Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Latina actor-producer takes on Lara Croft on SyFy


"At Current TV, producing and being the talent went hand in hand. When I went on to produce for the SyFy channel it was a big challenge for me, being someone who was relatively new to the scene."

HOLLYWOOD, CA – Jael De Pardo is known for her work as a researcher on the hit series Destination Truth on SYFY channel. Jael went on to conduct a series of investigations about myths and legends on the show in places like King Tut’s tomb and the radiation fields of Chernobyl.
SYFY was very enthused by Jael’s work and offered her roles in two subsequent shows Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files and Haunted Highway in which she currently performs alongside Jack Osbourne. Haunted Highway just completed production on its second season and is set to air this fall. Jael’s adventurous spirit and wide range of travel, have donned her the title of “real life Lara Croft” by her fans. Whether it means repelling down mine shafts in Chile or SCUBA diving with sharks in the Bermuda Triangle.
Raised in NYC, Jael arrived in the City at the age of two from her native Colombia. Shortly after, her parents submitted a picture of Jael to the Ford Modeling Agency. Jael was accepted to the agency and began modeling in ad campaigns and editorials at the age of four. Jael later attended the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC where she majored in exhibit design and multi-media studies. An avid artist, designer and fashionista, in her spare time Jael worked assisting world-renowned fashion designer Patricia Field at her downtown store. When Jael decided to move to Los Angeles after college to pursue a career in acting, Patricia Field wrote her letter of recommendation to get into acting school.
Jael has studied acting with some of the top coaches in the country including Susan Batson, Lesly Kahn and Janet Ashanti’s masters’ class. She soon became popular in the commercial world, appearing in television and print campaigns for companies such as Levis, Apple, Verizon, Sony, and Nissan. Jael eventually became the face of numerous brand integrations for companies such as Dodge and American Airlines.
In 2006, Jael was approached about an audition for a TV hosting job. That audition turned into a three-year contract with Al Gore’s newly launched, youth lifestyle television network, Current TV. Jael’s diverse skill set – acting, writing, hosting –accelerated her rise to become one of the lead voices and faces of Current TV.
           She later went on to produce at the network, creating segments in Colombia, Panama and Mexico including a half hour special for the Vanguard journalism unit in the Darien Gap, a dangerous patch of unincorporated jungle that separates central and South America. Jael also returned to her hometown of NYC to produce a segment about her former employer Patricia Field after Patricia styled the HBO series Sex & the City. She also produced a segment on world-renowned photographer/director David LaChapelle at the NYC Tony Shafrazi Gallery.
Jael has also appeared in independent films, on E! Entertainment, Travel Channel, AT&T’s Buzz Channel and SiTV, America’s leading cable network for Latinos. Her work has won her awards and accolades such as a Silver Telly and Bronze Remi.
          In her down time Jael continues to study acting. She also enjoys writing, and is an adventurer whose extensive travel has taken her to far-flung corners of the earth. Jael is fluent in Spanish and Italian, and resides between New York and Los Angeles.
          Herald de Paris had an opportunity to speak with Jael thanks to an introduction by former Playboy-bunny-turned-actress, Maria Luna Richwine.

AC: You started very young in the ‘business.’ How did that come about?
JD: My family moved to NY when I was two years old from Colombia and I was enrolled in dance school. After a show one day my step-dad took some photographs of me while I was all done up. He and my mom decided to submit them to the Ford Modeling Agency. Shortly after, the agency signed me and I started auditioning at seven years old.

AC: What was your first job? What do you remember from the experience?
JD: The first job I did was a JCPenney print ad when I was seven. I remember walking into a room with three other kids who were also going to be in the ad and putting on an outfit that fit really tight over my head. It made my hair messy, but nobody seemed to mind because that is how they shot me, with messy hair. After that, a talent manager took interest in me and I started auditioning a lot more and getting lots of call-backs.

AC: At what moment did you decide that you wanted to be a performer?
JD: I don’t think I’ve had an exact moment when I thought I wanted to be in the “public eye.” It’s more about loving the work, not being in the public eye. I was around the arts a lot as a kid, my parents took me to lots of Broadway shows, the ballet and off-Broadway shows. Also, having been in front of the camera and on stage a lot as a kid, it felt natural to me. I loved being on stage and I still love that feeling.

AC: Didn’t you start out as a model?
JD: Modeling wasn’t something I talked about a lot to the kids at school, so I had a pretty typical experience. But even throughout my teenage “rebel years” I stuck to my love for the arts, even though it was a little different at the time. I began to explore other mediums like painting and sculpting.

AC: Tell us about art school? You majored in multi-media?
JD: Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC is one of the top art schools in the country, and I thought Multi-Media studies would give me a chance to experiment with different forms of art and find my niche. I had made some sketches and small sculptures that I brought to the university for an interview and got accepted so decided to go. I never formally thought of becoming a fashion designer, but have always had distinct ideas about image and aesthetic. I’ve always liked to be creative with my clothes; I experimented with that a lot during school and ended up working for fashion designer Patricia Field while studying. Her style is incredibly experimental! (Which you know if you watched Sex in the City) These days I’m in love Alexander McQueen and I also love looking at the Dolce & Gabbana ads in magazines. They’re beautiful–especially the Italian ones.

AC: Have you ever considered doing fashion design work?
JD: I’ve had some distinct ideas for designs, especially after having spent so much time around the fashion world in NY. Starting a fashion line has crossed my mind; I just need to find the right moment to do it.

AC: What prompted you to make the move to LA?
JD: I’ve always thought that in order to know what you want in life, you need to try new and different things; push your boundaries. I loved NY but was looking for a change of scenery. After having done the courses at FIT, I still felt a call to acting and on-camera work, and at the time had befriended one of the actors from the soap All My Children. He recommended a great acting coach in LA; I went there for the first time to interview for her class. I got accepted and decided to move. Right before I moved, my step-dad gave me an envelope with $5000 to help me with my big transition. My parents were very supportive of my decision. That was the last gift my step-dad ever physically gave me; he passed away a few months later.

AC: Did acting classes help you hone your skills?
JD: I think that some people are born with a natural instinct for something. When I was young, I used to ham it up for the camera and loved to perform for my family and on stage. Acting classes are useful for tapping into your natural abilities and accessing them even more. All arts take fine-tuning and practice. The trick is to learn those fine-tuning techniques while still keeping your natural instinct.

AC: What was it like when you got to LA? Did being a Latina help you get bookings?
JD: The first years in LA I did a lot of print and commercial work. I didn’t have a car right away so I used to take the bus to the auditions. After booking several jobs I saved enough money to buy my first car. My first commercial was an ad for Levi’s that was directed by Chris Cunningham. Did being Latina help? Sure. I think that sometimes being a minority in a casting room filled with blondes can be a plus. Being bilingual also has given me an edge; I’ve used my Spanish on camera a lot while filming shows internationally.

AC: How much of booking a job is talent and how much is plain luck?
JD: I think talent goes a long way in the entertainment industry, but it doesn’t matter much unless the right people are watching. There is certainly an element of luck. It’s a combination of luck, skill, and hard work. I had a meeting with a talent exec the other day who also talked about serendipity, meaning when things line up for you. He called it a “symphony.” I think my career has definitely had some symphonic moments.

AC: Tell us about working with current TV? You worked with Al Gore?
JD: Current TV was like going to grad school for television. Because it was a start-up network I was given license to try a lot of different things. I got over 1000 hours on camera there and also began producing. I believe it’s important to learn about all aspects of what’s happening on set because it can only be an asset to the performer and makes other peoples jobs easier. I also discovered my drive for philanthropy while at Current. Working with Al Gore raised my awareness of environmental issues and I decided to produce several short-form documentaries about them. I also had some fun with producing projects about the arts and fashion but I suppose, given my childhood, that was a natural thing.

AC: How does fame affect a person?
JD: Fame raises your awareness that people are watching. I think you have more of a responsibility to be aware of what you are portraying to the public. When people first began to recognize me on the street, it felt strange! It’s a bit like the uncomfortable feeling you get while being complimented; it takes a bit of getting used to. I love connecting with my fans now though; it’s nice hearing how my work has inspired them.

AC: How did you begin producing?
JD: At Current TV, producing and being the talent went hand in hand. When I went on to produce for the SyFy channel it was a big challenge for me, being someone who was relatively new to the scene. We were on the road and traveled to nine different countries within a three month period – and I was producing and co-starring the entire third season of Destination Truth! Arriving in a different country, encountering a different language every week, being responsible for a large portion of the show, and performing on camera each episode was not easy! But I wouldn’t take it back for anything.

AC: Tell us about “Destination Truth?”
JD: While filming Destination Truth we went to the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, hiked the Great Wall of China, visited Buddhist monks in the Himalayas, saw the Nasca Lines in Peru and even visited local tribes at their homes in Africa. It was an amazing experience! When you’re on the road for work and the production company is hiring locals to help with things, you get to know more about the culture because you hang out with the people living there. To this day, shooting driving scenes over the sand dunes in Egypt while overlooking the pyramids is one of the best days I’ve ever had.

AC: Your work on “Fact or Faked?”
JD: My favorite part about shooting Fact or Faked was the office scenes. The dialogue was often a debate of scientific mysteries and I loved it! I learned so much; I’m a sucker for intellectual debate and conversation.

AC: How was it working with Jack Osbourne on “Haunted Highway?”
JD: Jack is super fun to work with and super laid-back. He keeps a cool head and is always very positive. I think that’s something noteworthy to see in people, even when they’re going through personal challenges. I’ve never seen him bring those challenges to work, and I can appreciate that in people because I try to do the same. We’ve had a blast working together and have become friends because of it.

AC: Why do some of the fans call you the “Real Laura Croft?”
JD: A lot of the scenes I’ve done for these SyFy shows require me to get rugged, adventurous, and dirty. I’ve found myself doing things like scuba diving the Bermuda Triangle with sharks, shooting AR15 rifles, crawling through caves, visiting ancient ruins, trekking the Amazon Jungle in the pitch black of night and walking ever so carefully through Chernobyl in a radiation suit.

AC: Any time for romance? What is your life philosophy?
JD: I’m not romantically involved at the moment, but I’m open to the possibility. I take it one day at a time but I believe that doing something each day to get you closer to your goal is a key discipline to getting anywhere in this world.

AC: How do you feel about social media?
JD: Twitter is great to keep close to the fans. It’s so fun to see what interests them and what they like to talk about. Social media is an amazing thing. @Jaeldepardo

AC: What is the dream now?
JD: I keep myself open to all possibilities and opportunities—the dream now is to keep growing as an entertainer. I’ve been so fortunate to keep working consistently but I’m looking now to expand my repertoire to scripted work and use the acting skills I’ve worked so hard to attain!

Twitter @jaeldepardo
Site jaeldepardo.com

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Producing the musical greats, Narada Michael Walden is a household name

Narada Michael Walden is a musical legend who has produced the likes of Aretha Franklin, Carlos Santana, George Michael, Mariah Carey and the late great Whitney Houston.
By Al Carlos Hernandez, Herald de Paris

Narada Michael Walden
     HOLLYWOOD – Music writer and producer Narada Michael Walden has produced many household names including: Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Regina Belle, Steve Winwood, Ray Charles, Wynonna Judd, Whitney Houston, George Michael, Mariah Carey, Barbara Streisand, Lionel Ritchie, Elton John, Sting, Carlos Santana, Shanice Wilson, Tevin Campbell, Lisa Fischer, Stevie Wonder, Tom Jones, Jeff Beck and The Temptations. He was awarded Grammys for Producer of the Year in 1988, Album of the Year for the movie soundtrack The Bodyguard in 1993 and the R&B Song of the Year in 1985 for Aretha Franklin’s Freeway of Love. Billboard Magazine also named him one of the “Top Ten Producers with the Most Number One Hits.”
      As impressive a production and songwriting resume as Narada Michael Walden has assembled over the past thirty years, he has earned equal acclaim as a recording and performing artist in his own right. Beginning as a drummer with the pioneering Mahavishnu Orchestra (replacing Billy Cobham at 19 years old), Narada also toured with Jeff Beck, Tommy Bolin, and Weather Report. With eleven acclaimed solo albums of his own which produced dance hits such as I Shoulda Loved Ya, Divine Emotions, I Don’t Want Nobody Else to Dance With You along the way, he has achieved greatness in a wide range of sonic arenas. Walden’s music includes groundbreaking soundtrack work on such blockbuster films as The Bodyguard, Free Willy, Beverly Hills Cops II, 9 ½ Weeks and Stuart Little to the EMMY-winning One Moment In Time - the theme to the 1988 Olympic Games.
The Mahavishnu Orchestra
      In February 2012, Narada Michael Walden returned from a well received ten day stint of shows at the Blue Note in Tokyo and Nagoya, Japan to perform at the White House in an all-star band for President Obama’s “Red, White and Blues” concert with legends B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger, Trombone Shorty, Booker T Jones and more. Narada enlisted some amazing musicians and performers for his band on Thunder 2013including: Nikita Germaine (Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, James Taylor, and Patty Austin) on vocals, Frank Martin (Lady Gaga, Mary J. Blige, Madonna, Jennifer Hudson, John McLaughlin, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen) on keyboards, Angeline Saris (Gretchen Menn, Zepperella) on bass and vocals, Matthew Charles Heulitt (Zigaboo Modaliste, Salvador Santana, Megan Slankard, Eion Harrington) on guitars.
     Tarpan Records is pleased to announce the national release of Thunder 2013, a new full length album by Narada Michael Walden on September 17, 2013. This release features new songs that span rock, fusion, funk and even a ballad or two. This is the first worldwide official release by Narada Michael Walden on his new imprint, Tarpan Records. Narada enlisted some amazing musicians and performers for his band onThunder 2013 including: Nikita Germaine (Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, James Taylor, and Patty Austin) on vocals, Frank Martin (Lady Gaga, Mary J. Blige, Madonna, Jennifer Hudson, John McLaughlin, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen) on keyboards, Angeline Saris (Gretchen Menn, Zepperella) on bass and vocals, Matthew Charles Heulitt (Zigaboo Modaliste, Salvador Santana, Megan Slankard, Eion Harrington) on guitars. Thunder 2013 is a strong new direction from Narada Michael Walden, inspired by his recent successful two-year tour with the Jeff Beck Band. Narada returned home to finish this album and put together his band to tour on his own.
On September 24, 2013 the label will also release Narada Michael Walden’s Rising Sun, an instrumental EP that features Narada and his new band performing remakes of his greatest fusion hits.
      Herald de Paris Deputy Managing Editor Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez was truly honored to interact with this contemporary music icon and innovator.

AC: What kind of a family did you come from, where did you grow up and when did you decide to play the drums? What kind of music did you listen to as a child?
NMW: I come from a very cool family in Kalamazoo, Michigan. My dad was 18 and my mom was 19 when I was born. My dad wanted to be a drummer and my mom played some piano, but she loved music. She was a very sensitive person. For Christmas my whole thing at three years old, four years old, and five years old was getting Toyland drum sets - and the drumheads were made of paper! It would be orgasmic to try and play those drums on Christmas morning and the heads would break. And when the head would break, that would be it. So for me that was my early education in music. Also watching records spin on the record player and looking at the album jackets. My uncle played piano, my twin aunts played flute and clarinet - there was always music around. So I was just inundated by music being around of all sorts at a very early age.
      I listened to Patty Page’s Old Cape Cod, Johnny Mathis’ Chances Are, Nina Simone Live at Town Hall: Summer Time, Cotton Eyed Joe, I Love You Porgy. Porgy and Bess songs, their sound track from their Broadway play.Wake Up Little Susie Wake Up. Oh, and at ten year sold Fingertips, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles . . . carried home in the snow . . . Live & in Person Ray Charles, Froggie Went a Courting . . . Little Richard’sLong Tall Sally on Specialty Records 78 set me on an electric current.

AC: At the age of 19 you replaced Billy Cobham with the legendary Mahavishnu Orchestra. How did that happen? What was is like, the first gig with cats of that caliber?
NMW: Actually I was 20 years old, and I don’t look at myself as replacing Billy Cobham. No one can replace Billy Cobham. Just keep that straight. I joined the second incarnation of the Mahavishnu Orchestra but no one can replace Billy Cobham. And how did it happen? I went to the Mahavishu Orchestra concert when Birds of Fire was out, in Hartford Connecticut, and saw Billy and John going at it. Maybe in 17, something like that.. a strange odd meter but playing really furious and fast. It went on so long I walked up to the edge of the stage and could see up in Mahavishnu’s eyes on the lip of the stage, his eyes were back in his head and he’s just playing for so long and so furious I realized it was beyond the mind, it wasn’t memorized, and it just completely touched my life to see that and the whole audience was just spellbound. So, afterwards I met John McLaughlin backstage and I said I want to be like you and I gave him my number and told him my name was Michael Walden and a week later he gave me a call and I was invited to come meet his guru Sri Chinmoy. I went to meet the guru and I became a disciple that night. I was 19 at that time and it changed my life. I went from being a bus boy in a restaurant to then about eight months later joining the Mahavishnu Orchestra.      
     The first gig would be in Buffalo New York. Michael Tilson Thomas was conducting and we played one song, a very long song called “Hymn to Him” and it was just glorious! I did not want to leave the stage! To play with Mahavshnnu, Ralphe Armstrong, Gail Moran Jean-Luc Ponte!! Unbelievable!! With a full orchestra!!! Then we went from that to rehearsing the album music for Apocalypse, then flying to London with George Martin, Beatles producer and Beatle engineer Geoff Emerick and again with Michael Tilson Thomas, this time with the London Symphony at Air Studios in 1974.

AC: What was the music scene like at that time? Who are some of the musicians of that period that inspired you?
NMW: Return to Forever, Chick Corea, Stanley Clark , Lenny White, Bill Connors. What Hendrix had done in 1970 Band of Gypsys, I have always loved that music! You see, jazz/rock/fusion was really hot… anything bubbling with jazz and fusion and rock mixed with Indian overtones was hot. So you know, hard to say, but I remember it being very alive, a very electric time, no holds barred…go for the walls type thing. Spirituality was rearing its head, it was cool for those on the cutting edge to be involved in meditation, be vegetarian, seeking higher consciousness . . . that was all fresh brewing. Carlos Santana was a disciple of the Guru Sri Chinmoy, so all that was going on.

AC: How did your jazz peers react when you started to do R&B, pop, and rock projects? What are some of the greatest songs you have ever written? NMW: My jazz peers, I think, were kind of thrown for a loop when I went more disco. But hell. I had to sell records to save my career. In 1978 Atlantic Records said they would drop me if I didn’t have a hit so I went to I Don’t Want Nobody Else to Dance With You and it saved my career. So at that point it was more important to save my career than to appease jazz critics.
      Greatest Songs? Freeway of Love, Who’s Zooming Who, How Will I Know. My whole first Garden of Love Light Album, my entire second album I Cry I Smile, the third albumAwakening, Dance of Life, Victory Confidence, Looking at You, Looking at Me, Divine Emotions… I got lots of music you see, for Angela Bofill, Sister Sledge, I am very proud of all that. I am very proud of being in music, period.

AC: Early on, you worked with Weather Report and enjoyed a serious reputation as a jazz drummer. Then you worked with Jeff Beck and you have recently toured with Beck - what is the connection with him and his style of music?
NWM: I never thought of myself as a jazz drummer. I come from more of a music and a rock background with a jazz understanding, but I mix it all up with the power of a heavy hitter that’s why my friends call me the original heavy hitter. So in playing with Weather Report on Black Market I brought my arranging skills, my drumming skills and my backbeat. See, Weather Report, they were at a time when they wanted that funk, they wanted that back beat, they didn’t want a jazz drummer, they wanted that pop, so I brought that pop to the jam called Black Market with the brilliant Chester Thompson and Joe says, “Will you join the band?” But I said that I wanted to go more rock after Mahavishnu Orchestra but that I know a bass player. So we brought Jaco Pastorious. Then Jaco auditioned on a song called Cannon Ball with me on drums. Joe trained Jaco by saying, “Don’t play that shit on my song, just play what I tell you to play,” and Jaco got put in the fire and became the Great Jaco Pastorious that we now know. But I never thought of myself as jazz drummer. I am a fusion, I do it all!
      Jeff Beck and I are like old brothers, old friends. I understand him and he understands me. Like he comes from the 60’s which I also love, like he came from the Yard Birds and he brought up Jimmy Page who went on to Led Zeppelin. He was around when Hendrix was blowing up in London and Jimi was tearing it up with Eric Clapton. Mick Jagger was all screaming and carrying on, so Jeff understands all that world. When Jeff hits the stage he wants to bring it on and I do too, so we are an excellent match for each other. And I will say this, where as Mahavishnu is a professor and can be very lofty, Jeff is a hot rod, screaming down the highway, just hot, and you know… we all can get it. I mean he can be very beautiful at moments, like in Nesson Dorma, those types of things, but in general he just brings it like a hot rod.

AC: You are very good friends with Quincy Jones. Can you tell us how he inspired you to become a producer?
NMW: I call Quincy “Borda” and he calls me “Chorda”. Borda means older brother, Chorda means younger brother. He gave me those names. He told me early on, “You could be a good producer and a good songwriter. Take more time to develop your production skills.” I said, “Okay.” He said that the world needs more producers, more helpers and I knew it was true. So after I had my early hits with Stacy Lattisaw and Angela Bofil, he said, “Keep doing it!” Then he asked me to produce my girl Patty Austin, then he brought Tevin Campbell. “You wanna produce Ray Charles?” I said “Sure,” and produced some stuff for Ray Charles; this is Quincy Jones, Quest Records. We became really good friends; we would hang out for hours and just talk shit. He’d tell me everything. Quincy’s mind is like an encyclopedia. He remembers walking down the street with Duke Ellington. He remembers hanging out with Stravinsky. He remembers hanging out with Picasso! I mean he’s got it all in his brain. And he went to Paris to study with Nadia Boulanger, the great classical arranger. He has all those kind of chops he brought to jazz and Frank Sinatra and Count Basie.

AC: What was your first hit as a producer and how did it feel?
NMW: My first hit as a producer was Stacy Lattisaw’s Let Me Be Your Angel. The whole album -that dynamite and jump to the beat for me. It was like heaven on earth hearing my music on the radio, and wow!! Stacy Lattisaw was 11 years old, a little girl. It was For Henry Allen at Cotillion Records. It was such a powerful record, a powerful sound. Then Clive Davis called me and asked, “How did you learn to make that music?” and I said, “I’m a student of music, a musician, that’s what I do,” and he said, “Do you wanna produce Dionne Warwick for me? Do you want to produce Aretha for me?” So that was how my door opened to Clive.

AC: Tell us about your working relationship with Clive Davis. He mentions you quite favorably in his book.
NMW: I’m glad I’m mentioned favorably in the book because I want to be on his favorable list. I want to be one of the people who can say we had more hits together than any people together in music history and I’m very proud of that. Clive is the kind of cat who runs the company but he needs a producer to go and take his visions, take his ideas or even the songs he may find and blow life into them. That’s what I did. That’s what I do. So I’m very proud of my work with Whitney Houston for Clive, I’m proud of everything I did for Aristae, like Kenny G. We sold more records than probably anything with Kenny G. Then I did Germaine Stewart for Clive’s We don’t Have to Take our Clothes off - a song composed by Preston Glass and myself. That’s a lot of music I did for Clive Davis.

AC: You are responsible for Whitney Houston’s seven number-one-in-a-row hits? Given the nature of the new music business, do you think this could happen again?
NMW: Well thank you very much for Whitney’s success. I think that everything in life keeps changing, that nothing remains the same. It either goes up or it goes down and we have certainly been on a bit of a downward spiral recently. But we are going to head back up again and I’m going to help it come back up again with the advent of Tarpan Records and president Steffen Franz, Kimrea, Jim Reitzel, David Frazer, JoeL Angelo Margolis and our staff here finding new talent and new ways to get the music out again. So that’s my hope to really bring quality and class, great beauty and depth and hit records to the top ten.

AC: You were devastated at Whitney’s passing. Did you ever succumb to the pressure of fame and fortune? Does privilege diminish artistry?
NMW: I think you are born a great artist. Whitney Houston was born a great artist. I think our great artists are born with a great gift. I keep thinking, looking at Jimi Hendrix looking at me around the corner here on the wall…see he was born that way. “Jimi” his dad would say, “you sweep the floor” when he was seven or eight years old. And Jimi would clean the room, but then he starts playing the broom like a guitar and there’s straw all over the floor. Father says, “I told you to sweep!” and Jimi says, “I did dad, but then I was playing the broom!” He was born that way. People are born that way. Then you get teachers and coaches to help you refine that talent. You know Carl Lewis, he needs a coach who can teach him how to run that fast, how to jump that far every time. But his natural talent is natural talent.
      God blessed me early on. I had my little dose of doing LSD and it opened my eyes to spirituality and so I’m very blessed that God opened my eyes to spirituality. When Guru’s call came through Mahavishnu John McLaughlin, I went the meditation prayer way, not the drug way, cause I knew the drug way would take you out eventually. But through prayer and meditation you make your inner life stronger. And you can lean upon that and that’s why I have been able to accomplish and still be here now, fresh as a rose.

AC: What has kept you healthy, growing and functional?  
NMW: Spirituality and love of God because I know that all of this is a gift from God. Music is a gift from God and I look at it as such. I want to be able to say that when I die and God says to me, “Narada, did you do what you were supposed to do?” “Yes I did Lord and I had a ball doing it.” “You sure did,” the Lord will say, “I watched you every step of the way and you were having fun.”

AC: How has winning awards affected you?
NMW: Winning awards opened my eyes to a whole new stratosphere of feelings. Before you win a Grammy you think, “Well, you know, it’s kind of cool.” But when you win one, it does change you. It’s like saying, “Yeah, I won’t change when I get a whole bunch of money.” But you do change when you get a whole bunch of money because now you got to watch a whole bunch of money, decide what you’re going to do with a whole bunch of money, who you going to take care of with a whole bunch of money, so it does change things.
     Not in a bad way, just as an eye opener. When I won my first Grammy for Freeway of Love, Aretha Franklin’s first platinum seller! Lord! What it felt like when I went backstage and Quincy Jones is shaking my hand and hugging me. There’s Michael Jackson, there’s Sinead O’Connor walking around, all kind of folks backstage saying congratulations. There’s Jeffrey Cohen, my great writer, so happy. So it does change you for the better. I believe in accomplishment and congratulations on accomplishment. It makes you a better person.

AC: How did you get into movie soundtrack work? What is the up and down side of that sort of thing?
NMW: Easy, the phone rang and someone said, “Would you make us a smash out of 9 and ½ Weeks?” or “Would you make smash out of License to Kill for James Bond?” There’s only up side to it. The up side is to challenge yourself to see how vast your imagination can be to make a hit out of a title License to Kill and the other up side is when you hear it and see it in a movie house, when the credits are rolling. It’s just overcoming to hear your music in those types of things. It’s all good, there’s no down side, and it’s all good. I want to do many, many more movie soundtracks and in fact, I want to direct movies. I want to bring to life to the screen: the Louis Armstrong story, the Stevie Wonder story; there are so many great stories to be told. And then put the music to those. That’s what I want my life be fulfilled with, not just the music half but also the visual.

AC: In the beginning of this story I have included the who’s who of artists that you have worked with. Is there anyone left who you haven’t been able to work with?  
NMW: Yeah, I’d love to work with Prince. He and I are friends. I hung out with him when he was cutting Morris Day with The Time Gigolos get Lonely Too. You know it would be nice to work with him because we are both cut from the same cloth. I’m from Michigan and he’s from Minneapolis. He loves Hendrix, he loves rock, he loves funk, he loves disco, and he loves Joni Mitchell. He’s like I am. We both love an eclectic blend of music where we take all those worlds and spin it together in our own brew. So it would be fun to work with him because he gets it. I would have liked to have worked with Michael Jackson but he passed before we had a chance to work together. Joni Mitchell’s still around - I love her. My girl, Laura Nyro’s passed, I world have liked to work with her more. Sting; let’s get a smash on him. Bono, Beyonce, GagaI . . . I always say don’t block a blessing. Who ever wants to come, let them all come.

AC: I understand President Obama is a huge fan and that you have done some things for the White House. How does that make you feel? What kind of White House things have you done?
NMW: Great! The president is awesome. When I was there, I took my mother there to meet him. My mom almost fainted. He said, “That’s your mom?” I said, “Yes,” and he said, “Well I got to hug and kiss your mom.” He bends over, hugs her and she almost fainted. It’s so important! Michelle is gorgeous, tall, thin, black dress, black high heels looking just incredible! So for me it was one of the best moments of my life to play in front of him with, you know, with BB King The Thrill is Gone, who’s played the White House over 20 times. Buddy Guy . . . Jeff Beck’s there, Mick Jagger. Oh that was wonderful! I love the president. I am a real fan of our president and there is nothing I wouldn’t do to help . . . play there more often and do more things with the president.
      At the very end of Bill Clinton’s era I played at the White House as Stevie Wonder’s guest on our Christmas song I Love You More. It was a Special Olympics gathering in a tent outside the White House that the Shriver’s were putting on and Bill Clinton came on stage and hugged and kissed everybody. And Stevie! For those of you who don’t know, there’s talent! There’s genius! And there’s Stevie Wonder. Oh and there’s Ray Charles too! They both live in that rarified air. They can’t see, so God said, “I’ll give you something extra.” They got something more!

AC: Tell us about your brand new album Thunder 2013. I’m told it’s inspired by your recent collation with Jeff Beck.
NMW: Yeah, it’s inspired by my touring with Jeff. Jeff and I got out there, we hit it so hard with the rock and the blues and I saw how people can just open up their hearts to the blues. And Jeff… just … Jeff plays that stuff! I got really inspired, reactivating my love for what I knew Jimi Hendrix does and we actually played Little Wing with Jeff, Jimi’s song. I was singing that and playing. So all that comes back to me again. Thunder’s like my own version of how I would do my own blues/rock soul/jazz thing now. And Rising Sun is like revisiting some of my early jazz stuff now. My next album could be dance again, but I like doing homage to different periods in my life.

AC: How do you feel about touring? Why do you still do it? What kind of venues do you prefer? What has been the audience reaction? Are they young, old?
NMW: I love touring because it brings out the best in me. You know producing a record can bring the best out over a long term, but walking on a stage and having to do something that is going to make people go wow or scream or applaud is a whole other special talent. Playing the Albert Hall with Jeff and playing Madison Square Garden were highlights. I like the big halls. I like the big joints. I like to think, “Can I rock the person that’s way up at the top of the very tier? Way, way up there! Can I get him?” and then I look in the spotlights and I see Mother Mary come down, or I’ll pray Jimi comes down, or I’ll pray Mitch Mitchell comes down, or Santa Claus even. That inspires my live show. That only happens on the stage, not in the studio. That’s why I like touring.
      Everybody comes. Young and old. Like Carlos says, “We don’t leave anybody out!”

AC: You have some heavy hitters in your new band. Tell us about the musicians, what is the direction of the music, and what is your highest hope for this project?
NMW: My highest hope is musical liberation, where we can just fly high and be free. On keyboards is Frank Martin, my old veteran who’s played with me since I first moved to San Francisco in 78’ - I Should Loved You Days. On bass is a newcomer who I met at my house when she was only 13 years old. She was with her high school band. Angel Funk Angeline Saris! She’s a bad ass on the bass, funky chick. And on guitar is Matthew Charles Heulitt, an up and comer, a new cat who can play all the styles I love and can burn it and kick it hard. There’s Nikita Germaine to sing when I want Whitney stuff and Aretha stuff and our new sound. I have a great, tight, small powerful band.

AC: I understand that there is an instrumental EP being released at the end of this month as well.
NMW: Rising Sun, the four compositions that I did earlier in my life. We re-cut them with this new band so we can play them for our live shows and people can enjoy them again. I think a lot of my early stuff. People kind of forget about the early stuff so I just want to cut them again and keep things alive. Some of that stuff is way ahead of its time

AC: Would you characterize the music fusion, R&B, rock, or are you in a position to transcend traditional categories at this stage in your legacy?
NMW: I have always been able to transcend categories, even as a youngster, because I love music so much that I never bought into names and categories. I never understood that. Something was either good or bad.

AC: You still tour and just came back from Japan - do you see your music as global? Do other countries esteem the type of thing you do more than folks in the USA?
NMW: I think the world market place is more open-minded generally than America. America’s this place where we invent the music, blues, jazz, funk, it comes from America, but the rest of the world is more open to appreciating it. And this is what I love about the rest of the world.

AC: I was told by Linda Ronstadt that there is no music business anymore – the whole model has changed because of new media. Is that true, based on your experience?
NMW: Yeah - not that there is no music business – there is a music business; it’s just that it’s changed. I mean in the sense of how you get your music and how you get your music heard and how you make a living with it. But people still want music and cherish music. When I’m out touring with Jeff, every hall we played was packed. They want the experience. They want to be shake, rattled, and rolled and feel something. If I hadn’t done that tour with Jeff, I might be sitting here thinking people don’t care about music any more. But they do; they want it! We just got to give it to them. You got to find people that will help you give it to them. Where are the promoters who will stand up and build with you, growing with you?

AC: What do you think of shows like The Voice and American Idol? Do they find real talent? Why are you not a judge on this type of programming?
NMW: I would judge if they would ask me. Some of these people are narrow-minded and think they want household names for their judging - more so than a good judge. I would be an excellent judge, because that’s what I do, I put together vocals in the studios for the greatest singers of all time. But even when I let them know I’d like to do it, I don’t get a return phone call..
These shows are double-edged swords. On one hand, they can give exposure to great talent. Kelly Clarkson was great, Carrie Underwood was great and my other chick, Jennifer Hudson, was great even though she came in second. They do give exposure, but the bad thing is that to get the exposure on the things that you’ve got to do to be noted are so over the top, that it become less musical. What you’ve got to do to win the damn thing is be so over the top that often times the song is lost

AC: In which musical directions would you would like to move? Who are some of the newer musicians you listen to?
NMW:
Classical! I am working with an opera singer named Hope Briggs. I saw her when she played a black nun in the Sound of Music, singing Climb Every Mountain. I got her in to cut that and I’m going to put some dub step to it and do an aria with her and another thing that Barry Manilow wrote called One Voice - I’m composing new pieces. I love all forms of music.
      Justin Timberlake’s got a hot new sound, I like that. He’s been around for awhile but his new album is hot. I like Miley Cyrus’s music. I know people are in arms about her performance but she has good songs. I’m a student of music. I learn from the music. All music. And that’s why I try to keep my mind open, to not close my mind and become old. I want to stay young and fresh and with it. Daft Punk with my man Pharrell. Pharrell is always hot! I am glad to see my man Nile Rogers back on the scene with Daft Punk and Pharrell. That makes me happy. Greg Porter, he’s good too, and I like Katy Perry. I like that Robin Thicke was able to be inspired by Marvin Gaye on Blurred Lines, again with Pharrell. That’s definitely Marvin Gaye. But see, Marvin’s always hot. You wanna have a hit, rip Marvin.

AC: When you look back, what would you like your musical legacy to be? What impact do you think you have made on music since the 70′s?
NMW: Well, God’s blessed me in that I’ve been able to hit music from different sides of the fence. I started out in jazz/rock/fusion doing high Mahavishnu Orchestra. I mean I may never play that high again. I hope to, but playing with John McLaughlin is a completely different planet, and those who have done it will attest to what I am saying. The man’s phenomenal! To work with Joe Zawinul of Weather Report? God, I am so happy I did that! I worked with Tommy Bolin before he passed. Now I can say I worked a lot with Jeff, who I love.
     There are a lot of great things that I am proud of . . . working with Ray Gomez and Will Lee and David Sanchez. And then going over to working on the pop side of things with all the great diva vocalists with Gladys Knight, Patty Labelle, Whitney, Aretha, Mariah, Barbara Streisand and Grace Slick, of all people! I’m just proud I’ve crossed so many genres that I think my legacy is that I’m boundless, a music lover. If you’ve got it, I can work with you. If Merl Haggard’s up here, we can do a smash on Merl Haggard. Who ever it is, I don’t care. If you’ve got some talent, bring it! I’m ready for you!!

AC: What kind of advice would you give to the tens of thousands of young musicians who want to be as successful as you have been?
NMW: Wash your hands, take care of yourselves, be safe, and slow things down. It doesn’t happen over night. Practice, enjoy practicing, enjoy writing your songs, and enjoy doing what you do. Like Lou Rawls said, “It’s supposed to be fun.” Keep it fun. Always take time to be courteous and kind to people because all people appreciate someone who’s nice. Nobody wants to be around the most talented cat who’s a jerk, so be nice! And be consistent. It may not happen the first year, the second year or fourth year . . . it may happen the fifth year. It may happen the sixth or seventh year. So that’s the test of how bad you want something . . . that you can hang in there and stay inspired with your love of God and your gift.

AC: Aside from music, are there still some things in life you haven’t accomplished yet? Do you have a bucket list?
NMW:
I wouldn’t do it at this stage of my life, but when I watch the cats fly in the sky like birds in the bird suits . . . if I was a younger, younger person, I would have liked to have done something like that. It looks like something I could easily do, fly in a bird suit. But I’m glad I didn’t, and I’m not doing it now because I’ve got too much to live for. But I coulda easily done that.
      Earlier in my life I would have liked to have been an astronaut. But now in my life, I want to do movies. That’s my next thing. I want to have a company big enough to do wonderful things in the world. That’s my wish.

NARADA MICHAEL WALDEN FOUNDATION

Edited by Susan Acives

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ana Victoria to perform at California's State Fair


For many talented performers, it is difficult to find their place in the spotlight, especially when you’re the child of world famous singers.

Ana Victoria is a singer, composer, songwriter, and producer who by age 13 was singing backup to her world famous parents, Amanda Miguel and Diego Vardaguer.  Now, touting an Latin Grammy nomination, Ana Victoria is coming to her own.        
The Los Angeles, California born Ana Victoria has established herself as a powerful singer and performer with numerous hits like the more recent “Yo No Lloro Por Llorar” (I don’t cry for the sake of crying.)  Her blend of Latin Rock and Ballads have people in the music industry talking.  But, its her sensual appeal and voice that have fans turning out in groves to watch and enjoy herperformances.
            Her father especially has influenced her performances and who wrote her 2012 hit, even though Fox Latino and Billboard described her as having “vocals and songwriting chops.”
            Ana Victoria will be performing as part of the Toyota Concert Series at Cal Expo on July 21, with guest performer Irene Davi. - SacLatino

Friday, June 21, 2013

New York Latina actor nominated for Imagen Award

INTERVIEW: Patricia “Full of Grace” Rae
By Dr. Al Carlos Hernandez  


Patricia Rae
HOLLYWOOD (Herald de Paris) — Patricia Rae is most known for her breakout work in the Oscar nominated feature film Maria Full of Grace”. She has recently completed a feature role in the star studded comedy “The Big Wedding”, Patricia shares the screen with actors Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, Katherine Heigl and Robin Williams “The Big Wedding” hits movie theaters nationwide on October 26, 2012 Her role in the highly anticipated film will show a whole other side of this multi talented actor and should launch her into the A list as well.

Patricia Rae, who is of Colombian ancestry, was born in Manhattan and spent her childhood in Queens. As a child, Patricia was monolingual Spanish at home, but learned to speak English by watching Sesame Street. Patricia by her own admission was a talkative precocious child, who used her humor to deflect nontraditional (read) artistic behavior. Two of her main influences growing up were Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball.

Her journey into the acting world began in elementary school. While in fourth grade, the drama teacher noticed her and recommended she be cast in the musical “Oliver Twist”. She moved to Florida in her teens experienced some culture shock but with the support of the Drama club in High School was able to find a successful and comfortable niche in acting. Rae earned a series of awards in regional and state wide competitions with her drama troupe. Patricia went on to study at the prestigious Lee Strasberg Institute Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute.

Rae has worked diligently for well over two decades, learning and dedicating herself completely to her craft before seeing any commercial success in her acting career. Patricia lived much of her professional life on the East Coast where she worked in theatre, commercials, sketch comedy, independent film and TV. Her first experience on a film set came with her first professional job securing a co-starring role opposite Don Johnson in the (1984–1990) hit TV series “Miami Vice”

After years spent in New York, Patricia moved her family from New York to Los Angeles in
search of that “breakthrough” role, quickly landing that role of a lifetime in “Maria Full of Grace”. Her performance as Carla, a pregnant Colombian woman living in a tiny apartment in New York with her family, earned Patricia an Imagen Awards nomination for “Best Supporting Role”.

Rae’s dedication proves that acting, beyond being a business, is most importantly an art. With a prolific resume, she has appeared in features films such as “Swimfan”, “Nightstalker”, Detachment” (opposite Adrian Brody). On Television she has worked on many series including, “Blue Bloods” with Donnie Walberg and Jennifer Esposito, a recurring role on “Chuck” playing the infamous “Bolonia“, “The Mentalist”, “The Closer”, “Life” and “The Chicago Code”.

She’s currently penning her memoir on acting entitled “How to Make It in The Middle”.
Patricia’s stage credits include the one-woman show ‘Under Construction’, which was a one woman show, that Rae wrote, based loosely on her childhood. ‘The Making of Patricia Rae’, which premiered at the ‘Stella Adler Conservatory’ in ‘New York’, ‘Zoraida’, ‘Mickey & Roger’, ‘Late One Sunday Night’, ‘Latin Lives’, ‘Faade’, ‘Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie’, and ‘The Seagull’. Patricia is a member of the Elephant Theatre Company in Los Angeles, where she won a Backstage West Garland Award in 2008 for best ensemble performance in “In Arabia we’d all Be Kings” produced at The Elephant Theater.

Rae’s creative dexterity extends beyond her dramatic chops. She is also an accredited Power Flow Yoga teacher. And is specialized in Yoga for Scoliosis and Back Care – an issue close to her heart, as her daughter Sage, was diagnosed with the condition.

Herald de Paris Deputy Managing Editor, Dr. AC,  took a break from hanging out with Global Rock Stars, and spent some quality time talking to the breakout actress who has everything it takes to become the next big thing.

AC: Tell us about growing up, I am told that you were alone much of the time and learned English via Sesame Street, how does that experience inform your work even to this day.

Being first generation Colombian American meant my family could not teach me English. I learned my language skills from TV. I spoke Spanish until I got to Kindergarten. Sesame Street was a great tool for the children of immigrants, it taught them to pronounce properly.


AC: In elementary school you are said to have used humor to deflect bad behavior? How true is that? Examples? Do you still use this technique?

My mother was working, so my maternal grandmother, Lillian, who ran a boarding house, was my primary caregiver. She was a strict Catholic disciplinarian. I had a smart mouth. I got a lot of spankings.  I was asserting my American identity. I wanted to be American, so from an early age, I was already pretending… to fit in.


AC: Who has been your inspiration?

I draw inspiration from my grandmother; the immigrant experience in “Maria Full of Grace”, the unwavering Catholicism in “The Big Wedding”. I have her to thank for my morals and my humbleness. So the spankings worked!  I got in trouble in school for talking. My father was silly. He made people laugh. I like to be silly. I love the sound of laughter. Especially my daughter‘s. I love to make her giggle. I need to make people laugh.
 

AC: How were you discovered to play Oliver twist in Elementary school, what was your first performance like? Do you sing?


I do sing. I was doing a funny monologue in the 5th grade class show. The drama teacher saw me, and asked me to replace an actor for the school production of “Oliver”. And that was it. I never wanted to get off the stage again!


AC: When did you decide to be an Actor, How did your family feel about this decision?

I always wanted to be an actress. But not until school, did I realize it was a profession that I could study. My family never questioned it, they knew.

AC: Why did you move to Florida in your teens, How was it different from New York?
Tell us about the High school drama club and the statewide competitions.


We moved to Florida in my early teens. Big culture shock. I had never been exposed to so many white people. NY was very ethnic. I had no idea what Red Necks were. Thank God for drama class. I found my place where I fit in and was able to excel. Being in the drama club taught me discipline and exposed me to theatrical literature.  In 11th grade, I participated in a national acting competition with my schoolmates. We did “West Side Story”. A week before the competition, I was attacked by a German Sheppard. I danced and sang with stitches in my right leg. I was very determined.
 
AC: Tell us about the Lee Strasberg Institute, what did you learn there, how did that experience inform your work over the years? Would you like to teach acting someday?


Wow, nobody has ever asked me about Strasberg… The Lee Strasberg Institute made me run to therapy. They teach emotional recall. Sense memory. I started digging up dramatic memories from my past, to use in class and realized I was screwed up, and needed to deal with it. I have learned to memorize emotions, without using real events. It is less stressful. I do teach acting. I coach students for on- camera auditions.

AC: You worked on the East Coast for many years knocking on doors, tell us about the good and bad about those days?

When I first started in NY, I had a casting director tell me that I would never work in commercials. That same person cast me in a commercial years later. You have to learn not to move on– if you want to work. I feel that casting people respect theater actors more on the East coast. LA is mostly about contacts, and looks. Talent is secondary.

AC: What kinds of jobs did you do to support yourself and family along the way?

I have waited tables, bartended, hostessed, coat checked, painted houses. Now I teach Yoga between gigs. Produce. And write my memoir…

AC: What lead up to getting your first break with Miami Vice, how did that level of success change you? Good and Bad memories of the show?


Miami Vice was my first professional job, and gave me my union card. I had never been on a set before. Philip Michael Thomas was very friendly. He rubbed my feet. But that’s all. Lol.


AC: Why did you leave New York and move to LA did you experience culture shock? What kind of gigs did you book in LA?

I left to work more, and I did. I booked “Nightstalker” and “Maria Full of Grace” within a month of being in Town. It was very lonely and I had to struggle to make a life for the first two years. NY was my home. LA is home now. You have to search out the culture in LA. New York is culture.


AC: Maria Full of Grace? Some say it was a role and a performance of a life time what are your thoughts on the film?

Mary was… everything. It was my first lead role, in a pivotal piece of material, which would change my career. I gained a lot of respect in the community. And I still benefit from it.


AC: What is one of your most favorite roles, aside from “Maria?”

I really enjoyed playing Bolonia on “Chuck” for NBC. I made good friends on that set. And I would love to be a series regular on a show.


AC: What is your favorite acting platforms, stage, screen, TV? Why?

I am from the theater. I enjoy the process of rehearsals, and working from start to finish. Movies and TV are not shot in sequence. I am finding that as I mature, I gravitate more towards film and the permanence of it. My work is getting more subtle and detailed. I love that. I would love to do a period piece. Work in Europe. And work with Pedro Almodovar.


AC: Tell us about your new film The Big Wedding, and some of the A Lister’s you are working with?

Working with Diane Keaton and DeNiro has been a high light in my career. Diane was mesmerizing. I was so lucky to witness her process. She is childlike in front of the lens. DeNiro is a legend. Period. I was blessed. This movie is going to give me international exposure. And hopefully a new level of success. We shall see.


AC: Would you like to do more of the Romantic Comedy thing? Could you do a straight up comedy?

I would love to do more comedy. I am usually cast in dramas. But I think I’m funny.


AC: What are some of the industry misconceptions about you?

One of the big misconceptions that will come from the success of “The Big Wedding”, is going to be that I don’t speak English. Ha!


AC: Tell us about your work with Power Flow Yoga, what is that, how does it help people.

I was always drawn to yoga as a way of opening my instrument. I have incorporated relaxation exercises from Strasberg, the vocalizing, and melded them with yoga stretches and breathing technique. It keeps me focused and in tune with my spirituality. I approach every character from their humanity.  My daughter Sage was diagnosed with Scoliosis as a teen. I didn’t do much with that information, until I started teaching yoga two years ago. I began to research postures that benefit the spine and came across an Iyengar based Yogi named Elise Miller. I have since then taken a 20 hr. course with her on Scoliosis and back care. I use her method to help my students with back pain.
 

AC: Tell us about Sage who just graduated from College?

Sage is my heart. Because of her I strive to be a better person. She is a talented painter. And a fine film editor.


AC: What would you tell a young person about devoting their life to acting?


For me a NO just means– not right now. Never give up. Prepare. Be patient. And make your success.

AC: What do you hope your legacy will be? How do you wish to be remembered?

I would like to be remembered as a compassionate person that brought a smile to your face, and a tear to your eye.

Follow Patricia on twitter: @thePatriciaRae