2016 was definitely the year of the entertainer. Some of the biggest stars made news in television, film and music. The Defender looks back at those entertainment stories that left a mark on us.
Death of Prince
Prince, whose full name was Prince Rogers Nelson, died April 21 at age 57, after being found unresponsive in an elevator at Paisley Park, his home and recording studio in Chanhassen, Minn. Toxicology tests for Prince concluded that the entertainer died from an accidental overdose of the opioid fentanyl, a prescription pain killer he had been taking to treat an ailing hip. The world mourned the death of the legend and it was shocking to discover he didn’t have a will.
Blacks shut out of Oscars
When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its 2016 Oscar nominees, only white actors and actresses were among the chosen few in the top four categories – for the second year in a row – resulting in the resurgence of the social media hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and a bevy of concerns about diversity in Hollywood. The sole nomination for “Straight Outta Compton” went to a self-described “white Jewish gay guy from Connecticut” for Best Original Screenplay. Host Chris Rock noted the controversy in his monologue, and joked that the Oscars were the “White People’s Choice Awards.” Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee called for a boycott of the ceremony.
The year of Bey
Beyoncé continued to kick butt and take names in 2016. The sixth album by the Houston native was accompanied upon its release by a one-hour film aired on HBO. Mainly an R&B album, “Lemonade” was praised by critics as Beyoncé’s boldest and best-crafted work to date and debuted at number one on Billboard and became her sixth consecutive number-one album in the country. A spate of other music awards followed, along with nine Grammy nominations. “Lemonade” provided raw material for a breathtaking, $256 million-grossing world tour. Beyoncé was also a runner-up for Time Magazine’s person of the year.
Kanye West breaks down
Rapper Kanye West ended the year with a very public breakdown. West was reportedly dealing with a host of psychiatric and emotional issues that required outpatient treatment for some time. Those close to him believe the anniversary of the November 2007 death of his mother Donda West could have pushed the singer to his breakdown. The troubling news followed a difficult year for West, from his re-falling out and very public drama with Taylor Swift, to the rapper’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, taking time away from public life to recover after being robbed at gunpoint in Paris. West later made headlines by meeting with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss “multicultural issues.”
‘Birth of a Nation’ controversy
Amid the #OscarsSoWhite uproar, “The Birth of a Nation” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January and immediately was hailed for depicting an important untold chapter of American history and introducing a talented African-American filmmaking voice in Nate Parker. But nine months later, Parker’s past overshadowed the film’s potential. Allegations resurfaced that Parker, 36, raped a female student in 1999 when he was a college wrestler at Penn State. He was acquitted of the charges. The allegations, and Parker’s subsequent “unapologetic tour” derailed the awards-season potential of the movie, once an early front-runner for Best Picture at the 2017 Oscars. The film opened with a dismal $7 million box office take.
Year of Black films, TV shows
The African-American Film Critics Association deemed 2016 “the best year for the Black community on the film screen both in terms of casting and storylines.” From comedies to high-quality dramas and documentaries, the amount of quality feature films, documentaries and TV shows released in 2016 about the Black experience easily make it the best year ever. Films like “Ride Along 2” and “Central Intelligence proved to be box office hits, while “Queen Sugar,” “How to Get Away With Murder,” “Empire” and “Scandal” continued to bring in big ratings in television. Films like “Moonlight,” “Fences” and “Hidden Figures” closed out the year in a positive light.
Blacks score at Emmys
The Emmys haven’t necessarily been known for their diversity throughout the years. Last year, 13 Black nominees held spots in the key categories, and only five Black women (in all of its history) had been nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series by the time Viola Davis historically won in 2015. This year, 27 nominees were recognized across all categories, making it the most Black nominees in Emmy history. Black Emmy winners for acting included Courtney B. Vance, Regina King and Sterling K. Brown.
Year of Black superhero
Given all the criticism recent superhero movies have faced for featuring mostly white males, 2016 may seem like a decisive rebuttal. Getting Hollywood to believe that movies featuring superheroes of color could be successful on that level has taken time. But 2016 saw more than it’s share. Don Cheadle (War Machine), Anthony Mackie (The Falcon) and Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther) all debuted in “Captain America: Civil War.” Boseman’s Black Panther will get his own movie in 2018. Other Black or biracial superheroes we saw in TV and film this year included Will Smith playing Deadshot in “Suicide Squad,” Alexandra Shipp as Storm in “X-Men: Apocalypse” and Mike Colter as Luke Cage in Netflix’s TV series of the same name.
Leslie Jones harassed
Right on the heels of her co-starring role in the “Ghostbusters” remake, online harassment and humiliation of “Saturday Night Live” star Leslie Jones became a national story. The Department of Homeland Security investigated the hacking of her personal website, and even Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton expressed her support for the actress. It appears that Jones’ perceived resilience in the face of initial attacks on her physical appearance, the support she received from her peers and the public, as well as the joy she displayed with her popular run of social media posts from the Rio Olympics, only emboldened her haters to go even further.
Mary J. Blige divorce
The soon-to-be-ex-husband of the queen of hip-hop soul made news when he requested almost $130,000 per month in spousal support. Kendu Isaacs, who married Mary J. in 2003 and was once her manager, claimed to need: $129,319 per month for expenses such as $7,000 rent, $8,000 for a private chef, $3,200 for a personal trainer, $1,000 for clothing, $21,677 for charities and $71,000 for mortgages on several properties. He’s also requested that Blige, 45, pay him $5,000 per month in child support for his three children from a previous relationship. The couple did have a prenup but Isaacs sought to have it voided on the grounds that he didn’t “understand what he was signing.”