Advocate: Arias abuses Battered Woman Syndrome
- Tanya Young Williams: I do not believe that Jodi Arias was a battered woman
- ‘Her testimony was void of emotion and void of passion’
Editor’s Note: Tanya Young Williams is a TV personality, celebrity spokeswoman for the National Domestic Violence Hotline and an advocate for victims of domestic violence. She is the estranged wife of former NBA star Jayson Williams. She is onTwitter.
I was a victim of domestic violence. I am an advocate for victims and survivors of domestic abuse. I am a motivational speaker and a proud spokeswoman for theNational Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH). I have appeared on scores of television and radio programs and I have written numerous articles discussing the silent epidemic of domestic violence. Ever since my first appearance on CBS in 2010, discussing this issue, I have been the willing poster child for the cause.
Noting my advocacy for the awareness and eradication of domestic violence is necessary in light of my current opinions with respect to the admitted killer and liar, Jodi Arias. I have never taken such a position. Therefore, with great contemplation and some apprehension, I voice my anger in Jodi Arias’ attempt to use the Battered Woman Syndrome as the nucleus of her strategic subterfuge.
For 15 days, Jodi has been on the witness stand describing her quasi-girlfriend/boyfriend relationship with Travis Alexander. As it relates to domestic violence, she testified that Travis Alexander was abusive in that he pushed her down, closed her leg in a car door, choked her into unconsciousness, slapped, chastised, belittled and berated her. Still, after listening to seemingly endless hours of her testimony, I do not believe that Jodi Arias was a battered woman. I do not believe she deserves the legal protections afforded women who have acted violently in response to a pattern of domestic abuse. I do not believe that the violent killing of Travis Alexander was justifiable and consequently, I believe Jodi Arias is guilty of manslaughter.
During the opening statement of Jennifer Willmott, Jodi Arias’ attorney, she told the jury that Jodi Arias’ killing of Travis Alexander was justifiable based on the criminal defense of ‘self-defense.’ She said, “It was Travis’ continual abuse and on June 4 of 2008, it had reached a point of no return. Sadly, Travis left Jodi no other action but to defend herself.”
Willmott told the jury that a domestic violence expert would explain why Jodi’s state of mind caused her to fear for her life on June 4, 2008. She told the jury that the expert would help them understand why Jodi believed that she had no choice but to brutally kill Travis Alexander. Essentially, the expert was retained to tell the jury that Jodi Arias was a victim of domestic violence and a battered woman.
Domestic violence is about power and control and can rear its ugly head in many forms. The abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, sexual and financial. Each and every episode of domestic violence is unique and yet, as I rewind the many stories that I’ve heard, there tends to be a thread of commonality that weaves together these horrific, life-changing experiences.
Every woman that I’ve met wanted to cry out for help — whether she acted on this desire or not. No matter how faint the cry, or the manner in which it is expressed, most victims seek the opportunity to tell someone that they are scared, hurt, angry and confused. Many women tell a friend and swear them to secrecy. Some speak to a respected religious authority. Some anonymously call the hotline and others reach out to their local domestic violence organizations. A victim may even “cry out” by writing down her pain in a very private place, like her journal.
In fact, some victims send me emails from anonymous email addresses. These letters are oftentimes thousands of words outlining years of abuse. These women merely want to tell someone they trust what they are experiencing. They don’t want a response from me — although I always send one. They do not ask me for advice as to whom they can call, or how they can escape their hell or what they can do to better protect themselves. They are merely looking for an outlet to release a portion of their pain. They are taking advantage of a moment of freedom from their life of bondage in domestic violence.
Jodi Arias did not tell anyone of her alleged abuse, nor did she ever contact the police to report the abuse. Jodi is an avid journal keeper, yet on the pages of her journal, she never reduced her alleged abuse to writing. These choices, in and of themselves, are not unusual. However, I find it quite telling that Jodi did not give a credible reason as towhy she didn’t reach out to anyone. Nor was her explanation regarding the “law of attraction” and thus omitting abuse commentary from her journal, understandable or believable. I patiently waited to hear her testify that she wanted to cry out and tell someone but for a myriad of reasons she kept the abuse a secret. Her silence screamed out “liar” to me.
Further, Jodi’s testimony regarding the alleged experiences of physical domestic abuse didn’t ring true to me because of the manner in which she told her story of being battered. I have looked into the eyes of hundreds of victims. In listening to a victim’s story, there is something entrancing in her eyes while she conveys past experiences of abuse. For a moment — you can see the victim reliving her experience. I can see when she is “seeing” the abuse. I can see in her eyes when she is “hearing” the threats. Her eyes and her unconscious changes in body language, more than her words, tell me her story of past pain and abuse.
It’s been five years since my car window was punched out while I was driving with my children in the backseat. I have moved on in many areas of my life. Yet, when I am telling this story to one person or 500 people, the memories are clear. The details are sharp. There is still profound sadness. When I spoke to Anderson Cooper on his talk show, regarding my “need” to sleep with a knife under my mattress — some three years after the fact, my heart began to race, my pattern of speech changed and my posture was noticeably tense.
Recounting stories of domestic violence arouses and unearths the raw emotions of the most formidable survivor. But not so with Jodi Arias. Her recitations of alleged abusive experiences were flat and ambiguous. Her testimony was void of emotion and void of passion. Jodi’s eyes were dead and her words hollow. She could not fake the anguish that real victims of domestic violence live with for many years after the abuse has stopped.
The immediate, long-term and rippling effects of domestic violence are real. The need for the Battered Woman Syndrome is paramount. Therefore, anytime a defendant like Jodi Arias lies about being a battered woman, the hard work of domestic violence advocates everywhere is undermined. For this reason, I take this stand against a woman who says that she was the victim of domestic violence.
CNN’s new chief Jeff Zucker has made radical and sweeping changes since becoming president of CNN Worldwide in January 2013. His latest move,removing Soledad O’Brien as host of CNN’s morning news program Starting Point, and replacing her with former ABC award-winning anchor Chris Cuomo, hassurprised and angered many people.
O’Brien will maintain a relationship with CNN, however in a much different capacity. She has created a production company called Starfish Mediathat will produce long-form programming specials for CNN. O’Brien told the Huffington Post that the deal was a “win-win” for her. “I think it has worked out best for everyone.”
It has been reported that CNN veteran contributors, Roland Martin and Donna Brazile could be next on Zucker’s chopping block. While on the red carpet at the 44th NAACP Image Awards, Martin spoke candidly about his current role at CNN and his future relationship with the network. Martin appeared unperturbed by the uncertainty of his pending employment with CNN. In fact, he said, “I’m excited about other opportunities.” Martin, who was scheduled to meet with Zucker in days following the interview, continued, “It’s up to them if they want me to stay around.”
People appreciate me for being unapologetically black, unapologetically truthful and unapologetically Christian.
Zucker is set to meet with the National Association of Black Journalists on Monday to address CNN’s commitment to diversity. It has been notedthat Zucker has made numerous key hires since taking over, yet none of the new high-profile faces are African-American.
Fred Hammond is one of gospel music’s biggest stars and yet, on NBC’s live broadcast of the 44th NAACP Image Awards, he was granted a mainstream “coming out party.” Hammond was nominated for Outstanding Gospel Album at the Image Awards but was beat out by sister duo Mary Mary. Still, Hammond walked away as one of the evening’s biggest winners, and God took the final bow when Oscar-winning actor, Jamie Foxx began to sing Hammond’s hit song “No Weapon” as part of his acceptance speech for Entertainer of the Year.
Many of those in the packed auditorium stood to their feet and waved their hands like they were in church. Jamie Foxx was moved to tears and the energy in the historic Shrine Auditorium was electrifying. At most award shows there comes a moment wherein the program takes on a life of its own. Fred Hammond’s song, offered as a musical testimony by Jamie Foxx, ushered in that moment for the 44th NAACP Image Awards.
I caught up with Hammond on the red carpet where he sang for me in his velvety tenor voice. We talked of his upcoming musical projects and he shared what his new focus is going to be — and surprisingly, it’s not music. Hammond said, “I need my work to be seen.”
Los Angeles is known around the world as home to the rich and famous. Professional sports fans have no shortage of local teams to cheer on and shoppers enjoy one of the most famous streets in the world, Rodeo Drive, to flex their credit card muscle. The beaches are filled with beautiful people with beautiful bodies and eclectic characters strolling the boardwalks. Los Angeles has become a must stop for presidential candidates looking to raise millions while rubbing elbows with A-List celebrities and deep pocket supporters. In fact, over 27 million visitors stop through Los Angeles annually. Very often, on the list of “things to do” is the name “West Angeles Church of God is Christ.”
West Angeles Church of God in Christ (West Angeles) is one of the countries largest mega churchesand boasts a membership of over 25,000. Its cathedral is a Sixty-Five Million Dollar ($65,000,000.00) architectural masterpiece with a 5,000 seat sanctuary. It’s sometimes called “the church to the stars” because members Denzel and Pauletta Washington, Samuel and LaTanya Jackson, Magic Erving and Cookie Johnson, Courtney Vance & wife, Angela Bassett and Stevie Wonder, are just a few of the famous faces that regularly fill the pews. On Sundays, a Grammy Award winning choir, consisting of over 100 voices, uplifts the congregation with hymns, old popular Gospel songs and new contemporary spiritual hits. The worship is lively and energetic — typical of a Pentecostal church West Angeles staffs more than 200 paid employees and operates a Community Development Corporation (CDC) that the University of Southern California “designated the #1 CDC Organization in Los Angeles County. Since 1969, West Angeles has been led by Bishop Charles Blake and his wife of 47 years, Mae Lawrence Blake.
In light of the fact that a mega church is typically a congregational body of over 2,000 members, West Angeles would be considered a mega church on steroids — a Super Mega Church. The burning debate is whether the mega and Super Mega churches are properly using their power and prestige for the good of their community, or abusing that power and prestige for selfish, personal gains. Bishop Blake professes an agreement with the scripture to ” whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” Blake states, “The capacity of a mega church, if it is committed to the good and advancement of people, and to its true mandate, it can serve and provide resources and exert positive influence at a level that it could not, if it were not a mega church with a strong structure, and organizational strength.”
Charles Blake is one of the most influential people in Los Angeles; one of the most prominent pastors in America; and now, the Presiding Bishop of the entire Church of God in Christ (COGIC) denomination, which is estimated at having overseven million members worldwide. He is a very powerful man who appears somewhat oblivious to his domestic and international stature. Blake is a Super Mega pastor with name recognition comparable to recent Oprah Winfrey interviewees, Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes. Yet, he purposely limits his media exposure except to further a church-based initiative. Denzel Washington once said, “Bishop Charles Blake is my pastor, mentor and a man of great integrity.” Having spoken to members, community residents and other pastors, Washington’s sentiments are shared by many.
In contrast, some mega pastors egos have grown larger than their congregations. In the ’80s, a few Super Mega pastors found themselves in Super Mega trouble. Jimmy Swaggart had a penchant for prostitutes and Jim Bakker was convicted of fraud and spent five years in jail. More recently, Creflo Dollar found himself posing for a mug shot for allegedly abusing his teenage daughter while beating her with a shoe. Even worse, Eddie Long made headlines for allegedly participating in sexual relationships with several young men. Yet, when I sat with Bishop Blake to discuss the power a Super Mega church yields, the upcoming election and the state of religion in American, it was glaringly obvious that he is a man consumed, if not obsessed, with serving his church, denomination and community with intelligence and integrity. I think Hell would freeze over before Bishop Blake was the subject of a salacious headline for doing something unethical, indecent and “unclegy-like.”
Blake preached his first sermon while a junior in high school. He’s the son of a pastor and therefore, he has been insulated with religious doctrine all of his life. Consequently, his path to pastor a church was almost predestined. However, no one, except the God Blake has preached about for over 50 years, could have known that he would grow the West Angeles congregation from 50 people, with annual revenue of $12,000.00, into a Super Mega Church and the largest COGIC church within the denomination. “A mega church pastor was not always a mega church pastor. But possibly the reason that he became so is because he effectively utilized all resources available to further his community and people and thus, people were drawn to his ministry and vision,” said Blake.
West Angeles has developed over 400 units of housing and commercial property in the inner city of Los Angeles. It has initiated and implemented scores of civic, social, financial and educational programs that have assisted thousands of congregants and Los Angeles County residents. Bishop Blake founded an international outreach ministry called Save Africa’s Children, wherein, he is the Chief Executive Officer. Save Africa’s Children, with assistance from West Angeles, has provided financial resources, food and housing to over 200,000 children in 400 foster care programs in Africa and Haiti. “The primary benefit of a mega church is that is has resources to initiate programs that are conceived for the work for the advancement of the church.”
Every four years, leading up to our country’s hotly contested presidential elections, Super Mega pastors could theoretically exert their influence on millions of worshipers. However, due to a 1954 tax reform act, commonly termed the “Johnson amendment,” all tax-exempt organizations are banned from supporting or opposing political candidates. This amendment has been challenged as unconstitutional because many argue that it infringes upon a pastor’s First Amendment rights of free speech. However, Blake is very comfortable, and agrees with the limited political influence pastors should have.
Legally, constitutionally, the church cannot and should not exert influence over the outcome of elections and individuals involved in elections. Morally and from a humane perspective, the church should take positions on issues the impact people; the poor, disfranchised, those who can not speak loudly for themselves either because of lack of resources or lack of access. We don’t take partisan or political positions nor do we endorse individuals. I agree with such a philosophy of operation, in terms of our nation. However, the church can educate people and encourage people, to participate in the electoral process.
In 2009, Blake was asked to serve on President Obama’s 25-person White House Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. He explained his appointment was “to advise and implement programs that had to do with the ecumenical community regarding churches of every denomination in their relationship with service of our nation as it relates to the White House.” He was quick to assert, that despite his being a registered democrat who is pro-life, he would be pleased to serve in a future ecumenical capacity no matter who is in the white house. “If my schedule permitted it, and I felt that it was an opportunity to be of service, I would be overjoyed to serve no matter who was in the white house because I think we should serve” he stated.
With the 25 thousand members and up to 50,000 online weekly participants, it is no surprise that lobbyists, activists, political talking heads and mainstream corporate executives vie for Blake’s endorsement of their cause, candidate, initiative or product. However, he does not condone the use of the pulpit as a mega pastor’s personal “soapbox.” He rarely uses his weekly platform to side with, or oppose stories that race the ticker, lead the evening news or trend on Twitter.
I don’t think that the pastor or the church is obligated or responsible for taking a position and articulating a position on every issue. We represent, to the best of our capacity, what we feel that our God would require us to do and say in the context of our community. Yet, every once in awhile an issue rises to the level of potentially contributing to the good or ill of our society; or an issue rises in relationship to, and connection with, those things that are most sacred to us and to what we conceive to be the Will of God. Consequently, on occasion, it is mandatory for the church to speak out and articulate its position on an issue that is before society and before our nation.
Statistics suggest that the American society is moving away from structured religion, yet Blake is optimistic. He states, “As society proceeds — I can’t always say ‘progresses’ — there is at many levels, less of a focus on spiritual development, values morals relating towards God. But for those of us who know and feel that God is an unavoidable reality that we cannot conceive or explain life on earth without referencing to a higher being with out reference to God. We feel that it is not a hopeless battle.” Many people who believe in God don’t believe in attending Church. They opine that churches are filled with hypocrites as members and judgmental leaders who ostracize non-conforming visitors. Blake believes that a mega church, because of its vast outreach, has a responsibility to open its doors and expand its level of acceptance to everyone.
At West Angeles, we love everybody and God loves everybody and to approach anyone from a perspective other than that of love, compassion, concern, desire to lift and desire to help would be an inappropriate approach. Jesus shared wisdom, truth and knowledge. He shared His power, His good influence with everyone He met so the church should do so also…The church joins with all who seek to do good and to help and lift humanity. We are strong in our conviction that Jesus Christ was a unique person on the Earth and because of that we are very faithful and committed to our convictions regarding Him and feel that we found truth within. Nevertheless, that does not mean that we deprive others of what they would think or feel is their truth. That is their privilege.
Mega pastors have become easy targets for opponents who question their financial worth in leading and managing multimillion dollar corporations, albeit, a church. Some Super Mega pastors have personal annual incomes that exceed a million dollars ($1,000,000). Bishop Blake’s salary is approximated at $227,750, which is below his corporate counterparts. As the leader of West Angeles, Presiding Bishop of COGIC and CEO of Save Africas Children, Blake works over 80 hours most weeks, including preaching two to three services every Sunday. He receives no compensation for his work with Save Africa’s Children.
Blake explained that for many years he was grossly underpaid, nevertheless, he and “Lady Mae” worked tirelessly because of their love for God, the church and the community. “More than once I’ve contributed an entire salary back to the church. As one expected to lead in the giving, whatever the pastor receives, sometimes, a greater portion of it goes back into the church” he declared. In fact, it was only after a bank’stipulation that required Blake to remain as pastor of West Angles during the life of the loan, did Blake receive a significant raise. A CPA firm was retained to valuate an equitable compensation package for an executive with Blake attributes and responsibilities. Consequently, in 2001, Blake accepted a package that was still 1/3 less than was recommended. According to his son, Elder Charles Blake Jr., most years, despite the enormous wealth and generous spirit of some of the members, Bishop Blake is the leading financial contributor to West Angeles. “In order to be credible, the pastor needs to lead the congregation in contributing and thus, must himself be on the frontline and cutting edge in giving.”
The jury is still out as to whether mega churches are good for our society or not. As a culture, we have learned that bigger isn’t always better and sometimes less is more. Mega churches do have responsibilities to their communities, state and nation. Few would disagree about the super mega work that West Angeles Church of God in Christ has done in the Los Angeles community. Consequently, when mega churches are fulfilling their social responsibilities, Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation between church and state” should always remained blurred.
Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that Bishop Blake’s salary is approximated at $900,000. It is actually approximated at at $227,750.
In 2011, while Oprah Winfrey was ending her 25-year dominance as the #1 talk-show host on the the planet, simultaneously, she was launching the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWn) — a merger between Oprah and Discovery Communications. Despite promising numbers during the launch of the network, the viewership continued to decline drastically over the next year. Now, after eighteen months of executive changes — including Oprah becoming CEO; shows launched then canceled with expediency; significant, yet necessary, layoffs; and finally, Oprah having a consistent on-air presence — OWN has begun an uphill climb to a level of respectability and competitiveness in the cable market.
Many credit OWN’s resurgence to Oprah’s string of high-profile interviews, including last week’s no-holds-barred talk with disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong. Over 28 million viewers worldwide watched as Oprah got a traditionally defiant Armstrong to confess that he is a liar, cheater and a bully. Prior to that, Winfrey made some ratings noise with her interviews of Whitney Houston’s daughter Bobbi Kristina (3.5 million viewers) and the violently abused girlfriend of Chris Brown, Rihanna (2.5 million viewers). Her unyielding power amongst leading journalists can be also quantified by assessing what coveted interview didn’t she get. She didn’t land Penn State pedophile Jerry Sandusky, nor Trayvon Martin’s killer George Zimmerman — but neither did media divas, Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Robin Roberts or Katie Couric.
Nevertheless, until recently, OWN was failing miserably and it was Oprah Winfrey’s fault. It is not that she was incapable of launching a network, it was not that she was an inept executive, and it was not that she was too busy to give the necessary attention to the network, as she once stated. OWN was failing because Oprah had suddenly stopped practicing what she had been preaching for over 25 years. The truth is: Oprah was not “Living her Best Life.”
Winfrey decided that she was going to take a break from her work as a television journalist and talk show host. Ending the Oprah Winfrey Show was not the problem, although it served as a viable platform upon which she could speak empowerment into people’s lives on a daily basis. The mistake came when she simultaneously stopped using her gifts and talents in a meaningful way.
Unlike many of us who still struggle with an absolute “knowing” of what our purpose in life is, Oprah clearly understood her life’s purpose and traveled that path valiantly for 25 years. She stated,
“I wanted to be a teacher and to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be. I never imagined it would be on TV. I believe there’s a calling for all of us. I know that every human being has value andpurpose. The real work of our lives is to become aware. And awakened. To answer the call.”
A great proverb notes, “to whom much is given, much is required.” Suddenly, because ratings on the Oprah Winfrey Show had dipped because she was understandably exhausted, because the talk show world had once again changed, Oprah was going to spend her days tending to her vegetable garden and reading books. The Universe said: WRONG! Oprah was purposed to be a teacher, she loved teaching, she was tremendously successful as a teacher, yet she decided that she was no longer going to teach. Really?
Oprah, more than most, should have known that one is not allowed to just hang up on life’s calling, for the consequences of trying to do so are always devastating. The Oprah Winfrey Network is not only about Oprah, but she is the foundation. When a foundation does not do what it is designed to do — provide support and structure — the house can not stand.
Oprah suffered through what I like to call “spiritual amnesia,” and began to travel her life’s path on her OWN. The result: her network began to falter, people began to doubt her genius and most importantly, she began to journey her path in fear, insecurity and frustration. In a discussionwith Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg during a live Internet chat in September 2012, Winfrey claimed that she “never had fear” until she started OWN.
However, sometime over the last year, Oprah had a powerful “Aha moment” — a term that became a part of Webster’s Dictionary in 2012. Winfrey explained in a video posted on Merriam-Webster’s site,
I always love those moments when I sit down to talk to somebody and they say something that makes me look at life or a situation in a completely different way. And I say, ‘Aha! I get it!’ Light bulb goes off and the little hairs on your arm stand up. That is an aha moment.
Winfrey’s Aha moment came just in time to save OWN from a downward spiral with a velocity that was ever-increasing. Maybe the Aha moment came during mediation, or maybe while reading her own book, Live Your Best Life: A Treasury of Wisdom, Wit, Advice, Interviews, and Inspiration from O, The Oprah Magazine. Maybe it was when Winfrey returned from the mega prestigiousAllen Conference and was inspired by so many people “doing the work”.
In a letter on Oprah’s blog, she wrote,
It’s an incredible challenge ahead trying to figure out what kind of shows and programming will resonate with you, inspire you, bring a little piece of light into your already crowded existence. But I feel called to do it…
Soon thereafter, she began to create programming that allowed her to walk in her purpose once again. Oprah’s Next Chapter, Oprah’s Lifeclass and Super Soul Sundays began to attract an ever-growing audience. With passion and courage, Oprah answered her call and OWN‘s turnaround began.
Carl Gustav Jung , “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” If you are a teacher, then you must teach. If you are a singer then you must sing. If you are a writer, then you must write. Do what you are purposed to do and God will send the student, the audience, the outlet. But when you stop the pursuit, failure is inevitable.
My schedule did not permit me to watch the Oprah Winfrey Show but I attended her New York Central Park and New York Radio City Music Hall broadcasts and witnessed women and men captivated by her every word. I took my best friend, my mother (who also didn’t watch the Oprah Winfrey show due to a busy work schedule), and she too became “caught up” in the excitement and positive energy that Winfrey created. Thousands of people wore purple just because it is her favorite color. Just being there inspired me to work harder to inspire others. But my real respect for Oprah came at our first meeting. We met at a mutual friends very intimate 40th birthday party in Los Angeles. Unbeknownst to her, she taught me a lesson that has remained with me ever since. When I experienced that Aha Oprah teaching moment, I instantly understood the magnetism to which millions of viewers were attracted.
Over the past 12 months, Winfrey has begun to feel good about the progress and direction in whichOWN is going. Her fear turned to confidence and she began to share her Aha Moments with the media. In April 2012, she told CBS anchors Gayle King and Charlie Rose,
“Because you’ve failed at something — which we haven’t failed — but because you’ve failed doesn’t make you a failure. And when you know that in the core of yourself, you can keep trying or you can use whatever’s happening in that moment to say, ‘Maybe I need to move in a new direction.’”
“Because I am a female who is African-American who has been so blessed in the world, there is never going to be a time to quit… I will die in the midst of doing what I love to do.”
Aha! She finally got it — again.
When one hears of a gathering of celebrities in gowns and tuxedos; a Grammy-winning legend belting out hits; a couture designer showing her wares on 5’10″ women who top the scale at 120 lbs; and an open bar featuring Patron, Patron, and more Patron; one thing one knows for certain, – you are hearing about a swanky L.A. event. When the story continues that everyone genuinely enjoyed themselves, that the laughs were real, and the kisses actually touched the face of the recipient, one can also easily dismiss the notion that they are hearing about a celebrity award’s event.
Maybe this Hollywood gala was able to succeed where so many fall flat because its motivation and purpose was purely altruistic. Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Peete hosted the 14th AnnualDesign Care extravaganza to benefit theHollyRod Foundation. The HollyRod Foundation was founded in 1997 by NFL quarterback Rodney Peete and his wife, actress Holly Robinson Peete to help those living with autism and Parkinson’s Disease (PD). (Holly and Rodney have an autistic son and Holly’s late father suffered from PD) Design Care, is traditionally an evening of celebrities, philanthropists, A-List entertainment and a couture fashion show by an icon in the fashion world. Design Care has become a much anticipated, “must-attend” summer soiree. Celebrities in attendance were Paula Abdul, Arsenio Hall, Lisa Rinna, Harry Hamlin, Brooke Burke, David Charvet, Melanie Brown, Jane Seymour, James Keach, Shaun Robinson, Shannon Tweed, Yvette Nicole Brown, Michael Ealy, Amy Yasbeck, Dondre Whitfield, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Ming Na, Regina King, Tracee Ellis Ross, Norwood Young, Lela Rochon and many others.
I knew that I was in the “place to be” when I arrived at the sprawling oceanfront Malibu mansion of Wayne Hughes and Patricia Whitfield. Upon entering, I passed the Red Carpet cameras to see the lawn had been creatively converted into a showroom for dozens of Hall of Fame athletes and musicians signed memorabilia. There were also very reasonable starting bid priced jewelry, handbags, trips and libation baskets. There was something for everyone to bid on if they were truly at Design Care 2012 to support the Peete’s vision. Many supporters shelled out thousands during the silent auction and even more money was raised at the live auction conducted by comedian Mark Curry. The Peetes graciously acknowledged many friends who could not attend but sent significant financial support. Peete said, “”Oprah wrote a big check,” and Robinson Peete followed, “I framed it.”
The Peetes have been married 15 years and have 5 children. Their interactions and humorous banter suggest that they really do like each other — sometimes a rarity in celebrity marriages. They laughed at each other, shared tactful, yet funny insight regarding the children’s dancing prowess and made the 400 attendees feel like friends of their family. Still, the night was not really about the laughter everyone shared, it was to raise money and bring awareness to the pain many with autism and PD experience daily. What a delicate balance one must achieve on an evening like this — and the Peetes walked that tightrope brilliantly.
Design Care 2012 was no different in executing its winner formula from years’ past. Ultra famous designer, Sue Wong showed her recent collection to “oohs and aahs” from women appreciating the beautiful and wearable garments. Then awards were presented to corporations and individuals for their commitment to the fight against autism and PD. Gerald Storch, company chairman and CEO, received the HollyRod Corporate Compassion Award, on behalf of Toys “R” Us; Zev Glassenberg and Justin Kanew of “The Amazing Race” were given the HollyRod Champion Award and former NBA star Brian Grant was awarded the Matthew T. Robinson, Jr., Award of Courage.
To my utter surprise, on that evening, it was the first time that I learned that Brian has PD. Although I had spoken with him earlier in the evening, I did not notice the significant trimmer in his left hand. Having been “connected” to the NBA via marriage and having a mother-in-law with PD, I was especially taken aback by Brian’s illness. Grant is still an elite competitor, only now he is working to box-out the physical and emotional effects caused by PD. Not wanting to be pitied by a heart-wrenching video produced to highlight his on-court successes and his off-court battle with PD he said, “I’m upbeat. I’m loving life.” Robinson Peete, came back with the timing of Joan Rivers, said that they had to produce that type of video to move some of the silent auction items. The audience’s emotions were once again shifted from solemn to spirited in a flash.
The Malibu weather had changed from warm and mild to clear and crisp and I began to think that the guest might soon begin to scamper. The attendees had already enjoyed the lamb chops, crab cakes and salads from sponsor Outback; coupled with the free-flowing Patron, wine by One Hope and water sent by Smart Water. Holly and Rodney had been gracious and entertaining hosts, and most importantly, the supporters had to felt gratified to learn of all of the people their financial contributions would help through the works of the HollyRod Foundation. Even a little Shiatsu rescue puppy that was auctioned and won by Designer Kym Gold for $10,000, had to feel like ‘it was a good night,” But then I remembered, there were rumors that my friend and Grammy-winner Natalie Cole was going to perform. Now I understood why no one was leaving. They were just heading to the bars and the bathrooms.
Ricky Minor, quite possibly the most sought after, and well-known music director in the music industry today, took the stage and began to jam loud and strong. Out came Jeffrey Osborne who rocked his hit songs and got the crowd dancing and singing in the yard and on the runway recently walked by Sue Wong’s “Mudels”. Okay, I was one of the people dancing on the stage like a teenager but since I was dancing with Holly’s mother, the vivacious Delores Robinson, I knew, once again, I was in the “place to be”. I was having the best time that I’d every experienced at a fundraiser and I knew my friend, who had recently lost her mother, was getting ready to take the stage so my emotions were high.
Natalie Cole has had her own very public health issues but she looked like I hope to look at 63 years old, and she sang like I will never, ever be able to sing at any age. Her 6″ crystal embellished pumps to compliment her delicate, cream color lace dress, under her “by the way I’m fabulous” sheered mink jacket was stylish and elegant. Her grace and sophistication embodied what is missing from my generation of singers. She was flawless and fabulous and that was before she sang a note. But when she opened her mouth, it was the pièce de résistance to Design Care 2012.
Natalie sang a medley of her greatest hits including, I’ve Got Love on My Mind” during which everyone sang every word and danced unabashedly. Natalie Cole is proof that for some Stars, their light gets brighter with age.
Holly Robinson Peete and Rodney Peete had shown their appreciation for the support of HollyRod in a glamorous manner. The Design Care 2012 was a huge success financially, socially and aesthetically. “Old Hollywood” would have been very proud, just as I know every individual and family living with autism and PD are proud of the HollyRod Foundation.
In 2012, it’s great to live in a country canvased with diversity. There may be small pockets throughout this nation where it appears that Jim Crow laws and Brown vs. The Board of Education rulings have yet to take effect; but for the most part, the entire United States of America is one big, beautiful melting pot. In the more populated metropolitan cities like, New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington D.C., the minority groups combined, often make up the majority of the population. Country Clubs are filled with White people, Black people, Asian people and Hispanic people. Schools, public and private, are filled with White, Black, Asian, Hispanic, Indian, and European sstudents. Restaurant patrons represent every hue of race, dining within inches of each other and very often, together. Sometimes, it seems like many cities have achieved a level of “color blindness” that Martin Luther King envisioned and in fact, our country’s forefathers crafted into the Declaration of Independence – whether it was their real intention or not.
Therefore, it is baffling to watch Bravo’s The Housewives of Beverly Hills and The Housewives of New York shows and see such blatant segregation. Surely, affluent African-American women live in Beverly Hills and New York. The housewives’ shows offer eye candy of beautiful homes, thriving businesses, elegant restaurants and of course, catty, senseless arguments between women. This type of mindless entertainment is a guilty pleasure to which people of all races fall prey.
I’m an American woman from African descent and I am instantly aware of the presence or absence, of someone who “looks like me”. Consequently, this article addresses the absence of African-American women as cast members on The Housewives of Beverly Hill and The Housewives of New York. Of course, someone of Hispanic, Asian or Indian descent could ask the same questions because they are equally absent.
My question to Bravo executives is: Where are the black housewives of Beverly Hills and New York? I guess the bigger question is whether their absence is dejure or defacto? Is someone purposely keeping black housewives off of the shows for an underlying racist reason? Is Bravo trying to send a subliminal message that there are no affluent African-American women in two of the wealthiest cities in our country? Did Bravo writers assist Billy Crytal’s in creating his inappropriate, and not funny Oscar’s joke inferring that black women don’t live within 45 minutes of Beverly Hills? Are the production companies afraid to put black women and ultra-rich white women together? Is Andy Cohen’s liberal purview of the world limited to only the civil and equal liberties of homosexuals?
Hold On! Whew – I need to take a breather. I’m beginning to feel like Nancy Grace: I am out of control for no reason at all. Okay, maybe it’s not segregation in the purest sense of the word; and agreeably, because there’s no one making or breaking the law, dejure and defacto are not appropriate nor relevant terms. It is also true that I don’t have a clue about Andy Cohen’s beliefs on any subject matter.
Nevertheless, I’m making a valid point and I’m sure that you get it – there are no African-American women on the The Housewives of Beverly Hills or The Housewives of New York and I want to know why. Rich is rich no matter what color she is and the similarities between affluent women far outweigh differences because of race. At least the Housewives of Atlanta has token diversity and The Housewives of Orange County has an Hispanic lesbian (Fernanda Rocha) as part of the show.
As one who has been part of the entertainment world for many years, I assumed that Bravo wanted an all-white cast for business reasons. In television, its all about advertising dollars. The network sells commercial time to companies who have products and/or services of interest to the viewers of that show. According to Hollywood Reporter, Bravo made between 35.6 million and 162 million in ad revenues (depending on a particular show) alone over the past two years. Bravo’s Housewives shows are watched by marketers coveted demographic of viewers; women 18-49 years old. In fact, many of the housewives shows reach over 2 million viewers each episode, ergo, homerun for Bravo. Lauren Zalaznick, chairman of Bravo’s parent company, NBC-Universal Entertainment & Digital Networks & Integrated Media tells Hollywood Reporter, “Who would have thought that a fairly modest series would be here six years [later] as our longest-running franchise? “It’s beyond incredible. It’s absurd.” Bravo, and more importantly, NBCUniversal is run by wonderfully intelligent executives like Zalaznick, who must realize that the 2 million viewers are not all white and adding African-American women would not turn away advertisers. There must be another reason for the absence of wealthy African-Americna women – and I was determined to fnd out what it was.
I learned while conducting research for this artilce that I owe Bravo a huge apology. To my pleasant surprise, I learned that over the years, Evolution Media (producers of The Housewives of Beverly Hills) did in fact, contact numerous affluent African-American women in Beverly Hills to become a part of the cast. I happen to know many of the women but the topic of the housewives shows never came up over Champagne and decadent dinners. From the outset, up to its most current season, Evolution Media’s casting department has recruited Tracey Edmonds, LaTanya Jackson, Lela Rochon, Kim Porter, Nicole Murphy, Baroness Monica von Neuman and a few other affluent African-American women in the Beverly Hills area. Each of these women turned down the opportunity. However, to date, I have not been able to find any African-American women in New York City that Shed Media (The Housewives of New York producers) has approached and I personally know quite a few powerhouse women who would fit the bill.
As it relates to participating in a reality series, I look at it as an opportunity to create, or expand a brand. It’s an to opportunity to garner exposure for a cause or a non-profit organization. It’s a way for people to see who you really are, especially if most people only know you as the “wife” of someone else. I asked my friends why they did not sign-on to The Housewives of Beverly Hills and leverage the exposure as did Lisa Vanderpump and Bethany Frankel.
LaTanya Richardson, an actress with movie credits that include: The Fighting Temptations, U.S. Marshalls, Lone Star, Losing Isaiah, When a Man Loves a Woman, Sleepless in Seattle, Lorenzo’s Oil, Fried Green Tomatoes, and Malcolm X. She has also co-starred in numreorus televsion shows, as well as, starred in Broadway and Off-broadway productions. She is also the wife of Samuel Jackson.
Latanya said: “I feel that my talents are better suited for my work as an actress, activist and philanthropic advocate. Sam and I also enjoy our privacy and only appreciate people in our home whom we know and invite AND you know I have nothing in common with those girls. I think I take myself and my friends more seriously. “
Lela Rochon, an actress most recognized for her role in “Waiting to Exhale” has also starred in Boomerang and Harlem Nights. She was a fixture on popular television shows throughout the 90′s and has just completed work in Supremacy starring Danny Glover and Derek Luke. Lela is married to dirctor Antoine Fuqua.
Lela said: ” For me there’s no price on my family’s privacy. I became an actress because I love the work not because I wanted attention. I feel these housewife shows are silly and have no point – it’s just fake voyeurism.” She continued, “There’s nothing real about it when your wearing a body mic and there’s a camera crew in your home. Besides I didn’t even get it out of my mouth good before my husband said, “NO WAY. It’s a lot of publicity at such a heavy price. Its seems so negative and humiliating. Why would I do that? It didn’t interest me at all.”
Baronnes Monica Von Neumann, a philanthopist, a luxury expert with a newly released candle line called Baroness von Neumann which represent her travel destinations. According to her research, she is the only only African-American royalty living in the states. She also has homes in Geneva and France.
Von Neumann said: “I don’t want to be portrayed as the angry black women. Another truth is that my daughter said, Mom I don’t want you to do that.” She continued, “I’ve been approached by at least 15 different production companies over the past 7 years. Telepictures asked me to host a show called, “Luxaholics”. Another show that comes to mind was loosely titled, “Baroness of Bel Air” and the production company wanted me to be a bitch.” However, unlike some of the other women that I’ve spoken to, the Baroness does want to be on a reality show. She said, “I want to do a travel show. Luxury and relatable. The best of everything, from travel, linens, to cheesburgers: I’ve dined with Kings and Queens. I love to travel and have traveled the world. The only place that I havent been is Anartica.“
I suspect that the success of The Housewives of Beverly Hills and the tremendous exposure the show gives its cast members will eventually be enough to entice an affluent African-American women to make a name for herself and not forever be known as “the wife of”. Reality show work is not for everyone, but for the divas who have made it work for them, I say “Bravo”!
ABC’s new hit series Scandalintroduces the world to a career very few people ever knew existed: Crisis Management. Olivia Pope, played by Kerry Washington, is a crisis management guru who, throughout the episodes, will help politicians, celebrities, and corporate executives navigate through troubled times. Each week, with Washington, D.C. as the backdrop, Scandal’s supporting cast of smart, driven and sharp-tongued executives work together to tackle a high-profile crisis on the verge of destroying someone’s life or career. It’s great TV (the reviews have been mostly positive), a new profession is highlighted (a rarity in television programming) and it’s filled with intelligent dialogue and plots. The only lingering disappointment is that real life problems can’t be solved in less than an hour. As millions of viewers suspend disbelief while watching Scandal, many also dream of the possibility that someone — an Olivia Pope of sorts — would enter their lives and solve their problems. I gather that most people, me included, don’t require that our problems are solved in an hour; we just need to know that there is a plan — an exit strategy out of the crisis that is controlling our lives.
Over the past 5 years unemployment rates have consistently teetered at all-time highs andincomes tragically low; home foreclosures have depressed entire neighborhoods; personal debts have ballooned while personal wealth has dissipated; and rising gas prices serve as a daily reminder that times are tough. Millions of people have been in a state of personal crisis like never before. The truth is that some of us live our lives in perpetual crisis and are looking for ways to avoid the constant chaos. Others may think that blue skies are ahead and don’t even realize that they are in the danger zone until it’s too late. People are killing each other, killing their children and killing themselves because they are unable to cope with the crises in their lives. There could be no better time for a book to hit the market that will actually help me, and many others, manage our personal crises with the advice from a crisis management superstar — just like Olivia Pope of ABC’sScandal.
Last week, Simon and Schuster released, Good Self, Bad Self: Transforming Your Worst Qualities into Your Biggest Assets by Judy Smith. Smith, the inspiration behind Scandal and a co-executive producer of the series, is regarded as the leading expert in the field of Crisis Management Communications. She is also known as “The Fixer” for her unparallelled ability to fix the high-profile crises she has managed over the past 20 years. The Washington Post has called her the (almost) Invisible Woman — an apt moniker because while she has traditionally shied away from the public spotlight for herself, she has been a key player behind some of the biggest headliners in recent history including Monica Lewinsky, Chandra Levy, Michael Vick and Senator Larry Craig among others.
Good Self, Bad Self: Transforming Your Worst Qualities into Your Biggest Assets is a must-read for anyone who needs to see their way out of a catastrophe; has a problem that seems to rear its ugly head time after time; or is in the midst of a crisis that seems all-consuming. As I discovered from reading Good Self/Bad Self, most of us don’t understand how certain traits can be part of our good self, as well as, part of our bad self. The book explains that understanding this dichotomy is key to living a fulfilling and peace-filled life.
Smith is using her long, stellar career in crisis communication to offer insight and practical advice to the reader. “Good Self/Bad Self is a book about some of the lessons I have learned from my 25 years experience as a crisis manager from the White House, to NBC, and working on some of the most high profile news stories of the last couple of decades. My hope is that it will provide everyday people with the tools to navigate their lives when they have crises, issues or problems that may arise,” said Smith. Good Self/Bad Self methodically explains how to regain control of any crisis affecting your life and how to avoid future crisis situations. It walks the reader through different scenarios (scenarios that will be very familiar) and illustrates how to use Smith’s “POWER” model to navigate difficult life-problems.
Smith’s book focuses on seven key traits of our behaviors: Ego, Denial, Fear, Patience, Ambition, Accommodation and Indulgence. She makes the point that although we may associate positive or negative qualities with these characteristics, none are inherently good or bad. Rather, each one is a spectrum that is most effective when in balance; not when the weight shifts to one end or the other. Smith says, “problems arise when we go through life relying too much or too little on particular traits, which in turn can lead to a crisis.” Good Self/Bad Self beautifully intertwines practical self-help tools with riveting insight into some of Smith’s high-profile cases. As the crisis manager for the rich, famous and oftentimes, foolish; she has seen first-hand, the role that each of these traits play in crisis situations — for the better and for the worse. “These traits are universal and are not restricted to only those individuals we view in the media,” Smith says. “The best way to keep the drama out of your life is to use your ‘Power’ to recognize and balance these traits,” she continued.
Good Self/Bad Self defines POWER as it relates managing our character traits as:
Pinpoint the core trait: identify which one is in play.
Own it: acknowledged that it can be both good and bad.
Work it through: process the role it’s played in your life.
Explore it: consider how it could play out in the future.
Rein it in: establish how to re-achieve balance and control.
As an author of a self-help workbook, I know that the rewards promised in any book can only be reaped if the reader applies the suggested techniques. “The misuse of ‘POWER’ causes your life to spiral out of control and may cause you to crash and burn. However, If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll actually learn to see disaster looming so that you can take steps to minimize or prevent the crisis in the first place and keep of your life on track,” concludes Smith. Good Self/Bad Self: Transforming your Worst Qualities into your Best Assets has the makings of a best-seller: the celebrity crisis stories are intriguing; the self-improvement strategies are understandable; and most importantly, we all need an expert crisis manager like Judy Smith to help us navigate through these very tough times.
Good Self, Bad Self: Transforming Your Worst Qualities into Your Biggest Assets, is currently on sale wherever books are sold and on Amazon.com.
Tanya Young Williams: Los Angeles Pershing Square Brings out Hoodies 4 Trayvon, Celebrities and 2000 Demonstrators
Chants of “arrest George Zimmerman” filled downtown Los Angeles, Calif. streets as police escorted a peaceful demonstration yesterday afternoon from Pershing Square to City Hall. Thousands of supporters packed Pershing Square demanding justice in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a Florida teen who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain. Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense, which is protected under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, has outraged millions of people around the world. Many demonstrators who have listened to the now famous 911 recording of Zimmerman’s statements to the dispatcher, believe that his own words, conveying his intention to continually follow the 17-year-old Martin, negates his self-defense protections.
One month after the fatal shooting in Sanford, Fla., there is still national outrage as at least 18 rallies where held throughout the country on Monday in a show of solidarity and a call for the arrest of Zimmerman. The very well organized Los Angeles demonstration, that was produced is just three days, was the third rally held in the city and surrounding communities over the last seven days. Billed as the ”Million Hoodie March for Trayvon Martin,” many protesters wore hoodies similar to that worn by Trayvon Martin on the night he was killed. Many people had signs with Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea images illustrating the only items Martin had to combat the gun held by Zimmerman. Many civic leaders, rally organizers and local clergy took the stage to rally the crowd with cries of “No justice. No peace.”
Actress Jenifer Lewis spoke passionately about what she deemed a travesty of justice; that Zimmerman has yet to be charged in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Actress Tichina Arnold and her good friend, celebrity stylist, Dawn Haynes were also in attendance. Arnold told the crowd that Trayvon Martin could have been her daughter, who accompanied her to the stage. Haynes wore a hoodie she designed as a fund raiser to support the advocacy cause for Martin. ”100 percent of the profits from Hoodies 4 Trayvon will go to support initiatives to bring Killer-man, I mean Zimmerman to justice, help with the defense of the case and support whatever is necessary to get ‘Stand Your Ground’ out of the law books” said Haynes.
The 2,000 demonstrators represented a large cross-section of the Los Angeles community. There were parents with their children, senior citizens and young adults, college students, professionals in suits, blacks, whites, hispanics and asians. There was solidarity and a true sense of community. The message was consistent: Trayvon Martin did not have to die, “but for” the actions of George Zimmerman. A vast majority of the demonstrators believe that Zimmerman’s actions resulted from his racial bias towards African-Americans. Despite the recent assertions from Zimmerman’s attorney and his African-American friends, stating that he is not a racist, the rally speakers shouted their outrage for George Zimmerman’s choice to profile, stalk, confront and ultimately fatally shoot Martin.
Martin was black. Zimmerman, 28, is 5’9″ and 200 lbs and looks Hispanic. His father is father is white and his mother is Hispanic. However, the police reports only record him as a “white male.” On its face, the case seems to be a white and black matter because a white male, Zimmerman, killed a defenseless black young man, Martin, and a predominately white police force failed to charge the white shooter. However, many demonstrators believe that the real issue is about hatred, bullying and tolerance. Demonstrator, Michelle Cie said, “With respect to race relations, we have a black president and we have come too far as a nation to allow one “racist” to divide us. We will not allow this to be a black thing.” The melting pot of people demonstrating all over the country suggests that this killing has galvanized the entire nation from Pershing Park to the White House. Last week, President Obama stated, ” “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon,” underscoring how the issue affected him on a personal level. “I think [Trayvon's parents] are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.”“Justice for Trayvon” is the unified demand ringing throughout the rallies around the country. The question that has yet to be fully addressed is: What type of justice will satisfy the millions of people engaged in this discussion? No matter what the judicial outcome, Trayvon Martin will never see his 18th birthday. Although recent reports have noted that Zimmerman cried for days after shooting Trayvon Martin, his tears are now dry and he can see a brand new day – too bad Trayvon will never have that luxury again.
Nancy Grace owes Whitney Houston’s family a huge apology. Whitney Houston’s death will be ruled an accident; not a homicide, not a suicide, but an accident. The country has been accustomed to Nancy’s ofttimes senseless yelling and screaming about every topic she covers. If fact, the only time Nancy Grace was graceful and gracious was when she was on Dancing With the Stars and needed the votes to advance. This time, Grace went too far with her initial speculations that Whitney Houston might have been murdered. Her ranting statements were without any proof and spewed forth in a frail attempt to create drama and controversy. She desperately wanted to be part of the biggest story in the world and went on CNN to spark an uproar. Grace said, “I’d like to know who was around her, who if anyone gave her drugs — following alcohol and drugs — and who let her slip or pushed her underneath that water. Apparently no signs of force or trauma to the body.” She continued, “who let Whitney go under her water?” These outlandish comments were without merit and in complete disregard to the feelings of the family and people who loved Whitney Houston. There was an instant backlash and CNN later distanced itself from Grace’s comments, as anchor Don Lemon said: “That is not CNN’s reporting. We don’t know that to be true.”
Grace remained defiant even after learning that the death would not be considered a homicide. Shestated, “It is not a homicide and I’m thankful for that, but I still want the truth.” Grace was aware that Los Angeles assistant chief coroner Ed Winter confirmed to ABC that officials found prescription bottles, but said there wasn’t anything “alarming” or “out of the ordinary” about them. Yet, she continued to lead her one-woman attack against Whitney Houston. She even went so low as to interview singer, Darlene Lane (a very close friend of the family and a “godmother” to Houston) and suggested foul-play. Her first question was quite insidious. She asked, “A lot of people are attacking Whitney Houston and the morning after claiming her own lifestyle was the cause of death. I disagree with that Ms. Love. I wonder about all the people around her using her and why she ended up under water, Darlene Love.”
The truth is, “a lot of people” were not attacking Whitney Houston. Grace, for the first time, in a long time, wasn’t gaining momentum, nor any followers. She was traveling a long, dark, mean-spirited road to villanize Whitney Houston alone. Those who chose to malign Ms. Houston found out the hard way that there would be repercussions for assaulting the legacy of an American Icon like Whitney Houston. John & Ken, a popular duo of KFI-AM (640), a Los Angeles-based radio talk show, were suspended by the station for comments they made about Houston. On the show, they talked about Houston’s past drug problems, and said that she was “cracked out for 20 years.” Appropriately, KFI management released a statement admonishing the actions of their star radio personalities. “John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou have been suspended for making insensitive and inappropriate comments about the late Whitney Houston,” KFI said in a statement. “Management does not condone, support or tolerate statements of this kind.” Soon thereafter, Kobylt, speaking on behalf of the duo, said, “We made a mistake, and we accept the station’s decision. We used language that was inappropriate, and we sincerely apologize to our listeners and to the family of Ms. Houston.”
Nancy Grace, too, should have already offered an apology. She knows personally that creating drama for the sake of ratings can be emotionally harmful and sometimes deadly to her targeted family. In 2006, Grace came under fire when the mother of a missing toddler, Melinda Duckett, killed herself the day after an attacking interview with Grace, wherein she berated Duckett. Duckett’s death prompted her family to file a wrongful death suit against CNN and Grace claiming that the intense media interest, and the interview with Grace, particularly, was the reason for her suicide. The case was settled by setting up a $200,000 trust fund devoted to finding her son Trenton.
Whitney Houston’s journey to success, her voice, her music and her graciousness are what made her great. Her tumultuous private life, her problems and her weaknesses are what made her human. Whitney Houston will be missed by her family, her fans and her colleagues who continue to share stories of how Whitney Houston changed their lives. Come on Nancy, do the right thing — say “I’m sorry.”