Category Archives: FIERCE TELEVISION

Gay Culture Crashes Into 2014

Olympics 2014When social media buzzes, people listen. And the talk happening right now? Ah, it’s getting crazy up in here with the goings on. The Sochi Olympics have dominated many a television except for ours. We really haven’t been bothered in the slightest. With all of the calls for boycotts, spewed hatred and anti-LGBT treatment gays in Russia go through the last thing we want to do is watch something they produced. What?! Oh, that’s right. I meant to check on the spread of the Curling competition and place my bets. Not.

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Kim Gravel Interview: Pageant Coach Supreme

Kim GravelI love having exclusive access to my favorites making waves in today’s pop culture, entertainment industry breakouts and the ultra fabulous. My next guest is all of the above and so much more! People, I introduce Kim Gravel. Take note: It’s pronounced “gra-velle.” This incredible lady coaches eager girls to pageant victories, mentors the willing and creates a bond between her and the young ladies forever true. She is truly amazing from what we see on her smash hit Kim of Queens on Lifetime TV. My husband and I watch every week.

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What’s Going On in Popular Culture Now

Kim GravelAs we reach the finale of January, Mother Nature nails Atlanta with Highway Snowpocalypse 2014 leaving stranded motorists in cars for hours upon hours sitting on icy impassible freeways. And since some departed their cars and began to walk to rescue, deserted cars now scatter the roads for messy clean-up. As winter provides the frigid temperatures creating chilly cold throughout the north and southeast, we lucky ones in California are hanging in with typically warm days. Today was cooler in the Valley but we’re in good shape compared to most.

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Laganja Estranja Interview: Drag Race Royalty

Laganja Estranja - RuPaul's Drag Race Season 6I wanted to call this “High Times of a Drag Superstar” but alas, I did not. Through social networking and creating trust among the queens, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing a great number of RuPaul’s Drag Race divas throughout the years. When the rumors began to swirl about the new cast for season 6 of RDR, I knew that regardless of who made the final cut I’d be speaking with attention-getting Laganja Estranja. Isn’t her name delicious?!

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Lashauwn Beyond Speaks To Her Fans

lashauwn-beyond-rupauls-drag-raceLashauwn Beyond is one busy queen. Seamstress, reality star, drag superstar performer. I was able to catch her for a hot minute or two for an interview to discuss what’s life like now for her after her stint on RuPaul’s Drag Race and what she’s doing today. Although, her time on the show was brief her passion and talents run deep. I’m thrilled she’s here to share all the Tea and nothing but the Tea.

Welcome to the stage, Lashauwn Beyond.

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Quick ReCap of Project Runway Season 12

Project Runway_12We admittedly tuned out of Project Runway on Lifetime TV for lack of interest the last couple of seasons but decided to check it out and set the DVR again taping the reality showcase of fashion, drama and something this season so shockingly delicious it was hard to believe I was seeing what thine eyes saw. The season has been good but of course the drama has been turned up between the designers. They encourage we viewers to use social media like never-before to engage while viewing with what we’re thinking about the challenges and judge’s decisions in real time. When did we stop enjoying the television and begin keeping our smartphones glued to our hands? I think it’s crazy. Yes my iPhone is in my hand or very near but don’t instruct me on when to use it and when not to.

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Introducing Dancing Firecracker JoJo Siwa

JoJo Siwa

I’ve really found my forte has become celebrity interviews. They are something I really enjoy doing and just having the honor to conduct them is a special privilege I have. When I was in L.A. at the Glendale Studios seeing a live taping of Lifetime TV smash hit Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition this past spring, I took notice of a little blonde spitfire named JoJo, 10, who truly danced her dance. I was there interviewing Lady Gaga creative director Richy Jackson, one of the judges for AUDC, as JoJo really stood out to the choreographer in me. She will be hell in heels when she grows up.

Since the second season of AUDC hits Lifetime TV on 9/3 I reached out to JoJo and her wonderful mother Jessalynn about allowing me to introduce her talented wonderwall of extension and strut of sass to our big gay world. I was thrilled they replied so quickly.  So glad she supplied the amazing photos, as well. Sadly, few do. I sent the girls an email  saying, “Here’s a round of Q/A for you both. They are geared towards JoJo but I will note where Mamma can answer, too.” Here’s what they shared about dancing for Abby Lee Miller, fun out-of-studio time for JoJo and what it felt like shooting reality television. Just love what they both said…

jojo siwa_3

Steven Michael – JoJo, Did you ever get scared or intimidated by the lights or camera?

JoJo Siwa – “No, I loved them!”

I love them to. That will never change. How about Abby Lee Miller? Did you ever feel that she was ever too mean to you? She’s stern and strong with her ways.

“No, Abby was always good to me.”

Mamma, did you ever feel as if Abby was too hard or critical on JoJo?

Jessalynn Siwa - “No, I knew going into the show Abbys teaching techniques.”

Yes, I suppose you know what you’re getting into by working with Abby. Mamma, what attracted you to having JoJo on the show? Was there an audition to go through?

“JoJo dances all day long and watches Dance Moms over and over. I think it’s nearly every dancer’s dream to dance with or for Abby. Yes, there was an audition.”

JoJo Siwa

Growing up and dancing in my day, there were very few studios that train like her girls do on the show. They, of course, were the studios that everyone achieved to be like. It really is what you put into it. How was it working with the other competition moms? Any ones we should watch out for?

“Well, whenever you have dance you have dance moms. (smiling) Crazy moments and super fun moments. Yes! Watch for the ‘TRIANGLE.’”

jojo siwa_2

Oh, that sounds juicy. I can’t wait. JoJo, how much time do you spend dancing a week in class or otherwise? Is being a dancer what you want to so when you grow up?

“I dance around 20 hours a week. I would love to be FAMOUS!!!!”

Darling, you will be famous. Have fun with it and keep grounded. Stay close to Mamma and point those toes. JoJo, who are your idols in the dance world?

“Abby Lee, Rachelle Rak and Richy Jackson.”

Oh, I never would have guessed. (lauhging) Three great choices, nonetheless. Mamma, can you give me a brief bit about where JoJo is from and do you have dance background?

“JoJo and I are from Nebraska. I have been dancing my whole life. I have had a dance studio for 20 years.”

JoJo Siwa

Oh, wow! That’s fierce. I really miss being in a studio. JoJo, that scorpion extension is mind-blowing. When I saw you do it live during the taping I was blown away. How did you learn it and can you teach me?

(smiling) “I would love to teach you but you have to be flexible and have tons of control. That was one of those tricks my mom made me do over and over and now I can do it on a dime.”

Well, it’s phenomenal. What do you enjoy doing when you’re outside the studio? And do you have a lot of friends outside the dance world?

“I love to play the piano and play with my two dogs LuLu and CoCo. I am super social and have tons of friends. We like to swim, have slumber parties, go to the movies and just hang out!”

JoJo Siwa head shot

Sounds very fun! Mamma, how do you feel about Dance Moms and the outrageousness of it?

“Outrageous… nahhhh.” (smiling)

jojo siwa_1

JoJo, I was able to visit with judge Richy Jackson the day I saw the taping live. Did you appreciate what he told you during critiques?

“I absolutely love Richy and took everything he (and the other judges ) said seriously. I loved getting compliments from them!!!”

I was there the Gaga-inspired day and yes they did give you great critique. You’ll have so many people tell you so many different things. Even people will tell you what they think you want to hear. Keep an open mind but also realize it is all so subjective. Especially in performing while being judged. I wish you the best of luck with your career. Mamma, did you ever shy away from the cameras? What was that like being under the lens?

“No, I was never shy. You will see! (smiling) It was fun. An experience of a lifetime!”

jojo siwa

And finally, JoJo, can you tell me who wins the competition, please?! I have to know. (laughing)

“Nooooooooooooooo!!!! Ha Ha, I am laughing too!” (both laughing) “Thank you sooooooo much!” Jessalynn and JoJo.

And to my gays… WATCH OUT for this one. JOJO IS DYNAMITE! The new season of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition starts next week on Lifetime TV. Watch for me in episode 2 giving you on-camera audience realness for your nerves. X

Interviewing Richy Jackson – AUDIO

richard-jackson

I love having occasional access to the hottest movers and shakers in Hollywood today. I was able to sit backstage with Lady Gaga’s main man Richy Jackson as he was preparing for a taping of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition one day last spring. We kiki’d the ki, for realsies. I hit record and what was said became organic and real between us two. We had a lot in common and here’s what we discussed that crazy day inside Glendale Studios. Of my many celebrity interviews, speaking with Ricky Jackson one-on-one was a complete thrill! We bonded immediately.

Richy Jackson - Steven Michael - AUDC

Richy is good people. This I know is true! So talented but incredibly humble and real. Follow him on Twitter and catch his latest work. The new season of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition starts 09/03. Look for me on the second episode (I believe) which was the Lady Gaga-inspired installment showing out for the camera. They ask a lot of their audiences. And watch out for firecracker JoJo. ♥

LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW HERE

American Ninja Warrior – A Gay Man’s Dream

Justin Walcker

I got into watching American Ninja Warrior a while back but have really caught the fever seeing every episode and obstacle course these (mostly) men and women scale and swing through this current season on both G4TV Network and NBC. Our DVR is set on record every time a new episode comes passing by. As the finale approaches, Japan’s famed Mount Midoriyama will come to the U.S. as the National Finals culminate in Las Vegas across The Strip from Mandalay Bay.

American Ninja Warrior

As I mentioned, a few women have attempted to handle the punishing obstacles and treacherous brutal course but it’s mostly solid beef of man that have the most success. Many of the showmen in their own right but physically advanced, as well. The tasks that are laid before them put each contestant through their paces of endurance with bragging rights plus $500K going to the winner. Only 3 in the world have succeeded with 0 completing the feat as the first American Ninja Warrior.

American Ninja Warrior

If you like eye-candy created from muscle, brawn, confidence and a great dose of swagger, catch American Ninja Warrior before the season ends! Some of it looks really F!ing fun. Other parts narrow between impossible and “Oh, hell no!” With challenges like the Warped Wall, the Quintuple Steps and Salmon Latter, it’s enough to drive these course soldiers crazy. Low on the drama, high on the perseverance and determination of man and enjoyment all around. Visually, it’s stunning. And are there any openly gay athletes competing on the show? Not yet but if this many men care this much about being in amazing shape, someone has to be! I’m just saying…

American Ninja Warrior

And sexy-ass emcee Matt Iseman below… for the road. Love his damn gravel voice when he says, “Next time on American Ninja Warrior.” ♥

American Ninja Warrior

Richy Jackson Returns to Season 2 of AUDC

Richy Jackson - Steven Michael - AUDC

I spoke with Lady Gaga’s main man Richy Jackson during season one of Abby’s Ultimate Dance Competition and gained a very good report. When I got wind that there would be a second season of the show I knew I wanted to get the story from the main stage. After a few Tweets and emails with Richy’s fabulous publicist Kelly, it was scheduled and set! I was to drive into L.A. for the day and see the taping live while speaking with Richy beforehand in his dressing room.

The show hadn’t been announced just yet but was filming in Glendale so I gladly made the trip into town. I love a good drive into Hollywood. Give me a reason, I’m there. I pulled right up and parked before heading up the studios. I was quite early since I was meeting Kelly so she could take me upstairs to meet Mr. Jackson. After texting her that I was there, I saw her soon coming down to meet me and escort me up.

Backstage we passed by the craft services table which looked appetizing and casual crew members milling about. Upstairs I got into Richy’s dressing room and began to Kiki like we had known each other for years. I hit record on my iPhone and began to record our conversation which was simply priceless. It just flowed and became quite organic. Here’s what he shared about the new season of AUDC, his dance convention “Dance Down” and working with Mother Monster, our Lady Gaga.

Here’s what Richy had to say about the new studio…

“Last time it was theatre and we were far away. It was like “Where are we!? (laughs) There were seats and it was amazing. This time it’s a studio and it’s just different. So were very up close and personal with the dancers.”

When I asked him about male dancers this season since there was just one during the premiere season, he offered…

“There’s two boys. Twins.”

The conversation turned towards Lady Gaga and Richy’s amazing work relationship with her. Kelly was perched in the corner dragging up a pair of sunglasses for Jackson since the theme of this particular show was inspired by the individuality of Gaga.  His thoughts…

“I’m excited about today. It’s episode 2 of the season. I’m ecstatic about the new season. It’s a little scary ’cause you just don’t know what to expect, will Lifetime like us on camera, and the whole thing? I thought it was a great hybrid of Dance Moms and dance competition. Abby, Robin Antin and I (the judges of last season) were from such different backgrounds it was really fun when we were letting people go home because we saw things differently.”

Experienced Broadway Baby, Rochelle Rack, has joined the judge’s panel with Jackson and Miller replacing Antin. Richy’s feeling about the change…

“Rochelle is from Pittsburg but lives in NYC. I like her. She’s in Flashdance: The Musical. She’s reminds me of Robin, but the Broadway version of her. Bubbly, snatched, hair done, nails done, everything done. It’s taken some adjusting for her since Abby and I have already had one season together.”

I change gears and get Richy quickly together when I ask “What makes a well-rounded dancer?” After a brief pondering, he shares…

“I would just say that a well-rounded dancer is a “Jack of all Trades” not a “King or Queen.” Someone that still has to learn, not someone that’s not a master. I prefer “Jacks” because there’s a rawness and vulnerability. Most people are not dancers and they only go off what they feel and they see. There’s a different approach to the dance when they are trying to adapt to all different styles. I always tell Abby in her world everyone already knows a pirouette. The vulnerability of the dancers I work with connects with the camera and reads somehow, someway. Someone that can adapt to all styles is a well-rounded dancer in my opinion, applying themselves to each dance genre. You must be free of yourself! Confidence can sell anything.”

I asked Richy if he ever gets nervous when the camera pans to him and he needs to respond immediately. This is what he allowed…

“I don’t get nervous. I try to listen to what Abby said so I’m not touching on the same point. I try and give the dancers ideas and angles that haven’t been discussed. I always try to be inspirational to the dancers and audience. I’m not scared, I’m like ‘Let’s get it!’ I love competition day! Absolutely love it!” (both laugh)

As far as the new cast of kiddies goes, I inquired if he had gotten to know any of them and how that works. Jackson says…

“This is still fresh for me. Abby gets to see them during the week more than we do. I came in last week for a special challenge day so I got to see them outside regular competition day because I was working with the kids. I got to see them outside my regular judging day. Then you get to know the mothers as well as their kids and there’s 11 of them. Thank God they give us sheets with their names and information on it! I love this part because you see the fight as the season goes on and people go home.”

Does Richy have any free time outside the studio or tour? And what’s going on with Lady Gaga? The inside skinny…

“The Born This Way Ball tour was cancelled abruptly in Chicago due to Lady Gaga being injured. We were devastated. From that moment on I started doing my dance workshop called ‘Dance Down’ and went on a 6-city tour where I basically go and work with dancers who are both fans of dance and/or Lady Gaga. I never realized how much thought goes into becoming a professional dancer or choreographer, it’s not just the steps. I’m seeing the youngest kids doing it all. What are they on?! It’s bananas! At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to work with kids and I saw them really dancing and really performing, really technical, I thought this was going to be a great job.”

Richy discusses his newest endeavor discussing working with Bollywood’s highest-paid and most-popular actresses Priyanka Chopra who is now breaking into music…

“She is the Angelina Jolie of India, been in many Bollywood films and very popular. A former Miss World. We were just in Miami shooting the video with Pitbull with 8 dancers which was amazing. Zumba had played a big part of producing it since they put a Zumba breakdown and beats in the rhythm of the music and will make an instructional video to go with the Priyanka Chopra production.”

And where is home for Richy Jackson? Where does he prefer to rest his weary head and dancer feet? Jackson says…

“Home is North Hollywood, full-time. I like to travel but I love to stay home. I’ve been so many places because of Gaga but I haven’t really been able to enjoy those places because it’s venue, rehearsal, stage, travel. But when I’m home it’s the best! I’m grateful!”

One more thing about Mother Monster… What about the tour? New Music? Here’s the Tea…

“The tour has been postponed indefinitely. She has a new album coming out soon called Artpop and she’s working on it. It’s been a year since Born This Way. The first show was last year April 27, with rehearsals starting February 4. She and I started conceptualizing the show the prior December… it takes so much time! The show changes constantly. So many details change when songs come and interchange out with others. She gets bored quickly. Changes with her… I’ve been dealing with it for years. The dancers called it the “Gaga Challenge” by the end of it all.”

After the interview we took a couple of pictures and I headed back down to the street to wait my turn before filing inside after thanking Richy Jackson greatly upstairs. The line started forming and I ran my iPhone to the car since you normally can’t take them inside studios. By the time I got back I got in line and waited, and waited some more. Then they filed us in to do some “on camera audience” b-roll with excitement and awe for the show while the camera panned down the line of the anxious audience. Finally after the tenth take I  gave them a Limp Biscuit “YEAHHH!” dead in the camera and that was that. Once inside there was more waiting and audience pans and reactions. I should be all over this episode of AUDC.

When the filming finallystarted it was quite an extensive day. The dancers were amazing especially a blonde firecracker named Jojo who gives you sass, extension and layouts for your nerves. Each routine was done twice for the camera and then the judges’ approval or not. I sadly had to scoot out early since I was driving back to Palm Springs that evening but had a great time meeting Richy and being backstage with him. Ah, Hollywood… The magic. I love being a part of it.