Sandra Varner’s Celebrity Profiles

Marching into the Oscar season, one of 2011’s best films is “The Help,” a powerful story of redemption and sisterhood starring Academy Award nominee Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Emma Stone among a laudable cast of stars.  The Help is now available on DVD.  This is certainly a film worthy of your collection.

Octavia Spencer costars in “The Help” now on DVD

Talk2SV: This movie portrays a snapshot of many of the grand women of the south, unique unto themselves who are full of personality and full of spunk. What did you draw from the archetypes that you’ll take through the rest of your life’s journey?

Octavia Spencer:  I realized that the subsequent generations –especially African Americans and people of color– don’t always realize the contributions these women made less than a hundred years ago.  I love this film because it’s a celebration of those contributions.  From this film, I realize that I have a lot of work to do because ‘to whom much is given, much is expected.’  When you think you haven’t been given much you don’t expect much.  But I realize there is so much that I’ve been given and hopefully as my life continues to flourish and people come in and out of my life, I will continue to be a “Minny” or “Aibileen” or “Skeeter.”   We can only hope.

I think it’s important that this type of dialogue is taking place.  There are so many things that are taboo to talk about: racism being one of them. But, it’s not the only ‘ism’ we need to overcome as a world-at-large. Whether it’s sexism, ageism, ‘homophobism,’ I’ve coined that word, I think this is a great way to expose those dirty little things that we don’t like to discuss and really make us hold a mirror up to our own faces and say, ‘what do you really think?’  Much the way that “Skeeter” does with “Aibileen.”

Kellita Smith, Christian Keyes, Jackee Harry and Trini-i-tee 57

Star in the Series 
 “She’s Still Not Our Sister”

DECEMBER 10th AND DECEMBER 17th at 7 pm ET

GMC, America’s fastest rising channel for uplifting music and family entertainment, will present the premiere of its first original gospel play series “She’s Still Not Our Sister,” a four episode series, exclusively on GMC at 7 and 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, December 10 with episodes 1 and 2 and conclude with episodes 3 and 4 at the same times on Saturday, December 17.

She’s Still Not Our Sister” features an ensemble cast including Kellita Smith (“The Bernie Mac Show”), Drew Sidora (“The Game”), Azur De (Somebody Help Me 2), Christian Keyes (Tyler Perry’s Madea Goes to Jail and Diary of a Mad Black Woman), Clifton Powell (Ray), Jazsmin Lewis (“Meet the Browns”), Jackee Harry (“Sister, Sister,” “Everybody Hates Chris”), Tony Grant and the award-winning Gospel group Trin-i-tee 57.

In this four-part sequel to GMC’s hit gospel play production “She’s Not Our Sister,” the saga of the Walker sisters continues as they learn that the millions they received after their father’s death cannot buy happiness. Instead, the four women discover they have inherited an entirely new set of challenges, including career setbacks, romantic disappointments, charming gold-diggers and self-destructive tendencies.

“As our first gospel play series, ‘She’s Still Not Our Sister’ marks an exciting milestone for GMC,” said Leslie Chesloff, executive vice president of programming, GMC. “’She’s Not Our Sister,’ which premiered in June, was wildly popular with viewers. We are thrilled to present a four-part series that allows our audience to continue the journey with these compelling characters as they encounter new romances, unexpected challenges and startling revelations.”

After reconciling with their long-lost half-sister Allison (Jazsmin Lewis) following the death of their estranged father, Vivian (Kellita Smith), Cynthia (Drew Sidora) and Deniece Walker (Azur De) find their lives have become even more complicated. When Allison develops a serious gambling addiction, the sisters try to find a way to help her while each of them deal with their own challenges. Cynthia faces commitment issues as her wedding to long-time boyfriend D’Andre (Christian Keyes) approaches. Deniece encounters a major setback in her search for a career. Vivian confronts her loneliness as she looks for meaning beyond her 50-hour work week. Rev. Beckley (Clifton Powell) serves as the spiritual guide to the Walker sisters. Aunt Connie (Jackee Harry) is their well intentioned mother surrogate who keeps everyone on their toes.

As the close-knit sisters seek their own paths to happiness, they begin to wonder if those paths will lead them in the same direction or eventually split them apart.

Edwin V. Advent

Soul of the South, New African American TV NetworkDesigned to Appeal to Southerners

Recently announced, a new, 24-hour regional broadcast network targeting African-Americans viewers in the South will launch in the first quarter of 2012 offering entertainment, sports, and cultural programming along with 5 hours of live news daily.

The new venture is Soul of the South television Network, helmed by Edwin V. Avent.

“I’m so proud to lead the launch of Soul of the South, which will be the first broadcast network to speak directly to the lives and values of the more than 20 million African-Americans living in the South,” says Avent, Chairman/CEO, SOUL OF THE SOUTH NETWORK. “We have met with stations in over 50 markets during our road show across the South and they are all excited by our concept of a regional African-American television network.”

Avent, co-founder of the network, switched gears after serving as Heart & Soul Magazine’s publisher for six years where he rebuilt the publication into a viable brand among African-American female consumers.  He will now devote himself to the launch and daily operations of this television network.

Over the past 20 years, there has been an accelerated shift in African-American population moving back to the South. As Isabel Wilkerson, author of the epic Pulitzer Prize winning “The Warmth of Other Suns,” recently observed, with the South becoming more in line with the rest of the country, African-Americans feel a deep yearning to reconnect with their ancestral homeland.

Headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas, SOUL OF THE SOUTH NETWORK’s launch schedule includes a two-hour morning news show based in Atlanta, a one-hour evening news broadcast, and “Capitol Eye,” an additional half-hour hosted news and opinion show focusing on Southern capitals and politics. The news broadcasts are co-productions with centralized newscast operator Independent Network News.

During the first quarter of 2012, SOUL OF THE SOUTH NETWORK will premiere two original programs: RADIOFACE, a quick-moving, comedic unscripted show hosted by hot radio personalities bantering from their studios on the news and headlines of the day, and SOUTHERN SOUL STORIES, which explores the lives of African-American icons of the South and the events, large and small, that shaped the region.

I recently engaged Avent in dialogue about this new venture–

Talk2SV:       How will you measure the success of the network?  

By viewership and by advertising sales and additionally by SOUL OF THE SOUTH NETWORK becoming a go to source for news, information and entertainment for African-American Southerners.

Talk2SV:       We have seen BET and TV One become successful networks targeting the African American community; also, we are seeing the launch of Oprah Winfrey’s network and the challenges they have encountered.  where do you see yourself within the landscape of these networks?    

We believe that our content will appeal to Southerners and TV targeting Southerners with television programming has not been done out side of country music.  So we’re providing programming that speaks to a whole segment of Americans that have been largely under served.  We will measure our success as part of the overall television landscape.

Talk2SV:        Why did you target the southern U.S. and do you feel southerners will have a stronger allegiance to your network?  Explain.

We targeted the Southern part of the US primarily because we felt that most TV that had speaks to African-Americans is NY or LA centric, but that leaves out the largest part of the country where African-Americans live, the south.   62 % of African-Americans live there.   So we figured why not bring to light all of the wonderful people from the South who have shaped this country and our world…icons whose names are recognizable with just one word — King, Ali,  Aretha, Mahalia.

Talk2SV:       Have advertisers come on board easily?

We just announced we’re just about to approach advertisers.

Talk2SV:       What has positioned you to take on this endeavor?

25 years of media experience in developing and delivering content that speaks to the aspirations and needs of the AA community though print, the internet and TV.   From my first magazine created at Cornell to most recently Heart & Soul Magazine, I’ve been a purveyor of information art and culture to the AA community for more than two decades.

For a look at SOUL OF THE SOUTH NETWORK’s promo go to: www.SSN.TV

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