MrGerrenalist Sat, 24 Oct 2015 22:36:43 +0000 en-US hourly 1 FAMILY WOES: WHY EBONY’S COSBY COVER HITS HOME Fri, 16 Oct 2015 22:35:01 +0000

When Ebony magazine unveiled its November 2015 cover issue, jaws literally dropped.

A classic portrait of “The Cosby Show” fictional family, The Huxtables, smiling is punctuated by a seemingly broken glass frame. The root of the crack spreading from the face of the family’s adored patriarch: Cliff Huxtable.

Or the man behind the character, Bill Cosby, depending on how you interpret the image.

Upon first reviewing the cover, it doesn’t take long before concluding the magazine is going there.

For the “Family Issue,” Ebony  says it “explores the intensely complicated relationship between the fallen icon, his most beloved character and the broken hearts of Black America.”

By now we’re all aware of the Cosby rape allegation scandal, a story that has unearthed mixed emotions across the country. For the casual observer, a beloved comedian and actor is accused of sexually assualting and drugging at least 30 women.

But for African Americans, Cosby is more than an entertainer amid a scandal. He’s an incomparable and untouchable figure in the community. Black America’s quintessential dad. An educator. A philanthropist. The very idea of that image engrained of Cosby being tarnished is unfathomable for many.

Not surprisingly, Ebony‘s cover evoked a chasm among Black Americans online. Some praised the magazine’s bold statement, even calling it “iconic.” Others shamed the magazine for adding more fuel to the media blaze, particularly those convinced the crusade against Cosby is a whitewashed agenda to take down one of the most accomplished Black men in Hollywood.With the dismantling of the Cosby throne, many are left feeling hurt, betrayed, angry, disillusioned, or all of the above. It feels sort of like a divorce, where one feels obliged to choose a side. To be for Cosby or against him, that is the question. But for the collective Black family it’s more complicated. We’re historically groomed to sweep things under the rug, as they say. Rather than talking about issues and traumas, particularly when it’s about sexual assault, African Americans tend to go around the problem.

It’s for this very reason it’s not surprising why so many promptly dismissed Ebony‘s cover without giving it a chance. It can be likened to a child not wanting to take their medicine because they’re too focused on how bad it’ll taste, rather than understanding it’s necessary for their healing. Ebony‘s cover, while attention-grabbing, in no way dishonors the legacy of Cosby. It simply confronts it. Not to mention, its cover was made public before the story itself was readily available for anyone to read it and form an actual opinion.

If anything the cover does what Black magazines/media are called to do. To challenge ideas, to confront issues concerning people of color, to show that we don’t all think alike. No matter which side of the courtroom one sits on Cosby’s innocence or guilt, one cannot deny its impact on the way in which we engage Cosby and the greatest Black sitcom in television history.

It seems the goal of Ebony is to simply start a conversation. How do we come to terms with the possibility that a man we so revered for decades may be guilty? And if he is, should it change the way we look at his art?

One thing’s for sure, no matter the verdict (if there ever is one), his squeaky clean image will never be what it once was.

So as a communal Black family, how do we respond? How do we reconcile the man from the artistic contributions? By talking about it, that’s how. With an open mind and open heart.

The crack in the family portrait isn’t going anywhere. So let’s stop running away from it.

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Raven-Symone Says She’s Not African-American, Why It’s Problematic Tue, 07 Oct 2014 20:46:12 +0000 100614-celebs-raven-symone

Raven-Symone has declared war on labels.

During an interview with Oprah Winfrey, the former child star touched on her sexuality and race, categorically rejecting being called gay or African-American.

“I’m tired of being labeled. I want to be labeled a human who loves humans,” Symone said, admitting that she is in love with her partner, who is a woman. “I don’t need language. I don’t need a categorizing statement for it.”

“I’m an American, I’m not an African-American,” the “Cosby Show” star added. “I don’t know where my roots go to. I don’t know what country in Africa I’m from…but I do know my roots are in Louisiana. I’m an American and that’s a colorless person. We are all people. I have lots of things running through my veins.”

While some may see Symone’s colorless, unlabeling as something noble in today’s post-Obama election era, the reality is that her statements are actually quite problematic. Declaring war on labels is somewhat of a trend among the affluent, educated and hipsters of the world; those who use post-racial rhetoric to create some sort of class system in which they are not of the majority, but rather a part of a unique and exclusive club. They are seemingly untouched from the trappings of racism, homophobia and other prejudices.

Rather than accepting a label on her race and sexuality, Symone, 28, would rather see herself as a U.S. citizen who happens to look different.

“I don’t label myself,” she said. “I have darker skin, I have a nice, interesting grade of hair…I connect with Caucasian, I connect with Asian, I connect with Black, I connect with Indian, I connect with each culture.”

And when Winfrey called her a “melting pot in one body,” Symone quickly agreed. “Aren’t we all? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to be?”

Yes, in theory, we are all created and should be viewed as equal. But what Symone seems to have forgotten or overlooked is the fact that in America, people who are deemed “other” are not treated equal under the laws of Government nor by society’s standards. Not when white officers and vigilantes are getting away with murdering Black boys on American soil. Not when trans women and other LGBT people are being beaten and killed on American streets for being who they are.

Simply removing a label doesn’t make any of that disappear.

Maybe in Symone’s wealthy, privileged world, living a life with no labels is an easy feat, and maybe even the norm. But for the rest of Americans whose very existence and opportunities in life centers around labels, denouncing them changes absolutely nothing.

How convenient it must be to pick and choose what and who you are when you’re Raven-Symone.

Why is that when it comes to “labels” deemed inferior, people tend to distance themselves from them as much as they can? Being proud of labels is empowering. The same way in which Symone is surely proud to be an American woman, she should be equally proud to be a Black lesbian woman.

But that would actually require admitting America’s ugly truth.

While people should have the freedom to self-identify themselves as they please, one can’t  deny the dangers in one rejecting parts of who they are. Not when there is an entire nation of people who are ridiculed and bashed for it every single day of their lives.

Rather than finding ways to distance herself from those who exist within the labels of the world, maybe Symone should use her massive public platform to eradicate the ills of American society, so that her utopian idea of the country can be a reality for all and not just a select few.

Labels don’t have to be something to frown upon. They are not bad things to have. It’s how we perceive and use them that matters most.

This column was originally written for

]]> 0 Is The Institution of Marriage Dying? [Commentary] Thu, 02 Oct 2014 00:40:54 +0000 100114-centric-whats-good-Wiz-Khalifa-Amber-Rose-Nick-Mariah-Keyshia-Cole-Daniel-Gibson

There’s a state of emergency in America: married couples just can’t seem to stay together.

In Black Hollywood alone there have been at least seven reported divorces, including Nick Cannon and Mariah CareyKeyshia Cole and Daniel Gibson, and more recently Wiz Khalifa and Amber Rose.

Whether over infidelity or irreconcilable differences, it seems celebrity couples are calling it quits left and right with no sign of hope in sight. So much so that a couple actually surviving is mythical in theory (hey, Jada and Will!)

Other marriages that have joined the divorce roll call this year include Randy Jackson and wife Erika Riker, celebrity chefs Gina and Pat NeelySherri Shepherd and Lamar Sally, and Paula Patton and Robin Thicke.

That has to be a record-breaking number.

While one can easily chalk up the recent string of celebrity divorces as an industry norm driven by the fame and the fortune, seeing so many couples heading to divorce court makes you wonder: why does it seem no one can stay together? Is this indicative of the times, in which a cultural shift in the attitude of marriage is beginning to take form?

But don’t think celebrity couples are the only ones who are susceptible. Divorce in Hollywood is only a skip and hop away from the national reality of marriage.

Fifty-percent of all marriages in the United States are expected to end in divorce, based on divorce rates that continue to climb. The rate of mothers heading the household has ballooned as well. The hard facts tell us that the institution of marriage is slowly deteriorating.

Pinpointing the cause of so many failed marriages, however, is tricky considering so many things have been used to make sense of America’s divorce problem; such as the rise of social media, the accessibility of divorce and societal pessimism over monogamy as a whole.

While psychologists have long argued that human beings desire companionship, it seems rather odd that so many are opting to do quite the opposite.

Or are we looking at it all wrong?

Maybe it’s not that people are turning to divorce because they’d rather be alone; it could also be that they’d rather not be tied down to one person. Whatever the case, what’s clear is that marriage doesn’t seem to have the same luster it once had. Maybe there needs to be a new standard. Maybe the Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham approach to avoid marriage altogether is the only way to ensure romantic longevity.

Regardless, marriage is and should always be considered sacred. Coming to that decision should not be taken lightly. That’s not to say marriage is an easy undertaking. The pressures of marriage can prove to be difficult, with many possibly tying the knot a little too prematurely.

The great thing about America is that we have the right to marry whoever we want (well most of us). It’d just be a lot more comforting if more people learned how to stay together.

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Author Zane Talks Career, Race and Sexuality [Exclusive] Mon, 18 Aug 2014 20:48:41 +0000


Gerren Keith Gaynor interviews author Zane for Centric:

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know that when it comes to erotica novels, author Zane is the genre’s reigning queen. Over the last 15 years, she’s published 30 books and has had her signature no-holds-barred literary sexcapades turned into the television series “Zane’s Sex Chronicles.”

And on Oct. 10, the author will be entering a new medium when her New York Times best-selling novel “Addicted” makes its film debut in theaters nationwide.

But even with her massive success, Zane admits she’s noticed the limitations of her career as a Black writer. With the explosive rise of America’s fascination with the novel “50 Shades of Grey”–which is making a film debut of its own–it’s hard not to see the way in which race plays a role in mainstream’s ever-whitewashed popular crowd.

“It’s interesting that I still have yet ’til this day never been on ‘Good Morning America,’” Zane tells “There’s no true justification for that other than the color of my skin, because my accomplishments are there.”

In an exclusive interview, Zane goes back in time to tell us how she became the dominating author she is today, her views on sexuality and the lack of respect for writers of color. She also tells readers what they can expect from her new novel “The Other Side of The Pillow” and, of course, the film everybody’s waiting for, Addicted, starring Sharon LealBoris KodjoeTasha Smith and Tyson Beckford.

Take a look.

CENTRIC: So you’ve been writing professionally for over 15 years?

ZANE: My first book came out in May of 2000, but I started posting stories online in November of 1997. So it depends on which one you consider my start.

Where were your stories being posted online?

Originally on America Online until I got so many hits and they shut that down. Then I started posting on Black erotica boards–those disappeared as well. And then I think early 1999 I launched Erotica Noir, which is still my primary website. That is where I was posting until I put out my first book.

That’s interesting. You did this in a time before social media. Usually when writers are promoting they’re posting on Facebook and Twitter–almost like marketing. How did you get your writing out there?

It was all word of mouth. I didn’t do anything (laughs).

To date, how many novels have you written?

The one that just came out (“The Other Side of The Pillow”) is my 30th book, however, I do have other books written. I have written 34, but the 30th one just came out.

So I read that you first started writing erotica novels at night when your children went to bed. Where did the inspiration come from? Did you always have a sexually imaginative mind?

It’s so funny. I’ve never read erotica so that’s actually not what I considered myself to be doing. I was just bored and was just writing. I think where it comes in with me is that my stories have always been about other stuff…I’m just a very detailed writer, so when it came to the sex thing I didn’t tone anything down. There are some books that I’ve edited that are clearly erotica, but most of my novels you could literally just say “and they had sex” and it would still be a complete book. In other words, it’s just a part of life.

What would you say is your favorite or most profound novel that you’ve written and why?

It’s always what I’ve either just finished writing or what I’m currently working on, because that’s what I’m living and breathing at the time. All of my books have a very special meaning to me, but I’m always most emerged in whatever I’m currently working on. With that being said my favorite book would have to be “The Other Side of The Pillow” that just came out and “Vengeance,” that I’m currently working on.

Tell us a little about the plot of “The Other Side of The Pillow”…

“The Other Side of The Pillow” is about two people in the Washington, D.C. area. Jemistry is a successful high school principal but she, like a lot of women who had a lot of bad past experiences when it comes to relationships, is very bitter. And Tevin is a successful vascular surgeon who is divorced. He’s also been through a lot of different things, and when he sees her performing this poem called “Bitter” on spoken word night, unlike all the other men in the place who are like ‘oh goodness no I’m staying away from her,’ he sees something in her and decides to take a shot and try to knock down her walls. But ultimately the book is about how two mature individuals go about entering a relationship and not running at the first sign of drama, making adjustments, and the sacrifices it takes to make a relationship truly work in order to actually find happiness.

Your core audience seems to be women–particularly African-American women. Why do you think they’ve gravitated toward your novels over the years?

Because they can relate to my characters. I write about real issues women deal with. Generally when I’m writing a book I tend to write about what is trending in the world as far as what people are dealing with. Like when I wrote my book “Love Is Never Painless”–it was because I read an article in Woman’s Day many years ago that said that 8 million women in the United States alone were addicted to pain pills. I had a couple of friends who were in that same situation, so I decided to write a book about it where the main character’s wife was addicted to pain pills, and when she could no longer get them, she ended addicted to crack. For every book I had a reason behind it.

Undoubtedly the theme of your catalog is sex and sexuality. Lately, however, there’s been a lot of pushback against women  being too sexualized. What is your stance on sexuality? Is there a limit?

I think that people should do whatever it is they want to do. No matter what Nicki Minaj and other people are doing–or even what I’m doing–the parent is the ultimate role model. I believe there’s nothing wrong with expressing your sexuality. As long as it’s not illegal or hurting anybody. The problem is that there are a lot of women who live their lives unhappy because of the fact that they’re trying to hide who they truly are. So I have to commend anybody who is not doing that and simply being themselves. But when people meet me they’re like ‘you look like a Sunday school teacher, a PTA president’ and you know what’s funny? I’ve been all of those things, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not uninhibited when it comes to my sexuality.

In many African-American households sex is never really discussed. Do you think the community fails to fully embrace sexuality?

I think there are a lot of religious connotations that come in play where people don’t want to discuss it. One thing I realized as a parent myself was, whether I like it or not, my children are going to grow up and have sexual desires. I would rather discuss it with them myself than have them learn it from someone else. And I would rather them feel like they can come talk to me about stuff, because I don’t want them to feel ashamed.

How did you initially feel about the success of “Fifty Shades of Grey”? Some critics of color criticized the world’s fascination with the novel, arguing that it had clearly been done before by you and that race had a lot to do with it. Did you feel the same way?

I actually have not read the book. I recently saw the preview for the movie at a theater and to be honest it reminded me of the movie 9 1/2 Weeks. I agree that a lot of the stuff has been done before. I don’t feel any kind of way about it. I think she had great marketing support, she had a lot of people she knew because of her background as a TV producer, and it paid off. It’s interesting that I still have yet ‘til this day never been on “Good Morning America.” There’s no true justification for that other than the color of my skin, because my accomplishments are there. I feel like everybody was talking about it so people felt an obligation to read it.

Erotica books written by Black authors are often dubbed “street literature.” Do you ever get offended by that title?

I think that Black authors as a whole are not given the same amount of attention that they deserve as other writers. Even with me traveling on this book tour, I’ve had all of these New York Times best-sellers and every airport store that I’ve been not only have they not had my book, they haven’t had any Black authors’ books. How can they not have my book with best-selling authors? I don’t get that. Half the people they have in those stores I’ve actually beat them on the New York Times list.

Because everything is digital these days and book sales are not what they used to be, do you ever worry about the future of printed literature?

I think there are always going to be those who like to read hard copy books. On this tour I’ve been selling a ton of books and we went through one case of books in like ten minutes the other day. As far as digital books, authors still do get paid from them. It’s just kind of sad to see bookstores close; it’s sad to to see libraries empty. I don’t know so much if it’s the digital books that are hurting the industry as it is not as many people reading, and having so many other options and things readily available [on the Internet]. I think we’re our own worst enemies. Everything is becoming more convenient but we’re also taking away jobs and businesses. But books will always be around; people will always want to read books, it’s just that we’re up against so much other competition.

You’ve had your novels turned into a television series, but never on the big screen, does it feel any different now that your novel “Addicted” will hit theaters in October?

I’m excited about the medium. Most writers would love to see their books turned into movies. I’m very proud of the movie [Addicted]. It’s very good. I’m excited to see the reactions to it. I just hope that people truly go out and support it. My fear is that if people don’t go out and support or go out and get the bootleg copy, Hollywood will shy away from turning other Black books into movies. I feel like I have a lot weight on my shoulders with this, to be honest. If it does well hopefully it will open up opportunities for other people. I think people are truly excited about it, but I just hope they actually support it. We’re doing everything we can to make that happen. We have and we have goodies for people including a free sequel to this book if they purchase their ticket online. Lionsgate is doing everything they can. There’s so much promotion going behind it, so if everybody actually shows up to the movie theater who are excited about seeing it, then it’s going to be amazing.

Did you have say in the casting of the film?

We considered doing this before many years ago and Sharon Leal was one of the top contenders back then after we had auditions for close to 100 people. Bille Woodruff asked me if I thought Boris [Kodjoe] would be a good Jason and I said absolutely yes (laughs). Tasha Smith said a long time ago that she wanted to play Dr. Spencer. I’m very happy with the cast. Some of the conversations started many years before it went into production. I think that everybody did great; they all played their roles well.

Is there anything you haven’t achieved that you’d like to in your career?

Addicted comes out Oct. 10 and my first play based on “The Other Side of The Pillow” launches Oct. 21 in Dallas. You can go to find out more information. Then we’re going back out in the Spring to about 40 other cities, so I’m very excited about that. The cast will be announced in a few weeks.

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The Danger In Nicki Minaj and Big Booty Culture Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:18:32 +0000 072814-centric-whats-good-entertainment-sarah-Saartjie-Baartman-nicki-minaj-1

Everyone is talking about Nicki Minaj’s butt.

Ever since the female rapper released the cover art for her new single “Anaconda” (pictured above) – which shows her squating, backed turned to the camera in a g-string, with her ass in full view – many took Minaj to task for exploiting her body for music sales and shock value.

While it’s no different than all the other times the female rapper got attention for her assets, this go around seems to be a public outcry against what some consider to be a gimmick executed one too many times by the rapper and, on a grander scale, a pushback against the objectification of women’s bodies.

Minaj fired back at her critics, posting an image of three White women showing their butts on a cover of Sports Illustrated. “Angelic. Acceptable. Lol,” she captioned along with the image, seemingly drawing a possible line of bias between Black women and non-Black women as it relates to what’s considered sexy and appropriate in media.

Nicki makes a good point – but not for the reason she probably thinks. There is a bias against Black women and their bodies, and because of it, they are held to a different standard. But a proclivity for a White woman’s body over that of a woman of color is not particularly the reason why Nicki’s explicit photo is problematic.

Nicki isn’t the first Black woman with a gigantic ass, and surely she won’t be the last. From Beyonce to Serena Williams, women of color are often fetishized and worshipped for their natural curves.

But the spectacle of women of African descent donning large behinds is something that dates as far back as the early 1800s.

During that time, Sarah Baartman was one of at least two South African women exhibited as a freak show, where curious and fascinated onlookers would pay to get a view of her God-given buttocks. Her protruding butt caused Europeans to view her as a wild or savage woman. Scholars have long used Baartman’s story to critique the way in which Black women are socialized and understood under the context of racism and sexual politics.

Fast forward two centuries and it’s not hard to see that nothing’s quite changed. Black women and their bodies are still considered to be abnormal, while White women are deemed normal and the standard.

So yes, critics have every right to hold Minaj accountable. The only difference between now and then is that during Baartman’s day, under the rule of slavery, she didn’t have much of a choice. But with a reported net worth of $45 million and accolades galore, one can only wonder why the Grammy-winning MC would continue to use her body to bring attention to her art rather than simply using her sheer talent.

Minaj doesn’t need to theoretically “sell” her body in order to sell music in tandem. She has successfully made it to a plateau in entertainment where, as a Black woman, she can call the shots and begin to take ownership of her career and, more importantly, her being.

While policing a woman’s sexuality takes away from her right to have authority of her own body, as a woman of color, Minaj has the responsibility of using her celebrity and international reach to protect the global perception of the Black woman – and part of that is straying away from stereotypes of lust and eroticism.

But if the rapper’s intent is to deconstruct the othering of the Black woman’s body by using her own booty to normalize or debunk hackneyed images of African-American women through an act of defiance or satire, then maybe she deserves a little credit.

However, no matter how much of a right a woman of color may have in showcasing her derriere, she must always keep in mind that all praise isn’t good praise. Not when it’s at the expense of the humanity of Black women all around the world. Her booty is not a commodity, nor is it an exhibition. It is hers and hers alone.

Originally published on by yours truly, Gerren Keith Gaynor.

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AJ Johnson On Being A Wellness Coach, How To Be A Better You [Exclusive] Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:11:07 +0000  072314-centric-whats-good-entertainment-AJ-Johnson

While AJ Johnson may be best known as Jody’s momma in the 2001 film Baby Boy, what many people may not know is that over the last several years, the veteran actress has dedicated her life’s work to being a health and wellness coach to both celebrities and non-celebrities alike.

One of Johnson’s clients, Gabrielle Union, made headlines when she stood before an audience at the ESSENCE’s Black Women in Hollywood luncheon to give a candid confession about how she once “lived for the negativity inflicted” upon her fellow actresses of color out of insecurity and competitiveness. In an interview with Oprah, Union revealed that it was Johnson and her work as a wellness coach that inspired the actress to deliver such a speech.

More recently, Johnson, 50, was seen using her expertise to help rebuild Lindsay Lohan’s life and career in a special docu series. With her company, The AJ Zone, Johnson is helping many people and corporations live a life of complete wellness, which includes fitness, nutrition and spiritual balance.

In an exclusive interview with, Johnson gives the low down on how she ended up stepping away from Hollywood to embark on her new calling, and how the death of her parents was the catalyst for it all. The Spelman College graduate also gives us some nuggets on how to overcome some of life’s many barriers and how you, too, can live to be a better you. Learn more about The AJ Zone and see what’s in store for Johnson’s career.

CENTRIC: How did you get into the realm of being a life and fitness coach? Was there “a ha” moment, as Oprah loves to say?

AJ Johnson: I wouldn’t necessarily say that I transitioned from one to the other. God called me in a particular direction, so I kind of shifted my focus on my attention and things have been so amazing in that arena that there just hasn’t been a script that has pulled me away from it in the last few years. If a great script came up or an amazing director came up I will for sure do another film or even a TV series, but I love what I do. I love the level of connection it allows me with people different than Hollywood on-set connections. I just feel like a lot of my life has built me to do this work. So, I don’t know what my future holds. I don’t like to box myself in and say I’m doing one thing or the other. This is just kind of where I am at this point and we’ll see what the next step is.

My a ha moments were really the catalyst of losing my father. I lost my dad right after Baby Boy came out and because my dad had become my biggest fan, my acting coach, my cheerleader, my script breakdown person, my action decision maker; my dad was kind of like my road dog for me in the business. When I lost him I just couldn’t get the drive that being an actress, an African-American actress especially, that it takes.

A lot of people did not know that I was a dual degree honors graduate from Spelman [College]. I was a premed major when I came to L.A., so with degrees in chemistry and sociology my launch in LA was really just a break between undergrad and med school but things took off for me in the arts, so then like I’m kind of living my life now I never went back to school and you all know me as an actress. [With what I do now] I get a chance to be on camera, I get a chance to help people. I get a chance to use my background on my education…I was called to this work. I live a certain lifestyle and that actually started when I lost my mother to cancer when I was 17, so all of this built me into this place. My healthy living lifestyle for myself started when I was 17 or 18 and it kind of grew after I lost my mother. By the time I lost my dad in 2002 I was already equipped with the tools to live a different lifestyle.

People just started asking me for help based on seeing me do what I do and the fact that it turned into this business, the clients, the speaking engagements, the TV shows, magazine articles and online companies. I never expected any of that but it just goes to show you that people want to be healthy and people want to be better. If my example makes people feel like they can do it than I’m grateful.

CENTRIC: What type of advice would you give someone who’s experienced losing a loved one?

AJJ: Everybody grieves differently based on their relationship with the loved one…based on how they lose the loved one. If it’s an illness of a long period of time or if it’s immediate like a car accident or due to a medical condition. There’s so many different factors that personally really factor into what kind of counseling and support a particular person needs after losing someone. For me interestingly enough losing my parents hit me so hard that I didn’t want to disappoint them and just completely give up on life. I really didn’t see how I was going to bounce back from losing them, but at the same time there was a big place in my spirit that said I got to do something to make them proud. You can never decide how you’re going to come out when you lose a love one.

Those of us that are left here after you lose someone, I believe we’re left here to live the lesson and whatever those lessons are I just feel like we’re obligated to carry them out from a spiritual obligation. Obviously there’s a period of time of just emotional grief and shock and disappointment and sadness but as time passes and you realize that you’re here and you’re waking up everyday and what do you do with that? I like to believe that I’m supposed to carry out some degree of my journey from the lessons learned by experiencing the other person.

CENTRIC: So tell us more about the AJ Zone Company, the creation of it and the work you do.

AJJ: We’re an open wellness life coaching company; I have other life coaches that work with me. I’ve coached and trained everyone that works in the company primarily because we are one of the few companies that handle all of it. We personally don’t separate the title of health and wellness coach and fitness. Health and wellness is a complete package, mind, body and spirit. We cover nutrition, we cover spiritual, we cover emotional, we cover mental and we cover physical.

The reason why the company was created that way is because most divisions of wellness are only reached successfully by all the other components being dealt with; we don’t de-compartmentalize. For example if someone comes to our company with an emotional eating situation the first thing we do is tackle every angle of it. We tackle nutritional background, we tackle spiritual background, we tackle fitness lifestyle, so we don’t address one issue by one division. We address one issue by every division and that’s what you get when you come to the AJ Zone.

We have personal clients one on one, we do speaking engagements, we work with colleges, we obviously work with celebrities, and we also have online programs available for the non-celebrity. I like to say that the AJ Zone is the zone that you live in when you’re reaching for your better – and everyone’s better is different. Some people may come for weight management, some people may come for a diet for a role or project or film, some people may need high discipline, everybody’s better is different and so the company is formulated to help everyone reach their better.

CENTRIC: Is there a particular style or approach you personally take when you are coaching someone? Is there a way you approach that others don’t?

AJJ: I don’t necessarily work deeply into what other people do. I move by how I would do it. I start from the space of what do I do to combat a certain situation or what would I do or what could I do to combat the situation. I also try to live to them alongside the person. With the Lindsay Lohan doc series, saw me cooking for her, working out with her, helping her with career plans and management and not only developing them but trying them out. A lot of people I think ride on the laurel of their certificates on the wall, where as I like to live the life with the person. I try to dig in and be an example. I don’t come across very many life coaches that actually live by the example. I live alongside them, so that I understand the experience so they can understand that they are not alone in it. I don’t like to tell people what to do; I like to show them what to do.

CENTRIC: What advice would you give to people who feels stuck? Who maybe feel like they can’t overcome their obstacles?

AJJ: You have to believe that there is life that can be lived unstuck, you have to believe that you can get unstuck and you have to believe that you’re worthy of it, if you want it bad enough and if you believe that there is a way and you just haven’t found it yet then you come to the AJ Zone and we’ll help you find a way. You really have to have a faith and believe that there can be a different way.

CENTRIC: Is there a proudest moment that you have so far with the work of the AJ Zone…a success story?

AJJ: I’m proud anytime I watch a client reach a goal that we set. When Gabrielle [Union] got up, I had no idea that she was going to deliver that speech. She quoted a lot of the notes and work that we have done over a seven years span of time. I had no idea she was going to come that clean if you will, in front of an audience, and an audience full of her Hollywood peers and be honest about the work we did. A lot of times, especially with celebrities, just like any doctor visits it’s very confidential, sometimes this work can be very deep that we dive into childhoods, family issues and a lot of times people don’t want to admit those deep wounded problems even though they are on the path to getting better and getting healthy. That’s why a lot of people before Gab or before Lindsay don’t really know what I’m doing because a lot of my work is confidential but that’s why I was so surprised that Gabrielle delivered the speech she did and acknowledged the work that we have done, so that was another proud moment.

When anytime I can experience a level of success and goal attaining with a client I’m proud. When I’m out to speak at a conference and I get a standing ovation or someone just comes up to me after my speech and say, ‘wow you just changed my thinking or you just changed the direction that I was living my life’, that’s a proud moment. Anytime I can bring success to someone it feels like a big moment for me.

CENTRIC: What’s next for you? Is there anything else that’s in the works for you personally, in your career as an actress, life coach or for the AJ Zone?

AJJ: Oh yeah! I’m continuing to do a lot of work helping build their busy platform in addition to my own, a few TV appearances, as well as on BET’s “Lift Every Voice.” I put together a retreat that will probably jump off in the New Year to help people make decisions and choices for their new self and new you, so I’m going to be pretty busy.

CENTRIC: Any other words of wisdom you’d like share?

AJJ: I was doing great as an actress, I have no complaints; I had a great career going, I had a career that most people beg for but I was called to do something else. There was a passion that was not being set by my lifestyle as an actress in Hollywood and the discipline and the courage in my spiritual life is what led me to follow that passion and I’m so glad that I did. Don’t be afraid to side step on what you think you should be doing when a calling is placed on your life for when you feel like there’s something else that you should be doing to fulfill a purpose. There’s a reason why you feel that undying energy that tireless passion. Try not to ignore it because it rarely steers you wrong.

Originally published on by yours truly, Gerren Keith Gaynor.

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When To Know It’s Too Late To Repair A Relationship Thu, 03 Jul 2014 01:17:48 +0000 022714-celebs-quotes-robin-thicke-paula-patton

Robin Thicke’s got it bad.

Since his separation from wife Paula Patton, the blue-eyed soul singer has gone on a very public, national pity tour to get her back. City to city, venue to venue, Thicke has practically begged for a second chance from Paula, who not-so-ironically is the namesake of the his new album and the muse behind its lead single “Get Her Back.”

Thicke’s charades have come off quite pathetic to say the least, and social media made that very clear when the #AskThicke Q&A hashtag with VH1 turned into a meme of users defending Paula and demanding that Thicke stop harassing the “Precious” actress.

“#askthicke are you aware that making your apologies public amounts to harassment and psychological abuse of your ex? #domesticabuse,” read one of the thousands of tweets using the hashtag.

Thicke’s crusade to win back his wife may have come off noble in the beginning, but now it’s become a full-on train wreck. Most of all, the singer is a cautionary and telling tale of just how much persistence can come off more so like desperation.

The fact is, there’s an expiration on repairing a relationship. Immediately after one has checked out because their partner has done them wrong, the responsibility is on the wrongdoer to do whatever is necessary to earn forgiveness. But in the case of Thicke – who reportedly has not seen his estranged wife in four months – sometimes it’s a little too late.

While the cause of their separation is nothing short of rumors, it’s pretty safe to say that infidelity had everything to do with it. But if reports of multiple affairs are true, Thicke can pretty much kiss his chances of reconciliation goodbye.

Relationships can be fixed, but whether or not it can survive depends on just how bad the damages are. If it’s too great of an offense, your relationship simply becomes the collateral damage itself. All can be forgiven, but sometimes when your ex makes it clear that they’re not going to come around, at some point you have to accept it and move on.

Everyone loves a great love story, but it seems this one has run its course. Maybe Thicke should put wax on his mission for mercy and instead take his loss as a learning lesson in life: that you have to appreciate what you have while they’re still around, not when they’re already out the door.

So to all the Robin Thicke’s out there, let this be a warning or you, too, could end up being the joke of the town.

Originally written by G.K.G. for

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Monifah Talks Being A Newlywed, Same-Sex Marriage Movement [Exclusive] Thu, 03 Jul 2014 01:08:02 +0000 063014-centric-whats-good-MONIFAH

Check out my interview with singer and “R&B Divas” star Monifah Carter…

Without question, when it comes to Black representations of LGBT people in Hollywood, singer Monifah stands at the frontline. Stepping back into the spotlight since her glory days in the ‘90s, the R&B diva has become a vocal activist for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights, even recently marrying the love of her life, Terez.

As a spokesperson for Out Loud Secret – a non-profit that provides services for the children of LGBTQ families – Monifah is utilizing her celebrity to encourage love and equality. In September, the organization will attempt to break a Guinness World Record for the largest mass LGBT wedding in the World. Not to mention, Monifah knows a thing or two about wedding ceremonies.

In an exclusive interview with, Monifah talks about why she thinks such an event is important for the national movement for marriage equality, how she’s enjoying the newlywed life and how she deals with being the mother of a daughter whose religious beliefs creates a divide on where they stand on same-gender love. Despite their difference of opinion, the Harlem native says love and acceptance is the only way to go. Check out the very honest and poignant conversation, which also includes an update on what to expect from her upcoming album.

CENTRIC: What made you want to be a part of Out Loud Secret’s mass same-sex wedding event?

MONIFAH: I believe it’s important what Out Loud Secret does; helping bridge the gap between children and their parents who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender. I think especially being a parent who has a daughter who believes in what she believes in as far her religion, we’re having a divide in that area, I can totally relate to how important that dialogue is. It’s definitely close and personally for me. As far as the mass wedding thing, why not? Let’s do it. I think it makes a bold, big statement politically, socially, and it’s beautiful if people are doing it for the right reasons.

A lot of same-gender loving couples can probably relate to your relationship with your daughter. How do you bridge that gap when you have someone who clearly loves you but doesn’t agree with that aspect of your life?

Acceptance is key, and I think people should look that word up. We can’t change people nor should you want to. You should give what you receive, so I give respect of different opinions of belief. I don’t want everyone to think the same; it would be just a boring thing anyway. But that’s the point of opening up the dialogue and having life experiences that will help people see your different side. This is a little different because it [involves] religion, and usually people don’t budge from that area.

But it’s love, and we’re not talking about sex because I think people go straight to people’s bedrooms when they think of about relationships hetero- and especially homosexual connections. Who says that you’re having sex? That’s not the only way that only way to connect with someone. Acceptance is key; keeping the dialogue open and respect and love. That’s the reason why Terez, Akemi and I decided to share this part of our family life…because we thought it was important to show that you can agree to disagree and still love and support one another, and move in love. That’s my daughter. God doesn’t want my relationship with her all crazy because of a difference of belief. I believe that in my heart.

So speaking of marriage, you recently wedded your new wife Terez. How are you enjoying the married life?

We were spiritually married anyway. We did a thing between me her and God one day way before she even proposed to me, so spiritually I already felt married. Marriage in the sense that we’re able to get married now and be protected legally is just about that, because marriage basically is a business partnership. Let’s be real clear about what marriage is. Politically and legally and from the beginning of time, it’s really been about joining families, power, etc. It’s a huge business decision; you’re joining your life not only spiritually but financially, politically, socially with someone else. Really this was like the last frontier so now we’re able to make moves and do things and own stuff, move through the world legally together. But it’s been good (laughs). We got things we’d like to do and we’re protected the same way everybody else is. It’s been amazing.

The wedding looked absolutely stunning. How did that moment feel? It looked like it was a mixture of extreme joy and a little of nervousness.

[I thought] ‘OMG I’m marrying my best friend. Whether I could be legally married or not, I would have done a ceremony to whomever I were to marry. But marrying a woman, I never really carried that thing on my back. I just believed that you should be able to marry who you’d like to marry, who you want to share your life with. As I was walking down the aisle I was like I’m marrying my soulmate. I was excited and the people I care about the most – minus my daughter – were there to celebrate with me. It was awesome and I relished in the moment.

On your new single “The Other Side” you touch on the opposite of happiness when a marriage hits a rough spot. What do you do when you hit a rough patch or what advice would you give other couples, especially same-sex couples who may feel more pressure to make it work?

Communication and being open. You have to always be able to see your partner’s perspective and care enough where they’re coming from when things get rough because it’s two people in a connection. And be willing and vulnerable. Vulnerable doesn’t mean weak. Vulnerable means being able to share without fear or the mess of the ego. I know I try very hard in in my close relationships and my marriage to lessen my ego, because that’s really where all of that stuff comes from. How it looks or how it feels…it’s usually the ego that gets us tripped up.

So I would say true communication – and not trying to change somebody! Stop trying to change people, you know? That’s insane. All you can do is do is be your best self. Work on yourself and your perspective on a lot of things will shift. You’ll find that every battle is not to be fought (laughs). Some things you let go and some things you come to the table on.

Although this country has become more tolerant of LGBT people, we all know that bigotry still exists. Do you or have you ever experience negativity from people as it relates to your relationship with Terez and how do you handle it?

With a good ‘God bless you.’ Yes I have, but I really don’t think that I was aware that it was about that. A lot of times my phone doesn’t ring based on somebody’s feeling about whatever, seen and unseen. But I can’t be concerned about that. I just gotta keep pushing on and doing what I believe what is correct and right for me.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about same-sex marriage?

That it’s about sex, that it’s about lust or that it’s carnal. Most of the couples that I know have been in healthy and loving relationships for years and they’re finally able to show that and be legally protected. It’s way bigger than anything carnal. Everything is not about that and I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions because I think people think it’s about the physical and threesomes and silly sh**. It’s not – not all. It’s the same as in any relationship. You got some hetero situations that are super wack and super based on shallowness, and you want to take people who really want to build together and just want to be with each other and keep them from being protected? It’s crazy to me.

What kind of impact do you hope Out Loud Secret’s mass wedding ceremony will have?

I hope that it speaks volumes. I don’t want to be accused of agism, but I hope that there are a lot of 40 and over couples that participate. I think that the country needs to see that there are [couples] that are productive members of society who have been living together and have been partners for years that now finally have the opportunity and same rights as heterosexuals do when it comes to marriage equality. I want to see the seniors represented in this as well. I really think that needs to be seen because same-sex relationships are not new. The political and socio-economic hoopla is making a distraction with it. They’re taking rights away across the board while we do this tit for tat over marriage equality.

What can Centric expect from you musically…will there be a video rollout or album release date soon? What’s next for Monifah?

I’m going to do a video and the album will be coming early fall. I’m thinking sometime late September, early October. I’m really excited about my new project. It’s been a long time coming. It’s full of my journey and experiences, and I’m just having fun. I’m comfortable in my skin and that will be very much felt. I’m in a good space and don’t have to take everything so seriously. I’m going to be strategic and tactical but I’m going to have a good time doing my music. You’re going to hear a lot of stuff on the album. I’m an actress; whatever I feel when a song gives me a feeling there’s different voices in there. There are different expressions and ways to convey that. Being a woman who’s been exposed to so many genres of music you’re going to get a little piece of everything. It is what it is, you either like it or you don’t. I’m just doing me.

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Where R. Kelly Went Wrong In Response To Transgender Teen Wed, 25 Jun 2014 20:38:31 +0000 keelyjay

My commentary via

Is R. Kelly ashamed of his transgender teen?

That’s what inquiring minds wanted to know when the megastar singer remained radio silent after news broke that his child, Jay Kelly, 13, had publicly identified as transgender.

“R. Kelly’s Daughter Turns Male” read one of the many eye-catching headlines that dominated the news cycle for weeks. So when word got out that R. Kelly had publicly commented on his personal family matter, many were eager to learn the singer’s thoughts.

But rather than using his public, wide-reaching platform to unequivocably declare his support of his child’s decision to stand in his truth and exercise self-love, R. Kelly went on a disjointed rant that suggested quite the opposite.

“Well, you don’t really want to open this up with saying my daughter is becoming my son,” R. Kelly said during a radio interview.

The radio host who asked the question explained that she was simply quoting the blogs and media outlets that covered the story.

“I know, but don’t even give the blogs that kind of credit. But as far as that’s concerned, always believe what you see—with your own eyes that is. That’s the best way to go about this business. I’ve heard a lot of things about a lot of people, and it was never true.”

The singer went on to say that “there’s a backstory” on his child’s newfound attention, however, he chooses not to go into detail, citing privacy to his longevity in the music industry.

“I don’t address that though,” he said. “That’s the thing. Why do you think I’ve been here for 27 years, and still relevant? Because I don’t address dumb ***. I just don’t do it.”

At some point he did manage to say that “no matter what they are, who they are they’re still your kids, you love them. You support them,” after going on a tangent about his need to downsize his home after his divorce – making it unclear if he was referring to his child’s gender identity or was simply making a generalized statement.

R. Kelly’s interview is problematic for a couple of reasons. For one, what exactly is the “dumb***” he’s referring to? His child’s courageous move to proclaim his selfhood? The fact that he chose to do it in such a honest, public way?

Additionally, what exactly is the public seeing that is not true or not as it seems, as he claims? His child, who was assigned a female sex, took to social media to announce that he is male and chooses to identify as Jay and not Jaya. It doesn’t get more concrete than that. Either R. Kelly refuses to accept this reality or he’s not completely privy to his own child’s Internet usage.

To be quite honest, R. Kelly simply skated around the entire issue, which is really a shame when you consider that it was a perfect opportunity to make a very loud and proud statement; not just as a father, but particularly to other parents of color with children who identify within the LGBT spectrum.

With society’s homophobic, transphobic problem, it can be increasingly difficult (and dangerous) for teens and young adults who identify as gay, lesbian or transgender. People are literally losing their lives because of the hatred others project on one’s sexual or gender expression. Because of this, young people are yearning to see examples of parents who accept their children for exactly who they are. But more importantly, it was a failed opportunity to let his son know that no matter what sex he was born with or chooses to reject, he is loved and embraced just the same.

It’s unfortunate that R. Kelly couldn’t be as brave as his son, Jay. Much like Magic Johnson did when his son, EJ, came out as fabulously gay, R. Kelly could’ve used his interview to shift the conversation to one of reception and to teach other parents on how to not only love their kids in spite of what others may see as different, but to respect their individuality and not allow his own personal workings to get in the way.

But unfortunately, like the Grammy award winner, many parents come off ashamed of their children in experiences like Jay’s – a social trend that is damaging to families and drives many young people to runaway, in which they end up homeless, or worse turning to sex work or drugs because they failed to to get the acceptance they so longed for at home. Instead, Kelly came off defensive and rattled on the topic of his child’s identity. The only thing made clear is that he’s not yet comfortable, in whatever capacity that may be. But rather than giving a haphazard response, maybe he shouldn’t have said anything at all. Sometimes a “no comment” is the best option when you don’t have the right thing to say.

No one should tell R. Kelly how to be a father, and he certainly didn’t ask for this kind of scrutiny. But when you do decide to speak publicly on such a serious and personal matter, it’s crucial that you do it with care for the sake of the one you claim to love. Otherwise, you’re doing a disservice to all parties involved.

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Necole Bitchie: More Than Just A Blogger [Exclusive] Tue, 24 Jun 2014 01:04:05 +0000


Check out my very personal interview with celebrity blogger Necole Kane of It’s by far one of my favorites:

Two minutes into her interview with, Necole Kane, widely known by the moniker “Necole Bitchie,” is in tears.

“Damn. Every time someone brings up my parents…” she says before stopping mid sentence to dry her eyes.

The famous blogger’s mom and dad both died at the age of 42, just two years apart from each other and, as expected, it’s something that remains a soft spot. In fact, death has become quite a devastating theme in her life. Before her parents, Necole’s grandmother had passed when she was 16, and just last year, she reveals, she lost her other grandmother as well.

“It’s something I didn’t publicize,” she said. “I didn’t go to the funeral and it’s only because you get tired of your last memory of people being in a casket.”

Kane, who’s website is the one of the fastest-growing celebrity news sites on the Internet, tells Centric despite her traumatic personal story, it’s only been used to light a match to her burning success. But more importantly, it’s taught her to value life that much more.

“I think that’s why I work so hard because I don’t know how much time I have here,” she says.

If her seven-year career as a blogger is any indication, Necole will be here for as long as she wants to be.

Before urban bloggers were posting selfies with celebrities and building their “brands,” there was Kane. Her girlie persona and transparency came at a time when most bloggers hid behind their computer screens. The site, which attracts mostly women, has propelled the smalltown Maryland native to a stage she didn’t exactly intend to be.

Back in 2006, Necole quit her radio gig and took a leap of faith by moving to New York City in order to pursue a career at a record company.

“I didn’t know how to sell myself, so it was hard for me to get a job,” she admitted.

In an attempt to prove she had the goods to market herself, Necole started her blog, which continues to be one of the most read urban sites on the Net.

It’d be safe to assume that Kane’s many bouts with adversity is what got her this far. Through the loss of loved ones, and being broke and homeless, Kane seemingly made a way out of no possible way. However, she points out there’s a price that comes with success.

“They see the fun. They say ‘I want to be just like her’ or ‘I see her on the scene at all these celebrity events,’ but they don’t know how much you sacrifice to have a website of that caliber,” she said. “I sacrificed family, friends because I couldn’t afford to [stop]. There’s always something breaking and somebody’s always willing to take your place or steal your audience.”

After a rough year of lawsuits, and her grandmother’s death, Kane says she took a 10-day vacation overseas in 2013 that changed her outlook on her career and personal life.

“I realized you gotta work smarter not harder,” she said. “So I hired writers and help to open up a little time to live.”

But even with the success of the site, Necole tells Centric her dreams and aspirations go far beyond blogging.

“I don’t want my legacy to be that I was some great celebrity gossip blogger. I want my legacy to be something more impactful,” she says.

Kane says when she was younger she was inspired by Oprah Winfrey just when her talk show was beginning to take off. When Winfrey started doing city tours, Necole was amazed at how many women – of all races – paid to see her. She, too, wanted to have that kind of effect on people. But when she went to college, Kane says she was often teased for her country accent.

“I mispronounced words and everybody thought I was unintelligent. They mocked me when I talked and I was like OK that’s not what I want to do anymore,” the self-described introvert said. “I let those people steal my voice and they took my dream and I think I want to get that dream back.”

While she’s not entirely sure when or what her exit strategy will be, Kane says she thinks about it often and makes it clear that she wants to separate Necole Bitchie from Necole Kane. One way of doing that is also blogging on her personal website

Eventually, Necole says, she wants to turn to book writing and inspire people around the world to go after their dreams, the same way she did so many years ago.

“You have to block out the noise so you’re not comparing yourself to other people. Don’t follow anyone else,” she says. “I don’t know what’s next. I just ask God to just use me and guide me to my next chapter.”

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