since ‘True Jackson, VP’ and thinks of her as her “best friend in her head”) that she loved her lipstick and asked her where she got it. Then she told us we were “beautiful girls.” Aw, Keke.
Meeting Sherri Shepherd on Broadway | The Girl Next Door is Black
Sherri is so kind and patient with the crowd. She looked much slimmer too; whatever she’s doing is working for her!

 

I Don’t Pop Molly

Note: If Google brought you here, see the definition of the song hook lyrics at the bottom of the post.

“I don’t pop molly, I rock Tom Ford.”

– Jay-Z, “Tom Ford, 2013

Photo cr: epSos .de, flickr.com
Photo cr: epSos.de, flickr.com

If you listen to hip-hop these days, you’ve no doubt heard all the references to molly (basically ecstasy): “I Can’t Seem to Find Molly“, “Popped a molly, I’m sweatin‘” or maybe you’re even listening to Miley “cultural appropriation” Cyrus’ latest song. She sings about poppin’ mollies in “We Can’t Stop“. [She told producers she wanted “something that sounds black.” Girl, get your life! I give major side-eye to people who reduce blackness to the sliver of sub-culture of which they are aware. You need to diversify your black exposure. 13 million black Americans aren’t all the same. It’s like if Rihanna said she wants a “white” sound for her next album and had bagpipers all up in her video. Have a seat with your pancake booty that has no business twerking.]

My sister asked me to go with her to an album release party for Big Sean‘s album release party earlier this month. We arrived just in time to see him being hustled from his outdoor stage into Brooklyn Circus to sign CDs. The crowd was large, super hype and pushing and shoving trying to sneak in behind him. The bodyguards weren’t having it. It was a disorganized mess. No one seemed to know how we were supposed to get into the signing. Some people had wristbands, others didn’t. If there are two things I can’t stand: crowds & chaos. As the crowd started to form a line, I overheard this exchange between a girl who appeared to be in her early 20s and two older teenagers:

Girl: “Y’all want some pills?”

Boy 1: “You got mollies?”

Girl: “No, but I got those Obamas and McDonalds.”

Disappointed, the boys shook their heads no.

What the…?

Obamas?! My sister joked, ‘That must be some Presidential-grade shit!”

I looked at my sister, pleading with my eyes to leave. This isn’t my crowd. I don’t pop mollies, Obama or McDonald’s. I am not here for that business. I’m too old for this shit. We didn’t get to see Big Sean perform, but we did see him. I didn’t need an up close and personal experience.

My sister declared, “This.is.ratchet! Let’s go!”

Thank goodness.

—-

Definitions (since more than a few people land here after searching for the meaning of the song hook):

(to) Pop = (to) take, ingest

molly = a drug, MDMA, makes people feel good. Drugs are bad, kids.

(to) Rock = (to) wear well

Tom Ford = fashion designer

What It’s Like to Breakfast with Jay-Z and Beyonce

Downtown Houston
Downtown Houston

About 4 years ago, I was in Houston visiting the family. My younger sister N, suggested we breakfast at a cozy, vibrantly-decorated restaurant, known for their chicken and waffles, The Breakfast Klub,  It’s owned by a Kappa (as in Kappa Alpha Psi: a black frat; famous for cane stepping; if you don’t know, now you know), so everything normally spelled with a “c” is spelled with a “k”, such as the “katfish and grits” dish. Kute.

As we were enjoying our Texas-sized meal, my sister, facing the window to the outside world, said casually, “Oh look there’s Solange.”

“How do you know it’s Solange?”

She answered me as though I’d asked her why her skin was brown and the bottom of her feet weren’t (seriously, someone has asked me that): “It just looks like her. It’s obvious.”

A minute later, my sister’s eyes widened as large as one of those creepy big-eyed cat memes and with her voice lowered, said to me, “Ohhhh.My.GOD, Beyoncé is here!! That’s fucking Beyoncé right there! Ohmigod!”

Sure enough Ms. Bey was there in the much-sought-after flesh! The first thing I noticed was that Solange is much taller than Beyoncé and the resemblance between them is much more noticeable in person.

My sister and I returned to eating our meals (which were very good, by the way), with huge-ass grins of shock and amazement. We were laughed and giggled at each other in between sneaking glances at Beyonce. Like a couple of damn fools. When I glanced over toward the entrance again moments later, I couldn’t believe what I saw.

Barely able to contain myself, I whispered to my sister, “Girl, motherfreaking Jay-Z is standing right there! That is Jay-Z. Hova. Mr. Jigga. What?!”

Beyonce Jay-Z Celebrity Sighting | The Girl Next Door is Black
Bey & Jay
Photo cr: mp3waxx.com, flickr.com

“Girl, I know!” she whispered back. We quietly squealed, 12-years old again. There was Mr. “Best rapper alive” looking like he’d just dusted some dirt off his shoulders, wearing black aviator sunglasses and a plaid shirt, tall and intimidating, standing next to Beyoncé who looked less like a glamorous music princess and more like a normal girl. She didn’t seem to have much makeup on and her skin was really light. She was dressed  casually and appeared low-key, unlike her sister whom my sister commented, “walked in like she owned the place.” Little Blue Ivy Carter’s future momma looked like a girl next door. Only she looked like the kind of girl who is so hot you drive by her house just to see what she’s doing, ‘cause she’s so pretty she must be doing cool, hot people stuff, and you too must do this cool stuff. Not that I would ever do that.

I reached toward my purse to grab my cell phone to text my boyfriend at the time. He is a huge Jay-Z fan. Jay-Z could do no wrong in his eyes. If Jay-Z rapped, “Rub-a-dub-dub, a thug in a tub,” guess who’d be taking bubble baths? Just as I made contact with my phone, a stocky man approached me, put his hand on my shoulder (I don’t know you like that!), startled me and said with a terse voice, “If you’re thinking about taking out your camera to take a picture, please don’t. “They” asked me to make sure no one takes pictures.” Say what now? The phone wasn’t even in my hands. I told him, “I was just reaching for my phone to send a text message.” He gave me a knowing look, a look that said, “Girl, stop” and responded, “Ok, I’m just sayin…,” and walked away. I think the life of my first-born was just threatened telepathically. It’s likely he was the owner of the restaurant based on the way he kept buzzing around, inspecting the restaurant, protecting the prized customers. No sense in crossing him.

Jay, Bey, Solange, Solange’s son (a cute little thing with curly hair) and a man we didn’t recognize, were seated two tables behind my sister. Jay-Z sat next to Beyoncé, facing me. This kind of freaked me out. He had on those sunglasses looking all stealth and I couldn’t tell if he could see me sneaking glances at them. I don’t mess with a man who raps: “I’ve got ‘99 Problems‘ but a bitch ain’t one.” Beyoncé was adorable as she fed and entertained her nephew, seated next to her in a high chair.

The Breakfast Klub Houston Beyonce JayZ sighting
“Working Breakfast” at The Breakfast Klub

Photo cr: Ed T, flickr.com

To my left on a slightly raised platform, sat two body guards in suits, the overlords, scanning the restaurant for potential danger to their clients. Don’t look at me. I don’t know nothing ‘bout no trouble. Whereas everyone else – the peons – had to order their food at the cash register, Jay, Bey and the bodyguards received direct service. The bodyguards ordered fried chicken; I have no idea what Beyoncé & Co. ordered. I think their  food was served invisibly. During all the commotion, the restaurant patrons were remarkably well-behaved. You could see the glances, whispers and smiles. A lot of folks were on their cell phones, including me and my sister. A table of little girls to my right didn’t release the grip on their phones the whole time I was in the restaurant. Their day was made. This moment will probably top growing boobs for them. Even the waitstaff animatedly spoke in hushed voices and laughed among themselves when they were out of earshot and the view of Beyonce & Co.

N & I called our youngest sister, C, to tell her about the sighting. Celebrity lover that she is, she peppered us with questions:

“What is Beyonce wearing? What does she look like? Can you hear what they’re saying? What are they doing now? What do they smell like? Go take a picture of them and if the bodyguards give you any problems, burn off!”

I was not trying to get arrested in Houston for celebrity stalking. “C, we gotta go. The bodyguards are staring us down.” “Noooo! I want to hear Beyonce BREATHE!!” Girl, no. She would have to try to breathe in the essence of Bey and Jay over the phone.

My sister and I finished our meals and sadly could come up with no reason to linger. So we paid and left the restaurant before the celebrity party did. As we made our way outside, we spotted two more giant bodyguards in suits, hovering around a black Ford Excursion waiting for their clients. These people don’t mess around.

And that’s what it’s like to breakfast with Jay-Z and Beyonce.