Home » Entries posted by JOCELYN NOVECK AP National Writer

Study finds more racial diversity in LGBTQ film characters

Study finds more racial diversity in LGBTQ film characters

The year 2020 saw welcome growth in racial diversity of LBGTQ characters in films released by major studios, according to a new study by the advocacy group GLAADBy JOCELYN NOVECK AP National WriterJuly 15, 2021, 10:12 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNEW YORK — The year 2020 saw welcome growth in racial diversity of LBGTQ characters in films released by major studios, according to a new study by the advocacy group GLAAD. But for the fourth year in a row there were no transgender or non-binary characters in those films.The study, released Thursday, also found no LGBTQ characters in those films living with HIV, or with disabilities.GLAAD looked at 44 films released in theaters by major studios in 2020, a limited number due to the pandemic.Of those films, 10 (22.7%) contained LGBTQ characters. The films included “Kajillionaire,” “Like a Boss,” “The Broken Hearts Gallery,” “Fantasy Island,” “Valley Girl,” “Freaky,” “The New Mutants,” and “Birds of Prey.” It was an increase of 4.1% from the previous year, but a decrease of 12 films overall (last year’s study looked at 118 films.)GLAAD counted 20 LGBTQ characters in those films, a decrease from 50 in last year’s report (again, attributable to the reduced sample size of films released in 2020.) Of the 20 characters, 11 were women and 9 men, making this the first time GLAAD’s tracking found more women than men in those rolesEspecially concerning, GLAAD noted, was that for the fourth year in a row, there were zero transgender and/or non-binary characters counted. The group renewed its call for increased transgender and non-binary representation and storytelling, “especially in a political climate with anti-transgender legislation moving forward at a record pace.”The report came two days after Mj Rodriguez of TV’s “Pose” became the first transgender performer nominated for a major acting Emmy — a development hailed by GLAAD.A welcome finding was the increase in racial diversity of LGBTQ characters. Of the 20 characters counted, 40% (or eight) were characters of color, an increase of 6% from 2019 (though an overall decrease of nine characters). GLAAD noted that was still 17% lower than a record of 57 percent characters of color in 2017.GLAAD noted a a significant increase in screen time given LGBTQ characters in the major releases: Half (10 of 20) registered 10 minutes or more. But quantity didn’t necessarily mean better quality. “For example, ‘The Gentleman’ and ‘Buddy Games’ both registered more than 10 minutes but with characters that were stereotypical and which elicited negative reactions from many LGBTQ viewers,” the group said. “There remains a huge opportunity for meaningful LGBTQ storytelling.”Of the 20 LGBTQ characters, none were living with HIV and none with a disability. Since GLAAD began counting LGBTQ characters with disabilities in its 2020 report, it has tallied just one character, in a 2019 film.“In the past year, GLAAD challenged the TV industry to introduce new regular and recurring LGBTQ characters living with HIV in order to combat stigma,” the group said. “Now, GLAAD is similarly challenging Hollywood studios.”Organization President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis called the current moment “a critical time of transformation for Hollywood.”This transformation, she said, “represents a great opportunity to swiftly accelerate acceptance of LGBTQ stories, break new ground, and invest in queer and trans talent and stories that audiences are eager to watch. Hollywood and the business of storytelling must be more nimble, more creative, more open than ever before.”

Review: Doc explores Anthony Bourdain’s own ‘parts unknown’

Review: Doc explores Anthony Bourdain’s own ‘parts unknown’

When Anthony Bourdain wrote his darkly hilarious memoir “Kitchen Confidential” in 2000, he was an anonymous Manhattan chefBy JOCELYN NOVECK AP National WriterJuly 14, 2021, 9:39 PM• 5 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleThere are many startling moments in “Roadrunner,” Morgan Neville’s rich and moving documentary about the singular culinary storyteller Anthony Bourdain, who tragically took his life at the age of 61.Here’s just one that sticks out: a quick scene with a therapist, in Argentina. As Bourdain lies on her couch, cameras rolling for an episode of his show, he describes some frightening psychological urges he has. She asks him if he wants to change, and to feel differently. He replies: “I suspect it’s too late.”We never learn here why Bourdain wanted to film what seems a genuine therapy session. But it fits in perfectly with the portrait Neville paints of a man who couldn’t resist being anything but painfully honest, and painfully public, even when it took him down some dark paths.It’s also an example of just how much material Neville had to work with. Between Bourdain’s own recordings and voiceovers, copious footage — much never seen — from production of his TV travelogues, and countless home movies and photos, it comes to feel like Bourdain himself is narrating his life story. And it’s hard to shake the feeling he already knows what happens, especially when he quips early on: “Here’s a little pre-emptive truth-telling: there’s no happy ending.”Neville dispenses quickly with the early stuff — Bourdain dropping out of college, washing dishes in Cape Cod — even his years as chef at Manhattan’s Brasserie Les Halles. It really starts at age 44, when “Kitchen Confidential,” his wickedly funny memoir about the underbelly of the restaurant world, catapults him into stardom and a life as a globetrotting raconteur bold enough to swallow a still-beating cobra heart or a sheep’s testicle.The transformation is dizzying: People are shouting to Bourdain in the streets. He’s sitting down with Letterman, and with Oprah. They’re saying Brad Pitt wants to play him. “It was like he died and was reborn,” says his brother, Chris Bourdain.In footage from his various shows, which culminated with “Parts Unknown” on CNN, we accompany Bourdain to an idyllic lunch in Provence with chef-buddy Eric Ripert, or to Vietnam, where he guzzles that cobra heart. Or to Haiti, where an episode on local cuisine leads to a chaotic scene of hungry youths seeking food. In a 2006 episode of “No Reservations” shot in Beirut, violence flares up between Israel and Hezbollah, and the crew is left to lounge by a pool for days while conflict rages. “I had begun to believe the dinner table was the great leveler,” Bourdain says. “Now I’m not so sure.”A casualty of Bourdain’s outsized fame is his first marriage. Nancy Putkoski doesn’t speak to Neville, but Bourdain’s second wife does — Ottavia Busia, with whom he shared a daughter. Her tearful regret at not having kept a closer eye on him once their marriage was over is one of the more moving moments of the film, as is the frank commentary — loving, sad and angry all at once — from celebrity chef David Chang. The tears flow copiously in this film, a credit to Neville’s vibrant filmmaking. Chang also has one of the catchiest lines about his friend: “It was almost never about food. It was about Tony learning to be a better person.”The first two-thirds are fittingly exhilarating. It’s hard not to be jealous of a man who freely admitted he had the best job in the world: “If I’m not happy, it’s a failure of imagination,” he once told The New Yorker magazine.But if imagination was all it took to be happy, this film makes clear, Bourdain would likely be with us today.The final act of “Roadrunner” is infused with a feeling of dread. Bourdain had become involved with Italian actor Asia Argento, a key accuser of Harvey Weinstein. She directed an episode of his “Parts Unknown” in Hong Kong, and we literally watch Bourdain falling in love. We also hear how devastated he was when a tabloid published pictures of her with another man, shortly before his death during filming in eastern France.It’s clear that some of Bourdain’s co-workers felt the relationship with Argento sent Bourdain into a tailspin that led to his death — even though one of them points out, rightly of course, that “Tony did this.” It’s unfortunate that the film does not include Argento’s own voice here.But one cannot fault “Roadrunner” for not coming up with clear answers. There rarely are clear answers, anyway, and this film seems to want to be about a life, not a death. A fascinating life, parts of which will forever remain unknown.“Roadrunner,” a Focus Features release, has been rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America “for language throughout.” Running time: 118 minutes. Three stars out of four.———MPAA definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires parent or adult guardian.

Feeling seen: Mj Rodriguez on historic Emmy nod for ‘Pose’

Feeling seen: Mj Rodriguez on historic Emmy nod for ‘Pose’

Mj Rodriguez didn’t just win her first Emmy nominationBy JOCELYN NOVECK AP National WriterJuly 13, 2021, 9:37 PM• 4 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleLearning of her historic Emmy nomination, Mj Rodriguez of “Pose” had one overwhelming feeling: “I felt so seen.”“I felt represented and I felt seen,” said Rodriguez, who scored the first major acting Emmy nod for a trans performer. “And … more accepted than I have felt in a long time. I felt like my colleagues now see me, my acting colleagues see me, and the people who are surrounded by the arts see me, and how much I want to give the world the love to my craft and my art.”The nom for Rodriguez, who plays house mother and nurse Blanca in the FX show about ballroom culture in the 1980s and ’90s that recently ended its third and final season, was one of several nods for the show, including best actor for Billy Porter and best drama. The series from Steven Canals and Ryan Murphy broke ground with the casting of transgender actors as trans characters.Rodriguez, 30, spoke in an interview on Zoom Tuesday from Cannes, France, where she’s attending the film festival. It had been a long night: She hadn’t been able to sleep, in anticipation. “I had a lot looming through my mind,” she said. “I was up until 8 o’clock in the morning.”When the news came, “My mom and my godmother (were) sitting at the dining table. And the moment my name was announced, I just screamed and I broke. And my mom grabbed me. She kind of like flung me around. I gave her a hug. She swung me around a little bit. And I just remember falling into my boyfriend’s arms and just crying. Tears of joy, tears of happiness.”Rodriguez and her family were not alone in their joy or recognition of the enormity of the moment. Sarah Kate Ellis of GLAAD, the LGBTQ+ organization, called her nomination “a breakthrough for transgender women in Hollywood, and a long-overdue recognition for her groundbreaking performance over the past three seasons of ‘Pose’” — a show that, Ellis said, “undoubtedly raised the bar for trans representation on television and changed the way viewers around the world understand the trans community.”The group had joined with dozens of other organizations in an open letter urging Emmy voters to show their support for the show and especially for its transgender and nonbinary actors.Rodriguez said she was grateful to know “that we are finally being seen the way we need to be seen, and that our stories can now be seen as human stories. It just opens the diaspora, opens everything even more. There are limitless amounts of stories that can now be told, simply because of this happening.”She said she was specifically thinking of young people, “who can look to us and see that we are human and that we have so much to offer and that we can be looked up to and that there are dreams that are obtainable, because we can make them happen.”Of her fellow castmates and crew members, she said, “We gave as a team. I always say teamwork makes the dream work, and that is exactly what we did. The family on that show is what we built.”Rodriguez is working on her next project, a comedy for Apple TV+ with Maya Rudolph, with a working title of “Loot.”“I just feel like the sky is limitless,” she said of her professional future. “I feel like there’s so much more opportunity out there. The world — it’s opened, and I can’t even express how happy I am to know that I’ll be able to be a part of more amazing pieces of work … and just put out good products. I know that’s what the future looks like.”

For top #MeToo legal duo, a pandemic year brings no pause

For top #MeToo legal duo, a pandemic year brings no pause

She’d just upended her life by going public with sexual harassment allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And Charlotte Bennett, a former aide to the governor, realized that Saturday night in February that she had no plan for what came next. She was 25 years old, and had never been in the media spotlight. How would she deal with the fallout, both publicly and personally?She didn’t have long to wonder. The next morning, an email arrived from Debra Katz, the same civil rights attorney who’d represented Christine Blasey Ford, accuser of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, along with accusers of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and countless other powerful men accused of sexual misconduct, most of it along with her professional partner of 20 years, Lisa Banks.“How are you holding up?” Katz asked Bennett when they connected. Did she have support or advice? Not really, Bennett said.“This case is literally why I do this work,” Katz explained, assuring her she’d represent her on a pro bono basis. “It’s why I exist. Let’s do this.”For many people, the pandemic year has brought a pause of some kind, or at least a slowdown, to their professional endeavors. For Katz and Banks, the opposite has been true. “This is probably the biggest year we’ve ever had,” says Banks.Their work has actually been increasing for nearly four years. When the Harvey Weinstein revelations erupted in October 2017, launching the reckoning that became known as the #MeToo movement, it caused a “sea change,” Katz says.“We were inundated — not only by live cases but by cases of people who were harassed decades ago but wanted to report the issues now, because the person who harassed them was still in the same perch,” she says.Katz and Banks each carry several dozen active cases at a time — everything from informal advice to full-blown litigation. They consult each other constantly, beginning and ending each day with a conversation, and discussing cases during frequent hikes in Rock Creek Park. Banks notes they jokingly call themselves Batman and Robin — she’s Robin, because she’s a decade younger.It is, clients and associates say, an effective partnership — two very different personalities with shared goals.At the toughest moments, they’ve also shared death threats: During the Kavanaugh hearings, armed guards were posted 24-7 outside their homes and at work, and their cars were checked underneath for explosives. They each struggled to explain to their families, without scaring the kids, why security was necessary.Katz is known as the more fiery in temperament, Banks the cooler. Whistleblower Rick Bright, a federal scientist who was forced out of his job during a dispute over an unproven coronavirus treatment pushed by President Trump, says he immediately appreciated how their skills complement each other.“Debbie is more assertive — she’s a driver,” Bright says. “Lisa walks me through the process, fills me in on what’s happening each step of the way.” When he was anxious, it was Banks who would calm him.Katz freely admits she’s the more emotional of the two, who occasionally struggles not to cry when seeing one of her clients — Ford, for example, or the Weinstein accusers — grilled about traumatic experiences.Ford credits the duo with getting her through her gutting testimony in the Senate.“Debbie and Lisa worked tirelessly in the summer of 2018 to advise me and to try to protect my privacy and to maintain my confidentiality,” Ford wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “When circumstances changed and my story became public, they fought hard on my behalf.”However difficult, the case was “the most gratifying professional experience I’ve had in my career,” Katz says — even though Kavanaugh was eventually confirmed.“I think the world changed as a result of Christine’s testimony,” Katz explains. “Conversations took place that had never taken place … in homes and schools and synagogues and in churches.. We heard from an 80 year-old woman who said, ‘I have never told anybody this but when I was in high school I was raped.’ I think courage begets courage.”The two lawyers take comfort in the victories, and take the long view when it comes to setbacks for the movement. When Bill Cosby’s conviction was overturned and he was released from prison, many worried aloud that it would have a chilling effect on victims coming forward. Katz and Banks don’t see it that way, and reminded everyone that Cosby hadn’t been exonerated.“It’s always disappointing to see individuals like Cosby not held fully accountable,” Katz says. “But this is NOT a referendum on the #MeToo movement. And it won’t deter prosecutors from going after others when evidence indicates misconduct.”Though Katz is the better known, neither she nor Banks is a household name like, say, Gloria Allred, the subject of her own Netflix film. But they’ve been handling these cases since the beginnings of their careers, inspired to fight back against sexual harassment and unequal pay that they themselves experienced.“A take-charge activist … steeped in Washington and feminist rights,” Jodi Kantor and Meghan Twohey write of Katz in “She Said,” their book on Weinstein. She doesn’t dispute the term “activist,” noting she spent “many, many hours” protesting the Trump administration. “But my political activism is separate from my legal work,” she says.Katz, 62, started making waves as a law student at the University of Wisconsin in the early ’80s, where she left the Law Review to protest lack of diversity — there had never been a Black student on staff. (A student magazine profile called it a “noisy exit.”) She started a women’s law journal instead.Upon graduating, Katz won a fellowship that enabled her to work on a landmark sexual misconduct case: Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, in which the Supreme Court recognized sexual harassment as a category of discrimination protected by Title VII.In her earliest jobs, Katz became known as one of the hardest workers and someone unafraid to take on unpopular causes. “I was in my 20s, and someone in their 50s called me brash and obnoxious,” Katz says. “I guess I’ve been hardwired all these years at not letting people I care about be bullied. I’ve never been a table pounder, but I also don’t relinquish ground.”Bennett, the Cuomo accuser, says she feels Katz is driven by her outrage at “the very audacity of these people in power who do the things they do — and that we are the ones who have to live in fear.”Banks, 53, attended law school at the University of Denver and spent her early professional years in the appellate division of the EEOC. She joined Katz at her previous firm, and in 2006 the two broke off and formed their own Washington employment and whistleblower firm, Katz, Marshall & Banks, as Katz was recovering from breast cancer.One of Banks’ earliest inspirations came as a little girl, when, a huge baseball fan, she told her father she’d like to play for the Boston Red Sox one day — only to be informed there were no females on the team. “It struck me as so profoundly unfair and outrageous,” she said. “It really inspired me to think about sex discrimination.”It’s Banks who’s taken the lead on sports-related cases, for example representing accusers of NFL receiver Antonio Brown, who was dropped by the New England Patriots amid assault allegations. Banks has seen more mixed results after spending the past year representing 40 accusers of Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder in his sexual misconduct case. The recent NFL action against the team, fining it $10 million, was a mere “slap on the wrist,” says Banks. And yet, she says her clients don’t regret coming forward.“All the sports leagues are trying to deal with this new world we’re living in,” Banks says. “There’s at least an awareness that new rules apply.”Katz and Banks acknowledge there’s been a bit of a slowdown in momentum — partly due to the pandemic — as the #MeToo movement moves toward its fourth anniversary. But, they say, any social justice movement is going to have setbacks along the way.What is important now, Katz believes, is that society ”is finally asking the right questions.”“The dialogue has changed, from does this happen to WHY does this happen, why is this going on?” she says. “And what is wrong, structurally and with our society, that being harassed and groped and assaulted — at work or in other areas — is just a condition of being female?”

For top #MeToo legal duo, a pandemic year brings no pause

For top #MeToo legal duo, a pandemic year brings no pause

She’d just upended her life by going public with sexual harassment allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And Charlotte Bennett, a former aide to the governor, realized that Saturday night in February that she had no plan for what came next. She was 25 years old, and had never been in the media spotlight. How would she deal with the fallout, both publicly and personally?She didn’t have long to wonder. The next morning, an email arrived from Debra Katz, the same civil rights attorney who’d represented Christine Blasey Ford, accuser of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, along with accusers of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and countless other powerful men accused of sexual misconduct, most of it along with her professional partner of 20 years, Lisa Banks.“How are you holding up?” Katz asked Bennett when they connected. Did she have support or advice? Not really, Bennett said.“This case is literally why I do this work,” Katz explained, assuring her she’d represent her on a pro bono basis. “It’s why I exist. Let’s do this.”For many people, the pandemic year has brought a pause of some kind, or at least a slowdown, to their professional endeavors. For Katz and Banks, the opposite has been true. “This is probably the biggest year we’ve ever had,” says Banks.Their work has actually been increasing for nearly four years. When the Harvey Weinstein revelations erupted in October 2017, launching the reckoning that became known as the #MeToo movement, it caused a “sea change,” Katz says.“We were inundated — not only by live cases but by cases of people who were harassed decades ago but wanted to report the issues now, because the person who harassed them was still in the same perch,” she says.Katz and Banks each carry several dozen active cases at a time — everything from informal advice to full-blown litigation. They consult each other constantly, beginning and ending each day with a conversation, and discussing cases during frequent hikes in Rock Creek Park. Banks notes they jokingly call themselves Batman and Robin — she’s Robin, because she’s a decade younger.It is, clients and associates say, an effective partnership — two very different personalities with shared goals.At the toughest moments, they’ve also shared death threats: During the Kavanaugh hearings, armed guards were posted 24-7 outside their homes and at work, and their cars were checked underneath for explosives. They each struggled to explain to their families, without scaring the kids, why security was necessary.Katz is known as the more fiery in temperament, Banks the cooler. Whistleblower Rick Bright, a federal scientist who was forced out of his job during a dispute over an unproven coronavirus treatment pushed by President Trump, says he immediately appreciated how their skills complement each other.“Debbie is more assertive — she’s a driver,” Bright says. “Lisa walks me through the process, fills me in on what’s happening each step of the way.” When he was anxious, it was Banks who would calm him.Katz freely admits she’s the more emotional of the two, who occasionally struggles not to cry when seeing one of her clients — Ford, for example, or the Weinstein accusers — grilled about traumatic experiences.Ford credits the duo with getting her through her gutting testimony in the Senate.“Debbie and Lisa worked tirelessly in the summer of 2018 to advise me and to try to protect my privacy and to maintain my confidentiality,” Ford wrote in an email to The Associated Press. “When circumstances changed and my story became public, they fought hard on my behalf.”However difficult, the case was “the most gratifying professional experience I’ve had in my career,” Katz says — even though Kavanaugh was eventually confirmed.“I think the world changed as a result of Christine’s testimony,” Katz explains. “Conversations took place that had never taken place … in homes and schools and synagogues and in churches.. We heard from an 80 year-old woman who said, ‘I have never told anybody this but when I was in high school I was raped.’ I think courage begets courage.”The two lawyers take comfort in the victories, and take the long view when it comes to setbacks for the movement. When Bill Cosby’s conviction was overturned and he was released from prison, many worried aloud that it would have a chilling effect on victims coming forward. Katz and Banks don’t see it that way, and reminded everyone that Cosby hadn’t been exonerated.“It’s always disappointing to see individuals like Cosby not held fully accountable,” Katz says. “But this is NOT a referendum on the #MeToo movement. And it won’t deter prosecutors from going after others when evidence indicates misconduct.”Though Katz is the better known, neither she nor Banks is a household name like, say, Gloria Allred, the subject of her own Netflix film. But they’ve been handling these cases since the beginnings of their careers, inspired to fight back against sexual harassment and unequal pay that they themselves experienced.“A take-charge activist … steeped in Washington and feminist rights,” Jodi Kantor and Meghan Twohey write of Katz in “She Said,” their book on Weinstein. She doesn’t dispute the term “activist,” noting she spent “many, many hours” protesting the Trump administration. “But my political activism is separate from my legal work,” she says.Katz, 62, started making waves as a law student at the University of Wisconsin in the early ’80s, where she left the Law Review to protest lack of diversity — there had never been a Black student on staff. (A student magazine profile called it a “noisy exit.”) She started a women’s law journal instead.Upon graduating, Katz won a fellowship that enabled her to work on a landmark sexual misconduct case: Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, in which the Supreme Court recognized sexual harassment as a category of discrimination protected by Title VII.In her earliest jobs, Katz became known as one of the hardest workers and someone unafraid to take on unpopular causes. “I was in my 20s, and someone in their 50s called me brash and obnoxious,” Katz says. “I guess I’ve been hardwired all these years at not letting people I care about be bullied. I’ve never been a table pounder, but I also don’t relinquish ground.”Bennett, the Cuomo accuser, says she feels Katz is driven by her outrage at “the very audacity of these people in power who do the things they do — and that we are the ones who have to live in fear.”Banks, 53, attended law school at the University of Denver and spent her early professional years in the appellate division of the EEOC. She joined Katz at her previous firm, and in 2006 the two broke off and formed their own Washington employment and whistleblower firm, Katz, Marshall & Banks, as Katz was recovering from breast cancer.One of Banks’ earliest inspirations came as a little girl, when, a huge baseball fan, she told her father she’d like to play for the Boston Red Sox one day — only to be informed there were no females on the team. “It struck me as so profoundly unfair and outrageous,” she said. “It really inspired me to think about sex discrimination.”It’s Banks who’s taken the lead on sports-related cases, for example representing accusers of NFL receiver Antonio Brown, who was dropped by the New England Patriots amid assault allegations. Banks has seen more mixed results after spending the past year representing 40 accusers of Washington Football Team owner Dan Snyder in his sexual misconduct case. The recent NFL action against the team, fining it $10 million, was a mere “slap on the wrist,” says Banks. And yet, she says her clients don’t regret coming forward.“All the sports leagues are trying to deal with this new world we’re living in,” Banks says. “There’s at least an awareness that new rules apply.”Katz and Banks acknowledge there’s been a bit of a slowdown in momentum — partly due to the pandemic — as the #MeToo movement moves toward its fourth anniversary. But, they say, any social justice movement is going to have setbacks along the way.What is important now, Katz believes, is that society ”is finally asking the right questions.”“The dialogue has changed, from does this happen to WHY does this happen, why is this going on?” she says. “And what is wrong, structurally and with our society, that being harassed and groped and assaulted — at work or in other areas — is just a condition of being female?”

Pyer Moss wows with couture show honoring Black inventors

Pyer Moss wows with couture show honoring Black inventors

IRVINGTON, N.Y. — This time, the weather gods were smiling on Kerby Jean-Raymond and his label, Pyer Moss. So too were the fashion gods.Two days after torrential rains and lightning sent guests fleeing for cover and forced Jean-Raymond to postpone unveiling his hotly awaited first couture collection, the sun came out Saturday and the crowds came back. They were rewarded with a hugely imaginative, visually audacious show that blurred the lines between fashion and art as it paid tribute to the ingenuity of Black inventors often overlooked by history.And so, there was the peanut butter dress — literally, a huge, soft sculpted jar of the stuff. There was a stunning hot roller cape — which was what it sounds like, hot rollers from head to toe. There was an ice cream cone with chaps for the cone. There was an air-conditioning unit, an old-fashioned mobile phone, a kitchen mop.There was a pastel pink lampshade dress, with beaded fringes. There was a chess board, and a white metal folding chair, and a bottlecap — each costume a sophisticated work of sculpture. There was also a refrigerator with colorful letter magnets spelling out the phrase: “But who invented Black trauma?”There were also dancers, a rap musician, a string section, and a history lesson from Elaine Brown — activist, writer and a former leader in the Black Panther Party.Jean-Raymond, whose shows always entwine his ideas about fashion with those about culture, race and society, said in an interview after the show that his goal was “to highlight inventions by Black people and and show them in a nontraditional way,” involving 3D construction and sculpture.All Pyer Moss shows attract intense interest, but this show had even more buzz because Jean-Raymond was the first Black American designer invited by France’s Chambre Syndicale to show a collection during Paris Couture Week — the event was livestreamed, with officials in Paris extending the length of Couture Week to accommodate the rescheduled show.And the setting was deeply significant: Villa Lewaro, an early 20th-century mansion in leafy Irvington, N.Y., about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from New York City built by Madam C.J. Walker, the daughter of enslaved parents who became a hair-care magnate and a self-made millionaire.“Madam C.J. Walker’s wealth was more than money,” Jean-Raymond wrote in the show notes. “Black prosperity begins in the mind, in the spirit and in each other. She knew that no dollar amount could ever satisfy the price tag of freedom — that green sheets of paper & copper coins could never mend souls, heal hearts or undo the evil we’ve endured.”Chartered shuttle buses ferried guests from Manhattan and Brooklyn, and the rescheduled show Saturday included a contingent from the public, adding to the excitement in the air.It began with a speech by Brown, who gave a history lesson of sorts of the Black struggle for justice in America and asked the crowd, “Where do we go from here? Where does the freedom movement go from here?” She urged the crowd to look past differences and “get back on the freedom train.”Then came the dancers — men in white, who slowly shed their jackets and eventually their shirts as they accompanied rapper 22Gz performing several numbers, including “Sniper Gang Freestyle” and “King of NY,” while the models walked the circular runway.Jean-Raymond said he and his team had gone through an exacting and exhaustive process to meet the demands of a couture collection.“We went through rounds and rounds of design,” he said. “We started with a completely different concept. Then the team went out to Joshua Tree and did ayahuasca together. And then we came back with this concept.“So it wasn’t just couture in the traditional sense where were sewing up garments,” he said. “There was welding involved and and fiberglass molding. And we made shoes.”The hair curler outfit alone, he said, took months because “it was just people sitting there and curling real weaves onto hair rollers. You know, the bottle-cap took two months. Every time we made something, we we sat back, we thought, ‘How can we make it better?’ And every time the construction got more complicated.”Jean-Raymond was relieved to not have to contend with freak weather again on Saturday.“It’s been a long, long process to get this where we are right now,” he said. “But I’m very happy with the results and that the audience gave us a second chance, after that monsoon on Thursday almost wiped us out.”—-Associated Press video journalist Ted Shaffrey contributed to this report.

Whither #MeToo? Chilling effect of Cosby reversal feared

Whither #MeToo? Chilling effect of Cosby reversal feared

When Indira Henard, director of the DC Rape Crisis Center, received the text message Wednesday, she thought she wasn’t reading her phone correctly. “Indira oh my god,” said the message from a colleague. “Cosby’s walking out of prison.”“I put on the news and there it was, and my heart just dropped,” Henard said. “I thought about how all our survivors would be feeling.”During the afternoon, Henard says the center’s hotline was “off the hook, with survivors needing a place to process, and people asking, ‘What happened? I don’t understand. He got convicted. Why would they do this?’” The center held support sessions Wednesday evening and scheduled emergency sessions Thursday to deal with the news.When America watched Bill Cosby — once “America’s Dad” — go off to prison nearly three years ago, it was perhaps the most stunning development yet of the nascent #MeToo movement, which had emerged in late 2017 with allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein. Advocates and survivors of sexual assault hoped the movement would usher in an era of accountability for harassers and abusers — and in many ways, it did. Victims have been increasingly emboldened in recent years to seek justice, even for years-ago abuse, hoping their allegations would be taken more seriously.But on Wednesday, as the nation digested the equally stunning sight of Cosby released from prison, some worried it would have a chilling effect on survivors, who often don’t come forward because they don’t believe it will bring justice. And they wondered whether some of the movement’s momentum, already slowed by the pandemic, would be lost amid the feeling that another powerful man had gotten away with it — albeit on a technicality.“It’s been a hard day,” Henard said. “It’s a deeply painful moment — not just for survivors in the Cosby case who came forward at great personal risk, but for all survivors.”———This story includes discussion of sexual assault. If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.———For Tarana Burke, the prominent activist who gave the #MeToo movement its name, the first reaction to the Pennsylvania court’s decision was ”shock, definitely shock.”“And as the shock settled in and I started seeing some of the (social media) commentary coming in … we, folks who do this work across the field, started huddling together to talk about what our response would be,” Burke said in an interview. “It was just real concern for survivors. We’re going to have a hard time sleeping.”“The fact of the matter,” added Burke, herself a sexual assault survivor in her youth, “is we won’t see the ramifications of things like this for a while. People will look back and say, ‘I was sexually assaulted a week before the Cosby verdict was overturned. And the way that the backlash hit the Internet made me change my mind.’ We won’t hear those stories for a while. But those of us who have been through similar things — we know exactly how this hits and where it lands and what the consequences are, unfortunately.”RAINN, the anti-sexual violence organization, said its hotline calls were up 24 percent Wednesday from the previous week. “This is one of those times I really pray people will read beyond the headlines,” said Scott Berkowitz, executive director.“I think the country believes the victims,” Berkowitz said in an interview. What does worry him: “Many survivors choose not to report to police, and for those who do report it’s a hard decision because they know it’s going to be a long, difficult slog through the justice process. It only makes sense to put yourself through that if you believe that at the end, there’s a reasonable chance of getting justice.” He said RAINN would try to educate people that “the issue that let Bill Cosby out is not an issue that comes up in a normal case.”That’s the point that Lisa Banks — one of the nation’s most prominent attorneys in #MeToo issues with her partner, Debra Katz — sought to drive home. “The message has to be very clear and simple, that this was a mistake by prosecutors, a very unusual one and a technicality that is unlikely to happen again,” she said.She was referring to the decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that District Attorney Kevin Steele was obligated to stand by his predecessor’s promise not to charge the comedian, though there was no evidence that agreement was ever put in writing.“Sure, the optics of the first major conviction of the #MeToo era walking out of prison is devastating,” Banks said. “I don’t think that’s something many people are going to get past very easily. But I will say one thing that (Cosby accuser) Andrea Constand said when the verdict came down: ‘Truth prevails.’ I still think I did. And I don’t want people to get discouraged by this, although I know it’s going to be hard.”For activist Anita Hill, the word “technicality” wasn’t quite adequate to describe what she sees as a deeply flawed legal system stacked against survivors.The issue of the non-prosecution agreement was, Hill said in an interview, ”revealing in how hard it is for women to actively prove to prosecutors their claims should be heard in court by a jury.” She also found it troubling that the court had left open the question of whether the prosecution’s use of five additional accusers was improper, as Cosby had argued, “creating this other uncertainty.”“Uncertainty: that’s the thing that keeps people from coming forward,” said Hill, who famously came forward herself in 1991 with harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas in his Supreme Court confirmation hearing. “They just don’t know what’s going to happen. And you do know it’s going to be really brutal.”The general public, she said, likely won’t understand the complexities of why it happened: “There was a jury verdict. He was in jail. Now he’s not.”As for #MeToo: “it’s a work in progress,” said Hill, who now chairs the Hollywood Commission, which combats harassment in the entertainment industry. “Old systems are hard to change — they require a different mindset. So I think we still have to keep pressing. We have the social movement, we have the public outrage. But we need reform of the systems that have been in place forever.”Henard said she and her colleagues at the DC Rape crisis center were spending Thursday listening to survivors. “I’m really concerned around the chilling effect this will have,” she said. “Particularly for Black and brown survivors, this is cutting deep. We are bearing witness to tears and pain, survivors wondering, ‘What is it going to take for a verdict to sit and not get turned over because of a technicality?’ This man raped not one, not two, not three not four but (dozens of) women, and so we can’t forget that,” she said, referring to accusations against Cosby that never went to court, often because the statute of limitations had run out.But Henard said Wednesday’s court decision, shocking as it was to so many, “in no way diminishes the good work of the #MeToo movement.”“We’ve made great strides in the last few years,” she said. “There’s more great things that have happened and will continue to happen. What this moment does is remind all of us, especially those of us who have boots on the ground, that there’s still work to do.”

Page 1 of 212