T’Keyah Crystal Keymah [Interview]

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When I was a child growing up in the 90’s, I can remember watching television and thinking that women were all powerful. They were the leaders of the domestic and independent livelihood. I cherished and enjoyed their presence. As a kid, I enjoyed Roseanne Barr, Jo Marie Payton, Brett Butler, & Patricia Richardson in their amazing motherly roles. But, as an adolescent who knew there was more to a woman than just being a great mother, I looked to three very different women…. Kim Wayans, Kelly Cofflied Park, and T’Keyah Crystal Keymah. They were the main female players of a show that changed my life for the better, known as In Living Color.

I never really (and still don’t honestly) understand the world of sketch comedy, but I always knew it had to be difficult, yet hopefully rewarding. And for a young kid in the 90’s, there was no better showcase of this amazing talent as In Living Color. SNL may have had a good heyday going in the 90’s, but ILC was the show that was truly breaking ground, and coming up with some of the best sketches that still stand the test of time when it comes to originality and hilarity. And getting back on the female love vibe, it was perfect for this. Female characters were more strongly represented on this show than in any other sketch performance around at the time. And many thanks have to be given to the likes of T’Keyah Crystal Keymah, who was there for the long run. You’d be hard pressed to try and remember your favorite ILC sketches that don’t involve this extremely talented woman. But, as it usually turns out when we become graced with the opportunity to speak with such influential people, we soon learn that they are SO much more than a character on that one thing you may remember.

T’Keyah has had wonderful success in her own world beyond In Living Color. She is a woman of the stage, an author, and a true inspiration. In fact, so many things she has done for the world may have worked as a simple metaphor to some, but could be considered legendary in their own right. T’Keyah has been a cornerstone in the world of natural hair in the the black female world. Now, some people may think, this is just a hair issue. But, you really have to move your mind a bit forward to truly grasp how important this issue is. T’Keyah has been a pioneer when it comes to the idea of helping black women understand that they way you were built for this earth is absolutely beautiful, and they should be happy in their appearance. This is an issue that goes way beyond simply styling a certain type of hair, this is a life issue that some wonderful people are born to believe they need change, but our heroine T’Keyah has been around to let them know that there is nothing wrong with their beautiful natural hair. And her work has been so important to so many great people, and should be acknowledged obsessively!

So, with that, please enjoy this amazing conversation with an amazing woman who has so much to give to the world, the amazing T’Keyah Crystal Keymah! don’t forget to participate in the contest being had at Valentehair.com, get you natural hair products for free!

Your work on the now legendary sketch comedy In Living Color is as vast as it is impressive. So how was your experience working on this show?

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. A hard show to do: long hours, lots of changes, internal politics… But also highly creative, energy charged, and the most talented company (cast, crew and staff) ever! I loved creating new characters every week for that show and I learned a lot about show business doing it.

Did you have any idea while it was happening that it would have lasting place in history?

No. That part was a bit of a blur. It was my first job in television so I had nothing with which to compare it. I didn’t learn that all sets (studios, etc.) were not buzzing with excitement, fans, press, etc. until later.

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If you had to choose just one, what would you say was your favorite sketch on ILC, reoccurring or not?

My favorite sketch was my own “In Black World… .” I am very proud of that piece. They took it from my audition for the show. Though I actually had to fight to get credit for it, it was the first piece on the show written by someone not on the writing staff. It also represents one of the first lessons I learned there. The piece originated in my stage show, Some of My Best Friends, and. Cryssy, the central character of the piece is featured in another of my shows as well.


Can you tell us a bit about your book Natural Woman/Natural Hair?

NW/NH is a book of natural hairstyles with detailed, photo assisted, step-by-step instructions on creating them. It includes full color photos showing the beauty of the final looks, as well as stories of me wearing my hair naturally (or not) in television and films.


What inspired you to create this masterpiece that has actually affected many lives in different ways?

I was first inspired by the fact that when I started on ILC, there were no (and I mean NO) natural hair stylists working on television shows, and I could find no books on the subject to help. I followed through on the idea, however, because even as books started coming on the market, my fans were still asking me about my hair and my hairstyles. My hairdresser used SalonTouch tanning salon software to better service her customers, and I love going to her for new ideas.

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Recently you appeared in the long awaited fourth installment of the Sharknado series, Sharknado 4: The 4th Awakens. How was your experience on that set?

It was great! I must admit that I was unfamiliar with the franchise when I took the job. They called and asked if I’d like to come do a scene with my ILC buddy Tommy Davidson, and two days later I was on the set. With an ambitious schedule the day before a company move to Las Vegas, they were running so late that I didn’t think they’d get to my scene. Anthony C. Ferrante, the director, was brilliant. The clock was ticking and they had another scene to shoot after ours. They were telling him to cut coverage on the scene but he figured out how to shoot it in pieces more quickly than I’ve ever witnessed! Very cool! Hope to hope with him again.


Was it as fun as it appears to be on the screen?

Oh my goodness, working with Tommy again was too much fun! It was like we were back on the KTLA lot, quickly going over lines after last minute changes to a sketch. Pretty cool to work with Donna Mills too. So glad Tech Terry didn’t get sharked. I’d love for her to return for Sharknado 5!


If you were given the chance to portray any historical person in American history, who would it be?

Oh I couldn’t name just one. So very many historical stories should be told. I’d love to play Ida B. Wells and Ruby Dee for starters.  My grandparents grew up in the Ida B. Wells housing project in Chicago so I grew up hearing her name. I didn’t learn until later that she was a fierce, fearless civil rights activist who championed the fight against lynching, among other things. Ruby Dee was one of my favorite performers not just because she was talented and choose uplifting roles, but because she was absolute in her resolve to live that life of an artist/activist. And wouldn’t David Alam Grier make a great Ossie Davis?


So what is next for you? Anything you would like to plug here?

I’m working with music legend Brenda Lee Eager on her wonderful new stage show with music, That’s What a Dream Will Do. We’re looking to debut it in Los Angeles early next year. After she opens, I will shift more focus to the reworking of my own stage show with music, Don’t Get Me Started!. I hope to get it back on it’s feet this spring, or next fall, debuting in Chicago or Los Angeles. Details for both and more will be on my website, http://www.TKeyah.com, where you can also find links to my social media pages and other cool stuff.


What was the last thing that made you smile?

Attending the Grand Opening of my niece Sammi’s hair salon, Embellysh, in Chandler, Az. She and her business partner Angela have been working on this project for a very long time and their hard work really payed off! The salon is elegant, and wonderful and it seemed like everyone could feel the warm energy in the room. Being there made me hopeful to see that there are young people still overcoming whatever challenges they face, in order to mold their dreams into realities. That makes me smile!😀

Photo from the Grand Opening of Embellysh Hair Salon.

Photo from the Grand Opening of Embellysh Hair Salon.

 

From The Vault Part 9: Goldy Locks – Rewind and Undo

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I really feel that I need to preface (as I always seem to do) this piece by stating that I am not usually an avid listener to hard rock music. I do find myself appreciating certain artists though, especially female driven groups. There is something very compelling about the idea of a female with a delightfully upbeat voice, just rocking out so hard to screaming electric guitars and thunderous bass lines. So, while I don’t really cover many artists along the likes of Goldy Locks, I do appreciate her/them as wonderful artists. It’s that type of music that really brings me back to the glory days of when I first heard a group like Soul Distraction or the beginnings of punk bands like Forever or Tacocat. And speaking of glory days……

One of the main reasons I wanted to write about this wonderful album, is that it plays almost directly into the origins of this very site where you are feeding these words into your eyeholes. I shall explain. In the summer of 2011, I spent a couple of months holed up in a hotel room (for the most part) watching every Netflix documentary available, drinking cheap vodka, and basically doing all I could not to delve deep into pits of sadness as very important people passed away back home or just plain missing my wife and three daughters. It was a pretty ugly scene, but something great came out of it. This website! And one of the biggest reasons was because of Goldy Locks.

You see, I would occasionally venture out of that musty hotel room in Biloxi. There were two casinos within walking distance of my hotel, so I felt, why the hell not. I’m not a gambler, but I do appreciate the idea of smoking indoors, and tossing a dollar into a video poker machine and getting served free gin & tonics. One such casino was actually Hard Rock Casino. So, it meant a bit of rock and roll was all around you. And within that Casino, there was a center stage. I know you can see where this is going, it’s not that complicated. One such weekend in July, I managed to catch Goldy Locks performing their hard rock ballads for two nights in a row. At the time I wasn’t certain if I was going to be a huge fan, or if I was just enjoying a bit of relief from my own mind. Eventually, I just became a solid fan. But, I’ve never forgotten how music would bring me out of a funk for a short period of time. Especially live music.

Goldy Locks at the Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi, MS (2011).

Goldy Locks at the Hard Rock Casino in Biloxi, MS (2011).

So how did Goldy Lock’s magnetic and drawing sound bring about the beginnings of Trainwreck’d Society? Well, at this point, I was a solid 3 years into a “career” as a freelance blogger, mostly working (mostly) for the brilliant indie rock-centric Fensepost. I had just gotten Children of Mercy into a couple of shelves across the country, and was in a sort of “what the hell do I do now?” state of mind. Then two things happened. I had an experience with music that didn’t quite fit the world of Fensepost, so I didn’t really have an outlet for that, but I wanted one. The second thing was actually a two parter: I did this strange “questionnaire based interview” with College Magazine about COM where I simply answered some questions in an e-mail and suddenly a pit of press was born, and I drunkenly watch the Netflix documentary I Think We’re Alone Now, which was about two very devote followers of pop singer Tiffany. And something clicked, I am interested in so much more than just introducing new music to readers. I wanted to write about the occasionally hard rocker, and maybe try one of these questionnaires to talk to some people that might peak my interest. So I stole a title from a close friend’s unpublished song he performed once in high school, got some friends on board, and Trainwreck’d Society was born.

And here we are 5 1/2 years later, finally attempting to give a bit of credit to a wonderful hard rock group that inadvertently helped form this little website you are looking at. Simply by being their truly gifted selves, they inspired this silly man-child with a laptop to because an idiot with overflowing promotional e-mails, an IMDb Pro account, and a dream. So, I have to show love to Goldy Locks for guiding me into this mess of an existence.

Now, I know you are thinking…but, the album is good, right? You just spent 700 words barely mentioning the fucking actual album, you Dope! And you are correct. I am a dope. But, I will say that Rewind and Undo is a brilliant record for serious rock and roll fans. They have a bit of everything on here for everyone. There is beautiful orchestration on “Dirty Secret”, there is a beautiful power ballad with the likes of “Today I Won’t Be Afraid”, some very real hardcore, throw your fucking hair around rock and roll in the aptly titled “We Like To Party”. There is a touch of that old school 80’s mentality, but very obviously modernized for today’s crowd. Personally, it is one of the best types of hard rock you can listen to. Why? Because I don’t like to feel frightened or threatened when I listen to loud music. I’m sensitive, I guess. And there isn’t much of that when it comes to Goldy Locks. It’s just pure adrenaline pumping fun, and genuine rock and roll in all its glory.

So that is what I got for ya. Again, so much thanks to Goldy Locks for what did for me, and continue to do for others. Find more information, tour dates, and what not at goldylocksband.com. They are still out there killing it at shows and providing their own brand of brilliant entertainment. If they can rock the bar at a Hard Rock Casino, I could only imagine what they could do to a concert hall. Check them out!

Note: Additional apologies for such a late review, as the formation of Goldy’s band has changed a few times since I first saw them, so please inform yourself with the new crew. Still the same wonderful voice though. You can count on that!

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Do You Dream In Color? [Film]

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For so many of us, High School just down right sucked. The struggles of dealing with that in awkward and developmental period between adolescence and pending adulthood can be a real painful, sometimes embarrassing, and downright horrifying time. And most of us, were given the luxury of sight when working through these disturbing times. So imagine if blindness were just a another stick in spokes of the proverbial bicycle tire that is High School life? Well, that is exactly what the beautiful souls who act as the main subjects in the soon be released documentary Do You Dream In Color? are going through, and their unique and individual experiences make for an extremely humbling experience of a film.

Synopsis: Connor, Nick, Sarah and Carina are like most teenagers navigating the growing pains of high school, but unlike their peers these four teens face another challenge – they’re blind. Do You Dream in Color? is an enlightening and poignant coming of age story that captures the inspired journeys of four courageous teenagers as they strive to achieve their goals: to be a sponsored skateboarder, to travel the world, to become a rock star and to be the first family member to graduate high school. Their extraordinary stories shine a provocative light on both the social and institutional obstacles faced by people who are blind in the sighted world and what it takes to surmount these barriers.

I believe it is absolutely fair and only right to admit that there is definitely going to be a large bit of bias when you go into the watching of this film. Whether the idea and subjects of the film hit home for personal reasons or not, this is obviously a film that is going to “hit you right in the feels” as the kids today would say. Any film, whether dramatic or documentary, that deals with the trials and tribulations of physical or mental impairment is destined to be given some sort of emotional leeway right off the bat. So the content was not entirely complicated to emotional convey on screen, but it became the job of the filmmakers Abigail Fuller and Sarah Ivy, to make it an exceptional rollercoaster of emotions stylized for the common viewer. And in the case of Do You Dream In Color?, I think it is only right to acknowledge that they did just that. Fuller and Ivy managed to create a film that is as captivating as it is mesmerizing, especially when you begin to understand just how little they had available in the way of resources for completing the project. Also not to mention the amount of time the two, as well as the rest of the crew, put into making this film a possibility. Between the time consuming agony of crowd funding, and the constant waiting game for distribution and festival acceptance, all of which does not even include the actual filming and editing of such a project, I sincerely believe that the end result is something completely admirable and deserves some very high praise.

Now, to be perfectly clear, the film is not absolutely perfect. There are moments in watching the film when he can almost physically see the monetary restrictions that were placed on the production. Without feeling necessarily rushed, the film does feel like it has a few holes in between scenes that could have been filled with a few thousand dollars here or there, but it just wasn’t possible. But even with that being said, the quality of the film that was presented in the end really needed absolutely no improvements. It’s more of the classic complaint of “we wanted more!” type of situation. Which is actually a far more commendable aspect to the film, in my opinion. While working with so little, they managed to make something absolutely beautiful. And, again, this also wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the tremendous spirit and courage of Connor, Nick, Sarah, and Corina, the film’s subjects.

Seriously people, the amount of hope that this film can, and most likely will, inspire in you should be enough for you to run right to it. It is an extremely power film that can inspire generations to come.

Do You Dream In Color? releases on VOD February 10th, and in select theaters soon thereafter.