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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

‘Harlem’ Star Shoniqua Shandai Talks 3 Pillars of Success

Harlem Shoniqua Shandai

Shoniqua Shandai is fully immersed in the study of her success. Through her determination, Shandai found a way to reach the precipice of her goals. In an exclusive interview with Hollywood Melanin, Shandai shared an in-depth level of self-perception. She provided personal definitions of courage, confidence, and self-belief. 

The world is waking up to the power that Shandai holds. In the new hit Amazon series Harlem, the New York native brings Angie’s character to life. Many would look at her and say she is struggling, playing into the “starving artist” archetype, but if one looks closer, Angie’s only struggle is the battle with the conformity of the world. 

Series creator Tracy Oliver worked with Meagan Good, Grace Byers, Jerrie Johnson, alongside Shandai, to share a raw narrative of Black women who have the goal of living out their version of happiness.

Harlem
Grace Byers, Shoniqua Shandai, Jerrie Johnson, and Meagan Good / ‘HARLEM’ credit: Prime Video

Angie embodies liberty, a freeform display of what it means to be dedicated to pursuing a dream. Off-screen, Shandai knows the level of commitment it takes to create a world that fits a personal vision. It takes a custom-made level of courage, confidence, and self-belief. It takes a personal standard of hustle. 

Conquering the fear of being one’s true self ignites the labor in building confidence. Shandai admitted the process was in layers. “I found the confidence to be myself in having tried to be everyone else and it not working,” she continued, “I might as well show up as me–as vividly, as boldly, as audaciously as possible. You have to live for yourself.” 

I found the confidence to be myself in having tried to be everyone else and it not working

Courage is defined as “the ability to do something that frightens one.” To be one’s true self is nearly impossible without courage. It’s the secret ingredient to personal success. Before every interview, the repeated chorus from loved ones is “to be yourself,” but that takes courage. Shandai opened up and shared her process.

“Courage came from having to build confidence – I am who I am.” The actor and singer continued to explain that her support from her mother, adjacent to her self-determination fueled her confidence. 

Courage came from having to build confidence

To be unstoppable, there has to be a strong foundation of self-belief. The approval of others is fickle. Self-belief might be the only thread left to hang on to when no one else is willing to share blind faith in chasing dreams. 

The Amazon series star considered the solution to working when the motivation isn’t there, “I am incredibly future-oriented. Being so future-oriented has saved my life.” Shandai said. She admitted to reverting back, and taking baby steps in order to prepare for bigger strides. Each day, she pulled herself closer into the vision. 

Shandai said she is most happy when she is cooking success in multiple pots. Her next debut is coming in through audible wavelengths. As a singer and songwriter, she will be looking for a deeper level of self through music. 

Her first single, with visuals directed by her co-star Good, is called, Something About You. Nothing has been officially released yet, but Shandai is ready for this part of herself to rise to the surface. 

Through her personal definition of courage, confidence, and self belief, Shandai always finds the strength to keep extending her reach, to keep answering the calling on her life. Stay connected with Shandai on Instagram and Twitter. Bingewatch Harlem on Amazon Prime.

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Interviews

Robin Givens Talks Guest-starring on ABC’s Queens

Givens’ episode titled “Let the Past Be the Past” will air on Tuesday, February 8

Robin Givens is set to appear on the all-new episode of ABC’s music drama Queens. We sat down with the Ambitions star to discuss her joining the show and take a deeper dive into her pivotal scenes.

In Queens, we get a first-hand look at the dynasty built by the hip-hop quartet of women – Naomi (Brandy), Brianna (Eve), Valeria (Nadine Velazquez), and Jil (Naturi Naughton). Viewers meet the group on the verge of claiming their place at the top of the music game for the second time.

The upcoming episode titled ‘Let the Past Be the Past’ will feature Givens as Eric’s ex-wife, who will pay him an unexpected visit. Once the manager of the girl group, Eric will have to confront his former spouse to help save the future of Nasty Girl Records.

Last week ET exclusively released the first look images of Givens as Robin and her intense sit-down with Brandy’s Naomi – the woman who might’ve caused the breakup of her and Eric’s marriage. See the photos below.

Queens
Queens

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. However, the group was plagued by internal conflict and jealousy despite critical and commercial success. 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.”

Watch Queens on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

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Interviews

Eris Baker Talks ‘This Is Us’ Final Chapter and Pressures of The Industry

‘This Is Us’ has been making its viewers laugh and cry for six years now. NBC’s hit series and talented cast collected many nods and awards season after season, including several Golden Globes and Primetime Emmys. With the family drama on its sixth and final season, we sat down with one of the show’s stars, Eris Baker, who plays Tess Pearson, Randall (Sterling K. Brown), and Beth’s (Susan Kelechi Watson) oldest biological daughter.

Eris grew up on the show, and she calls her castmates and crew, ‘family’. She took on her biggest television role thus far at the age of 10. Now, at 16, Eris is ready to enter a new chapter of her life and career.

This Is Us
Eris Baker as Tess / This Is Us – “Yellow Brick Road” Episode 602 (Photo by: Ron Batzdorff/NBC)

The oldest sister of 4 in real life, Eris never shied away from responsibility. So when the opportunity to audition for This Is Us presented itself, she gladly went after it. Convinced that she did not get the part, Eris later received the best news on Christmas – the role was hers. She admits that she did not realize how big this was back then and how massive it would become.

Eris says she never felt overwhelmed by her immediate professional surroundings as a child actor. Working on the set of This Is Us has always been comfortable and fun. However, Eris told HM, the pressures mounted from the demands that came with being in the industry – “You need a manager, you need an agent, you need a PR, you need to post this, you need to post that, you need to be this image for other people, and I don’t even know if I’m that image for myself,” she explained. A lot comes with being in the public eye, and the young talent says she is learning to navigate that.

Watch the rising star talk about working with her co-stars, reveal some of the pressures she faced growing up in the industry, and reflect on what lies ahead in her professional future.

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