Inspiration Of A Gentleman: Michael Clark Duncan

Inspiration Of A Gentleman: Michael Clark Duncan

Inspirational Woman Of The Day: Nina Simone

Inspirational Woman Of The Day: Nina Simone

A Message From The Creator

A Message From The Creator

Inspiration Of Style: Christian Louboutin vs. YSL ‘Red Soles’ Court Case Takes A New Twist

Inspiration Of Style: Christian Louboutin vs. YSL ‘Red Soles’ Court Case Takes A New Twist

Women’s News: Texas Planned Parenthood Hearing Gets Emotional

Women’s News: Texas Planned Parenthood Hearing Gets Emotional

Inspiration Of A Gentleman: Michael Clark Duncan

I just want to take a moment and pay tribute to a wonderful actor. Michael Clark Duncan. RIP.

Michael Clarke Duncan was one big, irresistible jumble of contradictions.

His presence was formidable, even intimidating: The former bodyguard had a muscular, 6-foot-4 frame, but it was topped by the brightest of megawatt smiles.

His gravelly baritone was well-suited to everything from animated films to action spectacles, but no matter the role, a warmth and a sweetness was always evident underneath.

The prolific character actor, whose dozens of movies included an Oscar-nominated performance as a death row inmate in “The Green Mile” and box office hits including “Armageddon,” ”Planet of the Apes” and “Kung Fu Panda,” died Monday at age 54. And although he only turned to acting in his 30s, it’s clear from the outpouring of prayers and remembrances he received across the Hollywood and sports worlds that his gentle-giant persona made him much-loved during that relatively brief time.

Duncan died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he was being treated for a heart attack, said his fiancée, reality TV personality Rev. Omarosa Manigault, in a statement released by publicist Joy Fehily.

Duncan “suffered a myocardial infarction on July 13 and never fully recovered,” the statement said. “Manigault is grateful for all of your prayers and asks for privacy at this time. Celebrations of his life, both private and public, will be announced at a later date.”

Tom Hanks, star of 1999’s “The Green Mile” — the film that earned a then-little-known Duncan a supporting-actor nomination at the Academy Awards — said he was “terribly saddened at the loss of Big Mike. He was the treasure we all discovered on the set of ‘The Green Mile.’ He was magic. He was a big love of man and his passing leaves us stunned.”

“I will miss my friend, Michael Clarke Duncan,” comedian and talk-show host Steve Harvey said on Twitter. “What an incredible soldier in God’s Plan.” Other sad and shocked reactions came from a diverse field that included Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, actresses Alexa Vega, Niecy Nash and Olivia Munn, and former boxing champion Lennox Lewis.

In the spring of 2012, Duncan had appeared in a video for PETA, the animal rights organization, in which he spoke of how much better he felt since becoming a vegetarian three years earlier.

“I cleared out my refrigerator, about $5,000 worth of meat,” he said. “I’m a lot healthier than I was when I was eating meat.”

Duncan had a handful of minor roles before “The Green Mile” brought him accolades and fame. The 1999 film, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, starred Hanks as a corrections officer at a penitentiary in the 1930s. Duncan played John Coffey, a convicted murderer with a surprisingly gentle demeanor and extraordinary healing powers.

Duncan’s performance caught on with critics and moviegoers and he quickly became a favorite in Hollywood, appearing in several films a year. He owed some of his good fortune to Bruce Willis, who recommended Duncan for “The Green Mile” after the two appeared together in “Armageddon.” Duncan would work with Willis again in “Breakfast of Champions,” ”The Whole Nine Yards” and “Sin City.”

His industrial-sized build was suited for everything from superhero films (“Daredevil”) to comedy (“Talladega Nights,” ”School for Scoundrels”). He could have made a career out of his voice work alone, with appearances in several animated and family movies, including, “Kung Fu Panda,” ”Racing Stripes” and “Brother Bear.” Among Duncan’s television credits were “The Apprentice,” ”Two and a Half Men,” ”The Suite Life of Zack and Cody” and a new series, “The Finder.”

Born in Chicago in 1957, Duncan was raised by a single mother whose resistance to his playing football led to his deciding he wanted to become an actor. But when his mother became ill, he dropped out of college, Alcorn State University, and worked as a ditch digger and bouncer to support her. By his mid-20s, he was in Los Angeles, where he looked for acting parts and became a bodyguard for Will Smith, Jamie Foxx and other stars. The murder of rapper Notorious B.I.G., for whom Duncan had been hired to protect before switching assignments, led him to quit his job and pursue acting full-time.

Early film and television credits, when he was usually cast as a bodyguard or bouncer, included “Bulworth,” ”A Night at the Roxbury” and “The Players Club.”

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Inspirational Woman Of The Day: Nina Simone

Born on February 21, 1933, in Tryon, North Carolina, Nina Simone received a scholarship to study classical piano at Julliard, but left early when she ran out of money. She turned her interest to jazz, blues and folk music and released her first album in 1958. In the ‘60s, she became identified as the voice of the civil rights and wrote songs about the movement. She died in France on April 21, 2003.

Early Life

Singer, musician, composer, arranger, civil rights activist. Born Eunice Kathleen Waymon on February 21, 1933, in Tryon, North Carolina. She took to music at an early age, learning to play piano at the age of 4, and singing in her church’s choir. The sixth of seven children, Simone grew up poor. Her music teacher helped establish a special fund to pay for Simone’s education and, after finishing high school, Simone won a scholarship to New York City’s famed Julliard School of Music to train as a classical pianist.

Simone taught piano and worked as a accompanist for other performers while at Julliard, but she eventually had to leave school after she ran out of funds. Moving to Philadelphia, Simone lived with her family there in order to save money and go to a more affordable music program. Her career took an unexpected turn, however, when she was rejected from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia; she later claimed the school denied her admittance because she was African-American. Turning away from classical music, she started playing American standards, jazz and blues in clubs in the 1950s. Before long, she also started singing along with her music at the behest of one bar owner. She took the stage name Nina Simone—”Nina” came from a nickname meaning “little one” and “Simone” after the actress Simone Signoret. She won over such fans as Harlem Renaissance writersLangston HughesLorraine Hansberry, and James Baldwin.

Civil Rights Singer

Simone began recording her music in the late 1950s under the Bethlehem label, releasing her first full album in 1958, which featured “Plain Gold Ring” and “Little Girl Blue.” It also included her one and only top 40 pop hit with her version of “I Loves You Porgy” from the George Gershwin musical Porgy and Bess.

In many ways, Simone’s music defied standard definitions. Her classical training showed through, no matter what genre of song she played, and she drew from many sources including gospel, pop and folk. She was often called the “High Priestess of Soul,” but she hated that nickname. She didn’t like the label of “jazz singer”, either. “If I had to be called something, it should have been a folk singer because there was more folk and blues than jazz in my playing,” she later wrote.

By the mid-1960s, Simone became known as the voice of the civil rights movement. She wrote “Mississippi Goddam” in response to the 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers and the Birmingham church bombing that killed four young African-American girls. After the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, Simone penned “Why (The King of Love Is Dead).” She also wrote “Young, Gifted and Black,” borrowing the title of a play by Hansberry, which became a popular anthem at the time.

Career Renaissance

As the 1960s drew to a close, Simone tired of the American music scene and the country’s deeply divided racial politics. She lived in several different countries, including Liberia, Switzerland, England and Barbados before eventually settling down in the South of France. For years, Simone also struggled with her finances, and clashed with managers, record labels, and the Internal Revenue Service.

Around this time, Simone recorded cover songs of popular music, putting her own spin on such songs as Bob Dylan‘s “The Times They Are A-Changin'” and the Beatles‘ “Here Comes the Sun.” She also showed her sensual side with the song “I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl.” She then took a break from recording, returning in 1978 with the album Baltimore. The title track was a cover version of a Randy Newman song. Critics gave the album a warm reception, but it did not do well commercially.

Simone went through a career renaissance in the late 1980s when her song “My Baby Just Cares For Me” was used in a perfume commercial in the United Kingdom. The song became a Top 10 hit in Britain. She also penned her autobiography, I Put a Spell on You, which was published in 1992. Her next recording, A Single Woman, came out in 1993. To support these works, Simone gave some performances in the United States.

Touring periodically, Simone maintained a strong fan base that filled concert halls whenever she performed. She appeared in New York City in 1998, her first trip there in five years. The New York Times critic Jon Paneles reviewed the concert, saying that “there is still power in her voice” and the show featured “a beloved sound, a celebrated personality, and a repertory that magnifies them both.” That same year, Simone attended South African leader Nelson Mandela‘s 80th birthday celebration.


In 1999, Simone performed at the Guinness Blues Festival in Dublin, Ireland. She was joined on stage by her daughter Lisa for a few songs. Lisa, from Simone’s second marriage to manager Andrew Stroud, followed in her mother’s footsteps. She has appeared on Broadway in Aida, using the stage name “Simone.”

In her final years, Simone battled with health problems. Some reports indicate she was battling breast cancer, but that claim has not been officially confirmed. She died on April 21, 2003, at her home in Carry-le-Rouet, France.

While she may be gone, Simone left a lasting impression on the world of music. She sang to share her truth, and her music still resonates with great emotion and power. Simone has inspired an array of performers, from Aretha Franklin to Joni Mitchell. Her deep, distinctive voice continues to be a popular choice for television and film soundtracks, from documentaries to comedies to dramas.

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Women’s News: Texas Planned Parenthood Hearing Gets Emotional

By WILL WEISSERT 09/04/12 07:19 PM ET AP

AUSTIN, Texas — State lawmakers, hospital system administrators and dozens of women urged Texas officials Tuesday not to sever funding to Planned Parenthood under a law barring state support for clinics affiliated with abortion providers.

A smaller, but no less vocal, number of people opposing abortion turned out to applaud the move during the public hearing.

Officials are working to exclude Planned Parenthood clinics that provide family planning and health services to poor women as part of the Texas Women’s Health Program after the Republican-led Texas Legislature passed a law last year banningfunds to organizations linked to abortion providers.

Planned Parenthood provides cancer screenings and other services – but not abortions – to about half of the around 130,000 low-income Texas women enrolled in the program, which is designed for women who might not otherwise qualify forMedicaid.

Planned Parenthood has sued, but a federal appeals court ruled Aug. 21 that the state can proceed with plans to cut off funding for it as part of the Women’s Health Program, and officials have promised to do so as soon as possible. During the hearing, they presented proposed rules on how to do that.

The federal government had funded 90 percent of the program, which costs about $40 million annually. But it says the Texas law violates federal rules and that it will stop funding Nov. 1. Texas has vowed to continue the program on its own.

The rules, which are expected to take several weeks to implement, say Texas can pay more than $900,000 this fiscal year, $39.1 million in fiscal year 2013, and $13.8 million the following fiscal year to keep the plan going. They also call for expanding coverage for participants to include treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

The state will obtain the funds for the program mostly by imposing a hiring freeze on state Health and Human Services Commission administrative posts and stepping up Texas’ efforts to recover Medicaid funds lost to fraud or wasteful spending.

The state eventually expects to keep the program alive using the White House-backed health care overhaul, which calls for greatly expanding Medicaid eligibility in January 2014. But Sen. Kirk Watson, an Austin Democrat, noted that Gov. Rick Perry has already said Texas won’t participate in the Medicaid expansion, which could leave the Women’s Health Program hanging.

“We should avoid trying to cobble together funding,” he said, noting that the Health and Human Services Commission estimates that without the program, the state and federal governments would have to pay $148 million through fiscal year 2015 in extra Medicaid costs due to rising pregnancy rates.

State Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat, noted that abortion was a moot point since Women’s Health Program rules exclude women who are pregnant.

“None of the women’s health providers actually conduct abortions. That is not an issue here,” she told the hearing, “and I am concerned about the Legislature and leadership in this state actually holding women’s health care hostage to some political agenda.”

State Rep. Sarah Davis, a Houston Republican, said she opposed the new rules – and the larger anti-abortion law – on behalf of doctors who fear that regulations restricting physicians from counseling women about abortion options interferes with their ability to provide the best possible care.

“Women’s health is not about abortion and not about Planned Parenthood,” Davis said.

Randall Ellis of Legacy Community Health Services, which operates five clinics around Harris County, said Texas would be hurting a program that has proved effective.

“We’re basically destroying the infrastructure that we have built up across the state to provide family planning services to women,” he said.

Planned Parenthood cannot say exactly how many of its Texas clinics may close because of the new rules. It supporters note that the state is among the nation’s leaders in cervical cancer rates and that its clinics provide free screenings to Women’s Health Program participants – at least for now.

They also point to studies showing that other clinics around Texas would have to increase their patient loads five-fold to make up for care currently provided by Planned Parenthood. Those opposing Planned Parenthood said there are 2,000 clinics and doctor’s offices statewide that easily can handle the load.

Abby Johnson said she worked for Planned Parenthood in Texas for years and that the organization openly advocates “elective abortions.” Another woman addressing Tuesday’s hearing said she went to Planned Parenthood as a college student years ago after becoming pregnant – and that she was given the cold shoulder when she said she’d like to have the baby rather than undergo an abortion.

“It was like a curtain went down over this woman’s face,” she said of the attendant at Planned Parenthood. “She went from being my friend to being completely closed and glowering at me.”

Some of those defending Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, fought back tears as they spoke. Others got angry.

“I’m poor, but I’m not stupid,” said Alexis Lohse, a college student at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth who relies on Planned Parenthood for birth control and wellness exams. “This proposal is about one thing: politics.”

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Inspiration Of Style: Christian Louboutin vs. YSL ‘Red Soles’ Court Case Takes A New Twist

As one fashion court case heats up, another (almost) draws to a close.

Christian Louboutin SA has emerged victorious in its battle against Yves Saint Laurent: a New York federal court of appeals has granted Louboutin trademark protection over its signature red sole, according to Women’s Wear Daily.

The case has been ongoing since April 2011 when Christian Louboutin sued YSL for using red soles on the bottom of its pumps. The lawsuit, which demanded $1 million in damages, stated, “Defendants’ use of red footwear outsoles that are virtually identical to plaintiffs’ Red Sole Mark is likely to cause and is causing confusion, mistake and deception among the relevant purchasing public.”

The 2011 suit was based on a trademark granted to Louboutin in 2008. Filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the trademark states that Louboutin has the exclusive right to make red-soled shoes for “women’s high fashion designer footwear.”

Yet when Louboutin’s suit against Yves Saint Laurent came before U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in August 2011, Judge Marrero questioned the legitimacy of such a trademark in the first place, calling it “overly broad.” The entire YSL team agreed: David Bernstein, a lawyer representing YSL, told the Wall Street Journal, “No designer should be able to monopolize a color in fashion.”

Louboutin’s team appealed the district court decision almost immediately and Judge Marrero postponed a decision on whether to cancel the 2008 trademark until the appeals court made its ruling. Now, according to Women’s Wear Daily, the federal appeals court has decided to reject the earlier ruling, stating that Louboutin is entitled to its trademark on red soles, except when the entire shoe is red.

Except that the YSL shoes were entirely red, i.e. the battle isn’t over. With the new ruling to consider, the case will return to the lower court for review by a trial judge.

And that’s been your biannual update on the Louboutin vs. YSL “red sole” battle.Read more at

UPDATE: Yves Saint Laurent released a statement following the decision, emphasizing their victory when it comes to the all-red shoes. “The Court has conclusively ruled that YSL’s monochromatic red shoes do not infringe any trademark rights of Louboutin, which guarantees that YSL can continue to make monochromitic shoes in a wide variety of colors, including red,” said David H. Bernstein of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, YSL’s rep on the case. He added, “YSL will continue to produce monochromatic shoes with red outsoles, as it has done since the 1970s.”

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A Message From The Creator

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