NBA standout Serge Ibaka is a standout single father too ‘To me, to be a father, it’s a dream,’ says the forward as he celebrates his first Father’s Day with his 11-year-old daughter Ranie

The bond between a father and a daughter is unbreakable — even when it’s not one forged at birth. It’s seems like only a minute since NBA forward Serge Ibaka learned he had a daughter. Now, he and 11-year-old Ranie are living in Orlando, Florida, and celebrating their first Father’s Day.

But, Ibaka says, it’s a celebration with a learning curve here in the United States.

On a hot, rainy summer afternoon in his stucco home tucked away in a gated community in Orlando, Ibaka, Ranie and her nanny, Gail Goss, coordinate a day that includes swimming, homework and dinner, where they will discuss their Father’s Day plans.

“I’ve never done Father’s Day before,” Ibaka said. “You know, the funny thing is I never had to spend time on Father’s Day with my daughter, so this is going to be the first time. So, I don’t know what a father does on Father’s Day. When I was young, for me Father’s Day was like one of those days where you wake up in the morning and you say, ‘Hey, Happy Father’s Day!’ to your dad. And then, that’s it. And then he goes to work, and that’s it.

“But here it’s kind of different. You have to be with your kids and then do something. I don’t know what actually I have to do, but I’m just going to learn it. But I’m sure she knows already. She’s going to tell me.”

But Ranie admits to just as much confusion.

“I didn’t know that it was Father’s Day,” Ranie whispered to her dad.

“It’s OK,” Ibaka said. “She didn’t know it was for Father’s Day.”

“I can’t keep on schedule,” Ranie admitted.

NBA free agent Serge Ibabka is going to spend his first Father’s Day with his 11-year-old daughter Ranie.

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Ibaka said raising Ranie has been the best experience and expression of love for which any person can ask.

“It’s a dream to me, to be a father,” he said. “Since I was young I always dreamed of myself traveling, envisioned at least three, four kids, five. And then, I’m living my dream right now and something I always love to do, and it’s fun. It’s really changed my life. It’s changed everything about me. The way I think and the way I live my life. It changed everything.”

Ranie, a 5-foot-5 fourth-grader, has known of her father since she was 5 years old, but she didn’t get fully acquainted with him until recently. Born in Congo, Ibaka left his family and his home to pursue a basketball career in Europe at the age of 17. But before he left, unbeknownst to him, he’d fathered a child. Ranie’s mother informed Ibaka’s father, Desire, of the news, and he decided to keep it a secret. It was Desire’s thought that Ibaka would not have pursued his basketball career if he knew he had a child back home. So Desire took on a paternal role and helped raise Ranie until it was decided that he come clean.

“I was young when I found out,” Ibaka said. “And I was shocked a little bit because it’s something new. And then I didn’t know what to do, what to say or how to react. And I was like, OK, I’m a dad now. But a couple of days I start feeling better, and like I said, it was something I used to dream about always. I want to have kids, and now I want to have more. So, it’s fun.”

Ibaka said what he looks forward to most in raising Ranie is her education and continuing to be there for her.

“I didn’t really have that opportunity when I was young,” he said. “I put her in a better school. I didn’t have the opportunity, so to me I want to make sure everything I didn’t have, I want her to have that. And it’s just like kind of my challenge. I’m trying myself to be there for her. Make sure even if I’m busy, because my dad was so busy when I was young. I really didn’t have a lot of opportunity to spend with my dad. But it is kind of normal for me now, but I don’t want that to happen with my daughter. And I try to be my best I can to be with her and spend time.”

Ibaka said his decision to move Ranie to the U.S. was difficult for her mother.

“You know, the funny thing is I never had to spend time on Father’s Day with my daughter, so this is going to be the first time. So, I don’t know what a father does on Father’s Day.”

“I had to explain to her, it’s best for our daughter to come here to the United States, where she can have a better education,” Ibaka explained. “The school system is a little better. And she’s going to be close with me and, like I said before, for a daughter, they need a dad. So it was a little harder, and she did not understand, but now everything’s going smoothly.”

French is Ranie’s first language, but it didn’t take her long to learn English, Ibaka said.

“I put her in American school since she was in Congo because I knew that at some point she had to come here. So, I wanted her to be ready when she’d come here.”

Raising a young daughter at a young age as a man does, however, presents a lot of challenges.

“But it’s kind of a good challenge, especially for a man like me,” Ibaka said. “I’m still young and having a little girl, and they just make you see a lot of things differently. The way you do things because you’ve got a daughter, and they really make you a better man. I love that.”

What he would tell his daughter about guys when it’s time to date?

“Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey. Take it easy,” he said with a shy smile. “It’s too early. When the time comes, I’m sure we’re going to sit down. We’re going to talk. But it’s too early. It makes me nervous now. But I know the time is going to come. Everything has a time. And when the time comes, we’re going to sit down. We’re going to talk.”

Ibaka’s journey includes leaving Brazzaville in the Republic of the Congo to become an integral part of the Oklahoma City Thunder after being drafted in the first round by the then-Seattle SuperSonics with the 24th overall pick of the 2008 NBA draft. He went from dazzling with his defensive and offensive skills on the court with the Thunder to a brief stint with the Orlando Magic, and now his most recent stint is with the Toronto Raptors.

Ibaka founded the Serge Ibaka Foundation just after meeting his daughter, with the goal of furthering his humanitarian efforts in Africa. Ibaka desires to inspire children around the world to believe in themselves and in their chances no matter how hard their circumstances are.

With the help of NBA Cares and UNICEF, Ibaka has provided resources and hope for Congo natives in the past few years by bringing basketball, pro athletes, celebrities and charities together through his various philanthropic efforts, to provide support, spread awareness and open a dialogue about the issues and attributes of his homeland. In April, Ibaka was elected to the board of directors of the National Basketball Players Association Foundation.

Ibaka opened up about first setting sight on Ranie in the 2016 documentary Son of the Congo: This is Africa. He said he’s now getting used to being a single father, but it’s not that easy.

Ranie was born in Congo and was raised by his family unbeknownst to him until a few years ago.

Preston Mack for The Undefeated

“I have to spend time with her and make sure because she needs me. I want to be here for her and make sure we spend time together.”

While Ranie is quickly becoming acclimated to her new life, it wasn’t an easy transition.

“It was a little hard in the beginning for myself,” Ibaka said. “And with basketball at the same time, and then with her, she didn’t understand in the beginning because in the NBA we travel a lot. We’re always on the road. So she really didn’t understand, and she had to get used to and understand my daddy’s busy, and that’s how the things go. So, she’s getting better. She understands, and she’s getting used to now.”

Ibaka is the third youngest in a family of 18.

“The oldest, my sister, is 35,” Ibaka said. “It’s good to have a lot of brothers and sisters, you know? You got family. It’s always good to know you got family. That’s enough, because it’s kind of normal where I come from. It’s kind of normal. I always grow up in a family place, a house. That’s why I love kids.”

Ibaka is known for his fashion-forward style, and Ranie is following his lead. Described as equally stylish and one who takes pride in her wardrobe, the two often debate about who is the best dresser in the household.

“Well, she thinks she’s better than me,” Ibaka explained of Ranie’s wardrobe. “She thinks she’s better than me. So we always try to challenge each other, because she knows. But I’m sure she’s watching me all the time, how I dress, and then she kind of picks it up a little bit. So, she loves to dress too.”

Many teen fathers who are also the primary custodian sometimes have fears. But Ibaka said he’s not afraid.

“Well, yeah, I’m a very strict father,” he said. “But I don’t try to do too much. But I make sure I’m strict.”

“I don’t know why, but I’m not really afraid to be a father,” he said. “I try a lot to be a father. And, like I say again, I’m going to try to give her the best education I can. Sometimes we try, we do everything, but it ends up the way we don’t want. But that’s life, you know.

“But at least I know I’m going to try. I’m know I’m going to give my best. I’m going to make sure I’m here for her. Put her in the better position for her to grow up like a sweet little girl. And then everything is not really in my power too. But I just want to make sure, at least I want to tell myself in the next couple of years, you do the best you can.

“Well, yeah, I’m a very strict father,” he said. “But I don’t try to do too much. But I make sure I’m strict. I’m trying to raise my daughter the best way I can, you know? Maybe I didn’t have the opportunity. I didn’t have that chance. But I’m going to give my daughter that.”

Ibaka said he wouldn’t change anything about being a single father.

“So far I think I don’t want to change anything because everything’s going smoothly right now. And then, she’s smart. She’s doing great in school. She’s listening. She respects me. I always tell her, respect people. Thank God everything’s going smoothly.”

Ibaka enlisted the help of Goss, who has experience as a nanny to other Orlando-based NBA players. Goss, a mother of two and minister from Mississippi, has been Ranie’s caregiver for more than one year. She’s known around the league as “Miss Gail.”

Ibaka met Miss Gail when he first moved to Orlando, and she’s been like family ever since.

“I got here, I was looking for a nanny,” he explained. “Someone to take care of my daughter. So, my assistant, he was working on it. And then that’s how we found Miss Gail. And then because I kind of know her story a little bit. She used to work with all those players before, so I was, like, maybe she understands NBA life, how NBA life goes.”

Since Ranie is new to Father’s Day and the culture surrounding the celebration, she’s still figuring out her plans for her famous father.

“I really don’t know,” she said when asked what they were going to do.

On a normal day, they spend time doing various activities.

“We go to the movies. Go to Universal [Studios], swim, play Uno.”

She wants a cellphone, but Ibaka is against it.

“I want to raise her the way I’ve been raised,” he explained. “Like my mom, father, because the new generation is kind of different right now. Everything is going fast. Because I’m kinda person where I never forget where I come from. Even everything I want out of my life, I never want to change the way I think, the way I am. I want to stay the same person. You know, that’s why, and I have the kind of same mentality of raising my daughter too. Because now, everybody having iPhone, everybody having this, everything like that, I have to change the way I think. I would have to change the way I do my thing. You know? I don’t want to that, so that’s how I am.”

Ranie wants to be a doctor and a tennis player but her father said she keeps changing her mind, at first desiring to become a lawyer.

“No, I never wanted to be a lawyer,” Ranie said. “You told me you wanted me to be a lawyer.”

“It’s true love,” Ibaka admitted about fatherhood. “You never go wrong with true love. It’s easy and natural.”

Preston Mack for The Undefeated

‘Black Panther’ teaser trailer is serving looks Marvel blessed us during the NBA Finals, and it’s visually stunning

We were sitting around a table, casually discussing whatever we had to catch up as a group of friends. We weren’t all facing the television, so one person said, “Shut up, the Black Panther teaser is on.” Another friend continued, not realizing that this wasn’t just the first time he’d seen it, but the first time anyone had. “Look, I’ll address that after this ends,” he was told again. We all stared.

I don’t really remember if it was between the first two quarters of the game or somewhere in the second, because it felt like time stopped. At the point where Chadwick Boseman is executing whatever midair flip in slow motion he was doing, my body naturally stood up from the table and gravitated toward the television that was hanging on a wall in the bar. By the time it was done I turned around to look at the squad, and we all had the same looks on our faces.

“Holy s—, that was incredible.”

Black Panther was real and happening, and it looked amazing. The game instantly became a secondary conversation to what we’d just witnessed from the Marvel Universe. What I enjoyed so much about it was that it appealed to everyone, off the break. Of course, there are serious megafans of the comics who will have various things to deconstruct and dislike, but coming out of the gate, the clear distinctions were great.

For one, Wakanda is clearly not some Third World wasteland. Its technological advancements are clearly on par with most things in that universe, which is dope. This is the capital city, and vibranium, the mineral that the nation has major reserves of, allows it to stay on the cusp of what’s modern. Also, look. At. That. Ship. The last thing we wanted was a bunch of souped-up tribesmen to further create disastrous stereotypes in the superhero world.

Here are some of our favorite still shots.

Wait till y’all see me at the function next spring rocking this joint until Future’s “Mask Off” comes on. Then I’m turning all the way up.

This is a look goal if I’ve ever seen one. Lupita Nyong’o, no stranger to action movies, is not here for your nonsense.

When you’re trying to address the congregation but someone’s phone keeps going off.

Oh, that’s my phone? Do something. That’s what I thought.

When you waited all weekend to get fly for your little friend at school and they were home sick that day.


Meanwhile, the shade being thrown is predictable and, in many cases, very funny. What folks act like when this movie comes out is going to be serious. Nobody in America is ready for the squad cosplay that the film could bring to the theaters and premieres. It’ll be the blackest big-budget superhero movie. Not to mention it’s actually about a fictional African place. Believe that folks will be deep at the box office. And it comes out during Black History Month? Sheeeeeeee … just kidding. That doesn’t matter at all.

In all seriousness, that moment Friday night was like nothing I’ve ever experienced. My phone was blowing up with texts, and my whole TL was taken over by Wakanda jokes and the like. We don’t need that Coming to America remake. Black Panther, from the looks of it, will do just fine. This is dope, though.

This is a full shot-by-shot breakdown of the teaser trailer with story analysis. It’s with director Ryan Coogler and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige.

A power ranking of Odell Beckham Jr.’s custom cleats from the 2016 NFL season The New York Giants wideout was determined to break out the heat on any given Sunday

Every NFL Sunday is a footwear fashion show for Odell Beckham Jr. Over the past few seasons, the New York Giants wide receiver has shown up and showed out on the field with the freshest cleats in all of football. His secret? Well, it’s not really a secret at all, because OBJ takes much pride in his custom-made creations, for which he entrusts the skill and creativity of Los Angeles-based sneaker artist Troy “Kickasso” Cole, who cranks out masterpieces inspired by every concept fathomable. From album covers to video games and movies to personal tributes, whatever Beckham Jr. dreams up in his imaginative mind, Kickasso can translate onto cleats.

Yet, as a result of the NFL’s enforcement of its strict in-game uniform and equipment policy, most of the kicks in OBJ’s one-of-a-kind collection are worn exclusively during pregame warm-ups before he changes to a more traditional pair for games. But every now and then, Beckham Jr. will risk a fine to ensure that his flashiest shoes find their way onto the field when the game clock starts rolling.

During the 2016 NFL season, the anthology of custom cleats that OBJ unveiled was second to no other player in the league. Throughout the regular season, playoffs and Pro Bowl, he truly became a titan in the sneaker world, which certainly contributed to Nike recently inking the 24-year-old to the biggest shoe deal in NFL history, estimated to be worth more than $29 million over five years.

Hopefully the huge new contract with Nike doesn’t prohibit Beckham Jr. from continuing his tradition come next season. As we anticipate what else OBJ and Kickasso have in store, let’s take a look at their creativity through this definitive, descending-order power ranking of 20 custom cleats they made pop last season.


20. WEEK 10 VS. CINCINNATI BENGALS — LSU

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s cleats before the NFL game between the New York Giants and Cincinnati Bengals on Nov. 14, 2016, at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Every NFL player deserves to rep his alma mater however he sees fit, but, man, these cleats in the signature purple and gold of Louisiana State University — the school the Giants drafted Beckham Jr. out of in 2014 with the 12th overall pick — are quite hideous. A more appropriate salute to LSU would’ve been cleats featuring detailed illustrations of tigers, the mascot of OBJ’s former school. As for these plaid concoctions — in the words of the illustrious 21st century musical talent scout Randy Darius Jackson, “yeah … that’s gonna be a no for me, dog.”

19. Week 5 vs. green bay packers — Breast cancer awareness

Since 2009, the NFL has been committed to spreading breast cancer awareness. Every season in October, players take pride in wearing the color pink as a display of their dedication to finding a cure. Beckham Jr. didn’t disappoint last October. His breast cancer cleats were a simple but very classy tribute to every woman and family affected by the disease.

18 and 17. week 7 vs. Los angeles rams — Burberry and Rolling Stone

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When the Giants traveled to London to face the Los Angeles Rams in October 2016, OBJ channeled his inner European designer by breaking out pregame cleats embossed with the beautiful pattern of British fashion house Burberry (the iconic brand of clothing that Jay Z rapped about swimming in on his 2002 track with his then-future wife Beyoncé, ” ’03 Bonnie & Clyde”). These cleats are uber-swaggy, but don’t hold a candle to when Beckham Jr. went full-on designer and commissioned a pair of Supreme x Louis Vuitton customs to be made after the season.

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OBJ changed his kicks before kickoff, but remained authentic to the game being played across the pond by switching to red, white and blue cleats, and matching gloves, featuring the legendary logo of the English rock band the Rolling Stones.

16. week 12 vs. cleveland browns — Paint splatter

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. stands on the field during practice before a game against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 27, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

AP Photo/Ron Schwane

These are just really fun. Camouflage is always a good look, and the extra splash of color with the rainbow flecks and green and yellow shoestrings set them over the top. Stay tuned for more camo cleats from OBJ.

15. week 1 vs. Dallas Cowboys — sept. 11 tribute

Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants wears cleats as a tribute to the 15th anniversary of 9/11 before a game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on Sept. 11, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Giants’ 2016 season opener against the Dallas Cowboys happened to fall on the 15th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001 — one of the most infamous days in the history of the United States. Beckham Jr. illustrated his patriotism in the form of U.S. flag-themed cleats with bald eagles on the outer soles of each shoe. OBJ was certainly proud to be an American on the first night of football last season.

14. Week 6 vs. baltimore ravens — “Kirby”

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s Nike cleats during warm-ups before the game between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Ravens played at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

HUGE shout-out to OBJ for throwing it back to our childhoods by paying homage to the one and only Nintendo character Kirby. He unveiled these in the middle of October 2016, taking the NFL’s tradition of wearing pink to advocate for breast cancer awareness and running with it. Beckham Jr. chose a pink character and crafted an entire cleat design around it with the utmost detail, from the warp stars to the Whispy Woods (Kirby’s recurring foe in the video game series). On this NFL Sunday, OBJ represented the video game nerd that resides in every one of us.

13 and 12. week 13 vs. pittsburgh steelers — Make-a-wisH (Dora The EXplorer and The Simpsons)

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. wears cleats supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation during warm-ups before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Dec. 4, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

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For one week during the season, the NFL, aka the “No Fun League,” allowed players to wear their in-game cleats however they wanted, outrageous customization and all, without receiving fines in violation of the league’s uniform policy. The #MyCauseMyCleats initiative, which required players to commit to supporting a charitable cause, saw approximately a third of the league (around 500 players) participate. Beckham Jr. chose to represent the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which, according to its website, has a “vision to grant the wish of every child diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition.” And true to his cause, OBJ depicted the child within himself on two pairs of cleats he had designed. One pair was inspired by Homer and Bart Simpson, two of the main characters of the popular animated sitcom, The Simpsons. The other pair, which he wore during the Week 13 matchup with the Pittsburgh Steelers, featured characters from the educational children’s series Dora the Explorer. Not the league, nor Swiper, could steal these cleats from Beckham Jr.’s feet on #MyCauseMyCleats Sunday. OBJ did it for the kids.

11. WEEK 2 VS. NEW ORLEANS SAINTS — “NOLA BOY”

New Orleans Native New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. wears Nike cleats with Nola Boy on them before the game between the New York Giants and the New Orleans Saints played at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” Beckham Jr. has surely come across this legendary James Baldwin quote at least once in his life — or heard a variation of it from his grandma, aunties and uncles, or parents — while on his journey from growing up in Louisiana to becoming an NFL wide receiver in New York. Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is OBJ’s hometown, but he also claims New Orleans. So when the Giants faced the Saints early in the 2016 season, Beckham Jr. made his allegiance to the city known with “NOLA BOY” custom cleats in Mardi Gras colors. These are pretty special.

10. week 9 vs. philadelphia eagles — “Salute to service”

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. wears cleats with a camouflage pattern while warming up before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 6, 2016, in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

On the Sunday before Veteran’s Day, Beckham Jr. honored the nation’s armed forces with camouflage cleats reminiscent of the Japanese clothing brand A Bathing Ape’s fresh camo print. These are pretty sweet.

9. Week 14 vs. dallas cowboys — 300

Division matchups in the NFL are always battles. And no one went to war like the Spartans, whose combat skills were epically portrayed in the 2006 film 300. So when the Giants went up against their NFC East rival Dallas Cowboys in Week 14, OBJ imagined he was taking the battlefield for Leonidas I, unleashing these SUPER dope 300-inspired red, black and gold cleats.

8. wild-card playoff vs. green bay packers — “grab the cheese”

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In January, the Giants journeyed to the land of cheese for a wild-card matchup with the Green Bay Packers. Before the playoff game, Beckham Jr. countered Green Bay’s cheesehead fans with cheese feet. He donned a pair of yellow cleats that resembled blocks of cheese, with carefully drawn holes and images of Disney’s Mickey Mouse and Itchy the Mouse from The Simpsons. Like these two mice, OBJ was after the cheese. Too bad the Giants took that smooth L.

7. week 15 vs. detroit lions — craig sager tribute

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s Craig Sager tribute cleats during the third quarter of the National Football League game between the New York Giants and the Detroit Lions on Dec. 18, 2016, at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Beckham Jr. was fined only once last season for violating the NFL’s uniform and equipment policy with his flashy cleats. The penalty was issued following Week 15, when OBJ played against the Detroit Lions in a pair of multicolored, and multipatterned, cleats honoring longtime NBA broadcaster Craig Sager, who died at age 65 three days before the game. Known for his bright and brazen sideline outfits, Sager would’ve loved OBJ’s cleats, which he auctioned off following the game to benefit the Sager Strong Foundation for cancer research. Yet despite Beckham Jr.’s heartfelt gesture, the NFL still slapped him with an $18,000 fine, which didn’t sit too well with the superstar wide receiver.

Yet if you asked Beckham Jr., he’d probably tell you that, for Sager, the fine was worth every single penny.

6. WEEK 17 VS. WASHINGTON REDSKINS — KANYE WEST “GRADUATION”

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Kanye West dropped out of college and became a 21-time Grammy Award-winning musician. Beckham Jr. never graduated from college, either, deciding to forgo his senior year at LSU and enter the NFL, where he is now an All-Pro wide receiver. So the only commencement the two have in common is OBJ’s cleats he had designed after the cover of West’s 2007 album Graduation. On these kicks, the colors morph from an orangish-pink to a drank purple, and illustrations of Kanye’s signature bears are beautifully done. Hot take: Graduation is one of the best, if not the best album of West’s career. Obviously, it’s up there in the ranks for OBJ, too.

5. week 4 vs. Minnesota vikings — OVO

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s OVO custom-made cleats are seen on the field during the first half of a game against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 3, 2016, in Minneapolis.

AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King

If you didn’t know that Beckham Jr. and Drake are BFFs, you must have been living under a rock like Patrick from SpongeBob SquarePants for the past year. Last NFL offseason, Beckham Jr. house-sat the hit-making musical artist’s Calabasas, California, mansion, known as the “YOLO (You Only Live Once) estate,” while he was on tour. Drake later shouted out his bro OBJ on his October 2016 track “Fake Love” with the seminal line, Just when s— look out of reach / I reach back like one, three / Like one, three, yeah — a reference to the most revered play of the NFL wide receiver’s young career, which also happens to be arguably the best catch in league history. And even this year, Drake stopped one of his shows to get Beckham Jr., who was in the audience, to sign a fan’s jersey. Yet, before all of these epic chapters of their friendship, OBJ paid tribute to his big homie during the 2016 NFL season with these simply gorgeous October’s Very Own (OVO)-themed cleats. The sky blue base of the shoes, with softly drawn white clouds, is a subtle nod to the cover of Drake’s 2013 album Nothing Was the Same, and the perfect complement to the metallic gold illustrations of Drake’s trademark owl on the outer soles of each shoe. Man, these cleats are a truly a work of art.

4. 2017 Pro Bowl — Toy Story

OBJ definitely “gotta friend” in Troy Cole, because the artist appropriately known as Kickasso absolutely did his thing with these Toy Story-themed cleats that the wide receiver sported in January’s Pro Bowl. What a beautiful touch to dedicate one shoe solely to Sheriff Woody Pride, and the other to space ranger Buzz Lightyear. Beckham Jr. is surely ready for 2019’s Toy Story 4, and so are we.

3. WEEK 16 VS. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES — GRINCH

Odell Beckham Jr. of the New York Giants warms up wearing Christmas cleats featuring the Grinch before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Dec. 22, 2016, in Philadelphia. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

There’s only one way to celebrate Christmas on your feet, and that’s with the Grinch. Basketball great Kobe Bryant did it with his signature Nikes in 2010, and Beckham Jr. continued the tradition in custom fashion last holiday season. The vibrant colors and details on these cleats are amazing. We wouldn’t be mad if Beckham Jr. rocked them all season long — they’re that nice to look at. Yo, OBJ, if you’re reading this, next Christmas you gotta go full Home Alone with your kicks. It’d be the perfect way to tell every D-back in the league, “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal! … and a Happy New Year.”

2. WEEK 11 VS. CHICAGO BEARS — “BACK TO THE FUTURE”

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s Nike Cleats with “Mattel Hover Board” and “Back to the Future” on them before a game between the New York Giants and Chicago Bears on Nov. 20, 2016, at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

All three films of the Back to the Future trilogy were released before Beckham Jr. was born in 1992. But as we saw last season, OBJ is a young Marty McFly at heart. He and Kickasso put their creative minds together to give the people not one, but two pairs of Back to the Future-inspired cleats, incorporating multiple elements and moments from Back to the Future Part II, in which Marty and Doc Brown travel 30 years into the future from 1985 to 2015. Beckham Jr. wore the first pair during warm-ups before a Week 11 matchup with the Chicago Bears, which included illustrations of the Mattel hoverboard, Marty’s metallic hat and the DeLorean time machine, all featured in the film. These cleats are glorious, but Kickasso saved his best work for what OBJ wore during the game. The wide receiver took the field in a pair of remarkable silver-and-electric blue creations, designed after the self-lacing Nike Mags that debuted in the 1989 film. Nike released the shoes for the first time nearly three decades later, and again in 2016, making OBJ’s Back to the Future cleat idea timely and relevant in the world of sneakers.

1. WEEK 3 VS. WASHINGTON REDSKINS — THE Joker

OBJ has a unique obsession with The Joker, which we’ve seen translated through his on-field apparel in the past few seasons. The wide receiver first made his infatuation known during a December 2015 Monday Night Football game, when he wore cleats and gloves illustrating the comic book supervillain’s chilling face. Last season, however, he took the obsession a huge step further. Everyone knows OBJ and Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman aren’t too fond of each other. And, coincidentally, Norman’s favorite superhero is Batman, The Joker’s archnemesis. So, in all his pettiness, Beckham Jr. had two more pairs of Joker cleats made for a 2016 Week 3 matchup with Norman and the Redskins. The pregame pair featured graphic details in bold colors, from The Joker’s eyes on the tongue of each shoe and his stained teeth on each toe, to his tattoos and catchphrases such as Why So Serious?, on the inner and outer soles. The pair he wore during the game were more subtle — mostly white with speckles of lime green around the laces, and red ink circling each shoe to represent The Joker’s blood-stained smile. With 11 catches for 121 yards against Norman and the Redskins, Beckham Jr. became the fastest wide receiver in NFL history to reach 200 career receptions and 3,000 receiving yards. So, now, his in-game Joker cleats are displayed at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. You know what that means, right? OBJ has a Hall of Fame cleat game.

Summer 2017 movies are full of melanin and just plain cool John Boyega, Rihanna, Kevin Hart, Kerry Washington and ‘Tupac’: an opinionated summer film guide

All that hot weather we’ve been wishing, hoping and praying for has finally arrived — so now it’s time to head indoors! Go ahead and pack your snacks — and stuff ’em far down in your purse: Summer movie (and blockbuster) season is upon us. A number of highly anticipated films are finally hitting the multiplex, and The Undefeated Culture team has you covered on which ones are worth ordering online in advance. Now, let’s all go to the movies!


Baywatch | May 25

Frank Masi/Paramount Pictures

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Directed by: Seth Gordon

Featuring: Dwayne Johnson, Priyanka Chopra, Zac Efron, Ilfenesh Hadera

Baywatch? More like Baewatch, amirite? Either way, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s new film surely will be an excellent introduction to summer blockbusters everywhere. At 45, and fresh off so much success of The Fate of the Furious that there’s talk of his own spinoff, Johnson is at his absolute best. He can do big-deal movie thrillers, premium cable TV shows, prime-time network sketch comedy or just about anything else he decides to take on. In this film, he brings David Hasselhoff’s beloved ’90s TV series to the big screen and teaches a new recruit (played by Efron) the tricks of the trade, all in the name of solving a big old criminal plot. We smell what’s cooking.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie | June 2

Studio: DreamWorks Animation and Scholastic Entertainment

Directed by: David Soren

Featuring: Kevin Hart, Jordan Peele, Ed Helms

Kevin Hart already took home an award for Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie — well, sort of. After the animated film’s late May premiere, Hart presented and jokingly accepted the award for “top collaboration” at the Billboard Music Awards with Underpants co-star Helms. In the film, based upon Dav Pilkey’s best-selling children’s novel series, Hart voices fourth-grader George Beard, who teams up with his best friend Harold Hutchins (Thomas Middleditch) to hypnotize their cruel school principal, Mr. Krupp (Helms), into believing he’s Captain Underpants, the hero of the comics that George and Harold write together. Peele follows up his critically acclaimed thriller Get Out as the voice of George and Harold’s nemesis: child prodigy Melvin Sneedly. Watch out, Despicable Me 3Captain Underpants might just be the best animated movie of the summer.

Wonder Woman | June 2

Studio: DC Entertainment

Directed by: Patty Jenkins

Featuring: Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright

Some of us have been waiting for a Wonder Woman feature film since Lynda Carter twirled her way into superhero lore back in the ’70s. So, stakes is high (as De La Soul would say) for the first female-led film to flesh out the mythic story of Princess Diana since Jennifer Garner portrayed Elektra in 2005. Israeli actress Gal Gadot, best known for playing Gisele Yashar in the unstoppable Fast & Furious movie franchise, is the perfect behind-kicking, take-no-prisoners crime fighter.

The Mummy | June 9

Studio: K/O Paper Products and Sean Daniel Company

Directed by: Alex Kurtzman

Featuring: Courtney B. Vance, Annabelle Wallis, Tom Cruise, Sofia Boutella

Courtney B. Vance continues to ride high on his Emmy-winning portrayal of famed attorney Johnnie Cochran in FX’s The People vs. O.J. Simpson. In Mummy month, Vance takes on his newest challenge, starring alongside Cruise, Wallis and Boutella in a reboot of the box office series that Brendan Fraser made an international success (and inspired a roller coaster!). Vance plays a colonel in the film.

All Eyez on Me | June 16

Studio: Morgan Creek Productions

Directed by: Benny Boom

Featuring: Demetrius Shipp Jr., Jamal Woolard, Danai Gurira, Jamie Hector

After years of setbacks and legal dramas, the life and times of Tupac Shakur will hit the big screen in one of the most anticipated films of the year. Shakur’s saga has been the subject of seemingly countless documentaries since his 1996 murder, including a highly anticipated Steve McQueen-directed doc, but Eyez ranks as the first time ’Pac’s story receives the biopic treatment. And, much like the man himself, the film doesn’t come without its share of controversy. Shakur’s family does not support the movie, according to sources. So it’ll be interesting to see how the depiction of rap’s most beloved martyr plays out.

Cars 3 | June 16

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios

Directed by: Brian Fee

Featuring: Kerry Washington, Owen Wilson, Tony Shalhoub, Chris Cooper

If you’ve got the kids with you, it’s probably best you don’t take them to see All Eyez On Me. However, variety is the spice of life, and while Kerry Washington is the proud mom of Isabelle, 2, and Caleb, 5 months, it’s going to be a while before they understand the significance of mom’s fabled role as Olivia Pope on ABC’s Scandal. That being said, it’s easy to imagine Mama Washington as very happy showing her kids her first animated role. She’ll be playing Natalie Certain. In her words, Certain is the “super-smarty-pants statistician” who “knows everything there is to know about the ins and outs of statistics when it comes to racing.” Vroom.

Transformers : The Last Knight | June 21

Studio: di Bonaventura Pictures and Hasbro Studios

Directed by: Michael Bay

Featuring: Tyrese, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Carmichael, Mark Wahlberg, Gemma Chan, Stanley Tucci

C’mon, son. Not another Transformers movie. This is the fifth installment of the series that debuted in 2007 with Shia LaBeouf in the lead. With Michael Bay in the director’s chair, these films are guaranteed to be action-packed, and people love them enough to have turned Transformers into a billion-dollar franchise. But, man, the plots of the past few movies have been absolute struggles, and now Mark Wahlberg is the main character. Meh. Will we go see Transformers: The Last Knight this summer? Probably. Only to support the homie Tyrese, though.

The Bad Batch | June 23

Studio: Annapurna Pictures and VICE Films

Directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour

Featuring: Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Suki Waterhouse, Giovanni Ribisi, Jim Carrey

So there are cannibals. Yep. From the director of the buzzy “first Iranian vampire Western” emerges a film around a bunch of steroid-abusing weightlifters living in a camp based in what screams dystopian America. There’s a cult leader in another place called Comfort, and everything seems to be a comment on everything going on right now in real life. The film has been called “creepy … savage,” and if that’s your cup of tea, with Lisa Bonet’s husband Jason Momoa on deck as well, then your summer is already made.

Baby Driver | Aug. 11

Studio: Big Talk Productions, Working Title Films and Media Rights Capital

Directed by: Edgar Wright

Featuring: Tyrese, Isabela Moner, Jerrod Carmichael, Mark Wahlberg, Gemma Chan, Stanley Tucci

Yasssss to having a tiny bit of anticipation for this film: It’s been described as “an action movie … powered by music.” Prepare yourself for some laughs now, ’cause Driver — though Wright calls it “visceral, darker, more cynical” — is sure to spark an LOL or two or three. We haven’t seen Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey in the same film since Seth Gordon’s 2011 Horrible Bosses, and they had us cracking up, all up and through there. This action-packed “dark” comedy is the fix you need if you like fast cars, crime and humor. It involves a not-well-planned heist that could take a wrong turn at any time. The getaway driver is a kid named Baby who was browbeaten into working for the biggest boss (Spacey, not Rick Ross) in the crime business. Foxx plays the role of Bats, part of the crime crew.

Spider-Man: Homecoming | July 27

Studio: Marvel Studios

Directed by: Jon Watts

Featuring: Donald Glover, Marisa Tomei, Tom Holland, Zendaya, Michael Keaton, Hannibal Buress, Tyne Daly, Bokeem Woodbine, Garcelle Beauvais

Peter Parker just wants to be a normal kid. But we all know he can’t be because of a bite from a genetically modified gangster spider that gives him superhuman spidey qualities. We’re thrilled about this reboot because it’ll be far more multicultural than we’ve seen from this series before — joining the cast are Zendaya as the super-smart Michelle, Buress as a know-nothing gym teacher and Bokeem Woodbine as Shocker, a criminal who is going to give Spider-Man a run for his web. Also in this film are Garcelle Beauvais and Donald Glover. It’s lit!

Wish Upon | July 14

Studio: Busted Shark Productions

Directed by: John Leonetti

Featuring: Sydney Park, Joey King, Ryan Phillippe, Sherilyn Fenn

Basically: a super-scary movie about being careful what you wish for. King, who was so great in 2013’s The Conjuring, gets seven wishes from her hoarder dad, and what had been a life of embarrassment and sadness is suddenly all gravy — until it isn’t. The Walking Dead’s Park (formerly of Nickelodeon’s Instant Mom) is in a classic best friend role.

Lady Macbeth | July 14

Studio: BBC Films

Director: William Oldroyd

Featuring: Cosmo Jarvis, Florence Pugh, Paul Hilton, Naomi Ackie, Christopher Fairbank

Having already made its way around the festival circuit to rave reviews, this film, set in Victorian England and focused clearly on “themes of abuse, violence, race and class,” is a summer thriller you can’t miss. Plus, it apparently has “more black characters than all the Austens and Downtons put together.” A racially ambiguous Cosmo Jarvis stars opposite his lover, lady of the house Florence Pugh. Naomi Ackie plays a maid, but this is not The Help. An adaptation of Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, this film is noir-ish, it’s sexy and, perhaps most alluring of all, it’s quite the opposite of the typical, whitewashed 19th-century period film.

War for the Planet of the Apes | July 14

Studio: Chernin Entertainment

Director: Matt Reeves

Featuring: Woody Harrelson, Judy Greer, Andy Serkis

Break out your “Rest In Peace Harambe” T-shirts for this one. Our boy Harambe surely would’ve gone down swinging in the epic battle between apes and humans that will be depicted in July’s War for the Planet, the third installment of the Planet of the Apes reboot, which began with Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011 and followed up with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014. It’s tough to pick sides between the apes, led by their intelligent king chimpanzee Caesar, and the humans, led by Col. McCullough, who’s played by the one and only Woody Harrelson. Harambe will be cheering on his homies from heaven.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets | July 21

Studio: EuropaCorp and Fundamental Films

Directed by: Luc Besson

Featuring: Rihanna, Cara Delevingne, Herbie Hancock

If you’re into sci-fi flicks where groups of species live in perfect harmony appreciating diverse cultures and experiences until an antagonist threatens to destroy everything with a pulse, this one’s for you. As it relates to Rihanna? The “Needed Me” singer stars as a shape-shifting entertainer named Bubble, and director Luc Besson described her as a complete joy to work with. The futuristic thriller is just the latest in a growing thespian résumé for RihRih. She starred as Marion Crane in the final season of Bates Motel and has a leading role in the new Ocean’s Eleven all-ladies-everything adaptation, Ocean’s Eight.

Girls Trip | July 21

Studio: Will Packer Productions

Directed by: Malcolm D. Lee

Featuring: Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tiffany Haddish

We’ve never seen black women on film like this before — sex-positive, carefree and ready for the turn-up. From producer extraordinaire Will Packer, four college friends reunite and head down to New Orleans for the Essence Festival seeking a much-needed reprieve from the melodramas of everyday life. The girls are on tilt: A lot of raunchy, good-natured fun goes down — and we’re all the way here for it.

The Dark Tower | Aug. 4

Studio: Weed Road Pictures, Imagine Entertainment and Media Rights Capital

Directed by: Nikolaj Arcel

Featuring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Abbey Lee, Katheryn Winnick

Yo, Stringer Bell is back! The fine-as-hell criminal mastermind is not playing with these Dominican and Greek drug lords who are out here trying to mess with his money on the rough streets of Baltimore. OK, that’s a lie. But some of us love The Wire and Idris Elba so much that things like movie plots, co-stars and origin story revelations are completely immaterial. So: all right, fine. Elba plays the last Gunslinger, a heroic savior in Stephen King’s sci-fi multiverse book series of the same name. He’s trying to save the Dark Tower from falling and keep civilization from crumbling, or some such thing. Whatever. Did we mention that Idris Elba is in it and has, like, a lot of scenes in the whole movie? Yeah, some of us are very excited.

Detroit | Aug. 4

Studio: Annapurna Pictures

Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow

Featuring: John Boyega, Jason Mitchell, Anthony Mackie

Please, please, please let this film, which is a kind of behind-the-scenes of the 1967 Detroit riots, be on the up-and-up. Folks were nervous (and rightly so) because, according to the initial trailer and the IMDB credit list, there appears to be an erasure of black women. From the director of Zero Dark Thirty, this film is poised to tell the story of the horrifyingly relevant Algiers Motel Incident that occurred during the 1967 racial unrest in the Motor City, which was then perhaps the most industrially significant city in the nation.

Ingrid Goes West | Aug. 4

Studio: Star Thrower Entertainment and 141 Entertainment

Directed by: Matt Spicer

Featuring: O’Shea Jackson Jr., Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, Wyatt Russell and Billy Magnussen

O’Shea Jr. takes on his next big screen task — but this time he’s not playing his famous father. Instead, it’s a supporting role as Aubrey Plaza’s love interest in the dark comedy that won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at this year’s Sundance Festival. Jackson credited his real-life love of Batman, of all things, with helping him land the role: His character in the film is a screenwriter obsessed with the legendary superhero.

Nutjob 2: Nutty by Nature | Aug. 11

Studio: ToonBox Entertainment, Red Rover International and Gulfstream Pictures

Directed by: Cal Brunker

Featuring: Maya Rudolph, Gabriel Iglesias, Will Arnett, Jackie Chan, Katherine Heigl

Listen. Maya Rudolph and all her “funniness” can never steer you wrong, even in animation. Whether you’re planning a staycation with the kids or you want to keep them busy on a random day, this summer movie will do the trick. Nutjob 2: Nutty By Nature picks up with Surly Squirrel and his homies. This time they are battling the evil mayor of Oakton, who is trying to get rid of their home, Liberty Park, to build an amusement park. But these animal friends are not at all here for it. They’re taking back their territory.

The Hitman’s Bodyguard | Aug. 18

Studio: Millennium Films and Cristal Pictures

Directed by: Patrick Hughes

Featuring: Samuel L. Jackson, Ryan Reynolds, Gary Oldman

What we do know is there is a whole lot of profanity in this R-rated buddy movie: Jackson is a superefficient hitman who must be guarded by the exasperated Reynolds. Not every black and white character-driven smart-guy bromance can be the original 1982 48 Hrs. But here’s hoping?

‘Get Out’ star Marcus Henderson is making big strides in his two new films He now has added the Urban Movie Channel’s ‘Halfway’ to his list of credits that includes ‘Django’

Marcus Henderson has an acting portfolio that goes back as far as 2007. His most memorable roles are as Big Sid in the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained (starring with Jamie Foxx and Kerry Washington) and Walter in Jordan Peele’s new race-provoking horror/comedy Get Out.

He just recently was a co-star in the Urban Movie Channel’s feature film Halfway, alongside Quinton Aaron of The Blind Side, which premiered on April 12. Now Henderson has joined the cast of Juanita, starring Alfre Woodard, a film involving The Wire director Clark Johnson.

No one can forget Henderson’s role as Walter, the groundskeeper, in Get Out. When the main character, photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), tries to maintain a sense of familiarity in Walter, he finds that his strange behavior is more than what it appears. In the end, Walter plays an integral role in Washington’s escape.

Henderson, a husband and father of two girls, ages 4 years and 7 months old, recently spoke with The Undefeated about Get Out, Django, Halfway, working with legends, brotherly love and his busy year.


Who inspired you growing up?

My mom. She said that she wasn’t proud of movies I’ve been in or what successes commercially in that sense. She was just proud to see that I was independent and I had my own family and I was taking care of things, being the man of the house and things like that. Whatever that’s supposed to mean, but I get what she means. It’s just that’s her definition of what being proud of me was. She’s been proud, so it’s like, ‘All right. Cool. Cool. I did something in this life. I made my mom proud.’

How was it like playing Paulie in Halfway and working alongside Quinton Aaron?

It definitely gave me an opportunity to showcase embodying a character fully. I’m not saying that none of my other characters aren’t embodied fully, but in Django, I got a little bit, just a little bit of, ‘Oh, I got your gun.’

He’s one of the characters who allow me to really grasp the concept of what it is to be in front of the camera and for the camera to capture everything, to make choices fully. Then it’s actually to represent a lot of people that I feel like I know. I know a lot of people in that situation who want to do better, but they’re just caught in the system that won’t allow it, that won’t allow them to play by their rules. It’s a humbling experience. It allows me to remember that there are people who are like Paulie.

Are you shocked by the success of Get Out?

Yes and no. No because from the very first day of shooting, Jordan said the word iconic. Iconic was just the word he used. No other word, and I believed him. So when Get Out came out, I felt like it was surreal because I’m thinking, all my other movies, ‘Come on. I was in a Quentin Tarantino movie,’ and I don’t even feel like it got that much attention. It was more controversy around it than it was actual, ‘Oh, man. This film is so good.’ It was more like, ‘Oh, why does Quentin Tarantino get to direct a movie about a black slave? Why does he get to do that? Why does he get to say the N-word so many times?’

How is it to work with Woodard and Foxx?

From going from watching people when you’re growing up to actually working side by side with them, it’s kind of surreal because you … I don’t like to set myself up with an expectation of who they should be or anything like that, but I always look to connect a little bit with that nostalgia of who this person was to me and what they meant to me. It’s such a great experience to learn from these veterans. You get to learn your own path through watching them.

There were certain things I didn’t even know, I got to do, until all of a sudden it was like, ‘Oh, OK.’ Jamie Foxx asked for X, Y and Z from the sound department and the camera crew, and then they’re all able to work together to make this scene happen. It’s not just about me standing here and saying my lines, it’s about really interacting with the crew, really understanding that everyone has their specific job and role to make this thing jump and highlight. Yeah, it was something that I find very useful to work with veteran actors that are still exploring and learning the art for themselves. It’s really nice, yeah. It’s really nice.

Alfre, she’s a person, she explores roles and she constantly evolves. She’s queen mother. She’s queen mother.

How was it working with Tarantino?

I’ve got to tell you, one of the things that surprised me, and especially after working with so many directors, is how caring Quentin is about his actors. He’s so full of character. In particular, I can give you an example. There was a scene at the beginning where we’re walking through the terrain, the woods or whatever, and he really wants to get a shot of our feet, but to protect us, they had these little prosthetic booties, they call them booties, feet made for us. We would walk on those as we did wide shots or shots of our faces, but he really wanted a shot of our feet. It was so cold outside, and it was freezing, absolutely freezing.

Then he ended up going and coming into the tent and talking to us. He’s talking to me and the other guys who were in the beginning, and he’s like, ‘Excuse me. Guys, I hate to do this to you, but I want to ask you. Do you mind if we do this shot without your booties on? Because we’re seeing that it’s prosthetic and this and that, and it would be a really great shot if we could get one without the booties.’ Me and my friends, we were kind of looking at each other, me and my castmates were looking at each other and, all of a sudden we’re thinking, ‘Why is he asking us?’ He could have just said, ‘Take these booties off. We’re going to do this shot.’

None of us were going to be like, ‘Oh, no. We ain’t doing that.’ It was many of our first movies, or our first go, or my first go-around, really, so I wasn’t going to be like, ‘No, man. I ain’t going to do that. It’s cold outside. My feet, it’d hurt.’ In the big scheme of things, this is Quentin Tarantino. I felt like I wasn’t going to mess up because whatever. We ended up taking them off and doing the job or whatever, and it was great. It was awesome. Like I said, I was working with directors who could care less, and they would be like, ‘Booties off.’

They wouldn’t care to ask us if we minded, but he did that, and that shows so much respect and care that it impressed me for the rest of my life, just because he was at that stature that we all buy into and he would come and say, ‘Hey. Do you mind?’ That, to me, is everything. Yeah, I would go to battle for Quentin. I would go to battle for him. That’s what it feels like.

What’s up next for you?

July 5, FX is dropping John Singleton’s new Snowfall, where I’ll be playing the neighbor of the main character played by Damson Idris. It’s a show about the rise of cocaine in the early ’80s in Los Angeles. I think it’s a great script, a really good story. These Belgian directors directed the first episodes that I was in, and then I did a few other ones with other directors. Yeah, they’re really good, top-notch guys that did a movie called Black. It was a Belgian movie called Black that’s really great.

Yeah, and then I’ll be doing Insidious 4. That’ll be out in August sometime, I believe. Yeah, 4. I’m a big fan of the first few movies that they’ve done, and then that’ll be my third Blumhouse movie. Getting into the Blumhouse family is really cool. Yeah, yeah. That’s what’s up next.

Me and my brother, we’re working on this pilot right now that I think really has some traction. I think it’s going to be going really well. I think some really great things. Maybe there’ll be a Get Out 2. Hopefully. The origins of Georgina and Walter.

What’s been the hardest part of your entire journey?

The hardest part of my entire journey is being a parent. As you know, there are books about it, but there is no specific book for one person to figure it out. We all have to figure out this journey on our own and in our own way. Having to do business on one side and really being in show business at least, it’s a lot of bringing yourself to the thing. Especially being an actor, you bring yourself to it all the time. That’s where you start.

It’s very different when you have a family and you are not necessarily jumping back and forth, but it’s a very interesting weaving of life. When I have to go away for weeks at a time or something I don’t get to see my family, and that’s hard. I think that’s one of the hardest things. I have such a humble beginning that everything is just an extra cherry on top of the ice cream for me. When it comes to life, I’m not set out to believe that this life was meant for struggle. I believe we’re all meant to live our best life and do what we can while we can. That allows me to just look at the bright side of things.

Are there any roles that you would love to do that you haven’t so far?

I love doing content that creates discussion, that creates conversation. As you look a lot of the movies that I’ve done and TV, you will see that there is conversation to be had about, in pretty much a lot of the things that I’ve been in, there’s always something to talk about, someone to reach out to, a different audience that it goes to. I like doing things that matter to me, pretty much. It’s funny because I don’t get sent out for a lot of comedy. It’s not like I’m going out and I’m on like TBS shows or ABC shows doing comedy or anything, but everything that you see me in, there’s something that is a little funny.

When I go to the movies and we go see a movie now and then or something, there’s laughter every time my scene comes up. I think that I would probably like to do a little comedy. I’m a really big fan of the Naked Gun and Airplane, those movies that the Zucker brothers did, and Police Squad and such. I’m a big fan. Me and my brother are big fans of those types of shows that, what’s the word? Absurdist. Absurdist kind of a comedy. I love that. Maybe I’ll be able to dip my hands in an absurdist show or two. I just got done doing a play, which is a pretty deep play, but I love doing theater. Theater’s my first love.

How close are you and your brother?

His name is Leon Henderson Jr. He’s a stand-up comedian. We’re both from St. Louis. Let me tell you something. My brother is four years older than me, and growing up, he was my hero. He still is in a lot of ways. My brother has always stood tall to me, even though I’m bigger than my brother. What had ended up happening was when I was 14 or so, he left to go to Thailand on a foreign exchange kind of thing. Whenever you leave home, I think, after high school, that’s when people really discover who they are and really get into tune with this life, how they operate within this life.

He learned life in Thailand, I feel like. He learned who he was in Thailand. When he came back, he had a really hard time adjusting to the things that Americans felt were important. He was just always dead set on traveling after that. He always wanted to travel, so he went to China. He went to all these places. I didn’t have my brother anymore, so then we spent a lot of years apart. We were close, but we weren’t close like that. We just didn’t really talk a lot, but one day, when I was at Yale and he had moved back to St. Louis after a trip to China, and he was working at FedEx, I think, and things weren’t going so well for that, he just couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, should I say. I said, ‘Man, come to Connecticut and live with me. Live with me. I’ve got another year of school. We’ll figure this thing out together.’

He came. He took me up on my invitation and we stayed together in Connecticut. That bond started to grow stronger again. He’s my inspiration in a lot of the times. That’s hard to come by, especially for siblings. When they move away from each other, they’re not that close to each other. Me and my brother are very close. We live right down the street from each other.

He’s very close to my children. They call him Tio. Not Tio Leon. It’s just Tio. That’s another thing that makes my mother very proud. Both of her sons, her only two children, they’re in their 30s and they’re still tight. Anything my brother needs, I’m there for him.

What advice do you give to aspiring actors?

Don’t ever give up on something that you truly believe in. Just bring positivity, because there are people, there is a spectrum, and it’s a never-ending line on each side of the spectrum. You can go down far one end of it, and you can go far down the other end of it, but at the end of the day, you’re always going to be on the spectrum. You’ve got to understand where you are on that spectrum, but you can never give up on the dream in which the spectrum is based on.

Martin Lawrence’s ‘Martin,’ 20 years later The sitcom’s legacy is as hilarious as it is complicated

The finale of Martin aired in May 1997 as its five-season run limped to the finish line. Its demise was affected by a set of circumstances — allegations of sexual harassment, an emergency cruise storyline, a restraining order — that included Tisha Campbell walking off the Detroit set in November 1996. Core fans often omit mentioning the final season in discussions of the show, even decades later. The pain and discontent of the fifth season goes hand in hand with why Martin held such a prominent place in African-American culture during the 1990s to begin with.


Martin premiered on Fox in August 1992. Its main premise: the daily exploits of its five main characters, Martin (Martin Lawrence); his girlfriend, Gina (Campbell); her best friend, Pam (Tichina Arnold); and Martin’s two best friends, Thomas Ford (Tommy) and Carl Anthony Payne II (Cole). Its two principals, Lawrence and Campbell, had a long-established rapport.

“Martin, I’ve known him for years,” Campbell said on a December 1993 episode of Regis & Kathie Lee. “He would always say, ‘You gon’ play my girlfriend.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, sure. Right, Martin.’ But he made [good on] his promise.”

Both graduated from the school of Spike Lee classics — Campbell co-starred in 1988’s School Daze, and Lawrence appeared alongside his mentor and legendary comedian Robin Harris a year later in Do The Right Thing. Campbell and Lawrence even shared the same screen in Reggie Hudlin’s 1990 masterpiece House Party: Lawrence as Bilal, the DJ with the bad breath, and Campbell as Sidney, Christopher “Kid” Reid’s love interest. They also both appeared in Hudlin’s Boomerang in 1992. The energy of the late ’80s and early ’90s, in terms of what Hudlin and Lee were producing, directly translated into stars of those movies becoming stars of film and network television. Fox capitalized on the emergence of young black talent.

Before Fox News became the conservative conglomerate it is today, its programming model operated (and still operates) on a different wavelength. The network found success and relevancy in the swelling influence of the hip-hop generation. James Murdoch helped launch the highly respected hip-hop label Rawkus Records before selling it to his father, Rupert Murdoch — an associate of President Donald Trump’s, and the most powerful man at 21st Century Fox and News Corp. — in 1996. Shows such as In Living Color, Living Single, New York Undercover and Martin were instrumental in making Fox the massive fourth network in the ’90s.

Fox saw the allure of Lawrence — the heir apparent to Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy. He was an energetic and explicit comedian with big-screen experience whose routine worked just as well in intimate settings, as shown by his stint as host of HBO’s popular and influential Def Comedy Jam. Lawrence, though, questioned the network’s commitment to providing opportunities to entertainers of color. “Fox should reflect the diversity of black life instead of putting out the same show with different titles,” he said. “I’ve never met Rupert Murdoch or Lucie Salhany [Fox’s chairman]. I bet Tom and Roseanne Arnold know the heads of the company they work for.”

“It was a show that came wholly from the African-American experience that was a hit. It proved that unadulterated blackness could be mainstream.”

Martin premiered when African-American life and culture was under the microscope: It was a post-Rodney King and L.A. riots America. The show’s crux was hip, youthful blackness: Martin and Gina, the former a radio DJ at Detroit’s fictional WZUP and the latter an advertising account executive. “Its biggest legacy is the fact that it was a show that came wholly from the African-American experience that was a hit,” said former music and entertainment journalist Cheo Hodari Coker. He’s now the showrunner for Netflix’s Luke Cage. “It proved that unadulterated blackness could be mainstream.”

The show was a success from its start, averaging north of 11 million viewers in its first season. The New York Times praised the show’s quirkiness and its willingness to embrace social issues in episodes such as season one’s Dead Men Don’t Flush, which featured a dead white man — in this case, a plumber — being found dead in a black man’s apartment. After calling 911, the show’s fab five are forced to pass a qualifying quiz to prove they’re white. “Nothing makes my day more right,” Martin jokes, “than waking up white.” The charade nearly worked, too, as the crew correctly guessed white people’s favorite pie (apple) and named two Barry Manilow songs (“Copacabana (At the Copa)” and “Mandy”). The masquerade flatlines, however, when Cole incorrectly (and hilariously) answers “hot sauce” when responding to what white people put on sandwiches. Martin, John J. O’Connor wrote in November 1992, could “still blossom into something considerably more than a conventional sitcom.” And that “whatever happens, Martin Lawrence is obviously going places.”

Martin earned a following of diehard critics and fans alike. Some painted Lawrence’s pop culture dynamo as buffoonish — Bill Cosby slammed his stint as Def Comedy Jam host as a “minstrel show.” In a numbing sense of prophecy, Lawrence shot back at Cosby, saying, “For all his clean, wholesome, Jell-O pudding, I-ain’t-never-done-no-wrong image, they still didn’t let his a– buy NBC, now, did they?” The Los Angeles Times slammed the 1993 season two episode Whoop There It Ain’t for perpetuating stereotypes of black male sexuality. Newsweek deemed Lawrence’s character a “sex-obsessed homeboy shucking his way to nowhere.”

Yet many more saw the brainchild of creators Lawrence, John Bowman and Topper Carew as over-the-top comical. Episodes such as Hollywood Swinging (which featured Tommy Davidson as “Varnell Hill”), or Feast or Famine (a battle-of-the-sexes Thanksgiving episode) were not only hilarious but also made Martin, Gina, Tommy, Pam and Cole representatives of young black companionship and friendship in the ’90s. And Martin and Gina were the cool and relatable couple. “Having a steady relationship, getting with the right woman, is something I’ll always believe in,” he told VIBE in April 1994. “The one thing I’m most proud of with Martin is that it shows a black man loving and respecting his black woman.”

The many scenes and catchphrases considered classic are diverse, though many are from seasons two and three, the series’ apex. Suspicious Minds revolves around the mystery of Martin’s missing CD player, which causes him to channel his inner Nino Brown to interrogate his friends in hilarious, but ultimately unsuccessful, fashion. Season two standout Guard Your Grill finds Martin challenging professional boxer Tommy “Hitman” Hearns to a fight for Gina’s love. Many call out The Romantic Weekend from season three, more popularly known as Chilligan’s Island — the couples retreat episode that Martin finds on the back of a cereal box. The episode birthed the classic phrase “That ain’t no damn puppy!”

On-camera, in-character power struggles define the show’s legacy as well. Martin vs. Pam became a battle of wits. Martin vs. Ms. Geri was a recurring heavyweight clash. And Gina vs. Mama Payne became the in-law relationship from hell. At Martin’s height, cameos — by Snoop Dogg, Christopher “Kid” Reid, Salt-N-Pepa, former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham, Jodeci (who had no clue Martin would interrupt their performance), Biggie Smalls, Sherman Hemsley, OutKast, Tommy Davidson, David Alan Grier and more — were a regular fixture. Yet, while the show percolated on the strength of guest stars and the chemistry of its main characters, Martin was, in many ways, a one-man band. Lawrence played nine characters: Jerome, Dragonfly Jones, Roscoe, Bob From Marketing, Elroy Preston, Otis the security guard, Sheneneh, King Beef and Mama Payne.

By nearly any metric, whether cultural impact or relevance, Martin’s first four seasons rank as some of the finest television comedy ever produced. Its stature is eye to eye with shows such as The Jeffersons, Fresh Prince, The Cosby Show or A Different World. By the start of its fifth season, however, the empire was crumbling. Allegations of sexual harassment from Campbell made headlines in November 1996. Her lawsuit, in which she named Lawrence, stated that Campbell (herself a sexual assault survivor) had grown increasingly uncomfortable on set.

The lawsuit stated that Lawrence’s advances had increased as the seasons progressed. There were rumors that the tension ramped up especially when Campbell became engaged to fellow actor Duane Martin. It all started coming out: from fits of rage in which he threatened to fire the cast during season two to the charge that Lawrence would grope and simulate sexual acts before crew members when they weren’t rehearsing or filming to Campbell pleading with the show’s writers to cease writing bedroom scenes by season five. Campbell alleged that HBO executives Chris Albrecht and Christopher Schwartz and HBO Independent Productions had long-standing knowledge of the abuse, yet neglected to take action.

Lawrence denied all claims. “Martin has long been Tisha’s champion and protector,” his January 1997 statement read, “and is thus deeply hurt by these allegations.” But the public fracture of his and Campbell’s actual and scripted relationship was part of a string of bizarre situations for Lawrence, one of America’s top comic actors who was flourishing in the wake of Bad Boys and A Thin Line Between Love and Hate.

In August 1996, he was arrested for carrying a loaded handgun in a suitcase at Hollywood Burbank Airport. Months before, he was detained by police for wandering into traffic and screaming curses in a Sherman Oaks, California, neighborhood. While no charges were filed in either case, the energy around Lawrence was overshadowing his talent. Fox Entertainment President Peter Roth attempted to quell the swelling controversy around the network’s star. “The show is called Martin, and he has proved he is capable of handling the show. Whatever is happening off the set is not affecting the show.” But it did, of course, affect the show. How could it not?

Martin thrived on the intimacy of his and Campbell’s on-camera relationship, and even more so the unbreakable bond between its main five characters. Martin could no longer deliver on its promise. Martin was no longer entertaining to watch. Campbell functioned as Lawrence’s rock — no matter the antics of the character of “Martin,” “Gina” was there to reel him in. While Campbell helped fill living rooms with laughter — like when her head was stuck in between the Nefertiti 2000 headboard in season four’s Headin’ For Trouble — stress ate at her so much she reportedly had to be hospitalized. Campbell did eventually return to the close out the series — with very specific stipulations. Most notably, she and Lawrence were to never appear in the same scene together.

Tommy Ford’s death in 2016 was a reminder that while the show is eternal, physical energies are not. Today, Lawrence, Campbell and the rest of the cast speak glowingly of one another and of their creation’s staying power. New and young fans canonize Martin. Even basketball star LeBron James, who was 12 when it went off the air, occasionally features clips of the show on his popular Instagram Stories and dropped $5,000 on a “Jerome”-themed Halloween costume. Big Sean saluted the sitcom via the video for his 2015 hit “Play No Games.” And Chance the Rapper, born eight months after Martin’s series premiere, used his career-defining verse on Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam” to feature a brief but direct homage to the show: Treat the demons just like Pam/ I mean I f— with your friends, but damn, Gina.

What Martin did was remain true to itself in an era when black creativity served as a necessary lifeline for black America: its music, its movies, its television programs and its literature. And it did so in Detroit, a city critical to the African-American experience. The unfiltered honesty of its jokes, its dilemmas — and its shortcomings — are its flawed and labyrinthine bookmarks. It’s impossible to discuss the show without its awful ending. It’s impossible to not discuss Martin’s countless memories and laughs.

What Martin accomplished was no different from what In Living Single or The Fresh Prince of Bel Air accomplished — it just pushed the line further. It irked some and won the allegiance of others. “Martin really was one of the first mainstreamings of hip-hop culture and black culture, which really is the rage now because of Atlanta, because of Queen Sugar and because of Power,” said Coker. “It proved there was a place for it, and the place was in the mainstream, not in the margins.”

Everybody loves Tyrel Jackson Williams in IFC’s baseball-based ‘Brockmire’ The former ‘Lab Rats’ star talks Earth, Wind & Fire, extreme juggling and Tumblr

Tyrel Jackson Williams is transitioning from Lab Rats in abrupt fashion. From 2012 to 2016, he starred on the Disney XD series as Leo Dooley, and he is now currently playing Charles, the laid-back social media genius on IFC’s Brockmire. The new show stars Hank Azaria as legendary (and fictional) baseball commentator Jim Brockmire. It’s IFC’s most highly rated show and cable’s most time-shifted comedy, so of course it’s already been renewed for a second season. Williams, 20, is also the younger brother of Everybody Hates Chris star Tyler James Williams, but he long ago stepped out of his brother’s acting shadow. Tyrel Williams talked about the differences between acting in a show for kids and a show that is definitely for mature audiences — as well as about being starstruck at an Earth, Wind & Fire concert, and his love of superheroes.

When did you realize you were famous?

The first time it happened when I was at the mall. I was just chilling with my family one Saturday. This little girl was whispering to her mom from far away and pointing. I was like, ‘What’s going on, this is weird.’ She ran over and she was like, ‘You’re on a Disney show, right?’ I was like, ‘What! Yes I am, I really am on a Disney show. I’m happy you’ve seen it.’ I was superweird about it; I didn’t know how to handle it all. I was like, ‘Wow, this is gonna start happening regularly for me.’ I was 15 … around six months after Lab Rats premiered.

Aside from age, what is the biggest difference between how Lab Rats and Brockmire fans engage with you?

There’s a lot less yelling. Usually with Lab Rats fans, everything gets really quiet for a while and then somebody screams. [With] Brockmire fans, people just walk up and are like, ‘You’re really good in Brockmire.’ And they know my name — which is something I’m not used to. I’m used to people just yelling, ‘Leo!’ at me.

“Have you seen extreme juggling?”

Have you ever been starstruck?

I’ve been starstruck meeting Elijah Wood, and Verdine White from Earth, Wind & Fire. My parents are huge fans, and I’m also a fan because I’ve heard the group my entire life. We went to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, and somehow we got to go backstage and meet Verdine. My parents were really cool about it, and I couldn’t move. Verdine is standing right in front of me, and this is real life and I’m not dreaming.

Was that the first concert you ever went to?

Yes, it was. It was an amazing first concert to go to. I was like 13 or 14.

Who’s the most famous person following you on social media?

Sarah Paulson follows me because Amanda Peet tweeted at her through my Twitter account. Amanda doesn’t have Twitter, and she doesn’t really know how it works. She got into a Twitter conversation with Sarah via my Twitter, and Sarah Paulson ended up following me.

What is your favorite social media outlet?

Tumblr — it feels like an everything social media outlet.

If you could be any athlete, dead or alive, who would you be?

Part of me wants to say Tiger Woods, just to avoid all of the controversy. That would be kind of cool for a few weeks.

Do you like any unconventional sports?

Have you seen extreme juggling? You get to knock other people over and knock the pins out of their hands, but you have to juggle the whole time. It is the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life.

How do you find out about new music?

Twitter’s helping out a lot. I follow Complex, Fader and a bunch of those news outlets and magazines. They’re usually on top of drops. Apple Music is really good about featuring new artists.

“How do you manage to sink 3s effortlessly? It makes no sense.”

What was the last book you read?

The last book that I read all the way through was Watchmen. That has one of the craziest stories I’ve ever read. Props to Alan Moore. Right now I’m reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy [by Douglas Adams]. I watched the movie, and a bunch of people were telling me the movie sucks compared to the book. I started reading the book and I was like, this is way better.

Who is your favorite athlete currently playing?

I’d have to go with Steph Curry. How do you manage to sink 3s effortlessly? It makes no sense.

Who is your favorite superhero?

Deadpool. He’s awesome, he’s powerful and just crazy. He’s hilarious, and constantly breaks the fourth wall and is aware of the fact he is in comics and movies. He’s a character like I’ve never really seen before.

What is one bad habit that you have that you wish you could shake?

I tend to procrastinate. I work better under a deadline. I’m just gonna wait until a day or two days before and prepare for it, and I never do — and I end up panicking.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Work hard, and never settle. Work as hard as you can as often as you can. … You should always be striving to be the best you possibly can.

My three sons: Mother of ‘Queen Sugar’ star Kofi Siriboe on raising her Hollywood heartthrobs Supermom Koshie Mills on her Mother’s Day surprise and her ‘three kings’

Koshie Mills’ three sons have distinct personalities, and they all correspond with the personas of well-known and accomplished actors.

The eldest is the life of the party, a charismatic cross between comedians-turned-actors Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx (“The party starts when he arrives,” she jokes). The middle son is more like Denzel Washington: “He is more introspective and philosophical​; he’s my charmer; everyone flocks to him,” she explains. The baby is a Denzel/Will Smith mix in the group. Dubbed “the diplomat,” he’s​ “the spiritual conscience of the brothers and always pushing others to view life from different perspectives,” Mills said.

And this supermom knows her sons very well.

“I call them my three kings, like the three kings who visited baby Jesus,” said Mills, a Ghana-born, London-bred and “Los Angeles-curated” international media strategist. “Each brings his own unique gift, and there’s power in each of those gifts.”

Like most any proud mother, Mills can’t contain her excitement when she speaks of her “boys” — well, fawning and gushing is more like it. And she’s got plenty of reason to do so.

Her middle son, Kofi Siriboe, 23, is best known for his breakout role as Ralph Angel Bordelon on Ava DuVernay’s drama series Queen Sugar on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN). The swarthy heartthrob began acting at age 6 with print work and television commercials, followed by ​guest ​roles on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and a ​recurring role on MTV’s ​comedy series Awkward. He made his film debut in 2008 in the comedy-drama The Longshots.

The eldest, Kwame Boateng, 25, got an early start too, acting and modeling at age 8 and appearing in more than 30 national commercials and movies, including Not Easily Broken, a film based on a T.D. Jakes book. He also snagged roles on television shows The Chicago Code, The Office, ER and Everybody Hates Chris.

At 18, Kwesi Boakye is the youngest of the brood. (“He booked his first job at 9 months,” gushed Mills.) He played Manny in the 2009 Tyler Perry film I Can Do Bad All By Myself and has also previously done voice work for The Looney Tunes Show and The Amazing World of Gumball. He has also ​starred in television shows such as TNT’s Murder In The First with Taye Diggs, ABC’s Mind Games, Touch, The Mentalist and Hawaii Five-O and as a series regular on Ray Romano’s Men of a Certain Age.

Being “mom” to three of Hollywood’s brightest rising stars is no small feat. Add in a flourishing, nearly 26-year marriage and helming her own full-service, boutique multimedia firm based in Beverly Hills, California, and it’s safe to say that this “mom-ager” is, like Jill Scott sings of, living life like it’s golden.

From left to right: Actors/brothers Kwame Boateng, Kwesi Boakye and Kofi Siriboe pose after the making of a TV commercial for Code Blue PSA Campaign, designed by actor Jermaine Crawford on Oct. 17, 2009, in Los Angeles. Crawford created Code Blue to bring awareness of and to fight against the issues that threaten teen youth.

Photo by Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

After many years solo, Mills now shares management duties and also serves as publicist and does branding for all three. Having dear old mom so inextricably intertwined in their lives both personally and professionally is not a problem, they insist, but a plus.

“Our relationship is very special. I’m a mama’s boy,” confessed Siriboe, who is slated to appear this summer alongside Regina Hall, Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith in the Universal Pictures flick Girls Trip. “My mom is one of those people with a big, nurturing spirit, so even simple moments with her feel like pure nourishment for my soul. There’s a level of assurance I carry that trickles into my work, no doubt. I fully trust my mom, and I know she always has my back; that trust allows me the space to be as expansive as God intended me to be.”

Boateng said he feels similarly.

“It was my mom that started me in the business, so obviously she has been instrumental in nurturing this passion I have for the arts and entertainment. She helped develop me and put me in classes and supported and cultivated my dream, so her impact is undeniable,” Boateng said. “My mom is my best friend, confidant, my ride-or-die, the person I go to when I need counseling or help dealing with life decisions and challenges. My mom makes me feel like there is nothing I can’t tell her, and our transparent relationship is precious to me.”

Kwesi, who graduates from high school next month and ​i​s currently in a ​recurring role on the USA Network’s Colony, echoed his brothers’ sentiments. “She’s very hands-on, and it’s dope,” he said. “She’s like a guardian angel. She makes sure that I am taken care of, that I’m not taken advantage of.”

Mills laughs at the assertion that all three of her uber-talented sons hold their own as bona fide “bae” status (some of their adoring fans have even nicknamed them “Triple Chocolate Crunch”). While flattered, she said, she’s most proud that they’ve developed into positive, respectful and upstanding young men who are equally proud of both their American and African roots and give back to the community.

When she thinks back to the 10 years she spent solo managing their careers in film, television, voice-over and modeling work, she can’t help but feel a personal sense of accomplishment. Somehow she juggled it all around their schooling, extracurricular activities and, through much of it, a full-time job working overnight as a registered nurse.

Oprah Winfrey Network’s Queen Sugar premiere at the Warner Bros. Studio Lot Steven J. Ross Theater on Aug. 29, 2016, in Burbank, California.

“Acting was just another one of their hobbies,” she said. “All of them played instruments: Kwesi played the violin, Kofi played the trumpet and violin, Kwame played the bass clarinet and viola. Then there was soccer, basketball and tennis too. Kwame and Kofi played golf, but Kwesi didn’t [because] I was too tired by then.”

Her husband, Kwame Boakye, cared for them while she worked and made sure they got to school each morning, giving her just enough time to rush home to grab two hours of sleep after work before calls from casting agents started pouring in around 10 a.m. There were always last-minute auditions or jobs across town that clashed with school schedules.

“At one point I had one in elementary, one in middle and one in high school — that’s three stops I had to make,” remembered Mills, chuckling at the memory. “Even if only one had a job, I had to [pick] them all [up] because I could not risk being across town [for their gig] and miss picking the others up from school in time. Sometimes I wonder, ‘Who was that woman back then?’ I did it with God and my husband right there holding us down financially and supporting us.”

Even with their natural, God-given abilities, Mills said, cultivating the talent within her brood took time and sacrifice. For example, on countless evenings after a long day on set, she’d meet her husband, style aficionado and fashion consultant, in arbitrary parking lots to hand the boys off to him, car seats and all, just in time to race to work at the hospital. And then there were the afternoons she’d meet up with teachers at McDonald’s to scoop up a child (or children) stuck at school late when another’s acting job ran long.

She finally ended her 19-year nursing career in 2011 to devote herself full time to her sons’ careers.

“I hope my story will inspire others to recognize, curate and nurture the talents of their children,” she said. “Never give up hope, and seize the moment when it’s at hand.”

She insists that her K3 firm, which provides media relations, branding, strategic support and talent management for her diverse mix of mostly international clients, was inspired by her sons because their “talents needed the various platforms to shine.”

Added Mills, regarding her company: “It was literally born out of a mother’s love to give her children the recognition they deserved for the great work they are doing in Hollywood.”

Her passion for her family runs as deeply as her West African roots, which she and her husband have always shared with their children through music, language and their favorite: food. Mills is far from meek when speaking of her cooking skills. During the holidays, one of the rare times the entire family is all together under one roof, her sons always flock home to Los Angeles, ready for one of her world-famous feasts.

“I’m very African but I am also very American, and so they were raised on a mix of both African and American foods, like jollof rice, fufu and soup,” she said. “My recipes for greens, mac and cheese, and gumbo will make somebody want to smack their mama.”

Mills said she remains committed to serving as a “connector to bridge the creative gap between Africa and America,” and she hopes to one day soon spearhead an initiative that helps to “rebrand the dastardly images [often] perpetuated in the media about our black boys.” Well, it seems her three sons have already gotten a jump on that idea.

“I always taught them to be strong black men, to be leaders and not followers,” she said. “We’ve tried to raise them with a sense of identity, and to let them know that they are vessels and vehicles for their talent, not the drivers of it.”

Mills said she’s not sure what her sons and husband are planning to pull off for her this Mother’s Day weekend, but she expects it to be epic. The K brothers don’t disappoint.

“For sure we have some plans, lots of designer gifts,” quipped Kwesi, stopping short of spoiling any impending surprises. “She has expensive taste, and she loves luxury. And she deserves it.”

Leah Still’s mom talks strength and endurance during difficult times Channing Smythe celebrates her cancer survivor’s 7th birthday right before Mother’s Day

Last weekend, young Leah Still, daughter of NFL defensive lineman Devon Still, celebrated her 7th birthday. It is also the week leading up to Mother’s Day, and her mother, Channing Smythe, is just like any other single mother who wants the best for her children.

The 28-year-old proud “East Coast Girl” is all about love, motherhood and family, and she is dedicated to helping others like those who have helped her become more than just Leah’s mom.

Smythe has stayed out of the spotlight by choice, with the blessing of her 92-year-old grandmother. “That’s my baby,” Smythe said of her daughter, as she chatted for nearly one hour outside of her Baltimore residence. “As my grandmother watched everything on TV with Leah and her father, she simply told me to remain behind the scenes.”

With Leah now cancer-free for two years, Smythe believes it is time to share her story of raising Leah and her son, Perez, as well as a work-life balance that every mother can relate to.

Smythe and Devon met as students at Howard High School in Wilmington, Delaware, and conceived Leah a few years later. Leah was born a healthy child on May 6, 2010, but at age 4 she started having health problems that were initially thought to be just a stomach virus.

“When Leah was being tested and examined, the doctors said that her ailments could have been one of six or seven different things, with cancer being at the bottom of that list,” Smythe said.

Of course, no parent wants to think of the worst-case scenario, but Leah was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma, a rare form of pediatric cancer. As devastating as this news was, Smythe did not have to go far at all to receive a strong support system. Family, friends and even complete strangers showed their love.

The toughest thing for Smythe, though, may have been where to live during Leah’s medical stays that began at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, and on to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“At the time, Devon was playing for the Bengals and he wanted us to move to Cincinnati, but my support was here [in the Philadelphia area],” Smythe explained. “I had no friends or family in Cincinnati. It would have been just me, along with Devon and his wife.”

Smythe also mentioned how difficult it was to work while Leah was in and out of the hospital, on top of being pregnant with Perez.

Leah Still and her mother, Channing Smythe, visit Fox 29’s Good Day at Fox 29 Studio on Sept. 20, 2016, in Philadelphia.

Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

“I was an assistant director at a day care center at the time, doing a lot of the administrative work, but once Leah’s dad decided to continue playing football I had to be there for my child by taking a lot of sick time. Even now, it’s still difficult to work,” Smythe said.

Smythe endured many experiences during Leah’s battle with cancer, inspiring her to start the Leah Still Foundation.

“It was a challenge to buy food, paying bills and for parking,” Smythe said. “After talking to a hospital social worker to help with those things, I decided to launch the foundation and do for other families I know that may have an even tougher time keeping up with bills than I did.”

She echoed her mission to align with her struggles, as it states on the foundation’s website:

“It is our impassioned desire to be able to enhance the lives of children diagnosed with cancer by providing support and guidance for their families. Our ultimate goal is to be a resource for families to ease some of the burdens caused by having a child with cancer.”

Since launching the foundation in August 2014, the feedback has been tremendous.

“I’ve even had siblings of young cancer patients reach out to us. That’s the most fun, sharing the stories,” Smythe said. “We have served other families by having a couple of food and toy drives. However, we haven’t been able to generate as much funds as we would like, and the marketing, which my mother handles, are also a factor with costs.”

Smythe said the hardest part of her journey was watching Leah change emotionally and physically as she went through the chemotherapy and radiation, and being pregnant with Perez.

“I felt the world was crashing down on me after the diagnosis,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do. Dealing with Leah having cancer was much different from a grandparent suffering. I felt helpless because she was so young and I wanted to trade places with her. That said, I had to prepare myself, focus, not stress, and keep my faith.”

Smythe said other mothers dealing with similar struggles often reach out to her for advice.

“I tell other moms to keep pushing, be strong, be there for your child, believe in your faith,” she explained. “Research is also key to prevention when it comes to your child’s diet and intake, and following the doctor’s orders. I tried as much as possible to keep a normal life for Leah by taking her skating, trips to the park, going to the movies and out to eat. She did have to wear a mask at times, though, which prevented normal trips to places like the mall.”

Throughout Leah’s battle, Smythe has remained positive and has been inspired by her daughter.

“Leah always tells me that I’m a good mom and I do a good job. It’s inspiring that she stays strong and smiles through it all and says she’ll bounce back. She’s so smart for her age,” she tearfully explained. “Leah is very protective of her brother, and vice versa. She loves him very much, although she won’t let him play with her toys and says he can be annoying at times.

“SixTwo represents so many important dates and milestones in my children’s lives,” Smythe said. “I’ve been passionate about design since I was a little girl sitting in my bedroom drawing blueprints for clothes, homes, etc. I still have those blueprints around somewhere. I’m looking to relaunch my clothing line by the end of 2017. I tried to launch it previously but just didn’t have the time. Currently, you can go to my website, sixtwointeriors.com, where I specialize in interior decorating and home organization/cleaning and wardrobe styling. I also want to go back to school. I also credit my mom and dad for my work ethic.”

Smythe continued, “I wouldn’t change anything. This journey builds character, maturity, and has made me wiser. I asked, ‘Why me?’ at first, but then I thank God because had this not happened, I wouldn’t have been able to help others.”

Dwayne Johnson should not run for president Donald Trump already ruined it for him

“Dwayne Johnson for President!” screams the headline of the this month’s GQ cover story. In it, Caity Weaver profiles the man who most came to know from his time as a wrestler, which he’s since leveraged into being one of the biggest movie stars in the world. The idea isn’t a new one, if you’ve been following the “which celebrities could actually do this” thinking since Donald Trump was elected to the Oval Office.

While it’s cute, completely viable and ultimately probably a good idea, there’s one problem — he’s too late.

Ultimately, this will be the bizarre reverse effect of the Trump administration. The “celebrity turned politician” avenue is now so sullied that the hit one’s reputation would take by entering a national campaign is not worth the value of winning.

Not to be a downer on such a fun prospect, but think about it. It isn’t about the specific politics of The Donald’s time in the Oval Office. It’s about the fact that America has been exposed and educated on how hard the job is and how embarrassing it can be when someone who hasn’t been involved in the process is suddenly in office. The likelihood that the U.S. population is willing to turn over the dignity of the position again to someone who they know only from movies is extremely slim.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Dwayne Johnson. For my money, he’s this country’s greatest export. But the time for this to ever really make sense has passed. Obama broke the line of old white guys as commanders-in-chief world. Lord knows where we’d be as a nation at that point if Hillary had won, but that clearly doesn’t matter now.

As far as celebrities who’ve mentioned they’re considering a run for Pennsylvania Avenue in the past year, Johnson is probably the best candidate, politically speaking. The hardest thing in the world to do is to get people to like you, and he excels at that in ways that are really quite remarkable. Nobody has a problem with Johnson.

Elsewhere around the celebrity dial, Chris Rock joked about it, but when Oprah Winfrey brought it up, more ears perked. It wasn’t exactly clear whether this was said in jest, but obviously her popularity and ability to put people in places to succeed is pretty unparalleled.

Which is to say, what a bummer. The idea of Johnson becoming an American president is one that’s hard not to like. While Ronald Reagan was an actor before becoming governor of California on his way to the White House, he was never the star that any of the aforementioned people are.

There is another position that suits Johnson well though, if he’s considering public office: vice president.