All posts by Lauren "Lola Valentine" Jones

About Lauren "Lola Valentine" Jones

Lauren 'Lola' Jones is a Creative and Connector from Brooklyn, NY. As a Writer, she uses her curious nature and myriad of interests to explore the world and share her findings with others. Currently traveling, curiosity and exploration are major components of her creative process. With a focus on Culture and Beauty throughout the Diaspora, she aims to help illuminate the many modes of Blackness, especially those of Femininity. linktr.ee/_what.ever.lola.wants_

29Oct/18

Boom for Real: Documentary Paints Stunning Portrait of Basquiat

For Real. Instead of depicting Basquiat’s story as an isolated tragedy, Director Sara Driver diligently addresses the circumstances and environment that the Artist’s life was lent to. No debating his greatness, Boom for Real takes on Jean-Michel as a feeling and thinking human being. One who interacted and lived his life with intention. Focused on the accounts of friends and contemporaries, the viewer gains perspective and insight to some of the intricate parts behind the Artist so many have come to love. The Soho art scene, the popular clubs, the music culture — his fellow artists reconstruct a wild and sometimes crowded portrait while managing to place Basquiat neatly within it. Fab 5 Freddy, Al Diaz, and Lee Quinones are just a few of the remaining staples of that period who appear on-screen.

For 78 mins, both you and Basquiat watch from afar; you through the silver screen and him through wrinkles in time. You actually rarely get to hear him speak during the documentary. It’s almost as if the very words that his peers speak are forming the images of him. Throughout the film, he flips on and off of the screen. Sometimes he’s a still close-up while other times it’s his full body in reverse motion. This allows him to feel to the viewer, at once, both omnipresent and imaginary. Perhaps this powerfully alludes to the artist’s eternal presence in the art world; Lord over the renegades and disruptors yet to come. As opposed to allowing Basquiat to speak for himself, Boom for Real bestows upon those who were akin to his flame the task of reconstructing his essence. He, young, beautiful, and full of potential. Perhaps they even succeed in conjuring his very existence, because by the end of the documentary you will feel as though he is someone you have sat with, hungered with, and grown with. Not only as if you have known him, but as though you also lived through and were shaped by that time and era.

If you are looking for fundamentals such as the likes of family life etc, you will have better luck digging through public record. Appropriate, seeing as how Boom for Real addresses the artist’s teenage years, for most of which he was homeless on the city streets. For a feast of form figuratively following function, allow the film to take you to the very streets and people that shaped his formative teenage years. The years that led to him being the Basquiat that is written in stone on our hearts.

More information about the film can be found here.

06Sep/18

Black Girls Rock Shows-off This Sunday

Fate allowed me to attend the taping of the 2018 Black Girls Rock awards show, which took place at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark this past Sunday. This year, awards are given to Dancer & Choreographer Judith Jamison, Queen Mother Janet Jackson, Writer Lena Waithe, and Queen of R&B Mary J. Blige, to name a few. Believe you me, the stars presenting the awards are of the same fan-moment inspiring caliber as the honorees. The likes of the incomparable Phylicia Rashad, Ava DuVernay, Ciara, and Misty Copeland are far more superior than anything else likely to grace your screen. Yes, ever.

Photo Credits: FashionSizzle.com

I refuse to ruin anything for you dear reader, especially regarding the opening, but I definitely suggest that you prop yourself up before the show begins. I pretty much keeled over in my seat watching it live. You have been warned. With the door having been immediately blown off its hinges, you will soon realize that it was just to make way. Behold, the mogul MC and Black royalty, Host Queen Latifah. Black Girls Rock and we get to rock with the Queen for the entire evening. Stunning and attention demanding, suited in an almost tangible coolness, the Queen commands the stage just as you would expect.

With praiseworthy performances (plural, yes) from Yolanda Adams, a goose-bump raising ballad full of swagger soul by H.E.R., and the dipped-in-honey vocals of none other than Tamia, the announced performers will give you the show you are expecting. The soul-stirring performances will leave you with more to say than ‘Great gowns– beautiful gowns’. Okurrr? But what you’re NOT expecting though? The sheer force of the performances that WEREN’T announced. While there are no spoilers here, the good news is that you don’t have to wait long in order to experience it for yourself. ‘ Black Girls Rock ‘ premieres on BET this Sunday, September 9th, at 8pm ET/PT. Check your local listings.

16Aug/18

Art ‘n Pool Party: Come Party Like Basquiat in the Hamptons

Close out the Summer with one of the hottest parties in the Hamptons, ya’ll! Yes, the Hamptons– like Beyonce’ and Jay Z– Hamptons. Art ‘n Pool is set to be a sexy pool party showcasing New York’s finest emerging Artists. The art exhibit will be featuring the work of Melosa Basquiat, Ben Moon, Cee Love, Justin 32, Jaime Zevallos, Eddy Bogaert, Sunhe Hong and Marcus Glitteris. Who doesn’t want to be surrounded by the best artists while taking a sip and a dip? So come prepared and hope to snag a piece from one of the next big names in art. Like Jay said, “Two years later that **** worth $2 million”. Okurrr!

Art ‘n Pool will be taking place at Oreya, one of the trendiest locations in the Hamptons; this event is seriously not to be missed! Exquisite Events NY is hosting with Beautique, alongside Jaime Zevallos, and INN-A-CIRCLE productions, and they are pulling out all the stops for this fashion forward event! Sponsored by Marcel Fine Wines and featuring the sounds of Dj Marcus GlitteriS, guests are promised a night filled with live entertainment and music. So put on your sexiest pool attire, and wear that ‘for when I go out’ outfit that you bought but haven’t shimmied into yet. Summer is ending and this is going to be the night to remember.

Slay you there.

Sunday, August  26th, 2018 from 2:00 pm to 8:00 pm at Oreya                            (281 County Road 39A, Southampton, NY 11968)

This event is open to the public.

No Cover.

Dress to Impress.

13Aug/18

Essence CEO Launches Funds for Black Businesses with Queen Latifah

Have you heard? At last month’s Essence Fest, Essence Ventures CEO Richelieu Dennis announced the official launch of the $100 million New Voices Foundation. Dennis, also Founder of the Shea Moisture Brand, had already invested more than $30 million in the 6 months prior to the announcement. “What many of you may not have known all these years is that when you were buying Shea Moisture products you weren’t just investing in that business,” said Dennis during the event’s opening press conference. “We need you to continue buying Shea Moisture so [that] we can continue putting that money back in[to] the community.” The New Voices Fund, dedicated to funding Black Women in business, was originally established in 2017.

Essence

Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence

As if that were not enough, the CEO also took the opportunity to announce the new Essence Creators and Makers Fund. Essence Ventures, the parent company of Essence Communications, has already invested $20 million into that fund under the guidance of Dennis. Focused on curating African-American content, production company ‘Flavor Unit Entertainment’ lead by Queen Latifah and Shakim Compere is the first partnership on the bill. Appropriately so, being that during the announcement Dennis gave credit to the duo for developing the idea in the first place. During a later panel discussion on Entrepreneurship, Queen Latifah spoke about the financial obstacles that new ventures often face. “One of the most difficult things is struggling to find the capital to continue your ideas. So by supporting us, you are going to keep this engine running in a way you [can’t] even imagine.” Flavor Unit Entertainment will both create and finance film, television, digital, and documentary-style content that reflects the lives and experiences of Women of Color. The Essence Platform — including print, digital, and live events — will be used to market and promote projects taken under the fund.

Essence

I truly respect Dennis for his direct actions against the disadvantages plaguing Black Economics. So far concerning the Makers and Creators who need to “own our content and not just be work for hire” and the Black Women Entrepreneurs that will receive funding for their businesses, I can’t wait to see what else is in store. “Essence and the vision… speaks to Black Women, but also that creates an economic engine through which… we can reinvest back into our community.” Dennis leads by the example that, with initiative, each of us can take part in the collective growth. I’m convinced that, in finding his purpose, Dennis has our backs for the long haul. That’s almost enough to make me grow back out my hair to support Shea Moisture again. Almost.

Essence

Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence

Stayed tuned for surfacing news about The Essence Creators and Makers Fund.

Applications for The New Voices Foundation are not yet open, however, you can initiate a profile on the site here.

The New Voices Fund is a 501( c)(3) Non-Profit Organization. Tax-deductible contributions can be made here.

12Aug/18

Singer Mya Talks New Album + Being Vegan on FuseTV’s ASMR Video

Rnb Bombshell Mya’s recent album, “TKO” (The Knockout), has an absolutely accurate title. As her 8th studio album, it was released just a day shy of the 20 year anniversary of her beloved self-titled debut album, Mya. She was a boss then and not much has changed. The artist executive produced and released the album via her independent label, Planet 9, with teaser singles like ‘Ready for Whatever’ that surfaced in September 2017. With heat like the track “Damage” (my jam already) and “Open,” that features Goldlink, Mya takes us on a sexy, heartfelt journey yet again. Single ‘You Got Me” is just that–HEAT. With writers like Kevin McCall and Marsha Ambrosius, I’m sure that’s exactly what she intended.

In this video with FuseTV, Mya gets to be the first Vegan to make an ASMR video. Honest moment: I had no idea what ASMR was. Once I started watching the interview I instantly remembered having seen a video of another woman whispering and eating a head of lettuce into a podcast mic. I had dismissed it as some fetish trend for people who liked whispering and watching others eat food. I know, irresistibly sexy right? But this is Maya we’re talking about. Sweetheart, darling diva, supremely sexy but sublime. So… what’s up?

For those of you as curious as I was, ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. It is centered around the practice of listening to a variety of spine-tingle inducing sounds like whispering and crunching. With quite the following, ASMR is generally used for meditation, sleep, and in aiding anxiety, insomnia, and depression. Surprisingly non-sexual. Of the several theories I read surrounding the practice, it seems that whispering both relaxes and stimulates by triggering a reflexive sense of intimacy. Who knew? I’m surprisingly here for it and I’m pleased that Mya was the one to break me in. In the video, we get to watch as Mya speaks (or whispers) about being Vegan, her new Alkaline diet, and shares some veggie tips. I’d tell you why she chews and then spits out Carrots like Tobacco, but that would spoil the video.

Catch it here and of course check out Mya’s new album, TKO, available everywhere.

03Aug/18

‘Nappily Ever After’ FINALLY Has A Trailer — It’s Amazing.

This is a bigger reveal than when Sanaa first posted pictures of her #Baldie Cut. We had the title for a while, but yesterday Netflix released the Official Trailer for Nappily Ever After. Ms. Lathan will be starring in the Netflix film based on the Best-Selling book from Author Trisha R. Thomas. Alongside the likes of Halle Berry, Lynn Whitfield, Ernie Hudson, and Ricky Whittle, this is stacked to be a good one.

Nappily Ever After follows Sanaa as Violet Jones, a Woman who is obsessed with Perfection. Not limited to her hair, if it isn’t perfect Violet wants nothing to do with it. But as we all know, it’s not always about what you want, but what wants you. Out of respect for not giving the ENTIRE story away, let’s just say that the gods giveth and they taketh away. Violet’s hair is simply the straw that breaks the Camel’s back. After cutting her hair in a (seemingly intoxicated) act of furious desperation, she is left to face the truth (and the mirror): She doesn’t know who she is without it all. Mix in external pressure and disapproval and you have a story that reeks of resonance. I have a feeling that, Bald or otherwise, most of us Women can relate and even tell a similar story or two. While Women also cut their hair as an act of joy, celebration, and rebellious freedom, this story is one of inevitable truth.

“My Hair was like a second job… Now I’m forced to focus on Myself.”

Coincidentally enough, Sanaa released the pictures of her fresh cut alongside the growing momentum of the #BaldCut and the Black Panther film (btw: Wakanda Forever and ever). There were already ongoing conversations concerning the beauty of Black Women, our hair, femininity, identity, and our imminent liberation from the stereotypes and limitations placed on all of that. Director on the bill is Haaifa Al-Mansour, the first woman Saudi Director and controversial legend of her own country. Being even slightly aware, there are interesting ties to hair and femininity in Saudi Arabia as well. So, with my disappointment at her not being of the Diaspora aside, I am interested to see how she weaves such truths together. In Nappily Ever After, we will get to watch as Violet struggles to recalibrate her entire life and embrace who she is without her preconceived notions of perfection. I have a feeling that it will be just that in the end: Perfect.

Film premieres Sept. 21 on Netflix.

 

01Aug/18

ChopBarDC : Dine Diaspora Digs In

Host Jessica and Chef Hiyaw | Photo credit: Chynna Keys (@MadeNChynna)

I love D.C. something serious. This past Sunday, I found my way to Ivy City’s ‘Big Chief’ venue for Dine Diaspora’s ChopBarDC event, featuring cuisine by Chef Hiyaw. Hosted by Travelista and fellow #Baldie Jessica Nabongo, it immediately felt like we were all friends of a mutual friend and had convened to eat good food (and look good while doing so). Afrobeat going, drinks flowing, Afros fro’ing… The vibe was so real. Jessica’s hilariously down to earth commentary lead us through intros, the many ChopBarDC giveaways and a dance-off for best-dressed. Yes, I said dance-off. I’m not sure how much more Diaspora-spirited it could’ve gotten than that. The Winners received pieces that had just been live painted by Dunnie The Artist. I’da danced for that too.

Is it cheesy to say that DJ EarthKwak was trying his hardest to shake things up? Oh well. He definitely succeeded at that. He took our food happy and drink buzzed bodies from West Africa through the Caribbean and then back to the Dirty South. We Gawra Gawra’d, Swag Surf’d, Palance’d and hit mean Slides (the electric variety of course). Yawl. We had a blast.

So. Although everyone clearly came to party, it was really about the food. From my understanding, Chef Hiyaw managed to achieve the impossible task of combining West African and East African flavors. Highlights of the party truly were the ever-flowing, belly-joy inducing chops that I couldn’t stuff my vegetarian face with. I thought SO hard on my dietary standings each time someone serving passed by with a tray. Temptation was everywhere. However, just when I thought I’d cave: Veggies and Injera. Oh my soul. Salvation. Sweet, savory, tangy, delicious salvation.

I had sweat quite a bit by then thanks to the crowd and the DJ, but I still needed a little something to soak up all the…

Chef Hiyaw’s ‘Gorsha’, A Spicy Red Lentil Injera. Photo Credit: Chynna Keys (@MadeNChynna)

Dranks! Photo Credit: Chynna Keys (@MadeNChynna)

First of all, you get a drink ticket upon entrance. Now, I knew it was a part of the ticket price, but that didn’t make them putting it into my hand any less magical. Then I got to the bar and actually SAW the themed drink menu. Straight up Gryffindor level work. I went straight for the African Sunrise and stayed there for the following… however many I ended up buying. I’ve never been a fan of Tequila but… ChopBarDC did it for me.

Can’t forget about the marketplace! Vendors like JoonAfrica with their beautiful selected home goods alongside Neek & Nan’s flavor-packed hand-made spices. They lay in wait on the rooftop, glittering in the Sun, beckoning my wallet. ChopBarDC definitely tried to set me up! Little did I know that each had gifted an item to the GARGANTUAN giveaway bags. One of which I’m sure I totally almost won. Next time, aye? Dine Diaspora even gave away a case of selected African spirits. Big name sponsors like Bai beverages gave out their drinks and hand fans while Ethiopian Airlines gave away a flight. All of us at ChopBarDC were kept super cool and super fly.

DineDiaspora clearly wants all of us to #LevelUp. See you at the next event!

Subscribe to their mailing list and stay up-to-date.

“The Best Adventure You Can Live is the Life of Your Dreams”

Host Jessica and Dunnie The Artist
Photo credit: Chynna Keys (@MadeNChynna)

Best-dressed Contest Winners
Photo Credit: Chynna Keys (@MadeNChynna)

Partay Peepo!
Photo Credit: Chynna Keys (@MadeNChynna)

Partay Peepo!
Photo Credit: Chynna Keys (@MadeNChynna)

Chef Hiyaw’s ‘Gold Coast’ Berbere Grilled Prawns.
Photo Credit: Chynna Keys (@MadeNChynna)

Chef Hiyaw’s ‘Eh Eh’ Chicken Suya.
Photo Credit: Chynna Keys (@MadeNChynna)

Chef Hiyaw’s ‘Got Beef’, 48 hr marinated Short-Rib.
Photo Credit: Chynna Keys (@MadeNChynna)

Dranks!
Photo Credit: Chynna Keys (@MadeNChynna)

 

Bai came to party! Photo Credit: Chynna Keys (@MadeNChynna)

11Dec/17
Alvin Ailey

Art Affecting Humanity: Alvin Ailey ‘Shelter’ to address Homelessness

Affected. Something that we, as citizens of the globe, often feel that we must be less of in order to survive. However, Alvin Ailey is reviving ‘Shelter,’ a piece choreographed by Urban Bush Women’s Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, and aims to make us feel just that; affected. Originally performed in 1992, ‘Shelter’ is a “work that frankly addresses the pain and isolation of homelessness,” says the choreographer. The all-female piece reflects not only the struggle but the resiliency of those who are chronically homeless, she notes. Resiliency that, I feel, is part and parcel of the human spirit that we all share. Just as homelessness affects us one and all.

‘Shelter’ is set to debut for the renown dance troupe’s current season in NYC, a place where blatant homelessness is rampant and it is customary to turn a blind eye. As per inspiration for the piece, Zollar remarked that upon settling into NYC in the 80’s she “realized that as a coping mechanism [she] had stopped seeing the people who were homeless… that was [more] dangerous because it was a loss of humanity.” Humanity being all facets of experience, whoever and wherever you may be. I am currently in Barbados, and homelessness is too. While in the city, I had a stranger point out a characteristically homeless man, explain that they went to University together and that he used to be a lawyer. Perhaps knowing the man forced the strangers conscious to acknowledge him, whereas the other people on the street simply passed him by without a glance. I would then ask: must it directly affect us for us to take part in affecting it? A resident New Yorker myself, I have found that turning a blind eye requires us to repress our Souls. To repress the constant call for sympathy as well as the underlying fear of relating. However, the issue and relevance of homelessness cannot be ignored into non-existence. Whether through dance, art, outreach or otherwise, it begs of us to be constantly addressed through awareness and action.

I send energy to the notion that we are not powerless in this matter. Not in aiding those who are afflicted nor in preventing it for ourselves. But our power lies in our ability to give. Not speaking solely of our money or our time, but of our attention as well. In giving our attention to and, therefore, shining a light on the very things that we wish to push into the darkness, the threat of darkness itself disappears. As opposed to our hearts having to do so instead. Especially if Ms. Zollar and the Alvin Ailey Dancers have anything to do with it. So as audiences pack into the plush seats of City Center’s theater, they will be reminded of the transiency of ‘having’. It is indefatigably important to foster contact with our humanity as often as possible; especially to the experiences that we may feel are not applicable to us at the moment. This is exactly what will be accomplished, yet again, with ‘Shelter’. As James Baldwin said ‘…the Artist knows, and must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven.”. So yes, it could happen to you. Perhaps it has happened to you already. May there be continuous attention given and inspiration found to address such a prevalent affliction. May we be led to fostering a future where it does not exist. It is possible.

Alvin Ailey 2017 Season happening now.

28Oct/17
K is for Kahlo

New Children’s Book ‘K is for Kahlo’ Spells Out Excellence: Taji Mag Book Club

Making Art as easy as ABC’s: Literally.

Can you name 26 influential international Artists? Well, thanks to the new children’s book, K is for Kahlo by Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, we’ll all have the chance to learn.

Presenting artists from different disciplines, each is introduced within the pages of the book as a placeholder for a corresponding letter of the alphabet. Depicted in the bright color and simplicity typical of a children’s book, the illustrations done by Howell Edwards Creative are anything but typical. See for yourself. Available in hardcover and paperback from Amazon (and paperback on her website),  the book is described as ‘An artistic tour of the alphabet featuring notable artists from all around the world’. No stranger to accolades, author Dr. Pizzoli is best known for her critically acclaimed previous book, ‘The Ghanaian Goldilocks’, which received several awards. Recently released, her new book is already receiving praises, including a nod from the likes of Afropunk, which is known for lauding black excellence.

K is for Kahlo(image sourced from Afropunk)

This book is definitely going to be in quite a few of my holiday gifts this year. (Insert Oprah GIF here) You get a book. YOU get a book! EVERYBODY GETS A BOOOOOK!!!! Here’s why.

As essential as it is to teach our children the fundamentals of learning, such as the ABC’s, it is also our responsibility to inspire them. Dr. Pizzoli has dedicated herself to enriching the lives of children for years as a teacher and, now, also as an author. It is said that creativity fosters creativity and I believe this applies to life, not just art. The system in charge of educating our children outlines an overwhelmingly narrow path to success that often does not foster individuality nor artistic gifts as a mainstay. So efforts that successfully bring these elements together are worth noting. Talk about #Winning. This book puts into form the notion that we should be encouraging our children to take stock of their abilities and use them to create a life that is rich in texture and depth. It is never too early to show a young mind that it can dream in its own color.

Actually, all of her books encourage kids to live out loud. As an artist and someone who also works with children, I am so here for this! Using what we know to capture their bright-eyed attention, we can begin to mold together their emerging sense of self with their imagination. Not to mention the bonding that comes with reading to a child (cuddles. am I right?) and the fulfillment we get from knowing we are giving them wonderful tools for life. Honestly, I’ll be buying one for myself as well, just as much for myself as to share with the children I care for. You’re never too young, or too old, to be captivated and inspired by Art. Besides, you never know: you might just find out you’ve got a Baby Basquiat on your hands. You’re welcome.

Check out this book and 8 other titles from the Author here.

Social Media Links for the Author:

Instagram: @tamarapizzoli | @theenglishschoolhouse

Facebook: The English Schoolhouse

Twitter: @engschoolhouse

Until next time, keep reading ya’ll.

05Oct/17
Gabrielle Union book

Taji Mag Book Club | We’re Going To Need More Wine with Gabrielle Union

Gabrielle Union bookNone other than Being Mary Jane herself; the grossly talented and radiant bombshell, Ms. Gabrielle Union’s new book, We’re Going To Need More Wine, has been picking up quite the buzz. Sweetheart of black cinema and star of some of our favorite movies, she is now vying to become one of our favorite authors as well.

“Throughout my life, I’ve often wondered aloud ‘how the hell did I end up here? Why me? Not sure I’ve found the answer to those questions but in this book, I share my journey. The good, the bad, the WTF. You will definitely need more wine for this one.” – writes Union in her Instagram post announcing the upcoming release of the book.

A ‘powerful collection of essays about gender, sexuality, race, beauty, Hollywood, and what it means to be a modern woman’, the book has already garnered praises and accolades galore. En lieu of her book release she has given several interviews and has snatched a few magazine covers. With a matching book tour starting in New York City the day before the book debuts, she has even released an exclusive excerpt of the book. A longtime activist for women’s reproductive health and against sexual violence, in the book Gabrielle opens up about her personal experiences with both. With topics such as her on-going fertility struggles with hubby Dwyane Wade, it seems that her writing will be an expression of what it truly means to be Gabby. A Black Woman and an Artist, now an open book.

To that I say: Bring It On.

We’re Going To Need More Wine releases on October 17th and is available for pre-order.

Click Here for her book tour.

Stay tuned for my review of the book, coming later this month.