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Written By: Michael “Hey Mikey” Fanning

Hollywood is here FOREVER! The stages and the names change, but one thing for sure is that Tinsel Town will always be looking for talented and fresh faces. When that face also happens to be tall, dark, and handsome, the look is all the more exciting and tantalizing. Meet Toby Onwumere, a rising star that just so happens to meet the criteria of “tall, dark, and handsome,” and most of all talented!

toby onwumere kai empire

Toby is taking hearts and Fox’s Empire by storm as “Kai,” Jamal Lyon’s (Jussie Smollett) love interest and now fiancé! As Kai, Toby is doing groundbreaking work, as he showcases the life and love of a Black, gay, and HIV positive man against the backdrop of family drama, corporate sabotage, and ignorance. “I feel honored to play him [Kai] and bring his story to the forefront…It’s time to really inform people and push forward with representation and inclusivity, all while delivering a really unforgettable story.”

Toby is a first generation Nigerian-American, hailing from Dayton, Ohio and has always dreamt of being an actor. He counts his parents, Fidelis and Prisca, as being the driving force behind his pursuit of the arts as they allowed and encouraged him to do what he loves. “My parents were traditional, but not in the sense of what they expected me to be…usually when you’re Nigerian you the career paths your parents want for you are pretty narrow, you have to be like a doctor or lawyer, for them to do that is really amazing.” Toby admits he is stoked to be on Empire, revealing he has been a fan of the show since its inception. “Man I love it [Empire] I would be in class and thinking to myself I’m gonna be on that show one day, and here we are [he laughs].”

jussie smollett and toby onwumere empire kai jamal

Empire continues to be a ratings giant with no sign of slowing down in its fifth season. However, in an interesting plot twist the series has flashed forwarded two years into the future and we find that The Lyons are mostly in shambles. Lucious and Cookie continue to fight to win Empire back, Andre is incarcerated for Anika’s death, and Hakeem is unable to perform after a grave injury. Jamal, however, has flourished in his self-imposed exile to London, finding new label and love with Kai. Their relationship stands to be the strongest one we have seen for Jamal as Kai is empathetic, intelligent, and compassionate. Toby admits he and Kai are very similar in those aspects, but fundamentally different in others. “Well for one I’m straight [he laughs] and then I’m way too silly! Kai is more straight-laced and serious. I like to laugh and joke and be goofy.” Kai’s storyline is definitely a serious one as no shows have really shown a relationship like he and Jamal’s. Although the Kai’s HIV status has been a topic on the show, the larger phenomenon of him being with a partner who is negative and on PREP (via whatisprep.org, PrEP means Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, and it’s the use of anti-HIV medications to keep HIV negative people from becoming infected. PrEP is approved by the FDA and has been shown to be safe and effective at preventing HIV infection.”) “The storyline was meant to be more informative than anything else. People still have these notions about HIV/AIDS from the eighties and so many advancements have been made since then…the love between the two of them [Jamal and Kai] shows that everyone deserves love and can be loved. Kai just so happens to be HIV positive, but he really loves Jamal and he’s a great person. That’s what counts here love…The scene when they proposed to each other was really just magical and powerful.  It’s why I’m honored to play this character…this is really encouraging dialogue and I think people just need to be more open minded and educated.”

toby onwumere kai empire

Toby continues to look forward to the rest of this season of Empire and hints he has some pretty amazing projects in the works that he is not ready to share. However, he did reveal his holiday season will be international as he travels to Europe to bring in Christmas and the New Year. If 2019 is any bigger than 2018 was for him then we know he is about to be a household name! He advises aspiring actors to “Really study the craft. Take the classes and remain diligent. If this is what you want stick with it and never give up!” Catch Toby every Wednesday night at 8 PM EST on Fox’s Empire!

Celebrity Interviews

[REVIEW/INTERVIEW] Meet Kasi Lemmons (@kasi_lemmons)! The Genius & Director of “Harriet!”

Harriet Tubman is one of the most iconic women in history, and definitely was a living Statue of Liberty in her time freeing dozens of slaves. Flash forward to present day and you cannot speak on annals of American History, especially Black History, without her name coming to forefront. Thus, it is no surprise an epic biopic, Harriet, is soon to be in theaters everywhere all thanks to the hard work and vision of one woman and director, Kasi Lemmons!

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kasi lemmons harriet movie

Harriet Tubman is one of the most iconic women in history, and definitely was a living Statue of Liberty in her time freeing dozens of slaves. Flash forward to present day and you cannot speak on annals of American History, especially Black History, without her name coming to forefront. Thus, it is no surprise an epic biopic, Harriet, is soon to be in theaters everywhere all thanks to the hard work and vision of one woman and director, Kasi Lemmons!

harriet movie poster

Harriet is Kasi’s latest project and may very well be her greatest one to date. The film is beautifully filmed as it retells Harriet’s story firsthand with the acting skills of Cynthia Erivo. Harriet is born enslaved on a plantation in Maryland in 1822, where she alongside her mother, brothers, and only sister plead for their freedom from their master due to a clause left his father’s will. Their master refuses and is “cursed” by Harriet, coincidentally dying in his sleep that night. Her new, younger master blames her for his father’s death and inheriting the debt he left behind. He coldly decides to sell Harriet and her brothers to traders headed to the Deep South, a place where freedom or escaping is virtually impossible. Harriet, determined to be free, and have her own future children born free flees! Using nature and navigating her way to Philadelphia via The North Star she makes a new life for herself. However, Harriet is even more determined to liberate her family prompting a daring rescue attempt that transforms her from a simple runaway slave fueled by superstition to the legend we know and idolize. “Harriet was just that amazing of a woman, of a person! Here is this small-framed woman barely above five feet tall going to war with slave traders and owners to liberate others. She was remarkable and a true American legend.”

Kasi opted to direct Harriet but admitted the was intimidated by the project initially. “When you’re telling the story of the life of someone like her [Harriet] you really want to get it right and give the story your all–the justice it deserved. There’s a lot of research involved, narratives, understanding her spirituality, and knowing you need to accurately show people the real might and power of this person.” Part of accurately portraying Tubman was definitely in the casting as Cynthia Erivo was controversially cast in the titular role. “To me it just made sense. She has her [Harriet’s] build and Cynthia is just a powerful actress.  She’s also very athletic, as you can see in ‘Widows.’ This particular role required a lot of running, jumping, climbing, and even wading through rivers in some pretty restrictive clothing due to the time period the film is set in…If you’ve seen her in ‘The Color Purple,’ you know she can give you an array of emotions and really move an audience. So casting her was pretty simple to me…”

kasi lemmons

Cynthia did an exceptional job resurrecting Harriet Tubman, just as the film did an even more amazing job of showing the skills and techniques–both learned and divine–to stay safe and alive while liberating others. The scenes where Harriet has her “dizzy spells” (periods of hypersomnia when she would lose consciousness, a side effect of having suffered a traumatic injury when an angry slave owner threw and accidentally hit her with a heavy metal weight intended for another slave), are shown as times when she was directly communicating with God through dreams, many of which seemed to be precognitive and clairvoyant. In grade school many children are just taught she would periodically pass out. “There’s a ton of scholarly work explaining what happened with her during these spells. She was a very spiritually inclined woman and whatever was going on during those times worked in her favor as it gave her an almost sixth sense with the information she acquired from them.” Besides her spells, Harriet knew to use the rivers, stars, forests, and a shotgun as weapons in her crusade. “Nature was very much on her side and she grew to know the areas like the back of her hand, and became a great shooter. She could literally do it all. I want to say she’s our first superhero.”

kasi lemmons

Kasi Lemmons, Director of “Harriet” 2019.
CREDIT: CAITLIN CRONENBERG FOR VARIETY

Harriet will be the film to see of 2019 and is already crawling with Oscar buzz. We compel all of you to see the narrative of a true American hero and freedom fighter. Trust us, Storm of X-Men has got nothing on her! You can catch Harriet in theaters everywhere this Friday!

Special thanks to Kontrol Magazine!

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Celebrity Interviews

Fine & Fit! Quinten Barnard (@QuintenBarnard1) Talks Wellness, Acting, & Kim Kardashian!

2019 is here in full effect! That means new goals, resolutions, and of course new interviews at Kontrol Magazine! One of the most popular resolutions of any new year is a commitment to get fit and eat healthier. Many fall off, but one former NFL player turned actor and model is determined not to let you down! Meet Quinten Barnard, the hottie with a body and vibes so positive you cannot help but be drawn to him. Yes, he’s magnetic! Quinten is ready to take 2019 by storm with new acting projects, promoting his Travel Fitness company, and talk to us about his photoshoot with Kim Kardashian that went viral!

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quinten barnard

Written By: Michael “Hey Mikey” Fanning

2019 is here in full effect! That means new goals, resolutions, and of course new interviews at Kontrol Magazine! One of the most popular resolutions of any new year is a commitment to get fit and eat healthier. Many fall off, but one athlete turned actor and model is determined not to let you down! Meet Quinten Barnard, the hottie with a body and vibes so positive you cannot help but be drawn to him. Yes, he’s magnetic! Quinten is ready to take 2019 by storm with new acting projects, promoting his Travel Fitness company, and talk to us about his photoshoot with Kim Kardashian that went viral!

quinten barnard

As a Miami native, Quinten Barnard was surrounded by the sun, beach, and beautiful bodies. That surprisingly, it is not what motivated him to become a fitness trainer and stay fit. “I’ve always been into wellness and taking care of myself. That’s like breathing to me. When you look around and see how obesity and poor health are affecting our [Black/African-American] community and a lot of the developed world you realize it’s now an epidemic…I’m not talking about just physical ailments like diabetes, heart disease, or hypertension. I am also talking about depression and low self-esteem…” Unlike many fitness gurus, Quinten knows that there is no easy fix to these ailments. As Iyanla Vanzant would say, “…you have to do you work.” In Mr. Barnard’s belief it all begins and ends with your diet, thus he has opted to become a vegetarian and even provides vegetarian-based meal plans to his clients. “Vegetables are completely better for you, and if we are talking finances they are cheaper than meat as well. People tend to think you cannot make a meal–or tasty meal of vegetables alone–but there are so many delicious ways to prepare your food, season it, and still be healthy…your diet is just so important. You can work out seven days a week, but if you’re still eating junk food then it completely defeats the purpose.”

quinten barnard

Quinten continues to push his fitness goals for the world on two fronts. The first being with Travel Fitness, where he not only travels to different countries and locales, showing exercises that can be done, but works remotely with clients from all over the world. “Technology is a beautiful thing and I’m really grateful I get to impact the lives of people far and wide. I post a number of videos on YouTube, but I work with people as far away as Africa to get them in the shape they need to be in…they come to me for their health of course, but some come just because they want to improve their confidence through their appearance…” The second front tackles childhood obesity and fitness by starting a non-profit organization this year, “All Kids Fit,” which will start in the United States and then move to Uganda. “When you learn and practice these things [healthy eating and living] at a young age it only positively affects your life chances. Like I said I want to spread my message to the world!”

Besides fitness, Quinten is also an actor and noted model. This year he will actually honoring Stevie Wonder by playing him through a series of pictures. He describes the esteemed artist as being one of the most influential people in his life. “His album, ‘Songs In The Key Of Life’ is the greatest album of the Twentieth Century, and for any generation. Everything he talked about on their–politics, race, love–if you just listen to it, it’ll take you to the next level…” Mr. Barnard will also be starring in an indie film, the details of which he cannot yet reveal. Quinten is definitely a force to be reckoned with, but he gained more notoriety following a sultry photo shoot with the Reality Queen, Kim Kardashian!

Shot by celebrity photographer, David LaChapelle, the shoot shows him rocking an afro and hearty seventies style sideburns, while posing nude next to her. Kim was in gold bathing suit. In the second picture, Quinten is behind her mostly covered but still nude with a dove perched on his finger. “Working with Kim [Kardashian] was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done in my life. Her energy is just so positive and professional, and I loved the message of the shoot, that we are all the same. It was never meant to be a racial things, but we live in a time where that is always a factor…” The photos not only went viral, but were controversial on two parts. The first being that many felt her waist was photoshopped to an unrealistically small size and the other being that she did not credit [@] Quinten as the other model on her Instagram page. “All of that photoshop stuff I really didn’t care about. I feel like it was just negativity and people were missing out on the bigger message and intention of the shoot…I didn’t have to be credited on her page. She’s allowed to do what she wants on her social media, I’m just glad I got to be apart of that experience, and work with her and David [LaChapelle]…”

quinten barnard

Quinten is one of those people who really has a heart of gold and is beautiful inside and out. Surprisingly, his heart belongs to no one as he is career focused and is spending his energy on self-evolution. “I am conversing with a few young ladies, but it is nothing serious and each of them knows that. I’m married to my work and becoming a better me at this time in my life.” He advises people to “above all else know your worth and that you have the power to change whatever you don’t like or need to improve on in your life. It all ends and begins with you!”

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Being “Simone!” STAR’s Brittany O’ Grady (@brittanyogrady) Talks Being Biracial & An LGBT Ally!

With season three of STAR underway, Brittany O’ Grady, who plays the role of Simone Davis, is showcasing all of her talents while unpeeling the many layers of her character. In the last two seasons, fans have witness Grady effortlessly portray the very fragile, complex Simone but Grady says that tapping into her role is no easy feat.

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brittany o' grady star on fox

Written by: Kyree Shockley (@chroniclesofky)

With season three of STAR underway, Brittany O’ Grady, who plays the role of Simone Davis, is showcasing all of her talents while unpeeling the many layers of her character. In the last two seasons, fans have witness Grady effortlessly portray the very fragile, complex Simone but Grady says that tapping into her role is no easy feat.

“She’s evolve so much,” said Grady. “She was supposed to be borderline crazy –very different from who I am but it’s human for us to all change and evolve. Playing her [Simone] is a fun challenge I enjoy.”

Though there are major differences between Simone and Grady’s upbringing, Grady takes the similarities between them and uses it to convey authenticity on the show.

“Despite her negative past, Simone is very sensitive,” Grady said. “People underestimate her but she’s a lot stronger than what people think and I share that in common with her.”

One of the more significant similarities between Grady and Simone is that they’re both biracial. In the early stages of her career, Grady accepted roles playing Latino women but Star is the first opportunity Grady’s had to play herself. With the show success thus far, Grady is looking forward to taking some of her own personal experiences and exploring the possibilities of diving deeper into her character’s racial makeup.

brittany o' grady star on fox

“It’s hard to identify when other people don’t see you as you are,” said Grady. “I grew up in a diverse area but I was picked on. People told me I didn’t’ count as black and was called different racial names throughout my life. Then when I went to college, which is a private, predominately white, Christian university, it felt like I was in Get Out. I was tossed around by people’s perceptions and Simone has been through that as well.”

Even though Simone has experienced many ups and downs throughout the seasons, (the passing of her mother, sexual abuse, placed in foster care, and now a pending divorce), Grady finds Simone’s sassy one-liners to be one of her favorite things about her role.

“Simone is always bringing an edge,” Grady said. “She’s comedic, she’s fun and I like to crack up with the things that she says. It’s fun to have that side of myself show through her.”

Despite the recent turn of events, Grady says fans should expect Simone to move forward and make “a lot of personal wins” this season.

“She’s no longer stuck in her past,” said Grady. “I’m really excited about her tackling things that have more to do with her and not what others have done to her.”

In the spirit of moving forward Grady talked about where she would like to see her character go in the future and how she would like for Simone to grow in the seasons to come. And the two big things Grady would like to tackle are race and sexuality.

“I want to talk more about Simone’s race, how she feels about it and her sexuality because she’s fallen in love with men and women,” said Grady. “ I want to see their [FOX’s] explanation especially to an audience who may not understand it.

With her character possibly being bisexual and having friends a part of the LGBTQ community, Grady wants to bring awareness to the discrimination and issues many bisexual people face. She would like for Simone to express her sexuality without the stereotypical “flip flop/ confused” narrative but in a way that honors those that are affected.

“It’s one of my biggest purposes in life,” Grady said. “As an ally, I want to portray the bisexual experience the best way I can. One of my friends that I’ve had since I was 12, came out to me as trans during the pilot and she told me the first time she saw someone stick up for trans people on TV, it was me and that’s something that I will keep with me for the rest of my life.”

star on fox

At 22, Grady has seen much success and continues to be an inspiration to young actresses, especially those who are biracial and looking to her as role model. Grady’s piece of advice to those aspiring to be where she is: “let what inspires you, inspire you.”

“You don’t have to be put in a box,” said Grady. “The emotions and stories that you tell are way more important than what people want to perceive you as. Your race is who you are and it’s a part of you but it shouldnt let other people define your work or your ability to tell a story.”

In case you wanted to know what other projects Grady has in the works, be on the look out for her movie, Above Suspicion –at true story about an FBI agent who’s assigned to a small town in Kentucky, where he becomes involved with a local woman, leading to scandal. In the meantime, be sure to watch Grady on FOX’s hit show, STAR every Wednesday at 9/8c.

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