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Skyh Alvester Black Talks Life, Faith and Love

Best known for Sistas and All The Queen’s Men, Skyh Alvester Black has been putting in work to get to where he is today. It was not always easy, but, ultimately, every challenge he encountered helped build his character and led him to his purpose.

Born in Alabama and raised in Miami, the 33-year-old Florida native always had a deep-rooted love for music. Dancing became the passion he wanted to pursue professionally, a task that required real commitment. His loving grandparents, who raised him, were prime examples of how hard work, dedication, and faith pay off. “My granddad created a construction business only having a High School diploma,” Black shared with HM, “I always saw the work ethic in my grandparents, so it was just kinda innate for me. If I wanted something – to go after it with the relentless approach and jump because the net would always appear.”

While his other dream of becoming an R’n’B singer did not pan out, dancing became his thing. He loved it and was good at it. Black worked on stage with some of the biggest names in entertainment, including Rihanna and Beyonce. Dance was the path, the goal. Dance was everything until it wasn’t.

Skyh Alvester Black | photography by Leigh Keily

In 2010 Black had an encounter that shifted the trajectory of his creative journey forever. Back then, he auditioned for a small part in Grey’s Anatomy, where he met Debbie Allen. The legendary dancer and actor saw something that Black was not aware of at the time. ‘Honey, I’m going to make you an actor. That’s what I see of you,’ Allen told him. It would take a few years and hard work for those fateful words to become a reality.

Encouraged by his music manager, Black stepped into Tasha Smith’s acting class in 2018. Sadly, his beloved grandfather had passed by then, and Black’s singing career had not taken off. “I felt like a failure cause I didn’t accomplish it to the gratitude that I wanted to accomplish it,” he told HM, “and I felt guilty about that until my grandfather passed, and I wasn’t where I personally wanted to be. I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to give back everything he gave me.”

The acting workshop was the spark he needed, “I fell in love, and I remember everything Debbie Allen had pushed me to do several years before, and it was cathartic, it was therapeutic. It was everything that I needed, and it became an obsession.” That was the turning point. Exactly one year later, Black booked his first major television role as Jacobi on Tyler Perry’s Sistas that airs on BET. The network recently renewed the series for a fourth season, so there is no time to catch a break just yet.

After the first time I had the privilege of doing Sistas, I felt like I could do anything!

Working with Tyler Perry certainly warrants an intense schedule, and Black is here for it. “It’s the best training for an actor. And not just an actor but a professional. I love it! Even the first time I got the privilege of doing Sistas, I felt like I could do anything; because of the pace and intensity. It’s this well-oiled machine that just works,” he told HM.

Skyh Alvester Black | photography by Leigh Keily
Skyh Alvester Black | photography by Leigh Keily

Black then went on to book a role on the BET+ series All The Queen’s Men. The show takes viewers into the world of exotic male dancing. The actor plays AMP, a bouncer/doorman at Eden, a club managed by Marilyn ‘Madam’ DeVille (Eva Marcille).

There is no word on the show’s season 2 renewal yet, but it’s clear that the audience wants more. “I was completely surprised by the response,” Black shared with HM, “It’s such a taboo subject in mainstream America, and we were in the middle of the pandemic. It has been such an amazing and unexpected ride, and people are loving it, so I am completely grateful.”

And this is just the beginning. Ahead lies another leading role in AllBlk’s new legal drama Lace from Deuces and Brotherly Love helmer Jamal Hill. The series follows a prolific Los Angeles attorney Lacey (Maryam Basir), who often blurs the lines between right and wrong to protect her rich and powerful clientele. Black stars as attorney Othello Charles. The show will air in November.

Things are coming together not only in his professional life but also personal. Black and his girlfriend and Sistas co-star KJ Smith recently made it Instagram-official. Although the couple stays mostly private, Black wants everyone to know how proud he is of his significant other. “She is great!” He told HM, “I learned how to be a leading man by watching her when she didn’t even know I was watching. She is the exemplary leading woman, and she is incredible!”

The journey of the leading man has not been easy, but he says he likes to test his limits “because when you are pushed, you never know what you can actually accomplish.”


Interview by Tina French, Hollywood Melanin

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Interviews

Taraji P. Henson Is Miss Hannigan In NBC’s Upcoming Musical Event ‘Annie Live!’

Annie Live!

Award-winning actress Taraji P Henson takes on the iconic role of Miss Hannigan in Annie Live!, a television adaptation of a beloved Broadway classic.

Henson will star as the main antagonist and head of the orphanage where Annie lives. The iconic villain in the original 1982 film was played by Carol Burnett, whom the Empire actress she admires.

Annie Live!
Pictured: (l-r) Harry Connick Jr. as Daddy Warbucks, Celina Smith as Annie, Sandy as Sandy the dog, Taraji P. Henson as Miss Hannigan — (Photo by: Paul Gilmore/NBC)

Henson will perform alongside Celina Smith, who portrays the show’s titular character Annie,  Harry Connick Jr. (Daddy Warbucks), Nicole Scherzinger (Grace Farrell), Megan Hilty (Lily St. Regis), and six-time Emmy-nominated actor Tituss Burgess (Rooster Hannigan).

Annie first premiered on Broadway in 1977. The show is based on the comic strip Little Orphan Annie and follows a young girl who lives in an orphanage and dreams of finding her family. A rich man named Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks decides to let an orphan live at his home to promote his image. He chooses Annie. While the young girl gets accustomed to living in Warbucks’ mansion, she still longs to meet her parents.

The classic musical live event will air live on Thursday, Dec. 2, at 8/7c, exclusively on NBC. 

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Interviews

‘Dinner Party’: Imani Hakim On Co-Producing and Starring in New Thought-Provoking Drama

Imani Hakim In Dinner Party

Best known for starring in 00’s classic ‘Everybody Hates Chris’ and most recently Apple TV+’s ‘Mythic Quest’, Imani Hakim had taken on a new role as a producer (while continuing to act) in her latest feature film ‘Dinner Party‘.

The project is a collaboration between the 28-year-old Cleveland native and her partner Chris Lee. It centers around a group of childhood friends who get together for a reunion dinner accompanied by their significant others. Hakim plays Izzie, whose boyfriend Cal (played by Lee) is one of the seven reunited friends.

The dinner takes place while a verdict is incoming on a controversial sexual assault court case that has captured the nation’s attention. But, as the evening progresses, alcohol flows, and conversations occur, the group soon realizes that- they have changed just as much as the social climate around them has.

Shot in Los Angeles in just four days, ‘Dinner Party’ is a powerful visual conversation starter. The film is currently making festival rounds.

Dinner Party

HM: First of all, how did you get involved in this project?

IH: My partner Chris came up with this concept of this film, and next thing you know he started writing it. I read the script, and I fell in love. The subject matter was something I felt very passionate about, so I wanted to be a part of it. So, you know, I joined on as an actress and a co-producer.

HM: And how was that experience like?

IH: Chris and I did short films together, and this is my first feature film producing. I learned so much about being behind the camera while balancing being in front of the camera. I wouldn’t have it any other way. From the inception of the idea all the way to the end. Casting, table reads, finding locations, finances, answering questions that actors have. Also, from the creative standpoint, it’s something that I never got to exercise before. It was a challenge.

HM: I felt that Dinner Party is one long uncomfortable conversation that had to be had. In a nutshell, tell us what the movie is about?

IH: The ‘Dinner Party’ is about a group of friends who are getting together after ten years of not seeing each other. The basic premise is – “if you met your friends today, would you still f*ck with them?” Over the course of this dinner, they realize they had changed as much as their social climate has changed. So things are coming to hay during the course of this dinner party. It’s like a slow burner – so much underlying tension – from microaggression to sexual assault. We get to really watch this group of millennials navigate this very difficult conversation. The challenging part that these friends are facing is to communicate that they are new versions of themselves.

HM: How does your character Izzie play into this whole story?

Izzie is bearing witness to the dynamic. She’s like the fly on the wall witnessing the fallout. She is important because she is the only Black person in the room and has this intuitive spirit. There is a lot happening under the surface, and she has to figure out what’s going on. 

HM: The conversations in this diverse group during the dinner party are around racism, classism, sexism, sexual assault. All very relevant topics in our world today. Was the goal to create a visual debate and highlight different opinions and points of view?

IH: Ultimately yes. We are covering many taboo subjects and there is no way you can watch this film and not want to check in with yourself or check in with people around you. This film for us is a conversational starter. We love the fact that this makes people uncomfortable and we also love the fact that it inspires people to reach out to their family members or their friends about [things] they swept under the rug. So if we can do that, we’re doing our job.

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Interviews

Naturi Naughton On How Past Experiences With 3LW Helped Shape Her Character on ‘Queens’

In Queens, the audience gets a first-hand look at the dynasty built by the hip-hop quartet of women. Viewers meet them on the verge of claiming their place at the top of the music game for the second time.

The official ABC synopsis reads, “Queens follows a fractured girl group living in the shadows of their once prominent hip-hop dynasty. After their popularity skyrocketed with the success of their chart-topping single, “Nasty Girl,” they were once regarded as one of the greatest girl groups of their generation. Despite critical and commercial success, the group was plagued by internal conflict and jealousy. Estranged and out of touch, the four women, now in their 40s, reunite for a chance to recapture their fame and regain the swagger they had in the ’90s when they were legends in the hip-hop world.”

Nadine Velazquez, Brandy, Eve and Naturi Naughton / credit: ABC

Leading the group is Brandy (Moesha), who plays Naomi, aka Xplicit Lyrics. Eve (Barbershop 2) adds a sense of reality to the portrayed hip-hop group. The rapper and actress stars as Brianna, who channels Professor Sex when she is performing her lyrics. As the “Satisfied” rapper returns to the screen, she does so with a new company – multiple sources have celebrated her first pregnancy. 

Carrying the group’s flair is Nadine Velazquez (My Name is Earl), who embodies her role as Valeria. She calls herself Butter Pecan while on stage. Rounding up the hip-hop girl gang is Naturi Naughton (Power), who makes sure her character Jill is known as the ‘Da Thrill.’

Naughton is no stranger to girl groups. At age 15, the singer turned actor joined 3LW. The ‘3 little women’ are best known for their hit singles No More (Baby I’ma Do Right) and Playas Gon’ Play.  Naughton was reportedly forced out of the group in 2002.

Today, the Queens star is in a much better place mentally and professionally. Naughton shared with us during our 1:1 interview that some of the painful experiences from her teenage years helped shape her character on the show. “Some of the pain that I went through being in a girl group, being in the business when people were dictating how I should dress, how I should talk, how I should act, how I should look. I actually can connect to that experience, so I use that.” Watch our full interview above.

Queens series premiere aired on Tuesday, October 19. The remaining episodes are set to drop weekly. 

Bites of promo were served to the public back in May, shining a light on the “heyday” of the girl group, set in the 90s. The trailer was released in September, giving the audience a full view of the group in the present day. The series is produced by ABC Signature, and the pilot episode is written by Zahir McGhee and directed by Tim Story.


Betti Halsell, senior writer – Hollywood Melanin

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