Feature:Amandla Stenberg

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Named for the Zulu and Xhosa word for “power,” Amandla was born in Los Angeles on October 23, 1998, to Karen Brailsford and Tom Stenberg. Her mother is African-American and her father is Danish (and of part Inuit-Greenlandic ancestry).

Amandla landed the first of her Disney catalog modeling shoots when she was four years old. She has shot numerous commercials, most notably for McDonald’s with Ronald McDonald himself, for Walmart with DJ Tony of The Ellen DeGeneres Show (LeVar Burton aka Kunta Kinte directed), and for BuildTheDream.org. This moving, Boeing-sponsored PSA, which raised funds for a national memorial in Washington, D.C., honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., premiered during the weekend of President Obama’s inauguration in January 2009 on Meet the Press and other NBC/MSNBC programs. On October 16, 2011, Amandla was invited by the MLK Memorial Foundation, along with such luminaries as Jesse Jackson, Tommy Hilfiger, Dan Rather, Stevie Wonder and Nikki Giovanni, to participate in the memorial’s dedication ceremony. After an introduction by actress Cicely Tyson, Amandla paid tribute to the four little girls who were killed in the Birmingham church bombing.
In the summer and fall of 2010, the actress shot her first feature, Colombiana, an action-thriller starring Zoe Saldana whose character, Cataleya Restrepo, Amandla plays as a child. Amandla opens the movie, setting the stage for Saldana’s cold-blooded assassin. The Luc Besson vehicle is quintessential Besson, featuring lots of daring stunts, some of which Amandla performed herself. On set to help Amandla hone her natural athletic abilities was David Belle, the French-born creator of Parkour. “A star is born!” raved one reviewer. The New York Times declared, “her portrayal of the future deadly-but sensitive killer is such a perfect combination of trembling, action chops and deadpan humor.”

In April 2011, Lionsgate announced that Amandla had landed the coveted role of Rue in the screen adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ popular young adult series, The Hunger Games. The news was greeted with overwhelming support by fans, and the highly anticipated film opened in theaters on March 23, 2012, to much acclaim and big box office numbers. The Los Angeles Times noted “the presence of young actress Amandla Stenberg, who makes a powerful impression as 12-year-old Rue.” Time magazine said Amandla “adds underage winsomeness as Rue,” and Variety called her a “winning newcomer.” For her heart-breaking performance, Amandla earned an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture and a Black Reel nomination for Best Breakthrough Performance. She also won (with Jennifer Lawrence) a Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Chemistry and a Black Reel Award.

To promote the movie, the young actress, who was featured in a Hunger Games movie poster, graces the cover of Scholastic’s Tribute Guide and has her own Rue doll, traveled around the country greeting fans and signing autographs on Lionsgate’s mall tour. She also conducted numerous print, television and video interviews with media outlets such as Entertainment Weekly, People, Us Weekly, Publisher’s Weekly, Seventeen, Essence, Vanity Fair, E! News and The Wall Street Journal. Singled out as one of Hollywood’s young stars to watch by Rolling Stone, Paper and Ebony, Amandla made her mark as a fashionista, landing on magazine covers (Girls’ Life and Justine), and earning kudos for her red carpet style.

In November 2013 Amandla began a guest-starring, four-episode arc playing Macey, the daughter of Captain Irving (Orlando Jones), on the first season of Fox’s Sleepy Hollow. Amandla appeared as series regular Halle Foster on NBCUniversal’s Mr. Robinson opposite Craig Robinson in the summer of 2015. In January 2016 she traveled to Park City, Utah, to attend the premiere of her latest film, As You Are, which won a Special Jurat the Sundance Film Festival.

Amandla appears in the visual album Beyoncé: Lemonade (2016). In March 2016 Fox 2000 won a heated bidding war for Angela Thomas’ debut novel, The Hate U Give. with Amandla attached to star. The actress is also slated to star in the YA adaptation Everything, Everything (2017), the Amma Asante World War II vehicle, Where Hands Touch (2017) and the sci-fi thriller The Darkest Minds.

In addition to on-camera jobs, Amandla has put her sensitive ear to work in ADR gigs for both film and television. Amandla lent her voice to Rio 2 (2014) playing a high-flying, feathery spawn of Anne Hathaway (Jewel) and Jesse Eisenberg (Blu). A gifted musician, Amandla plays the violin, drums and guitar. In 2009, she performed the violin with the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Honors Orchestra at the Luckman Fine Arts Complex. Her involvement with the Rock STAR Music Education program landed her gigs at the House of Blues and the Hard Rock Cafe, as well as a studio session with producer/engineer Gerry Brown, after her band won RockSTAR’s Battle of the Bands.

In 2013 Amandla began performing on the violin and singing harmonies at LA venues such as Genghis Cohen, Room 5 Lounge and Amplyfi with singer/songwriter Zander Hawley. The folk-rock duo known as Honeywater released a self-titled first EP in August 2015; a second, “Wonder,” dropped November 2016.

When she’s not making music, Amandla is making noise on social media. Declared “one of the most incendiary voices of her generation” by Dazed magazine, which featured Amandla on the cover of its Autumn 2015 issue, the social activist helped catapult the topic of cultural appropriation into public discourse when she posted her school project video, “Don’t Cash Crop My Cornrows” on her Tumblr. Time Magazine named her one of The 30 Most Influential Teens of 2015 and 2016. Amandla appeared on the cover of Teen Vogue’s February 2016 issue, for which she was interviewed by Solange Knowles. ELLE UK dubbed her an “icon of change” on its September 2016 cover while Interview called her “a new progressive” on its cover. Amandla interviewed (and danced with!) Gloria Steinem for Teen Vogue’s September 2016 issue.

Oprah Winfrey has taken note of Amandla’s activism and invited her to give a talk (“My Authenticity Is My Activism”) for SuperSoul Sessions Series 2 at UCLA’s Royce Hall in April 2016. Highlights were featured on SuperSoul Sunday. Black Girls Rock! honored Amandla with the Young, Gifted and Black award and she is also the winner of the BET Awards’ YoungStars award. The Ms. Foundation for Women named Amandla (along with Rowan Blanchard “Feminist Celebrity of the Year” for 2016.

Amandla is co-author, with Stranger Comics’ Sebastian Jones, of the comic book series Niobe: She is Life. She is a youth ambassador for No Kid Hungry (Jeff Bridges serves as spokesperson for the charity’s umbrella organization, Share Our Strength) and supports the Ubuntu Education Fund, which nurtures children “from cradle to career” in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

 

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Feature: Aisha Tyler

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aisha tyler is an actor, comedian, director, author and activist. she is currently co-host of the hit cbs daytime talker the talk. aisha joined  in season two, for which the show was nominated for three emmy awards. the talk is the fastest growing show in daytime television and launched its fourth season to record ratings, garnering five emmy nominations and three wins. it was recently renewed for a fifth season.

aisha also voices superspy lana kane on f/x’s edgy hit comedy archer, which recently won back to back television critics’ choice awards for best animated show. critics consistently hail it as one of the best animated shows on television. archer is a comedy juggernaut for f/x — its fifth season debuted January 2014, and it was recently renewed for a sixth and seventh seasons.

in the summer of 2013 aisha joined the CW reboot of the improv classic whose line is it anyway, taking over for drew carey. wayne brady, colin mochrie and ryan stiles are all back, joined by a rotating ‘fourth chair’ of killer improvisational performers. the show was the highest unscripted debut for the CW in five years and an instant hit. a new double season of the show debuted march 21 2014, giving the CW the highest numbers in it’s new friday time slot in three years.

aisha is also the creator, producer and host of the hit podcast girl on guy with aisha tyler. “a show about stuff guys love brought to you by the ultimate guy’s girl,” girl on guy is an iTunes and webby award honoree, and recently passed the ten million download mark. Now in its third season, the show was syndicated on the I Heart Radio platform in february 2014, reaching more than 30 million listeners.

as an actress her work is varied and includes television shows such as modern family, hawaii 5-0, friends, csi:crime scene investigation, 24, ghost whisperer, nip/tuck, e! entertainment’s talk soup, and many others. aisha has had prime roles in several movies, including adam sandler’s bedtime stories, the thriller death sentence with kevin bacon, the comedy balls of fury with christopher walken, black water transit with laurence fishburne and karl urban, .45 opposite milla jovovich, the santa clauses 2 and 3 with tim allen, and the comedy babymakers  from broken lizard’s jay chandrasekhar, opposite olivia munn and paul schneider.

aisha’s second book, self-inflicted wounds, named for the wildly popular segment of her podcast, debuted on the new york times bestseller list in july 2013. it is available now in hardcover, ebook and audiobook, and was recently optioned by cbs studios for development into a television series.

aisha is also the author of swerve: reckless observations of a post-modern girl, a collection of hilarious essays on pop culture, and a contributor to wired, entertainment weekly, glamour, and oprah magazines. aisha’s razor wit has made her a favorite on the tonight show, late night with david letterman, the late show with jimmy fallon, the late late show with craig ferguson, the today show, chelsea lately, jimmy kimmel live, cnn and many more. aisha performs standup comedy nationwide year-round and is at work on a second one-hour special.

aisha is deeply dedicated to charity and volunteerism, serving on the board of planned parenthooddirecting a film to benefit returning wounded warriors, acting as spokesperson for the american red cross, consulting with the trust for public land’s parks for people project, and fund-raising for doctors without bordersfutures without violence, and the international rescue committee.

aisha is an avid video game player. for the past two years she has fronted the ubisoft press conference at the annual E3 expo, the only woman to ever do so. she has provided voice work in several video games, including halo:reach, gears of war, and the forthcoming watch dogs, due from ubisoft in may 2014. she’s also a reigning celebrity jeopardy champ.

critical acclaim for aisha is effusive. esquire called aisha “sweetly wicked,” designating her one of its “women we love”. US Weekly called her “swiss watch perfect.” maxim anointed her one of its “hot 100” two years in a row. the hollywood reporter calls her “wonderful” and MSN called her “smart, sexy and effortlessly funny.” she is far too modest to agree.

a san francisco native, aisha graduated from dartmouth college with a degree in government and environmental policy. she loves french food, action movies, video games, snowboarding, zombie lore, and korean pop. and, on occasion, a nice old bourbon, neat.

 

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Feature: Venus Williams

 

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Athlete. Entrepreneur. Best-selling author. Olympic Gold medalist. Activist. Designer. Daughter. Sister. Champion. Each of these describes Venus Williams, but on their own they fail to capture the sum of her person.

Growing up in a tight-knit family and coached by her parents Richard and Oracene, Williams entered the pro ranks of the Women’s Tennis Association when she was 14 years old. Her attacking style and impressive physicality immediately caught the attention of the tennis industry. Soon, the whole world was watching Williams rack up 43 WTA Tour titles, three Olympic Gold medals, break the record for fastest serve ever recorded (129 mph) and compete in the longest finals match in Wimbledon history (two hours and 45 minutes).

A relentless work ethic was ingrained in Williams since birth. After four to five hours of practice a day, her father would hold family discussion about economics and social Darwinism, while her mother concentrated on fostering a curious nature and a powerful sense of self-worth in her daughters. Both parents expressed the value of thinking entrepreneurially.

Some high-level athletes implode from the dual stress of competition and fame, but with her bedrock upbringing Williams has only ever asked for more to be heaped upon her formidable shoulders.

In the early 2000s, when her domination of women’s tennis was just beginning to peak, she enrolled in an interior design program and became a Certified Interior Decorator. In 2002 she started V*Starr Interiors, a company that specializes in commercial and residential interior design. She followed that by obtaining an associated degree in fashion design and launching EleVen, her line of signature fashionable sportswear. Williams also recently enrolled in an online program at the University of Indiana East to pursue a degree in business.

In July of 2010, HarperCollins published “Come To Win: Business Leaders, Artists, Doctors, and Other Visionaries on How Sports Can Help You Top Your Profession” by Williams and co-author Kelly E. Carter. In the book, Williams interviews such luminaries as Sir Richard Branson, Condoleezza Rice, and Vera Wang about how their early experiences as competitive athletes helped forge their successful careers. A topic close to her heart, the book was a labor of love for Williams. That labor paid off when the book became a New York Times best seller.

The stakes are high for anyone in the public spotlight. Getting caught in some sort of TMZ-starlet publicity scandal is not a reality for Williams. Instead, Williams feels pressure to be a positive force, especially when it comes to her young female fans.

Williams had long-admired legendary tennis pioneer Billie Jean King, who had been vocal on the topic of unequal prize money between male and female players. In 2005, Williams met with Wimbledon officials to discuss the negative message they were sending to future and current female athletes by paying them less than the men. Wimbledon refused to budge. On the eve of Wimbledon in 2006, Williams published an essay in the New York Times, decrying the double standard. Her impassioned point of view quickly picked up momentum as well as powerful admirers who were willing to take up the cause. In 2007, Wimbledon announced parity in the prize money for its male and female champions.

Later that year, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) teamed up with Williams and bestowed her the title of “UNESCO Promoter of Gender Equality.” Williams continues to speak to groups about empowering women.

Williams has made strides in gender equality off the court as well. In 2009, she announced that she and her sister Serena had become limited partners in the NFLs Miami Dolphins. They are the first African-American women to obtain ownership of an NFL franchise.

The greatest opponent Williams would face made its presence known in the summer of 2011. For months she had battled a frustrating mix of symptoms that included fatigue, muscle aches, shortness of breath, and an inability to recover during a set. Doctors were convinced it was adult-onset asthma, but nothing they prescribed brought any relief. It was finally discovered that she suffers from Sjögren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disease in which immune cells attack saliva and tear glands.

Living with the disease has brought about major changes in Williams’ lifestyle. Like any other opponent, though, Williams has attacked it in her usual aggressive style. She has become an advocate of a vegan/raw foods diet, which helps minimize the inflammation brought on by the condition. No more of her favorite cherry pies, as sugar is strictly verboten. Her training is now tempered with one or more rest days per week. As she returns to competitive tennis she is still learning how her body reacts and recovers.

What will life be like after tennis for Venus Williams? She claims that she will relax full-time, but anyone who knows her even a little bit knows that is ridiculous. Two thriving businesses, V*STARR and EleVen, will demand her time, and she is constantly driven to acquire new skills. The hard work and discipline that has been developed over a lifetime won’t simply fade away. There will always be new challenges. And there will be laughter, of course. There’s always plenty of laughter.

 

 

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Feature: Tatyana Ali

Tatyana Ali

Tatyana Ali is a Broadway-trained actress, singer, producer, activist and graduate of Harvard University. Known to millions worldwide from her role as “Ashley Banks” on the iconic television series “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” Ali can soon be seen as sharp-witted personal assistant “Maya” in the highly anticipated BET comedy “Second Generation Wayans” about the young members of the famous Hollywood family. She also continues her recurring role as “Roxanne” on the long-running CBS soap opera “The Young and the Restless.”

She and sister Anastasia Ali helm HazraH Entertainment, a production company dedicated to creating quality content for underserved communities. The company was a production partner on the Martin Lawrence executive-produced sitcom “Love That Girl!,” the first original scripted program on the TV One Network, and recently produced the acclaimed web series “Buppies” for BET.com.

The three-time NAACP Image Award winner, named one of most beautiful women in the world by People Magazine in 2011, has appeared in numerous films including Kiss the Girls, Jawbreaker, The Brothers, Glory Road, Mother and Child, and the upcoming independent film Home Again.

As a recording artist, she holds a gold record from her 1998 debut album Kiss the Sky, which included the hit singles “Daydreamin’” and “Boy You Knock Me Out. The success of the album allowed her the opportunity to join both *NSYNC and The Backstreet Boys on their world tours. In 1999, her recording of “Precious Wings” for The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland soundtrack won a Grammy Award for “Best Musical Album for Children”.

Ali is a fierce advocate for youth and education. During the 2008 presidential campaign, she traveled to college campuses across the United States speaking to young people about the importance of voting. She has been a spokesperson for the Millennium Momentum Foundation and is actively involved in the Step Up Women’s Network, two organizations dedicated to educating and professionally developing young people for leadership roles that will impact their communities. Recently, as the host of the United Negro College Fund’s “Empower Me” Tour, she has traveled the country inspiring students to take control of their academic, personal and professional destinies. In fall of 2011, BET and the Black Girls Rock organization honored Ali as their “Young, Gifted and Black” woman of the year for her longstanding record of youth advocacy work.

 

 

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Feature: Ory Okolloh

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Ory Okolloh was one of the founding members of Ushahidi and served as executive director from 2008 through 2010. In early 2011, Ory joined Google as their Policy Manager for Africa. The role will involve developing policies and strategies on a number of areas of relevance to Google and the Internet in Africa and will involve working with different parties including government leaders, policy makers, regulators, and industry groups.

Ory is the Policy Manager, Africa for Google.  She is a co-founder of Ushahidi and served as the organization’s  Executive Director from inception until December 2010. She is also the co-founder of Mzalendo, a website that tracks the performance of Kenyan Members of Parliament.

Ory graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. degree in Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh, and with a J.D. from Harvard Law School.  She was previously a summer associate in Covington and Burling, Washington DC and a Chayes Fellow at the World Bank’s Department of Institutional Integrity.

Ory is a frequent speaker at conferences including TED, World Economic Forum, Poptech, CGI, Techonomy, Mobile Web Africa, and the Monaco Media Forum on issues around citizen journalism, the role of technology in Africa, and the role of young people in reshaping the future of Africa.

Ory currently lives in Johannesburg, South Africa with her husband and her two daughters.

 

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Feature: Maya Wiley

Maya Wiley Activists

Maya Wiley is the founder and President of the Center for Social Inclusion, a national public policy strategy organization that works to unite public policy research and grassroots advocacy to transform structural racial inequity into structural fairness and inclusion.

A civil rights attorney and policy advocate, Ms. Wiley graduated from Columbia University School of Law in 1989. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Dartmouth College in 1986. She has litigated, lobbied the US Congress and developed programs to transform structural racism in the US and in South Africa.

Prior to founding the Center for Social Inclusion, Ms. Wiley was a senior advisor on race and poverty to the Director of U.S. Programs of the Open Society Institute, and helped develop and implement the Open Society Foundation — South Africa’s Criminal Justice Initiative. She has worked for the American Civil Liberties Union National Legal Department, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. in the Poverty and Justice Program and the Civil Division of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. She currently serves on the Tides Network Board and has previously served on the Boards of the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota School of Law, Human Rights Watch and the Council on Foreign Relations.

She was a contributing author to the National Urban League’s 2006 State of Black America, and authored a chapter on Race, Equity and Land Use Planning in Columbia, South Carolina recently published in Growing Smarter: Achieving Livable Communities, Environmental Justice and Regional Equity, R. Bullard, ed. The MIT Press: Cambridge, MA (2007).

She was named a NY Moves magazine 2009 Power Woman. In 2011 Wiley was named as one of “20 Leading Black Women Social Activists Advocating Change” by TheRoot.com.

 

 

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