Bright Idea: Get to know Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, the Producer

Oscar winner Lupita Amondi Nyong’o won the hearts of people the world over when she emerged on the scene. From her very gripping and raw portrayal of the young slave Patsey in 12 Years a Slave, to her genuinely expressive way with words in her acceptance speeches throughout award season, Lupita has demonstrated such poise, grace, and intelligence, and is a bright light not only in the entertainment world, but in the world at large.

It was her breakout role in the film 12 Years a Slave that turned heads, but Lupita has been a quiet storm for some time. In 2009, she released her first documentary film, In My Genes, on the topic of albinism. Born in Mexico City, Lupita was raised in Kenya and was able to document the lives of several albinos living there. Addressing the common misconceptions people have about albinos, including the idea that they cannot be of the same black family as their siblings, maternal infidelity, and anything else that promotes exclusion, Lupita wanted to give a voice to the voiceless on the topic. In an interview (below) from the 2009 African Film Festival, she points out that she did not want to “Lord over” the documentary film with voice-overs but instead chose to make the stories originate from the subjects’ mouths. Never was it about treating albinism as a negative; Lupita’s documentary is about bringing awareness where there may be ignorance.

Saharatv YouTube

Interestingly, towards the end of the interview Lupita emphasizes the importance of telling stories from one’s perspective, and staying true to that. “We need to find our own voice,” she says.:

Here is the trailer for Lupita’s documentary film, “In My Genes”:

Lupita Nyong’o’s YouTube

###

Bright Idea: Notice someone today

I can’t help but think of a sweet elderly man I came across the other day. I was walking to a cafe near work to pick up my lunch, when I noticed a man at the corner of the intersection I was crossing over to. He was about 80 years old or so and mobile, yet involuntarily leaned over his walker. I got to the corner where he was waiting for our light to change. I smiled at him. As I stood next to him, and we waited for the white ‘walk’ light, I instinctually looked around to assess the positions of the cars that would be moving, simultaneously, as soon as our light, shared with the green traffic lights, told us to go.

The light changed and I immediately synced my pace with his. (I tend to do that when crossing the street with anyone who may not make it across the street in time, so that I can be the support they may need, when feeling the anxiety of getting across the street faster than physically possible for them.) So, I walked alongside him, and he turned to say to me, “Wanna race?” I smiled and quickly responded, matching his wit, “You’ll beat me!” He smiled and said, “That reminds me of The Tortoise and the Hair! Do you remember that story?” I said, “I certainly do! That’s a classic!” What he said next bothered me. It’s the reason I decided to share this story with you. As we continued to cross and were about halfway, he said to me, concentrating on his steps, “You know, I go to Trader Joe’s, and the people in the parking lot almost run me over! They don’t notice me!” It broke my heart. I said to him, again swiftly, “Well, I notice you!” He laughed, blushed, thanked me and we continued to make small talk about how good the dessert is at the cafe I was walking to. He’d had their pastries but never their sandwiches. He was going on to Starbucks, which was next door to said cafe. I offered to get the door for him and he politely said no thank you. I told him I hoped to see him again and he concurred.

We parted ways. I’ll never forget him.

Notice someone…

Bright Idea: Stand up for someone, even if you don’t know them

The topic is not a new one, but I was inspired the other day by my friend and co-host. After taping a live show, we were discussing the idea of comments and how much we enjoy interacting with viewers through the comments they make about the show. It quickly became a group discussion with our other co-hosts, and we each began to exchange personal stories about the comments we have had, in our experience, intended for us. It seems the consensus was, while we really enjoy feedback both positive and constructive criticism, none of us were immune to the virtual blows of negative comments that seem to exist simply to be, well, negative! I have had a few negative comments, but they never have truly affected me. I think the ones I was “gifted” with, because I didn’t believe them, rolled off my back and I didn’t pay them any mind. I think if I were presented with something negative, but constructive, I would take it into consideration, and advance accordingly.

I remember last year having the same discussion with another friend and fellow host. She had a harder time with negative feedback. We had some really interesting discussions about it and I encouraged her to really think about it in a different way. The world is very different now, with the (quick) technological and social media advances and what I wanted her to understand was that the very people who are sitting behind their computers, in some arbitrary locale, in who knows what part of the world, have it the easiest. How do they make the choice to intentionally post crude, insulting and otherwise berating comments about other people, who are trying to be honest and creative? That would take an entirely separate blog post to decipher. I did tell her that they are considered “safe” in their anonymity and I highly doubt that they would have the courage or ability to do what it is she does. I am not saying that it’s easy to dash these comments aside and keep it moving. I actually don’t have the answers. Everyone reacts differently. I can’t even imagine how it must feel to be a public figure or celebrity with the amount of denigrating comments they constantly receive! I understand it when I hear some of them say they don’t even read what’s out there about them! Some years ago Tyra Banks did an entire show on the topic, back when she had her talk show. She actually spoke to some of the “cyber bullies” and tried to delve into their psyche to discover the why. You may be able to find the episode online, but I do remember one part of the conclusion was that these people are everyday people who don’t feel good about themselves, and so they project that insecurity onto others.

I bring all of this up to say that, while I don’t have the answers, I was inspired by my friend, and co-host, for being part of the solution! She shared with us, in that post-show discussion, that she once was reading negative comments under a video she had watched, and proceeded to spend a significant amount of time counter-commenting. She went through each negative comment and in her responses, defended the owner of the video in question. Wow! What an optimistic reaction! I was so happy to hear that she had done that, and had to share it with you, my readers. I challenge you to do what she did and stand up for someone else, even if you don’t know them. Actually, this doesn’t have to be restricted to video or article comments. This is something that can be exercised in everyday life and everyday scenarios.

I would love to hear about your experiences so feel free to comment below! (smile)

###

London 2012 Olympics-inspired Bright Idea: Fight for a dream

The emotion behind the 2012 Summer Olympic games has been powerful, and not just among the athletes. One of the differences this year has been the increase in popularity, over the years, of social media. While newsrooms debate the idea that Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, including Linked In, are ruining the Olympics for some people, in terms of spoiler tweets, for example, our focus is on the solidarity the nations have demonstrated, virtually, in supporting their teams!

One of the names we hear about so often is that of Olympic Gold medalist, gymnast Gabrielle “Gabby” Douglas. She has won the hearts of her fellow Americans, as well as spectators worldwide. We’ve seen her dynamic personality, matchless work ethic and endless perseverance. Where does she get her strength, passion, and tenacity? Procter & Gamble, sponsor to mothers of Olympians, created this video, which gives us an idea.

 

(Source: Procter & Gamble YouTube Channel)

###

 

Bright Idea: Battle stereotypes with hope

Take a moment to sit still and think about your immediate thoughts when you read the following word:

African

What images comes to mind? There is an organization, founded by Nyla Rodgers, which poses this question. So many times we have the same images of Africa and its people drilled into our psyche; a land of impoverished, violent, sick, helpless people. And while we are well aware of the problems that exist in the continent, the same awareness should be as, if not more, popular for the vibrant, intellectual, driven, optimistic people who also populate the countries!

Mama Hope is on a mission and their mission is to continue to work “in close partnership with local African organizations to connect them with the resources required to transform their own communities. All [their] projects are managed for and by partner communities themselves to ensure sustainability. So far, [they] have achieved [their] mission by funding the completion of schools, health clinics, children’s centers, clean water systems and food security projects.”

(Source: Mama Hope YouTube Channel)

One of their projects that caught my eye, was “Stop the Pity”. On a whole, the movement is Mama Hope’s effort to “re-humanize Africa and look to the positive change that is happening. Through a series of videos Mama Hope wants to show the light of the people we serve in Africa.” What they refer to is “unlocking the potential”. One of the their videos has been quite viral and highlights the stereotypes of African men in Hollywood films.

(Source: Mama Hope YouTube Channel)

What a brilliant way to illustrate their positive message – by contrasting the stereotypes with the realities. If you believe in their cause and would like to know more about it, you can visit their website.

###

 

Bright Idea: Positive bribes

Want Larry David to finally join twitter? Have you ever envisioned Conan O’Brien interviewing a guest with a black eye patch and turtleneck on while holding a pipe? Well, if you like these ideas, or can come up with your own clever scenarios, without being offensive, maybe you should participate in the new platform called Charity Bribes!

charitybribes.org

Created by William Spencer and Chris Baker, the intention is to find creative ways to get celebrities to allow for varying amounts of money to be donated to different charities. According to their website, “Charity Bribes is a platform that allows anyone to create a bribe for a celebrity to do something awesome. Anyone can pledge money to that bribe and, if the celebrity takes the bribe and accomplishes the challenge within 30 days, the money goes to the charity indicated.” It’s such a fun idea and in order to deter any acts of malintent, there are some easy rules to follow so that nobody gets carried away, in the wrong way.

So get your thinking caps on because now’s the time you can think outside of the box, get creative, and help a cause out at the same time!

###

Bright Idea: See a Sundance film that challenges the media’s limiting portrayal of women and girls

I had the opportunity to see a screening of the Special Selection 2011 Sundance documentary film,“Miss Representation”. The film, directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, revisits the idea that the intelligence of women and girls is trumped by the value media places on their bodies. While the film features the perspectives of public figures from Newark New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker to former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, Activist Gloria Steinem to Journalist Lisa Ling and many in between, we also hear the voices of everyday girls represented.  The message? While there are some very strong leaders in the young women and girl population, there still are plenty of impressionable girls who question their worth, daily, because of the images of women they are inundated with on a regular basis. We heard from the mouths of high school girls that they are worried about their weight, dependent upon what other people, especially boys, think of them, and think about how they are going to fit in as they grow into their roles in society. These are bright, intelligent girls! The messages they are receiving? There is no real demand for that. In reality, we know that this simply is not true. There is demand. That message is not getting through.

Among its various avenues of investigation, the film “explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.”

(Source: Miss Representation YouTube page)

While the film has been presented at Sundance and has aired on OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), they are holding screenings for the film across the country, and potentially, the world. If you visit their website, you can also apply to hold your own screening.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion with Film and TV Producer Bonnie Bruckheimer, Executive VP and General Manager of the Sundance Channel Sarah Barnett,  Executive Director of the Public Leadership Education Network Pamela O’Leary, Blogger and Creator of the Curvy Fashionista Marie Denee, Authoer of Girl Studies Eline Lipkin and moderated by Human Rights Activist Bonnie Abaunza.

While the film will appeal to women, girls and parents of both, I thinkeveryone should see this film and continue the dialogue. Who’s going to answer the teary high school student, Maria, and her question, “When is it going to be enough?”

###

Bright Idea: Take a moment to explore something you’ve always wanted to

As I decompress from a busy and productive week in New York City, I smile to myself, grateful for the opportunity to explore. While here on business, I was able to enjoy a change of pace, change of scenery, and a change in perspective. In meeting with various clients in the publishing, broadcasting and merchandising worlds, I was able to see the industry I am in through their eyes. Not only was it eye-opening and refreshing, but it was inspiring. Because of it, I have added to my goals and to my direction.

What are some of the things you are doing to broaden your horizons? What have you always wanted to do, but have put it on the back-burner because of time constraints, laziness, or simply because you are fearful that you will actually succeed?

###

Bright Idea: Like Beyoncé, offer someone deserving an opportunity when they least expect it

Before powerhouse Beyoncé was given the gift of Baby Blue Ivy when she delivered this past January 7th, she was the gift-giver. When putting together her music video for her hit song, another women’s anthem, “Run The World (Girls)”, she had a vision that included the authentic influences of African dance. When her team’s choreography didn’t match up to the vision she had – a more raw, unpolished version of the music’s physical interpretation – she turned to an online video she had tucked away in her memory for future reference.

The video was of Mozambican kwaito dance group Tofo Tofo.

(Source: YouTube)

Without further ado, the search for Tofo Tofo was on! Once the unsuspecting group was found, four months later, they were flown to the US and they were ready to work! If you watch the clip, from Beyoncé’s “Year of 4″ documentary, you will see that they really weren’t working though. To them, it was simply the sharing of what came naturally to them, the movement, the message, the joy and optimism in their souls. You could see it in their eyes, their smiles and their hearts.

(Source: BeyonceVEVO on YouTube)

The most telling part of the story, proving just how profound the human connection can be, when status, stardom, and celebrity are stripped down, and music is the only common denominator, was when one of the members of the dance group asked Beyoncé her name, as though they genuinely had never heard of her prior to that moment. Coming from two different worlds and backgrounds, the bond that was built throughout the creative process was strong enough to yield a deeply emotional goodbye between them, when it was time to call “It’s a wrap!”

Offering someone deserving an opportunity to express themselves and what they are passionate about, with a platform they otherwise may never have experienced? Priceless…

The finished product…

(Source: BeyonceVEVO on YouTube)

###

Bright Idea: Spreading awareness through Facebook

Whose bright idea was it to make it fun to give back? Cause Layouts, of course! With the undying popularity of social media in general, and Facebook specifically, why not use that high traffic to bring attention to charitable causes?

According to their website, Cause Layouts “collaborates with non-profits to create custom Facebook layouts, allowing supporters to personalize their Facebook profiles and show support for their favorite cause.[...] Cause Layouts allows non-profits to proactively reach their supporters every time they log on to Facebook and share the latest events, fundraisers, news and other activities.”

causelayouts.com

Getting a layout and supporting your favorite cause(s) are quite simple. All you have to do is find the cause you are interested in supporting, download the layout and voilà, you have just donated $1 to the cause! Cause Layouts will donate $1 for every download of a layout.

While there is a wide variety of charities and causes to choose a layout from, there are also monthly causes that are featured on their front page. This month’s causes include NOH8, Pencils of Promise, Future Leaders of Our Community (FLOC), Invisible Children and Pet Finder. You also can suggest a cause, if you cannot find it on the site.

###