Chance The Rapper On R. Kelly’s Alleged Victims: ‘I Didn’t Value Their Stories Because They Were Black Women’

Budweiser Made In America Music Festival - Los Angeles - Day 2

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A clip featuring Chance The Rapper is making waves on the Internet as the finale of Surviving R. Kelly” dropped on Saturday night. In a never-aired interview for Cassius, former Interactive One VP Jamilah Lemieux sat down with the Grammy winner in May 2018 to discuss a range of topics, including his past collaboration with the Pied Piper. READ: #SurvivingRKelly: Five Emotions You’ll Experience Watching The New Lifetime Docuseries In it, Chance, a Chicago-native, apologized for working with the “I Believe I Can Fly” singer and explained why he did it at the time. “We’re programmed to really be hypersensitive to Black male oppression. It’s just prevalent in all media, and when you see n***as getting beat up by the police, it’s men,” Chance says in the interview clip. “That’s a scene you see…slavery for a lot of people, they envision men in chains, he said. Adding, “But Black women are exponentially a higher oppressed and violated group of people just in comparison to the whole world. Maybe I didn’t care because I didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were Black women.
Rolling Stone had previously reported that Chance simply said, “I didn’t value the accusers’ stories because they were Black women.” However, Chance clapped back on Saturday night saying the quote was taken out context because it didn’t take into account everything he had said before that in the interview. In a note he shared on social media, the 25-year-old explained his controversial quote: “The quote was taken out of context. The truth is any of us who ever ignored the R Kelly stories, or ever believed he was being setup/attacked by the system (as Black men often are) were doing so at the detriment of Black women and girls. I apologize to all of his survivors for working with him and for taking this long to speak out.”
Even with Chance explaining himself, many Black women still flocked to Twitter to express how his quotes made them feel. And the results were polarizing: Some condemned the rapper, while others commended him for being able to admit he was wrong.
BEAUTIES: What do you think about what Chance said not valuing the alleged victims because they were Black women?  RELATED NEWS: Praise! Chance The Rapper Going On Sabbatical To ‘Learn The Word Of God’ #SurvivingRKelly: Five Emotions You’ll Experience Watching The New Lifetime Docuseries #MuteRKelly: Black Hollywood Teams Up To Hold R Kelly Accountable For His Alleged Sex Crimes Against Women & Girls [ione_media_gallery id=”3020908″ overlay=”true”] HelloBeautiful

Usher Announces He Will Headline the 2024 Super Bowl Halftime Show

The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" - Street Sightings

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Usher has a big announcement – and we’re here for it!

On Sunday, September 24, the singer announced that he will headline the 2024 Super Bowl Halftime Show! The 44 year old entertainer confirmed the news via a series of social media promo posts in collaboration with Apple Music and Roc Nation. In the video, Usher gets an urgent call from some of his famous friends – including a future version of himself – who give the musician the news about his big headlining spot. The skit is a play on his 2004 single, “Confessions” where he receives a phone call while in the studio before jumping into the iconic tune.

Check out the post below.


In a statement about the news, Usher called the upcoming performance an “honor of a lifetime,” sharing that he “can’t wait to bring the world a show unlike anything else they’ve seen from me before.”


He continued by thanking the fans and “everyone who made this opportunity happen,” before closing the statement with “I’ll see you real soon.”

This year will mark the fifth year that Roc Nation has teamed up with the NFL to produce the Halftime Show, and to celebrate the news, owner Jay Z made his own statement about Usher hitting the stage at the big game. The rapper called Usher the “ultimate artist and showman,” explaining that he’s “charted his own unique course since his debut at the age of 15.”

He continued by giving Usher his well-deserved flowers, explaining that he “bares his soul,” during his performances.

Jay Z concluded his statement by saying that Usher’s “remarkable journey has propelled him to one of the grandest stages in the world,” and that he “can’t wait to see the magic.”

The Apple Music halftime show will be held at the Allegiant Stadium in Paradise, Nevada on Feb. 11, 2024, and we can’t wait to see it!


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8 Stylish Celebrity Libras We Love

2023 MTV Video Music Awards

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Stylish celebrity Libras keeps the fashion world spinning on its axis. The zodiac sign, known for its charming persona, harmonious energy, and alluring style, belongs to some of our favorite fashion killers. Those born between September 23rd and October 22nd represent the 7th sign of the zodiac.

Ruled by Venus, Librans love all things beautiful, decadent, and aesthetically pleasing. Some of our most celebrated style queens are born under the sign or have it on their ascendant. Libra risings are as stylish as their sun counterparts because rising signs represent the outward appearance. Virgos can claim Beyoncé because of her sun, but her style is courtesy of her Libra ascendant.


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Librans are known for their dedication to an aesthetic. Although they’re often associated with all things pink and dainty, the sign shows up full force in every style genre. Doja Cat is a Libra, and her swag has become less pretty and more gothic. Regardless of the aesthetic, she consistently owns her look with confidence. Cardi B is another Libra who shows an unwavering commitment to creating a style moment. Great style is part of her identity, from her Avant Garde red carpet pieces to her intricate costume designs in her music videos.

People gravitate toward Libras because of their welcoming personality. The often up-beat sign offers balance to most situations, because of their strong sense of justice. They’re always trying to diffuse a situation and play the peacemaker. Their goal is to create a harmonious environment for the people they love.

Libras, it’s your time to shine! In honor of the sign that projects top-tier style, here are eight fashionable celebs who can dress their a*s off.

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8 Stylish Celebrity Libras

1. Jordyn Woods

Retrofête - Front Row & Backstage - New York Fashion Week - September 2023 Source:Getty

Jordyn Woods kicks off the Libra season. The model, born September 23, is in her sex kitten era. She opts for form-fitting dresses, sheer garments, and her hair and makeup are always done to perfection.

2. Michaela Coel

Met Gala 2023 - Karl Lagerfeld Red Carpet Looks Source:Getty

Libra season was made for Michaela Coel, not the other way around. The style goddess, born October 1, takes very bold fashion risks that keep us talking. Her tall, modelesque physique gives runway vibes, and her style reflects it.

3. A$ AP Rocky

16th Annual Harlem's Fashion Row Fashion Show and Style Awards - Show Source:Getty

A$ AP Rocky just received the Virgil Abloh Award during the 16th Annual Harlem’s Fashion Row Fashion Show and Style Awards at The Apollo Theater during NYFW. The rapper, born October 3, isn’t called a pretty boy for nothing! Style and grooming are his specialty.

4. Tessa Thompson

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Tessa Thompson, also born October 3, dresses like slaying is her full-time job. She dominates every red carpet and commits to themes from head to toe. If the look requires her to wear an outlandish wig, she’ll do it to honor the art of the ensemble.

5. Toni Braxton

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Who doesn’t love Toni Braxton? The timeless singer has a natural confidence and sex appeal that should be studied. Born October 7, the stunning vixen can rival girls in their 20s.

6. Cardi B

Celebrity Sightings In Paris - July 6th, 2023 Source:Getty

Cardi B, born October 11, took the fashion world by storm when she first hopped on the scene. She has the best of the best at her disposal, and it shows. Her style team is elite, and together, they’ve landed her on every single best-dressed list.

7. Ashanti

2018 MTV Video Music Awards - Red Carpet Source:Getty

Ashanti Douglass, born October 13, embodies Libra’s “girl next door” persona. She’s also built a strong style aesthetic for herself. Sexy is her niche, and she lives for the daintier side of fashion.

8. Saucy Santana

2023 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals Source:Getty

Saucy Santana, born October 8, is known for his bold style choices. The rapper and makeup artist marches to the beat of his own drum, and that shines brightly on the red carpet.



Offset Showers Cardi B With Flowers, Gifts, And Candles For Their 6th Anniversary

2023 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals

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Congratulations to Offset and Cardi B who are celebrating their sixth anniversary on September 20. Today, Cardi is sharing their experience with us.

Taking to Instagram, the BONGOS rapper posted a video that screams, “My man, my man, my man.” And Cardi’s nearly 170 million followers are gushing and can’t get enough.

In the reel, Cardi appears to be walking into the main foyer of their shared chateau. The area is covered with flowers, candles, and what seems to be a note. In the background, we hear soft R&B music and Cardi’s reaction to the extravagant display of love. “Thank you, I love you,” she says while singing.

The multi-Grammy winner accompanies the reel with an endearing caption to her forever bae, Offset. Cardi points out his attentiveness and care for her and their children.

Cardi posts, “…MY FAVORITE FAVORITE FAVORITE thing about you is that you study me and always pay attention to what I’m into From my favorite colors, my favorite brands to MY FAVORITE foods… I love that you into details like me because it’s always the lil things that make me smile or even drive me off the wall 😩Happy anniversary to US.”

While several of Cardi’s friends, family, and followers have commented on the anniversary post, her husband Offset’s sweet comment makes our hearts smile. “I Love You 4Ever,” he writes.

Black love remains the goal

Amid news of high-profile divorces and celebrity break-ups, we love to see examples of strong Black love. Cardi and Offset have dealt with relationship ups and downs publicly. But everyone can tell the two do not play about each other!

Lasting relationships can be difficult but not impossible. And we love to see couples like Offset and Cardi celebrating milestones and promoting their love.

Earlier today, Cardi also shared a sweet message on Twitter/X.

Knowing the hip-hop power couple, we hope to see more videos and pictures from their anniversary celebration. What do you think about Cardi’s IG video? Did Offset nail it?

Congratulations to the happy couple!


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Everything We Know About Two Black Models Found Dead Within A Week In Los Angeles.

Meleesa Mooney Nichole Coats models found dead downtown Los Angeles

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There may be possible connections between two recent deaths of young Black women, Nichole Coats and Maleesa Mooney, in downtown Los Angeles (LA), according to some residents in the area. Local police currently disagree, but are investigating.

As the cases continue, many family members, community advocates, and social media accounts call for increased awareness of the incidents and greater accountability overall. While the investigations are ongoing and currently deemed unrelated, the message for all Black women is clear: Check on each other and be safe.

We must do all we can to protect, support, and watch out for each other.

What do we know?

Nikki Coats went missing after going on a date.

Nichole “Nikki” Coats was found dead in her LA apartment on September 10. According to news sources, she stopped communicating with friends and family after going on a date on September 8. Worried about the lack of response, sources say members of Nikki’s family checked on her. 

They discovered the model in her bedroom dead.

Pop star Jourdin Pauline’s sister’s death deemed a homicide.

Local LA realtor, 31-year-old model, and sister to pop star Jourdin Pauline, Maleesa Mooney, was found dead two days after Coats. According to local news, police found Mooney dead in her LA dwelling just one mile away. Family hadn’t heard from Mooney after a recent trip to Miami.

Pauline wrote a gut-wrenching message on social media, remembering her sibling. She added the hashtag #JUSTICEFORMALEESA to help spread the word and find Maleesa’s murderer.

 “…The reason I’m me is because of you!!! My first best friend the one who taught me everything I know!!!!! How is this even possible you won’t be here we was supposed to grow old together and have babies and cook off wars (you’re the best chef ever) this feels so surreal.”

LA Police Department spokesperson Tony Im told NBC News  the department is investigating Mooney’s death as a homicide but not Coats.’ Police are waiting for the medical examiner’s report to determine whether to investigate her death similarly.

Police reportedly do not think the cases are linked despite proximity and similarities.

Protect Black women. Period.

Maleesa and Nikki’s deaths are painful reminders of ongoing threats to the safety and security of Black women. According to the Wall Street Journal, murders of Black women and girls rose more dramatically than other groups during the pandemic. And the number of unsolved homicides of Black women and girls rose by nearly 90% in 2020 and 2021 when compared to 2018 and 2019.

These statistics are alarming in the age of social media, dating apps, and the like. Black women like Nichole Coats, Maleesa Mooney, and countless others, must be protected. Period. 

As we await updates, HelloBeautiful sends condolences to both families during this difficult time.


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Tracee Ellis Ross Keeps Is Cute In A Yellow Maxi Dress And Red Lip

ABC's "Black-ish" FYC Event - Arrivals

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One of our favorite fashion muses, Tracee Ellis Ross always knows how to keep it cute and classy! She took to Instagram earlier this week to show off her fabulous style once again in a vibrant look that we love.

Her latest IG post is proof that our girl can do no wrong because the legendary actress gave us fashion goals and more. The beauty posed effortlessly donning a bright yellow maxi dress to soak up the last few days of summer. She paired the designer look with a bright red lip and otherwise rocked minimal makeup to show off her flawless beauty.

She accessorized the look with a matching sweater which she tied around her waist and kept the look sleek and stylish by rocking her hair in a slicked back ponytail with a long braid. The timeless beauty also rocked matching yellow ballerina slides to keep the look comfortable and cute but eventually changed into sneakers while chanting that she’s a “working girl” in one of the videos she shared to her feed.

Tracee shared the classy designer ensemble with her 11 million Instagram followers, simply captioning the look with an emoji to let the fit speak for itself.

Tracee’s post was met with over one thousand comments with fans praising the fashion queen for killing it once again. “Wow! 🔥 Again and Again and Ok Again …..” wrote one follower. Another was in awe of how she pulled off the monochromatic look, commenting, “This yellow monochrome is so sleek. Love.”

No matter what color, look, or style she wears, Tracee is always going to get us talking and we love her for that!


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Does Cracking Your Knuckles Give You Arthritis?


I don’t remember how old I was when I first heard someone say, “Don’t crack your knuckles! It’ll give you arthritis!” But I do know that ever since then, I’ve felt a weird pang of guilt any time I do it.

Although not everyone enjoys hearing it, there’s something so satisfying about that familiar cracking sound accompanied by the feeling of release in your fingers. As with eating lots of candy and other nice things in life, the notion that this habit isn’t particularly good for your health doesn’t feel inconceivable.

Still, is the whole “cracking your knuckles causes arthritis” thing even based in scientific fact? We asked doctors to weigh in.

What’s happening when you crack your knuckles?

“The sound produced by cracking knuckles [comes from] nitrogen bubbles in the synovial fluid that is found within the joints in the body,” said Dr. Jason Liebowitz, a rheumatology specialist in Rockaway, New Jersey. “Synovial fluid is a natural substance that helps lubricate the joints.”

Basically, synovial fluid allows for healthy movement and helps protect the cartilage from wear and tear. When you crack your knuckles, you create negative pressure, which leads to the generation of bubbles in the fluid.

While experts previously believed the cracking noise was the “pop” or collapse of bubbles, more recent research suggests the sound may actually stem from their formation.

“This phenomenon occurs primarily in small joints of the hands and facet joints in the spine ― responsible in part for ‘cracking your back,’” explained Dr. Robert G. Hylland, an assistant clinical professor at the Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Those people with looser joints can’t generate enough negative pressure to create bubbles, explaining why some people can’t crack their joints.”

You may have noticed that after you crack your knuckles, you can’t just immediately do it again and again. There’s a biological reason for that as well.

“It takes about 20 minutes for these cavities, or bubbles of vapor, to refill,” said Dr. Iziegbe Ehiorobo, a rheumatologist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Hence it might take that long before a knuckle can be cracked again.”

Does it cause arthritis?

“There is no evidence that ‘cracking knuckles’ is associated with the development of arthritis, thus it is not in any obvious way bad for one’s health,” Liebowitz noted.

Many studies over the years have failed to find any correlation between knuckle-cracking and arthritis ― an umbrella term for a number of conditions involving joint inflammation or damage. Ehiorobo pointed to a famous decadeslong experiment from Dr. Donald Unger as further proof that there’s no relationship between knuckle-cracking and arthritis.

“Donald Unger performed an experiment on himself to test the hypothesis that knuckle cracking increases the risk of arthritis,” he explained. “For over 50 years, he cracked the knuckles of his left hand at least twice a day and left those of the right hand for control. He then compared both hands at the end of the experiment and found that there was no arthritis in either hand. Also, there was no difference between the hands.”

Image Source via Getty Images

Although the medical community feels confident that the habit doesn’t increase your risk for arthritis, there’s less certainty around the origin of this widespread myth.

“How this common misconception got started is not clear, but I suspect the commonality of osteoarthritis in the hands as we age and the commonality of knuckle-cracking, along with the distinct noise thus created, were all factors,” Hylland said. “Given the annoying nature of the sound, I suspect parents were quick to use these observations to halt the behavior and, eventually, repetition through time solidified its justification.”

What about other health issues?

OK, so cracking your knuckles doesn’t cause arthritis. But is it bad for you in other ways?

“There is no evidence that the process of cracking knuckles can cause arthritis, but it can rarely damage the tendons that connect muscle to bones,” said Dr. Scott Zashin, a Dallas-based internist and rheumatologist.

Indeed, Harvard Health Publishing notes that there have been “occasional reports” of injuries related to “overly vigorous knuckle-cracking,” but emphasizes that these are extreme exceptions. A 1990 study also found knuckle-cracking might be linked to swollen hands and lower grip strength.

Still, these potential adverse affects seem to be extremely rare. The real concern may simply related to psychological aspects of the habit.

“There is no apparent damage caused by this activity save the annoyance it tends to provoke in people nearby,” Hylland said. “Many people feel a sense of relief, albeit short lived, after cracking their joints, suggesting that joint tightness may create some sense of discomfort for them. This cycle of tightening, cracking, tightening, etc. may promote the habit that some find difficult to break.”

And no medical experts are touting any health benefits to incessant knuckle-cracking.

“While it may be comforting for some people and used by others to deal with stressful situations, there is no evidence to suggest that it is good for the joints,” Ehiorobo said.

So what does cause arthritis?

Getting back to the myth that knuckle-cracking causes arthritis, a question still remains: What does cause arthritis?

“In terms of types of arthritis that do exist, the most common is osteoarthritis,” Liebowitz said. “Although it is more complex than a simple one-liner, osteoarthritis is, generally speaking, the narrowing of the joint space that results from loss of cartilage (such as articular cartilage lining the joint) and causes aches and pains, particularly with use or changes in weather.”

He added that there are many forms of arthritis, and they can be caused by autoimmune diseases (as with rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis), crystals depositing in a joint (as with uric acid crystals from gout), infections (like staphylococcal or Lyme disease), medications and other issues.

Some arthritis is hereditary and related to mutations in genes for collagen. However, genes alone aren’t the cause. There are many unknowns.

“A lot of things can cause arthritis ― genetics, your environment, your activity, so many things can impact the way our joints work,” said Dr. Nilanjana Bose, a rheumatologist at Lonestar Rheumatology in Houston. “There are a lot of variables that go into who develops symptomatic arthritis and who doesn’t.”

If you experience unusual joint pain, stiffness or swelling, seek medical attention and find out if arthritis might be the culprit.

“Anyone who has arthritic pain deserves an evaluation,” Bose said. “These days rheumatologists are available. That makes care a lot of more accessible. There are tools to help.”

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That’s It?! Atlanta Director Discusses The Series Finale That Was Never Intended to Be and Yet…Felt Entirely On Brand

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As the curtains close on the final season of the critically acclaimed and equally controversial show Atlanta, we say goodbye to the characters we’ve come to know and love, and the stories (or the lack of narrative entirely) that they leave behind. During a recent conversation with Vanity Fair, director Hiro Murai discussed the show’s ending, and whether or not we’ll ever hear Paper Boi spit another bar. We’ve gotta warn you though, this article does contain spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the season finale, spin the block on this post a little later.

The show starring creator and executive producer Donald Glover (Earn), Brian Tyree Henry (Alfred a.k.a. Paper Boi), Zazie Beetz (Earn’s girlfriend Van), and Lakeith Stanfield (Darius), gave us four seasons of absurdist creativity, social commentary, and storylines knee deep in Black southern culture. And while at times the show completely departed from plot lines focused on these characters, (as many episodes didn’t even feature its main cast), Atlanta’s finale brought the foursome together once more, a decision that Hiro Murai wasn’t initially a part of the plan.

The finale was not originally the finale, because in some ways it’s like a very normal Atlanta episode,” Murai told Vanity Fair. “And one of the writers said, ‘This has to be the last episode because it just seems perfectly thrown away—emotional and poignant but also ridiculous as the last episode of this four-season show.’ So there was never a plan for the final episode, we just kind of stumbled on it and realized that we already had one.”

So yeah, if you expected the finale to tie a pretty little bow on the Atlanta package, you might have found yourself a little deflated. In the episode, Darius visits a sensory deprivation spa in the city, and continues to emerge from the waters gasping for breath as if he’s woken abruptly from a dream, or has barely escaped death–it’s hard for one to tell. And according to Murai, that’s the whole point.

“Our show’s always been sort of obsessed with existential angst, you know?” the director continues. “So as ridiculous as the concept is, it’s also about: Does any of this mean anything in the long run? Is it all ephemeral, like a dream, or is this something that we can treasure and have it have meaning in our lives? I think that’s always been the balance of the show—to do something kind of silly and maybe semi-meaningful at the same time.”

While the viewer is perhaps happy to see all four characters together in the final scene, there’s not necessarily a heartfelt ending in the way that, say The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air wrapped with Will being left in LA as the rest of the family prepares to move out of state. Instead, the cast sits around a living room coffee table eating Popeyes after Earn, Van, and Paper Boi leave a new Black-owned sushi spot unsatisfied. The three eventually get up from the table to go smoke as Darius is left alone watching Judge Judy.

“…We won’t necessarily give you an emotionally satisfying ending,” Murai says. “But in the course of getting to the fourth season, Donald and I came to a place where—we kind of grew up in a way. We realized that we do care about these people and we want to see them end up in a place that feels satisfying.”

When asked about the possibility of there being a final final season, or a one off, Murai responded:

“We often joke that we’ll come back when we’re all 70. It’ll be called Atlanta: Lottie’s Revenge. If there’s a good story to tell, I think we’re all open to the idea of reopening the door. But it feels right to have this [finale] as a punctuation point.”


At ‘WrestleMania 37,’ Sasha Banks and Bianca Belair are embracing history Two African American women will compete in a one-on-one championship match for the first time at wrestling’s biggest event

Bianca Belair couldn’t contain her excitement. Standing in the ring across from WWE SmackDown women’s champion Sasha Banks, with a huge “WrestleMania” banner hovering above them, she felt a tremor run through her body.

Belair, the winner of this year’s women’s Royal Rumble match, was about to make a historic announcement during the Feb. 26 episode of WWE SmackDown.

“The finger that was pointing to the WrestleMania sign was shaking,” Belair said. “The hand that held the microphone was shaking. And I was [thinking], ‘Oh, God, I hope the TV is not picking up my hands shaking.’ ”

In front of a live TV audience, Belair declared her intentions to challenge Banks for her title at WrestleMania 37, uttering the words, “Sasha, it’s on.”

Fireworks exploded around the WrestleMania sign. But the celebration was just beginning. When the segment ended, Belair, whose real name is Bianca Blair Crawford, went back to the women’s locker room and found Banks crying. With the promotion of the match official, both could finally let all of their emotions out.

“Once that promo was official and it was over and the fireworks went off, I got to be Mercedes again,” said Banks, whose real name is Mercedes Varnado. “I got to be that 10-year-old kid being like, ‘Oh, my God! Are you potentially checking off the biggest check mark, goal, dream you’ve ever had in your whole life?’ And that is to main-event a WrestleMania.”

When Banks and Belair step into the ring at WrestleMania 37, a two-night event beginning Saturday, it will be the first time two African American women will compete in a one-on-one championship match at wrestling’s equivalent of the Super Bowl. No two Black male superstars have ever wrestled in a one-on-one world title match at WrestleMania.

“That’s how much this moment means to the both of us: I’m shaking, she’s crying,” Belair said. “I think that just speaks volumes, to be in that moment and have that real emotion coming out of both of us.”

Banks, a crossover star who made her acting debut in the second season of the Disney+ series The Mandalorian, said she was so overwhelmed by the moment she didn’t leave the arena until about 2 in the morning. She knows how hard they’ve worked to earn this spot.

“It’s because of the work and the talent behind it, and not just because of the color of my skin or anything else, and because of the workflow that Bianca and myself have put into this,” Banks said. “I can main-event, not just because I’m a woman or woman of color, but because I put in the work just like everybody else.”

Banks and Belair were inspired by the same female wrestlers on their journeys.

Banks and Belair have taken different paths to reach their historic WrestleMania match. Belair, a former gymnast and collegiate track and field athlete, had dreams of the Olympics before becoming a standout CrossFit competitor. After an untreatable condition forced her to quit CrossFit, she tried out for WWE in 2016 and fell in love with wrestling. Banks, on the other hand, found that love when she was 10 years old. She grew up watching Eddie Guerrero and wanted to become the female version of him.

Despite their unique roads to the world of professional wrestling, Banks and Belair were inspired by the same female wrestlers.

When Belair was training to become a wrestler, she would frequently watch old women’s matches and gravitated toward Jacqueline (real name Jacqueline Moore) and Jazz (real name Carlene Begnaud). Banks said she also saw herself in those two superstars, as they were the only two Black female wrestlers on the WWE roster in the early 2000s. Banks used to play as Jazz in the video game ECW Hardcore Revolution for Nintendo 64.

“Jacqueline and Jazz, I remember just how strong they were and how they picked up men, too,” Banks said. “I always remember Jacqueline versus Chavo Guerrero when she won the cruiserweight championship and I was like, ‘Oh, my God, maybe one day I can win the cruiserweight championship too! If she can do it, I can do it!’ ”

Jacqueline is still the only woman to win the WWE cruiserweight title. She was the first African American women’s champion and became the first African American woman to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2016.

Jazz, who is still actively wrestling and currently accepting bookings for her retirement tour, worked for WWE from 2001 to 2004 and was a two-time women’s champion. She recalls proposing for her and Jacqueline to form a tag team, an idea that unfortunately didn’t go anywhere.

“We had great chemistry, and I don’t believe there was anybody in there who could’ve went up against Jackie and I as a team,” said Jazz. “It would’ve been money.”

It wouldn’t be the last time WWE put its Black female superstars on the back burner.

After Jazz’s last championship reign ended in June 2003, no Black woman held a WWE title for seven years. In 2010, that streak ended when Alicia Fox (real name Victoria Crawford) became the first and only African American woman to win the WWE Divas Championship.

The only Black woman on the roster at the time, Fox inspired other wrestlers, including former dancer and cheerleader Naomi (real name Trinity Fatu), who signed a developmental deal with WWE in August 2009.

“When I went to my first show before I got signed, I saw Alicia perform, and that gave me all the motivation and inspiration that I needed,” Naomi recalled. “And validation that, OK, we got a sista in here, she’s killing it, she’s beautiful, she’s amazing, I know it’s possible. That’s what I felt when I saw Alicia. 

“And it’s funny because Bianca says that she had a similar experience when she saw me.”

Belair saw Naomi perform at a live event in Atlanta right before she got started with WWE in 2016.

“Seeing her in the ring, I was able to see myself and imagine myself being in the ring,” Belair said. “So she was representation for me before I even met her.”

So when Belair became the first African American woman and second person of African American descent to win the Royal Rumble match in January (the first being Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), her interaction with Naomi stood out above the abundance of congratulatory messages she received that night.

“I was just telling her, like, she’s put so much work into this business, especially as a Black female superstar, and I feel like I’m actually benefiting from a lot of the groundwork and the foundation that she’s laid,” Belair said. “So, I was happy but at the same time I was like, ‘I don’t know. I wish it was you, too.’ ”

Naomi’s response?

“Girl, shut up,” she said. “No, this is your moment, you deserve this. When you win, we all win.”

When Belair and Banks take the stage together at Wrestlemania 37, they’ll be paying tribute to those who came before them.

In the weeks following Belair officially choosing Banks as her WrestleMania 37 opponent, hashtags trended on Twitter from fans and from wrestlers, past and present, all campaigning for this historic match to receive top billing.

The two-night WrestleMania 37 has multiple matches being advertised as a “main event,” but in wrestling, it’s common knowledge that the last match of the night is the true headliner.

Banks and Belair’s match is scheduled for night one on Saturday, but they likely won’t find out whether they are closing out the show until the day of the event.

Whatever the outcome, history will be made that night.

“I think about our match, you have two alpha females, two alpha Black females that are in the ring, the representation,” Belair said. “Without us even touching or talking or opening our mouths, that’s already a moment right there. That’s history.”

Naomi, who cherishes her memory of winning the WWE SmackDown women’s title in her hometown of Orlando, Florida, at WrestleMania 33, believes the significance of Banks and Belair’s match will outweigh anything that came before it.

“This is 37 years in the making,” Naomi said. “These girls are going out there to do something that’s never been done before to inspire Black women and just women, period! These are the things that change the world, change wrestling, break stigmas and stereotypes, it’s these moments.”

Jazz said she’ll watch Banks and Belair’s match with her 12-year-old twin daughters, who are training to become wrestlers, and she expects that to be the only WrestleMania 37 match she watches. As a pioneer of women’s wrestling, she feels a sense of satisfaction, knowing how hard Black women have had to work in this industry to be on the cusp of this moment.

“Finally, we’re allowed to showcase what we have and who we are,” said Jazz, whom Belair frequently pays homage to by using some of her signature wrestling moves. “We’re authentic and we’re beautiful and we’re proud. … I really wish I could be there to celebrate with them because, man, I’m getting goose bumps now just talking about it.”

For Jazz, Jacqueline, Ethel Johnson, Fox, Naomi and all the women who came before, Banks and Belair want their match to be a showcase of gratitude, and to inspire all the women who will come after them.

“I hope it just means to them that their hard work and efforts didn’t get unnoticed,” Banks said through tears. “It’s because of everything that they did that I’m here now, and I thank them so much.”

Said Belair: “We’re representation for all the Black women that came before us and laid a foundation and all the groundwork before us. It’s us physically in the ring, but they are in this match right along with us. So I just want them to know that we’re paying tribute to them, we’re honoring them, we’re representing for them.

“I want people to know that when they see us, I want them to see them as well. Because without them, this wouldn’t be happening.”

Features — The Undefeated

The Real Deal’s roots run deep in Alabama For Crimson Tide pitcher Dylan Smith, family is the focus

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — “It’s really just intensified pink.”

Felecia Evans-Smith, a second-generation member of Alpha Kappa Alpha’s Gamma Mu Chapter, is describing with a big smile how she manages to wear the colors crimson and cream, complete with an elephant logo.

She crossed into her sorority at Alabama A&M University 25 years ago exactly, and still carries her pink and green AKA blanket to the ballpark on chilly nights. Just like on the Saturday before Easter, when she was seated next to her mother, who crossed 50 years ago exactly, and her grandmother who grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, rooting for the Barons in the Negro Leagues.

“We are like a sports family for women,” Evans-Smith said the following day at a Sunday brunch while some Alabama AKAs were celebrating themselves in their holiday best.

And they don’t care that they were in fact rocking the colors that most people associate with Delta Sigma Theta, a different member of the Divine Nine, who are not to be confused under any circumstances.

Why? Because they were there to root for Evans-Smith’s son: Dylan Smith, the mild-mannered, hard-throwing right-handed pitcher for the Alabama Crimson Tide, who started the day before.

Smith, who was drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 18th round in 2018, chose to play at Alabama, where his mom, grandma and great-grandma are often in the crowd, wearing their “D. Smith – 25” jerseys in both home and road colors. With, of course, their AKA blankets to keep warm.

“Whenever we started on this journey years ago, we’ve always had my mom, myself,” said Evans-Smith, who moved from Alabama to Houston with Dylan when he was a baby. “We go to mostly everything that Dylan does. He played a whole bunch of different sports. My grandmother used to come to Houston and spend many weeks with us and go to his tournaments. It’s kind of just like how we operate, you know, just support each other.”

We’re not just talking orange slices and pompoms here. Felecia knows the game. “They’re killing us with the changeup,” she notes at one point when a teammate goes down on strikes to end an inning. When a new Tennessee pitcher enters the game in relief, with a bit of an oddball delivery, she points it out. “Look at this dude’s motion. He finna C-walk if he strikes somebody out,” she joked, to the delight of the group.

Evans-Smith’s brother and nephew are there along with her best friend from Houston and their kids. It’s a complete family affair at the yard. Her energy is loud, smart and infectious. She made the TV broadcast several times while rooting for more people than her son, and the team overall.

That night, Smith’s pitch count got up early and he came out of the game in the fourth, instead of going his usual seven or eight. He wasn’t as bummed about his outing as much as he was upset that he couldn’t go longer to give the Tide’s much-used and banged-up bullpen some rest. That’s the kind of teammate he is. They lost to the Volunteers that night and eventually the series, too.

“If we’re fully healthy,” said Smith, “these are teams we beat.”

But he understands it’s part of the process.

One of the unfortunate things about not just racism, but more generally, lazy Americans, is that we operate our “narratives of need” for Black people along lines that almost always have to do with pain. If a Black family is trying to achieve in sports at the highest level, the general presumption is that they’re trying only to strike it rich, as if a love of the game isn’t enough to motivate success – or that the two are somehow mutually exclusive.

Reminder: Not all Black folks are broke. Or from the inner city.

So when Major League Baseball opened its second youth academy in Houston in 2010 – one of the facilities designed to connect the game to kids of color – it was hailed as a highly progressive and hands-on way of tackling a key problem that baseball finds with itself: access. But that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.

For the families whose kids were playing little league and excelling, the academy wasn’t a great option for a simple reason: It was too far away. Sure it was cool, but ultimately too much of a hassle. So some of the parents of Houston’s Missouri City Little League did what Black folks have been doing for years: They started their own team.

Hence, the Houston Monarchs were born in 2015. On this team, Smith found his extended family.

Started by parents and eventually headed up by Marquis Jonkins, a former college baseball player at Prairie View A&M who just plain loves the game, the Monarchs excelled almost immediately on the select travel circuit. But it was a whole new game for a lot of them, and not just the players.

“It kind of reminded me of myself when we grew up playing baseball,” Jonkins said. “They wasn’t really functioning at a level that I thought they could be at. So when I came aboard, I implemented some rule changes to make them a whole lot better. …

“I just got together and told the parents, ‘First things first, we’re going to look like a team.’ Make sure all the kids had the same cleats, all the bags, we’re gonna look neat. And then we’re going to work on the fundamentals of baseball and make sure they get it together. They started at 8. And I got them at 9. And I just told the parents, ‘Trust me, I can get these kids where they need to be.’ ”

In baseball, the experience of being on a team is a large part of the appeal. The ordered pairs of the game, the long but satisfying routine of ground balls, bullpen sessions, batting practice and shagging fly balls, is a process that gels players as both friends and competitors. It isn’t just all raw power and speed, it’s a lifestyle.

The Monarchs ended up winning a couple titles on that circuit, traveling the country and dominating their age group, a life win that few could have predicted.

“It’s one of my greatest accomplishments,” Jonkins said. “We took the kids to Myrtle Beach [South Carolina] for a week. We traveled to Beaumont [Texas]. We dealt with racism. We had incorporated unity and teamwork with them kids, to the point that they understood that’s just how life is set up for us. And that goes back to learning life skills. We can’t sit up here and complain. Because that’s what they want us to do. So let’s channel that energy, and let’s go win.

“Just traveling and seeing the kids pack their bags, hotels, they’re running around having fun, and that’s what it is. This is an experience that I knew would carry over to the next level.”

And that it did for many guys, particularly Smith.

Oftentimes in America’s pastime, Black kids with speed and range are immediately coached to the outfield, because scouting brains can’t fathom the notion of a player with the smarts to pitch or catch, or the repetitive patience required to hone one’s skill on the infield. Playing football, basketball, track and soccer, Smith wasn’t about to get pigeonholed.

A story told so many times, the politics of private school baseball didn’t work out so well. He switched to public school, but he was undersized for most of his career. Now, he’s tall enough to wave at fans over their booth dividers when they yell his name in public places.

Looking back on his first days at St. Pius X High School in Houston, before he landed at Stafford High School, he can only help but laugh.

“I was only 5-foot-2, maybe, uh, 95 pounds,” said Smith, who is now 6-foot-2. “But I could throw it.”

In the Deep South, folks take style very seriously. Whether it’s the frat boys wearing ties to SEC football games, or the pageant-type mindset of the Southern belle lifestyle, some folks really like to bring it on the threads front. Smith is no different. His Instagram rivals that of many pro athletes who think they’re doing something stylewise.

He learned it from his grandfather. The man who he called “Daddio” was impeccable to the nines, and his signature hats were a whole vibe. He passed in December 2020, but Smith continues his traditions today, and the kid with the wry smile is so nice with it he’s even got his coaches (and their families) getting on board, too.

But he had to prove it first.

“He showed up in January on that scrimmage day and just showed up to the stadium all decked out,” Alabama coach Brad Bohannon described of the origin story for the man they call D-Smoove on game days. “And we were kind of ribbing him like, ‘Hey, dude, you better bring it. If you’re going to swag out like that, like, you can’t go out there and pitch like crap.’ And he had an awesome outing that day, and it just kind of caught steam. Next thing you know, two weeks later, there’s four or five kids showed up [dressed up]. In fact, our first road trip to Arkansas, even I participated.”

The skinny kid from Texas has his whole college squad getting fresh on his throwing days, a far cry from him not making varsity at some private school because of coaching changes.

And Coach Bohannon didn’t do it halfway either.

“I did let my wife dress me,” Bohannon said with a hearty laugh.

College baseball is about as team-oriented as a team sport gets. The grind of the schedule, the relative dearth of scholarship opportunities on the whole and the still relatively low profile of the game means there isn’t a whole lot of room for prima donna behavior for the most part.

Smith, even with the big league-ready nickname (Real Deal), the great stuff on the mound and the support system, is very much about his business.

“My biggest thing was I needed to focus. My whole thing to be here is to get closer to my degree and develop as a player at a faster rate,” Smith explained.

He started as a computer engineering major, something he has a genuine interest in, but now majors in sports marketing with a minor in sports management. Of course, the rigors of college baseball just don’t allow the time – from a scheduling standpoint – to do both. You can’t practice during class.

“I couldn’t worry about all the extra stuff going on outside,” he said. “I mean, you gotta stay focused to your goals. If I’m here for baseball, that’s what I’m focused on.”

His grandmother is also holding him down, beyond her attendance at every home game, including weekday matchups.

How? Exactly how you’d expect. Cooking him what he likes. Just saying the words “beef tips and rice” lights up Smith’s face. When he was trying to gain weight after arriving on campus, she’d bring him food from time to time. After a while, he had to up the requests, because who isn’t trying to eat as much of grandma’s food as possible, and he legitimately needed to consume the calories. Wilhelmina Evans gets it done in the kitchen.

“Like this past week, I brought in some. It was the middle of the week. But, then since it’s the weekend, he called me and told me to bring some more,” Evans, 70, said with the exact kind of welcoming voice you would expect of a woman with her grace and experience. “Sometimes he likes fried pork chops, but sometimes grilled. He loves chili when it’s cold out. He likes greens, he likes candied yams. Fresh ones. I don’t do the canned stuff.”

Alabama’s Dylan Smith in the dugout on game day.

Alabama Athletics Photography

Back in Houston, they’re focused on him. His age group of guys from the Monarchs is still tight. So much so that coach threw a party for him at a public establishment to watch Smith pitch.

“I mean, we all became best friends,” Smith said with pride. “We all treat each other like brothers. You know, we all had each other’s backs, no matter any situation, we had each other’s backs. And now we still have the same backs today.”

So much so that Coach Jonkins made flyers. And folks showed up. Even people who didn’t know they’d be watching the Real Deal pitch that evening found out as well.

“Man, we had a good time watching that game,” Jonkins said. “The highlight was of course when we looked up on TV and saw Felecia and them jumping up and down when he struck the kid out. It was just amazing, to see that. People came in there because of course they had the Final Four on, but said, ‘Hey, what y’all watching?’ I said, ‘I used to coach that kid!’ And people just started gathering around watching too, because you see a Black kid pitching and you’re like, wow. And he’s from Houston? It was a good day, man.”

For Evans-Smith, this journey isn’t close to over. She travels to games from Houston and keeps up with the majors too, because her son will likely be there soon. They basically did all of this in the proverbial dark, because the systems of development that were so clearly available to so many other people just weren’t on their radar. Smith had a chance to go to the Dream Series, sponsored by MLB’s Breakthrough Series program, but didn’t even know what it was. And who could blame them? Nobody told them. That’s why she’s still active to this day on a private Facebook group where members discuss all matters of the game from fundamentals to culture. Each one teach one.

Ultimately, her boy went home to Alabama and he’s growing with his family, just an hour away from the town that built them. Alabama, while still very much Alabama, isn’t necessarily a place of constant fear or consternation. It’s where they grew up.

“We’re coming from an educational background, you know, in our family, we believe in having an education,” Evans-Smith, 44, noted. “I do believe that Dylan needed the maturity. It’s great to get drafted, but sometimes you need to make sure that your kid is balanced to go into that type of situation with a bunch of grown men.” 

His team sees it, too. “Dylan deserves all the credit, man, he is the one that’s put in the work and he’s the one that stood out performing,” Bohannon said. “He’s had a great season to this point and I think his best baseball is still way ahead of him.”

That trip to Houston that Coach Bohannon made, a relatively abnormal instance because of baseball recruiting rules, to look Evans-Smith in the face and tell her that her son would be well-coached and well taken care of considering he was passing up actual money to play pro ball to come to Tuscaloosa, was worth it for everyone.

“They always been there since day one for me. The women in my family always are behind me,” said Smith, who is starting Saturday on the road against Texas A&M (on SECN+). “To be honest, I was kind of sad, you know, at a time, you know, I was like, ‘Man, I wish I would’ve did it [gone pro].’ But at the same time, I can see everything’s paying off how I wanted to. I’m starting to come into my own. I’m starting to become better from a standpoint on the field, off the field. Everything has matured. From my development of this game to the classroom, everything’s become way better than what I used to be.”

The pandemic didn’t rattle Smith. It might have paused the one thing he’d been working his whole life for, but that’s exactly why, just like in his days as a Houston Monarch, he stuck to the fundamentals of life and kept building.

“The turning point for me with him, honestly, was the COVID situation,” Evans-Smith said. “Even though a lot of people would give it as a negative deal, it was the time for us to kind of reset our lives. He reset and he came back better. So at the end of the day, I don’t regret anything. And, I like the University of Alabama. It’s been good to us.”

Sounds like a pretty sweet place to call home.

Features — The Undefeated

Don Lemon Slams Tucker Carlson: ‘Mainstreaming Of White Supremacist Propaganda’


CNN’s Don Lemon joined the avalanche of criticism being leveled at Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on Friday night, slamming Carlson for “the mainstreaming of white supremacist propaganda” on his widely watched show.

Lemon said the point of Carlson’s rhetoric was “to fuel up the audience with a false sense of grievance, outrage to justify voter suppression based on anger and fear and lies and insecurity and racism.”

“You don’t have to do that,” the “CNN Tonight” anchor continued. “You can win more votes in this country when you have better ideas and a better message unless you can harness hate and use your power to suppress others.”

But there’s “zero chance of that,” he lamented. “Not from the network that promoted the big lie of nonexistent voter fraud.”

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