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Brittaney’s Beat from Episode 12 of Medulla Talk

Celebrating a centennial – my favorite story from this week’s segment is about a great-grandmother from Houston who turned 100. I am always in awe of people who have lived so long and have seen an incredible amount in their life. Their experiences are so valuable and this great-grandmother – is a hoot! Also back in the news – R. Kelly. Are those cult allegations affecting his tour? Plus, actress Keke Palmer gets real about the pressures from society to maintain a certain image.

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Brittaney’s Beat from Episode 11 of Medulla Talk

My goal with Brittaney’s Beat has always been to give a personal, fresh take on the stories I’m talking about. This week’s topics really hit home for me. I started off with Prince William and Prince Harry’s final phone call with their mother, Princess Diana , as revealed through their new documentary on her life. Then, I hit on some interesting allegations against Usher. I wrapped up with the MTV Video Music Award nominations, specifically how one of the nominees, Alessia Cara, stood out for me. Check it out below!

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Introducing Brittaney’s Beat

I’ve always loved everything about the communications and journalism field, whether it’s having the opportunity to tell Houstonians’ stories or seeing what new aspect of the industry I can dive into.

That’s why I’m excited to announce that I’m now part of the weekly radio show Medulla Talk. The show itself airs on Houston’s Afrovibes Radio, a growing online station that live streams content 24/7. Medulla Talk explores a variety of different topics like education, relationships, and societal issues with the goal of driving conversation and getting people to not only think, but meaningfully engage.

My segment, Brittaney’s Beat, comes in with the pop culture/entertainment angle. It’s a fun break from tradition for me in that I can really insert my voice into these pieces and give my take on some of the most-talked about stories in that genre. You can listen to the first segment I did below. I’ve also created a playlist on my YouTube page.

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We’re Your Dreamgirls

Theatre Under the Stars celebrated its annual gala in glamorous fashion, with a nod to Dreamgirls. The production  was at the Hobby Center for a limited engagement for about two weeks in April. But the gala also feted  philanthropist Margaret Alkek Williams, a woman some in the community would call a Dreamgirl in her own right for her contributions to the arts. I had the opportunity to cover the event and I felt pretty glam myself in a blush sequin off the shoulder gown by Badgley Mischka. The theme was all about the retro and glamour vibe that spanned the decades of the 60s and 70s. Perhaps most important, the night raised money for TUTS programs. I snapped a few shots at the gala of the decor, food and (of course!) my gown. See those below. You can read the full story here on CultureMap or see it in its entirety under the photo gallery.

From the moment guests stepped out of their cars, they needed to be ready for their close-ups as a photographer captured the red carpet arrivals at the 2017 Theatre Under The Stars Gala at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts. The theme was “One Night Only,” one of the signature songs of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls, which opens next month and inspired the night.

The evening started with cocktails and appetizers in Sarofim Hall, offering the perfect opportunity to do some shopping at a silent and live auction. Everything from autographed sports memorabilia to trips to Saint Lucia, Paris and even Belize was up for grabs.

For those who wanted to get in on the action without placing a bid, $175 would get you a mystery bag from Elaine Turner. Each bag had a purse or clutch inside ranging from $150 to $400 in value. Across the room, Kendra Scott also had a mystery pull for a fixed price of $60.

The lights soon flashed in the lobby signaling the start of the show and the moment for each guest to take their turn in the spotlight. That’s because instead of watching the stage, they were on it. Dinner was served onstage with an entrée of filet mignon in a brandy mushroom sauce, petite carrots glazed with ginger and citrus and vine tomatoes filled with creamed baby spinach, catered by Culinaire.

And if you’d always wanted to feel like a Broadway star, this was your chance. The word “Dreams” hung from the ceiling, a nod to the theme, while décor bathed in purple and centerpieces that looked like chandeliers accented the tables — all created by The Perfect Touch.

You didn’t even have to be in show business to have your own record. CDs with “One Night Only” on the cover were at the seats along with microphones and disco balls. Technically, the CDs were handmade chocolate from The Chocolate Bar and the microphones and disco balls were cookies, but what’s better than something you can eat?

Houston’s Dreamgirl honored

The gala honored Margaret Alkek Williams for her contributions to the arts community in Houston. True to the glitz of the night, Williams sparkled in a purple sequined gown as she accepted her award from TUTS board chair Amy Pierce. “It means the world to have Margaret’s support,” Pierce said. “Her sincere generosity has enabled our arts community to grow and succeed beyond what we thought possible, for arts programming to reach students who desperately need it and most importantly, she is mentoring the next generation to foster a love for the arts.”

Pierce noted that Williams is helping TUTS expand its Humphrey School of Musical Theatre and The River, which serves children with disabilities.

But Houstonians weren’t the only ones recognizing Williams. Original Dreamgirl Sheryl Lee Ralph, who played the role of Deena Jones on Broadway in 1981, delivered a recorded message to her since she couldn’t be there in person (she’s currently starring in Wicked on Broadway). She told Williams the city is fortunate to have her. “No wonder you are dubbed Houston’s Dreamgirl!,” Ralph said.

The gold curtain later opened to reveal the cast of Dreamgirls, who performed numbers from the musical, including “Family,” “When I First Saw You,” “One Night Only,” and of course, the title song, “Dreamgirls.” Zonya Love, who stars as Effie White, brought the house down with “I Am Changing.” Her powerful vocals and range earned her a standing ovation, and I’m pretty sure had we been in church, a few ‘Amens.’ Yes, she was that good.

Seen in the crowd were TUTS executive director Hillary Hart, gala chairs Becky and Bart McAndrews and Paul-David Van Atta, who were thrilled at the nearly $700,000 raised at the gala, Deborah Duncan, Faith and Lee Majors, Phoebe and Bobby Tudor, Jerry Ann and Victor Costa, Sandy and Randy Stilley, Rob Pierce, Dreamgirls director and TUTS artistic advisor Sheldon Epps, Pierce Bush and Sarabeth Morgan, Penny and Paul Loyd, Alicia Smith Maguire, Frank and Demetra Jones, Nick Tran and Vaalerie Tran, Jim Daniel, Steve and Leticia Trauber, Jay Landa and Daniel Turner, John Nau, Roxann and Tim Neumann, and Roselle and Dennis Baldwin.

After party continues

By the time the gala ended, the lobby of Sarofim Hall had undergone its own glamorous makeover as the site of the “Grand Finale” after party. The tables were replaced by a black and white tiled dance floor and a dessert bar, courtesy of Culinaire Catering, now lined the wall with towers of dreamsicle chiffon trifles, red velvet mini cupcakes, gold leaf brownies, banana puddings and other treats.

Chaired by David Peck and Hector Villarreal, the after party was a new feature this year. Guests could also sweeten their evening with fresh purple cotton candy, made in another corner of the room, or could immortalize their trip back to the ’60s and ’70s by snapping a picture at the photo booth, complete with signs that read “Disco Fever” and “Can You Dig It?”

But you can’t have an after party without music and anyone looking to sweat out that disco fever with some dancing could certainly do it thanks to the Richard Brown Orchestra breaking down the chart-topping hits of the era. “Rescue Me,” “Disco Inferno,” and “Car Wash” were on the playlist, along with “Brick House.”

And leave it to the cast of Dreamgirls to really get the party started by doing the electric slide. Guests flooded the dance floor as the orchestra transitioned to “Proud Mary.” It didn’t take long for everyone to start rollin’ on the river as if they were Miss Tina herself.

While the event played up glamour and a retro vibe, the focus was on raising $25,000 for TUTS’ arts and education programs, which Dreamgirls cast member Thomas Hobson (Curtis Taylor, Jr. in the musical), pointed out, doesn’t go out of style, no matter what decade we’re in.

“It’s always great to see communities that understand how important art is and understand how important it is especially for young people to have venues where they can see themselves and have great experiences,” Hobson said.

The Theatre Under the Stars production Dreamgirls runs April 4-16 at the Hobby Center. For more information, visit the TUTS website.

Leather and Laces Super Bowl Party

After a year of build up and a historic night, Super Bowl LI has come and now gone in Houston. I remember when it was first announced that the game would be coming to our city and then doing the subsequent countdown to the big day. I was part of the experience over the last two weeks, first as a Super Bowl volunteer and then this past weekend, covering two of the parties happening in town.

The first was Leather and Laces at Hughes Manor on Washington Avenue. The annual event started in Houston back in 2004. It returned to the Bayou City this year with co-hosts (and married couple), Jenny McCarthy and Donnie Wahlberg. Past guests have included Adriana Lima, Joey Fatone and Jeremy Piven. I covered the event for CultureMap. You can check out the story here or read the full article below.

Marriage proposal and Super Bowl predictions take center stage at sexy Leather and Laces party

is In the Air” might sound more like a phrase best saved for Valentine’s Day, but it managed to find a place at the 14th Annual Leather and Laces Super Bowl party Friday night.

Actress Jenny McCarthy and husband Donnie Wahlberg co-hosted the event at Hughes Manor on Washington Avenue, but the couple turned the spotlight over to their friends shortly after the clock struck midnight. Wahlberg, who is the star of CBS’ Blue Bloods, handed the microphone to his friend, Tony, so he could propose to his girlfriend (and for the record, she said, yes).

That was probably the most surprising moment at the party, which is making its return to Houston after being founded here in 2004.

But let’s not forget one of the main reasons bringing partygoers out this weekend: Super Bowl LI. Predictions for who will win leaned more in the New England Patriots’ favor than the Atlanta Falcons, with the most notable push for the Pats coming from Wahlberg, a Boston native.

Special guest and NASCAR driver Kyle Busch also threw his support behind the Bill Belichick-led team, while former Houston Texan Marcus Spears elected to stay neutral saying, “We’ll let the chips fall where they may.”

Even if some fans didn’t outwardly show their love for the Falcons, they did have a chance to take home some memorabilia from the team’s quarterback. A silent auction featured a Matt Ryan autographed jersey, along with signed guitars from Pink Floyd and Paul McCartney, movie posters with cast signatures on them, and other items from NFL teams. But when paying to play in auctions gets too expensive, you can always get the autographs from the athletes and celebrities in the flesh. And there were plenty opportunities to do that.

La’Roi Glover, Roy Williams, B.J. Johnson, Victor Ortiz, Bryan Braman and Ryan Klesko were among the former and current professional athletes to walk the red carpet. Sports Illustrated model and Texas native Hannah Ferguson also made an appearance.

But dancing was the main theme of the night as popular music blared from a room with white cabanas and a lit-up dance floor. Performers with Cirque USA dangled from the ceiling as open bars throughout the venue kept the drinks flowing. DJ Michael Jerome entertained in another area, where guests could feast on macarons, chocolate and strawberries from Dolce Delights, or briefly play dress-up at the photo booth.

For those interested in watching the scene rather than being part of it, covered seating on the deck was an option, complete with a big screen airing NFL Network. One of the lushest rooms was a lounge with a Moulin Rouge flair, including red curtains and velvet ceilings.

Friday was the first of a two-night event. The party continues Saturday with models Emily Ratajkowski and Sara Sampaio expected to headline. Parking seemed limited on the Hughes Manor campus, with valet being the closest option if you plan to navigate the streets yourself on the night before the Super Bowl. Otherwise, you can grab an Uber right outside the club.

A lounge ticket starts at $400 and goes up to $20,000 for a celebrity cabana. You can find more information on the Leather and Laces website.