It’s official! Nikki Bella, one-half of the Bella Twins phenomenon with twin sister, Brie Bella, has married Dancing with the Stars professional, Artem Chigvintsev. The couple met in 2017 during Season 25 of DWTS where a romance between the two soon followed. They became engaged in January of 2020 and in July of the same year, Nikki and Artem welcomed their first child, a baby boy whom they named Matteo. Sharing this message on both Twitter and Instagram, Nikki says, “We said I DO, can’t wait to share the entire journey with you all when our four-part special event, Nikki Bella Says I Do, premieres on E! Entertainment.” The two tied the knot on Monday, August 29, 2022, in Paris, France.
Abron’s Hot Take
I had the pleasure of interviewing both Nikki and Brie for their cover story in LaPalme Magazine where we discussed everything from career to relationships. Still engaged at the time, Nikki shared this about her relationship with Artem, “With Artem, things feel easier in a lot of ways. I don’t feel as much pressure and I can genuinely be who I am. I made mistakes in my last relationship. Sometimes we hold ourselves to certain expectations and when we don’t meet those expectations, we become hard on ourselves, and I did that which was ultimately just hurting myself. I’ve learned how to communicate differently and be firm in what I want, recognizing that if it works that’s great and if not, that’s fine too and I can move forward. It took me a long time to realize not to settle for less and whatever life you want, you go for it and live it because that’s what brings true happiness. Artem has just calmed my soul.”
I’m thrilled and excited that Nikki has her happily ever after! During our interview, I felt drawn to her infectious energy and bubbly personality. Sticking true to her word, she also shared in our talk that she would be open to having a wedding special to share with her fans, the “Bella Army,” and she’s doing just that in her upcoming E! special. I can’t wait to watch!
Congratulations Nikki and Artem! I wish you both a lifetime of happiness!
On June 1, 2021, after a tumultuous and invasive trial, a jury finally reached a decision in the case of Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard. The jury seemingly sided with Depp, 58, awarding him $10 million in compensatory damages and an additional $5 million in punitive damages. Heard, 36, was also awarded damages in the amount of $2 million. The decision comes after a six-week public hearing of testimony by the ex-couple, Amber alleging physical, verbal, and emotional abuse at the hands of Depp and him refuting said allegations. The two married in 2015 after four years of dating. They first met in 2009 while filming The Rum Diary. In 2016, Heard filed for divorce from the Pirates of the Caribbean star, accusing him of domestic violence. She also requested a restraining order which she later dismissed. Upon the finalization of their divorce, the two seemingly reached a mutual agreement, releasing a statement that in part said their relationship was “passionate and at times volatile but always bound by love.”
The impetus for the case came as a result of Amber’s 2018 op-ed for The Washington Post. Although she didn’t name him directly, she alleges in the article that she had been a victim of abuse. Depp responded by suing her for defamation and in return alleging that it was she who had been abusive to him. From there became what we all now know as the Depp vs. Heard case in which Depp sued Heard for $50 million as well as stating that the allegations in the op-ed caused him to lose work in Hollywood, most notably the role of Captain Jack Sparrow in the upcoming Pirates film.
Heard counter-sued Depp for $100 million and claims of defamation from Depp’s lawyers. Although he was not present during the reading of the verdict, Depp released an official statement on his Instagram page saying, “Six years ago, my life, the life of my children, the lives of those closest to me, and also, the lives of the people, who for many, many years have supported and believed in me were forever changed. All in the blink of an eye.” He added, “From the very beginning, the goal of bringing this case was to reveal the truth, regardless of the outcome. Speaking the truth was something that I owed to my children and to all those who have remained steadfast in their support of me. I feel at peace knowing I have finally accomplished that.” Heard, in her own statement said, “The disappointment I feel today is beyond words. I’m heartbroken that the mountain of evidence still was not enough to stand up to the disproportionate power, influence, and sway of my ex-husband. I’m sad I lost this case. But I am sadder still that I seem to have lost a right I thought I had as an American — to speak freely and openly.”
Benjamin Chew, a lawyer for Depp spoke to reporters after the verdict was announced saying, “Now that the jury has reached its conclusive verdict, it’s time to turn the page and look to the future.”
Abron’s Hot Take
I’m not going to relitigate this trial because I feel like it’s been done to death at this point. In the beginning it felt like a case of he said, she said. Amber accuses Johnny of abusing her, Johnny says no, Amber is the one who abused me etc. But as more and more details became public during the trial, it appeared that Amber’s accounts of what happened during her marriage to Johnny were not as true as she claimed. But now that it’s over, I want to focus more on what it all means. I ask this question as the title of this blog post – is there a winner in the Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard Case? If I were a lawyer, particularly Johnny’s lawyer, the answer to this question would be an obvious yes. And rightfully so as his team was able to provide enough credible proof to dispel Amber’s allegations. But as a journalist, I’m more focused on the court of public opinion. There seems to be a mixed reaction here. While the majority of viewers see Johnny as the victor, there are others who feel that Amber was not believed and therefore her loss is a blow to the #metoo movement. Will Johnny get his career back? Will Amber be victorious in her appeal and if so, what does that say about Johnny? What will become of Amber’s career after this?
These are the questions I think about which is why I don’t believe anyone actually “won,” the case because at the time of this writing, we have not yet seen any results to prove who Hollywood is supporting. But fair is fair and as it pertains to the claims of defamation, Amber did in fact defame Johnny by accusing him of actions he did not commit or that she couldn’t prove he committed in a court of law.
What happens next is yet to be determined. We know that Amber is planning to appeal the jury’s decision and Johnny seems to have already moved on and is focusing on getting his career back. It’s safe to say that this won’t be the last we hear of these two, but my hope is that for Johnny, now that he’s restored his name, that he can continue to work in Hollywood as he is one of the most prolific actors of his generation. There is no Pirates of the Caribbean without his character Captain Jack Sparrow. For Amber, I hope she can find peace within herself but that she also learns from this debacle. She basically filed false claims against Johnny that she knew weren’t true and then drug out a trial I’m almost certain she knew she wouldn’t win. I believe she banked on the “believe all women,” mantra as a way to gain public sympathy.
But unfortunately, her stories had so many holes in them that the jury just didn’t find her a credible witness and she lost a case that she pretty much started when she wrote that op-ed. I for one am glad this case is over. It will surely be talked about for years to come as it is now one of the most scandalous trials in Hollywood history.
Elizabeth Alexander Mary, most commonly known around the world as Queen Elizabeth II (the second), 96, recently celebrated her Platinum Jubilee. Having ascended to the throne on February 6, 1952, at just 25 years old, her Majesty the Queen has officially reigned for 70 years, making her the first monarch in British history to achieve this accolade. Although there have been a series of unfortunate events and scandals that have plagued the royal family in recent times such as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (the Duke and Duchess of Sussex) stepping down from their duties and leaving the royal family and the UK altogether, the sexual abuse allegations of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and the passing of the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the royals have remained steadfast in their duties of service.
In addition, the Queen has faced health challenges of her own, having recently recovered from COVID-19. The concern for her health resulted in her majesty’s decision to forgo a few of events scheduled throughout her Jubilee celebration. Speaking on her influence, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, the Queen’s grandson and future King of England said, “I think I speak for my generation when I say that the example and continuity provided by The Queen is not only very rare among leaders but a great source of pride and reassurance.” Tributes from other world leaders were also relayed to the Queen with President Emmanuel Macron of France saying, “You are the golden thread that binds our two countries, the proof of the unwavering friendship between our nations,” and former US President, Barack Obama saying, “Your life has been a gift, not just to the United Kingdom, but to the world.”
Although Prince Harry and Meghan officially stepped down as senior members of the royal family, they returned to the UK to celebrate The Queen’s jubilee where she also met the couple’s daughter, and her great-granddaughter, Lilibet for the first time since her birth in 2021.
Abron’s Hot Take
Congratulations are in order! That’s all one can really say when you think about this. Regardless of how you may feel about the royals, whether you like them or not, I think we can all agree that what Queen Elizabeth II has accomplished is extraordinary. Not to mention, she’s made history by becoming the first monarch to reign for as long as she has and she’s a woman! I think that pretty much defies the antiquated thinking that leadership positions are better served with men at the helm.
Hopefully, the lesson learned here is that globally, we embrace women as world leaders. In the US we’ve come pretty close with Hillary Clinton getting the presidential nomination back in 2016, Nancy Pelosi serving as the only female Speaker of the House of Representatives in US history, and with the inauguration of our first female Vice President in Kamala Harris. I don’t see this jubilee as just a celebration in the UK, but as a shining example and global representation of what true leadership and service to country looks like. Congratulations to her majesty The Queen. I guess Beyoncé was on to something when she declared back in 2011 that girls really do run the world!
In February of this year, it was announced that comedian, actress, and talk show host Sherri Shepherd, 55, would be getting her own talk show, essentially replacing The Wendy Williams Show and its host, Wendy Williams, 57. The announcement comes after Shepherd, along with a slew of other guest hosts filled in for Williams after she stepped away from the show due to ongoing health issues.
Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein, co-presidents of Debmar-Mercury, the production company behind The Wendy Williams show said in a joint statement, “Sherri is a natural who proved her hosting skills for many years as a panelist on ‘The View,’ on Fox’s ‘Dish Nation’ and again this season as a popular guest host of ‘Wendy.’ Like our viewers, we have been impressed by the unique comedic twist Sherri puts on our daily live ‘Hot Topics’ segment, her creativity, and interactions with our guests. Her love for the content and daytime fans is obvious, and we are excited to partner with her to create another long-term talk franchise.”
Shepherd shared her enthusiasm about the opportunity saying, “OMG! I am so excited to have my dream come true and debut my very own talk show ‘Sherri’ in the fall. I can’t wait until I return to NY to host the show and merge everything, I love…pop culture, talk, entertainment, and comedy. I am thankful to Debmar-Mercury and Fox for partnering with me on this show and look forward to this new journey.”
Wendy, on the other hand, has not taken the news well. During an Instagram Live chat with rapper Fat Joe she claimed that she will in fact be returning to her show saying, “I’m coming back to ‘The Wendy Williams Show.’ Absolutely. I wish I was there. I wish I was there right now to talk about it. I’m glad I’m able to talk about it when I come back, you know?” She also added that she would not be watching Sherri’s show, “I won’t be watching her because I know what she’ll be doing and that’s not really my thing … you know what I’m saying?” But I love, I love being on my own show. And I love that people love to watch it, you know, all the time.”
The Sherri show is set to premiere this fall.
Abron’s Hot Take
Okay, I say this with full respect and empathy for Wendy, it’s time for a reality check! Wendy, YOU.ARE.NOT.GETTING. YOUR.SHOW. BACK! Period, full stop. I think Wendy says this because she’s really trying to convince herself that she has not been replaced and that’s exactly what has happened. Yes, Sherri is not replacing “The Wendy Williams Show,” but her own show will air in Wendy’s old timeslot. So, what does that tell you? I know what it tells me. Now, we can’t blame Wendy for needing to take time away from the show to focus on her ailing health and other personal issues; however, working in TV is a business and at this point, Wendy being gone as long as she has been makes her a liability to the production company behind her show not to mention with marketing and advertisers.
It's only natural that they would start to move in a different direction. Just so we’re clear, The Wendy Williams show is over and doesn’t seem to be coming back anytime soon. Instead, viewers will be tuning in to The Sherri Show. I think Wendy needs to continue to focus on her health and when she’s officially ready, she can return to the public eye. What I’m sensing is that Wendy seems to be upset that she is being replaced and although her anger may be warranted, it is, however, misdirected at the wrong person which is Sherri. Sherri hasn’t done anything wrong. Some have argued that she essentially saved Wendy’s show with her appearances which producers found compelling enough to reward her with a show of her own. Wendy needs to discuss any issues she has with Debmar-Mercury, but I doubt she will because it’s much easier to hate the person replacing you rather than the powers that be behind the decision.
This is a very sad situation all around and I for one would advise Wendy to bow out gracefully and give a sincere and heartfelt goodbye to her audience that has watched her for the last fourteen years rather than hold on to this notion that she will be returning to her show when anyone whose been following this story can see the writing on the wall. Her actions are concerning and come off like an aging adult trying desperately to hold onto their youth.
It's over Wendy. Please accept that and use this time to rest, reimagine, and reemerge a better, stronger Wendy Williams!
The past four years have seen actress Selma Blair, 49 get very candid about her personal life. In 2018, the Cruel Intentions star revealed in an Instagram post that she was suffering from Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease that according to the National MS Society, impacts the brain and spinal cord which make up the central nervous system and disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and body. In the post, Blair recounts her symptoms, sharing “I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken gps.” She further shares her battle with the disease in her very personal and emotional documentary, Introducing, Selma Blair. After receiving a stem cell treatment, Blair is now in remission of her MS, “My prognosis is great. I’m in remission. Stem cell put me in remission. It took about a year after stem cell for the inflammation and lesions to really go down.”
As if battling an autoimmune disease wasn’t traumatic enough, especially sharing such vulnerable moments with the public, she is now opening up in her new memoir, Mean Baby, about her experiences with alcohol addiction which she shares started at just 7 years old as well as other deleterious and unfortunate circumstances of suicide attempts and sexual assaults. In her cover story with PEOPLE, she shares, “I don't know if I would've survived childhood without alcoholism, that's why it's such a problem for a lot of people. It really is a huge comfort, a huge relief in the beginning. Maybe even the first few years for me because I did start really young with that as a comfort, as my coping mechanism.”
Mean Baby was released on May 17th and is available now.
Abron’s Hot Take
If you’re a 90s – early 2000s kid like myself, then you’re most familiar with Selma from her roles as Cecile Caldwell in Cruel Intentions, one-third of the girlfriend’s trio, Jane Burns in the comedy film, The Sweetest Thing, and as Reese Witherspoon’s nemesis Vivian Kensington in Legally Blonde. We’ve basically grown up with her as she’s portrayed characters in some of our favorite films that have defined our childhoods. So, naturally hearing about her traumatic battles with MS and now her recounts of alcoholism and sexual assault pierces our hearts. I’ve often said that if I were to ever meet Selma, I would wrap my arms around her and give her the biggest hug. Ten percent of that hug would be due to the struggles she’s faced because that’s what we’re naturally inclined to do as humans who are empathetic to others. But ninety percent of my hug would be to celebrate her bravery and strength in sharing her personal story with the world.
It's not easy to do something like this in a world that often finds fault with the victims or is so easy to speak negatively about others. But yet, she’s done exactly that in the most beautiful way. When I watch Selma, I’m reminded that we all have choices. We can either cave and give in to the unfortunate circumstances life deals us or we can choose to be strong and fight to the very end in hopes of changing the outcome. Selma has looked MS in the face and not only knocked it out of life, but she’s also using her platform to advocate against the disease and spread awareness so that others who are either facing the disease or know someone who is, can see a positive example of perseverance that they too will reach the other side. Through her memoir, she’s empowering other women and girls to own their stories, change their narratives, and frame who they are and who they want to be. I feel honored to know that I co-exist and I live in a world with the likes of Selma Blair.
Thank you, Selma. I’m rooting for you. WE ALL ARE!
The world of country music suffered a huge loss when reports announced that Naomi Judd, 76, had died. As one-half of the Grammy-winning duo, The Judds with daughter, Wynonna Judd, 57, Naomi was one of the most successful artists to grace country music. Wynonna, along with her sister and Naomi’s youngest daughter, actress Ashley Judd, 54 released an official statement on Ashley’s Twitter account, confirming that their mom had in fact passed away. The tweet stated that the sisters lost Naomi to the “disease of mental illness.”
On May 1, 2022, just one day after the announcement of her death, Naomi along with daughter Wynonna, as part of The Judds, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. During her tearful acceptance speech alongside sister Ashley, Wynonna said, “I didn’t prepare anything tonight because I knew mom would probably talk the most. I’m gonna make this fast because my heart’s broken, and I feel so blessed. It’s a very strange dynamic, to be this broken and this blessed. … Though my heart’s broken, I will continue to sing, because that’s what we do.” An emotional Ashley added, “I’m sorry that she [Naomi] couldn’t hang on until today.”
Although her initial statement only claimed that Naomi had passed from mental illness, no detailed explanation was given about the cause of death until recently when Ashley sat down with Good Morning America’s Diane Sawyer. In this candid interview, Ashley shared that Naomi used a gun to end her own life, committing suicide, “She used a weapon … my mother used a firearm. So that’s the piece of information that we are very uncomfortable sharing but understand that we’re in a position that if we don’t say it, someone else is going to.” Judd went on to add that she was the one who found her mother’s lifeless body, “I went upstairs to let her know that her good friend was there, and I discovered her. I have both grief and trauma from discovering her.”
Naomi Judd’s last performance was with Wynonna at the 2022 CMT Music Awards. A public memorial service was held on Sunday, May 15, at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts or is experiencing a mental health crisis, call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255
Abron’s Hot Take
I can’t even begin to fathom what the loss of a parent feels like, nor can I imagine what Wynonna and Ashley are going through. Back in 2016, during an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, Naomi talked about her battles with depression and suicidal thoughts. To know that even back then, she struggled with this disease and then ultimately succumbed to it and took her own life is a hard pill to swallow. Although Naomi’s battle is not uncommon, it is, however, very alarming. Oftentimes, we look at the lives of celebrities and we assume that because they have money, and fame, their lives are far better than the average person. On the surface, that can be true. Being able to buy big mansions and expensive cars seems like the pinnacle of success. But what you can’t buy your way out of is your own mental health. It’s always with you and follows you everywhere you go.
Depression is something we all struggle with. No matter who you are, whether you’re famous or not, you will at some point, experience depression. And as we’ve learned from the passing of Extra TV correspondent, Cheslie Kryst, even high-functioning depression can still become so debilitating that suicidal ideation creeps in. My hope is that we as a society can not only normalize the topic of depression and mental health but that we can make seeking treatment a part of any other illness as that is in fact what it is. Suicide has claimed far too many due to their depression. It’s a dangerous disease that is far more lethal than cancer because it attacks slowly and can stay with you for years if not properly treated. My heart and condolences are with Wynonna, Ashley, the family of Cheslie, and anyone else who has lost someone to depression and suicide. For those who are suffering in silence, I encourage you to seek help from the many resources available. Trust me, you’re not alone in this fight as it is a universal one. Depression will always be here, but if we have better coping mechanisms to fight it without the stigma of shame, perhaps we can save more lives, including those of the rich and famous.
Sean Combs, also known by his many monikers throughout his career such as Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Diddy, and most recently, Love/Brother Love has announced the launch of his new music venture, Love Records. The label will serve as a partnership with Motown Records. Reports on the announcement share that the label “will be dedicated to R&B music and will release singles and collaborative projects from a collective of world-class artists, producers, and songwriters.” The first album that will be released under the new label will be none other than the rapper and business mogul himself, which will mark his official return to music since the release of his last solo studio album, 2006’s Press Play.
In his official statement on why he decided to start the label, the 52-year-old said, “Music has always been my first love, Love Records is the next chapter is about getting back to the love and making the best music of my life. For the label, I’m focused on creating timeless R&B music with the next generation of artists and producers. Motown is the perfect partner for my album and I’m excited to add to its legacy.”
This isn’t exactly new territory for the I’ll be Missing You hitmaker as he is the founder of Bad Boy Records which was founded in 1993 and launched the careers of artists such as Mase, groups Total and 112, Mario Winans, Day26, Danity Kane, Da Band, and most notably, the late Christopher Wallace, known by his stage name, The Notorious B.I.G. or Biggy Smalls. Diddy will executive produce, curate, and serve as A&R for his upcoming fifth studio album.
Abron’s Hot Take
I want to give credit where credit is due and first state that I believe Sean Combs is a fantastic businessman…for himself. He not only created his own record label with Bad Boy, but he also launched an impressive list of other business ventures such as his clothing line, Sean John, which won the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) award for Men’s Designer of the Year in 2004. In addition, he’s released successful fragrances (unforgivable being my favorite) and owns significant shares in businesses such as Cîroc Vodka and Revolt TV. As of 2022, Diddy is reported to have a net worth of $900 million, making him one of the richest rappers in the world.
With that said, while Diddy has managed to carve out a successful career for himself, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room which is his poor track record in managing other artists. It’s a bit of an open secret that many artists who’ve signed with Diddy through his label, Bad Boy, have unfortunately not become as successful as they may have hoped or once enjoyed mainstream success and have now disappeared from the public spotlight.
You may argue that it’s unfair to hold Diddy responsible for the failures of his artists but as the owner of the record label, his role in signing artists, helping to develop their sound and brand, as well as how to market them are huge reasons why that argument doesn’t hold weight. If one or two artists fail, then perhaps we can assume those were moments of bad luck. However, if most of your music roster is no longer making music today and you yourself are the only relevant success story, then it bares mention or suggestion that perhaps business practices were poor at the very least. I’m assuming Diddy is aware of this which is why he’s emphasizing that the artists that will sign under his new label, will have equity as he explains in this interview with 2Cool2Blog.
I certainly hope this is the case with Love Records. As Jay Z says in the song BOSS, featuring wife Beyoncé, “over here we measure success by how many people successful next to you, here we say you broke if everybody gets broke except for you.” Translation: if you’re the only one making money and everyone else in your circle is not, then you’re not really a boss, nor are you really successful. I am wishing the best of luck to Diddy and all of the new artists that will release music under the imprint.
Bill Murray, 71, is a Hollywood icon with a career that has expanded for decades. He first rose to prominence in the late 70s replacing Chevy Chase on the late-night sketch comedy show, Saturday Night Live (also known as SNL). From there, he transitioned into acting, starring in cult classics that have expanded generations. His performance in the romantic comedy-drama film, Lost in Translation garnered critical acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. In recent news, reports share that production on Murray’s latest film, Being Mortal, has been suspended due to allegations that the Ghostbusters star has conducted inappropriate behavior while on set.
In a letter sent by the movie studio, Searchlight Pictures, to the cast and crew of the film, it states as its reason to halt production, “Late last week, we were made aware of a complaint, and we immediately looked into it.” Although it is unclear as of the time of this writing what exactly Murray has been accused of doing to cause filming on the project to be halted, Searchlight has launched an investigation into the matter and has not yet commented on the details of said investigation. The studio further stated in their letter as far as when filming will resume, “We are truly grateful to all of you for everything you’ve put into this project. Our hope is to resume production and [we] are working with Aziz and [producer Youree Henley] to figure out that timing. Production will be in touch with you to share details on the wrap, and we will let you know as soon as we have more information to share.”
The film started its production on March 28 and is reportedly halfway through filming. Whether Murray will be replaced or not, for this reason, has yet to be determined as well as whether the suspension will affect its 2023 release date. Being Mortal marks the directorial debut of actor Aziz Ansari and stars fellow actors Seth Rogan and Keke Palmer.
Abron’s Hot Take
Now, on the surface, it would appear that Murray is a pretty standup guy. I mean you don’t maintain a career this long in Hollywood if you’re a complete jerk; however, there are exceptions to the rule. This isn’t the first time that the actor has been accused of bad behavior. There have been multiple stories from directors and costars alike, who have shared their experiences of aggressive actions and insults hurled towards them by Murray that they have deemed disrespectful if not abusive. In 2021, actress Lucy Liu, 53, opened up about the verbal insults she suffered from Murray on the set of the 2000 action-comedy film, Charlie’s Angels.
So, it’s a bit hard not to believe that the latest complaints on the set of Being Mortal have some element of truth to them and that Murray is in fact the culprit of the “inappropriate behavior.” There are just so many questions to ask about why exactly does Bill Murray find it necessary to berate, insult, or physically attack his costars? Is this a form of a superiority complex? Is he facing personal demons that he refuses to get help for and would rather take his anger out on those around him? Is he suffering from a mental health disorder? There are just so many ways to look at this. But what I will say is that under no circumstances whatsoever, regardless of if the answer to any of the questions asked above is yes, is it ever okay to behave the way Murray has.
We know of the pressures that celebrities face and how it can become isolating and has caused many others to suffer nervous breakdowns. I’m empathetic to their plight. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have eyes on you all of the time, cameras in your face 24/7, and strangers judging your every move and dissecting every word you say. However, with any job, you have to take the good with the bad and if Bill has learned nothing in his nearly five-decade career, you would think it is how to treat people.
The man is 71 years old. At this point, he should be at a stage in his life where he’s working for the pure enjoyment of it all. He has nothing to prove as he’s built a career that most aspiring actors can only dream of. What is the reason for his negative behavior? Here’s a piece of advice Mr. Murray…if working with others has proven to become an issue for you – if you find that sharing in the human experience with others is too much, then perhaps you might want to consider retirement. That way, you never have to work with actors you hate – take instruction from directors you despise, and in return, those same individuals can come to work feeling safe and not having to worry if they’ll have objects thrown at them or forced to listen to your diatribes at their expense. It’s a win-win if you ask me.
It’s known as “the slap heard around the world.” On March 27, 2022, during the 94th annual Academy Awards ceremony, actor Will Smith, 53, made headlines but for all the wrong reasons. Forty-plus minutes before Smith would go on to win his first Oscar for Best Actor for his leading role in King Richard, he stormed the stage and slapped comedian Chris Rock, 57, across the face after Rock made a joke about Smith’s wife, actress Jada Pinkett-Smith, 50. Before presenting the Oscar for Best Documentary, Rock joked about Pinkett-Smith’s bald head saying “Jada, GI Jane 2, can’t wait to see it,” referring to the film GI Jane starring Demi Moore who donned a short haircut, similar to the one Pinkett-Smith has had as of late.
Smith was seen on camera seemingly laughing at the joke while Pinkett-Smith was caught rolling her eyes, visibly annoyed by the comedian and the joke she deemed unfunny. As Rock continued with his presentation, Smith was seen walking toward him. As Rock began to laugh, assumably thinking Smith was approaching him for friendly banter, he was struck across the face. Smith, upon returning to his seat was heard shouting expletives at Rock saying, “keep my wife’s name out your f****in mouth.” What was thought as a comedy bit between the two men was proven to be a reality. Rock, to his credit, continued presenting the award and moving the show forward but the awkwardness of the moment was there to stay for the remainder of the night for both the viewers and the live audience of actors, producers, directors, and nominees whose categories had not yet been presented.
What ensued after, was public shock and outrage. Did that really just happen? This is the question most people asked themselves. Smith apologized to Rock via Instagram citing Pinkett-Smith’s alopecia condition as the reason for his reaction. He also decided to resign from the Academy after they announced the launch of their own review to determine what consequences he should face as a result of his behavior. On Friday, April 8, 2022, the Academy Board of Governors released their official statement banning the I am Legend actor from attending the Academy Awards and all future Academy events for the next 10 years. Specifically, the statement reads, “The Board has decided, for a period of 10 years from April 8, 2022, Mr. Smith shall not be permitted to attend any Academy events or programs, in person or virtually, including but not limited to the Academy Awards.” In his response, Smith accepted his fate saying, “I accept and respect the Academy’s decision.”
At the time of this writing, Rock has not made an official statement addressing the matter but was seen on video during the kickoff of his Ego Death tour saying in part, about the incident, “I’m still kind of processing what happened. So, at some point, I’ll talk about that s***. And it will be serious and funny.”
Abron’s Hot Take
Now, I wasn’t going to address this issue simply because it’s been discussed ad nauseum at this point. I sort of shared the same sentiment as Daniel Radcliffe in that I became bored with the story and the many opinions from spectators; however, I knew more information would be coming down the pipeline which is what I was moreso interested in. As it pertains to the punishment itself, I lean more on the side that it was fair. Firstly, regardless of what side you stand on regarding Will Smith’s actions (yes, there are people out there who feel that Smith was justified in attacking Rock), you know that with every action there is an equal or opposite reaction. Smith was going to face consequences no matter what. That’s just the nature of how the world works.
Now, I never thought that Smith would have his Oscar taken away (this was a possible consequence discussed in the media), but I did think the Academy would reprimand him, even though I wasn’t quite sure what that would look like. Seeing as though Smith resigned from the Academy on his own volition, there really wasn’t much that could have been done on the Academy’s end. We can speculate that maybe he would have received a shorter ban period but there’s no way to know that for sure. No matter how you slice it, Smith committed an offense that most people would have been arrested for and he did it on live television in front of the whole world. Not to mention, his doubling down and justification of his actions during his acceptance speech, partying after the ceremony as if nothing happened, and his delayed apology to the victim in all of this, Chris Rock, could also be seen as aggravating factors that led to the Academy needing to make an example out of him.
If you’re familiar with Smith, then you would know that he’s actually already suffering the biggest punishment which is falling out of favor with the public. For thirty-plus years, the carefully curated image of Will Smith has been that of the “good guy.” He’s always been known as one of the nicest people in Hollywood but now, this one night has changed that forever. Will it impact his career forever? Most likely not because America loves a comeback story so there is still room for him to redeem himself. However, as of right now, Smith has fallen out of favor with some of his fans, peers, and Hollywood in general. His Oscar win will forever be remembered for the actions that led before him winning and that image he’s worked so hard to craft now has a stain on it that will be etched in pop-culture history in perpetuity. He will indeed feel the heat and things will get worse before they get better as that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. What Smith must now ask himself is, was it worth it? Were those 2.5 seconds of impetuousness worth the trouble that he’s gotten himself into? Would he have fared better had he pulled Chris Rock to the side after the ceremony and addressed his issues with the joke or better yet, used his acceptance speech as a moment to address Jada’s condition with alopecia – explaining then why the joke was not to be laughed at? Hindsight is 20/20. So, although he may have slapped Chris physically, it is Will who has now been slapped back professionally. Again, was it worth it?
At the end of the day, one man was publicly humiliated for the world to see and the other, is now facing a public backlash that was unnecessary from the get-go. But the Academy did what was necessary considering the circumstances and Will must face the music. We all have to at some point.
On the eve of the upcoming Academy Awards (Oscar) ceremony, we often reminisce on some of the more memorable moments that have stood the test of time and continue to resonate throughout pop culture. One of those moments was none other than the historic win for Halle Berry, 55. On March 24, 2002, exactly 20 years ago, Berry made history by becoming the first black woman to ever win the Oscar for Best Actress [in a Leading Role] for her portrayal of Leticia Musgrove in the independent film, Monster’s Ball. During her very emotional acceptance speech, Berry noted the significance of the moment saying, “This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It's for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it's for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.”
In this press room interview post-ceremony, acquired by Entertainment Tonight, the X-Men star spoke further about the momentous occasion and what it means for actresses of color adding, “This moment although I’m standing here, I meant it, it’s really not just about me. You know it’s about so many people that went before me, that paved the way, and people who are fighting alongside with me and the ones that will come along, whose path will be indelibly easier because of everyone so it’s not really about me as much as it’s about so many other women of color who have tried to permeate this system for so many years and today this meant hope. That glass ceiling was broken wide open and that just feels good. For me and for all of them too.”
Unfortunately, that hope Halle spoke of hasn’t exactly come true in the way that she’d like as of this writing, she is still the first and only black woman to win the award. During a Q&A with AARP, Berry gave this transparent answer when asked if progress has been made since her win 20 years ago, “Definitely. When I won the Oscar 20 years ago, I didn’t see nearly as many faces of color in TV and film as I do now. There has been a 100 percent change. So while no other Black woman stands next to me [with a best actress Oscar] and it’s heartbreaking and I wish there were more, I also know that moment at the Oscars was inspiring and made people believe that anything was possible. Today you’ve got Ava DuVernay, Lena Waithe, Viola Davis. I can go on and on. Women of color are doing things, and you know what? They’re doing things on their own terms, in their way. They’re daring to say, I deserve this. And I say to them, everybody loves an award. We all love when our industry says, you did a great job. But most people will never win an Academy Award or an Olympic gold medal or an MMA championship belt. That doesn’t mean the fight’s not worth it. It doesn’t mean you’re not winning. You’re working in ways you’d never dreamed of before and on projects that are reflective of you or your culture or your gender.”
Having moved past being just a leading lady, Halle has now added director to her resume, releasing her directorial debut, Bruised in November 2021. Berry not only directed the film, but she also produced and starred in it as well.
Abron’s Hot Take
It would be easy to blame this issue squarely on the Academy members and say that the fault rests squarely on their shoulders. One could argue that perhaps the voting members don’t find black actresses worthy enough to win this particular award but that would be intellectually dishonest if not a bit childish. Let’s look at this from a more nuanced perspective. The Academy simply votes based on performances. It is the responsibility of the movie studios and casting directors to hire actors and actresses in these leading roles that will put them on the Academy’s radar to be considered for an award nomination. Halle speaks to that in this interview at the Maker’s Conference in 2017.
So, it’s simple. If black actresses are being hired for strong, leading roles, at the same rate as their white counterparts, they stand a chance to be recognized by the Academy with an award nomination and perhaps even a win. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, even in 2022, there are still practices of biased casting that affect many actors of color, particularly women. Stories that should be universal are often told from a particular viewpoint and through a particular lens, which doesn’t always include different ethnic groups. It’s not enough to sprinkle a few individuals in for diversity purposes. One has to truly believe in the natural and normal makeup of society that is inclusive.
But this can’t be done alone. As with any fight to improve a system that disproportionally affects a group of people, allies are a necessity. That’s where the Academy comes in. Although they can’t force studios to hire black actresses just so they can vote for them for an award, perhaps they can express a stronger interest in wanting to see a full and diverse list of film performances throughout the year – to perhaps entice studios to be mindful of their casting practices – ensuring that every actor has a fair chance to be seen. Movie executives and agents can also take part in the cause – insisting that their clients across all genders and races are given a fair shot to audition for some of the biggest roles of the year – guaranteed to get awards buzz.
As it stands currently, there seems to be a once-in-a-decade opportunity for a black actress to land a leading role that garners her rave reviews and award recognition. However, things are slowly improving but that is mostly due to those same actresses who have decided not to wait on Hollywood and have instead taken hold of their careers. Now more than ever, we’re seeing more films produced and even directed by women of color. More opportunities are presenting themselves, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. In the meantime, I will enjoy the new wave of excellence and #blackgirlmagic that’s permeating the entertainment industry. Even if black actresses aren’t winning awards for leading roles, they sure as hell are winning at life in their LEAD-ership positions as producers, writers, and directors.
Welcome to my Blog! Here, we'll discuss some of the biggest hot topics in Hollywood involving some of your favorite celebrities. I'll be sharing my honest thoughts and opinions and giving you and in-depth perspective with full context. This space is designed to not only share news permeating the pop-culture space, but to also inspire deep thought and conversation that is as insightful as it is entertaining. Feel free to leave your comments and let's discuss!