The entertainment industry saw a year full of news in 2019. From scandals to successes, African Americans continued to make major moves in Hollywood and beyond. The Defender looks back at the biggest stories of the year.
R. Kelly arrested, scrutinized
It was a bad year for the R&B singer known as the “Pied Piper.” His luring of young girls finally caught up with him. Kellywas slapped with federal charges after seven women, including his ex-wife, appeared on a Lifetime documentary, and accused him of emotional and sexual abuse.Kelly was vilified, arrested multiple times, sued, claimed he was penniless and will now face a May 18, 2020 trial on charges that he recruited underage girls and women to have sex with him, isolating and controlling them. The singer denied abuse allegations for decades before the latest charges.
Jussie Smollett arrested for hoax, let go
Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett also had a very bad year. He told police that he was attacked in Chicago by two white men who physically attacked him after using racial and homophobic slurs, poured an unknown chemical substance on him and tied a rope around his neck. Smollett was later indicted for allegedly paying two Nigerian-American brothers to stage a fake hate crime assault on him and filing a false police report. Smollett’s defense team reached a deal with prosecutors in which all charges were dropped in return for Smollett performing community service and forfeiting his $10,000 bond. Initially, Smollett garnered support from fans and celebrities but as the case unfolded, he saw his reputation tarnished and he was eventually removed from “Empire.”
‘Us’ is a box office hit
Jordan Peele did it again. After the success of “Get Out,” the director returned with the horror flick, “Us,” which became an instant box office hit. Written and directed by Peele, the film starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Elisabeth Mossand Tim Heideckerfollows Adelaide Wilson (Nyong’o) and her family, who are attacked by a group of menacing doppelgängers. It was a commercial success, grossing $255.1 million worldwide against a budget of $20 million, and received praise for Peele’s screenplay and direction, as well as the musical score and Nyong’o’s performance.
Tyler Perry opens Atlanta studio
Hollywood stars came out in full force for the grand opening of Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta. The red carpet buzz surrounded Perry’s history-making as the first African American actor-director-writer-producer to own a studio outright with no partners or corporate backing. A-list stars shared their admiration and support for Perry. The 330-acre studio has 12 soundstages, all named after iconic African American legends in the industry: Cicely Tyson, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Will Smith, Halle Berry, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis and Diahann Carroll. On another note, Perry said farewell to his beloved Madea character in 2019.
Beyoncé among stars in ‘The Lion King’
The 2019 musical directed and produced by Jon Favreauwas a computer-generated remake of Disney’s traditionally animated 1994 film of the same name. The film stars the voices of Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodardand others, as well as James Earl Jones reprising his role from the original film. The plot follows Simba, a young lion who must embrace his role as the rightful king of his native land following the murder of his father, Mufasa, at the hands of his uncle, Scar. The film grossed over $1.6 billion worldwide, surpassing” Frozen” as the highest-grossing animated film, and is also the second highest-grossing film of 2019, highest-grossing PG-rated film and seventh-highest of all-time.
Eddie Murphy returns in ‘Dolemite’
Eddie Murphy returned to the screen with “Dolemite Is My Name,” a biographical movie about filmmaker Rudy Ray Moore, best known for portraying the character of Dolemite in both his stand-up routine and a series of blaxploitation films. The film had a limited release before digital streaming by Netflix. It received positive reviews from critics, with praise for Murphy’s comeback performance (his first film in three years), as well as its screenplay, costumes and sense of humor. It was chosen by both National Board of Review and Time Magazine as one of the ten best films of the year. The film received Golden Globe nominations for Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy and Best Actor for Murphy.
Last season of ‘Power,’ ‘Empire,’ ‘Orange is the New Black’
Some fan favorites announced that they were coming to an end in 2019. Popular shows “Orange Is the New Black,” “Empire” and “Power” will all conclude soon. The Netflix hit “OITNB” ended in July, with Fox’s hip-hop soap opera and Starz’s 50 Cent-produced hit ending their runs with their upcoming respective sixth seasons. Both “OITNB” and “Empire” are pretty much wrapped, but with rapper 50 Cent at the helm of “Power,” don’t be surprised if he changes his mind.
Kanye West finds Jesus, Sunday Service
Kanye West’s artistic journey has been a wild ride. He’s arguably one of the most significant artists of the last 20 years and certainly one of the most unpredictable. In the past year, though, we’ve seen the most surprising turn yet: West said he’s become a born-again Christian. His concerts are now gospel-infused “Sunday Services,” and his latest album is titled “Jesus Is King.” He travels the country promoting the gospel and performed at Houston’s Lakewood Church in November.
‘Yolanda Adams Morning Show’ moves to KTSU
Texas Southern University’s public radio station KTSU 90.9 FM pulled off a major programming coup, snagging the nationally syndicated “Yolanda Adams Morning Show,” which kicked off broadcasting from its new home on Sept. 16. The show airs every weekday morning from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., and features Adams and her on-air partner in crime, comedian Marcus D. Wiley.
A$AP Rocky sparks international attention
Rapper A$AP Rocky was found guilty in an assault case in Sweden for assaulting a man during a street fight in Stockholm in June. The music star and his crew claimed self-defense, but the court saw it differently. The case captured international attention and President Donald Trump even got involved. Rocky was behind bars for a month while the case played out and required to pay restitution to the victim and cover Sweden’s court expenses. He’s also on probation for two years.