Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Beauty of Song, Part Four: Roberta Flack

A comprehensive history of seventies black American music would be incomplete without a mention of Roberta Flack.

She got her musical education growing up in Arlington, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., when she began to learn to play the piano.  Her talent got her a full scholarship at Howard University when she was fifteen, and upon graduation she became a music teacher in the Washington area, performing in jazz clubs on the side.

Fame came calling when jazz pianist and vocalist Les McCann discovered Ms. Flack performing in a Washington nightclub.  Her debut album First Take, released in 1969, didn't get much attention at first, but when Clint Eastwood, a jazz fan, included a track from the album, her recording of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," in his 1971 directorial-debut movie Play Misty For Me, both the song and the album went to number one on the Billboard charts.

Ms. Flack went on to have chart-topping hits with 1973's "Killing Me Softly with His Song," written by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel about, allegedly, a Don McLean performance as experienced by singer-songwriter Lori Lieberman, and 1974's "Feel Like Makin' Love."  But she also made music history with her duets with soul singer Donny Hathaway;  their hits included "Where Is the Love" and "The Closer I Get To You."  They were to seventies soul what Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell had been to sixties soul. 

Unfortunately, Donny Hathaway committed suicide in 1979.  And while Ms. Flack would later record duets with Peabo Bryson and Maxi Priest in, respectively, the eighties and early nineties, they just weren't the same as her duets with Hathaway.     

Roberta Flack has continued her career since the early 1990s, with several albums (including a Christmas disc) and a 2012 album of Beatles covers; when she lived in the Dakota apartment building in New York in the late seventies, she knew, and was friends with, John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

She turned eighty in February 2017, and she's been working on another Beatles cover LP.  Roberta Flack shows no signs of slowing down.  

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Beauty of Song, Part Four: Rita Coolidge

The original Delta Lady.

Rita Coolidge, who is more American than most U.S. female singers thanks to her Cherokee heritage,  is to American rock and roll what Pattie Boyd is British rock and roll - a legendary muse.  She was the Indian girl named "Raven" in David Crosby's solo song "Cowboy Movie," and she also inspired inspired Leon Russell's "Delta Lady" (covered by Joe Cocker) and Stephen Stills' "Cherokee." She dated both Russell and Stills, as well as Graham Nash and Derek and the Dominos drummer Jim Gordon.  Ironically, the piano riff used in the coda of Derek and the Dominos' "Layla," which Eric Clapton wrote about Pattie Boyd (Derek was Eric), was Rita Coolidge's creation for another song.  Jim Gordon gave Clapton the riff for keyboardist Bobby Whitlock to play but didn't tell Ms. Coolidge, whom he'd dated and broken up with.

Ms. Coolidge was part of Joe Cocker and Leon Russell's Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour in 1970 and sang the Leon Russell/Bonnie Bramlett song "Superstar" (later recorded by the Carpenters) as a solo feature on that tour.  She was married to Kris Kristofferson for seven years beginning in 1973, and she worked with him.  Her solo career took off in the late seventies, and she found success as a cover artist; she recorded Jackie Wilson's "(Your Love Has Lifted Me) Higher and Higher" and the Temptations' "The Way You Do the Things You Do," as well as contemporary fare like Boz Scaggs' "We're All Alone" and Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager's "I'd Rather Leave While I'm In Love."

Today Rita Coolidge is a painter, and she has also published her memoirs.  A new album from our heroine is slated for 2018.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The Beauty of Song, Part Four: Joan Baez

The one and only. :-)

Joan Baez was and remains the high priestess of folk music in the United States.  As a singer, she's best known for her covers of songs from her old boyfriend Bob Dylan; among the Dylan songs she's recorded are "Farewell, Angelina," "Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word," "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," and "It Ain't Me Babe." But she's also covered many traditional songs like "House of the Rising Sun" (four years before the Animals covered it), "Donna Donna," and "When You Hear Them Cuckoos Hollerin'," as well as covers of tunes from Donovan, John Prine and her late brother-in-law Richard Fariña. She's also written some of her own songs, including "Sweet Sir Galahad."

Ms. Baez began recording for Vanguard Records in 1960, before Dylan got his recording contract with Columbia.  (She would later record for both Columbia and A&M.)  Her covers of his tunes helped get him attention; that is, Dylan wouldn't have a career if not for his old girlfriend.  

Ms. Baez's activism is as legendary as her music.  She's campaigned for civil rights, environmental protection and gay rights, and she's campaigned against the death penalty and every war the U.S. has been in since Korea.  She became legendary for trying to get soldiers at draft boards to desert rather than go to Vietnam.  After the Communists took over all of Vietnam, she campaigned against the Hanoi government for its human rights abuses, making clear her belief that leftist oppression is as inexcusable as rightist oppression.  Her stand against the Socialist Republic of Vietnam actually earned her respect from conservatives who had always been against her. 

Still active and vibrant, Joan Baez has come a long way, having been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017.  But she still has the same sparkle as that same lovely young lady that Dylan fell in love with so many years ago. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Beauty of Song, Part Four: Patti Austin

When Patti Austin released her 1981 album Every Home Should Have One, which was her commercial breakthrough, the legend at the top of the LP sleeve - "Quincy Jones Presents" - suggested that Quincy Jones had discovered her and that it was her debut album.  None of that is the case.  Every Home Should Have One was in fact her fourth studio album.   

Ms. Austin's first album was End of a Rainbow (the photo above is from the front cover), released in 1976 by CTI, a jazz label.  She was always a jazz artist first and a pop singer second, and End of a  Rainbow gave her the chance to show her abilities as a jazz stylist, be it with her own self-penned material, such as "You Don't Have To Say You're Sorry," or with a cover of Spiral Staircase's "More Today Than Yesterday." Havana Candy, from 1977, continued the trend of her own songs and the odd cover ("Lost in the Stars").

When she sang the lead vocal on "Razzmatazz"on Quincy Jones' 1981 album The Dude, Jones, impressed with her voice, signed her to his Qwest label, and he produced Every Home Should Have One.  Many of the songs on that album were written by former Heatwave member Rod Temperton, who had written and would write hits for another artist Jones worked with at the time . . . Michael Jackson.  One of those songs on Ms. Austin's record, "Baby Come To Me," was recorded as a duet with fellow Dude vocalist James Ingram.  Released as a single in April 1982, it went nowhere . . . but when "Baby Come To Me" got played a lot on a TV soap opera, the popularity of the song with TV viewers led to its re-release six months after its original issue.  It topped the Billboard singles chart for two weeks in February 1983.

Although Ms. Austin never had another pop hit, she became a huge success with her original audience, the jazz crowd.  Albums such as The Real Me, Love Is Gonna Getcha and Sound Advice have burnished her already stellar reputation as a jazz vocalist.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Beauty of Song, Part Four: Nicole Atkins

Nicole Atkins is a Jersey girl you may not have heard of.

That's because she's a hard-driving folk-rock performer in the early twenty-first century, an age when neither folk nor rock will get you airplay on Big Radio.

As you can expect, Nicole Atkins - who comes from Monmouth County, New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen's old stomping ground - is a big favorite on alternative-music radio, thanks to songs like "Cry Cry Cry" and "My Baby Don't Lie," both from her 2011 album Mondo Amore.

She made her first big splash with Neptune City, her first LP and her only album with a major label (Columbia), which featured songs such as the title track and "Together We're Both Alone."  Music critic Katherine Fulton praised the album, saying that its arrangements "showcase the depth, range, and versatility of Atkins' alto voice, not to mention her songwriting prowess."

But her music doesn't make you dance, so maybe that's why you may be only hearing of her for the first time here.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

New Series: The Beauty of Song, Part Four!

I begin this blog's twelfth year with another series of beautiful women in music, some of them easily recognizable pop stars, some of them more obscure but no less deserving of inclusion.  

It was a little difficult to pick subjects for this series, because every time I thought I'd finalized my list, I remembered other performers I wanted to include, and I had to find room for them.  I only had room for ten subjects so it wouldn't get too cluttered, so some choices didn't make the cut.  But then I certainly hope to have a fifth "Beauty of Song" series in the future, so anyone I didn't include in this series but wanted to is still up for consideration later.

All right, that's enough from me.  Check back here tomorrow for the post of first woman in this series!        

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Beauty of Retrospect: Sara Kapp

I love a surprise. Especially when the surprise is finding a picture of Sara Kapp, shown here in the foreground, that I've never seen before.

This picture encapsulates everything I love about Sara Kapp - her regal demeanor, her classy expressions, and her dignified stateliness.  This picture is comparable to a Dorothy Wilding portrait of the young Queen Elizabeth II from the 1950s.

I'm not sure who the model in the background is, but I believe it is Aly Dunne.  I haven't featured her here yet, but I want to. ;-)

This is my first post of Sara Kapp since January 2017.  No, I don't think it's too soon to show her again.  Why?  Because it's Sara Kapp! :-)

Back soon.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Beauty of Retrospect: Sheila Johnson, March 1981

I first noticed Sheila Johnson in the early eighties, and I was utterly taken by her sweet, alluring face and her soft, gentle smile.  Not to mention her sex appeal. ;-)

As the photo below from New York Times Sunday Magazine's "Fashions of the The Times" - specifically the March 1, 1981 edition - illustrates, she knew how to project sweetness, softness and sexiness all at once.

The photo directly below, also from the March 1, 1981 edition of "Fashions Of the Times," may be one of her best poses - in a still photo, she speaks volumes with her eyes and her lips.

This is why I have always adored her.  :-)

This is the first time I have featured Sheila Johnson since June 2016.  My first Sheila Johnson post, from September 2009, is one of my most popular posts ever.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Beauty of Retrospect: Alva Chinn, August 1980

One of the most visible fashion models of the seventies and eighties, Alva Chinn - who is a friend of mine and whom I'm featuring here for the first time since November 2015 - appeared in numerous newspaper ads, fashion magazines, and catalogs.  Her high-class looks and her confident poise meant that her portfolio wouldn't be complete without an editorial assignment in the New York Times Sunday Magazine's fashion supplement.

Specifically, the autumn one. :-)

This picture is from the New York Times Sunday Magazine's August 24, 1980 "Fashions Of the Times."  The clothes may have been meant for cooler weather, but, in this late-summer issue, Alva Chinn couldn't help but look hot.  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Beauty of Retrospect: Willow Bay

Like every other Estée Lauder model that preceded and followed her, Willow Bay is in a class by herself, a woman who can shine in any photo - black-and-white, greyscale, color, you name it.  This is from one of her earliest Lauder assignments, with the obligatory objets d'art to add a little extra class (as if that were necessary!), taken by, as always, Victor Skrebneski.  This is my first look back at Ms. Bay, who pursued journalism after modeling, since June 2015.  

Once known as the Estée Lauder woman, Willow Bay could be known by another title by January 2021 - First Lady.  Her husband, Disney CEO Robert Iger, has expressed interest in running for President of the United States in 2020.   

Monday, September 25, 2017

Beautiful Women: Year Eleven

As I noted back in March 2017, I have elected to have annual rather than quinquennial (five-year) lists of the women I have featured here to date because quinquennial lists are too damn hard to put together.  Not that an annual list is all that much easier to assemble.

Be that as it may, the one hundred women I have featured in the year gone by include the usual assortment of actresses, dancers, and models, with athletes and media personalities in the mix. As with the women I featured in the first decade of this blog, a good deal of them are Americans, but  women from other countries are also represented, particularly among the dancers I featured in December 2016. And where a woman's nationality was in doubt - this applies to the more obscure models I have featured in the past twelve months - I did not list one.

Three women on this list remain unidentified, though I hope someone will eventually provide their names for me.  The unidentified woman in the Revlon Colorfast ad is from March 2017, and the unidentified woman in the Buf-Puf ad is from June 2017; just go to to those respective months via the blog archive drop menu to find them, and maybe you can identify them and give me their names as comments under their respective posts.  The unidentified J. Jill model, of course, is in the post right before this one. :-)

As always, I think I've been posting a pretty good mix of women in the past year, and I hope to continue to do so in the coming year.  Who knows, I may feature another politician soon. :-D  Anything is possible.  So, without further ado, here's my latest list. :-) 

Diana Albrecht, Paraguayan ballet dancer
Shirleen Allicot, American (Guyanese-born) television news anchor
Kristin Armstrong, American cyclist
Samaire Armstrong, American actress
Claire Atkinson, British fashion model
Susie Bick, British fashion model and clothing designer
Billie Blair, American fashion model and minister
Isabella Boylston, American ballet dancer
Susan Brainard, American fashion model
Barbara Brejwa, fashion model
Ana Calderon, Spanish ballet dancer
Cate Campbell, Australian swimmer
Lizzy Caplan, American actress
Barbara Carrera, Nicaraguan/American model and actress
Deborah Carney, fashion model
Xuan Cheng, Chinese ballet dancer
Emma Coburn, American steeplechase track athlete
Jenna Coleman, British television actress
Janet Dacal, American musical actress
Susan Davis, American print and broadcast reporter
Doris Day, American actress and singer
Elena Della Donne, American basketball player
Donna de Varona, American swimmer and sportscaster
Michelle Dockery, British actress
Francesca Dugarte, Venezuelan ballet dancer
Doreen Erickson, fashion model
Alexandra Essoe, Canadian (Saudi-born) actress
Samantha Figgins, American modern dancer
Claire Foy, British actress
Missy Franklin, American swimmer
Alice Gainer, American broadcast journalist
Isabel Glasser, American actress
Lana Gordon, American musical actress
Allison Guinn, American stage actress
Cindy Harrell, American commercial and beauty model
Kim Hill, American volleyball player
Jane Hitchcock, American fashion model
Anastacia Holden, American ballet dancer
Meagan Holder, American actress
Emily Hsu, American actress
Chanel Iman, American fashion model
Hallie Jackson, American broadcast journalist
Lily James, British actress
Jameela Jamil, British television and radio personality and actress
Abby Johnston, American diver
Nancy Jones, fashion model
Jackie Joyner-Kersee, American track and field athlete
Doutzen Kroes, Dutch fashion model and actress
Rebecca Larsen, American actress
Karen Lee, American broadcast journalist
Anni Lings, fashion model
Isa Lorenz, American fashion model
Jane March, British actress
Meghan Markle, American actress
Kristen McNally, British ballet dancer and choreographer
Carol Miller, American rock radio personality
Mandy Moore, American singer and actress
SallyAnn Mosey, American television news personality
Olivia Munn, American actress
Linda Newton, fashion model
Thandie Newton, British actress
Wesleigh Ogle, American broadcast journalist 
Yvonne Orji, American (Nigerian-born) comedic actress
Robin Osler, American fashion model and architect
Sheree Paolello, American broadcast journalist
Adrienne Palicki, American TV actress
Michele Parker, fashion model
Beverly Peele, American fashion model
Nicole Perez, American television traffic reporter
Jasmine Perry, American ballet dancer
Melissa Peterson, fashion model
Elaine Quijano, American television news reporter
Deirdre Quinn, American actress
Courtney Reagan, American business news TV reporter
Melissa Rector, American modern dancer
AnnaSophia Robb, American actress
Julia Roberts, American actress
Juliet Rylance, British actress
Chloé Sherman, American ballet dancer
Von Gretchen Shepard, American model/actress
Alexa Singer, South African fashion model and photographer
Susan Smith, fashion and accessories model
Janice Soukup, fashion model
Blanca Suarez, Spanish actress
Brianne Theisen-Eaton, Canadian track and field athlete
Gay Thomas, American model, actress and personal consultant
Perrise Thomas, American broadcast journalist
Katy Tur, American TV reporter
unidentified Buf-Puf model
unidentified J. Jill catalog model
unidentified Revlon Colorfast eye-shadow model
Gabrielle Union, American actress
Alicia Vikander, Swedish actress
Janet Washburn, fashion model (Miami-based)
Alek Wek, South Sudanese fashion model
Jennifer Westfeldt, American actress
Mary Elizabeth Winstead, American actress
Kim Williams, fashion model
Carter Wilson, fashion model
Vanessa Zahorian, American ballet dancer

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Beauty of Anonymity: J. Jill catalog model

For my 1,100th subject, I offer this unidentified model from a recent J. Jill catalog. scanned from a copy that appeared in my mother's mail recently.

The online J. Jill catalog available at this writing features a model who looks like she's the same woman featured here, but I'm not sure if they are in fact one and the same person.

Incidentally, not all catalog models are anonymous women with no more than comp cards on fashion archivist Peter Marlowe's model-composite Web site to document their careers.  Several top models, including Nancy Donahue, Anna Anderson, and Alva Chinn, have done catalog work, and I have shown examples of such from their portfolios here.  The modeling profession considers such work to be "bread and better."  (Beverly Johnson started modeling in Sears catalogs, and you can't get more bread-and-butter than that.)

As always, if you know this model's identity, please identify her in a comment in the field below this blog entry.   

Back soon with a list of the the past year's additions to this blog, then I close out September with looks back at models I've previously featured.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead

Mary Elizabeth Winstead could easily be considered another Jamie Lee Curtis, as she's made a name for herself in horror-genre cinema and television.  But just as Jamie Lee Curtis branched out to other genres, Mary Elizabeth Winstead has proven herself ready to do "something else."

Although she started out as a scream queen, Ms. Winstead began to broaden her horizons as early as 2012, when she played an alcoholic wife struggling to stay sober in Smashed, which was featured at that year's Sundance Film Festival in Utah and gained her rave reviews.

More recently, she's spoofed her own horror-flick reputation by appearing in the CBS summer series "BrainDead," a sci-fi satire about Washington, D.C. in which insects are eating away a the people who make our laws - which explains a lot about the U.S. Congress.   This came after her role as Mary Todd Lincoln in - I am not making this movie up -  Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Perhaps it was both of those projects associating her with Washington the place and Lincoln the man that prepared her for her role as Civil War nurse Mary Phinney in "Mercy Street," the PBS historical drama set in Alexandria, Virginia.  Despite Ms. Winstead's solid performance and the equally solid performances of her fellow cast members, the show was canceled, a victim of unstable funding for public television and of high production costs.  The fact that PBS is not the American equivalent of the BBC explains why we can't have quality shows like "Mercy Street."  (Talk about brain-dead folks in Washington.)

Mary Elizabeth Winstead has since bounced back. She appears in "Fargo," the black-comedy TV series based on the 1996 Coen Brothers movie of the same name.          

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Model/actress Gay Thomas

Gay Thomas is a model/actress I'm happy (get it?) to feature here.

Ms. Thomas was one of the top models of the late 1970s and of the 1980s, appearing in numerous fashion editorials and makeup ads.  She was originally a client of Elite but later moved to the Wilhelmina agency.

She went on to a solid acting career in both movies and television, having been a cast member of TV's "Mercy Point" and also having also played Kathleen Arnett in the 1993 HBO miniseries "Laurel Avenue."  Other shows she's been on include "The Sopranos, "Law & Order," and "Seinfeld," and you might have seen her in the 2003 teen-romance movie Love Don't Cost a Thing.  Among the stellar actors Ms. Thomas has worked with are Joe Morton and the late Roger Rees.

Now Gay Thomas Wilson, she is currently a self-employed "personal development and success strategy consultant," running her own business as a life coach to help people reach their full potential. But she still devotes time to her acting career.

Why not check out her Vimeo reel video below for some of her thespian highlights? :-) 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Spanish actress Blanca Suárez

At this writing, Spain's Blanca Suárez is not yet thirty, yet she's already made a huge impression on Spanish cinema and television.

She gained widespread notice in Pedro Almodóvar's 2011 psychological thriller The Skin I Live In, in which she played a psychotic daughter of a plastic surgeon for which she got a Best New Actress nomination from the Goya Awards, Spain's equivalent of the Oscars.  She later appeared in Almodóvar's ensemble comedy I'm So Excited, set on an airplane.

Ms. Suárez also also played Queen Isabella of Portugal in a miniseries about Charles V, the Holy Roman emperor.  In addition, she gained solid notices for her portrayal of Ainhoa Montero in "The Boat," a Spanish TV miniseries about students trapped on a ship in a post-apocalyptic world caused by a particle accelerator experiment gone bad who find out that there others out there that they have to face.  This got her an Ondas Award (sort of a Spanish equivalent of a Golden Globe Award).   

In all, she's won eleven out of eighteen awards she's received nominations for in Spain.  Having already worked with Spanish actors whose names are familiar to Americans - Antonio Banderas, Penélope Cruz - she might one day receive an award called Oscar.

Hollywood might already be looking at her . . .  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Model and photographer Alexa Singer

Recognize this sweet face?

She's Alexa Singer, a model from South Africa who seemed to grace the cover of every other fashion and beauty magazine back in the 1980s.  Her Glamour and Vogue shots were ubiquitous.

She also appeared in other magazines, such as Self.  The photo above is from a 1983 Self fashion editorial.

Since then, she's moved over to the other side of the camera.  Ms. Singer is now a photographer, and her work includes photographic editorials, beauty headshots, and commercial photos. 

To get a look at her oeuvre, just go to her Web site.     

Monday, September 11, 2017

Actress AnnaSophia Robb

She's just twenty-three, and she doesn't mind acting.

AnnaSophia Robb is a young actress who's likely to become one of the mainstays among American actors in this century.  She was discovered at the age of nine and began doing commercials.  Now she's doing movies and television, and she's beginning to attract a lot of attention.

While she's known for Return To Winn-Dixie, a movie about a girl and her dog, and for playing Violet in the 2005 film version of the Roald Dahl book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Ms. Robb is best known (so far) for her television work.  She starred in The Carrie Diaries," a prequel to "Sex in the City," as the very young Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker's role, of course) and she played the impetuous Alice Green, a Southern girl with a streak of independence, in PBS's scripted Civil War hospital drama "Mercy Street," a show that would still be on if PBS were anything like the BBC.  

I think it's a safe bet that we'll be seeing more of AnnaSophia Robb. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Model Beverly Peele

With her exotic face and a height of just an inch under six feet, Beverly Peele was destined to become a model. Indeed, she's one of the last great fashion models, having been at the top of the profession in the nineties.

Her work includes ads for Ralph Lauren and Chanel, Donna Karan.  Not to mention 250 magazine covers!

Personal demons got in the way of her career, and she's had a few rough breaks, but she's found a way to persevere.  She managed to find work as an actress, appearing in TV shows such as "Sister, Sister" and "Girlfriends."  She also had a role in Sweet Friggin' Daisies, a 2002 movie starring Zooey Deschanel (an earlier honoree on this blog).

 For all her bad breaks, though, it's a safe bet that Beverly Peele will always find a way to survive.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Model and architect Robin Osler

Robin Osler is a model from the seventies and eighties who worked with many fashion designers. She eventually established herself in a different sort of design field after her modeling career ended.

She worked in Europe through various agencies in Paris and Zurich, as well as in America with Elite Runway in New York.  Among the designers she worked with were Thierry Mugler and Gianni Versace.

Her poses were always classy and dignified, as both of these color photos prove.

When her career was over, though, Robin Osler followed in the footsteps of members of her family and became an architect. Her grandfather Emil Lorch founded the University of Michigan's School of Architecture. Her great-uncle George Elmslie was a leading figure in the Midwestern-based Prairie School style of American architecture, which also included Frank Lloyd Wright, and her own father, David Osler, was a successful architect himself.   

Robin Osler (above, in her current career) is a 1987 graduate of the University of Virginia with a B.S. degree in architecture - yes, she modeled her way through college - and she earned her master's degree in architecture from Yale in 1990. She's now one of the top architects in New York.

Her firm, Elmslie Osler Associates, has some incredible examples of work to boast about.  You can see them, and learn more about Robin Osler, at her firm's Web site.   

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Actress Olivia Munn

Lisa Olivia Munn, who goes by her middle name, has had a career that can definitely be described as "varied."

The Oklahoma-born Ms. Munn has been a correspondent for "The Daily Show," has starred in TV shows such as "New Girl" and the somewhat misunderstood "The Newsroom" (as main character Sloan Sabbith), and has appeared in popcorn movies such as X-Men: The Apocalypse as the superheroine Psylocke. (She is reprising the role in X-Men: Dark Phoenix, due in 2018.)

She gets her exotic looks from her white father and her Vietnamese-born Chinese mother.

Fan fact:  Olivia Munn graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in journalism, and she started as as an intern at NBC's Tulsa affiliate. 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Singer/actress Mandy Moore

Strictly speaking, Mandy Moore ought to be featured in one of my "Beauty of Song" series focusing on beautiful women in music.  But she's too enormously talented to be merely defined as a singer.

When the New Hampshire-born Ms. Moore first appeared as a fifteen-year-old pop singer at the close of the twentieth century, it was easy to dismiss her as yet another teen pop idol pushed by the suits who run show business to sell complacent entertainment to a generation of underthinking high school students.  But Ms. Moore had one thing that distinguished her from most other teen-pop divas - she could actually sing.

Maybe that's why her 1999 debut album was called So Real.

After  hit singles such as "Candy," I Wanna Be With You," and a cover of John Hiatt's "Have a Little Faith In Me" (can you imagine Britney Spears covering John Hiatt?), Ms. Moore became a movie star. While she'd had roles in movies like The Princess Diaries and the teen romance A Walk To Remember, she really showed her acting chops as Sally Kendoo in the hilarious 2006 black comedy American Dreamz, a satire of talent-contest TV shows.  This led to other meaty roles such as Molly Wilder in the 2007 mother-daughter flick Because I Said So, opposite Diane Keaton (an earlier honoree on this blog).   

Now she's scored big time in one of the biggest hits of her career - "This Is Us," a TV series following the lives of the Pearson family through the past and the present.  Ms. Moore plays Rebecca, the family matriarch - she's the mother of three children, including an adopted black child, and she has aspirations of becoming . . . a singer. :-)

As of this writing, "This Is Us" is a huge success on NBC, and it's about to begin its second season.  At a mere 33 years of age (again, as of this writing), Ms. Moore has assured herself a lasting place in American popular culture.

Mandy Moore was married to singer-songwriter Ryan Adams for seven years beginning in 2009. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

TV newswoman Karen Lee

If you watch a lot of local cable news in New Jersey, then you know about Karen Lee.

Until recently, she was the beat reporter for News 12 New Jersey's bureau in Bergen County, in New Jersey's northeastern corner, where she originally comes from. Now she's the cable news channel's weekend anchor.

Karen Lee worked in broadcast news as a reporter for WFSB-TV, the CBS affiliate in Hartford, and she's also worked at TV news outlets in upstate New York.  

Fun fact:  She's also a certified scuba diver. :-)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

British actress Lily James

Pictures of Lily!  (Sorry, couldn't resist . . . )

Lily James is a British actress known for highbrow projects and clever action movies.  She's best known to viewers of public television as Lady Rose MacClare in "Downton Abbey."  But she's also known for her star turn in the movie Baby Driver, as the girlfriend of a young man who drives getaway cars for bank robbers and relates a great deal to pop music.  Ms. James's character is a waitress that the young man falls in love with.

Other roles include Juliet in a production of Romeo and Juliet at London's Garrick Theatre and Countess Natasha Rostova in the 2016 BBC adaptation of Tolstoy's "War and Peace."

Oh yeah, she also played Cinderella in Disney's 2015 live-action version of that fairy tale.

Not yet thirty as of this writing, Lily James is definitely an actress with a brilliant future.  

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Chanel Iman

With a name like that, she was destined to become a top model. :-)

Chanel Iman - her full name is Chanel Iman Robinson - has been modeling since she was twelve years old.  Fortunately, at the age of 26 as of this writing, she has made the transition into adulthood with flying colors.

Chanel Iman has appeared on the covers of numerous international editions of magazines such as Vogue, Allure, and Harper's Bazaar, and she has walked the runway for designers such as Burberry, Max Mara, Yves Saint Laurent, Oscar de la Renta, Stella McCartney, Tommy Hilfiger, Jason Wu, Dior, Michael Kors, Hermés, Louis Vuitton, Alexander McQueen, and Marc Jacobs.  This is only a partial list. :-)

She gets her exotic looks from her half-Korean, half-black mother. 

The Los Angeles-raised Ms. Iman has dabbled in acting, appearing in Dope, a coming-of-age movie with a black cast and set in southern California.  

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Actress Meagan Holder

Another post about another rising star in Hollywood. :-)

Though Meagan Holder has been in a few movies, including an installment in the cheerleader movie franchise Bring It On and the Four Seasons biopic Jersey Boys (in which she played a jazz singer), Meagan Holder is best known as a television actress.

Her best known TV role is as Darby Conrad in "Make It or Break It," a comedy-drama series on ABC family about aspiring gymnasts.

Meagan Holder seems to have a knack for making people laugh and cry on the small screen.  She appeared in another comedy-drama, "Born Again Virgin," about dating and relationships, on the TV One channel, as a regular cast member (playing Kelly Bowers).  That series lasted two seasons. 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Musical actress Lana Gordon

Lana Gordon is a singer, and actress, a dancer, and all that jazz.

And while she's played many roles on the stage, she's best known for playing Velma Kelly in the Broadway revival of Chicago.

An alumna of New York City's Alvin Ailey School, Ms. Gordon was in several ensemble companies before her career took off.  Her first notable role was as Dionne in a European tour of Hair

Ms. Gordon debuted on Broadway in 1997 as an ensemble original cast member in The Lion King, in which she also played the role of Shenzi.  She also spent a decade performing abroad in productions of such musicals as Sister Act, West Side Story (as Anita, a role made famous by the great Rita Moreno), and Carmen Cubana, a retelling of the old Prosper Mérimée story in a Caribbean setting - our heroine played the title role.  She's also in demand as a solo vocalist in Europe.

And oh yes, this shouldn't surprise you, but Lana Gordon has also worked as a model in the U.S., both in print and television advertising.  And like the most beautiful of top models . . .

. . . she looks even more gorgeous without makeup. :-D

And all that jazz. :-)