Big Lez. The name resonates with Hip-Hop lovers reared in the 1990s on the visual crack called Black Entertainment Television. Along with Joe Clair, Leslie Big Lez Segar put a personable face on the rap videos that millions watched. Although it seemed like her ascent started with BET, Big Lez had already built a rock-solid reputation for being a first-rate choreographer and dancer. Lezs career has coursed through television, radio and even print media, but shes got a new venture that will allow her to reach another demographic.
Lez now hosts the Urban Beauty Collective, an innovative radio initiative that caters to the needs of grassroots operations like barbershops and beauty salons. Read as Leslie Big Lez Segar talks about her new ventures, but also her salacious experiences at BET, in Hip-Hop and beyond.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Can you speak on your involvement with the Urban Beauty Collective.
Big Lez: Ahh, the fabulous Urban Beauty Collective. First of all I think the idea and the concept of it is something amazing. Everybody that literally in, and no pun intended, lets their hair down when they are at the hair salon or barbershop. They are just like free to talk about things more personal then they do at home. And what a better place…especially personal business or entertainment business and who’s going with who, and I saw Ja Rule and so-and-so kissing and all that other stuff. So what better place than to really talk about it than at the hair salon? So even though the people involved that really try to promote it like myself and Monique, try to get into the positive side things. Of course we have access to the entertainment world party, because some of these people are our friends. We may talk about Mekhi Phifer’s new movie, or he might have a baby on the way with one of these famous actresses. That makes for great, great talk about the barbershop or the hair shop. And of course we are premiering new music first. The record labels have been really supportive, so we get all the really hot joints. Especially with my background in radio – it’s really great to be able to put the two together. I really want to thank everyone over at UBC for sending the invitation over to me.
AHHA: So who is doing this? I see that UBC radio is there another entity behind this?
Big Lez: It’s the ladies of DuVernay [Public Relations]. This is their concept. They reached out -especially with the clientele that they have with their press junkets and all their tie-in with all the movie studios. Everyone’s been real supportive with sharing information and giving music. But this is their concept solely. Think about how many cities were talking about some major, major markets – from Dallas to Houston to New York, California to Detroit to Chicago. These ladies have been doing it on their own and it’s been really great.
AHHA: That’s great, I’m really just familiarizing my self with it, but that’s great. So do you have to deal with a lot of gossip? You know what goes on the in barbershops and the beauty shop, a lot of gossip or issues.
Big Lez: It’s a little bit of everything. We don’t want to be too trivial about it, we still want to reach out in a respectful way, but it’s all really interpreted by the person who’s hosting. Monique will put her spin on it, I’ll put my spin it on. Jasmine Guy may do an issue and she’ll put her spin on it. It’s just that we have access to getting you the 411, especially someone like my myself who spent the past God knows how many years doing interviews and having to really be at the All-Star Game and the Super Bowl, this premiere and that premiere. I really get to see what’s going down and who’s doing what, and talk to these artist about what’s really happening. Why not share it with the public, because that’s what they want anyway.
AHHA: So there are other hosts? Who will be the other host? I heard you mention Jasmine Guy.
Big Lez: That’s just me throwing names in the hat. I know they are going to extend an invitation to their clients. So it could be anyone one from Michael Clarke Duncan to Scarlet Johansson. So it will be a surprise. So just go to UrbanBeautyCollective.com and you’ll be able to see or request some of your favorites. And you’ll be able to ask those questions and they may even be able to give you the scoop.
AHHA: So now what else are you doing? I know that you where working radio in Cali. Are you still involved in that? What’s your other situation?
Big Lez: Well I’m not locked into The Beat anymore. Once the Steve Harvey Morning Show left in about May, Steve went to New York and I stayed here. I do independent stuff for radio stations across the country where I do entertainment reports. And I work with a friend of mine, Wendy Neaton, and we do our Hollywood scoop. Whether it’s a small market like Boston, or Tennessee, or Memphis – I do approach the syndicated stations. And I also work with Sirius Satellite Radio. I’ve had a show on there for about seven and a half years called the Hot Jams Channel – it just became really difficult to keep recording with them. Unfortunately, not of my doing, when they changed their format, so I still get a lot of celebrity interviews for them by request. And I get snippets for them from people that they can’t get to call in to the studio and stuff like that.
I still choreograph and dance. Well, I don’t dance as much anymore – it really has to be a particular project that I’m just really feeling hands on. I’ve done enough videos in my lifetime to really last me. So unless it’s a really sexy treatment that made me stop, or a Madonna story, or Michael Jackson calls me again and we kind of has that “Remember The Time” reunion thing going on, those are great pieces and great moments. But I’m really trying to concentrate on a lot of theatrical stuff, and I get called all the time for commercial stuff as well.
AHHA: Now youre not going to believe this, but maybe you will. I opened up my old videotapes last night and LL’s Around The Way Girl came on and I was like, Yoooo.
Big Lez: Crazy Flashback. That’s like pulling out old baby pictures.
AHHA: So how do you feel…you know it’s like watching Jennifer Lopez on In Living Color – but how do you feel about the impact that you had on the history? Some people are fly by night.
Big Lez: It’s amazing, and you never know who’s watching and who’s paying attention. My background has been in dance and gymnastics. I went to college on a full gymnastics scholarship Division 2 All-American, but I just wanted to dance and do videos. Like back in the day when Jody Watley was hot, and Paula Abdul was hot and Vanessa Williams was dancing. That was about the time I was getting out of college, and I was really trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I didn’t know that a woman my size – I’m 5’6, 160 pounds – would have such impact on other women. There’s the stereotype when you look at videos that you have to be 90 pounds. I’ve been this way all my life, and people would be like, “Who’s this thick girl flipping and doing one arm handstands. Oh snap! And she’s brown-skinned and she looks like my cousin next door.” I do a lot of seminars cause I finished my degree in sports medicine and psychology, and a lot of women have been impacted in a major way. They’ve been very supportive and complementary. They liked that fact that I was always respectful in a music video, they didn’t know women my size could be as athletic without having to play basketball or run track.
When I look at people like Jennifer Lopez we all grew up together, we did some of the old Kool Moe Dee videos and the C&C Music Factory videos. Jennifer Lopez, myself, Darren Henson, we are all kind of the people who where in the old school videos who have moved forward and onward. It’s unfortunate in dance that you almost have to make it disappear for people in Hollywood to take you seriously. Even with Darren, before he did Soul Food, thank God he had Darren’s Dance Grooves as a secondary thing. And even in the midst of that you find out that you almost have to make it go away from a minute. Once Jennifer left In Living Color the fact that she was a dancer [disappeared], and it didn’t resurface again until after she had more acting credits. Then came a project for her where she was able to combine both, and that’s the blessing that we all want. It’s great to have caused an impact. I’ll take the positivity that has come from being featured in music videos in a respectful way.
AHHA: You said respectful way. What do you think about videos these days? I don’t want to steer you in any particular direction, but women are portrayed in a different manner in Hip-Hop and R&B.
Big Lez: Well, I’m not impressed with videos conceptually. Every video looks like the next video. There is no one around doing like any great concept videos other then rock videos. Whether it looks graphically different or conceptually different sex always has sold. Sex has always been a major factor regardless of who you are your, ethnicity, or what genre that you are in. I think women have to make a conscious choice if they want to be sexual being to an extent. It’s one thing to be in a music video with a thong and bikini top that barely fit, and it’s another thing to be in costume Vegas-style with sets, and youre not sitting on someones lap shaking it around and getting half a check. I don’t blame the directors so much 100%, there are people that make that conscious decision so be like, I’m just happy to be on camera to be in a video – let me get this check. And the checks literally aren’t that much. So most of these girls who are dancing in these videos and who are not represented by an agency are in those trailers working for those extra pennies, extra dollars, extra zeros, extra commas.