Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo
By Souleo/Souleo Enterprises, LLC, Media Content Producer
It happens to me everyday. I find myself rummaging through my wardrobe to find pieces that I have yet to wear on the Harlem scene. It's pure vanity since I dread the idea of being caught in the same item twice as I hop on and off A trains. If First Lady Michelle Obama were to discover this about me she would call me mad. At least that's what I gathered from celebrated style and beauty expert/author, Mikki Taylor during her signing for "Commander in Chic," at Hue-Man Bookstore
Before a rather disappointingly small crowd, which had me wondering where were all of Harlem's fashionistas, socialite Bevy Smith interviewed Taylor. Taylor provided expert insight on how to cultivate, maintain and enhance one's personal brand of style while ensuring a balanced physical, mental, emotional and spiritual perspective on life, all inspired by Obama. While Taylor impresses one as the type of individual who was born wearing designer shoes right out of the womb, she revealed to me that she too was once lost in the fashion closet. "I used to follow trends and I learned that we are more than a season of style whims. That's why they come and go," she said. "I discovered my own sense of style through great trial and error." With those words I was painfully reminded of my own experimental looks such as this one, this one and oh yeah, this one.
Choosing what to wear to "Opera is HOT" was less difficult than usual since I had planned my outfit far enough in advance. The event was presented by the Harlem Opera Theater and held at The Faison Firehouse Theater. George Faison was an engaging, lively and at times unpredictable host. A quarter of the way through the showcase Faison eliminated half of the first act to skip ahead to the second act, which featured interpretations of Negro Spirituals. It was an abrupt change but a wise one since the program was quite lengthy. While I thoroughly enjoyed all performances by the Harlem Opera Theater Vocal Competition winners, my standouts included Rodrick Dixon, Jasmine Thomas and Patrick Dailey. Dailey's unique countertenor was a vulnerable yet wholly effective tool that he employed skillfully to be both playful and poignant. With the right material and image (please gentlemen enough with the opera suits), Dailey has what it takes to establish a successful career in opera and introduce it to a new generation. Opera legend Kathleen Battle was in attendance and I did try to get her thoughts on making opera more accessible to youth of color. However she quickly informed that she was not conducting interviews or taking photos. At least she gave me thumbs up and a wink for my blue electric shoes to soften the rejection. Alas, in between bites of his meal, Faison provided me with his thoughts on the aforementioned subject. "We don't have humanities in the schools. So we have to somehow let them know that they have that hip-hop voice and operatic voice. We are capable of all of that," he said. Indeed. Now all we need is for someone like Lil' Wayne to do a hip-hopera album and we are making progress, or so I think.
Of course I couldn't leave Faison without getting his views on the controversy surrounding the new production of "Porgy & Bess," set to debut on Broadway in January 2012. After all, Faison was nominated in 1983 for a Tony in the category of Best Choreography for "Porgy & Bess." While some believe that the legendary opera is a stereotypical, one-dimensional and offensive portrayal of African-Americans Faison couldn't disagree more. "Why do we keep trying to disown our past? Why don't we embrace that and move on? We are more than that and we've got to do it. I am excited for it."
Souleo Enterprises, LLC is the umbrella company that creates and produces entertaining, empowering and informative media and philanthropic projects by founder, Souleo.