Tag Archives: Isaiah Washington

L’AFRICANA NIGHT


Isaiah Washington and Tracee Loran

What’s better than a good cause, good food, good music, good fashion and good conversation?  Having it all on the same night! That’s exactly what I experienced Friday evening when I, along with Michelle Stoddart and Nadia Vassell, attended L’Africana™ Night New York Fashion Week Finale Party.  L’Africana™ Night, sponsored by Segal Family Foundation and Greylock Capital Partners, is the brainchild of MacDella Cooper, whom you met last week via my compelling two-part interview. The event was created to showcase African culture, artists, designers, cuisine and musicians while raising funds for the MacDella Cooper Foundation Academy, Liberia’s first free boarding school.

Patrick Brassard, my brilliant photographer for the evening, arrived ahead of me and was already holding court on the Red Carpet. If Patrick is not shooting covers for Vogue soon, something is seriously wrong!

L'Africana Night Creator MacDella Cooper & Tracee Loran

As soon as I stepped foot in the New York Society for Ethical Culture I saw MacDella; we hugged and chatted it up for a second.  I then spotted Isaiah Washington and made a beeline.  Through a friend, the prolific actor and activist had already agreed to an interview with me.  Isaiah was as debonair, cool and intelligent in person as he is on TV. Read more about this “Man From Another Land” here.

After snapping a few red carpet photos and making new friends, I headed upstairs to grab some African cuisine.  Apparently everyone beat me to the dining hall because all of the goodies were practically gone. I did manage to cop two pieces of this extra yummy banana bread from Taste of Africa; I’m still thinking about it.

Fela! Actress Saycon Sengbloh

Isaiah was our Master of Ceremonies for the evening, guiding us through award presentations for honorees Barry Segal, Basila Bokoko and Anna Schilawski as well as performances by many gifted artists like former C + C Music Factory chanteuse Zelma Davis, Fela! Star Saycon Sengbloh (if you haven’t seen Fela! run, run as fast as you can!), Rachel Fine and Liberian Pop singer 2C.

The highlight of the event was the L’Africana™ fashion show. Catwalk Vixens Millen Magese – the first Black female model signed to do a campaign for Ralph Lauren, Georgie Badiel, Danijela Lazarevic, Brianna Michelle, Former America’s Next Top Model contestant Aminat Ayinde, and Former “Face of Africa” Kate Aba Tachie-Menson were just a few of the models who strutted down the runway in stunning fashions by a collective of designers including Farai  SimoyiSelma Berisalic Starfinger, Taylor Forrest, and Korto Momolu, who previewed a snippet of her Fall 2011 Collection.

Tracee Loran & Designer Korto Momolu

You remember Korto?  She was the designer who was robbed of first place on season 5 of Project Runway.  Korto’s PR finale collection was hot and deserving of a victory; her new collection is even hotter! It contains a mix of dramatic, sweeping pieces that will surely command attention for any woman wearing them. I wanted everything! I caught up with the talented Liberian couturier after the show for a little girl talk.

What was your inspiration for this line?

One of the places that we had when I was home – we would go on weekend trips with my family – is this beach. But to get there you’d have to go through all of this bush, had to go and cut down the trees and everything. I was inspired by telling that story. You know, going through all of that darkness then you get to the sand and the water. You have to go through some stuff sometimes to get to paradise. And that’s pretty much my life story; I’m still going through it, but I know its [paradise] there because I’ve seen it.

Kate Aba Tachie-Menson Wearing Korto Momolu

What is your creative process from inception to finished product?

I like buying the fabrics first and sitting there and looking at everything and then start thinking, “How can I tell my story?  When you see the full collection, I’m actually going to show one in Nigeria at the Arise [Magazine] Show, I want you to see that story so when I explain it later you can say “Oh yeah I get it.”  Or you might just see it without it. But how can I show this turmoil, this darkness using the color palettes and use of the shapes to create texture?

How important is it for you to participate in an event like L’Africana™ Night?

It’s almost like you have to. I met MacDella years ago before the school was even [built],

Millen Magese Wearing Korto Momolu

so to be a part of it…And one day when I go and show my daughter and say, “This is what you do…you give back what you can.  It doesn’t mean you have to have thousands of dollars, you can give back your talent, you can give back your time.” And that’s why I’m doing it. It’s definitely important.

What’s your big vision?

To have a legacy.  I don’t want to just always be about clothes. I lend my voice to a lot of charities and they’re all Liberian-based because charity starts at home.  That’s where I’m from. And I see so many people there who would trade places with me in a minute even though I may think that my life is not where I want it to be, but so many people would trade for that. So giving back to them and helping them get the main thing, which is education, helps for me.  But just having one day where I can look back at my legacy and say, “You know what I did fashion but also through my fashion I did that and that and that and helped other people to hopefully pursue their dreams.”

What is the one thing you can’t leave the house without?

My PR hair.  (Laughs) Even if you don’t have make-up, the hair will cover it.

♥♥♥

Don’t mess with a Black woman’s hair! 😉 Korto Momolu might not have gotten her just desserts on Project Runway, but she’s surely getting the recognition that she deserves now.

The Godfather of African Fashion

After our conversation, Nadia and I headed to the after party at Nikki Beach.  There I had a chance to meet and converse with a fashion icon, Alphadi, who is known as the “Godfather of African Fashion.”  He’s such a sweet man and his designs are regal!

Tracee Loran: Wardrobe Provided by Raif Atelier (Gown) and Kiini Ibura (Jewels)

Speaking of regal, I felt like an absolute African Queen the entire evening.  Makeup Artist Extraordinaire Sherry Singleton did it again! She had my face glowing radiantly and she even convinced me to step outside of my cosmetic comfort zone. Now that’s real skill cuz I likez what I like. My beautiful floor-length Tie-Dye Mesh Gown was provided by African designer Raif Atelier of Brooklyn; Haby is a sweetheart for tailoring the dress to fit me perfectly!  Melody Burns of Kiini Ibura Jewelry had me sparkling with blue pearl earrings and a dazzling necklace made of Ghanian glass, blue quartz, fresh water pearls and Austrian crystal. Miss Melody also supplied a reversible silk and velvet wrist purse; she is a master craftswoman! To finish my look, I wore a pair of “Blue Suede Shoes.” Elvis would be proud. A Queen needs a chariot, so hugs to Dalton Burke of Queens Care Auto Repair for keeping my vintage Beemer running smoothly allowing me to make it to my events!

Necklace by Melody Burns of Kiini Ibura Jewelry

The evening was all that I expected it to be – meaningful, glitzy and fun! The MacDella Cooper Foundation is a wonderful organization. And the future of Liberia looks a lot brighter because of it. Even though you might have missed L’Africana™ Night, its not too late to help educate the MCF Academy children or any child in need!

If you want to support any of the artists, companies or organizations featured on The Socialite Design, just drop by their websites and tell ’em Tracee Loran sent you!

♥♥ Special thanks to my Gurl Jodi Smith for being a staunch advocate for youth and quality education. Despite the fact that she’s in my Sweet Home Chicago she still supported the MCF cause by sponsoring a ticket purchase so someone else could enjoy the event. Kudos, Jodi!

Until next time…stay radically fabulous!

Georgie Badiel Wearing Korto Momolu

Leila Rahji Wearing Korto Momolu

Aminat Ayinde Wearing Tedd Ion

Bianca Warren Wearing Frank Osodi

Georgie Badiel Wearing Sunhee Hwang

Danijela Lazarevic Wearing Taylor Forrest

Brianna Michelle Wearing L'Africana Collection-African Queen by MacDella Cooper; Styled by Sergio Alain Barrios, Georgie Badiel & Millen Magese

Kaya Wilkins Wearing L'Africana Collection-African Queen by MacDella Cooper: Styled by Sergio Alain Barrios, Georgie Bandiel & Millen Magese

Kate Aba Tachie-Menson Wearing L'Africana Collection-African Queen by MacDella Cooper; Styled by Sergio Alain Barrios, Georgie Badiel & Millen Magese

Pop Diva Zelma Davis

Philanthropist & MCF Honoree Barry Segal

Isaiah Presents Plaque to Honoree Bisilia Bokoko

Greylock Capital CFO Alsion Roach

L-R: Michelle Stoddart, Nadia Vassell, Tracee Loran

Nadia Vassell & Tracee Loran at Nikki Beach

Tracee Loran & Miss Sierra Leone Marie Mansaray

Tracee Loran & Fela! Dancer Lauren DeVeaux

Tracee Loran & MCF Chief Marketing Officer Thomas Tafuto

Tracee Loran & Model Brianna Michelle

Celebrity Hairstylist Nadia Vassell at Nikki Beach

Advertisements

9 Comments

Filed under Fashion, Radically Fabulous Stories

A MAN FROM ANOTHER LAND

 

I only became an actor to make the world fall in love with a dark skin man.”

-Isaiah Washington

 

Actor and Activist Isaiah Washington

Mention Isaiah Washington’s name and the immediate response is, “What’s he been doing since…?”  The “since” refers to the big pink elephant in the room also known as Grey’s Anatomy.  The “since” more specifically refers to him being “resigned” after three years on the Emmy Award-winning program.

It’s natural, really. There are innate misconceptions and assumptions that go along with being famous.  You lose a high-profile gig; people don’t see you for a while, so you must have faded off into a Hollywood sunset, right? Well, the Grey’s Anatomy drama is so last decade; it’s old school news. And Mr. Washington is brand new.

What has Isaiah been doing since…?  He’s been writing a book. He’s been carrying the torch of the Pan-African movement began by pioneers like W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey and Malcolm X. He’s been unearthing his roots. He’s been busy realizing the Pan-Africanist dream of dual-citizenship by becoming a citizen of Sierra Leone in 2010, making him the first African-American to receive such an honor. He’s been making history. He’s been occupied with The Borgen Project, an organization dedicated to ending global poverty and his own non-profit, The Gondabay Manga Foundation, which aims to ameliorate living conditions for the people – his people – in Sierra Leone.  He’s been saving lives. And, oh yes, he’s been acting too…on his terms.  So Isaiah Washington has been doing his thing, thank you very much.

Isaiah took a few minutes out of his hosting duties at the L’Africana™ Night New York Fashion Week Finale Party Friday evening to speak with me about what he’s been doing since…

TL: How did your journey to Sierra Leone and your recently acquired citizenship come about?

IW: It started with W.E.B. DuBois. I’ve been reading Marcus Garvey, Martin Delaney,

Marcus Garvey

Martin Luther King, Jr., Kwame Nkrumah…this is not new; everyone has been trying to accomplish what I’ve been able to achieve through the blessings of a higher being, the ancestors and the aligning of the stars and the Universe and the timing.  So what I’ve been able to accomplish is public, but its not new.

 

Isaiah Shows Off His Sierra Leone Passport. Photo Courtesy of Sierra Express Media

I carry this passport with pride, but at the same time it’s a bit melancholy that those individuals took their whole lives and some lived in exile trying to achieve what I was able to achieve recently.  Some would say its because I’m a celebrity, some would say its just my time, some would say because I’ve worked hard and I’ve earned it. I would say its just time.

TL: Time for what exactly?

IW: Time for us, particularly our community, to look to the Continent and reach back in order to give back.  Because the thing that’s so painful for me is when something like Hurricane Katrina happens everybody gets upset because they don’t think that Michael Jackson when he was alive, Bill Cosby or Oprah Winfrey or Michael Jordan, or Earl Graves or Magic Johnson or Shaq O’Neal, they don’t think they are doing enough to help our people.  You know what? That’s not fair. These individuals like Oprah have worked hard for their affluence; they’ve worked hard for their wealth so it is really up to us. Like President Obama said, “If you want change we have to participate.”

Isaiah Delivering Citizenship Acceptance Speech

And the one way that I was thinking of doing that, “What if I use myself as a guinea pig to say that I’m going to give to a particular community, actually increase sustainability there, actually connect with them through my DNA and actually show them humbly that I want to be a part of the culture, I wanna reverse this Middle Passage.  Take my time – the last five years I’ve been doing it – make it work, then get the attention of the world and then branch out from there because you can’t move forward if something is not working.

I’ve gotten pretty far. I’ve got a lot of neighbors and friends in Liberia and now Guinea, people that are supporting this concept, which is a very old one, that it would behoove African-Americans to reach back to the Continent. We are the only ones, the only people, the only community on this North American soil that does not have a country that we are attached to. Even the President has Kenya; he has a country that he’s attached to. We’re the only ones that do not. So that’s it in a nutshell – getting our people to understand why it’s important for us to connect with the Continent.

TL: Why is it so important?

One because of the resources. One because of the innovation that we already have. We have all of these PhDs and high unemployment. So lets take all of that talent and that expertise and go back [to Africa] humbly and say, “Brothers, sisters, we don’t speak the same language, we haven’t in 400 years but there’s enough of us to come together as one big united nation and make something happen and have ownership.”

With me being a citizen of Sierra Leone I can own land and put on 99-year leases on any corporation or company that wants to come and do business.  To me it’s like a no-brainer. I’ve been thinking like this for years and I couldn’t understand why other people were not excited about it.  But hopefully they’re excited about it now.

TL: Scripture says there is a time, and a season for every activity under heaven.

IW: Absolutely.

TL: How significant was your exit from Grey’s Anatomy to your journey?

Isaiah Washington on Grey's Anatomy Set

IW: Everything happens in trinity. I left in exactly 3 years. God, Father and the Holy Ghost.  I did what I was supposed to do on that show; I made Black beautiful, intelligent, sexy, some people say. So I was done.  I’m a Pan-Africanist; I only became an actor to make the world fall in love with a dark skin man. And because I didn’t see…God bless Billy Dee and Terrance Howard, Will Smith, but they don’t look like me and Djimon Hounsou.  You see what I’m saying?  That was always at the front of my mind and in our community for years. So when I experienced racism in our own community at Howard University; that pissed me off. I said they are treating me like I have to take a paper bag test and I want to join a fraternity. That’s crazy!

I said I’m gonna take the next ten years and go about the business of becoming an influence in this industry. So when I did that, however I made my exit, I didn’t leave it. My talent is still my talent, but its time for me to go back to my original concept. And my original concept is how can I move those stereotypes, challenge those stereotypes and show the world that we are intelligent, we’re sexy, we’re lovable, we’re complex and yes we’re filled with contradictions, but we’re also beautiful. And we’re not all thugs, we’re not all cheating on our wives, our girlfriends and we’re not doing all these things.

TL: Do you believe that timing of your personal “Back to Africa” crusade has been or will be questioned?

IW: I’ve always been about the Continent since I was nine years old.  My book [A Man From Another Land] is really gonna galvanize that concept because people say, “Oh it didn’t work out on Grey so now he’s all about Africa.”  Nah, it’s not that way.  I’ve been dealing with this since the apartheid movement when I was the only one marching at Howard University; no one was interested. Everyone was trying to go to all the parties. And I was like, “Yo, lets go Soweto, let’s go march.” I’ve always been my book, “A Man From Another Land”, I’ve been a bit of an aardvark, and I’ve always marched to the beat of a different drum so to speak. But boy and I glad I did.

TL: What is your favorite movie line from your body of work?

IW: Love can be a motherfucker. (laughs)

TL: You know what my favorite is?

IW: What’s that?

TL: Let me break it down…[Isaiah chimes in], so it can forever and consistently be broke!

Isaiah Heading to the L'Africana Night After Party

 

IW: I made that up and they let me get away with it.  But that’s my saying. Yeah, let me break it down so it can forever be broke. That’s what I’m about.  We don’t have to remediate the past, to get the future right.

♣♣♣

Isaiah Washington will definitely break it down for you! I overheard a reporter at L’Africana™ Night ask him for his Oscar predictions.  He simply replied, I have no idea who’s at the Oscars. I have no idea who’s nominated.  If you want to ask me about Liberia and Guinea and Sierra Leone I can talk forever about it. But whoever it is and whatever their doing up their in Hollywood, God Bless ‘em. Poor thing; I guess she didn’t get the memo.

Talking to Isaiah is like talking to your really intensely smart and deeply impassioned friend – you can’t help but learn something or build on what you already know.  When you hear someone ask, “What has Isaiah Washington been doing since…?”  Make sure you break it down and tell them “a lot”!

Isaiah Washington’s book, A Man From Another Land, will be released on April 27th, the day of Sierra Leone’s 50th celebration, but you can pre-order it now.  And if you’re aching to see him light up the screen again, catch him on an upcoming episode of Law & Order: Los Angeles.

♥♥ Thanks to Lavaille Lavette and Adrienne Ingrum for their support in making this interview happen!

9 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized