Friday, July 29, 2011

Classic Modelling Shots From Yomiland

Nelson Mandela and Model Naomi Campbell Embracing
Naomi Campbell weeps with emotion as she embraces her hero Nelson Mandela. Former President of South Africa and longtime political prisoner, Nelson Mandela, was held by the apartheid based government from 1964-1990 for sabotage. With the coming of a freer political climate, Nelson Mandela was released from his life sentence at Victor Vester Prison on February 11, of 1990. He went on to lead the African National Congress in negotiations with President F. W. de Klerk, that resulted in the end of apartheid and full citizenship for all South Africans. He and de Klerk received a joint Nobel Prize in 1993 for their efforts. Mandela was elected president in 1994. Date: February 01, 1998. Location: Cape Town, South Africa. Image: Louis Gubb


Model and Activist Waris Dirie. Date: March 01, 1992. Image: Nick Vaccaro


Fashion Model Iman and Norma Kamali. Date: ca. 1985. Image: Nick Elgar


West Indian Models Wearing African Style Prints.
Paris fashions: Two of a group of Negro models from Martinique are shown as they modeled fashions by designer Martin at St. Germain des Pres.
Date: June: 23, 1952. Location: Paris, France. Image: Bettmann Collection

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

On The Set Of "I Love You, I Don't" By Georges Pierre

American actor Joe Dallesandro, British actress and singer Jane Birkin and her partner, French director, singer and songwriter Serge Gainsbourg on the set of Gainsbourg's film "Je T'Aime, Moi Non Plus" (I Love You, I Don't). Date: October 01, 1975. Location: France. Image: Georges Pierre/Sygma.

Memorable Images And Time

African American Athletes at News Conference
Nation's top Negro athletes gathered for a meeting at the Negro Industrial and Economic Union to hear Cassius Clay's view for rejecting Army induction. News conference shows (front row) Bill Russell, Boston Celtics; Cassius Clay; Jim Brown and Lew Alcindor. Back row (left to right): Carl Stokes, Democratic State Rep.; Walter Beach, Cleveland Browns; Bobby Mitchell, Washington Redskins; Sid Williams, Cleveland Browns; Curtis McClinton, Kansas City Chiefs; Willie Davis, Green Bay Packers; Jim Shorter, former Brown and John Wooten, Cleveland Browns. Date: June 04, June 04,1967. Location: Cleveland, Ohio. Image: Bettmann Collection


Former track star Jesse Owens (C) and Cleveland Indians' pitcher Satche Paige (R) are congratulated by Illinois States Attorney John Boyle after they received Ebony Magazine Awards as two of the nation's outstanding African American athletes in 1949. Date: August 20, 1949. Location: Chicago, Illinois. Image: Bettmann Collection


Flanked by athletes who are supporting a boycott of the 1968 Olympic Games, George M. Houser, (3rd left), executive director of the American Committee on Africa, calls for a meeting of the International Olympic Committee in order to reverse its decision readmitting South Africa to the games. Attending press conference here are (left to right): Heyward Dotson, Staten Island, N.Y., Columbia University basketball team; Kwaku Ohene-Frempong, Ghana, Yale University track team; Houser; Steve Mokone, South African soccer player and student at University of Rochester; New York Yankee infielder Ruben Amaro; and New York Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton. Date: April 11, 1968. Location: New York, New York. Image: Bettmann Collection.

Book Review: Dreams Of A Better Life, Fueled By Prostitution

By Jessica Gelt, Los Angeles Times

"On Black Sisters Street," By Chika Unigwe
Random House (254 pages, $25)


In Chika Unigwe's novel "On Black Sisters Street," the snow-covered streets of Antwerp, Belgium, are a beacon of freedom to the four disadvantaged African women who serve as the book's protagonists. Recruited in Lagos, Nigeria, by a fat slug of a sex trafficker named Dele, the women work as prostitutes in glass stalls along the byways of Antwerp's seedy red light district. They dream big, though, and they never make excuses about why they are there.

In fact, big dreams are why the women decide to work in the sex trade in exchange for passage to Europe, which they view as a paradise of opportunity and riches, far removed from the crushing squalor and bleak opportunities in Africa. The question of what makes a victim is very much at the core of this chilling piece of fiction. And the women - Sisi, Ama, Joyce and Efe - refuse to characterize themselves as such, no matter how tragic the circumstances that pushed them to choose life as prostitutes.

It is this defiance that gives the fierce women their strength as characters, and it is this defiance that makes the many men in the book look even more vile. If the book has one major fault, it is that. The men in the story are so contemptible they come off as stereotypes, all fitting into one of five too-neat categories: weak, cruel, cowardly, vicious and evil.

The story begins after Sisi has been murdered, leaving the other three to sit in the flat they sublet from their callous madam to ponder what happened and why. This leads them to reveal their histories - fragmented, sorrowful memories still tender to the ear, that they packed along with their clothes and girlhood trinkets when they left Lagos for an uncertain future in Europe.

Unigwe was born in Nigeria and lives in Belgium. In the book's acknowledgments, she writes of her gratitude to "the nameless Nigerian sex workers who allowed me into their lives, answering my questions and laughing at my ignorance." So, while the novel - Unigwe's second - is a work of fiction, it is drawn from a pool of vivid experience.

The story is told in flashback, with a different chapter dedicated to each woman's story. These chapters are bookended by small moments from the present, and a running description of the final days of Sisi's life, concluding with a window on her death. In this way, the book reads almost like four short stories strung together by a common thread of hardship.

If the women made poor choices, they were driven to them by the predatory ways of the men around them. Ama was repeatedly raped by a man she thought was her father. She learns that he is her stepfather only when he kicks her out. Joyce was forced into a refugee camp in Sudan after the Janjaweed militia - armed Sudanese Arabs who have been at the core of the Sudanese conflict for nearly a decade - killed her family in front of her and then gang-raped her. Efe was impregnated at 16 by a much older, married man who left her when she made her shame known.

Ironically, Sisi's story is the least overtly terrible. She grew up very poor and was encouraged to go to college, which she did. But she could never find a job and feared a life languishing in a tiny, dirty apartment in Lagos like her father, who never amounted to anything.

The women meet Dele, who promises to pay their way to Europe, where they will work as prostitutes until they pay off their debt. When they have paid him, he says, they will be free to achieve their grand dreams in the West. Ama, for example, once wanted to go to university, but now dreams of becoming a pop star.

"I imagine that I am standing on a podium posing for my fans. I imagine them screaming out my name, shouting out for autographs. I imagine that my real father hears about me, his famous daughter and reveals himself to me," she says, after Joyce says she thought she'd become a doctor, and Efe says she wanted to be a famous writer.

They then wonder what Sisi's dreams were. They will never know, because Sisi takes her secrets and hopes to the grave. But the reader knows that she has been pretending to be a rich tourist on her days off and that she has fallen in love with a kind Belgian man who stays with her after he knows her trade. He also asks her to leave for him. She was leaving the day she was killed.

The senselessness of this death amid a jagged landscape of words that reveal the ugliest sides of poverty, desire and greed is breathtaking. "On Black Sisters Street" is not an uplifting book; instead, it mirrors life itself, where bad things happen to good people who are simply trying to build delicate fortresses of well-being around their vulnerable psyches. They may fail often and their defeat may be bitter, but when the sun rises, they will get up. They will try again.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Q & A Interview With Model Eeefy Ike


Eeefy is a successful model and actress who is today broadening her endeavors with a new book, a clothing line and a charitable foundation to aid burn victims around the world. Herself afflicted by terrible burns as a child, Eeefy has made creating more burn centers around the world, the primary goal in her life, even beyond her career in entertainment and fashion. Her New World Hope Foundation is today becoming a major force in bringing awareness to the need of medical facilities for burn victims in impoverished communities.

Eeefy was born in Nigeria. She’s the 13th of 17 children, six stepsiblings from father’s first marriage and three from mother’s first marriage. Her father is a retired mechanical engineer and politician, chief sir Wilfred Ike and mother, a retired fashion designer, Gladys Ike.

When she was just 3 years old, she sustained third-degree burns all over her stomach up to her chest area and legs in a violent attack. But due to the absence of burn centers in Nigeria and lack of funds to fly abroad for treatment, Eeefy was forced to live as an outcast with terrible pain and ugly scars.

Her zeal for life and eagerness to survive compelled her to eventually agree to get married at a tender age to a kind Italian engineer working on a contract in Nigeria. As soon as his contract ended, he acquired a visa for Eeefy and took her with him to Europe. That opportunity gave Eeefy a second chance for life and safety.

Although the marriage did not work out, Eeefy still sought to heal herself emotionally and physically, thus she came to the U.S. where she began medical treatments in early 2001. Soon she was encouraged to enter in the entertainment industry and quickly became a much sought-after model and actress.

Eeefy’s work included scores of television commercials for major brands such as Gillette shaving cream for men which aired in the U.S., United Kingdom, Europe and Africa for over two years. Other National television commercials included Burger King, Keglevich Vodka, Sauza Diablo Tequila, Comcast High Definition, Diesel Jeans and many others, including a Nokia International product launch. Most recently, her hands were also used for the Aroma product national infomercial.

Her work includes guest starring in the John Stamos 20th Century Fox television series, “Jake in Progress,” as well as a number of independent films.

Eeefy’s exquisite beauty has graced the pages of Beverly Hills Celebrity Society Magazine, Gazette Magazine-Montreal Canada, Getty Images, Wire Image and Flickr. Her memorable laughter was a ringtone for the “You Shake I Laugh” iPhone application produced by Roman Reyhani.

Eeefy’s strong presence, fusion accent and signature walk have also earned her several hosting and personal appearance engagements that range from hosting elite parties, exclusive private business events to sports events such as the Grand Prix, as well as appearances in several music videos. She has an excellent background as a consultant and spokes model for a variety of media projects including “Attitude and Catwalk,” “Lady Maxxa-The Golden host in Many Moons,” “Metropolis by Janelle Monae music video/short film with Anonymous Content/Treasure Entertainment.” She was a spokesperson and image consultant for “Catwalk Hollywood” project for Nigeria. She has appeared as a guest speaker in a “live” online talk show at outonline.com “The Real Zephyr” by Sidney Alvarez. Eeefy has also been a spokes model for world-famous jeweler, Ricardo Basta of Beverly Hills.

With an eagerness to motivate people and share her experiences in life, Eeefy has authored a motivational book which is in the process of being published and is finishing two other motivational books. She also wrote and produced a pilot of a TV show series and film named “Queen of the Jungle in Beverly Hills,” the story of an exotic African girl and her quest for fame and fortune in the Western world. Eeefy is also collaborating with a famous artist in Beverly Hills to design her own clothing and accessory line. In the near future she also plans to introduce “Eeefy’s doll” for little girls.

Excerpts:

Before we proceed, how about some history regarding yourself?

I was born in Port Harcourt. Grew up partly in Nigeria and partly in Europe and now I live in America but travel the world extensively.

How did a little girl growing up in Port Harcourt, had such a big dream, and got into entertainment and things like that. Where was the motivation from?

It was never a part of my aspiration to pursue a career in the entertainment industry; however, I heeded advice from friends to explore the industry because I realized it could be a vehicle I needed to achieve my ultimate goal, which is to build burn centers in countries that are lacking burn centers.

Your first book, “Peering Through The Depths Of Life” seems to be quite fascinating. Can you tell me about it and the idea behind it all?

“Peering Through the Depths of Life” is an inspirational book that covers relationship problems and life’s challenges. I choose to peer into various issues because they are everyday, common struggles that hinder and depress people and need to be addressed. The book is an easy read as the topics are brief and straight to the point, and the reader does not have to start from the beginning of the book, as every page tackles a new issue. The book is additionally perfect for references and it is also integrated with beautiful images of me that reflect my spirit, passion and style.

Why did you write “Peering Through The Depths Of Life” and what message are you sending to your readers?

I wrote Peering Through The Depths Of Life” out of the eagerness to help those that are struggling; by sharing my experiences that have allowed me to understand the causes and effects of pain in different aspects – those that are not normally recognized or dissected due to an individual’s confused state of mind during times of crisis. I’m hoping that my insight can help them to deal with their own problems effectively, so they can live a more meaningful life. What is the meaning of life when one’s soul is stifled?

I have learned that problems are inevitable parts of life and our experiences are the integral element of our mental growth and we must all confront those problems, no matter how difficult they may seem, by peering through the depths of their causes and objectively seeing ourselves and our actions as they really are in, order to find true solutions and ultimate peace.

What’s the most crucial thing a first-time writer should know?

As a writer, your vision must be clear.

I’d imagine with all the shows that you do – TV, radio, movies and other related events in Hollywood, it’s obvious you love what you do. Could you have done something differently assuming Hollywood was not a success story?

I’m also pursuing other interests that are unrelated to the entertainment industry. I’m collaborating with other people for skin care products and clothing line. I’m also making “Eeefy doll” for little girls.

In my case, I have heard too many bizarre stories about myself. What are the bizarre stories you heard about yourself and how did you take it?


Africans have labeled me mammy water (goddess of the sea) – they even go as far as writing things like “mammy water has left the sea where she’s supposed to be” under my photos on Facebook. Some even doubt I’m a real woman because my features are perfect. They have said that my accent is abnormal for whatever reason and that I dress too sexy to be a motivational speaker and ought to emulate Oprah’s style of dressing, since I’m like her – I assume the latter means my wisdom is compared to hers. Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion; however, I’m immune to other people’s negative perception of my personality. No one governs my soul with his or her ignorance. It’s unfortunate that a person would invest so much time and energy in criticizing other people while he/she has flaws… It would be more beneficial for that person to channel that time and energy in looking into their life and improving on where there’s a lack.

Eeefy believes that if you invest time and energy speaking ill of someone else, that means that person is very significant to you and powerful enough to consume your time, energy and thoughts! Eeefy is not fazed by malicious criticisms because those that are swift to cast aspersions on others are weak spirits that aren’t worthy of acknowledgment and their intentions are usually to elevate their stifled soul, which may likely only be for a minute because when the laughs are over, they would revert back to their miserable state again. I DO NOT acknowledge such evil critics because they are of no consequence. I need time to apply my makeup, leggings and bustier and no time for the nonsensical. (Laughs!)
It’s ignorant of Africans or anyone to attribute beauty to a mermaid. As long as your beauty is uncommon, the spirit of a mermaid or an ogbanje spirit or any other spirit that they choose possesses you and you must have supernatural powers that they believe may be used for evil. It seems as if Africans expect everyone to look like the girl next door or to have a over-sized head, large lips and huge bum or big nose and walk like a duck. A woman is not allowed to possess extreme beauty and move with grace; else she’s labeled a supernatural being or even a witch, if they so please and perhaps a prostitute if the critics are extra intoxicated. Very distressing also is the fact that the majority of Africans do not like to see their fellow Africans happy or successful, so the wickedness and jealousy rooted in them is often provoked at the site of another African that seems to be happy and succeeding, whether that person is beautiful or not though it is worse if beauty is added to the package. Very sad indeed!
In addition to one having his or her own identity, there’s something called ‘image’ in the entertainment industry that is an integral component of an artist’s career, which must be adopted if one wants to have a long lived career. An artist does not have to fit into your box or conform to a conventional method of speaking or dressing, however people learn to respect the artist’s image just like they would expect their ways or personality to be respected by others. Everyone is unique in their own way, thus everybody cannot sound, look or think the same. No one is in this world to live up to anyone’s expectations. It’s only by chance that one person’s spirit resonates with another. Besides, what would stimulate our mind if we were all the same breed? Why do you gravitate to artists unless the simple fact that their personalities/careers intrigues or provokes your thoughts? Were they like you, you would not raise an eyelid or have gossip to peddle. Unfortunately many Africans are mostly inclined to the ignorance of not appreciating an artist’s image, and that’s simply because of their primitive mentality that I pray changes with time, so that they can support their children so they can thrive and not discourage their growth and deter their success with remorseless ignorance.

The Westerners are more appreciative of uniqueness because they understand image. Not that there aren’t Africans who appreciate me because I have very loving African fans as well. But my bizarre and even evil experiences have been with Africans… right from the tender age of 3. I was afflicted by the ignorance of African tradition, which is a common practice in Africa. They would kill you if you were singled out as an abnormal breed. Africans know what they do to children believed to be witches. The so called saints who kill or harm these children believe they are doing the right thing but they refuse to realize that destroying another person’s life is another form of witchcraft.

My accent is fusion and has been derived from extensive travel, living in different countries and speaking a few languages. It would be almost impossible to remain the same after all my experiences. Africans want you to be like them because you’re an African and if you’re not like them, then something is wrong with you. Ludicrous!!! I love who I am and would not change for this world that consists of people of various backgrounds, culture and mentality because pleasing everyone would be impossible. God has created me unique for my purpose in life and I WOULD NOT apologize for it. I relish my image, in spite of whatever flaws I may have.
I’m very honored to be compared to Oprah, who has been a big inspiration to my life. Having said that, I would not emulate Oprah’s style of dressing and personal presentation because I’m a different breed that possesses a different type of body. My style of dressing is in harmony with my personality and my physique and my lifestyle and career. It would be ignorant of me to adopt a style that does not suit me just to please others. I’m not one of those people that trudge through life swaying to the drumbeat of others and drowning in misery. I dance to my own music, so I can understand the rhythm that’s pleasing to my soul.

Furthermore, I’m born into a new era; a progressive world with evolution in technology that influences our viewpoints, interactions in business transactions, in the work environment, and even in social areas with others from different background and mentality. Personal presentation dictates other people’s instant assessment of one’s personality, thus diminishing or elevating one’s credibility. As a motivational speaker with eagerness to inspire the youths that are going astray or are broken, I have to also be welcoming and relative to them, at least in appearance. These types of youths can be found in many different types of areas – they are usually ensnared into environments that should be forbidden for their built-in dangers. For instance, I can walk into a whorehouse, a drug haven or a drinking bar, etc. and fit right in, even though I do not indulge in such destructive lifestyles. I would fit right in because my personal style and appearance would appeal to them, which is the kind of reception that would ease my mission to go and motivate them to unshackle themselves from such bondage and destruction. I walk in as a friend and make a positive impact in their lives. Do you think looking like Oprah would gain me the same reception?

Have you ever imagined that God created you the way you are for a reason? It’s important for you to know that everyone has a purpose in life and when you find your purpose, you ought to walk the walk, talk the talk and present yourself in the light that would lead you to fulfilling that purpose, Anything else would only steer you in a different direction or deter you from achieving your goal. When you pretend to please others, you’ll be hurting yourself in ways that are oblivious to you. Lack of self-awareness also hurts no one but you. Living in illusion is akin to living in exile from yourself.

What’s your impression of how Nollywood fits into the world stage of the entertainment industry?

Nollywood is very dramatic in African appreciation but not yet at the stage to resonate with the Western world, so Nollywood still has a lot of work to do to even assume any position on the world stage of the entertainment industry.

Yes Nollywood is growing; nonetheless, growth is extremely slow due to the following obvious reasons;

1. Lack of support from the Nigerian government is definitely a major hindrance for Nollywood. They need funds and a well-structured system to nurture the industry.

2. Their production quality is very poor, perhaps good enough for the African audience who would have to consider the economic situation of the country before casting criticisms at production quality. However, if Nollywood wants to appeal to a global market, then Nollywood needs to enhance its production quality. There are a few aspects I believe they can improve on to enhance the movie and elevate their standard, such as:

a). Actors should wear the right wardrobe that suits the role they play and that is integral to the scenes. This aspect of a production is an important instrument in telling the story

b). Makeup and hair should be in harmony with the characters as well.

c). Editors should re-evaluate their methods of editing. For example, their scores always overwhelms the conversations between actors in the film and viewers have to try hard to filter through the loud music to understand what is being said.

d). Your audience does not need to know every irrelevance during filming, hence the need to cut out the extra mile in editing. The audience is traveling a journey with you in the subconscious mind while you’re narrating the story so go straight to the point to avoid losing them along the way before you arrive at your destination.

e). The yelling is unnecessary. Film differs from theater, thus the range of tones and body language needs to be controlled. For film, an actor needs to be subtle in delivery, as the camera tends to magnify every little movement. Theater is an open space, hence the requirement to be extra dramatic and even lurid in delivery, in order to fill up the room.

3. Piracy is drowning the industry. How can the industry possibly grow when she’s persistently robbed? Nigerian government desperately needs to take control of that piracy.

4. Nollywood lacks originality. Perhaps they should tell traditional stories if that’s what it takes to refrain from reenacting Hollywood stories and in such mediocre forms like they do. They ought to stop using names of Hollywood celebrities to identify their characters. Naturally, as Africans, we are very dramatic -- our lifestyles and mannerisms are enough to fill up the screen and intrigue the audience, thus we do not need to redo Hollywood stories. There are many aspects of our tradition that are equally worthy of projecting unto the screen just like Hollywood stories.

Let’s talk about Nollywood acclaimed to be the third movie industry on the face of this planet, after Bollywood and Hollywood. How could with only home videos and no theatres? What’s your take on that?

Nollywood is the third movie industry in the world even with the lack of theaters and quality production simply because they dish out thousands of films every year unlike the other industries that are more inclined to quality instead of quantity.

What was the highlight of the radio interview on “What’s Cooking Today”?

The highlight was the good questions they asked about my inspirational book “Peering Through the Depths of Life” that is set to be released on the 21 July, 2011 on Amazon.com.

Let’s talk about “Ask Ify.” If you were to stop doing it suddenly, what do you think the fans’ reaction would be?

I stopped the experimental videos already because I got what I wanted from them and you’ll understand in a short time. Though my fans are still sending in questions and expressing disappointment for my sudden retreat. I have kept “Ask Eeefy” alive through my blog posts on Facebook because my soul delights in inspiring others.

What projects are you working on now?

I’m working on 3 inspirational books that will be released 6 months apart. My foundation “Eeefy’s New World Hope Foundation --- preventing further injury and death from superstition” will be launched this Fall! I’m also working on a comedy film, ‘The Queen Of The Jungle In Beverly Hills’, and my line of apparel and skin care products. I do wear some of my designs “Eeefy by Giorgio Tuscani”. My designer is a famed artist in Beverly Hills, known for immortalizing celebrities on canvas. He actually immortalized 2 gorgeous angel images of me and donated them to my foundation. They will be unveiled during the launching of the foundation.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Documentary: Orphans and Vulnereable Children in Nigeria

Justice Development Peace Commission, JDPC, is actively involved in peacebuilding, early warning, early response and conflict mapping in this area because of tribal violence. Father John Attah is the coordinator of JDPC, he is wearing a white frock. Every three months they have events in the area of the communities involved, including the Agbaduma area, of Agatu local government. This month they are having a Peace rally with speakers being from the Methodist Church, the Catholic churches and the four chiefs of the involved tribes. One community, Ekaidar, was distroyed this past April by people from the Egba community because of misconceptions. Five people were killed. Father John with local villagers and police tour the damage. Police are also involved in the peace-building activities. Date: August 27, 2010. Location: Obagijir, Benue. Image: Karen Kasmauski for CRS


Akula Ajir, 10 years old is part of the OVC program in Makurdi district, Nigeria. His mother and father have died of AIDS. He lives with his mother's sisters, Rose Ahua and her husband Justin Ahua. They are both HIV positive and volunteers with the Makundi Diocese volunteer program . The Ahua have three children of their own, including an adult daughter who is married and has a three month child. Akula does jobs around the compound including the laundry. He baths his little brother, Tersoo and little sister, Mrumun. CRS pays for him to go to school as well as his health visits. He is frequently visited by the head nurse of local health clinic, Fidelia Nyior (she is wearing a blue dress) He also hangs out with his buddies, his peers for meetings and general support. Date: August 23, 2010. Location: Makurdi, Benue. Image: Karen Kasmauski for CRS.


Orphans & Vulnerable Children in Nigeria
Parish of SS Peter and Paul in the village of Aliade, Nigeria supports the OVC program along with CRS. One of the members is Magdalene Shemba. Her caregiver is her father, Mathew Shemba who is also PLHIV. She works with her sister, Jennifer,18, cooking dinner and cleaning. She also meet with her peer group young women who are OCV between the ages of 11-18. She is wearing green dress and then changes into a white shirt with black strips and a pink skirt.Date: August 24, 2010. Location: Aliade, Benue. Image: Karen Kasmauski for CRS.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Q & A Interview With Novelist Alretha Thomas


An author, playwright, producer and director, Alretha Thomas is making her name through her pen. Award winning plays and wanting to help her community, Alretha’s background is as diverse as her personality. She started at the age of ten, when her 5th grade teacher picked and read her short story assignment in front of the class – that simple, loving act empowered a new writer. Continuing in high school, her numerous original oratorical conquests on the Speech Team led her to a journalism concentration at the University of Southern California. Upon graduating, Alretha soon realized that her interest in journalism was not heartfelt. While at the taping of a live sitcom, the producer noticed her and encouraged her hand at modeling. Modeling didn’t mean much to her, but it did lead her to acting and a NAACP Theatre Award Nomination (1993) for BEST ACTRESS. She feels that this acting stint gave her more fuel to write, and particularly, a better understanding of character development.

Alretha left acting and began to write full time. Her church gave her an outlet to fulfill her writing desires through their Liturgical Fine Arts Department wherein Alretha penned twelve theatre pieces - the community response was overwhelming. This led to full length plays outside of the church including Alretha’s play, Sacrificing Simone (2007) which had a successful run at Stage 52 in Los Angeles and was called “an inspirational crowd pleaser” by the Los Angeles Times and her most recent work, the ground breaking One, Woman Two Lives, starring Kellita Smith (The Bernie Mac Show), directed by Denise Dowse, which garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences. In between plays, Alretha’s first novel "Daughter Denied" was launched in 2008.

Excerpt:

In what environment did you start putting “Dancing Her Dreams Away” together?

“Dancing Her Dreams Away,” had an unusual evolution. I actually had planned to write the sequel to my debut novel, “Daughter Denied.” By the way, I’m not sure why I come up with these titles that feature double “D’s.” LOL. The sequel to “Daughter Denied” was going to be named “Daughter Denied Again” and I finished the novel early last year. It numbered over 300 pages. Unfortunately, after getting feedback and giving it an objective look, it was a mess. It had no heart and structurally it was just off and unsalvageable. I had written the novel from my head and not my heart. It was painful, but I trashed it and almost gave up on writing. But the dream would not die, if you will, and I took some time to reassess my writing endeavors. I decided to take a stab at another book and committed myself to writing something that I could connect to. I reflected on my life and realized I have had some very interesting experiences. One of which, was the time I was pursuing acting and I needed a night job. So like the character in my book, I got a job as a dance hostess in a taxi-dancing club. They still exist and were very popular in the 20’s and 30’s. It’s a place where men pay by the minute to dance and talk with women. There’s no nudity, touching, or alcohol. At least not on the premises. LOL. Like the character, I was only 21-years-old and like the character, I was desperate to be this famous actress, because I needed something to complete me, validate me. Growing up in an abusive situation, I had no self-esteem and like Shelia, in “Dancing Her Dreams Away,” I thought being a famous actress would complete me. Because I could tap into those feelings, I decided that would be the book I would write. A book about a young woman who has no sense of her real self, determined to become a famous actress, and her determination coupled with her desperation, makes her vulnerable to situations that could possibly be life-threatening.

And how did you arrive to conclusion it should be put into a book?
As mentioned earlier, my ultimate goal was to write a second novel and I had planned to write the sequel to my debut novel “Daughter Denied,” but ended up writing “Dancing Her Dreams Away.”

What were your doubts at the time of penning and putting a well conceived,magnificent characters -- Shelia King and Gregory Livingston III -- together?
In reference to Shelia, I did have some concerns regarding how she would be portrayed, because she is definitely very similar to me when I was her age. I questioned where I was going to take her on the journey and how deep I would go. As a writer, people always assume you’re one or more of the characters in your book and usually they’re correct. You may not be an exact version of a character, but usually there are some similarities. Like Shelia, I worked at a taxi-dancing club while pursuing acting and like Shelia; I ended up abusing alcohol and drugs. I thought a great deal about how I would approach Shelia’s alcoholism and I knew that if I wrote it true to form people would wonder how I knew so much. It’s my hope that people will find act three of the book educational. I also had doubts about how to present Shelia. There have been comments about Shelia being too naïve. However, in writing her, I wanted to convey that it’s not her naiveté that gets her in trouble, but her desperation to make it as an actress. She sees things, but she chooses to turn a blind eye so that she can get what she wants. However, as she soon learns, there’s a price to pay. Gregory, on the other hand is totally fictional. I mean, I’ve dated and encountered men who were single and secretive, but not on Gregory’s level. It was fun writing him, but challenging as well because of who he turns out to be. I argued for days with a friend of mine who questioned my choices about Gregory, but I had to be true to myself and the character. I want to say more, but I don’t want to give away the story.

What would you have done differently assuming you did not complete the book?

There’s no way I could even let myself think about not completing the book. I am a true writer and when a book has been conceived, and I carry it to full term, it has to be born!

Let’s talk about your previous projects before “Dancing Her Dreams Away.” “Daughter Denied,” I understand was a dream project for the fact it was your debut novel and a sequel was expected. With such a compelling story how come we did not see a sequel? What happened?

"Daughter Denied" was my first child, and I had always dreamed of writing a novel about a young girl who endures hardship, but grows up to be a successful woman. It is inspired by my childhood. Readers fell in love with the protagonist Tina, and wanted me to write a sequel, and as I mentioned earlier, I attempted a sequel, but just could not connect to it emotionally. I’m hoping that in the near future I may be inspired to write the sequel.

You acknowledge leaving acting and devoting your full time to writing. Tough decision, and what was the motivation?

The last time I set foot on a stage or in front of a camera was in 1991. I was going through a lot emotionally and spiritually and needed time to step away from acting. I needed to get grounded and rooted in my walk with God. I was drinking more than I cared to and needed to take stock of my life. I joined a 12-Step Program, got back in church, and a few years later started writing plays for my church. They were such a hit that I also began writing plays for the community and the rest as they say is history.

Let’s talk about plays and the theater arts. What plays are you working on now besides your devotion to writing?
My last play was “One Woman, Two Lives,” and it starred Kellita Smith of “The Bernie Mac Show.” It debuted in 2009 in Los Angeles and Upland, California. It was a huge hit and it’s my hope to bring it back to the stage. Additionally, I have written a play called “Mommie and Clyde” about a couple who grew up together and who have spent their entire life participating in get-rich-quick schemes. Clyde thinks he’s finally hit the lottery when he meets a rich woman and convinces her to marry him. However, he has plans for the honeymoon, deadly plans, if you get my drift. I love this play. There are four characters. Clyde and Belinda. Belinda’s brother Zack and Katrina, the wealthy woman. It’s basically a romantic comedy. I would love to have this play produced.

Based on your experience now in the literary world, what would be your advice to would be writers and sending the message in terms of the craft?

Never give up and that’s difficult to do, because there is so much competition and rejection. Believe in yourself and the story you’re telling and be open to constructive criticism. I am still growing as an author and a playwright. I’m a work-in-progress.

How are the reviews and the book on the shelves?

The reviews for “Dancing Her Dreams Away” have been fantastic. Mostly five-star and people get the story. Here’s a few snippets.

“Alretha creates a storyline that's believable. The reader will keep turning the pages to see what happens to Shelia's dreams. Wonderful second novel from Ms. Thomas.”
Ladies of Color Turning Pages Book Club (Los Angeles, California)

“Dancing Her Dreams Away is filled with romance, drama, suspense, and mystery that will keep you glued to the pages. Ms. Thomas has done a wonderful job in developing the characters. This one is a must read!!”
Divas Read 2 Book Club (Dallas, Texas)

“You won't be able to put this book down and after reading it, you will have much to think and talk about.”
Real Women Read Books (New York, New York)

“Kudos to Alretha for another literary winner. She has definitely showed her ability to tell a good story and lead the reader to think in the process.”
Conversations Book Club (Jackson, Mississippi)

Book sales are okay, but there’s always room for improvement. Please, please, readers, get your copy of “Dancing Her Dreams Away.” I thank you in advance. The book is available now on www.Amazon.com.

Like the book portrays, how about a movie deal?

I would love for “Dancing Her Dreams Away” to be optioned for a movie! Please spread the word and let me know if anyone is interested. It would make a fantastic film. I could see the actor Idris Elba playing the role of Gregory Livingston III and perhaps an unknown for the part of Shelia. It would be a dream come true, and I would love to help pen the screenplay and be apart of the movie making process from beginning to end. From your lips to God’s ears!

You can get more information about me and “Dancing Her Dreams Away” at the following online locations: TWITTER, FACEBOOK, "DANCING HER DREAMS AWAY"

Synopsis:Shelia King, a fun-loving grandma’s girl, needs to keep her days open for auditions in the hope of landing a role that will catapult her to stardom. With the threat of eviction looming, she scrambles to find a night job and convinces the owner of a hostess club to hire her. Now she’s a dance-partner-for-hire by night and struggling thespian by day. When her agent pitches a topless role, fearing her grandmother’s disapproval, Shelia declines. But after setbacks and considerable thought, she agrees to meet the producer. Gregory Livingston III is rich, suave, ridiculously fine, and the panacea for Shelia’s career woes. At first sight she shapes plans to win the role and his heart. She gets both and works hard to give an Oscar worthy performance. However, when the movie wraps, nothing can prepare her for the startling revelations about Greg’s past and the aftermath of a dream gone awry.