Category Archives: Diva Loves!

BT British Urban Film Festival 2017

Day 1 : Screening and Q&A – Free In Deed

The stars came out for BUFF 2017 launch at the plush BT Tower. Founder Emmanuel Anyiam-Osigwe welcomed attendees to his 13th celebration of everything urban on screen, but all eyes were on Hollywood actor, turned ‘Supergirl,‘ David Harewood for the London premiere of his latest movie ‘Free In Deed.’

David & Emmanuel on the red carpet
Jamal Joseph and family

Following complimentary pre-movie drinks we entered the BT auditorium for the screening.

Based on a true story, this slow paced disturbing drama works its way through the struggles of a single mother, played by Edwina Findley Dickerson, trying to raise two kids, one of which has severe autism. She encounters an old lady who introduces her to the church.

Clare Anyiam-Osigwe Chris Preddie

Set against the desolate backdrop of Memphis, in stark contrast to the beautiful mountaintop that Dr King dreamed of, Pastor Abe Wilkins’ (Harewood) attempts to exorcize demons fails to rid her 8-year-old son of his autism, instead leaving the child dead and Wilkins in deeper and darker torment.

Some BUFF Team members

For those not familiar with Pentecostal worship the movie provides a window into ‘Black Church.’ (We [black people] know. We have been there in the UK too.)

Hat’s off to Harewood for embodying the character so well of, quite frankly, a rather creepy married man who’s a school janitor by day, and spiritual healing by night. A stark contrast to the real Harewood, who during the Q&A after the movie was full of humour and relishing insight into how the production came together organically.

Paulette Harris-German and guest

Within 3 days they had ditched the script and any attempts of trying to replicate Ray Hemphill, the minister the story is based on. By Day 17 it was a wrap after zero budget and lots of improv. The church featured was the REAL church, REAL pastors and REALLY REAL congregation. Harewood said some even thought he was a REAL PASTOR!!

JooMediaManagement interviewing actor Sam Benjamin

Free In Deed is truly a memorable piece that highlights the horror that can ensue when all the best intentions have such a catastrophic effect. Also, this movie shows star quality acting from the little boy who Harewood says fell into character with ease.

Post Q&A we were ushered to BT Towers 34th floor for more Shiraz, canapé’s and a chance to mingle with guests and celebrities in the house while taking in the breathtaking view of the central London.

 

DAY 3: Screening and Q&A – Chapter & Verse

Back again for more of the same; drinks, movie, Q&A and canapé’s, but this time with Jamal Joseph director and co-writer of Chapter & Verse, producer Cheryl Hill and Chris Preddie OBE. Joseph spent time in prison in the 70’s for his activist role as a New York Black Panther.  His experience, and the continued disproportionate incarceration of black men, helped shape the script for this gritty intense drama.

Made In Chelsea Cast members

Ex-con, Lance Ingram, played by Daniel Beaty who also co-wrote, attempts to stay the right side of parole on the streets of Harlem. After 8 years away he reconnects with an old friend (Omari Hardwick) and builds a heartwarming new one with Ms. Maddy (Loretta Devine) a widow and carer of her gang member grandson Ty. Ingram’s half-way to freedom but faces challenges.

This story covers homelessness, drugs, gangs, guns, projects, terminal illness, assisted suicide, entrepreneurism, poverty, welfare, sex, gentrification and more. You’re constantly rooting for Ingram to make it.

During the Q&A Joseph and Hill amazingly reveal Chapter & Verse is their first production under Harlem Film Company. It’s no surprise this feature is so impacting with Hill’s resume steeped in Hollywood and the scriptwriters first and second hand experiences of life after lock-up.

In 2012 Preddie was the youngest black male to receive an OBE at the age of 25 honouring his passion for guiding youngers to make the right choice, which mirrors Ingram’s schooling of Ty. This theme and others touched on in the movie are prevalent in society today in the UK and the States.

Keep abreast of #BTBUFF2017 happenings for 2018 as they take it to #AWholeNewLevel .

#DivaGotSoul #NubianSmile_Photography

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/minister-charged-in-exorcism-death/

By Angela Douglas

British Urban Film Festival 2017…This year’s BUFF has Acting Masterclass with buff Ashley Walters

September 6th kicks of f  the13th year of BUFF, the leading diverse film festival in the world, and what a line up on offer.

Angela Douglas (DivaScribe) with Ashley Walters and Kano

Over 30 movies, including premiere’s, Black Lives Matter, African Highlife, live script readings, 2 masterclasses, directors and actors Q & A’s, networking, a chance to meet agents and an incredible BUFF Awards ceremony honouring exceptional contribution to film, TV and theatre.

Ashley Walters

Archive Exclusive with Ashley Walters: Read Here

Leading actors Ashley Walters (TOP BOY), Wil Johnson (EMMERDALE), David Harewood (HOMELAND), Omari Hardwick (POWER) and David Oyelowo (SELMA) all make an appearance during the seven day celebration.

David Oyelowo

Best of all, you can bag a 3 hour MASTERCLASS tutored by this years Honorary Award Recipient, trailblazer and D.I.V.O Ashley Walters. If acting is your passion grab this amazing opportunity to be mastered by an outstanding accomplished and talented actor who is DivaScribe’s Top Boy. It’s only £16 so book your place now, Now NOW!

Another highlight will see Wil Johnson, a multi-talented celeb in our Diva Got Soul Feature archives and last years BUFF Honorary Award Winner, hosting 3 Live Script Readings.

Wil Johnson. Read our review of Wills gorgeous and talented musical daughter- Ayanna Witter-Johnson HERE

But opening the festival will be London premiere of ‘Free In Deed’ starring David Harewood MBE, Brummie actor now Hollywood star, followed by a Q & A with him. In this role he leads as a pastor with healing powers, an all too familiar scenario in our community.

So if you want to take your career to the next level, punch the air and yell, “Hollywood here I come,” and make haste to meet the UK’s top four Casting, Writing and Talent Agents. Calling all budding and active actors, writers, directors and commercial models to be part of a Q&A followed by two whole hours speed networking. Remember to bring your portfolios, show-reels and head shots.

BUFF definitely has something for everyone whether you are in the industry or the audience. All events will be held at the iconic BT Tower, London and the award ceremony can be watched on BT.com.

For more information visit www.britishurbanfilmfestival.co.uk

Link to buy tickets:  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/buff-british-urban-film-festival-4543156025 Hashtag:    #BTBUFF2017

By- Angela Douglas

Meet The Fashion Designer Who Escaped A Civil War In Sierra Leone To Launch A Contemporary Fashion Label In The UK That Is Set To Change The World


Born in the Eastern town of Kono, Sierra Leone Isatu Harrison was raised by her entrepreneurial single mother with her 3 siblings. Whilst living in Kono, civil war broke out which put her community in danger. Her entire family had to escape from the civil war in Kono and moved to the capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown.


Despite being uprooted from her family home, Isatu had a happy upbringing and knew that there was much more to Sierra Leone than the war which seemed to define it at the time. She grew up watching her mother design outfits for herself and others using traditional West African tie-dyed prints. In a country with no welfare system, Isatu’s mother worked hard to ensure that her family did not have to struggle and Isatu hails her mother as her biggest inspiration and influence. Despite there being very few opportunities, particularly within the fashion industry in Sierra Leone, Isatu was encouraged to pursue her purpose and developed her gifts as a fashion designer.
Although her passion for fashion was still at the forefront of her mind, when Isatu arrived in The UK in 2001 she studied a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology at South Bank University and subsequently an MBA.  The corporate world overshadowed the creative world and Isatu undertook a number of management roles in HR within the private and public sectors – including Transport for London.


After starting a family with her husband, and having a daughter who now has a budding career in modelling, Isatu could no longer ignore her true calling; fashion. She invested her savings and started her own fashion label, Izelia which interweaves the two cultural landscapes of Britain and Sierra Leone.


Isatu officially launched Izelia at Africa Fashion Week in August 2014 and London Fashion Week in the same year. By drawing from her Sierra Leonean heritage Isatu has created a modern and sophisticated range of ready to wear pieces. Izelia is a brand for those who want to make an impression in stylish and colourful outfits with high quality fabrics and structured tailoring. Each piece features a new twist on African-inspired fashion and Isatu’s own signature style of design.
By combining colourful African tie-dye and prints, Izelia brings a taste of Sierra Leone to the British high street. Having seen the impact that civil war can make on communities, Isatu wants to be at the forefront of a new generation of ‘AfriCapitalists’ – African entrepreneurs driving growth, awareness and development in Africa, through marketing and selling the best that Africa has to offer.

Isatu opened a boutique last Winter (2016)  in East London where she organises training programmes and apprenticeships opportunities for immigrants / first generation citizens in fashion design.


“I intend to inspire and assist women in rural Sierra Leone, be a voice for these women and young creatives. Whilst the brand is becoming well entrenched in the UK, as an African, I feel I have a role to play in the economic development of my continent. Through Izelia, I wish to invest long-term in Sierra Leone’s private sector and I am interested in developing manufacturing, as well as production factories and establishing additional outlets in Africa. I am proud to be among a growing crop of entrepreneurs who are creating employment opportunities and bringing economic growth to our countries across Africa” – Isatu Harrison

Isatu is set to take the fashion industry by storm in the UK, Sierra Leone and across the world.

 

By: Ronke Lawal

Tired Of The Same Old New Year’s Resolutions?

We are now in 2016 and instead of making the same old resolutions that seem to fall by the wayside come February why not embark on something completely different this year and watch your health, body and mind transform in front of your eyes.

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Ayurveda is one of the oldest systems of holistic health originating in India more than 5000 years ago and it’s fast becoming  one of the most popular lifestyle choices around. Translating literally as ‘The Science of Life’ and a sister science to Yoga,  the great thing about Ayurveda is that anyone can try it and those that have rarely go back to how they were before.

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Dr Deepa Apte, one of the UK’s top Ayurvedic practitioners and director of London based Health and Beauty Spa Ayurveda Pura shares with us her thoughts on why Ayurveda is so revolutionary and so different from everything else out there:

  • It’s tailored to suit your individual needs: Ayurveda works on the principle that every individual is made of up one of three energies or doshas which are Vata, Pitta and Kapha. A short questionnaire will determine which one you are and then everything from the best diet, exercise , colours of clothing and seasonal changes are identified to make sure you are always in balance and functioning at optimum health.
  • It works with you and not against you: Many diets or detoxes require you to give up or change many aspects of your life and some can leave you feeling worse than when you started out. Ayurveda works with what you have and who you are identifying problem areas in your diet, lifestyle and relationships and offers solutions which incorporate meditation, breathing, yoga, herbs and massage treatments so you can better understand your body and your mind and move forward with a clearer image of what feels good for you.
  • It’s completely natural: Everything prescribed to you in Ayurveda from your diet to the herbs and even Ayurvedic beauty products are completely 100 % natural. Ayurveda is all about the removal of toxins or ‘Ama’ from your body so everything we ask you to try and do is to help with this toxin removal. It really is a completely holistic system of health and will leave you feeling so energised and healthier inside and out.
  • It’s not complicated: One of the best aspects of taking up an Ayurvedic lifestyle is the fact that it’s super easy to incorporate into your daily lifestyle. There’s no complicated procedure to follow or food combinations, you just have to be consistent in your approach and the benefits will start to show. For an idea of what a typical Ayurvedic diet and lifestyle day looks like click here 

By tara mestre

Fashion Cities Africa

Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Brighton, UK

30 April 2016 to 8 January 2017

The first major UK exhibition dedicated to contemporary African fashion will open at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery in April 2016.

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Exploring fashion and style in four cities at the compass points of the African continent – Casablanca in Morocco, Lagos in Nigeria, Nairobi in Kenya and Johannesburg in South Africa – Fashion Cities Africa will consider recent and contemporary fashion practices in these distinctive metropoles, from couture to street style.

Designs by Marianne Fassler,  photographed by-Simon Deiner SDR
Designs by Marianne Fassler, photographed by-Simon Deiner SDR

The exhibition will focus on the style choices of individual ‘fashion agents’ from each city; from designers and stylists to photographers and bloggers. Helen Mears, the Museum’s Keeper of World Art, Martin Pel, its Curator of Fashion & Textiles, Africa fashion specialists Hannah Azieb Pool and Helen Jennings and researcher Harriet Hughes visited the cities in summer 2015* to explore their fashion scenes and identify key players.

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Helen Mears says: “There’s been a surge of interest in contemporary African art and design in Europe and the US in recent years, but this is the first major UK exhibition dedicated to contemporary African fashion.  We want to reveal the diversity that exists across the continent – and within single cities – and show that wax print is only part of the story of African fashion.

“Each of the cities featured has its own fashion scene: in some cases emergent, in others more established. Some African designers are now major players in international fashion, while others are experimenting creatively in the interface between global fashion and local identities.

“The exhibition aims to provide a snapshot of fashion practices in four specific cities and an introduction to some of the stories behind the style, whether it’s the widespread practice of tailoring or the impact of the huge market for second-hand European clothes.”

The exhibition will occupy three large galleries and include diverse apparel from couture to street style, alongside images, film, sound and even a reconstructed tailor’s workshop evoking the drama, creativity and dynamism of the distinctive cities.  Highlights will include:

New commissions, including by Nairobi-based brother and sister duo 2Many Siblings  

(http://2manysiblings.tumblr.com/)

Controversial high-fashion outfits worn by one of Kenya’s hottest bands, Sauti Sol (MTV Europe’s Best African Act 2014)

Garments and accessories associated with The Sartists, a Johannesburg-based creative collective documenting their lives and style in post-apartheid South Africa (https://instagram.com/thesartists)

Exquisite hand-crafted ‘caftan couture’ pieces by Casablanca-based designer Zhor Raïs

Apparel by Maki Oh (TBC), the internationally acclaimed Lagos-based label worn by figures including Michele Obama

A parallel project, undertaken by members of some of Brighton & Hove’s African diaspora communities, will explore the relationship between fashion, identity and the African continent from a local perspective. Powerful images from the project, which will be co-ordinated by Sarah Naomi Lee, will accompany the exhibition.

Fashion Cities Africa is part of the wider project Fashioning Africa, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund through the Collecting Cultures programme – which supports strategic collecting projects for museums, libraries and archives.

Brighton Museum & Art Gallery already holds an important collection of historical African textiles, mostly gathered 1880-1940.  Thanks to National Lottery players,Fashioning Africa will research recent developments and establish an African textile and fashion collection representing 1960-2000.  Running until 2017, the project has appointed a collecting panel from BAME and fashion communities, and will be delivered in partnership with the University of Brighton and the Sussex Africa Centre at the University of Sussex.

Fashion Cities Africa will also be accompanied by a book of the same name, edited by Hannah Azieb Pool with contributions by Helen Jennings (Intellect, 2016, £20).  This will showcase street styles in the four cities through images of their fashion agents by high-profile fashion photographers (Sarah Waiswa, Victor Dlamini, Deborah Benzaquen and Lakin Ogunbanwo), accompanied by profiles and essays.

By Ronke Lawal

Bringing The Ancient Past To Life. A Review of ONAEDO: the Blacksmith’s Daughter: a Novel by Ngozi Achebe

Onaedo_front_cover

The most interesting aspect of this historical novel for me is the way in which the freshness and simplicity of its style enhances the credibility of what is in some ways an incredible tale. It is narrated with such veracity and ease that the reader will be easily persuaded that the impact of slavery on the pristine African communities of the past was exactly as portrayed here. Ngozi Achebe has crafted a story that fills several gaps not merely in world literature but also in the perception of African history as both a discipline and an emotional concern for all those whose ancestry is eternally touched by that tragic industry. Her depiction of the beginnings of slavery and the inter-phase between Portuguese slave dealers and African society is a remarkable example of the restoration of a lost era to contemporary relevance through literature. She has achieved in her first novel the remarkable feat of creating what might very well come to be regarded as a unique masterpiece.

ngozi achebe (oneado the blacksmith's daughter) II

The tale has the epic sweep of a narrative recollection of events based on irrefutable evidence. The characters devised by the author leap off the page with dramatic intensity, and none more so than the central protagonist Onaedo. This central character could be considered a beacon of modernity even by the standards of our own times and yet the setting and the social milieu described by the author is impeccably traditional and befitting to the era of antiquity in which it is located. The alliance of brilliant writing and impressive research has made the story a classic both in its content and in its moral tone. The descriptive power of her writing strengthens the accuracy of her recreation of 16th century life in olu Ndigbo, the nation of the Igbo peoples, before the intervention of Western culture. At the same time it also serves to suspend belief in the common assumption that the first and most important intercourse between these territories and the outside world were as a result of British colonial intervention.

Onaedo

Ngozi Achebe has actually moved our perception of ancient African history, especially of the intercourse between traditional societies like that of Ndigbo and the Western world, onto a new plane. Coming from the pen of the niece of Chinua Achebe, the great chronicler of the confrontation between Ndigbo society and the British colonisers, this book is one of the seminal literary events of new African writing for the 21st century. It is unique in its adventurous conceit of seeking to open up a chapter of the past that has been shrouded for centuries in both mystery and myth. Portuguese explorers who were the first recorded visitors from Europe to the West African coast have largely taken a back seat in scholarly chronicles of the intercourse between Europe and Africa. This novel moves the era and the extraordinary events recorded in it to the forefront of contemporary concern.

These events include the commencement of the slave trade, the first stirrings of Christian conversion of the communities of the West African coast, and trade in spices, palm oil, gold, hides and ivory. However she also examines the nature of the culture and occupations of the traditional society in depth and posits that the invasion from the West served to destroy a deep-seated philosophical commitment to a fundamentally pastoral way of life. In outlining and then building the tale around romantic disenchantment and rustic violence she establishes the core of the narrative in the disastrous demise of a family. The head of this family is Eneda the blacksmith whose provenance may very well be allied to the discovery of the fabled Igbo-Ukwu bronzes. Indeed the way in which she has integrated reflections on historical events and iconic memories into exciting parameters of storytelling serves as proof of her extraordinary talent.

Ms. Achebe has said in interviews that her inspiration came from many sources one of which is the story of those fabled artefacts. In addition to this although she was not one of the “Biafran children” evacuated to Sao Tome for safety during the Nigerian civil war her curiousity about the history of that island community also became a major inspiration. This provides the background for the latter half of the novel and elevates it beyond a simple tale of romance and adventure into a profound commentary on the relevance and character of an African society that ended up contributing to its own violation. Although this is a serious novel it remains a most exciting and entertaining narrative to read because its intellectual depth does not detract from the elements of drama, intrigue and romance that serve to carry the story forward.

One of the most remarkable abilities displayed by the author in this work is that of establishing the personality traits and defining peculiarities of both major and minor characters with extraordinary depth in a few short sentences. She deploys incidents and characters with uncanny realism even while displaying a penchant for poetic phrasing in her descriptions of places and reflections on the importance of traditional laws and morals. Her depiction of such seminal characters as Onaedo’s aunt Aku whose extraordinary gifts of telepathy and psychic foresight allied to knowledge of traditional medicine make her a formidable ally as well as foe, and Oguebie the jealous prince and traitor to the community who becomes one of the pioneers of local collaboration with foreign slave traders, reveals that she has particular strengths of observation as well as of imagination. Her characterisations gain veracity through her effective use of modern psychological evaluation even while consolidating the relevance of their place in the narrative of the past. She is also noticeably even-handed in depicting both African and European characters in terms of their universal humanity.

Onaedo is a complex but highly readable work. The prologue and the epilogue provide signposts to the contemporary relevance of the body of the work. Maxine the discoverer/editor of the manuscript in these technically slight but profoundly exploratory chapters is herself a victim of loss brought about by historical upheaval. Having seen her beloved father disappear to Nigeria during the civil war, she is confronted by a crisis as he has written to her that he is coming to visit her three decades later. Faced with this dilemma she tries to find balance in reading through a box of old diaries apparently written by an extraordinary African slave from Brazil. It would be tantamount to giving away the author’s most precious secrets for me to relate how this formula is resolved in the end but the most unexpected revelations follow with seamless regularity. The main narrative is based on Maxine’s lightly edited version of the diary. The effective power with which Ms. Achebe deploys this complex literary device is that of an accomplished author. Although she is a practicing medical doctor her work does not appear to be that of a one-volume writer. Her first book, which has now been shortlisted for the LNG Literary Prize for 2011, is no amateur’s essay. It is the powerful outpouring of an accomplished storyteller. Her famous uncle must be as proud of her as all Nigerians who read this remarkable story should be.

Publisher AfricAgenda Publications, Abuja: Reviewer: Lindsay Barrett

Chelsea Paris Collaborates With Jean-Pierre Braganza

Loved her at first sight…well at least her collection ;-), but could switch camps if I can get my dainty paws on her Ada Bronze/Gold shoes, aptly named after yours truly ;-). OK, stretched the truth there a bit, but my first name is Ada.

Ada Bronze/Gold shoes
Ada Bronze/Gold shoes

According to the gorgeous diva herself – Theresa Ebagua, her luxury footwear is inspired by her African heritage and passion for creating unique, immaculately-constructed shoes. We loved her in issue 10 DivaScribe see image below and are totally made-up about her brands collaboration with Jean-Pierre Braganza.

DivaScribe ISSUE 10 Featuring Chelsea Paris
DivaScribe ISSUE 10 Featuring Chelsea Paris
Chelsea Paris Collaborates With Jean-Pierre Braganza
Chelsea Paris Collaborates With Jean-Pierre Braganza
Theresa Ebagua (Chelsea Paris)
Theresa Ebagua (Chelsea Paris)

Rihanna Fronts New Dior AD Campaign ‘Secret Garden’

Love or loathe her, Rhianna sure moves brands. Her recent campaign for lifestyle brand Christian Dior from which pictures were unveiled just yesterday sees the diva pulling her best sultry and seductive poses yet for Dior’s Secret Garden Campaign.

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What is more remarkable is that Ri-Ri is the first female of colour to front a major campaign for the Dior house, which is probably a cunning ploy to attract more women of colour to the brand. In an interview with MTV News in March, the 27 year old Bajan diva commented on the importance of her casting for the campaign which she said was ‘fantastic’ and meaningful.

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She went on to add ‘It feels fantastic…”It is such a big deal for me, for my culture, for a lot of young girls of any colour. ‘I think, to be acknowledged by Dior is just, it means a lot as a woman to feel beautiful, and elegant, and timeless”.

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Well said and we reckon that the brand are lucky to have the young diva on side, and it is worthwhile noting that beauty really has no colour boundaries, and hopefully more major lifestyle brands would emulate this example. Congratulations Ri-Ri!

Guilt-Free Summer Refreshment From Highland Spring

woman-drinking

The Spring and Summer months are arguably the most sociable months of the year with plenty of opportunities to socialise and pop open the bubbly – from barbeques, garden parties, picnics and holidays, to weddings and sporting events. Ensuring everyone can join in the fun and enjoy every sparkling moment, Highland Spring have created these refreshing mocktails – the perfect non-alcoholic treat for a sunny afternoon with friends, or a quiet evening in.

The Highland Hugo: A light mocktail with delicate floral and minty notes

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Ingredients

  • 25ml Bottlegreen Elderflower cordial
  • 1 wedge fresh lime
  • 5 fresh mint leaves
  • Topped up with Highland Spring Sparkling Water

Method

Half fill a wine glass with cubed ice, add mint leaves and then top up with cubed ice. Squeeze a fresh lime wedge over the ice and drop in the glass. Then add Bottlegreen Elderflower cordial. Top up with Highland Spring sparkling water. Stir, serve and enjoy!

The Refresher: A fresh, classy mocktail perfect for get-togethers and celebrations

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Ingredients

  • 25ml Bottlegreen Ginger & Lemongrass cordial
  • 5 slices of fresh cucumber
  • Topped up with Highland Spring Sparkling Water

Method

Fill a tall glass with cubed ice, adding cucumber slices throughout. Then add Bottlegreen Ginger & Lemongrass cordial. Top up with Highland Spring sparkling water. Stir, serve and enjoy!

These refreshing and zingy mocktails are perfect for summer barbeques and are a great accompaniment for juicy burgers, refreshing salads or a sweet dessert like a classic Eton Mess.

Highland Spring Sparkling water is available from all major supermarkets, retailers and

convenience stores nationwide.

 BY: Charlotte Brouwer

Jai Fears (Singer, Songwriter, Actress) — The Story of a Survivor

Jai Fears is on the cusp of superstardom. A multi-talented Pop & R&B singer, songwriter, dancer, actress and model, Jai’s tenacious work ethic is the result of overcoming many obstacles in her childhood. From being homeless with her Mother at the age of 16, to being diagnosed with a rare skin disease, Jai has persevered to make quite a name for herself. Born and raised in Detroit, Jai developed an appreciation for the Arts at a very young age. Her Mother would play old school R&B records at home all the time, unknowingly predetermining Jai’s future dancing gigs with Motown greats Aretha Franklin and Charlie Wilson. At the age of 14, Jai flew to Los Angeles to compete in a national talent competition. With her first win under her belt, she was “bit by the bug.” Since then, she has danced with Nsync, Aretha Franklin and Charlie Wilson. In 2006 she performed at the Super Bowl 40 Pre Show with legendary Stevie Wonder and R&B sensation John Legend. She has opened up for Keyshia Cole, K Michelle, Ryan Leslie, Diggy Simmons, Charlie Wilson, The Gap Band and Melissa Morgan.

Performing at numerous sold out festivals and events hosted by Radio One’s Hot 107.5 and BET in Los Angeles, Venice Beach, Detroit and Chicago, Jai’s breakout performances were both in 2012 on BET’s 106 & Park “Wild Out Wednesdays” talent competition. Winning both times to a standing ovation, she snagged the coveted “ALL STAR FEMALE HIP HOP/R & B” title.

In 2012, she won “Best Female R&B Artist” at The Indie Music Channel Awards in Los Angeles. Other credits include being featured in national print ads for Nike and Degree Deodorant and on screen in major feature films “The Wood,” “MVP” “Oogieloves Big Balloon Adventure” and “Crossover.” Her explosive portrayal as Eboni in “Crossover” co-starring Wayne Brady and Eva Pigford has earned her several nods from movie critics. These days, Jai can be found on tour gracing the stage as a background dancer and choreographer for Grammy Award winning R&B singer Charlie Wilson – the former lead singer of the Gap Band. In between shows, Jai spends time recording new songs for her upcoming EP, teaching dance lessons to kids, and performing at local venues throughout the Detroit Metropolitan area.

On September 27th 2014, Jai was requested to put on a high-energy performance at the 2014 Fashion In Detroit event hosted by DODGE and Project Runway’s alum Joe Faris. Jai and her dancers did not disappoint. She performed Top 40 Pop hits by Britney Spears, Beyoncé, and Rihanna. At the conclusion of her performance, like so many before, Jai received a standing ovation and cheers from the crowd Jai Fears has had quite the journey. Looking back on the series of trials and tribulations she has endured, Jai understands she could not have made it without her unyielding determination and strong faith in God. Here’s what she had to say:

“I am a woman that has been through so many hardships in life. I literally feel like I can empathize with just about anyone dealing with any unfortunate situation. Growing up, I didn’t realize the reasons why I was going through so much heartache and experiencing life-altering situations. It wasn’t until later that I understood that God was preparing me for something greater. I was being tested. And because of that, I am a survivor. My purpose is to share my story with others to assure them that no matter what they have ever been through, they are not alone!”

#1 IF YOU HAVE LOST A LOVED ONE…YOU ARE NOT ALONE

“I can remember one early spring morning, at the age of 10, my grandmother entered my bedroom and fell to her knees near the edge of my bed. She stared in my eyes, and in panic told me to help her because she couldn’t breathe. She was drowning. Her lungs were filling up with fluid due to Pulmonary Edema disease… “… I remember screaming out loud for help. She laid her head in her hands, slid off my bed to the floor, and in a matter of seconds she died right there in front me. It was one of the most traumatizing experiences I’ve ever had. She meant so much to me. Also, the loss of my brother and step-father had a big impact on me. By the age of 20, I had lost several important figures in my life.

#2 IF YOU HAVE EVER BEEN HOMELESS…YOU ARE NOT ALONE

After failing to meet a security deposit deadline on an apartment we were supposed to share with a friend, my Mother and I were left without any place to stay. During my senior year of high school, we spent nights sleeping in the car and filthy motels. It was a horrible experience. I remember one motel in particular was infested with roaches. It was so bad that the sounds of my Mother killing roaches in the morning served as my alarm clock to get ready for school. I promised myself that I would do everything in my power to get us out of that situation. I hated it. I didn’t tell many people about my living situation. Eventually, things did take a turn for the better. Through it all, I managed to graduate from high school with Honors. I believe our strong faith and determination is what helped us make it through. Looking back, it only made us stronger. Sometimes, my Mother and I sit and laugh about it, but back then it was no joke!

#3 IF YOU HAVE EVER HAD A DISEASE…YOU ARE NOT ALONE

On October 5th 2005, I woke up to what I thought was a case of the Chicken Pox. Little did I know, it was something so much worse. My entire body was covered in red bumps that would burst, leaving open sores of all different sizes. The sores caused excruciating pain. They would turn into scabs and my entire body would itch. I can remember years ago, when I was a hostess at a restaurant, I would uncontrollably scratch myself while trying to seat people. It was really embarrassing! Just wearing everyday clothes was painful. To make matters even worse, the University of Michigan Hospital – one of the top hospitals in the country – couldn’t even provide a diagnosis. All they could tell us was that I was suffering from a type of rare skin disease. Over the years, my skin condition has significantly improved and has practically healed completely on its own. These days I feel so much better, so much more alive, and I’m so blessed to have made it through. I owe it all to God!