October 9, 2013 at 11:54 am , by Sonia Harmon
The Academy Award-winning actress has clearly got the acting thing down (see: The Help, Fruitvale Station, and the upcoming Diablo Cody film Paradise) so we chatted with her about an entirely new venture—publishing her first novel.
You’re publishing your first novel, Randi Rhodes, Ninja Detective: The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit, as part of a young adults book series. What inspired you to come up with the character?
The characters in my book are doing everything I ever dreamed of doing, from martial arts to actually solving a mystery. I grew up reading a lot of mystery books—everything from Nancy Drew to The Hardy Boys series—so I just decided to put pen to paper and the book and Randi’s character began to take shape.
How did you start writing the series?
It’s what I do in my downtime. I’ve had some acting roles that were recurring—we call it “day playing” because you work a day here, a day there. And between those days, I had to do something to keep myself from going crazy.
Is becoming an author something you always wanted to do?
I knew I wanted to write for kids because growing up reading shaped who I am as a person. It also took a lot longer for me to finish a book because I have dyslexia. It definitely was a challenge, but you cope and figure out ways to get through it. Once I jumped that hurdle, I actually began to enjoy reading.
Absolutely. I have severe stage fright. The biggest thing for me was reading aloud. I wasn’t confident that what I was saying was actually on the page, quite honestly. To this day, I hate table reads and it definitely has affected how I approach my work. I start memorizing as soon as I get a script because I know it’s going to take me longer to feel confident. Even though it’s a challenge, I don’t feel encumbered by it.
So far there are two books planned for the Randi Rhodes series. Do you already know where you want to take the character?
There are so many adventures to be had. I’m excited for everyone to read the books but I’m also a little nervous—you feel vulnerable when people read your work because it’s a part of you. But this really is a dream come true.
September 27, 2013 at 9:00 am , by Bethany Cianciolo
The Masterchef dishes about working with kids on the new Fox show, Masterchef Junior, which debuts September 27. Please Joe, tell us you don’t make any of the little contestants cry.
The contestants on the show range from age eight to 13. Do you judge differently on Masterchef Junior than you do on Masterchef?
We want these kids to cook on the same level as the adults, so we try to treat them the way we treat the adults. The kids were a little bit tepid in the beginning, but as much as we’re judging them, we’re also coaching them.
So you don’t go easy on them?
You’ve got to give them love, but sometimes a little bit of tough love is also good. And the kids are great because they’re honest—they speak their minds unhindered, which makes for great reality television.
How did the kids fare in the kitchen as compared to the adults?
They’re better than the adults, I swear to god. A lot of the baking is really impressive because baking is very technical. I think their use of what we consider really gourmet ingredients is amazing.
What’s one of the main pieces of advice you gave the children during the show?
Don’t be frustrated. The one thing that kids do is take their setbacks very seriously. So I think you’ve got to teach them how to regroup, come back and do better next time. The adults have a little bit more maturity—they can deal with setbacks and have more patience. But the kids make up for that because they have so much passion and energy for cooking.
Do you think you would’ve liked being on a cooking show as a kid?
No, I was much too stupid. These kids are much smarter than me!
September 24, 2013 at 4:41 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
Whew! What a week it’s been. Last Monday was our premiere and there were so many changes to the format we were all spinning, but that was just the beginning of last week. Next I had a crazy week of prepping for the Emmy Awards on Sunday. (Shout out to Derek Hough—he won for Outstanding Choreography!) The next day I was up early for my workout and had to head to the Dancing with the Stars set for our second and most action packed episode this season. It’s been a busy week so I’m happy to be sipping my coffee at home as I write my Ladies’ Home Journal blog. Let’s get to it.
Season 17 is a whole new Dancing with the Stars and I am truly enjoying the energy of it all. It wasn’t our choice to go to one day a week—it was the network’s decision—but we’re making it the best it can be. I know some of our fans are quite upset that the show is on only one night a week now, but change happens and the best option is to go with it. We will all miss what it was, but it’s time to embrace what it is. What I love most about the new season is that the pace moves so quickly! Sure, last night in particular felt like a speed race to the end with all 12 couples dancing and the elimination, but we knew it was going to be our “tightest” show. We have a few kinks to work out to make it a bit smoother but overall, I’m impressed with our producers for finding a really fun and action-packed way to make the necessary changes. I didn’t write a blog last week because it was such a crazy week, but I want to touch on our big opening number of the season. It was choreographed by my dear friend Mandy Jo Moore, who was my assistant for many years and is an now Emmy-nominated choreographer. For the first time in DWTS history, the judges got to dance. It was barely a count of eight, but it was so much fun to be dancing again. I thank Mandy once again for making that happen, and also Ashley Edens, who puts those fantastic numbers together week after week.
Okay, now on to my thoughts about the show. I got a lot of tweets about the lift rule so I want to take the time to explain it again. On our show, there are certain dances like the traditional ballroom and Latin dances that do not allow lifts. The rule was put in place in the beginning to keep the playing field even. We made the rule for those who are not as young or as agile so that everyone could play at the same level. However, after many seasons, we’ve added dances outside of the traditional dances to keep our fans excited and the show fresh. Argentine Tango, Salsa, Lindy Hop, Swing, Jazz and Contemporary all allow lifts. Foxtrot, Waltz, Tango, Quickstep, Viennese Waltz, Paso Doble, Rumba, Cha Cha, Samba and Jive do not. I realize we don’t have time to refresh everyone’s memory about lifts each season but I do hope this explains it.
So, who did you love most last night? Do you agree with who went home? (Spoiler alert for those of you who DVR the show!) The first to go was Keyshawn Johnson, and I wish he’d shown the audience more of his personality in the first week where their vote could’ve kept him in. It wouldn’t have changed his scores, but I do think the audience may not have connected with him last week. He seemed to be a bit “lost in the crowd” and with 12 couples competing, you need to find a way to stand out so that people remember you when they vote. You have to touch their hearts if you want them to root for you when your scores aren’t so great. Take Bill Nye, the Science Guy for example. Who would’ve thought he had so many fans? Wow! There were over three million YouTube hits for his “Weird Science” routine. He certainly touched some people and made an impact. I personally didn’t find the dance very creative, but he’s the type of contestant that makes our show special and gives it so much heart. From a judging perspective though, it seemed like we’d seen that dance before. I know Bill’s partner Tyne is a newbie to our show, but it’s her duty to research and come up with new and exciting ways to impress the judges. It’s no easy task, but it is an element to consider when creating these routines. It gives impact. And with a competition as tight as this one looks like it’s going to get, they need to have impact.
Last night, Bill’s Beethoven performance had impact. Tyne did a fantastic job of creating a great number—I loved it and it helped raise their scores. He was confident and focused and he delivered a performance that was complete. He needs to add more content and his footwork and placement need a lot of work, but the performance was definitely memorable. Others who stood out last night were Leah Remini, Christina Milian and Elizabeth Berkley for their new found confidence. Elizabeth stood out to me Val choreographed their dance so that they were right in front of us; he didn’t hide her behind him and block our view from the judging panel like so may others do. He faced us and showcased her beautifully. She’s a powerhouse of a dancer with a special languid strength to her movements. Christina blew me away with her new found confidence. People tend to harass me when I give constructive criticism to the ladies, as if I’m trying to put them down, but the goal is exactly what Christina produced last night. She listened and raised her confidence and as a result, she blossomed! She was fantastic. That’s the whole point of constructive criticism—so they can improve their performances. Kudos to Christina! Another woman who gained confidence this week was Leah Remini. Her story is pretty deep; I didn’t know about the Scientology and them wanting her to fail. That’s too bad, to feel that there are people out there who want you to fail. It can overwhelm even the best and most confident people. So once again, I celebrate a strong woman who is a survivor and is not giving up. She raised her game and she did it with a feisty vengeance. Go Samba Girl!
This season looks like it’s going to be fun, but if you blink you’ll miss it, so tune in on Monday nights! For you fashionistas, last night I was wearing an Aiden mattox gold beaded geo mini dress, Steve Madden Dipsiee gold spike pumps, and rings from XIV Karats LTD (to answer a Twitter question, the pear-shaped white diamond ring is 6.34 carats).
Stay tuned and let’s chat again soon. Love to you and remember to hug your animals! They make the world a better place. Just for fun, here’s a photo of my dog, Buddy, in a tree. Animal photos always make people smile, so smile!
September 5, 2013 at 8:54 am , by Sonia Harmon
We love Taye Diggs for his acting whether it’s on TV (Private Practice), the big screen (How Stella Got Her Groove Back) or the Broadway stage (Rent, anyone?), but we especially love him for his commitment to children’s education. The issue especially resonates with Diggs since he’s the proud dad of his four-year-old son, Walker, with wife and actress Idina Menzel. We chatted with the actor (and children’s book author!) about being a parent, his new movies and the hilarious six-second Vine videos he posts on Twitter.
Why is education important to you?
Once I found out that around two-thirds of kids in poverty didn’t have books at home, I partnered with Kellogg’s and Scholastic to help change that. I was a very avid reader and I have no idea where I’d be today were it not for books. And now I’m a children’s author; in 2011 I wrote a children’s book called Chocolate Me. So this is something that’s close to my heart. (Click here to learn more about how you can help give hundreds of thousands of books to kids.)
Where did you get the inspiration to write Chocolate Me?
I wrote it to help kids who are dealing with the same situation that I dealt with as a child. My mother did an amazing job, but it would’ve been even easier for her if she could’ve just whipped out a book about that specific moment when kids were making fun of me because of my skin color and how I should love myself and find my self-esteem from within. I’m working on a second book called Mixed Up Mike that will address my son’s point of view, being the product of an interracial marriage.
What’s been the most challenging part of parenthood?
Realizing how much more vulnerable I am. I have no control over how much love I feel or how much fear I have when he leaves the house everyday. But I relish the moments when he hugs us and tells us how much he loves us. The other day he even said he wished he could go back in time so that we could be friends in school.
That’s so adorable. And you’re a working dad—you’ve got a couple of films coming up.
Yes, I worked with Paula Patton on a movie called Baggage Claim and the role was a bit of a departure for me. My character is this overly ambitious, self-involved politician who’s obsessed with his little dog. So that left room for lots of comedy and improvising. I’m also starring in Best Man Holiday, which is a sequel to The Best Man. It’s the same character, but he’s older and has more experience under his belt and you get to see how the relationships have changed.
We hadn’t had a night like that in Manhattan in a while so we just took advantage. It was so much fun. I love those Vine videos. I could do eight a day.
May 22, 2013 at 2:24 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
Season 16 has come to a close. I have to admit I had no idea who would take the mirror ball trophy home this season. The race was the tightest its been in a long time. I thought with Zendaya’s 2.7 million twitter followers, she was a shoo-in for the title. But Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough worked some magic on their freestyle routine and created a very profound moment of television. I ran into Derek backstage right after they won and he told me that he was inspired by my call to Kellie to find more expression and connect more to the emotions of the dance. I think he said it haunted him as he was putting the freestyle routine together. I’m so glad that he understood what I was going for when I made those comments. That’s what makes a winner to me—someone who can take on the challenges we give them instead of taking offense to them. Dancing With the Stars is a challenge that takes stamina, strategy and a willingness to face parts of yourself that you don’t want to. In order to win you have to find a way to incorporate our critiques and comments into your dances. When I gave Kellie feedback about the emotional quality of her dance, I was trying to help her grow.
I had a feeling that this season was going to be a tight race to the finish line. I know that the key to winning this competition is having breakthroughs and growth on top of the fantastic dances we expect in the finals. But magic is made when you push yourself to do something that’s really not a “sure thing.” When you accomplish that goal, there’s nothing like it.
A lot of shows out there will fake moments to create dramatic television, but I think the audience has become savvy to that and our audience is smarter than that. Kellie and Derek’s win is proof. I’m not saying that Zendaya and Val did anything fake or anything like that. Not at all. She is a phenomenal performer and Val’s choreography showcased her beautifully. She’s been outstanding the whole way and she has a special quality when she performs that will take her career very far. But Kellie hadn’t been completely connecting on an emotional level to her dances. She hadn’t really let go until that moment. She made progress, but in her final freestyle she discovered something new about herself and we all witnessed it. Derek created a piece of choreography that allowed her this discovery; in fact, it pushed her right into it. There was nowhere to hide. The movements lent themselves to vulnerability and heart connection. Kellie stepped right up to the plate and swung a home run.
I’m so happy for her success. As a dancer it is this heart-centered and honest type of performance that touches your audience’s core and creates loyal fans and supporters. I’ve been in this business for a long time. I’ve seen talent come and go and I’ve seen amazingly talented people never find themselves in their performances and get lost in the shuffle of the entertainment industry. Eventually they fade out, but every once in a while someone is able to push themselves past their own limits and dig so deep that they find a whole new layer. But this applies to anyone. You have to continue to push yourself. Just when you get comfortable, I think it is imperative that you push and see what else there is and what else you have to offer this world. This courage is what creates a satisfying life and that’s something we all crave.
This was a big season for all of us at DWTS. We hit our 300th episode and it was the end of our two-episodes-a-week run. That part is bittersweet. I love having all of the production numbers and I think we did some amazing work with the DWTS Troupe. They were brilliant and truly a highlight of the season. They gave our show a fresh energy and I think it’s a good time to give thanks. Who knows what will happen in the future for the show, but I know our talented producers will come up with some great ideas to ensure that the show is even better. Now we’re pushing ourselves out of our own comfort zone. We’re heading into the unknown with courage and excitement, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. Change can be a bit scary, but it’s good and a very important part of life. I know I speak for everyone when I say we’re so grateful to all of our viewers and fans that have tuned in for our 300+ episodes and we look forward the next 300.
What’s next for me? I’ll be busy producing my gala for The CAI Animal Project which is on October 18th, 2013 at the Century Plaza Hotel Ballroom in Los Angeles. There will be dancing, and everyone asks me when I’ll dance; well I’ll be dancing in this show for sure! And so will a lot of familiar faces. It’s going to be exciting. Raising money for animals in need is going to be my focus for the next few months and if you’d like to help, please check out our website, www.caiap.org, or if you’d like to help with our fundraising by buying some of the looks I’ve worn on the show, go to www.fashionproject.com. I have a closet there and I’ll be adding even more clothes so check back often. You can have a part of DWTS fashion history and do something good for the animals. It’s a win-win!
Congratulations to our Season 16 winners, Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough! And congratulations to our runners-up, Zendaya Coleman and Val Chermkovskiy. Both duos were fantastic and really wowed us with their talent and fortitude. I thought this was our best season ever and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Now it’s time for a mini-staycation! I’ll see you soon, and if you miss me, just follow me on twitter at www.twitter.com/carrieanninaba.
Take care and God bless.
May 15, 2013 at 2:42 pm , by Ladies' Lounge
Three hundred episodes! Wow. It’s an incredible feeling to celebrate our 300th episode. Back in the day, Mash was a very popular show that went on for quite a while. It felt like it was on the air my whole life, and they made 251 episodes. It was a breakthrough. I remember how America tuned in when it went off the air. It was such a big moment in my television history and now, to be a part of a show that has completed 300 episodes completed is an honor to say the least. I want to point out that there are three people who have been on every single episode since day one: myself, Tom Bergeron, and Bruno Tonioli.
It’s been a wonderful ride with extraordinary choreography, beautiful costumes and incredible production value. I’m really proud of our team. It takes so many people to make a show happen.
Here’s a list (in chronological order) of my top 10 dance performances on Dancing with the Stars in honor of our 300th episode.
1. Drew Lachey and Cheryl Burke
Freestyle (Season 2)
This piece was such an inventive and entertaining way to approach the finale. Cheryl really created a great number here and their performance brought the house down. It was so exciting. Magic!
2. Helio Castroneves and Julianne Hough
Quickstep (Season 5)
This performance was vibrant and lively, and it showcased Helio at his best.
3. Mel B. and Maksim Chermkovskiy
Paso Doble (Season 6)
It was powerful, and her costume was brilliant and very aggressive. She set a whole new standard for costumes and performance in this showstopper!
4. Gilles Marini and Cheryl Burke
Argentine Tango (Season 8)
Wow. This was such a work of art and passion. Their partnership was such a sensual one. They just had chemistry that wouldn’t quit. Gilles had this wonderful way of adding a suave debonair touch to all the dances he did. He was like a character from a romance novel that’s come to life. This was smoldering at it’s best.
5. Nicole Scherzinger and Derek Hough
Quickstep (Season 10)
This one was such a classic. It was a tribute to the musicals that inspired so many of us to be where we are today. They danced in harmony and really made all of us feel good!
6. Gilles Marini and Peta Murgatroyd
Bollywood (Season 15)
I loved this dance. We’d never had a Bollywood performance on the show before and it was just so energetic and lively. It really showcased the vibrancy of the Bollywood cultural phenomenon.
7. Andy Dick and Sharna Burgess
Vienesse Waltz (Season 16)
This was one of the most emotionally charged moments we’ve ever had on the show. He dedicated this dance to his daughter, Meg, and it touched our hearts in a very special way. He made an impact on all of us. He was celebrating his sobriety and his love for his daughter. It was a moment that had us all in tears.
8. Derek Hough
Macy’s Stars of Dance (Season 16)
Wow—this was such a great tribute to Fred Astaire’s Dancing on the Ceiling number but with a cool and modern twist. It was really innovative and pushed all understanding of gravity. But I think if you really want to appreciate the number and choreography and performances by Jaimie Goodwin and Derek, you have to see it while the “box” is moving. It was really something to behold.
9. Zendaya and Val Chermkovskiy
Samba (Season 16)
While it may not have gotten the best scores, I just loved this cool fusion samba. Her Beyonce-like presence on the dance floor blew us all away. The stylings of her movements and the way her body sung the dance made this a cool number not to be forgotten.
10. Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough
Argentine Tango (Season 16)
They started the dance in silhouette showcasing her beautiful lines, and her lines were perfection. Kellie delivered an impeccable and passionate performance.
Truly, there are too many great memories to mention. Being a part of the dance revival on television has been a great honor and achievement. I’ve been fortunate enough to see two generations of dance—back in the early 90s when the Fly Girls brought hip hop to mainstream television, and now again, as we see ballroom and Latin dances in our living rooms. I celebrate the great mind that really championed our show when we were just a pitch for a pilot. I have to give credit to Andrea Wong who really gave DWTS a shot in America. Here’s to you Andrea, and to the BBC and ABC for all you’ve done for dance in television. We’ve seen so many boundaries broken down and creative visions actualized; we are a lucky generation to have so much dance on the tube. It wasn’t always like this, but I’m sure glad it is now and I’m happy to be a part of all of it.
Until next week, keep dancing!
May 3, 2013 at 8:00 am , by Sonia Harmon
Alison Sweeney is one hardworking woman. Not only does she star on Days of Our Lives and host The Biggest Loser, she’s also mom to son Ben, age 8, and daughter Megan, age 4. In our July/August issue she answers your questions about how she lost weight and gained self-esteem, but even with everything else she has going on this busy mom still found the time to fulfill another dream: becoming a novelist. This month she releases her new book, The Star Attraction, which is about a Hollywood publicist who scores a dreamy big-name client, but she lets her love life become intertwined with her work. Sounds juicy, right? We agree—that’s why we’re giving five away copies signed by Alison herself! Just leave a comment on this blog post and you’re automatically entered to win.
Only one entry per person, per email address. Official Rules