(CNN) — Anger and activism, life and death, and finally hope defined the third and final season of FX’s “Pose,” the Ryan Murphy-produced drama devoted to New York’s underground ball culture in the 1980s and ’90s. Having created an unprecedented showcase for transgender performers, the show — whose final episode focused on leaving a legacy — left its own in terms of its symbolic significance and standout cast.After a wedding in the penultimate episode, the extra-long finale turned back to the AIDS diagnosis of Pray Tell (Billy Porter), who was told his condition had reached “the beginning of the end” before his friend Blanca (Mj Rodriguez), a nurse, learned about clinical trials of protease inhibitors from another patient.Those life-prolonging treatments, however, were overwhelmingly being earmarked for White patients, prompting Blanca to fight back against the discrimination toward people of color
After visiting his estranged family earlier in the season, Pray Tell spent much of the finale dealing with his ball family, telling Blanca, “I want to be remembered as a representation of all that the balls can be.”
Their triumphant joint Diana Ross routine essentially served as his last hurrah, sacrificing himself to save another, followed by Blanca’s emotional meeting with Pray Tell’s mother (Anna Maria Horsford) in a touching collision of those two worlds.
The narrative then jumped forward two years, providing both an opportunity to riff (amusingly) about “Sex and the City” and to underscore that Pray Tell’s memory — his legacy — had indeed survived, with Blanca flashing back to a first-season encounter as she counseled a new house trying to make its way in the ball scene.
“Pose” was at its best back then, earning Porter an Emmy for best actor in a drama. The final season — a slightly disjointed seven episodes, several of them super-sized — derived much of its strength from the Pray Tell plot, and the campaign surrounding the hospital’s inequity (“Healthcare is a right!” the protesters chanted) connected the ACT UP movement to concerns that remain prominent today.
Created by Murphy, Brad Falchuk and Steven Canals, “Pose” represented an admirable effort to highlight stories of LGBTQ life and history, something Murphy has emphasized under his Netflix deal in various genres, including his remake of the movie “The Boys and the Band,” the limited series “Hollywood” and “Halston,” and the documentaries “A Secret Love” and “Circus of Books.”
During a press conference before the season began, the producers stressed that the show was ending on their terms, with Canals saying about the decision, “I could see the ending … and it made sense to land the plane comfortably.”In an era where the usual tendency is for shows to stick around beyond their expiration date, credit “Pose” with recognizing the right time to make an exit.
From such global icons as Whitney Houston to lesser-known civil rights activists like Lori Jackson, the network is leading the industry in spotlighting the stories of Black women
When the idea of making a biopic about Mahalia Jackson first came up, about half the members of Lifetime’s Original Movies group hadn’t heard of the gospel legend and civil rights leader — which, for that team, was a selling point.
“ We had been talking about women who have historically made impacts that no one talks about,” says head of movies Tanya Lopez of the group’s brainstorming sessions. It was programming manager Mekita Faiye who suggested Jackson, and though her pitch was met with unfamiliarity, it wasn’t dismissed. “Everyone loses when we don’t take the time to understand others’ unique experiences, especially when it’s due to economic, ethnic or even religious differences,” says Faiye, one of six people of color (including Lopez) on the 11-person LOM team. “Fortunately, Lifetime creates a culture of openness and compassion while making a concerted effort to value everyone’s voice in the room.”
So when Lopez had lunch with Robin Roberts (who has a production deal with the network) and the Good Morning America anchor mentioned Jackson as a subject of interest, the soil was already fertile for its latest biopic, Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia, which stars Tony nominee Danielle Brooks and premiered April 3.
Mahalia is Lifetime’s third biopic of 2021, all of which focus on Black women (Salt-N-Pepa bowed Jan. 23, followed by Wendy Williams: The Movie a week later). In all, 22 of the network’s 68 biopics since 1993 have centered the lives of Black women. That’s nearly a third — far above the demographic’s 3.7 percent share of lead or co-lead characters among theatrically released films (according to a study released in March by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and USC, which examined the 100 highest-grossing films each year from 2009 to 2019). In an era in which inclusion can be received as a begrudging mandate, LOM’s development process reveals a blueprint for a more organic path.
To hear Lopez tell it, Lifetime has come by its track record somewhat incidentally. “Our biggest victories are telling stories of women and things that people don’t know about,” she says of choosing subjects. And since Black history has long been minimized or excluded from textbooks and news involving Black communities left off the front page, those stories provide a rich vein for Lifetime to mine, from 1999’s Dangerous Evidence — the story of efforts by civil rights activist Lori Jackson (Lynn Whitfield) to exonerate a Black Marine falsely convicted of rape — to last year’s The Clark Sisters: First Ladies of Gospel.
While Lifetime has given the biopic treatment to plenty of universal household names, like Whitney Houston, Simone Biles and Meghan Markle, The Clark Sisters is an example of a decision to commit resources to figures beloved within the Black community but not as well known outside it. Once again, it was a Black executive, LOM manager Mychael Chinn, who surfaced the name. And, once again, though non-Black teammates didn’t recognize the gospel group, they didn’t discard the idea as “niche.”
“When we all did our due diligence, we were almost ashamed we didn’t know who the Clark Sisters were, and that has to do with everybody’s education,” Lopez says. “It’s definitely a cultural and racial divide.”
Lifetime’s forays into bridging that divide haven’t hurt its critical or commercial prospects. The network’s 2006 Fantasia Barrino biopic is its second-highest-rated original film of all time, behind 2004’s biopic of Jessica Savitch and just ahead of the network’s 2012 Steel Magnolias remake, starring Queen Latifah and Phylicia Rashad alongside Alfre Woodard, who earned Emmy and SAG nods for her performance. L opez says the themes in these projects — the female friendship dynamics in Salt-N-Pepa, the heroism of a school employee who talks down a would-be shooter in 2018’s Faith Under Fire (starring Toni Braxton) — are compelling to any female audience. “These are the stories we’re interested in telling, no matter the background,” she says, turning again to Mahalia Jackson. “She’s a huge name in the civil rights movement, but a certain portion of our audience only knows of Martin Luther King, because he’s the one the white media and history focused on. So when we look at iconic figures, what’s the story of the woman standing next to the person the light is shining on?
Last summer, when Covid-19 vaccines were in development, friends on text threads and Zoom calls asked if I’d get one. My response was always the same: Sure, I’ll be right in line — after 100 million of y’all go first. I told them I’d seen too many zombie movies. But my hesitancy was actually grounded in a less cinematic reality: I just don’t trust America enough.
This mistrust comes from an awareness of the ubiquity of American anti-Blackness — a dynamic that can, um, modify your sense of reality. That’s what happened, for instance, with the persistent myth of Tommy Hilfiger’s racist comments.
In 1996, owning a Tommy Hilfiger shirt was everything to 17-year-old me. But a year later, I’d completely extracted Hilfiger fits from my rotation. Word had spread that Tommy Hilfiger, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, had complained about Black people wearing his clothes. The shirts, windbreakers and parka I owned were immediately relegated to the deepest parts of my closet.
Mr. Hilfiger never actually made those racist comments. In fact, he hadn’t even been a guest on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” when the rumors started. But the myth wouldn’t die because it felt so true that to question it felt like gaslighting your own Blackness. Of course this white man with aggressively preppy oxfords and an American flag aesthetic would believe that people like me sullied his brand. It just fit.
The same way, a story about Dorothy Dandridge and a pool just fits: As the urban legend goes, the movie star was visiting a hotel in Las Vegas in the 1950s, and she dipped a single toe into the all-white swimming pool. This so disgusted the hotel’s management that they drained the entire thing. This story, which was also depicted in the HBO biopic about her life, has never actually been confirmed. But to anyone familiar with the history of America’s relationship with its Black citizens, the anecdote is believable. Maybe it ain’t true, but it also ain’t exactly a lie.
To question whether this bottomless skepticism is justified is like asking whether a cow has cause to be wary of butchers. From redlining and gerrymandering to the Tuskegee experiment and Cointelpro, the proven conspiracies against Black Americans are so devious, so deep and so absurd that they blast open pathways for true-sounding non-truths to enter, too.
The terrible spoken word poems I wrote in college (“We’ll never get justice, because justice for just-us just-aint-for-us”) habitually referenced the so-called Willie Lynch letter — an instruction manual for controlling Black slaves that I, along with many others, believed was written by a slave owner in 1712 and contained deep insights into modern race relations. The truth: Willie Lynch never existed and the document was forged. I believed that the government conspired to track my thoughts and movements — as if my flaccid stanzas and banded collar Wilsons Leather biker jackets were a threat to the state. I even once allowed myself to entertain an argument that the natural color of milk is not white, but brown. (Don’t ask.)
The term “hotep”has become a catchall among Black people to describe other Black people who still believe some of these easily debunked stories — but the reality is that most of us have some hotep in us. And not because we don’t know how America really works, but because we know too much. The lack of trust in our nation’s systems and structures is a force field; a bulwark shielding us from the lie of the American dream. And nowhere is this skepticism more justified than with the institution of medicine.
I don’t trust doctors, nurses, physician assistants, hospitals, emergency rooms, waiting rooms, surgeries, prescriptions, X-rays, MRIs, medical bills, insurance companies or even the food from hospital cafeterias. My awareness of the pronounced racial disparities in our health care system strips me of any confidence I would have otherwise had in it. As critics of a recent Saturday Night Live skit suggesting that Black people are illogically set against getting vaccinated pointed out, the vaccine hesitancy isn’t due to some uniquely Black pathology. It’s a direct response to centuries of anecdote, experience and data. (Also, the demographic among the least likely to get a vaccine? White evangelicals.)
Despite all this, in March, I stood in a long line to receive my first dose of a vaccine to prevent me from becoming seriously ill from a virus that I had no idea even existed 14 months ago.
My journey from “I don’t even eat hospital pizza” to “voluntary Pfizer guinea pig” is complicated, but not singular. Existing in America while Black requires a ceaseless assemblage of negotiations and compromises. Even while recognizing the anti-Blackness embedded in society, participation is still necessary to survive.
For instance, I am dubious that American schools are able to sufficiently nurture and prepare Black children for 21st-century life. But my interest in home-schooling my kids is the same as my interest in letting them attend school on Neptune. So my compromise is to allow them to attend school, but then to also fortify them with as many academic, social, and political supplements as possible.
Sometimes the negotiation is just the choice to participate: My parents were two of the tens of thousands of Black victims in the subprime lending crisis. I watched them be evicted from their home after loan terms they just couldn’t meet kept multiplying. But when I was ready to buy a house, the gateway to homeownership was through those same banks.
The trust still isn’t there. Will never be there. But the negotiation that placed me in that vaccination line last month required me to weigh that distrust against all that I miss. I miss the year we just lost. I miss playing basketball. I miss watching it with my dad. I miss barbecues. Malls. Movie theaters. Restaurants. Cities other than Pittsburgh. I miss only needing to be hypervigilant about racism and gluten, and not whether the air inside of a Giant Eagle supermarket might kill me too. And I know other people miss their years and their hobbies and their dads and their homies. With the disproportionate havoc this plague has wreaked on Black and brown people, my desire to return to some semblance of normalcy and prevent more death is a force greater than my cynicism.
I’ve already begun to fantasize about the cookout I’ll host after I get my second shot, and each of my equally-suspicious-about-America family members and homies get their shots, and enough time has passed to feel safe gathering. Maybe we’ll laugh about how us seeing each other was only possible because we trusted an institution that has been pathologically untrustworthy. Or maybe we won’t. Because that’s not actually funny.
FX has dropped the first trailer for the third and final season of Pose. The network announced in March that shortened, seven-episode season would be its last.
Upon its debut, the series made television history in its first season by featuring the largest-ever cast of transgender actors in series regular roles, including Michaela Jaé, Dominique Jackson, Indya Moore and Hailie Sahar, who star alongside Billy Porter, Dyllón Burnside, Angel Bismark Curiel, Sandra Bernhard and Jason A. Rodriguez. Pose also features “the largest recurring cast of LGBTQ actors ever for a scripted series, and boasts a full roster of LGBTQ and POC behind-the-scenes as producers, writers, directors and crew.”
For the series, Billy Porter became the first openly gay man to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, and Janet Mock becoming the first trans woman of color hired as a writer on a TV series, as well as the first transgender woman of color to write and direct a TV episode.
The official description for season 3: In this final season, it’s now 1994 and ballroom feels like a distant memory for Blanca who struggles to balance being a mother with being a present partner to her new love, and her latest role as a nurse’s aide. Meanwhile, as AIDS becomes the leading cause of death for Americans ages 25 to 44, Pray Tell contends with unexpected health burdens. Elsewhere, the emergence of a vicious new upstart house forces the House of Evangelista members to contend with their legacy.
The new season premieres May 2 on FX. Watch the trailer below:
Lifetime continues its streak of biopics with Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia, which premieres April 3 at 8 p.m. ET. Orange Is The New Black alum Danielle Brooks stars as Mahalia Jackson, who is one of the most revered gospel figures in U.S. history. The film, executive produced by Robin Roberts, chronicles Mahalia’s rise to fame and her impact on the music industry and the civil rights movement.
Mahalia lived an incredible life and had so many memorable moments. Decades after her death, her legacy remains more vibrant than ever. Get to know Mahalia before the Lifetime movie airs.
Protesters of all ages, all races, all backgrounds are showing up at Black Lives Matter protests out of love for their fellow human beings. Out of love for George Floyd. Out of love for Breonna Taylor. Out of love for all of the Black people who have lost their lives because of the color of their skin. You can feel this love when you attend a protest. You can see it on the faces of the people all around you. You can hear it in their voices. Sometimes, it flows through the mass of people like a quiet undercurrent. Sometimes, it’s downright joyful. No matter how it’s expressed, it’s always potent, always powerful. And it’s going to change the world for the better. From New York City to Philadelphia, from Amsterdam to Paris, this is what it is like to attend Black Lives Matter protests.
This fall, Sierra Riddle queued up at security at Los Angeles International Airport with a tincture bottle of THC oil — the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis — in her purse.
Ms. Riddle, 31, a nursing assistant from southern Oregon, was traveling with her son Landon, 9, and uses medical marijuana to treat his severe nerve pain from chemotherapy, as well as her own chronic pain. She was on her way to a medical conference in Dallas to talk about her son’s medical marijuana use and was “praying and meditating that we’d make it through security,” when a Transportation Security Administration agent pulled the bottle out of her bag.
“It’s just botanical oils,” Ms. Riddle said she told the officer. “But this was L.A. — they’re hip to the game and so they knew what is was.”
To Ms. Riddle’s surprise, the officer told her that, while it’s illegal to fly with marijuana and he was obliged to call the police, instead, he would just throw the bottle in the trash and wouldn’t report her.
With 33 states now allowing some form of medical marijuana, it might seem that traveling with medical marijuana should be easy enough. But there’s a difference between state governments and the federal government, and if you don’t know the rules, traveling with medical marijuana could lead to an arrest or at the very least, a complicated legal gray area.
What’s the bottom line?
In the United States, the federal government still classifies marijuana, even medical marijuana, as a Schedule I controlled substance, which means anyone transporting it across state lines is committing a federal crime and can be charged with drug trafficking. This carries a minimum penalty of up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the first offense.
The T.S.A. says it’s not interested in finding your medical marijuana.
“We’re focused on security and searching for things that are dangerous on the airplane,” said Mark Howell, a T.S.A. regional spokesman. Even though the T.S.A. is a federal agency, and it can often feel as though agents are overly zealous about checking your bags, “we’re not actively looking for marijuana or other drugs,” Mr. Howell said.
Careful: Though a recent Instagram post by the T.S.A. notes that while “T.S.A. officers DO NOT search for marijuana or other illegal drugs,” if they do find it, they are required by federal law to turn it and the owner over to local law enforcement.
In a state where medical marijuana is legal, Mr. Howell added, “you present your medical marijuana card, and the law enforcement officials will usually just give it back to you.”
You should also look up your airline’s rules and regulations: Many carriers, including Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines and American Airlines have created policies that ban medical marijuana (THC) from their aircraft, even if you have a medical card.
Nearly 20 states accept out-of-state medical marijuana authorizations, but reciprocity laws vary from state to state.
In some states, like Arkansas, visitors are required to sign up for the medical marijuana program 30 days in advance and pay a $50 nonrefundable fee. Visitors should also keep in mind the state’s purchasing limit, which can be different for residents versus those who are there temporarily. In Oregon, for example, residents can possess up to 24 ounces, while visitors are allowed only one ounce.
On the roads and on the rails
Amtrak’s policy is strict: “The use or transportation of marijuana in any form for any purpose is prohibited, even in states or countries where recreational use is legal or permitted medically.”
Greyhound Lines bans alcohol and drugs “anywhere on the bus (including in your checked baggage).”
If you choose to drive with medical marijuana, be discrete. Many marijuana arrests begin as traffic stops, according to Americans for Safe Access, a nonprofit advocacy group. They recommend keeping cannabis locked in your trunk and never driving under the influence. You should never carry medical marijuana in a state where it’s not legal.
Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary, is not the only contestant on the new season of “Dancing With the Stars” with a special kind of celebrity wattage.
Wilson, a founding member of the Supremes, is also a competitor — at
age 75. Viewers should get ready for liberal lashings of old-school
dazzle and a sense of déjà vu. There is barely a black female pop act —
Destiny’s Child, Janet Jackson, Janelle Monáe, Solange Knowles — (let
alone a white one) that hasn’t taken a page from the Supremes look book.
“Millennials love our style,” Ms. Wilson said during a recent interview in London. For anyone wondering why this younger generation has joined older fans of the group’s look, a new book, “Supreme Glamour,” out just in time for the show, makes it all clear. The volume chronicles how the Supremes in their original incarnation (Diana Ross, Ms. Wilson and Florence Ballard) and in their later form as Diana Ross and the Supremes (or DRATS) became agents of cultural change in the 1960s, breaking the race ceiling by weaponizing fashion and defining the way many women — black women, white women — wanted to look. It has photographs of mannequins in 13 of their designs, plus dozens of concert snaps, promotional portraits and album and magazine covers. It is replete with seed pearls and mushroom pleats.
Before the Supremes, as Harold Kramer,
the former curatorial director of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in
Cleveland, notes in the book, no black act “had ever set out to utilize
visual signifiers that made them palatable to a white audience.”
Wilson agreed. “Our glamour changed things,” she said. She was wearing
all black — leggings and a stretch top with cold-shoulder cutouts — and
one of her many wigs, a dead-straight chestnut number with full bangs.
“We were role models,” she continued. “What we wore mattered.”
Her claim is that she and her partners knew exactly what they were doing from the beginning.
Wilson said that when she, Ms. Ross and Ms. Ballard were signed to
Motown Records in 1961, they already had style. “They had a lot to work
with,” she said. “As Maxime Powell, who ran the label’s famous finishing
school, used to say: ‘You girls are diamonds in the rough. We are just
here to polish you.’”
Ms. Wilson remembered that one of the earliest Supremes dresses, with a fitted bodice and stiff balloon skirt, “Diana and I sewed from Butterick patterns.”
When the Supremes broke in 1964, black
singers like Lena Horne and Eartha Kitt performed in deliberately
seductive evening dresses, but they were older, solo artists. Ms. Wilson
and her colleagues were barely out of their teens and wielded the
visual power of three, often in grown-up second-skin gowns freighted
with beads and sequins.
maximized the look with increasingly baroque confections, some with
improbable wings and trompe l’oeil jewelry, like paste crystals sewn
into the neckline. Anyone who saw them live will recall the frisson
produced by such young women in such sophisticated designs. Then, just
when you thought you had them figured out, they turned up on “The Ed
Sullivan Show” in 1969 in fantastical, swishing ponchos and pants
seemingly made of dégradé tinsel.
Whoopi Goldberg, writing in the foreword of Ms. Wilson’s book, the
Supremes “were three of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. These
were brown women as they had never, ever been seen before on national television.”
Ms. Goldberg said she was encouraged to think that “I too could be
well-spoken, tall, majestic, an emissary of black folks” who, like the Supremes, “came from the projects.”
Oprah Winfrey had similar memories, as recounted in “Diana Ross: A Biography” by J. Randy Taraborrelli. “You never saw anything like it in the 1960s — three women of color who were totally empowered, creative, imaginative,” she is quoted as saying. As a 10-year-old black girl “to see the Supremes and know that it was possible to be like them, that black people could do THAT …”
This happens every year: At some point in my travels to find the country’s Best New Restaurants,
my anxiety about not being able to find enough to fill my list segues
seamlessly into worse anxiety that I won’t be able to include everything
worthy—the way the bitter cold of winter often leaps seamlessly into
the inferno of summer without any break for spring at all. (I may have
had an un-anxious moment in Indianapolis this year, but I can’t be
sure.) When that switch happens, I self-soothe by reminding myself that I
will also have this list to compile: my yearly cheat.
It is not always the case, but I would have happily had any of the restaurants listed below on my main list of Best New Restaurants. In some ways, this is the more visceral recommendation. Math is not my strong suit, but I’d calculate that if I visited 111 new restaurants during this year’s search, that translates to tasting 500 million dishes, give or take. For a dish to stand out through all of those crowding my mind by the end—to actually bubble up and make me hungry when I’ve been 100 percent sure I’ll never be hungry again—it has to be pretty special. All of these are.