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The Last Word: Usher Continues Charity in MJ’s Honor, Kerry Washington Plays a Transsexual Prostitute In New Film, and Janet Jackson’s Lawsuit Is Dismissed

Great day, everybody. Another week gone, another 25 cents

made as serious talk floats around of fully legalizing marijuana in California

to help with the state’s debt, the NAACP marks its 100-year anniversary with an

appearance from President Obama at its annual convention in New York on

Thursday (July 16) and Supreme Court confirmation hearings wrap up on Judge

Sonia Sotomayor.

 

Congratulations to BeBe Winans, who will be inducted into

the International Gospel Music Hall of Fame in October and Lady Gaga, who made

Top 40 history by becoming the third artist to have three No. 1 songs from a

debut album (“Just Dance,” Poker Face,” and “LoveGame”). Shout outs to the

sounding boards for finding ways to stay cool while always bringing the heat.

 

Ladies and Gents…the Last Word for the week ending July 17,

2009.

 

1. Usher Keeps the MJ Spirit of Giving Alive

 

It’s no secret that Usher Raymond was influenced by the late

great Michael Jackson. All you have to do is watch one of his videos or his

tearful rendition of the music icon’s “Gone to Soon” at the MJ memorial.

 

And with the official start of Camp New Look on Monday (July

13), Usher looks to carry the torch for Michael’s quest to heal t he world. The

summer camp is a two-week experience in Atlanta for 130 kids as it exposes them

to the business side of sports and entertainment.

 

“I paid close attention to what celebrities like Michael Jackson

had done with his brand,” Raymond told USA Today less than three weeks before the King of Pop’s unexpected death. “He

made philanthropy something that was kind of like a sense of heart work, and

not hard work. All of the hard work went into who he was as a celebrity; the

heart work made a difference.”

 

Although it would be easy to leave all the work to hired

hands, Usher admitted to waning to work with camp goers himself as he summed up

his motivation with a simple choice.

 

“They say in life you can be a product of your experience or

a product of your environment,” the 30-year-old entertainer said. “I choose to

be a product of my experience.”

 

And while it seems that Usher is jumping on the MJ goodwill

bandwagon, the desire to inspire kids was something that’s always been in Usher

all along before the arrival of his own children.

 

“Every kid may not be able to be a football player, athlete,

artist, but there are so many other talents that kids have…I want to be

motivating to those who have talent or who just need motivation. With my

campers, I don’t look at them as children. I look at them as young adults.”

 

2. Ne-Yo Goes International to Expand Artist

Development/Production Company

 

Looks like the mogul bug has bit Ne-Yo.

 

Media sources report the R&B hitmaker has launched a

U.K. branch of his Compound Entertainment management/artist

development/production company.

 

Under the new company, Ne-Yo said that “U.K. talent in all

its forms – artists, songwriters, whatever’s out there” would be sought

out as well as talent from all music genres.

 

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the entertainer wants to be as “hands-on” as

possible with his U.K. establishment. In addition to music, the new company

will also include a publishing arm.

 

“I want to spend as much time here as possible,” said Ne-Yo,

who runs Compound Entertainment with his manager/company co-founder and business

partner Reynell “Tango” Hay. “I want to listen to everything and say ‘yay’ or ‘nay.’”

 

As it stands now, Ne-Yo stated the U.K. Compound location

will be the company’s only international office for the foreseeable future.

More staffing details for the office will be come out later this year as

Compound looks for office space in the U.K.

 

3. Jada Pinkett-Smith Finds Sexual Alternative to Oscars

Red Carpet

 

For any celebrity, there’s nothing like the Oscars. Whether

you’re a nominee, presenter or just there for the long show, it’s a safe bet

that you’ll be seen by a lot of people whenever you hit the red carpet.

 

And while the thought of making news on the red carpet is

appealing, leave it to Will and Jada Pinkett-Smith to opt for a more intimate

alternative. According to Jada, all it took was a look from Big Willie to get

things started.

 

“In a limo, on the way to the Academy Awards this year, Will

started looking at me in this way that drives me wild,” the actress confessed

to Shape magazine. “We started kissing

passionately, and the next thing I knew, well, let’s just say we missed the red

carpet and I ended up with almost no makeup on.”

 

Considering all the information she’s released lately about

her episodes with Will, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. After all,

this is the same person who credits “lots of sex!” as her number one beauty

secret while crediting sex in cars, at friends’ houses, in costume and outdoors

as ways to keep the fire burning in a relationship.

 

Anybody taking bets on when the sex tape will leak online?

Leave it to Will to keep his marriage in tack by gettin’ freaky with it.

 

4. Kerry Washington Reflects on Gritty Transsexual Role

in New Film

 

Kerry Washington has taken on a bunch of film roles during

her career on the big screen. But the head turner’s portrayal of a drug

addicted, pre-op transsexual prostitute in the new independent movie Life is

Hot in Cracktown literally offers a

different look at the actress.

 

Based on a short story collection by writer/director Buddy

Giovinazzo, Life is Hot in Cracktown

features various stories surrounding the invasion of crack cocaine on

inner-city streets and its affect on people.

 

While the movie may not be as pretty as a lot of stuff she’s

been in and looked great doing, Washington explains that her deciding to do the

film came as a result of her desire to tell a compelling story as being moved

on a deeper level from reading a film’s script.

 

“One of the reasons I became an actor is because

storytelling is really important. To tell the stories of who we are as a

society and as a culture, that’s vital to the human experience,” the actress

told EURWeb. “Sometimes we don’t always tell the stories of people whose lives

we might find uncomfortable or disconcerting; disenfranchised people. I think

everybody deserves to have their stories told, so that was part of the

decision, too; wanting to be a part of the honest telling of a community that

we don’t always acknowledge.”

 

In order to convincingly play her character, Washington did

a lot of research and reading on transsexuals in addition to gaining insight on

the transsexual community from a trans-woman.

 

“One of the things I learned was that for most trans-women,

these are people who are born knowing that they are women, but their biology

has betrayed them in some way,” she said. “The real question to ask myself was,

‘What if I couldn’t take my identity as a woman for granted?’ Here I am this

sort of post-modernist, post-feminist woman and I’m at the gym trying to work

off my butt and thighs, but what if I was spending thousands of dollars in

hormone therapy and injections because I desperately needed to have a butt and

thighs because I felt that’s who I was? What if I was me, but my body betrayed

me and I couldn’t physically be who I knew I was?”

 

The experience of making Life is Hot in Cracktown proved to be an eye-opening one that reinforced

Washington’s stance on being exposed to things and issues that may be uncomfortable.

 

“Sometimes it’s important to watch things that are hard to

watch because we can run into danger when we stop acknowledging our fellow

human beings and their stories and their humanity,”

 

Washington said. “It’s like we want to ignore the kid on the

street, and the woman on the corner, and the kid that lives in the crack hotel,

and the violent gang member. We don’t want to pay attention to them, we don’t

want to see them and I think that’s an illness. I think life is hard and that’s

one of the things that the film speaks to.”

 

Life is Hot in Cracktown

is currently in limited release.

 

5. Court Judge Takes Janet Jackson Out of $120 Million

Lawsuit

 

Here’s a bit of good news on the Jackson family. According

to reports, a $120 million lawsuit filed against Janet Jackson has been

dismissed.

 

The suit was filed by Leonard Salati, who claimed that one

of Jackson’s bodyguards treated him roughly in February 2004 in a nightclub

called Marquee. According to Salati, the bodyguard put him in a chokehold when

he approached Janet and attempted to give her his number and kiss her on the

cheek.

 

Joey Moldanado, Jackson’s only bodyguard on duty the night

of the incident maintained that he didn’t witness or involve himself in any

sort of scuffle. Although Moldanado is Latino, Salati described those who

assaulted him as African-American.

 

Nevertheless, New York State Supreme Court Justice Jane

Solomon cited a lack of evidence as the reason for her throwing out the part of

Salati’s case that included Jackson and Moldanado on June 25.

 

“There is no evidence that [Jackson’s bodyguard] assaulted

Salati, or that anyone assaulted Salati at Jackson’s direction,” Solomon said

in her ruling.

 

Despite Janet, her bodyguard and Marquee getting off the

hook, the security club that was contracted to provide security and protection

for the nightclub may still feel the effects of the case, Salati’s lawyer,

Jamie Levy, told E! News. A pretrial hearing on the matter is scheduled for

Aug. 3.

 

All this trouble over trying to slip a phone number and a

kiss on someone. This guy should’ve focused on someone less famous. At least,

the brush off would’ve been less trouble. I guess it takes a minute for some

people to catch on.

 

In Other Words…

 

* The Habitat for Humanity of Greater Miami is getting a

helping hand from the world or Reggaeton as Puerto Rico-based duo Wisin &

Yandel will donate $25,000 help the organization build new homes. On Wednesday,

the group announced that they will donate $1 to Habitat for every ticket sold

for their U.S. tour this fall. The outing, which kicks off Sept. 17 in Miami,

comes on the heels of the May release of Wisin & Yandel’s seventh album La

Revolucion. The lead single from the

release is “Abusadora.”

 

* As if Tom Cruise couldn’t match his couch-jumping

spectacle a few years back on Oprah or the Yung Joc dance he did on 106

& Park, now the actor has joined the

folks who have shown their love of Beyoncé’s hit single “Single Ladies (Put a

Ring on It).” People.com reports Cruise was seen doing the tune’s famous dance

at Bey’s recent concert at L.A.’s Staples Center.

 

To hear one concertgoer tell, it “everyone was laughing and

taking pictures,” as they enjoyed Cruise, who sang (and danced!) along to the

music all night while settling in next to the sound booth.

 

* Last week, I hit you with news of Justin Timberlake

working to bring his love for the game of golf to the masses in the form of a “memoir-like

work.” Now, the former boy band member is taking things a step further with the

opening of his new eco-friendly golf course, Mirimichi.

 

The new green, which officially opens on July 25, is the end

result of two years of preparation. According to E! Online, Timberlake invested

roughly $16 million in the reconstruction of the former Big Creek Golf Course

after buying it late in 2007 to save it from commercial development. The

Mirimichi is designed to be the first eco-friendly golf course to be certified

by the Audubon International Classic Sanctuary Program.

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