Issue No.12 January 2, 2003

IGNITE ~ Family Matters
HOT GIRLZ ~ Maria Perez-Brown
ISM ~ Catch A Fire designed by Cedella Marley
ESOTERIC ~ Our Buying Power
CHICA TO CHICA ~ Father Could But Daughter Should


intro and overview

I can't remember the day or even the year it actually happened. All I know is that one day, there we were, the two of us spending a weekend together in the Berkshires-- dining out, shopping and enjoying Mother Nature-- acting like old friends telling jokes and remembering the good times. The startling (and wonderful) thing about this outing was that I was hanging with my mother. The woman whom I thought could never understand me, who would never see things my way. This was my Parent-- my provider and punisher for the past 30 years. But somewhere between college and turning 30, just when I was feeling the full pressures of adult life-- finding a fulfilling job, managing my debt and dealing with crazy boyfriends-- our relationship transitioned, or better yet, it evolved. Just when I needed some direction and insight, my mother became my friend-- listening, advising (usually) when asked and even joking around. I realized then just how much family matters. The type of relationship we have with our folks is so important in our development as adults. I'm not saying that everyone's got to be on some Huxtable tip with their parents, but how we relate to (or not relate to) our folks will surely manifest itself in the type of friends we choose, partners we love and kind of life we end up living.

And what better time to discuss the importance of family than around the Holidays. In this issue we speak with three sisters who, in one way or another, were tremendously affected by their mom or dad. Maria Perez-Brown, the creator and executive producer of Nickelodeon's Taina waxes cultural about how life as a Boriqua is one where la madre es numero uno; Cedella Marley celebrates the legacy of her dad through her new clothing line and writer@large, Thembisa Mshaka, opens up and gets real deep on how suppressed anger towards her father was slowly unraveling her career and her marriage. As the saying goes, you get to choose your friends, but it's your family you get stuck with forever. So here's to making the best out of tight situations. Happy New Year!

Nicole Moore, Editor

inspired, creative and groundbreaking


Maria Perez-Brown
by Nicole Moore

When Maria Perez-Brown enters a room you better make sure your seat belt is fastened and that your tray is in the upright position because this media power player has got the kind of energy and charisma that rocks foundations, making folks dizzy with anticipation and amped for whatever. Maria's laugh is dead on J. Lo and in tried and true Boriqua fashion, she talks fast, laughs hard and impassions fiercely.

As the President of Dorado Entertainment, Maria has a number of production credits under her belt including Creator and Producer of Nickelodeon's "Gullah Gullah Island," and Creator and Executive Producer of "Taina," another popular Nick series about a teenage girl trying to find a balance between her very traditional Puerto Rican family and her MTV loving crew at school.

To say that Maria yearned to take a different path than her mother-- who was married by fourteen and a single parent, mother of four by the time she was 20-- is a huge understatement. Born in Dorado, Puerto Rico, Maria was hitting the books hard as a teen and subsequently attended Yale and then NYU Law. After cutting her teeth as a tax lawyer in New York City, Maria slowly transitioned into the entertainment business. She recently completed her first book, "Mama: Latina Daughters Celebrate Their Mothers," which will hit shelves sometime this spring. Sitting with her in her midtown office, it was apparent that Maria, like her character Taina, is all about finding balance in her life between her career and her culture, her job and her home. Let's face it, at the end of the day and especially at the beginning of a new year, what sister really wants to live la vida loca?

theHotness: How did you move from the tax department of a law firm to producing Taina-- your resume makes the transition sound seamless?

Maria Perez-Brown:
The transition was seamless and then it wasn't. I graduated from law school and got in a big firm. It's very difficult to get a job at one of those firms and if you're a person of color and you get one, you feel like you have arrived. But when I got there I realized that it wasn't feeding my spirit. And I coincidentally happened to land in the tax department of this firm. Now there is nothing exciting about taxes. Nothing! The only thing exciting was getting the check at the end of the week. I just realized early on that I wasn't happy with what I was doing. I did not look forward to waking up and looking at tax codes all day long. Looking back though, I think it was a necessary period. It made me a very meticulous person, a very good writer, it made me focus and be very methodical. It just gave me some skills that I've been able to use later as a producer-- skills that you need to be good producer. But I was totally bored and that was the bottom line. I remember one day going to this pension plan seminar at work and I looked around and I just saw all of these middle-aged, bored and really miserable looking people. It's one of those moments were you just have an existential experience and you look around and go, 'Oh my God! Everyone in this room is ugly.' I was like, 'I gotta get outta here!' And I mean 'ugly' like people who clearly were not happy and it showed. I just felt that I had no connection to anyone. It just wasn't fitting my spirit. I had no connection to people. I only had connections to paper and I wanted to connect with somebody. I wanted to do something. So I read all the trades-- Variety, Hollywood Reporter, joined the Black Filmmakers Foundation and bartered my services and took classes. After I got my feet wet I was ready to leave my job because I felt that I had to do what I love. So I took a calendar and picked my last day at work. And there were hard times, when I just didn't know where the next check was gonna come from. But you what know? Something always came through.

tH: What did your mom think of you leaving your high profile law gig to go into the risky field of entertainment?

MPB: Oh my family was a whole 'nother thing. My mom was a single mom and she was so proud that I was lawyer she didn't even know what I did. She was just like, 'my daughter's a lawyer.' We would go to family gatherings and they would ask, 'why isn't Maria married,' and she would go, 'she's a lawyer.' And that was her answer for everything. So when I had to tell her that I was leaving the law office, she was like, 'what... what are you doing?!?' We were so working class and all she knew was that I had made it because I was a lawyer.

tH: So what made you decide to do a show like Gullah Gullah Island for your first production?

MPB: Well being a smart businesswoman and a creative person, I knew I had to look at the marketplace and even though I wanted to do a show with a Latino family, I knew I wouldn't be able to sell that then. It was 1992 and nobody had heard of a Latino anything. There were no census numbers…

tH: Yeah because the Latin Explosion hadn't happened. There was no Ricky Martin...

MPB: And no J. Lo. So I knew back then that they wouldn't have been as receptive as they were later when I pitched Taina. And I used the Gullah Sea Islands as a model because that was the closest (African-American) experience to life in Puerto Rico. They had their own culture that was preserved and it was very African and part of the experience in Puerto Rico is also very African.

tH: And then there was that Explosion and the time was right for Taina?

MPB: Oh yeah, folks were shaking their bon-bon everywhere! (laughter) And Nickelodeon went for it and we've done two seasons-- 26 episodes and... the show was just cancelled.

tH: No way! What happened? You have great reviews and great ratings.

MPB: I have no idea!

tH: Do you think it had to do with race politics?

MPB: (she laughs loud and then rolls her eyes) I take the fifth. Honestly I really hesitate to say because Nick has invested in many shows with Latino characters so, I can’t say they don’t want Latino programming.

tH: Well that's their loss. So looking ahead...tell me about your book.

MPB: "Mama" is a series of interviews with Latina women about their mothers. These women-- about 30, all have very complex relationships with their mothers. Because they're second generation women and because they were born in different countries than their mothers they're struggling with cultural and racial issues that a lot of other women don't have. So you have the regular complications that people have with their mothers and then you add to that, all of those layers of issues that these women are dealing with and you have women that live in two worlds. But consistently all of the women talked about having to be successful and happy. And a lot of them give credit to their mothers for allowing them to follow their dreams and be just that.

~ N. Moore



new books, flicks, music, & other cool stuff


Catch A Fire ~ Cedella Marley, Designer

Cedella Marley's got her daddy's mysterious doe eyes and her mother's ocean-deep laugh. As the first child of the legendary Reggae singer Bob Marley and his equally renowned wife, Rita, Cedella's life has been one infused with music, culture and politics all deeply rooted in the old-school Jamaican spirit of I and I-- oneself with Jah.

As one of the four Melody Makers, Cedella has not only had the opportunity to tour the world, but has racked up two Grammy's in the process. Also a full-time mom of two and the CEO of Tuff Gong International (the label her dad created) this multi-tasking, 'tree-job-havin' rude gal is adding "designer" to her cache. This past autumn marked the debut of Catch A Fire-- a line of customized women's clothing, appropriately named after Bob's first international album. Drawing inspiration from the unique ragga style of her pops and the laid-back funky aesthetic of the I-Threes, Cedella is now using the medium of fashion to keep her father's memory alive while sharing with the world her own distinct sensibility.

theHotness caught-up with the outspoken forty-year old at her New York City showing. With her mom sitting by her side rubbing her back and her brothers singing in the adjoining room, Cedella talked about the connection between fashion, family and the power of fire.

theHotness: With a clothing line named "Catch A Fire," what do you hope to represent and embody in the world of fashion?

Cedella Marley: Just fire. Blaze 'em up. Smokin'. I'm just tired of these people doing the same old thing all the time and everybody just being pretentious and not being real with each other. People know what I do because of who my parents are and so I'm not scared to show you my leaf... to burn my fire.

tH: Your father is considered a spiritualist and an activist. He was a Rastafarian...

CM: ...and he was cute.

tH: Yeah he sure was. But you being a fashionista doesn't that in someway contradict or conflict with your father's spiritual grassroots persona?

CM: No. The one thing that everybody knows about my father is that beautiful women were a part of his life. I don’t know if he ever went to a fashion show, but he picked out his clothes mindfully. And he was all that you said, but he also wanted to look good too.

tH: What type of inspirations did you draw from when designing the spring line?

CM: Well you see my T-shirts that say 'Boss Nigger'? I went online to and it's so weird just how energy travels. For real, you know? I started to pick out old Black artwork. I even have some cartoon artwork, and not some Peanuts stuff either. But it's some shit man. Before (tonight's) show I asked everyone, 'who wants to wear the Boss Nigger t-shirt?' And everyone said no. Even the Black girl who works for me said, 'I’m not gonna wear that!' And I said, 'why not?' And she said 'Because I'm not a nigger.' I said, 'you're not? Then what are you?' She said, 'I'm half Chinese.'

tH: So YOU don't have a problem being the Boss Nigger?

CM: Oh no! I had the shirt made in pink just for women like me. When I wear it, I know what I want it to represent. That's my personal shit. For me it's fire. We need to feel free to express ourselves.

tH: How thin is the line between exploiting your father's image and extending his legacy?

CM: His image is not being exploited through CAF. And you know what? I loss my dad when I was 13 years old and I really don't give a fuck what people wanna say about 'exploiting.' If I can have a picture of his face in front of my face everyday, then that's my business, my joy. If somebody wants to draw their little thoughts from it, then that's their business. You know, I am my father's child.

Check out these shots from Catch A Fire’s first US show during Fashion Week in NYC.

~ NM



media bits and news bytes


Our Buying Power

Women represent an economic powerhouse, making over 85% of the consumer purchases (in the US) and influencing over 95% of total goods and services. Women's consumer spending is $3.7 trillion and business spending is $1.5 trillion.

Women also purchase 50 percent or better in traditional "male" categories like automobiles, consumer electronics and PCs.



expressing ourselves


Father Should but Daughter Could
Dedicated to Angry Daughters
by Thembisa Mshaka

In the summer of 1990, I threw my father away. I am his first child. I was his prize. Throughout my life he let me know it with frequent plane rides to his native Philadelphia where I was spoiled rotten by his parents and siblings. He taught me about jazz music as we sped down the highways of my native Los Angeles. He cheered me on in gymnastics and took me to Laker games, crowning me a lifelong fan. Most of the time he had a camera slung over his shoulder to document our life as a family.

But that August he betrayed me. He came to visit me before my sophomore year at Mills College began. I actually expected him to drive solo. Instead, he brought along Norma-- who I later found out was his new woman.

Earlier that same summer, he took me to the park and sat me down for a father-daughter talk. I knew it would be serious, probably about sex, boys, and the importance of school, but that's when he lowered the boom. He and mom were not getting along and they were getting a divorce. This news came out of nowhere. I rarely saw them argue, much less fight. Everything had been fine. But suddenly he was leaving me, leaving us. My sister and brother were 8 and 7 respectively. I was 17.

I was devastated, but I had no idea how angry I was until that fateful August afternoon. As we left the park, I made up my mind right then that I was on my own. So I threw myself into school, excelling academically and socially to prove I was still whole. When my pops left, so did the income he brought with him, so I got a paid internship. My grandpop helped me cover expenses by sending a hundred dollar "fishcake" from Philly each month. Between work, school, and friends, I thought I was over it when he called to say he was driving up for a visit. But I wasn't. And seeing him with some strange woman who wanted me to be her friend was all it took for me to write him off. I mean, he was still in his marriage of 17 years! What kind of father couldn't even make his divorce official before shoving 'the other woman' down his daughter's throat? All the admiration, respect and trust I had for him was gone. Our family was torn apart and crippled financially. And I blamed him. I could not return to school after the winter break without $10,000 cash for my tuition, which he had promised to pay no matter what when I got accepted. Miraculously, other family members made good on his broken promise, sending me back to Oakland with a cashier's check for the full amount. I blamed him for being broke and behind in school. I blamed him for my mother being left with the burden of caring for three kids on a social worker's salary. I blamed him for leaving my younger sister and brother without a father in the house to give them everything he gave me.

The drive and overachievement continued. I graduated from Mills on time with honors. I met the love of my life and married him in 1997. I got a great job in advertising and we moved to New York a year later. We had our precious son Mecca Jihad in 2000. From the outside, it looked like I had everything-- a powerful reputation, an accomplished career, a supportive husband and a growing family of my own. But on the inside, there was something missing, and it was costing me everything I had worked for. I was always tired, out of shape, unmotivated to eat well or work out. Happiness eluded me-- my spirituality suffered, and my work held no joy. I blamed it on being in a cramped apartment in an overcrowded city with a new baby, an unemployed husband and very little disposable income. But none of those circumstances were the cause.

Many of us spend years of our lives and thousands of our dollars in therapy to uncover the source of our angst in relationships, our anger at the world and at ourselves. I was fortunate beyond measure to avoid that. I found the answers to why what was happening in my life through a simple 3-day seminar. I got the tools to design my life instead of being resigned in it. In a word, I discovered the work of transformation-- the transformation of being human. I realized that I was missing the peace that comes from feeling worthy of love. I believed the divorce had robbed me of the love my father told me I deserved. This belief made me fearful and insecure in my marriage. I was pretending that my marriage was going to last forever, when in reality, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop; waiting for my husband to leave me just like Dad. I made my husband pay for that fear dearly. I punished him in our daily existence, needing to control it completely. Everything had to go my way, from where we vacationed to when we were intimate. The tension between us was palpable. Distance and mistrust crept in between us. The impact on us both was crippling. We could not be free with one another. Only God knows how our son felt, because he was too young to articulate it.

The seminar showed me that what I believed about my father's actions and choices was something I made up. The story had trapped me in the past and held my future in its grip. I had to separate the story from what happened, which simply put, was that my father and mother divorced. I however made it mean that he threw me away, and that I was entitled to do the same to him. I saw that I was being his judge and jury, and in doing so had sentenced my own marriage and self-esteem to death. I began to understand who I had been and invented new possibilities for who I would be with my father... and in my life. I committed to being the possibility of acceptance, unconditional love, and freedom of being. In a 20-minute telephone conversation with my father, I cleaned up seven years of being ugly, resentful, withholding of my life, and disrespectful to the man who brought me into this world. I got my father back in 20-minutes flat. This realization has opened up a new relationship with my father. It has gone from what my father should do, to what his daughter could do... must do. I realized I could be loving, generous and great with him. When I visited Los Angeles for my sister's college graduation, I took him to a Father's Day dinner with my sister and Mecca. Then the four of us played on the beach! This was miraculous because a year ago we barely spoke.

I'm loving my life now. I even love the things about it that don't work because I now have the power to transform them. Remember that laundry list of complaints I had? Well I have since lost 20-pounds, moved out of that tiny apartment and bought a 3-family home; watched my husband become an agent at one of New York's premier real estate firms; started writing my first book, and found fulfillment in my career. The anger and pain disappeared right along with my story and returned to me the best father a daughter could have.

~ Thembisa S. Mshaka is authoring "Handle Your [Music] Business: Her Guide to Entering, Navigating, or Exiting the Record Industry."






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