- Created on 02 October 2013
FILE - This March 22, 2011 file photo shows rapper Ja Rule inside a vehicle outside Martin Luther King, Jr. Courthouse after pleading guilty to federal tax evasion charges in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, file)
ATLANTA (AP) — Ja Rule, who recently spent nearly two years behind bars for illegal gun possession, landed a role in a new movie because screenwriter Galley Molina empathized with the rapper's missteps.
"People used to ask, 'Well, you know he's a felon?' And I would say, 'Well, so am I,'" recalled Molina, a 44-year-old pastor who was locked up for five years for drug trafficking.
"I know his heart. I know what type of dude he is and he was probably one of the most professional guys on the set."
"I'm in Love With a Church Girl" will debut Oct. 18 in more than 280 theaters in the U.S. Ja Rule stars as a high-level drug dealer who struggles to leave his illegal lifestyle behind after getting into a serious relationship with a church-going woman played by Adrienne Bailon of Cheetah Girls and 3LW fame. Stephen Baldwin, "Sopranos" actor Vincent Pastore and Michael Madsen also appear in the movie.
The film, which was produced by Molina and Grammy-winning Christian singer Israel Houghton, is based on Molina's life. Ja Rule was hired while his gun possession cases were pending. He was released from house arrest in July after he had served most of a two-year sentence in a New York state prison before his subsequent transfer into federal custody in a tax evasion case. He admitted to failing to pay taxes on more than $3 million earned between 2004 and 2006.
"This role was very different for me," said Ja Rule, whose film credits include "The Fast and the Furious." ''I've done a lot of films that all have been pretty edgy. I played thug characters, but with this character, even though I play a thug somewhat, he's really a guy going through a transition."
The 37-year-old Ja Rule, born Jeffrey Atkins, said he put on 30 pounds in jail and read a number of books. He also earned his GED and said ex-New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi and ex-Tyco International CEO Dennis Kozlowski urged him to pursue higher education.
"It's really minimum — all of the fame, the movies and the music. When you're behind that wall, all that becomes very minimum," said Ja Rule, who burst on the music scene in 1999 and released back-to-back multiplatinum and platinum albums. "I was more focused on getting my mind right, getting my body right, more thinking about my family. Those are the things you cherish."
Ja Rule became known for hip-hop jams that became Top 40 successes, including No. 1 hits with Jennifer Lopez and Ashanti. He earned a number of awards, including four Grammy nominations. He said he's still excited about recording, but he wants to focus on TV and film.
"I love music, it's my passion," said Ja Rule, who independently released "Pain Is Love 2" during his incarceration last year but put up subpar numbers. "This is my second wind right now, and I'm happy to be home, but I think as I'm getting older, my passion is leaning toward doing more television and film. Music is my heart, but I see television and more movies in the next stage of my life."
- Created on 02 October 2013
Republicans are going nuts over the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that launched on Tuesday, October 1. And since there has been confusion as to what the plan will entail and how it will affect everyone across the board, particularly young people, the White House has put out a call to R&B diva and actress Jennifer Hudson (pictured) to clarify some misconceptions about the health plan via a videoed “Funny Or Die” spoof based on the hit TV show “Scandal.”
The informative filmed short, entitled “Scandalous,” depicts Hudson in a chic white trench coat playing a covert scandal crisis manager who sheds some light about Obamacare across the nation.
Watch Jennifer Hudson’s “Scandalous” “Funny or Die” spoof here:
At one point during the spoof, a woman says, “My company’s health care, it doesn’t cover mammograms. Hudson, a Grammy- and- Oscar-winning performer who is spoofing the role of ”Scandal’s” “Olivia Pope” played by Kerry Washington, responds, “The ACA covers preventative care for women’s health,” Hudson tells her, before adding, “Girl, go find you a scandal.”
Hudson’s character helps clients who need assistance in keeping their adult children on their insurance plan, receiving free preventive care, and other benefits provided by Obamacare. She even lends a hand to a senator so that he can enroll his pregnant mistress in ACA!
Since older, sicker people will most likely jump on ACA, insurers in the plan are in dire need of healthy young people to spread their risk. If there is a lack of young enrollees in the plan, industry experts fear that the health premiums will go through the roof and ACA will fall apart. Therefore, supporters of ACA inside and outside of the White House are working incessantly to make sure this does not happen.
- Created on 30 September 2013
(CNN) -- Hollywood couple Cherie Johnson and Dennis White say they were improperly stopped by police, put in handcuffs and harshly questioned during a recent weekend getaway in South Carolina. They claim the incident took place because of their race.
Johnson, best known for her roles in TV shows "Punky Brewster" and "Family Matters," and White, from the movie "Notorious," are speaking out about their treatment by a Marion County sheriff's deputy on September 22.
"I've been stopped by the police before, but I've never been fearful for my life," Johnson told CNN on Sunday. "They need some kind of sensitivity training."
The Marion County sheriff issued a statement on Monday promising to investigate the allegations of racial profiling.
The couple, who were in the area after conducting an acting workshop in North Carolina, shared White's account with freelance writer Krystol Diggs, who posted it to CNN iReport. CNN could not independently verify their account but spoke directly to Johnson and Diggs about the incident.
Johnson and White say they were on their way to Myrtle Beach for a quick romantic getaway when they pulled off the rural highway and parked by a cotton field. Johnson said she had never seen cotton before and told White she wanted to take a picture.
As the couple walked back to the car, they said, they noticed a police car with its lights on parked behind theirs. White and Johnson, who are both African-American, say the white officer harshly questioned them about drugs -- he found none -- and the cash he found in their bags.
Johnson was the national cheer representative for the Just Say No to Drugs campaign in the '80s.
According to White's account, Officer Shad Barfield told Johnson there was a warrant for her arrest, which she disputed, and the officer later recanted. He handcuffed White and then Johnson but did not arrest them.
"He told me ... I was being detained for his safety because he didn't know me," Johnson said.
"At this time I became distraught," White wrote in his account of the incident. "I have been racially profiled several times in my lifetime but it touched my core when my woman was included."
Marion County Sheriff Mark Richardson issued a statement on Monday in regard to the actors' claims: "Discrimination in any form, including racial profiling, is strictly prohibited by this department and as Sheriff of Marion County SC, I can assure you I will take immediate and appropriate action to investigate the allegations of racial profiling made by Mr. White and Ms. Johnson. This matter will be dealt with by an internal investigation within the department and I will also ask the State Law Enforcement Division to review the allegation made against Deputy Barfield."
It was Johnson's first experience being handcuffed. Several of her family members work in law enforcement, Johnson said, adding that she's "never been afraid of cops or had bad opinions of them."
This time was different.
After thoroughly searching the car, the officer removed the handcuffs and let the couple go.
"No apology, no nothing," White wrote.
White says he won't stop talking about the incident until "that racist cop" is reprimanded and punished.
"At no point in history is this justified, especially not in this day and age," he wrote.
By Monday morning, the story had received nearly 700,000 views -- making it the fourth most-viewed iReport of all time -- and hundreds of comments about racial profiling and law enforcement in South Carolina and elsewhere. Many readers said they had experienced similar situations.
Actress Kinnik Sky was among those who shared the story on her Facebook page. Sky, who was born and raised in Columbia, South Carolina, said she knew White and Johnson's account "to be absolutely true."
"I was like, 'Wow, boy can I relate,' because I am fearful of the cops as a whole, especially in South Carolina. My experiences have always been horrible."
The former "American Idol" finalist said whenever she returns from Los Angeles to her hometown she gets stopped by police "80% of the time" and questioned about drugs. On a recent trip she was "stopped, pulled over and questioned about every drug known to man," she said.
Her account is strikingly similar to what Johnson and White said they experienced. Johnson said she contacted Marion County for an incident report but was told that one was never filed. In the meantime, she's voicing her views on Twitter and Facebook so others can know what she and White went through.
"I've always been a fan of speaking up and sharing your story," Johnson said. "We're way more powerful in numbers than we are alone."
- Created on 30 September 2013
This book cover image released by Viking shows "Who Asked You," by Terry McMillan. (AP Photo / Viking)
"Who Asked You?" (Viking), by Terry McMillan
Terry McMillan treads familiar territory in her latest novel, "Who Asked You?" Four sisters and their families struggle through life, love and real-world crises.
Once again, the author of "Waiting to Exhale" and "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" creates a memorable and realistic, if not entirely likable, cast of characters - featuring strong women who also are wives and mothers. They face contemporary problems - drug addiction, incarceration, Alzheimer's, homosexuality - in imperfect ways. And that's what makes their stories so realistic and their personalities so empathetic.
At nearly 400 pages, "Who Asked You?" is a breeze to read despite the heavy themes. The sisters and their families become neighbors, almost friends, to readers, and it's hard to let them go as the book nears its conclusion.
As usual, McMillan's dialogue is spot on, and her understanding of pop culture infuses her story with unparalleled realism.
McMillan does nothing new here, but why should she? Her books tell richly textured, insightful and funny family stories. It's what she does best.