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SHATTERED PIECES by author Doris H. Dancy

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Conversations Magazine April/May 2015 Issue

Conversations Magazine April/May 2015 Issue
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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Actor Edvin Ortega: Benefiting From the School of Life Daily

by Cyrus Webb

After appearing on programs like The Jersey Devil, Blue Bloods and Orange Is the New Black, actor Edvin Ortega knows what it's like to do the kind of work you love and see your dreams come true in the process.

"It's been an incredible journey," he told me as we reflected on his journey in the industry. "I have done things I never thought I would be able to do." Starting his career in music that opened up the door for him to do what he sees as his passion. "Some of the things I am doing now are things I wished for."

As his star continues to rise year by year he is showing other people what is possible for them. "I definitely want to be someone who people can look to and say that if he did it then I can, too. Anything is possible. You can be successful. All you have to do is work hard and know what you want and go for it." In many ways Edvin still sees himself as a kid that came out of nowhere and made something out of himself. The key for him has been to always strive to go for what he wants and is passionate about."

Associating with those who share his drive and determination has also played a major role in his career. "Association is super important," Edvin says. "Watching those who came before you makes you want to step up your game up and be better. It's like going to school. I see it as a learning experience and a privilege."

It seems the one thing that is still an adjustment for the rising star is the idea of having fans. "It's great," he says. "I have had people come up to me and say 'I just saw you' in this or that. It's kind of surreal. He then added: "I think I tend to be a little shy, but its a good thing."

Edvins's advice for anyone with a goal or dream is this: "Be a doer. Surround yourself with positive people. If you hang around negative people too much you'll become negative. You also have to know what you want. It has to be motivating enough for you not to stop regardless of the obstacles that come your way.

"You've got to have a passion that touches you no matter what you're doing to keep going and keep trying.  When you set a goal that is important enough to you, you'll get there. If you want something bad enough you will get it. It's just a question of how."

Stay connected with Edvin on Facebook at www.facebook.com/iamEdvinOrtega and on Twitter @ www.twitter.com/iamedvinortega.

Model and Actor Denzel Wells: Guided By Faith, Motivated By the Vision

by Cyrus Webb

Not everyone has Tyra Banks in our corner telling Tyler Perry that we are someone that he should check out, but that has been the experience of model and actor Denzel Wells.

2014 was a busy year for Wells: appearing on the #1 show on the Oprah Winfrey Network IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG as well as the recent cycle of America's Next Top Model. Along the way, however, he lived moments that will always be with him and have garnered him much-deserved attention for his skills in front of the camera.

Talking initially about the success of IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG, Wells told me "It's a blessing being part of a tremendous project. It's very surreal for me." As the show took over cable on Tuesday nights in 2014 so did the attention about Wells. "I did not think it would be so thrilling," he confessed. "The show has such a great following. It's been amazing to watch it grow."

What a difference a couple of years make. He started modeling in January 2013 when practically no one knew who he was and then in BANG: on two hit shows and even being recognized by Essence Magazine as Eye Candy for the ladies on television. Wells, however, is trying to take it all in stride. "I'm still the same guy I've always been," he told me, "but to see people react the way they have is like WOW!"

One of the biggest driving forces in IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG's success and Wells' notoriety is social media. "It's really crazy how much of a presence that social media has on TV shows," he says. "You can watch the show, have a question and then ask it of myself and the cast. It's a great feeling to interact with the fans in real time."

Though he appreciate all of the support he is getting, Wells made an important point to me about what drives him--and it's not fame. "Your motivation has to come from within," he says. "You can't rely on the fans, family or friends. What it boils down to is your own motivation and your own want to succeed."

"You literally have to be your own worst critic," he explains "If you don't someone else will. If you don't have a tough skin it's going to be a tough journey for you."

Stay connected with Denzel Wells on Twitter at www.twitter.com/iam_denzelwells.

[Opinion] What Do I Owe You?

by Just Jennifer

When two people are in a relationship, they owe it to one another to provide certain benefits. Love, support, financial help, respect, companionship, and honesty are only a few of the benefits that should be expected from your mate. But what about dating? As a 37 year old single mother, I've had my fair share (and possibly someone else's share) of dating. I've had amazing dates and dates that I was sure would end in me being chopped up and served at his next dysfunctional family dinner. True, I love to eat and whoever takes me out will spend a decent amount of money on my dinner, but I've often be left with the question: what do I owe him? 

Ladies, if a man takes you on a nice date, spends his hard-earned money to feed you a delicious meal, flatters you with compliments, and provides a nice evening away from your life and problems, what do you owe him? Do you owe him a second date? How about a sexual favor? He did spend his money on you, right? Wrong. Dead wrong. Listen to me and listen hard: you owe him manners at the table, you owe him the privilege of sitting next to a lovely lady and enjoying a meal. You only owe him the wonderful company of you...or the hot mess of you...whichever category you prefer. Should you choose to go home with him, more power to you. As an adult, that's your choice. But it's most certainly not OWED to him. And men....

I didn't forget you, Gentlemen. What do you owe us? If you take a woman to a nice dinner, you enjoy her company, and it ends up in a fun night of adult entertainment, what do you owe her? Do you owe her a light bill? How about a father figure for little Tommy? Now it's your turn to listen: Nope...not at all...please don't do it. You owe nothing. The fact is that she agreed, as well as you did, to be an adult and involve herself with your manly ways. Stop feeling as if you are now obligated to be her main squeeze! 
Now continue on with your dating. Be sure to remember that you are owed nothing. For all the ladies who already know this, disregard. For all the gentlemen who never push a lady on the first date, you've got my utmost respect. For all those in between...party on, you crazy fools! That's just my opinion, though. ***


*** Just Jennifer is proud to call Mississippi home and welcomes your feedback on this topic. Email your thoughts and questions to Jennifer at justjennifer.cmg@gmail.com. You can also find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/imjustjennifer. (The views expressed here are those of Just Jennifer and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts of Conversations Media Group or Shadow Play Entertainment.)

Actor Eltony Williams: Staying in the Zone, Watching His Dreams Come True

by Cyrus Webb

For many people their purpose is something they run from, but for actor Eltony Williams he has learned that in order to experience the highs you must be willing to take the entire ride.

For over a decade he has been seen bringing characters to life. co-starring on some amazing shows, but in 2014 he made a name for himself playing Randal on the hit show Tyler Perry's IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG on the Oprah Winfrey Network, opening (and closing) the season with a bang. Talking about the experience, Eltony told me that "Every time you step on set it's like the first day of school," but with his IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG family he says "it becomes a family. The process was very natural and fun."

What is it about acting that spoke to Eltony? "There's something about being able to tell a story and live the life of a character," he told me. "It's an incredible experience." He says when you are in the zone it's easy enough to bring the best of yourself to every role.

Eltony remembers what it was like to watch the first episode with the cast, after filming an episode a day for Season One. "To see it come to life on the screen for the first time was a really surreal experience," he says. He went on to share that landing the part of Randal on the show came at just the right time in his life and career. "There are so many times when you want to stop," he explains. A show like this proves this for the actor: "You put in the work for years and then He (God) says it's time to pay off. "

Outside of seeing the joy from his fans is the knowledge that he is encouraging others along the way. His advice to them? "The dreams you have you can follow them, and they can come true."

Stay connected with Eltony on Twitter at www.twitter.com/eltonywilliams.

Actor Jon Chaffin: Daring Greatly In Pursuit of His Dreams

by Cyrus Webb

For Jon Chaffin acting has been the vehicle to not just living his dreams but inspiring others to do the same. He been able to play a variety of roles from the tough guy, the funny guy and the good guy. It is in the role of Warlock on Tyler Perry's THE HAVES AND THE HAVE NOTS, however, that the world has taken notice. After just one episode he became a fan favorite.

"We as actors live for the chance to slip into different roles and do things in this imaginary world that we don't do in real life," he told me during our conversation together. "Its always an honor when I am able to play certain roles."

Jon described it to me as being able to "get back to that childlike stage when I just do things so it comes naturally." That has really been the key for him along his path.

Looking at the success of the show The Haves and the Have Nots, Jon says "It's been an awesome experience. Nothing short of spectacular." Working with the cast has really made the project worthwhile for him. "When you have good people to get along with it makes for an easy work environment where everyone can put forth their best work."

Here are some other nuggets from our conversation:

JON'S INSPIRATION FOR ACTING:
"Movies like The Five Heartbeats and Shawshank Redemption made me want to act. Individuals like Robert Townsend inspired me. What they did with that movie (Five Heartbeats) drew me in. I would actually quote the movie. I had watched it so much I could quote each character. There were times I would perform certain scenes for my family. Having that imaginative world to get lost in was my first real "A-ha moment" when I said I want to do this."

JON ON PORTRAYING WARLOCK:
"We are representing real life. There are real Warlocks in the world. Portraying him allow me to put on different shoes and wear different hats and challenge myself.

"I don't play stereotypes. I play people. This person (Warlock) was someone who had her (Candace Young played by Tika Sumpter) back. Everyone wants that, to have somebody that you can go to is important. I had no idea that they (viewers of the show) would fall in love with Warlock after one episode!"

JON'S IDEA OF SUCCESS:
"For me it's just about doing what my heart's desire is. If i can wake up and do this and pursue this I'm successful. Everybody wants different things. As I continue to grow in my career I noticed that my success is predicated on my happiness. Success is not necessarily how many people know your name. It's more or less are you able to do something that you love."

JON'S ADVICE FOR OTHERS:
"Identify what your desire is and accept that you can have that. I believe that whatever is in my heart that brings me joy is what God has for me. When I'm on set and I'm happy that lets me know I'm in alignment. Find what makes you happy. Be bold. Be daring. Do it. You have to take a chance on yourself."

Follow Jon on Twitter at @JonChaffin and stay connected with him on Facebook.


*     Photo credit: Bjorn Photography

Comedian and Actor Dawan Owens: Discovering Himself Everyday Through His Craft

by Cyrus Webb

You've seen him in diverse roles on shows like Hell Date, Southland, The Hustle and NCIS: Los Angeles, but it is as the character Quan on the hit show IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG that actor and comedian Dawan Owens has really gotten his opportunity to shine.

The funny thing about his journey though is that it may not have happened if he wasn't willing to ask the tough questions of himself and do the work. "It's amazing to do what you love," Dawan told me during our conversation together. "I spent most of my life trying to figure out what I wanted to do." After some events and conversations took place it was undeniable what he should be doing. "This is the path that God has put me on."

You wouldn't know it by looking at him today, but Dawan hasn't always exuded the confidence that comes out on camera. "Growing up I wasn't the coolest of kids," he explained. But it was during that time that he realized one of his gifts. "Comedy is what got me out of trouble." Even when things were rough at home, Dawan says the best thing to do was make jokes. "What we did with our time was laugh." Now he is literally laughing his way toward his destiny.

Coming to Hollywood he was once again faced with the question that he had asked himself: "Who are you?" They saw him and realized that he wasn't a one-note. He could play "urban", be funny and even do drama. All of those abilities had to be honed.

What helped Dawan not to get lost in the bubble? "What has been important is not to try to be somebody else," he explained. "We spend a lot of time looking at others and trying to emulate their success. What we should be emulating is the drive and the discipline they have. I can only be Dawan, and the great thing about that is there is no other Dawan in the world." His advice to others trying to break into the industry or pursue their goals in another field? "Don't waste time trying to be anybody else. You are uniquely you and that is the best thing in the world. There is no one else like you."

He was able to bring that attitude into the making of the character Quan in Tyler Perry's IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG. "The thing about this cast is it's a labor of love," Dawan says. He also revealed that several of the cast members---including himself---experienced some heartbreaking losses during filming. "We all rallied around each other." With a rigorous schedule of shooting an episode a day, Dawan says: "It bonded us as a family. Some of that has to come through on camera."

Another thing that he refers back to was how Tyler Perry gathered everyone who worked on the project together and told them "I have built this place for you to come and live your dreams." That resonated with Dawan. "It feels good to know that he wanted to give people he (Tyler) thinks are great an opportunity to succeed."

Now Dawan is able to take that motivation and use it in every aspect of his life. What a great example for all of us.

Stay connected with Dawan on social media at www.twitter.com/dawanowens and www.facebook.com/dawanowens.

*Photo credit: Paul Smith

Actor Octavio Pizano: Taking the Risks Needed to Follow His Dreams

by Cyrus Webb

When you know you are doing the work that was intended for you, there is no better feeling in the world than to have that validated by success. Actor Octavio Pizano came upon my radar in 2014 on Tyler Perry's IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG, and he shows from the first time we were introduced to him that he had skills. I reached out to him on Twitter about an interview, and he graciously accepted my invitation to share some of the highlights of the first season of the Oprah Winfrey Network's top-rated show.

OCTAVIO ON THE RESPONSE TO IF LOVING YOU IS WRONG:
"It's been impressive to see the response. We spent over 2 months shooting in Atlanta, and we were so immersed in it we weren't thinking about how people would respond to it. It's been quite an adventure."

OCTAVIO ON THE SOCIAL MEDIA RESPONSE:
"I wasn't on twitter before the show, but we were encouraged to get involved in the live tweeting experience during each new episode. It's crazy to see so many people tweeting your name, but it's also fun watching it with the fans. When you're on set you're only involved in your story. Now I can watch all the other stories unfold. To share that with the fans is awesome."

OCTAVIO ON ACTING:
"I fell into it and got addicted. I couldn't let go of the feeling it gave me. I was very blessed by my father to do whatever I love. When I first brought up about acting he did raise the usual things about the competitive industry and not a lot of people make it. Once he saw the passion I had for it he told me to give it my all."

OCTAVIO ON BRINGING JULIUS TO LIFE:
"You really do bring your all to make this character live and breathe. Playing Julius is so different for me, so I did a lot of research. It's a very interesting experience.once you get into the skin of the character and completely give in to the role and give in to the story. Glad that people are liking him."

OCTAVIO ON THE INVESTMENT INTO YOURSELF:
"Even when you get a break it's what you do with it that matters. Success requires a risk-taking ability. A lot of people are going to try to pass on their fears and doubts to you, but as long as you have a vision and you're focused people will see it. It really is an investment. If you're not passionate about about what you're doing, it's going to consume you.

OCTAVIO ON THE REWARD:
"You get to motivate other people to go for their dreams. Nothing more rewarding than inspiring others to follow their path. Giving your best is something that sets you apart."

Stay connected with Octavio on social media at www.twitter.com/OctavioPizano and www.facebook.com/octaviopizanoofficial.

Photo Credit: Mark Racek