The superstar spills the deets on her health, her 30-year career in the music industry and her brand-new business endeavor.
TLC’s Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins’ life is one filled with overcoming insurmountable odds and finding blessings in unexpected places.
Watkins was diagnosed with sickle cell disease at the age of 7 and spent much of her childhood in and out of hospitals due to episodes with the potentially fatal condition. She was told she wouldn’t make it past early adulthood.
Her family’s move from Des Moines, Iowa, to Atlanta when Watkins was 9, and a chance meeting former singer and music executive Perri “Pebbles” Reid and her then-husband L.A. Reid would launch T-Boz, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas into the stratosphere as the biggest-selling American girl group in music history; in addition, they earned four Grammy Awards and have sold 65 millions albums worldwide to date.
For all its success, TLC has endured a roller coaster of ups and downs over the past 30 years, the biggest blow being the loss of group member Left Eye in a 2002 car cash, which took away one-third of the lightning in a bottle that made them superstars.
Resolute in their will to go on, T-Boz and Chilli have continued to record music and tour, most recently co-headlining a tour with Nelly and Flo Rida that continues through this summer.
These days, T-Boz, author of the 2017 memoir A Sick Life, is reveling in the most recent chapter of her life as mom to daughter Chase and son Chance and co-creator of her newly launched line of CBD-infused healthy and beauty products, aptly called TLCBD.
Continue on to Ebony to read the interview with T-Boz.
The actor also thanked his wife and the people of Northern Ireland during his acceptance speech for best male actor in a drama series.
Peter Dinklage took home the award for outstanding performance by a male actor in a drama series at the 2020 SAG Awards on Sunday.
The Game of Thrones star prevailed over fellow nominees Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us), Steve Carell (The Morning Show), Billy Crudup (The Morning Show) and David Harbour (Stranger Things).
Dinklage began his speech by joking that his nude statuette looked like it appeared on the HBO series. The win follows the final season of the acclaimed series.
“I would like to thank the people of Northern Ireland,” he said, “who put up with us for nine years.”
Dinklage then praised the show’s cast and crew. “I would also like to thank everyone at table nine and ten and beyond cause we put up with each other for nine years,” he said.
The actor concluded his speech by thanking his wife. “Finally and most importantly, I would like to thank my wife, who put up with me for more than nine years, but lived in a place far away from home, but made it home cause we were together,” said Dinklage.
Erin Feeney, 28, wants to have a career in fairy tales. And so far, she has already paved a path to one of the known entities of fairy tales — Disney. Feeney just saw her first script for the Disney animated show, “Doc McStuffins” come to fruition in a cartoon entitled Ultimate Safari “Tail Spin.” The animated short premiered Monday on the Disney Channel and Disney Junior. (For those not familiar, “Doc McStuffins” is an animated children’s series about a girl who fixes toys with the aid of her toy friends.)
Feeney’s two-minute interstitial shows Doc and her toy team helping a whirly bird named Topsy get back to her flock and perform the “Sunrise Spin.” The spot is also available in the DisneyNOW app and on the Disney Junior YouTube page.
“I can hardly believe it,” said Feeney who expressed her enthusiasm via her communication board attached to her wheelchair. Feeney was born with cerebral palsy and is unable to speak. She communicates by pointing to words and letters on her board. Her father, Kevin, is her translator and is quick to spell out her messages by watching where she points.
He remembers Erin’s path to writing for the small screen started a few years ago after her short stories turned into a short film with actors who were people with disabilities, he said. That film grew into a feature that played in the Naperville Independent Film Festival in 2016 where some people who worked with Disney on Ice noticed. Shea Fontana, the writer of the Disney on Ice script, also wrote for “Doc McStuffins.” Erin attended that ice show and met Fontana, who subsequently invited Erin to submit some script ideas for “Doc McStuffins.” Erin submitted 10 ideas and two made the cut. One of them is “Tail Spin,” which took a few hours to write initially, Erin said. Some back and forth with producers and about five edits, and the script was complete in two or three weeks, her father added.
“Since it’s animation, it takes a long time to do all that stuff,” Kevin Feeney said.
After the process, Disney invited the Feeneys to Los Angeles for four days in August 2017 where they met some of the voice artists in a recording session. The Feeneys also made a visit to Disneyland.
“They were really nice and when we were eating lunch, Henry Winkler (aka the Fonz) was recording in the building for another cartoon show, so we got to meet him — a real nice guy,” Feeney said.
After that, it was just a waiting game for the cartoon to be produced. And this week, the family was up extra early to see the premiere live.
“Erin has always had talent — a huge imagination,” Kevin Feeney said. “She loves the Disney stories, Grimms’ Fairy Tales and Hans Christian Andersen, those types of things. We’re reading the biography of Andersen, and she’s listening to the audio book of the life of Helen Keller.”
“I was a lonely kid, so I started watching the Disney movies and fell in love with the princesses,” she said. Her favorites (Snow White, Thumbelina and Cinderella). But she laughs saying “Elsa and Anna are cool.” (Get it? Because they’re both princesses from “Frozen.”)
“Erin’s dream has been to write fairy tales for kids all her life and in particular Disney stories, so we’re hoping that one of these days, she can make a career of that. But Erin wants to finish college first. And then go from there,” her dad said.
The 12th Annual Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities – the nation’s largest, free, one-day event for people with disabilities, both seen and unseen– will again welcome national entertainment to its stages for its audience of more than 5,000. Presented by the American Disabilities Foundation, the event has become an inclusive Spring Break event, drawing families from across the country.
Returning for 2020, Rion Paige, an 18-year-old finalist on the X Factor, will perform as one of the Bash’s two headliners. A Jacksonville, FL native, who now lives in Nashville, TN, Paige was born with a rare condition called arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, which caused permanent damage to her arms, resulting in her hands being in a fixed, bent position. A country-and-western musician with a huge singing voice, Rion finished in fifth place on Season 3 of the X Factor, where she was mentored by Demi Lovato.
Coming back for her third year will be singer Kechi Okwuchi, a Nigerian-American singer and motivational speaker. She was one of the two survivors in the Sosoliso Airlines Flight 1145 crash on Dec. 10, 2005, and suffered severe third-degree burns all over her body. To date, she has endured more than 100 surgeries. A finalist on the 12th season of America’s Got Talent in 2017, Okwuchi headlined the Boating & Beach Bash in 2018 and 2019 and was a tremendous crowd-pleaser.
“We couldn’t be happier to have two young stars who demonstrate through their amazing talent that people with disabilities have so much to contribute to our enjoyment,” said Executive Director Jay Van Vechten. “Each year, the Bash grows in so many ways – with our entertainment, support, visitors, features and sheer fun factor. We are bringing back the elements people love and adding to it with the star power of Ms. Paige and Ms. Okwuchi.”
The 12th Annual Boating & Beach Bash for People with Disabilities will be held from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Sunday, March 1, 2020, at Spanish River Park, 3001 North Ocean Blvd. (A1A), Boca Raton, FL 33431.
Designed as a Spring Break vacation for all people with disabilities, their family members and supportive caregivers, the Bash has welcomed guests from as far away as California and Rome, Italy. It is the only event of its kind, offering complimentary, scheduled boat rides, special access to the beach and ocean with Mobi Mats, a Kids Fun Zone, therapy workshops led by trained specialists, wheelchair yoga, music, costumed dance parties, therapy ponies and dogs, a BBQ lunch, and more. Everything is free and geared toward the guests’ special needs.
ABOUT THE BOATING & BEACH BASH FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES:
The Bash was started in 2009 as an event hosted by the City of Boca Raton Advisory Board for People with Disabilities. The City relinquished the Bash in 2011 to the management of Executive Director Jay Van Vechten and his wife, Lowell. Since then, through community support and donations, the couple and the Bash’s planning committee have pushed the event’s growth beyond wildest expectations. Welcoming more than 5,000 guests in 2018, the Bash has become the largest, free, wholly disability-friendly event in the country with a full schedule of entertainment, recreation, boat rides, beach access, vendors, exhibitions, workshops and food in the nation . It has also become a Spring Break destination event in South Florida, drawing families from as far away as California and New York. Learn more at boatingbeachbash.com
Don’t be surprised if one day you see Tony Award-winning actress and singer Alyson “Ali” Stroker on the Big Screen, and don’t think twice if you’re smiling.
“I want to create content that makes people feel good,” Stroker, who won a historic Tony for portraying Ado Annie in Oklahoma!, told DIVERSEability Magazine. “There’s a lot of stress and anxiety in the world and we as artists have the ability to change that.”
Stroker is the first actress in a wheelchair to win a Tony. It happened on June 9 of this year. Hearts fluttered, heartbeats quickened, tears flowed and…
“It’s been unbelievable,” said the 32-year-old native of New Jersey. “For the disabled community it’s really cool to see yourself represented in this arena.”
Stroker, paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident when she was 2, is a role model for the disabled. While she avoids sermonizing, she doesn’t hesitate to talk about the virtues of work, perseverance and independence.
“Putting your destiny in someone else’s hands is never going to make you feel powerful,” she said. “I’m more inclined to tell disabled people to create communities of people you trust, and then create your own work. It’s better to do that than to talk.”
And for all young artists, she has a question.
“What do you want to create?”
That’s a core challenge for Stroker. It’s at the heart of being an artist.
It’s what she asked herself as a child (“I sang all day, every day”) and what she asks herself as an adult, and as a star.
But it should be stressed that Stroker earned the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for just one reason: she’s really, really good.
“It didn’t feel like, ‘Oh, you did something to overcome being in a chair,’” she said. “It was actually, ‘We’re recognizing you for being at the highest level of your field.’ That’s what I’ve always wanted.”
Stroker was born with a passion for the stage, but it took hold—with the strength of a farmer—when she was 7, in a backyard production of Annie.
“When I got on stage, it was the first time that I felt powerful,” Stroker said. “I was used to people staring at me, but they were staring at me because I was in a wheelchair. And when I was on stage, they were staring at me because I was the star… I particularly feel that I can’t hide on stage and that’s a gift.”
It’s fitting that, 25 years later, she’s wowing crowds on Broadway as Ado Annie, who is so unwilling be anything but herself that her catch-line is, “How can I be what I ain’t?”
“She doesn’t ever apologize for who she is,” Stroker said. “She doesn’t have any shame about who she is. Her wants, her desires, are so clear.”
Alyson Mackenzie Stroker was born in Ridgewood, New Jersey. She studied at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and earned a bachelor of fine arts. She was the first actress in a wheelchair to earn a degree from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
After graduation, she auditioned for The Glee Project at a casting call in New York City. Stroker is a Mezzo-Soprano but because she is paralyzed, she cannot engage her diaphragm, so she created her own singing techniques “to develop resonance so my voice would carry.”
Stroker guest-starred on Season 4 of Glee, then her agent sent her to audition for a Deaf West Theatre production of Spring Awakening.
In 2015, Stroker won the role of Anna. When Spring Awakening opened on Broadway, Stroker became the first actress in a wheelchair to appear on a Broadway stage.
The show was a smash. So was Stroker.
She has had several stage, TV and film parts, and she will have many more, but to date she is best known for Rogers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!
But there’s more to her than her craft. Did you know she’s a strong swimmer, and is learning to surf? Did you know she’s co-chair of Women Who Care, which supports United Cerebral Palsy of New York City? And she’s a founding member of Be More Heroic, an anti-bullying campaign which tours the country connecting with thousands of students each year. She’s also gone to South Africa with ARTS InsideOut, where she has held theater classes and workshops for women and children affected by HIV and AIDS.
She credits a strong support system for her success. That support system includes her parents and boyfriend. “I’m so glad to have a partner who gets it,” she said. “He encourages me when I’m scared to go after the things I want.”
When Stroker won her Tony Award at Radio City Music Hall, she did not emerge from the crowd. She was backstage. Like many old buildings, the Music Hall, which opened in 1932, was not wheelchair accessible from the audience.
Stroker said the Music Hall did the best it could, but was limited by
It’s not a problem unique to the Music Hall, but it is emblematic.
For the disabled community, access is a profound word.
Access to stages. To roles. To higher education. To jobs. To Stroker and thousands upon thousands of others, access is opportunity.
“As a society, we have to work on improving access,” Stroker said. “I’ve found that theaters being built now are doing that.”
William Shakespeare famously said that all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.
If that’s true, then Stroker is a player in the limelight, staging her encore. As she stated in a recent interview with The New York Times, “I know in many ways that this is what I was born to do…it’s so clear I was meant to be in this seat.”
Emmy Award-winning Bunim/Murray Productions (producers of A&E’s Born This Way, HBO’s Autism The Musical, and MTV’s The Real World) is casting for a new documentary series that would follow the lives and journeys of three entrepreneurs with disabilities (including physical, cognitive, sensory, or mental health disabilities) to showcase their abilities as business owners.
This show will not be going to pilot (an initial sample episode), rather we are jumping straight to a multiple episode series. Bunim-Murray Productions will film the selected entrepreneurs in their hometown and at their business.
At the moment, we are simply looking to be connected to great individuals to learn more about them and their businesses. In the next few weeks, we are hoping to connect with and talk to charismatic, creative, interesting, funny, and driven entrepreneurs with disabilities for this new television program.
A lifelong advocate and a voice for other actors that are also visually impaired, Marilee Talkington will be lighting up television sets alongside Jason Momoa (“Game of Thrones,” AQUAMAN) in Apple TV+’s upcoming futuristic, post-apocalyptic drama “See,” premiering Friday, November 1st.
Legally blind herself, Marilee will be playing more than just a role in a show, but a pivotal role in the fight for authentic casting and representation.
From the producers of the PLANET OF THE APES Trilogy, written by Steven Knight (“Peaky Blinders”) and directed by Francis Lawrence (THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE and MOCKINGJAY PARTS 1 & 2), “See,” tells the story of a future where a virus has wiped out most of mankind, leaving the survivors blinded. Marilee stars as “Souter Bax,” an emotionally complicated character, authentically representing the blind community. In addition to Jason Momoa, the show also stars Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning actress, Alfre Woodard (12 YEARS A SLAVE, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR) and Archie Madekwe (MIDSOMMAR).
Marilee also spends her time as a consultant for TV shows, films, theater, university, and conservatories for authentic casting and representation on stage and screen. She has even created an acting program for authentically blind/low vision actors and is heavily involved in SAG-AFTRA Performers with Disabilities Committee, as well as 50/50 by 2020. Marilee even went viral in 2017, being featured for HuffPost and the Observer, when at a panel for the World Science Festival, a female panelist kept getting cut off by the male moderator, Marilee jumped in from the crowd asking him to “Let her speak, please!” Passionate about her activism, she is fighting for those around her and coming after her.
Born with cone-rod dystrophy, a retinal disease she had inherited from her mother, Marilee had no central vision, and learned how to not just survive, but thrive. Heavily involved in basketball throughout high school, even earning herself a spot on the CA All-Star team, Marilee could not play in college as her sight continued to deteriorate. While studying Psychology, she took an acting class on a whim and fell in love immediately. Moving from Los Angeles to San Francisco, she worked hard, honing her craft before attending the American Conservatory Theater, graduating with honors as one of just a handful of legally blind actors in the country with an MFA in Acting.
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Following school, Marilee took to writing and directing groundbreaking plays, including “Sticky Time,” a show that took place around the audience, rather than the usual format, and “Truce,” (shown in San Francisco, New York and the BBC), in which Marilee played 22 different characters. ”Truce’s” cutting edge aspect was its set design as it paralleled her own vision loss so that audience members could viscerally experience what it might be like for her. In all her productions, Marilee aims to break apart the normative theatrical viewing experience and create highly visceral and experimental story-telling moments. She innovates new aesthetics to integrate her specific physical experience of the world into each show.
Since then, she has starred in NBC’s “New Amsterdam,” CBS’ “NCIS,” and countless theater productions, both Off-Broadway and Regional. In the past 25 years, she has originated over 60 characters including lead roles in world premieres by Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket) and Lauren Gunderson (most produced playwright in the US, 2017).
Peter Dinklage made Emmy Awards history on Sunday, winning Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for a record-breaking fourth time. He previously took home the same award in 2011, 2015 and 2018.
Dinklage bested two of his fellow Game of Thrones actors — Alfie Allen and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau — for this year’s win, as well as Jonathan Banks (Better Call Saul), Giancarlo Esposito (Better Call Saul), Michael Kelly (House of Cards) and Chris Sullivan (This Is Us).
Prior to his fourth win on Sunday, Dinklage shared the three-win record with Art Carney, Don Knotts and Aaron Paul.
Game of Thrones was nominated for a total of 14 Primetime Emmy Awards this year, including the three mentioned above. Other nominees included Kit Harington (Jon Snow) for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series; Emilia Clarke (Daenerys Targaryen) for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series; and Gwendoline Christie (Ser Brienne of Tarth), Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) and Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
The show also received three nominations in the category of Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series, as well as a single nod for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series, and the biggie — Outstanding Drama Series.
Continue on to TVLine to read the complete article.
Like many individuals on the autism spectrum, Brian Burk can find it hard to connect with others. The Pasadena, California native is undeniably intelligent, but he struggled to find his way socially and often chose staying at home and studying over spending time with other people his age. But once he discovered the show “American Ninja Warrior,” that started to change.
On “American Ninja Warrior,” all kinds of people compete on various obstacle courses in an effort to reach Mount Midoriyama. Contestants are often larger-than-life personalities who push their bodies as far as they can go. And the moment Brian saw his first episode, he knew he had what it takes to become one of them.
Brian began exercising three times a week to increase his strength and stamina. The very act of leaving his house and interacting with others at the gym helped him break out of his shell. He became more social with each passing day. By the time he competed in the Los Angeles City Qualifiers in 2019, he was more than ready to show the world what he could do!
The now 20-year-old is pursuing a college degree in aerospace engineering and immediately inspired the ANW crowd with his powerful journey to becoming a ninja warrior. They can be seen cheering loudly as he approaches the jaw-dropping obstacle course.
In the video, we see Brian’s parents, Thomas and Pamela Burk, jumping up and down on the sidelines as their son repeatedly lands his moves. He flings his body through the air and ignores the weariness in his arms as he muscles his way up the intimidating Mount Midoriyama to successfully complete the course.
“This means everything to me! I’m so thankful!” Brian tells the show’s hosts. Then he celebrates by doing a full split on top of the mountain… because why not? If you’ve got it (and Brian certainly does), flaunt it!
Continue on to InspireMore to read the complete article.
Teenager Lily Jordan was supposed to be rocking out at a Jonas Brothers concert this past weekend, but instead she had to undergo chemotherapy treatment. So, the famous family stopped by her hospital room to pay her a very special surprise visit before the show.
Late last week 16-year-old Jordan posted a screenshot of an Instagram story, letting her followers know that she couldn’t make the Jonas Brothers’ Hershey, Pennsylvania, concert on Saturday due to chemotherapy.
“I was supposed to be at your Hershey concert tomorrow but instead I’m across the street doing chemo,” Lily wrote on Instagram. “If y’all wanted to pop in I’ll give you my room number.
The hashtag she used, #LilySeesTheJonasBrothersChallenge2019, went viral — even Pennsylvania Representative Scott Perry shared her post.
“Our good friend Lily is fighting for her life in Hershey tonight and so badly wanted to see the Jonas Brothers tomorrow night at Hersheypark, but can’t because of her urgent treatment,” he wrote on Facebook Friday. “If there is anyway for them to visit her, we are lifting up her hopes and our prayers for help.”
The Jonas Brothers saw the posts and couldn’t help but stop in to visit Jordan at Penn State Children’s Hospital before their concert.
The Milton S. Hershey Medical Center posted a sweet video of the famous trio walking into the teen’s room. “We saw your messages, we had to come over,” said Joe, to the smiling Jordan. “It went everywhere, my entire feed was filled,” added Kevin.
Even Nick’s wife, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, tagged along for the visit and met Jordan. After chatting for a bit, Nick asked Jordan if she had a favorite song they could dedicate to her during their concert that night. While Jordan was a bit flustered, she said their 2007 hit “S.O.S” was her pick — to which Kevin answered, “Done.”
The brothers also signed autographs and snapped pictures with the teen.
Continue on to CBS News to read the complete article.
A&E’s Emmy-winning docuseries Born This Way is coming to an end, with a fifth and final season.
The network said recently that the series will wrap with a six-part shortform digital series to begin premiering later this year on AEtv.com, and a one-hour linear series finale holiday special, to air in December on A&E.
Born This Way concluded its fourth season in May 2018. The digital series will pick up following last season’s wedding of cast members Cristina and Angel, and will continue the story of Elena, John, Megan, Rachel, Sean, Steven, Cristina and Angel.
In the hourlong series finale special, the cast will reflect on their personal growth across the four seasons of the show and discuss Born This Way’s impact on the way society views people with disabilities, according to A&E. “From finding jobs to navigating relationships and break ups to exerting their own independence, the cast will rejoice in the journey they have been on together and thank fans for all of their support along the way,” A&E said.
It’s not often that you get to make television like Born This Way which has had such a positive impact on the world. The show unquestionably changed how society views people with Down syndrome and how people with Down syndrome see themselves,” said Executive Producer Jonathan Murray. “It has shown that no one should have to live with artificial limits placed upon them and all of us, no matter what challenges we face, want the same things – independence, a chance for meaningful employment and a chance to contribute to our families and communities.”
“Being a part of the amazing and inspiring journey of our cast over the past four seasons has been an honor for myself and everyone at A&E,” said Elaine Frontain Bryant, EVP and Head of Programming, A&E Network. “We have all learned so much from their openness, resilience and spirit, and we will be forever grateful to them for welcoming us and viewers into their lives.”
Continue on to Deadline to read the complete article.