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Thursday, October 30, 2014

#ThrowbackThursday: My Conversation with the Fearless Aubrey O'Day

by Cyrus Webb

This week's Throwback Thursday profiles an amazing individual who continues to push the boundaries, redefining herself again and again.

In spite of the difficulties and challenges they face some people just seemed destined for greatness. Aubrey O'Day is one of those people.

You have gotten to know her from the hit MTV show Making the Band and the chart-topping group Danity Kane, but she is also a star on Broadway and her own reality show (All About Aubrey) as well as a contestant on the hit show Celebrity Apprentice. No matter what she does it would appear that Ms. O'Day is living her life out loud and enjoying the benefits of doing so.

Last year she not only released her debut solo project Between Two Evils but confirmed the return of Danity Kane, both to the excitement of her fans. As we know this year the group decided to part ways once again, but not before completing the album DK3 that was released this week, taking over the charts shortly after doing so.

During my conversation with Aubrey shortly before her album was released last year we chatted about music, her fans and what inspired her. It was a motivational conversation that individuals of all walks of life can benefit from.

"I never underestimate my fans," Aubrey said to me when discussing her own #1 album BETWEEN TWO EVILS. "They're pretty amazing. I have a group called the Aubtourage who are always there at a moment's notice. They have become my lifeline. She added. "It's been great to see how much they reward everything that I'm a part of. I've been on tv and on stage but I've been gone from music for so long... To have the album go number one is a feeling I can't explain."

The project BETWEEN TWO EVILS is a personal reflection of the artist and her journey through hurt. "It came from a painful breakup that left me in a low place," Aubrey explains. "Nothing was getting me through it except the studio. I got to a place where I could say something honest. I hope this really becomes a mechanism for people to heal themselves as it was for me."

The honesty in which Aubrey writes is not new, and it is obviously part of the appeal she has with her fans. They like her realness. "I have always had a pretty distinct, fearless voice," she told me. "I'm someone you either love or love to hate. I've never been an in-between person. Sometimes I get to a place where I have regrets and think if I wasn't so opinionated I'd have more support across the board, but that wouldn't be me. I am who I am. As I have gotten older I've become more proud of that and less willing to make excuses for it."

Listening to her explain the way she sees herself I asked Aubrey about what she sees as her purpose in life. The answer was surprising for me. "I think that over being a singer, actress or tv personality the one thing that I have always wanted to be is a person that touches as many lives as I can before I die. The only way you can do that is by being honest."

Honesty is at the core of not just Aubrey's album but her daily walk as well. "Whenever you are honest to who you are you always win in life," she told me. "Whether it's the way you thought or something more brilliant than what you expected. Having your own authentic voice is key."

With stand-out tracks like LOVE ME WHEN YOU LEAVE, HURTS SO GOOD and LET ME LAY, Between Two Evils is sure to resonate on some level with all that hear it. Aubrey told me that there are two things they want her fans to get from the album. "First I want anybody that is in that low place to know they can get out of it. They need to know that there are people that are examples of that. I also want to know that all the bad nights I had weren't in vain. There was a purpose behind all of them. Secondly I want my fans to have new respect for me as a music artist."

She describes Between Two Evils as "lyrically brilliant music" that is her ministry, defining her soul. As Aubrey O'Day says all life's triumphs come from struggles. If you can go through the struggle and grow stronger because of it there is nothing that will be impossible.

Stay in touch with all things Aubrey on Twitter at www.twitter.com/AubreyODay. The new album by Danity Kane DK3 is available on Amazon here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

REVIEW: Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story by Rick Bragg

by Cyrus Webb

When you reach a certain comfort level with someone you are willing to tell them things you wouldn't share with just anyone. That's because you wouldn't let your guard down to someone you weren't sure had your best interest at heart.

In JERRY LEE LEWIS: His Own Story Pulitzer Prize winning author Rick Bragg definitely had the trust of Mr. Lewis because he allowed him to see and the very essence of who he is not just as an entertainer but a man---and we as readers are all better off because of it.

Lewis once told Bragg that he "had been lucky at everything, except life", but I think once you begin this book you will see that blessed more aptly describes the live that Lewis has lived, and it began at an early on. You see, Lewis knew that he had been given something special when it came to music. In the book we learn that while the world was experiencing war, Lewis realized that "his own world was just too small". He had to make a move, and by 1943 music was really his everything.

He started to actually visual success, though he didn't call it that or even know it to be that, and he shared those thoughts with one of the women that would later become his girl. There was so much I learned about Lewis in this book that I had never known. I never knew how his beginnings impacted the man he would grow to be. I never thought about the responsibility of being called the King by Elvis himself, and then living up to that. And then there was his private life that would become public, long before the 24-hour news cycle and the internet---and how he railed against it. Bragg writes this: "He really believed there were things in life that were the world's business and things that were his business, like the things that happened between a man and his wife. He believed it."

Experiences would teach him, however, that that was not the case. That no matter how much he achieved there would always be things that would create barriers that he would have to overcome---and he did overcome them, becoming wise and more seasoned along the way.

A true testament to what is possible captured by a writer that knows the possibilities of the human spirit, this book is sure to inspire you to keep on keeping on as long as you can.

JERRY LEE LEWIS: His Own Story is available now on Amazon. Get it for yourself here.



Check Out Entertainment Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Cyrus Webb Presents on BlogTalkRadio


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Celebrating International Bestselling author Andrew Neiderman

by Cyrus Webb

I have been a fan of Andrew Neiderman's work since I read THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE. After that I began to search for other books by the talented author that I also devoured and had to share with others.
The thing about Neiderman is that he is able to make you a part of the story like few authors are able to do. He brings you inside the pages, becoming the characters and facing the world as they have to do. Many also know him as the ghostwriter behind the V. C. Andrews series. Over the past 7 years I have been privileged enough to interview the busy author 7 times now* (see links to some of the radio interviews below), and each time he is not just engaging but truly appreciative of the success he has had.

I asked him back in 2006 how he deals with the competitive nature of the publishing industry. He answered with this: "You don’t compete in the sense of an athlete, but you keep up with what is selling and you study what it is that makes other authors and their works successful. You can’t change who you are, but you grow and develop and hone your skill and talent along the way. Write true stories, only stories that you have a passion to write, and you’ll succeed, for yourself at least."

When I asked him about the success of the V. C. Andrews franchise, this is what Neiderman had to say: Many, many writers have tried to imitate V.C. Andrews. They have not succeeded because there is a magic formula. V.C. Andrews captures the hearts of young people especially because the works address their needs, thoughts and fantasies. But the style and the stories are characterized by elements of so many genres it’s difficult to copy. It’s like trying to cook your grandmother’s special stuffed cabbage. She had the same ingredients but mixed them in her own special way that no one else had or has and so it remains one of a kind. It’s this mixture, this addressing real issues and problems and putting them in the V.C. Characters and settings that makes it lasting."

With the new book CHRISTOPHER'S DIARY: Secrets of Foxworth being released on Tues. Oct. 28th, I thought I would celebrate Neiderman and his contribution to the literary world by sharing my top 5 books by the author.

  1. The Devil's Advocate
  2. The Magic Bullet
  3. Unholy Birth
  4. Guardian Angel
  5. In Double Jeopardy
New to Andrew Neiderman? Visit his author page on Amazon here

To all those out there wondering if you should pursue your own goals and dreams, Neiderman shared this story with me: "When I was a teacher, I directed school plays and after a particularly successful one, a student came up to me and asked me if she should be an actress. I said, 'NO,' and she nearly cried. 'Why not?' she asked. 'Because you asked the wrong question,' I told her. 'What is the right question?' she asked. 'The right question,' I said, 'is Mr. Neiderman, I want to be an actress. What do I do next?' The point is so many people have talent but not the determination or the perseverance. You cannot reach your goals without it and that’s why I often say, It’s 40 percent talent and 60 percent perseverance. Prepare for rejection and defeat but if it’s in you to succeed, you will. Simple as that." 

Listen to past conversations with Andrew Neiderman here:




Thursday, October 23, 2014

Actress Nikki Soohoo puts a new face on the issue of immigration in ANNIE UNDOCUMENTED

by Cyrus Webb

"I love attacking my fears. It empowers you. It's your own mind that is keeping you from accomplishing something. Once you actually accomplish it you feel like you can take over the world." ~ actress Nikki Soohoo 

Neale Donald Walsch said that "Life begins at the end of your comfort zone," and for actress Nikki Soohoo this has proved true again and again in her career.

Many got to know the talented creative from the movies THE LOVELY BONES and BRING IT ON: Fight to the Finish.  No matter where you have seen her, however, her personality always seems to come through both in front of and outside of the camera.

In her newest project ANNIE UNDOCUMENTED that premiered online October 22nd we see Nikki pushing herself once more. It's a web series where she plays Annie, a teenager who discovers she’s not a legal American citizen. While so much has been said about the issue of immigration, Annie's character puts a face to the discussion, making the issue more real for all of us. (The series also stars Connor Well, Brianna Hildebrand, Bridger Zadina and Devyn Smith.)

It is roles like this that Nikki loves. She told me recently that this is one of the things she loves the most about being an actress. "You have a huge audience that is able to see you and get to know you and be a part of your life," she says. "I love being able to talk to my fans, connect with them and help them reach their full potential."

Before acting Nikki was a student of dance. It was in high school that she started acting and saw it as "another avenue of expression."

ANNIE UNDOCUMENTED draws you in from the very beginning, using technology to connect the character Annie with her friends and life, The series' first two episodes also chronicles how difficult it can be for those who live in fear of their secret coming out---and what those who love them are willing to do in order to help.

Once again this goes right in line with what Nikki told me she hopes she's able to do for her fans. "I love being able to inspire people to do something in their lives," she says. "I think anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it, work hard and believe in themselves."

Though she can't personally relate to the situation her character Annie finds herself in, Nikki brings the best of herself to the role, making you feel as though Annie's challenges are your own. Nikki says she gets that drive to do her best from her parents. "They told me growing up it doesn't matter what you do, just do it well. If you love it and put your heart into it you'll never fail."

Created by Daniel Hsia and Elaine Low, ANNIE UNDOCUMENTED is sure to become a conversation piece for individuals of all ages, especially young people who are seeing the debate over immigration play out in front of them--maybe even with someone that they know. (Watch the part one of the series below)



Stay connected with Nikki at www.nikkisoohoo.com, on Twitter at @NikkiSoohoo and on Facebook and Instagram under her name.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Leeza Gibbons: Changing the World by Embracing the Power of Now

by Cyrus Webb

Over the years one of the greatest blessings I have received in my life is receiving the gift of today. It allows me to remember that although yesterday wasn't perfect my life is not over as long as I have breath in my body. Though it poses a great opportunity, what a waste it would be to use it repeating the mistakes and choices that we have already made.

One of the books that I read last year that really brought this point home was TAKE 2 by pop-culture icon Leeza Gibbons. Known for her contagious optimism and skills as a media personality, the book takes you into the makings of the woman she is today and allows the reader to see how where they are right now doesn't have to determine where they go.

It was my pleasure to have a conversation with her not just about the book but her own lessons learned along her incredible journey.

What has been the secret to her success? "I think in life we get exactly what we are willing to put up with," she told me. "If you don't respect yourself, then you can't expect anyone else to honor who you want to be in the world. We teach people how to treat us. You have to value who you are."

To this point she says in Take 2, "Surviving and even thriving through change depends on your ability to search out the good and work with what you have. How well you do that depends on how you view shifts in your life. (p.23)"

This reminds us that anything worth having is going to require some work on our part. "Whether you are trying to recreate your life or invent a new product you have to drop the dread and you have to banish the blame," says Leeza. In the book she refers to it as a form of rebooting. "That's the biggest option we have," she told me. "It comes down to thinking." She gave examples of individuals who were all great at their professions. "The one thing they all have in common is they know how to think. When you change the way you think everything else in your life will adapt."

What Leeza shared reminded me of what she wrote in Take 2 in the chapter Ask Yourself: Are You Worth It? The section was called "Who Do You Think You Are?, and she began it with this profound statement: "How we see ourselves is exactly who we'll become." This has a great deal to do with the story we tell ourselves about ourselves.

"You do have to have a real sense of who you are and a real foundation," Leeza said to me. "You have to run your own race and don't worry about what others are doing." She then shared something that I hadn't thought about before, having a mission statement for your life. "Take some time to really write down what you want and who you are," she urged. "We do it in business, and we should do the same for ourselves." Our mission statement should include how you interact with the world and how you want the world to see you. By doing this Leeza says we will then know who you are and where your lines in the sand are."

It's obvious that someone like Leeza is setting an example for men and women alike when it comes to the course she is on. I asked her what it was like to know that she was an inspiration to others. "I think that when we are of service then we really do feel productive and proud," she answered. It was then that she shared that she went back and forth about writing Take 2 and if she really had something to say that others would be able to glean from. "I finally got to the place where I said how I am received is not my work. My work is to embrace it and put it out there." It is that realization that has not just made the book a reality but put its message out in the world for others to take in.

Writing Take 2 wasn't about saying everything for her was perfect. It was more about showing a path and focusing on a way to a better way of looking at life. "Where we put our intention and attention is where things go," Leeza says. "Where focus goes energy flows." This is important to keep in mind even when we make mistakes. "If you never fail then you're not taking enough risks in your life. All successes are built on failures." Leeza says we cheat ourselves by not starting anything simply because of the fear of failure. For her it is better to try and fail and then build on that failure moving forward.

A great deal of what has helped Leeza in moving forward is the realization that she is not the source of all the answers. In the chapter Let Your Spirit Soar she discusses prayer and it's role in her life. "Anytime I need to feel connection and to recognize that there a greater power at play in my life, I pray. Often I ask for strength and wisdom and to have an open mind to recognize God's messages to me. I think so often we pray for something, but we don't like the response, so we deny it. I pray that I will accept the reply and recognize that no is an answer, too. (p.174)"

"Perspective is a beautiful thing," Leeza said as we wrapped up our time together. "It's about learning to be in gracious acceptance. Real strength comes from knowing your limits.  Be quiet and allow answers to come in." This definitely requires a bit of faith on our part. "We can only know so much," she says. "People who are happy don't see the top of the staircase, but they keep climbing anyway."

As Leeza relays in the book "This is your moment... Don't wait for some far-off time when the alarm will ring and you'll suddenly know to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight." All of us can begin walking towards that spotlight right now. It all begins with the choice to do so.

TAKE 2 is available right now in print,electronic form and as a audiobook on Amazon. You can stay in touch with Leeza at her website www.leezagibbons.com and through social media at www.facebook.com/officialleezagibbons and www.twitter.com/leezagibbons.

Yvonne Pierre: Walking Through Fear By Faith to Recognize Those with Down Syndrome

by Cyrus Webb

Many of us are aware of October being recognized for Breast Cancer Awareness month, but how many know it is also the month for Down Syndrome Awareness as well?

For writer/director/radio personality and mother of two Yvonne Pierre this is something she recognizes not just in October but year round. Her son Zyon has Down Syndrome, and through her own journey she has not just been able to discover more about what's important in life for herself but others as well. Because of this she has created The Rise Awards, an opportunity to spotlight and recognize those with Down Syndrome that are doing amazing things.

"One of the things that I learned early on was to tell my story and things I've overcome," she shared with me recently. "Having a child with Down Syndrome has opened my eyes to wanting more and redefining what life and the meaning of purpose is. Being a mom has made me look at life differently."

As an individual in the public Yvonne has addressed the issue of fear in her professional life and the effects it can have on us all. "It is about realizing that it's much bigger than me," she says. "It's a human thing to fear. For some it stops them, but I focus on the bigger picture. I think the fear bothers me most when I focus on me. I have to focus on the substance of what it is I'm doing."

She sees The Rise Awards as a thank you for the examples that individuals with Down Syndrome are being for all of us. "It's acknowledging and letting the world see them and see their stories. There's a huge misconception of what people with Down Syndrome are able to accomplish. A lot of people told me what my own son couldn't accomplish and what he'll never do. I came across these powerful stories of individuals with Down Syndrome doing great things. We often measure people's intellect based on their ability to read, but not being able to read doesn't define where you can go in life."

Yvonne says that those with Down Syndrome have talents that range from music, art, dance and so much more. "I want to show the different colors of Down Syndrome and not the perception."

This year's Rise Awards will take place Friday, November 7, 2014 at the Porter Sanford III Performing Arts & Community Center (3181 Rainbow Dr, Decatur, GA 30034). This year's honorees are Bernadette Resha, Sean Sieleni, Sujeet Desai, Dhahran Hart, Gloria Huerta, Jr., Grace Carter, Haile King Rubie, Meagan Stacey and Olivia Brosseau.

For more information visit www.theriseawards.com.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Soul Train Award Nominee Sebastian Mikael: Living the Dream, Enjoying the Moment

by Cyrus Webb

Whether we realize it or now we all have been given amazing gifts. The challenge for us is to do what it takes to see those gifts nurtured. For recording artist and musician Sebastian Mikael it's not so much about recognizing the gifts he's been given. He is using them to their full potential everyday and the world is responding to his talent in a big way.

Originally from Sweden, Sebastian made the decision that if he was going to be able to take his gift all the way he had to make a change. That change led him to America in 2008 and just 3 years later he released his first mixtape called J'Adore.

With his video single "Beautiful Life", which debuted in September 2011, Sebastian was able to showcase his lyrical ability and the ability to bring people in through words. At the time we were going to press that video had over 150k views on Youtube alone. "My lyrical content is not always about love, but what we go through and feel in life,” he says. “I like to put hope in my music. Stuff that makes you feel good musically and lyrically.”

Fast forward two more years and his single "Last Night" featuring Wale has become one of the biggest singles of 2013, with the Youtube video grabbing over 530k in its first 3 months. (Just this month it was announced that the single was nominated for Soul Train Music Award Best Independent R&B/Soul Performance While he is enjoying it's success, Sebastian is not taking it for granted. "It's incredible to see how people are embracing the single. People are looking for something that's real, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share that with them. I've always been creative (painting,etc), but I think that doing music has always been a passion and something I enjoyed doing."

Now with the support of his label Slip-N-Slide he has taken to the road, sharing not just the music but the message that is his life: Nothing is impossible. "Whatever your passion is you have to do what it takes to pursue it," Sebastian told me. "It's definitely a blessing to be able to do this. All of the ups and downs that come in the industry...this is one of the amazing things about it. There's not a lot of people from Sweden coming here and doing what I'm able to do. Everything is possible. Nothing is impossible."

He's been spotted on BET, MTV, VH1 and Centric as well as visiting radio stations while he is on the road. This, coupled with the tour stops, has allowed individuals around the world to not just see his talent but to get a first-hand look at what it means to appreciate the gift.

Sebastian's message to his fans? "Thank you for the support. This couldn't be possible without you. I also want to tell you that when it comes to your own dreams it's a lot of hard work, and you have to really put in more than what's required. It's going to be worth it in the end. You just have to have faith and put in as much work as you can."

Listen to Sebastian's interview with Conversations LIVE at www.tinyurl.com/sebastianmikaelinterview. To stay abreast of all of Sebastian's upcoming projects visit his website www.sebastianmikael.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/sebastianmikael.

(Photo Credit: Faye Nightingale Photography)