The Last Word: Teddy Riley Sells His Studio to Pay Debts, Britney Spears Almost Snatched Rihanna’s Umbrella, and Paula Abdul Returns to Music

What’s shakin’ warriors? It’s been a long slow five days. This week came with destruction as deadly tornadoes killed 54 people and injured many more as they ripped through four states, the Phoenix Suns completed their trade to bring in Shaquille O’Neal as the newest member of their team, medical examiner reports revealed Heath Ledger died from an accidental overdose of six prescription drugs, and Hilary and Barack coming out of Super Tuesday with different opinions of who won the historical turnout of voters while John McCain inched closer to become the Republican Party’s Presidential Nominee. Thoughts and prayers go out to all the families and victims of those tornadoes. Congratulations to Jennifer Lopez, whose dad confirmed she is expecting twins. Shout out to the New York Giants for derailing the New England Patriots’ quest for a perfect football season by winning the Super Bowl, and the sounding boards who stand united for the universal language of music.Here we go…the Last Word for the week ending Feb. 8, 20081. Meet the New American Heart Association Spokesperson: Toni Braxton With singers like Beyonce, Alicia Keys and Rihanna dominating female R&B, it’s easy to forget how Toni Braxton once held the spot those ladies are occupying. But the song bird, who is best known for her hits “Seven Whole Days,” “Unbreak My Heart” and “You’re Makin Me High,” is making news in a nonmusical fashion as she comes clean about her bout with heart disease four years ago. “You think it’s some older guy, retired,” said Braxton, who admitted to Newsweek that she suffered from pericarditis, an inflammation of the lining of the heart, during a visit to the emergency room after feeling the room “spinning a little bit,” during an intermission from her starring role in the Broadway play Aida. “You can be in your ‘30s, less than 115 pounds, exercise—and have heart disease.” Braxton received more bad news last year when she found out that she had high blood pressure. Needless to say, the mother of two changed her lifestyle as she started replacing her burgers with bacon with healthier food choices such as “vinegary salads,” asparagus and low-sodium chicken and jambalaya soups. To add to that, Braxton exercises on a treadmill at least 20 minutes a day and takes a beta-blocker to lower her blood pressure. In addition, she is also serving as the newest spokesperson for the American Heart Association as she labeled herself a “survivor” when discussing her situation with People magazine. 2. Teddy Riley Sells Recording Studio to Pay $1 Million Debt At least one time in your life, you wish you could go back in time to fix a mistake you made. If you’re Teddy Riley, then a time machine could come in real handy to undue his current money troubles. Lawyers for the hitmaking producer are currently trying to sell Riley’s Thalia, Va., based recording studio to help pay off a $1 million debt, according to the Virginian-Pilot. The studio, which opened as a brand-new $3 million facility in 1991, was the location of choice for Riley as he produced hits for Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Heavy D and BLACKstreet. Although the studio has seen better days, a lawyer representing other creditors, hope to sell the building as a working business rather than a piece of real estate. The studio drama is the latest in a series of legal and financial episodes involving Riley since 2002. While I’m not one to throw stones, it’s always amazing how celebs manage to avoid paying what they owe. Hopefully, Teddy can get his money right and bounce back with some new music. Until then, let’s chill. 3. Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder Welcome NAACP Love on Valentine’s Day Valentines may mean balloons, flowers and midnight love for many people, but the NAACP will show their love to Aretha Franklin in a public setting when the organization honors the soul music icon at its 39th Annual Image Awards. Franklin will receive the NAACP Vanguard Award at the event, which will air live on Feb. 14 on Fox. The Queen of Soul will join past winners Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kramer and Prince as the fourth person to receive the award, which according to the NAACP, recognizes those whose “groundbreaking work increases our understanding and awareness of social and racial issues.” In addition to Franklin, the NAACP will honor Stevie Wonder, who will be inducted into the organization’s hall of fame. The honor comes in the midst of an eventful February for Franklin. The diva will take the stage with Mary J. Blige, the Clark Sisters, Israel And New Breed, the Madison Bumblebees and Trin-I-Tee 5:7 for a gospel performance at this year’s Grammy Awards.That’s R.E.S.P.E.C.T. 4. No Ugly Makeover for Mariah Carey Transforming into a less than attractive film character may have earned Charlize Theron an Oscar, but don’t expect Mariah Carey to follow in those footsteps. The New York Daily News reports that the singer turned down the chance to suffer for her art while filming the movie Tennessee. Although she was open to cornrows, Carey opted not to don a fake nose and bushy eyebrows for her role as a Southern waitress who sets off with two brothers in search of their father. “Mariah is the nicest person to work with; everyone loves her,” said a source, who added that Carey’s character had to significantly be de-glammed for the film. “But she was uncomfortable being uglied up for the part. When she saw the nose, she called her people and decided against it,” says the source. “She was not a diva about it, but she did seem very insecure about her appearance.” A source close to the film’s producer, Lee Daniels, struck down claims that the production had suggested the songbird wear a fake nose. Still, it may not be so bad for Mariah, though. After all beauty is only skin deep, right? We can go along for the ride until the film ends. One person’s ugly Betty may be another’s beauty queen. Bottom line, Mariah, you’ll always be our baby. 5. Alicia Keys Searches for Real Life Superwoman Alicia Keys may qualify as a superwoman of sorts to her fans, but the songstress is asking fans to help her find those they consider to be super in their own right. Keys recently joined forces with the Seattle-based online and mobile community Treemo to help launch the “As I Am” contest. The contest, which supports the Keep A Child Alive (KCA) charity, highlights Keys’ song “Superwoman” by giving fans a chance to create a Treemo.com account at http://alicia.treemo.com and upload via their story about someone they know who is a “Superwoman” via mobile phone or web, a photo, video, or text.KCA is a campaign that provides lifesaving antiretroviral (ARV) medicine and support services directly to children and families with HIV/AIDS in some of the world’s poorest countries. Keys currently serves as KCA’s global ambassador. As part of the contest, Treemo will donate $1 to KCA for every user who enters the “As I Am” contest, up to $10,000. “This contest and Treemo’s support will not only increase our ability to spread the word about the realities of this pandemic, but also recruit more potential donors who can easily see they can indeed save the life of someone who needs their help,” said KCA founder and president Leigh Blake. “It’s only $1 a day to sustain a life; it’s time we all start giving a buck.” Looks like a job for…. 6. Paula Abdul Opens Up on Musical Disappearance and Reappearance It was bound to happen. Fresh off of performing her new song “Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow” at the Super Bowl pre-game show, Paula Abdul is gearing up for a full-fledged return to music. The American Idol judge is currently working on her first album since 1995’s Forever Your Girl. And while some people will rejoice over Abdul’s return, the American Idol judge admits that her absence from music came after surviving what she called a “plane crash” in 1992. “I had four plates and fourteen cervical spinal surgeries,” Abdul told the Associated Press about the emergency plane landing. “It all happened during the time that I disappeared and no one knew where I went. For five and a half years, I went through paralysis, the worst experience, and then I came back on American Idol – that was my first time back out there.” While she could’ve remained comfortable determining tomorrow’s singing sensation, Abdul revealed that it was fellow Idol judge Randy Jackson who convinced her to re-enter the scene by singing on “Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow,” the lead single from Jackson’s forthcoming album Randy Jackson’s Music Club Volume One. No word if Paul’s “Opposites Attract” pal MC Skat Kat will turn up for the “Straight Up ‘08” remake that will also feature fellow one hit rap wonder Vanilla Ice. 7. Britney Almost Nabs Rihanna’s “Umbrella” As she gets ready to hit the Grammys this weekend, Rihanna can be thankful that her Record of the Year nominated hit, “Umbrella” ended up with her. It’s been documented that the song almost went to Mary J. Blige, but few know that it was originally set up for a certain embattled pop diva. “Umbrella” producer Tricky Stewart recently admitted that the track was composed a year ago with Britney Spears in mind. Although he collaborated with Spears on her 2003 album, In The Zone, Stewart encountered a red flag from the singer’s people, who told him that they already had several tracks lined up for the new album. Looking back, the beatmaker isn’t upset at how things went down as he put the incident in perspective. “Her current state was a little bizarre, you know?” Stewart told MTV. “It wasn’t meant to be.” Makes you wonder, ha? If Britney had possession of “Umbrella,” would it have been the hit that it became? Could you picture Jay-Z collaborating on the track with her? Maybe that’s why she attacked the paparazzi with that umbrella. How else could you get prepared to collaborate with a hardcore rapper such as Jigga? Straight gangsta.

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