“What I love most about Taraji P. Henson is that she’s fiercely loyal. During her audition for Empire, she told me she wouldn’t take the role unless Lucious was Terrence Howard. She didn’t have the job yet, but she was standing there fighting for Terrence. That was the moment I knew she was Cookie.
Taraji is the modern-day Bette Davis, touching audiences with her honesty and intensity. When you are on set with Taraji, she listens, but she also questions. She challenges everyone to go the extra step to get it right. She has a deep understanding of the human condition, and she displays it with her eyes—the pain, the happiness, the love, the laughter. She probably would have been a great silent actor, but then the world wouldn’t have had Cookie.
Before Empire, she was underappreciated by white America and Hollywood, while African Americans heralded her as our Meryl Streep. I’m so proud that Cookie has moved her into the zeitgeist. What Taraji has done with the role made the world finally appreciate who she is—quite simply, a tour de force on and off the screen.”
Sexy British actor Idris Elba captivated us when he appeared in the HBO crime series ‘The Wire’ and since then he has been starring in all the hottest Hollywood films like Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Beast of No Nation,The Jungle Book, No Good Deed and the hit BBC One series Luther. For his profile, in which he was labelled ‘ A true leading man’, “The Wire” creator David Simon reflects back on the time Idris found out he was being killed off the show and how he thought his career would end.
Logistics undid me. From a floor below the writers’ office, the folks in production were saying Episode 311 hadn’t left the building yet, or more precisely: Idris Elba’s copy of the script was still waiting for a P.A. to ferry it over to set. I still had time to finish some page changes then head to the trailers, find my actor and break it to him. I imagined the conversation going like this:
“Good news, bad news. Bad news is we’re killing you.”
“Hell is the good news?”
“We wrote an amazing death scene …”
Maybe it’s funnier for the writers, but truth was I felt sanguine about ending Stringer Bell’s arc in the third season of The Wire.
For one thing, it made sense thematically to impale both Bell and Bunny Colvin simultaneously on the horns of reform. For another, I knew Elba, as true a leading man as I’d ever encountered, was not going to starve.
Before I could leave, the phone rang.
“I just read 311.”
“Whhaaaat? They haven’t delivered it yet.”
“One of the other guys showed me his.”
“’Dris, I’m sorry. I was on my way over to set to tell you.”
“So, I’m out of work.”
“Brother, you’re never going to lack for work again. You’re going straight to features. Don’t you realize that?”
Long pause, deep sigh and then: “From your mouth to God’s ear.”
No, my naive friend, He had precious little to do with it.
He’s known as the fastest man in Jamaica and because of his talent he has earned a spot on the Icon list. Throughout the years Usain Bolt has has wowed us with speed and continues to do so. In his profile where he was named ‘ A unifier on the track’, Grammy award winning reggae artist Ziggy Marley talks about the impact Usain makes on people.
“Usain Bolt is a light. There are a lot of things in Jamaica—and the world—that cause separation: politics, inequality, crime. But an entire generation can look up to Usain. He’s a unifying force.
I see many similarities between Usain and my father. They both grew up in very modest circumstances and went on to make positive change on the world stage. Usain makes music on the track; he runs with great joy, with passion and with soul. He has that smile, that Jamaican flair. It’s a swagger and confidence that we all really enjoy. A lot of people who get to that superstar level pretend to be somebody else. I think that’s the thing I like most about Usain. He’s real. He’s not putting on a facade.
This summer in Rio, Usain will most likely run his last Olympic race. I’m confident that afterward, he will continue to take all that he has learned, both on and off the track, and pass it along to others. He’s a strong leader, and he’ll continue to be an inspiration. That’s the most important thing you can be.”
Kendrick Lamar is one of the best lyricist out right now, he slays our lives with meaningful raps and constantly helps bring the black community together. Fo his profile, BlackLivesMatter co-founder Alicia Garza talks about Kendrick’s writing skills:
“The first time I heard To Pimp a Butterfly was on a crowded plane heading to Jackson, Miss. With headphones on, there I was, bobbing my head and having audible conversations with myself because that album made me feel—moved and troubled, challenged, uplifted, angry, skeptical and raw. Far from creating “conscious rap,” Kendrick Lamar has evolved a new genre of movement music that asserts no answers but raises hard questions and brings us together to take them on. Thank God for his trip to South Africa, which he says made him want to put everything he was seeing and experiencing into an album that could translate that experience to someone in the ghettos of Compton, Calif. Kendrick should be applauded for inviting us to face things that are uncomfortable, for celebrating our will to survive and for being audacious enough to grapple with the questions that we all need to answer if we ever hope to get free.”
2015 NBA MVP Steph Curry aka the best shooter in the league landed a spot in the Titan category. The Golden State Warrior has been breaking NBA records for the last couple of years and continues to dominate the court. For his profile ballerina Misty Copeland talks about why Steph is a role model and a sports hero:
“Many people wouldn’t naturally think of the similarities between a ballerina and an NBA player. Yet the lifetime of training and the discipline it takes mentally, emotionally and physically are certainly shared attributes. Coincidentally, I took my first ballet class on a basketball court at the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Growing up with a family of sports lovers, I was raised watching basketball stars reign not just on the court but also in our home and throughout pop culture.
Many of our sports heroes are sold to us based on their superhuman skill level. But every so often we get to experience one who combines these superior physical gifts with humility and grace while also letting us into his life to share the journey to greatness with him.
I’m in awe every time I see Stephen Curry play. He combines a never-before-seen skill set with the panache and flair of a great performance artist. These skills and an amazing sense of the moment allow him to fearlessly lead his record-setting team by simultaneously fitting in and standing out, allowing his teammates to thrive and willing them to victory time and again.
My definition of a role model is someone who maximizes their potential to push the boundaries of their circumstances with passion, purpose, integrity and the sensitivity to know they are setting an example for others along the way. Stephen Curry is a true role model. I can relate to his underdog story. He is showing us all how through belief in yourself, hard work and dedication, it is possible to achieve your dreams, prove your doubters wrong and go from an underdog to a Warrior. Lucky for us, he’s just getting started.”
Director Ryan Coogler has been killing Hollywood with his films so it’s no surprise that he’s on the list. He directed films such as Fruitvale Station, CREED and now he is set to direct the upcoming superhero film Black Panther. For his profile writer Ta-Nehisi Coates (who also made the list) explains why Ryan is needed in the film industry.
“There is a beautiful scene in Ryan Coogler’sCreed that captures what this young director proposes to his art form and to his country. The boxer and protagonist, Donnie (Michael B. Jordan), is running, in gray sweats, to see his ailing trainer, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). A clutch of neighborhood kids on dirt bikes and ATVs trail him like a Greek chorus. As Donnie picks up speed, Meek Mill’s “Lord Knows” blares in the background. At the height of his sprint, Donnie screams in agony and joy as Meek gives way to soft pianos, big horns and triumphant vocals. Time slows, Donnie’s hood chorus surrounds him, and our eyes are drawn to a boy popping a wheelie with his left hand extended in the air.
All the beauty the Academy cannot see is in this one scene. That beauty, so often denied, is the stuff of Coogler’s work. This is not a matter of looking pretty—though that is part of it—so much as a matter of looking human. That is why Ryan Coogler is so necessary right now. On the biggest screen, he confers humanity and beauty on people told they are innately without it.”
Check out the rest of the list here