Tuesday, January 22, 2008


We all know Malinda Williams is a beautiful and talented actress, starring in such memorable films and television projects such as The Wood, Showtime's Soul Food, but what about the trials and tribulations she's had to endure in her private life...specifically that nasty and much publicized divorce from actor Mekhi Phifer? Well, now Williams is letting her fans in on what's been going on in her life, both personally and professionally...mainly personally. She dishes on what it's like being a single mom (she and Mekhi share an 8 year-old son, Omikaye), her current relationship with Phiffer and why she never wanted to stop loving him...but most importantly how how she found love once again with her best-friend-turned-fiance, D-Nice who has hung up the mic in exchange for photography. (peep the pic on the left)

Essence.com: Has he (Omikaye) been caught up in the glitz and glam of Hollywood since mommy and daddy are actors?
Malinda Williams: (Laughs). No, absolutely not. I don�t think I'm caught up. I don't label myself as a celebrity, but society puts these expectations on me because of my profession. As parents Mekhi [Phifer] and I are very normal people, so my son is grounded. I do my best to keep my life as normal as possible because the further you rise above what the general public thinks of you, the [farther ] and harder you have to fall. One day I was out at Target and this woman asked, 'Are you Malinda Williams?' And I said, "Yes." And then she said, 'What are you doing here?' And I said, 'I'm buying paper towels and cereal just like you!'

Essence.com: How did your divorce affect him?
M.W.: Omi has always been a very clear child. It's funny because he's so beyond his years. As a single mom who has been through a divorce, my baby would always check in on me and ask me if I was okay and say, "Thank you for being my mom," as if he knew I needed to hear that. It let me know that he had a greater understanding than I could have imagined. So, I believe it's my duty to be happy so I can show him what happiness looks like.


Essence.com: It's amazing how children can be so insightful and as a result heal us in the process. Some folks believe you and Mekhi are still at war. Is that true?
M.W.: The biggest misconception folks have is that I have beef with my ex-husband. Who has time? I'm a very spiritual person and one of the things I base my life on is the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I always try to keep it positive, and that's with anything--friendships or relationships. What happened between us happened so many years ago it's irrelevant now. Honestly, there is nothing to talk about. Besides, I don't like conflict, never have. I'm a Libra and I love balance.

Essence.com: But wasn't there was a time that you were angry and spoke publicly about what transpired between you two?
M.W.: When my marriage broke down I was so angry because I didn't want to stop loving Mekhi. Yes, I wanted to stop living with him and I wanted to stop doing some of the things we did together, but I didn't want to stop loving him so it made me angry because I was struggling. I don't know what I was struggling with probably struggling with myself, but I was like, "I don�t want to stop loving you, so how do I do that?" But the world kept saying we had to fight, we had to go court, we had to be enemies, you know we had to be divorced and all along I kept thinking, I don't want to hate my son's father, I don't want to have disdain for him. I don't want any of those things. So that was the most difficult thing for me to accept. But it came to me one day as I was driving down the street. It was a point when I completely accepted everything for what it was and said, you know what? Nobody can take love from you, only you can take love from you. And when you commit to love someone, you really do commit to love them no matter what and that's what I did. So part of me getting out of that marriage was because I never want to get to the point where I hate somebody.

Essence.com: Did you feel any self-doubt when your marriage failed?
I always felt I was as strong as my mother and my grandmother or at least I was on that road. So when my marriage broke down, I felt like it was a weakness. But then I realized that Mekhi and I came together for a reason, and even if our son was the only reason that we came together, we served our purpose together. To this day, I don't look at that as a failure; I look at that as a major achievement and a huge blessing and I thank God for that union. I don't know where I would be today.

Essence.com: I hear you're getting married soon. Who's the lucky guy?
(Laughs) Well, I'm the lucky woman. I'll be marrying Derrick "D-Nice" Jones.

Essence.com: As in "my name is D-Nice/I'm taking out you suckas and you don't know how I did it" D-Nice? How long have you known each other?
(Laughs) Since we were 18. Derrick Jones, D-Nice.

Essence.com: So did you ever think you�d be marrying your best friend?
Never in a million years. I knew he would always be my friend, but some time goes by and you lose touch. Then when you come back together, you realize that you really are different people. We were kids, but then we came together and he was a man and I was a woman, and ultimately that brought us closer together. We've been together three years.

Essence.com: So when's the big day?
In August.

Essence.com: So is this it for you? Is he The One?
I never say that like you said it. Tomorrow is not promised, so if you stay sort of in the moment it helps to keep you in perspective of where you are, not where you've been and where you're trying to get. And that's what I'm doing now. And I"m in love and happy.

You can check out Malinda in the new comedy First Sunday, in theaters now. And to read Malinda's entire Essence interview, click HERE



After nearly two years, former Girlfriends star, Jill Marie Jones is finally clearing up some of the rumors regarding her sudden departure as Toni Childs Garrett on the number one Africa-American show. And what she says just may surprise you. I know it surprised the hell out of me. Jones spoke exclusively and candidly to Essence.com and dished revealed the real reason she decided to leave the show, her relationships today with her former co-stars and Girlfriends creator, Mara Brock Akil, and the snide and jive-ass comments Tracee Ellis Ross' made in an magazine article after Jones left the show. The Dallas Darling also lets us in on what she's doing now and IF she plans on returning to Girlfriends in the near future...which I hope she does, because Lord knows they need her desperately right about now. But then again, seeing as how this is the show's last season...and with the writers on strike, unfortunately, we may never see Toni Childs Garrett grace the small scene again.

Essence.com: And let me tell you, Toni Childs is sorely missed.
Jill Marie Jones:
It was so much fun playing Toni Childs. I don�t walk that walk in my daily life. I like to think that I'm a pretty nice person, but to be able to play the diva and say some of the things those types of characters say was a lot of fun.

Essence.com: Do you miss being a part of Girlfriends?
I do miss Girlfriends. I don't know if people know this, but Girlfriends was only my third audition. I booked my first audition for City Guys, a Saturday morning show. My second audition I didn't book and then Girlfriends was my third, so you have to understand that I still very green to this industry and there was the whole film world that I didn't know. So when I left Girlfriends after six years, there was just so much I wanted to know and do. I've just been having a ball having opportunities to do movies. It's just been great.

Essence.com: Nothing wrong with spreading your wings, which brings me to your departure from Girlfriends. Tracee Ellis Ross said in an interview that the reason you didn't return was because the cast did not receive the huge raise they were expecting. Is that true?

BLOGGER'S NOTE: Tracee actually told Vibe Vixen magazine (Fall 2006 issue): "In order for the show to come back, the cast was not going to get the huge raises we dreamed of. So when the calls went out about the new contracts, Jill gave a quick 'no.' It was her decision. Clearly, we all wanted to come back to Girlfriends as we know it. However, like anything, the show is bigger than one person. The show is called Girlfriends, not Jill and Friends." Bitter, Tracee?


J.M.J: First of all, let me tell you why I left. I left because I wanted to do movies. My contract was up after my sixth season and people forget that just like the network can choose whether or not to renew your contract, I can also choose and evaluate whether or not I want to come back. My actor's chair that has Girlfriends and my name on it, you know the director's chair? Well, on the very last day of my sixth season, I told them to grab my chair and put it in my car for me. Then we had to negotiate a contract that doesn't happen until they decide that your show is going to be picked up. You end the show in like February and then they don't decide if they are going to pick you up because the upfronts until May. So why would I take my chair if I thought I was coming back? Believe you me, I would tell you. I've never made a decision based on money. I was on the show for six years and I think that's a good run. There's so much more I want to do in my career and so much more I want to know and learn, but my departure definitely had nothing to do with money.

Essence.com: So were you aware that this was the explanation given for your departure?
Someone sent that article to me a long time ago when it first came out, and you know, I love Tracee, I love Golden, I love Persia, I love Reggie. I really do feel like I was in the University of Girlfriends. I learned so much from them. I mean, where I started on Girlfriends and where I ended up is like night and day and that's because of the great cast I had to learn from. It's difficult when something has been set up for six years and then something changes. I didn't get upset about the comment. It's all good.

Essence.com: That's great to hear. I think most folks speculate that you all had beef because you never responded. But that's not the case is it?
Well, no one asked me a question. I don't believe in adding grease to fire. If I were doing an interview about something I'm working on and someone wanted to ask me something, I have no problem answering it. But for me to make a statement or a rebuttal, to me it's just silly.

Essence.com: Well, the second part of Tracee's quote expressed her sadness that after six years of working together you didn't share your decision to leave with the cast. Is that true?
I'll be completely honest: I just didn't really. I wish I had a better answer or could tell you that I even thought about it. Maybe it was a lapse of judgment, maybe I should have called� I didn't really think about it. When my call came in to say, "We're going to pick up Girlfriends for another season, does Jill want to come back?" My management and I were like, "Thank you, but no thank you." So maybe I should have made phone calls, but I didn't really think about it. When the cast first came back for their seventh season, I sent them all, individually, every single person of Girlfriends a big bouquet of flowers. I didn't leave Girlfriends because I was upset or wanted more money. It really wasn't that deep. It's so disappointing that because I wanted to dream bigger or experience something new, it received all this hoopla and drama around it. I really just wanted to do movies. It really was just that simple.

Essence.com: Do you still keep in touch with the cast?
I've talked to them individually at different times. I have so much love for all of them. But are we hanging out and having some wine and cheese on a Saturday night? No. Do I think of them as friends? Absolutely. In a way, I think of them as extended family, like cousins. I've talked to them individually throughout this, but I don't talk to them on a regular basis. I wish them all well and I still watch the show.

Essence.com: Would you ever return to the show?
You know anything is possible; it just has to make sense in terms of the direction I'm going in my own career.

Essence.com: Thank you for setting the record straight because people always want to pit Black women against one another.
Yeah we do that and it's disappointing, especially when it's Black women, and I don't like that. I just had lunch with Mara [Brock Akil, the show's creator]; we met for a coffee like a month and a half ago. When I say we're all good over here, we're good.

BLOGGER'S NOTE: Akil has also had to deal with the sudden departure of Jones, who played real estate agent Toni before deciding to exit the show following last season over reported contract issues. At the end of last season, Toni had a falling out with best friend Joan, played by Tracee Ellis Ross. Jones’s departure, and her refusal to come back for a farewell appearance, has forced Akil to get creative with the storylines. "I would love for her to come back, but Jill doesn't want to return,” says Akil. “I don't know 100% why she made this decision. She didn't tell me. All she said when we talked was that she felt it was time for her to move on. The door is not closed. We've asked her to come back and have offered different ways for her to return. But I completely wish her well. There's no drama involved."

Essence.com: Well how does it feel to be immortalized in Kanye West's song The Glory from his album Graduation when he says "House on the hill two doors from Tracee Ross and I'm asking about her girlfriends yea the dark skined one"?
J.M.J.: (Laughs) Really? That's really cool. I wasn't aware that he references me, I actually have that album and I'll have to listen to it again.

As for Jones movie career, she's been busy breathing life into new diverse characters on the big screen with the same fervor and diva-next-door appeal in three new flicks. In the straight-to-DVD indie dramedy Redrum, she plays a meek housewife turned blood-thirsty serial killer; in Major Movie Star she gets tough and dirty with Jessica Simpson as a single mom who joins the army for a promise of a better future; and in The Comeback she plays a school teacher who mentors a young female student who has joined the town's football team.




Sean 'Diddy' Combs was spotted arriving at Club Villa in Hollywood, California last Friday. And for those of you who want to experience what it feels like to work for media royalty, the busy-body mogul is now recruiting two new assistants to help him run his life: personal and business. The superstar has placed advertisements for personal and executive assistants to look after his every need and work "on-call true 24-7". Diddy's new assistant will also work as "a liaison between the Chairman (Diddy) and his family". The lucky employees will also "coordinate with (his) wardrobe manager to pack clothing selections for business and personal trips".


Actor Vin Diesel was also seen shutting the Villa Club down about a week ago. Peep the pics below.




Grammy-award winning rapper Ludacris is adding the title of restaurateur to his resume. In April 2007, he will launch his latest business venture, Straits Atlanta, bringing Singaporean cuisine to the artist’s hometown. The restaurant is the fourth of it’s kind: Ludacris’ partner in the venture, Chef Chris Yeo owns three other restaurants in the Straits brand in San Francisco, San Jose and Burlingame, California. Named for the Straits of Malacca - the waterway between China and Singapore – Straits offers a modern twist on Singaporean cuisine, which is a combination of Thai, Indonesian, Chinese, Malay, Indian and Nonya cooking. Straits Atlanta, will further incorporate Georgian ingredients into the menu. "I love Atlanta's charm, architecture, food and, most of all, the people," explained Yeo of his decision to expand his brand outside of California. "Chris Bridges’ commitment to his community and his family sealed the deal for me – this market is ideal for Straits and likewise Straits is perfect for the city."

The upscale $2.7 million dollar restaurant will open in Midtown Atlanta, in a building purchased by Ludacris nearly one year ago. Ludacris has also invested almost $1,000,000 dollars into renovating the building. "During my travels, I’ve experienced some of the most diverse international culinary flavors in the world," Ludacris says. "After experiencing Yeo’s modern spin on Singaporean cuisine combined with the sexy dining experience, I wanted to bring this restaurant home to Atlanta."




“As solo artists, we are three different people. People can’t expect us all to take the same route as solo artists or enjoy the same kind of success. Victoria [Beckham] has a different route to Mel B, Mel B has a different route to Geri, and so on. We all have different paths, cause we’re all different people. I’m more of an intimate person anyway; I like playing smaller and more intimate venues. People can’t expect me to be Beyoncé or Beyoncé to be me or me to be Michelle or whatever! Just allow us to be ourselves! The Lord brought Michelle and me into B’s life and look what kind of heights we’ve soared to.” ....."People see how positive we are as women and as friends, and instead of them learning from that, they wanna hate on it. I have no time for that kind of negative thinking. People should be happy to see women getting along and working together, without being insecure about each other. It doesn’t have to be drama, but people always wanna create drama! I don’t even let that bother me. 'Cause people will continue to talk and we’ll just continue selling records.”

--Kelly on why folks shouldn't expect her to be Beyonce and her feelings regarding loosing the Vibe magazine June 2007 cover story to Beyonce. Read blogger's note, by clicking HERE

“When I got engaged and announced that, it became a media riot. So I feel like the next time anybody will know anything about me, as far as relationships are concerned, I’ll be married! I learned that I shouldn’t allow my past to affect my present. I didn’t grow up with my biological father and I think that girls who grow up in that situation can sometimes grow up looking for daddy. So I think it’s important to know who your father is. For me, Beyoncé’s father is like my father. When we’re all at home, Matthew treats me like his little girl. But for girls who grow up without a father figure, I think it’s important for them to know their self worth so they don’t look for the wrong things when they grow up and start to forge relationships.”.....“I wouldn’t shun it, but I’m not gonna force it or allow people to push me in that direction. If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen.”

--Kelly on what she learned about talking about keeping her personal business to herself; her father/daughter relationship with Beyonce's father, Mathew Knowles; and if she'd ever be interested in achieving Beyoncé’s level of mega-stardom.

Kelly's Ms. Kelly will be re-released on March 10th. The single, Work is out on January 28.



R&B singer Usher's biological father, Usher Raymond III, died on Friday, January 18, 2008 in an Atlanta hospital of unknown causes. He was 52 years old.

According to Taylor Funeral Home in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Raymond family will receive friends at the funeral home today (Tuesday, January 22nd) from 6-8 p.m. Homegoing services will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, January 23, 2008 at 1 p.m. in the funeral home's chapel with Elder James Penny officiating, followed by the burial at Highland Memorial Gardens.

Here's little background info on Usher and his father's former estranged relationship: Usher III walked out on Usher's mother, Jonetta Patton shortly after she gave birth to their son on Oct. 14, 1978, in Chattanooga. "It took him a long time to accept Usher was his boy," said Don King, an old school friend. "He was a good man who got in with the wrong crowd. He started taking crack cocaine, freebasing and then stealing." Until recently, father and son had been on the outs before Usher made the decision to allow his father--who had been addicted to crack and jailed several times for shoplifting, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and assault on a police officer--back into his life soon after he released his record-breaking album Confessions in 2004. And although his father had abandoned him, Usher still pledged to help his dad when he was released from prison over 2 years ago.


Usher solidified his father-son relationship when he invited his father to attend his wedding to Tameka Foster last August...a wedding which he later canceled before the couple exchanged 'I dos' in a private ceremony in Usher's lawyer's office and then again in a lavish ceremony in front of friends and family.

I'm a stern believer that everything happens for a reason. Usher reuniting and patching things up with his father was all in God's plans; thereby, allowing several relevant circumstances to shine through and cast a positive light on such an unexpected passing. In the end, Usher was able to make peace with his father and Usher's father was here long enough to welcome his son's son into this world...a grandson who will also carry on the Usher Raymond name. Lil dude is the beginning of the fifth generation of Usher Raymonds. Usher's father left this world knowing that his son cared enough of him to not only allow him back into his life, but to also pass down their name to his first born son. That's a lot to be grateful for and all parties involved should be feel blessed and appreciative for that gift alone.

OBIT SOURCE: usherforever.com via Chattanooga Times Free Press

FYI: And contrary to rumors, Ben Vereen is not Usher's biological father. Although I can understand why folks would think otherwise. Vereen is actually the singer's godfather.

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