Click the cover below to order Conversations Magazine's July/August Issue

Click the cover below to order Conversations Magazine's July/August Issue
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Monday, July 27, 2020

[To You, From Me] Navigating the New Normal

If 2020 has taught us anything it is to expect the unexpected.

For many people this year has meant a loss in employment and security. For others even a loss in life. We all know someone who has been impacted by the events of this year, but the question remains: What will it all mean?

There are those who are using this as a reset for themselves, an opportunity to realize what they want to do and may be able to do moving forward. For others they are picking up the pieces and trying to make sense of where they are and what to do next.

In this issue of Conversations Magazine we wanted to remind you of one thing: No matter what this 'new normal' has done to you don't allow it to stop you! Those profiled in this issue could have allowed their lives to be paralyzed by the uncertainty of it all. The truth is, though, they have realized how to use what is at their disposal and keep going.

Whether we are talking about the Coronavirus pandemic or the racial unrest and conversations about inequality, what all of us have in common is the ability to put one foot in front of the other and keep making strides in the right direction. It doesn't mean you are going to move as quickly as you would like or even in the direction you initially thought was right for you. What it does mean is that you are determined to figure it out.

That is what acting on faith is all about. Believing that with hard work and dedication our best days are still ahead.

Want to share with me how you are navigating the new normal? Feel free to reach out to me at cawebb4@juno.com. Would love to hear your stories.

Until next time, Happy Reading!





Cyrus Webb, Editor-In-Chief
Conversations Magazine

[MOVIE REVIEW] The Conversation

When I was introduced to THE CONVERSATION it had my attention from the very beginning. It's a simple yet powerful message about how two people (played by Ashley A.Williams and Michael Cory Davis) can have two different perspectives of one event---and the importance of understanding the other person's perspective.

To be honest when I watched it the first time I could see parts of both sides, how one might get the wrong impression. But the overall message is clear: listen to what others are saying. Don't go by what you think. Go by what is being said and expressed.

The film itself is less than 20 minutes long, but it is packed with so much to digest that it will have you talking about it long after the credits roll. The overall message is clear: If we are open to understanding the perspective of others and not making everything about ourselves then we will definitely avoid problems and misunderstandings that can lead to disaster.

Watch THE CONVERSATION today on Amazon.

[MOVIE REVIEW] Street Survivors: The True Story Of The Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash

by Cyrus Webb

Raised in the South I have known of the group Lynyrd Skynyrd for some time, as well as the tragedy that befell the group in 1977. What I didn't know is what life was like for the group, their music and what happened after the crash to the members left behind. THAT is the story that STREET SURVIVORS tells.

Through the voice of band member Artimus Pyle we see his passion for music, what it was like for him to join the talented group and the antics that were a part of life on the road. We also see the passion for the fans and performing, and the connection the group shared through music.

The film gives us a look at the tragic crash and life afterwards for Pyle, but it really shows the heart of someone who was part of something that seems almost bigger than life.

STREET SURVIVORS is the Lynyrd Skynyrd story that we have been wanting, and is sure to give us a new layer of understanding why the group's music continues to live on.

Rent or buy STREET SURVIVORS on Amazon.

Jared Cohn: Pursuing His Passion While Telling Stories that Matter

by Cyrus Webb

There are few people I have been introduced to that are as passionate about creating as Jared Cohn. He is a Writer, Producer, Director and Actor that has made a name for himself and doing the work (and telling the stories) that he is passionate about.

We were first introduced to each other back in 2016. During the time he was promoting his film that he wrote, produced and starred in called Wishing For A Dream. It tells the story that so many creative individuals can relate to: having a dream and what it takes to see that dream realized, both the good and the bad.

We reconnected in 2020 as he was celebrating the release of his powerful film STREET SURVIVORS: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash and gearing up for the debut of his Lifetime movie HER DEADLY GROOM.

Our chat was inspiring and shows why Cohn is such a respected figure in the entertainment industry.

JARED ON WISHING FOR A DREAM:
"It's still like an ongoing struggle.  I'm still in character. It's very real... Making the film was kind of like a documentary---but not a documentary. When I write a script I try to invoke something that makes the viewer think. I wanted to make something personal, hopefully that would resonate with some people."

JARED ON THE BUSINESS:
"If you go on the internet and you're looking for feedback, you have to have thick skin. I'm so grateful that there are people who are supportive. It's a tough business. It helps to know some of your work is received well."

"It's like a roller coaster: Some days you feel unstoppable, and other times you're like why am I doing this? It comes in moments. It's a crazy town...it's a crazy industry, but I can't do anything else. I selected this path, because I am a fan of entertainment. That's what I wanted to make my life about."

JARED ON WHAT KEEPS HIM GOING:
"You have to have that sense of this is possible and believe in that. If you don't believe in yourself no one else is going to believe in you. You have to keep going."

"It's always about the next thing. If you're just focusing on what you're doing right now when it's done you're going to be idle. I like to have multiple things going on. I'm constantly writing, looking at other projects. I'm a creator. It's all about content. At the end of the day that's all that matters."

Stay connected with Jared and Trap Light Media on Twitter at www.twitter.com/traplightmedia and Instagram at www.instagram.com/jaredcohn1.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

TAKE TEN with Steven Manchester, author of THE MENU

by Cyrus Webb

For years I have been a fan of author Steven Manchester. Through fiction he is able to share not just some entertaining stories but some real-life lessons that the reader can take away from them. His newest, THE MENU, is so different. Though a tad different in subject matter the message is one that is typical Steven Manchester. We discuss his literary success and new book in this Take Ten. Enjoy!


Steven, great to catch up with you again. Congratulations on the new book THE MENU. We’ll get more into it soon, but I want to begin with this writing journey for you. What has it been like for you to do what you love from book to book and see the response from readers?
It’s been a dream come true. It really has. From a young age, I wanted to be a writer. Twenty-five years ago, I  embarked on that journey and never looked back. Even during the failures, it’s been worth every second of my time and effort. The love I’ve received in return from my readers is the icing on the cake.

You have definitely given us some great stories, but there are some themes that seem consistent: family, faith and forgiveness. Is this just a part of who you are, or do you find they just find themselves naturally into your work?
I would have to say both. I write reality-based fiction and, although it’s a bit cliché, we can only write about what we know, who we know, and where we’ve been. Family means everything to me. I believe that we’re all connected.  As long as I’m writing stories for my children, I figure I can never go wrong, and I would never waste their time with anything that doesn’t have meaning.

With THE MENU the faith element is probably the strongest we have seen. How did the story come about?
When I first started, I knew I did not have the skill set to pull off a story of this scale and depth. The Menu is a story of hope and healing, of finding real peace. Originally, I wanted to write a story that had the potential to break my children’s fear of death. That naturally evolved into a spiritual work and, in my opinion, the best story I’ve ever written. None of us are ever alone, not ever, and The Menu was written to show that.

Like some of your other characters Phinn is definitely flawed yet so relatable. What was it like to navigate the world through his eyes and experiences?
Phinn was an easy character for me to develop because he is so flawed. I don’t think people relate to characters that are perfect. The trick to pulling off a story like this is to make the characters as real and relatable as possible. By doing that, the reader is able to feel the character’s joys as well as his sorrows. And as soon as we move from thinking into feeling, we have a novel worth reading.

One of the big messages in THE MENU is the importance of making the most of each and every day. How has that message served you well? 
As you know, I served in the first Gulf War. It was a brutal experience. But sometimes in the shadows, I think we’re able to see what’s truly important in life. Being an optimist and seeing the glass as half full has allowed me to live a joyous life, filled with hope and purpose. I’m trying to teach my children to approach each day the same way.

I mentioned your readers earlier. What has that part of the experience been like to see how they have gotten the message of THE MENU?
I’ve always been blessed to receive some amazing feedback for my novels. The Menu has been at a whole different level. I am incredibly humbled by the kind words that people have sent me when providing feedback on this novel.  The story is clearly affecting most folks at a deeper level. Conversations about purpose and passion, faith and forgiveness, have all been a part of the book’s discussion. I honestly feel blessed that I was able to write the story, and I feel equally blessed that my readers have been willing to jump into the deep side of the pool with me.

You and I haven’t met each other yet, Steven, but social media has kept us connected. How have you used that tool in your marketing as an author?
We haven’t met in person yet, though I do feel quite connected to you and your work. At first, I hated social media. There’s so much hate and divisiveness spread on these platforms—where courage is not required for people to express their biases. I’ve since learned that we can also use the platforms to unite and spread positive messages. Social media has been an effective tool for me to get the word out about my work. If it wasn’t for Facebook and Twitter, the kids I graduated from Kindergarten with would never know I’m a writer.

2020 has been a different kind of year for all of us. What has it been like adjusting to promote a book while dealing with a pandemic?
Writing time has been in surplus thanks to being quarantined. Promoting books, however, has been the opposite. Social media is fantastic for marketing, but it doesn’t come remotely close to meeting my readers face-to-face and discussing one of my books that they’ve just read. With The Menu, I intend to promote the story long after we’ve all been vaccinated for the Coronavirus. I’m remaining optimistic.

You’ve been able to consistently deliver great work. You don’t stop. Unfortunately so many out there haven’t even started doing what they are passionate about. Any advice you want to share with our readers about the importance of going after their goals and dreams and not giving up?
The simplest advice I can give is this: For me, it’s all about the three P’s—Purpose, Passion, and Perseverance. I believe that the trick to success and joy is to first find your purpose. Once you do, pour all of your passion into it. Perseverance will take care of the rest.

Always a pleasure, Steven. How can our readers stay connected with you and get their copy of the books?
The pleasure is mine, my friend. I can’t thank you enough for your continued support. I love to follow your successes and accomplishments, as well. I’m proud to count you amongst my friends.
The best place to get The Menu—in both print an e-book—is on Amazon.

Actor/Producer Jamison Jones: Acting on Faith While Paying It Forward

by Cyrus Webb

Jamison Jones* has been able to do work that he loves on stage, television and film as well as expanded his brand as a writer, producer and acting coach. While many movies were being shuttered in 2020 due to the pandemic he also starred in the film THE WRETCHED which has gone on to be a #1 film at drive-in theaters. 

During his first visit on Conversations LIVE radio show we discussed his success and the movie. "With THE WRETCHED it's been a very strange blessing in disguise," he told me. "It's been such a joy to see people's response to the movie." (THE WRETCHED is currently available on your favorite streaming platform.)

When I asked him about the 'strange blessings' of his career and what led to where he is today Jamison offered this insight to his success. "As an actor it's always challenging to know which is the right project. You have this team around you encouraging you to do certain things or not do certain things. At the end of the day you have to follow your heart." 

Following his heart and his listening to his gut is what led Jamison to THE WRETCHED. "I loved this script when I read it," he explained. "For me it was a story about a father and a son trying to reconnect after a difficult time. It was great for me to play a character like this."

In discussing what led him to want to be involved behind the camera, Jamison says it was something he was missing from his time in the theater. "In theater you're a part of the entire creative process," he says. "I really do enjoy being a collaborator in the creative process."

Outside of pursuing his own career Jamison started the Jamison Jones Acting Studio as a way of paying it forward to the next generation. "It took me 15 years to really work and find a way to stay connected to people," he says. "It was important to me looking back at that time to help other actors coming up." Speaking of having the opportunities he told me: "It's all about the creative aspect of it. Being an actor without opportunities is like being an artist without paint. There's nothing you can do if someone doesn't give you the opportunity to do it." He does see the independent projects as a plus, with more creatives taking their career into their own hands.

Whether pursuing his own projects or helping others do the same, Jamison Jones is a perfect example of how acting on faith can lead to some amazing opportunities. 

Stay connected with Jamison on Instagram at www.instagram.com/realjamisonjones.

* Photo by Joanna DeGeneres

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Actor Preston James Hillier: Taking One Step at a Time Towards His Goals


by Cyrus Webb

It’s easy to look at where someone is now and think “I wish I was them”.  The real question to ask is are you willing to do what they did to get to where they are today? When it comes to actor Preston James Hillier* he is someone who has been on a nice climb in his career. The point to remember is that it’s been a CLIMB. Nothing has come easy.

The two of us connected in 2019, one of the biggest years of his career. He’s had the privilege to grace the screen for television and film—and there is more to come.

In this conversation we discuss the journey to where he is today, the challenges and the reward for not giving up.

What has it been like for you to see how everything you've done has led up to this year?
You know, it's a very fickle business. There's highs and lows. There's ups and downs. There’s always transitions. I think looking back at some of those times where you're the right age and the right look for a certain time, and then you have a little bit of a lull. Then you're into the next category…the dad or whatever. It's those times in between the work that really test you. As an actor in this business a lot of people don't have the tenacity. It'll break you as a human being sometimes when you're not working, and just trying to get to that next level and you keep thinking, ‘When is that time going to come?’

I think that's always the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for every actor. You’re waiting for that moment, and hoping that it's going to come. And when it starts pulling together, and when you can kind of take a step back and look at what you've done—from  where you are to where you started—you do say I guess I really have done quite a bit of stuff. At the time it doesn't seem like it. You're just constantly fighting and trying to get to that next level.

So glad you shared that. It really shows that you have to be willing to do the work. So my question would be, I guess, did you know going into this industry that it was exactly what you said:  fickle with some highs and lows?
Yeah, to an extent.  I moved out here when I was 24, and everything I ate, drank and breathed was about moving to LA and pursuing this business. Nothing was going to stop me from doing that. And as you get here and look at things your friends are doing and you look at other people's careers, you kind of get a better idea of the scope of what lies ahead. I didn’t get to the border of California and they were handing out TV shows, but you just start chipping away at little things here and there. You realize there's a lot to this. There's no such thing as overnight success.

It’s been two decades now, Preston, that you’ve been able to do work in front of the camera. That is amazing. There have been some people who have come and gone in the time that you have been in the industry. As I look at where you are and how you kept pushing, what is it that helped you to do that? What is it that you think helped you to keep going even when it seemed difficult?
It's a good question. You know, I think a lot of it is surrounding yourself with good people. You know it can be a competitive business, and I have a lot of friends that are in my categories and we go out for a lot of the same things. When you can find those people you just keep pushing each other and helping each other up the ladder. That helps immensely, because you need a good support group. Otherwise it can be really difficult. Getting a little bit of work here and there satisfies you and makes you want more. I think that those are the little things to keep you going.

Follow Preston online through Instagram at www.instagram.com/prestonhillier and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/prestonhillier.  


*     Photo by Rob Nixon

Actor Sean Ringgold: Benefiting from Hard Word, Patience and God's Timing


by Cyrus Webb

Actor Sean Ringgold is a man that is not afraid of putting in the work, and now he is seeing the results pay off for him in a big way. We first connected in 2019 when he was on the hit show Family Business on BET, and 2020 found him on another hit show, For Life.

In this conversation we talked about the success, the power of patience and relying on God’s timing in his career and life.

Sean, thanks for the time. We're just going to jump right into it. 2020 is probably not shaping up exactly the way that people felt that it would, but you are just roaring along. What has that been like for you professionally to look at how things are lining up for you?
Oh man. I sometimes pinch myself and say it's all about God's patience and His will. I've also learned God will never give you more than you can handle. Everything that is happening is happening in it's divine order. It's funny: the people that you see in the beginning of your career you'll see through the middle and towards the end of your career. I've learned it's very important to nurture relationships and be respectful and never have that ego. Do the best you can on any job, no matter how small your character is, how medium, how big it starts to get. Have that certain level of humility.  If you do the doors opening just keep going on and on.

People look at where you are now, Sean, and will say, ‘Wow, look at that.’ But they don't realize what it took to get there. Do you think your appreciation for the process in addition to the patience is kind of what helped you to be where you are today?
I definitely appreciate the process, because it gives me the gratitude for where I'm at. Some people get to a certain place in their career very fast, and they just feel like they got there all on their own. They forget about certain levels of rejection. Everyone has their own journey and their own path.

I just have extreme gratitude, and I'm enjoying the journey. And I love the rejection, because when you start reaping the fruits of your labor, you look back and you just never forget how challenging it was. You never forget. And I try to help motivate and inspire other actors who are coming up to be patient and to work hard and to have rhinoceros’ skin. Do not have thin skin in this business. You have to be able to take everything that comes with it. It's a lot of rejection, but the reward is unbelievable as you continue to keep moving forward.

Let’s talk about the importance of relationships, nurturing those and not burning bridges. Like you said, you never know what's going to happen. How has that lesson served you?
I think a lot of times people don't realize that you treat everyone with respect, because you never know who you're going to meet on this journey. You never know who's going to come back into your life. I would say it served me in an incredible and an incredible way. It's everything. It's probably more than half of my career.

You have to remember something, Cyrus. Everything that you want to obtain in this world is controlled by people. There's a book that changed my life that I read probably when I was about 17 years of age. It was called HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCER PEOPLE by Dale Carnegie. That book changed my life. There's another good book called PERSONALITY PLUS. It talks about the different personality types.

Everything that we want to obtain has to do with our interacting with people. It seems like things are becoming more distant now, because we're going through computer screens and having less human interaction. But common courtesy, decency and respect are things that I've learned never to falter from. And it's very important to show everyone, whether it's the janitor, the PA, or people who are on their grind coming up the chain in the entertainment world courtesy, decency and respect.

Stay connected with Sean and what’s to come on Instagram at www.instagram.com/seanringgold.

Acting On Faith: Christina DeRosa, Actress/Producer /Content Creator


by Cyrus Webb

Actress Christina DeRosa* made her first appearance on Conversations LIVE the radio show this year. The two of us discussed not just the exciting way she brought in 2020 with the movie INHERITANCE, but her career in front of the camera and supporting projects that she believes in. If you follow her online you know she is also a fan of social media and expressing her creativity that way, too.
In this conversation you’ll read about Christina’s career, her passion and what keeps her moving forward even through the challenges we’re all facing.

I love the fact, especially on Instagram, you know, you don't take yourself too seriously. You're still able to have fun. What has it been like for you to see the way that you've been able to do work that you love and then have people love that work as well?
I always say, one of the things I always preach is gratitude is the best attitude. And I start my day and I end my day and every moment of my day is filled with gratitude. And I never stop being grateful. In fact, I think it's a practice. It's an ongoing practice. I write down what I'm grateful for and I never stopped being grateful for all the people in my life, all the opportunities in my life. And I believe the more you express gratitude, the more you have to be grateful for, the more the universe gives you to be grateful for.

And when it comes to acting, Christina, did that just seem like a natural thing for you? Was it something you always wanted to do?
Oh yeah. It all started back in Long Island, New York as a munchkin alongside Natalie Portman in the Wizard of Oz. I started singing and dancing at a young age, and that eventually led me to my musical theater career at the Boston Conservatory. I studied there and then I took the expression while at the Boston Conservatory “break a leg” literally. I fell and broke my leg on stage.  After that I just focused on acting, and that's when I moved to LA, graduated from UCLA and been here ever since.

Do you think that's kind of part of the balance for you that you've been able to find success, but also realize where real happiness comes from?
Absolutely. I think especially as an actress in this entertainment industry, it's very easy to get caught up in me, me, me. It's a very ego-driven industry. It's nice to have other outlets to focus on. It's nice to be able to give back. It's nice to be able to serve. For me, that is so important and focusing on not just my career, but all the other aspects of who I am: a daughter, a sister, you know, anything that I am. All the titles that I wear, not just my career. I always say my career can't dictate my happiness. It's gotta be coming from all over.

And along the way, Christina, not only have you been able to find success and appreciate gratitude, you have fans literally around the world that have been able to enjoy your work as well. What has that been like for you to wrap your mind around?
Oh, it's such a blessing. I think that we keep on going because of the fans, and in a time like now where social media is everything…it's the main way we network. We use it to continue to stay connected and to appreciate our fans. It could be the fans that post something that actually gets you your next job. You just never know.

The last thing I want to talk to you about is your work as a producer.  I have heard it said before and I totally agree, Christina, that creators just create. You mentioned how young you started when it came to acting and how that blossomed. What about working behind the camera as a producer? What has that experience been like for you?
There's a creative fire inside of me for storytelling, and I've seen so many projects that with just a little bit more effort on everybody's part could have been exponentially better. So my strengths as a producer are putting the artistic team together, finding great writers, finding great directors and I just love everything about it. I've really embraced it. Especially during this time now it's where it's at, and to be able to still feel like I'm creating as a producer right now when I'm not currently on set during the stay at home time, it's been powerful. I teamed up with some amazing partners, and we have a production company. We are currently working as producers on a feature film trilogy, and as soon as things are able to be shooting, we will be shooting that movie in Savannah, Georgia.  It's amazing that during these troubled times I was able to shift my creativity from being in front of the camera to being in the back of the camera and still feel amazing about it.

Yeah. And I think too, and I've had conversations with others on this program, Christina, especially over the past couple of months about the importance of embracing one's power. And I think this is a great opportunity for a lot of people to be able to do that. I mean, you are not only I think a living example of what is possible, but I think just by what you just said, you really show about the importance of taking advantage of an opportunity and not just sitting back and waiting, but being able to do your own thing. Is that kind of your advice for others out there when it comes to this period of weight that a lot of people find themselves in or even uncertainty that just to go for what they want to do?
Absolutely. And I feel nowadays, especially with social media, you as an actor out there don't want to just be an actor anymore. And in all honesty, you're not. You're actually becoming an actor, a writer, a director and an editor. If you're making your own TikTok videos, you're in there actually editing your own video, directing yourself, setting up the lighting and more. You're experiencing all aspects of the creative process, which is beautiful. It's way more fun when you get to do it with more people, but it really gives you a sense of appreciation when you're able to do it all yourself too.

Stay connected with Christina at www.christinaderosa.com. She can be found on Instagram at www.instagram.com/actresschristinaderosa

* Photo by Alisa Banks


[Ask Mary Ellen] Allowing Love to Transform and Detoxify your Soul

Holding in anger or any negative emotion can allow toxins to enter at the very level of your soul changing your energy patterns and throwing you into disharmony.

First, you must look at how you allow these toxins to become part of your existence. Do you hold onto past hurts? Are you unforgiving of yourself and/or others? Do you have judgments about yourself, others or our society as a whole? Do you let go and allow the Universe – your world to flow freely? Do you take care physically and mentally of this temple for your Holy Spirit or do you feed it with junk food and fill your mind with the “negative” news talk?

Spiritual teachers have always pointed to the soul/ heart as the seat of consciousness. Anyone who has taken the time to explore the soul, and more importantly the connection to the heart, knows the connection between these two and a consciousness greater than the ego. Approaching life with an open heart means you have opened the door to the greater consciousness at the soul level.

 Become aware of how you can create positive change by choosing the language you use and the perception of how you see your world. You may already have ideas about phrases you would like to transition out of your vocabulary. It is challenging to examine how you see your world. You do not need to actively try to change either of these patterns just become more conscious of yourself. Treat and speak to others the way you would like to be treated and spoken to by them!

When you affirm you are fulfilled, instead of articulating deficiencies, you are committing to your natural essence of human existence. Choose to focus on satisfaction instead of dissatisfaction. At your very soul level understand the energy of your thoughts determines the response you receive from the Universe/God. When you work with all of this creative power within you, it will empower you to achieve the peaceful life you want to live.

The secret for any detoxification process is to become grateful. Allow the power of God’s love to transform you. God and His love transforms ordinary humans into compassionate beings to vibrate at a level of love and kindness. You can raise your vibrational level through gratitude. Feel gratitude for all you have and all the goodness God has bestowed upon you.

Feel gratitude for everything! There is always a reason to be grateful even if you are simply grateful that something good has happened to someone else!

To detoxify your soul, you must
1. Let go of past hurts
2. Forgive unconditionally – especially yourself.
3. Stop judging yourself and others.
4. Allow all emotions/toxins that come into contact with your soul to be felt in entirety and let go without judgment.

To have a peaceful full life you must detoxify, especially at this very basic level of the soul. 

Regularly release these toxins through writing – such as journaling or crying as your tears will flush out your toxins. When you feel a toxin (sadness or yucky feeling) FEEL it let it. Let it come out (as tears or another positive way such as boxing or exercise) and do not judge it. You can sing or make any kind of sound to free up your soul. Music is very Healing!

 Become aware and elevate your soul. By opening your soul to free up the toxins (sadness, judgements or other yucky feelings) that have been binding you will make you feel tender and vulnerable. That is okay. Again, do not judge it! This process takes practice, patience, compassion and unconditional love.

Sincerely with love,
Mary Ellen Ciganovich
Author of "Healing Words, Life Lessons to Inspire” and "T.R.U.T.H- Taking Responsibility Unleashes True Healing"
www.askmaryellen.com  askmaryellen@aol.com  423-653-6446

Branden Nicholson's "31 Days of Inspiration" for August 2020


Conversations Magazine is excited to share daily words of encouragement from celebrity model/fitness trainer Branden Nicholson of B. Nick Fitness in California. The purpose? To encourage the reader to be the best of themselves each and every day during the month of August.

Take out time to visit our website each day to find a daily dose of motivation and visit Branden online at www.bnickfitness.com.

Day One:  New day, new attitude...Take control, stay positive and be great!
Day Two:   The reason why people give up so fast is because they tend to look at how far they still have to go, instead of how far they have come.
Day Three:  If you're not growing, then you're not living. You should never be the same person two days in a row. Make it your goal to get better!
Day Four: When you are going through something hard and wonder where GOD is, remember that the teacher is always quiet during the test.
Day Five: Don't give up on what God has called you to do. The end result is worth the pain. Keep the faith.
Day Six: Today is all about choices. Choose to count your blessings rather than your problems!
Day Seven: You may be the only one that can see your vision, but if you can see it that's all that matters.
Day Eight: Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.
Day Nine: The same people that are hoping you fail will be the same ones that will have to watch you succeed. Never stop. Always keep going!
Day Ten: The WRONG people in your life will keep the RIGHT people out. You've only got a few spaces so choose well!
Day Eleven: You are where God wants you to be at this very moment. Every experience is part of His divine plan.‪
Day Twelve: All liabilities must be let go! If they aren't building you up then they're tearing you down.
Day Thirteen: An original is always worth more than a copy. Be original!
Day Fourteen: When you focus on problems, you'll have more problems. When you focus on possibilities, you'll have more opportunities.
Day Fifteen: People who judge you by your past don't belong in your present.‪
Day Sixteen: Look around...Is this where you wanna be? If not, now is the time to decide to change it! The power lies in you.
Day Seventeen: Don't let your thoughts talk you out of the changes you want for yourself. Your body can do anything. It’s just your brain you have to convince! ‪
Day Eighteen: Get up & Go forward! Let go of the past so you'll have a free hand to open the door to your future!
Day Nineteen: They can copy you but they can't be you. Just keep being a better you and get a kick out of them trying to keep up.
Day Twenty: There are quick fixes for everything in life, but greatness is not achieved in one day. It is a process that each of us must experience.
Day Twenty-One: Don't let a bad day make you feel like you have a bad life.
Day Twenty-Two: You can't expect to live a positive life around negative people.
Day Twenty-Three: I Will NEVER lower MY standards, to RAISE someone else's!
Day Twenty-Four: Direct your thoughts today because your thoughts will direct your day.
Day Twenty-Five: ‪Temptation doesn't surrender. You have to come ready to fight everyday!
Day Twenty-Six: If you don't invest in yourself then your dreams will go bankrupt.
Day Twenty-Seven: Not everyone's opinion should be relevant in your life. Stop making irrelevant people relevant.
Day Twenty-Eight: Never let your,"mind"bully your body!
Day Twenty-Ninth: One day, you'll be just a memory for some people. Do your best to be a good one.
Day Thirty: Want to see your biggest opponent? Look in the mirror.
Day Thirty-One: Don't stress. Do your best. Forget the rest.

Model Rasheed Bey: Walking by Faith, Preparing for the Future

by Cyrus Webb

Model Rasheed Bey* and I first connected in 2017 when he appeared as a guest on Conversations LIVE radio show. Since then we have stayed connected on Instagram, and it's been great watching his journey.

Month after month, year after year, the Pittsburgh, PA native has pushed forward and been able to build his audience and brand along the way. This year we are able to profile his path in our publication. 


Rasheed, it’s been great seeing you grow on Instagram with your journey. When did you first realize that you were interested in modeling?
Thank you for the opportunity. I was probably in my mid-twenties. I kept hearing people's comments or asking if I model. When I told them I didn't they would say I should pursue it. After a while I thought I'd give it a shot. Now here we are.

Confidence is huge in your industry. Is that something you’ve always had or is it something you’ve developed over time?
Confidence is something I have, but if I'm being honest with you I still struggle with it here and there. I'm human like everyone else, and it's something I have to deal with from time to time.

How did you decide on Instagram as the platform you were going to use to grow your audience?
Instagram was a app that was fun before anything and easy to use. As social media outlets grew Instagram always seemed to stay ahead of the pack, and others like it came and went. To me it was also an app I personally enjoyed using the most, so I stuck with it.

Rasheed, we’re navigating uncertain times right now. What keeps you motivated?
I would say always wanting more. I feel like I haven't even scratched the surface of my potential, and I feel like things are starting to come my way. That in itself is very exciting and keeps me motivated to keep working.

As far as goals go what are you looking forward to when it comes to your modeling career?
To hopefully be able to make a good living doing something I truly love and enjoy. I also want to be able to work with brands and like-minded people who enjoy what I do and hopefully motivate others.

We’re glad to have you in our Acting on Faith issue. How has your faith kept you going?
Faith is always key, and I try to always keep that in mind no matter what. Even if this wasn't going on with the pandemic myself and others would still have hard times. At the end of the day you still need faith to help you get through any day, good or bad.

Speaking of acting, is that something you would also like to explore?
I'd love to do some acting if it came my way. I've always been a huge movie buff and think it's one of the best jobs out there to be able to entertain others. It would also be cool to be someone else for fun and get paid doing it.

Any advice for anyone out there who is interested in pursuing modeling?
I would say know your strengths and always have faith in yourself. Also use yourself to promote yourself, because no one will believe in you more then yourself .

Thanks again for the time, Rasheed. How can our audience stay connected with you? 
The easiest way, of course, is my instagram @sonofprime412. Thank you for the opportunity.

*     Photographed by Devin Robinson

Chris Connell: Fulfilling 'The Promise' of His Gifts

 
by Cyrus Webb

A mutual friend introduced me to Chris Connell this year, and I can honestly say it was a powerful connection. Chris Connell is the kind of guy you want around: he's driven, focused and passionate about his work. Whether we're talking about in front of the camera as a model or actor or now with his production company helping to bring stories to life, you will be hard-pressed to find someone who is willing to give his all to what he does. 

We had a great chat on Conversations LIVE the radio show first, but with us discussing the issue of Faith in this issue of the magazine I knew he would be a great addition here, too. Enjoy the conversation. 

Chris, first of all congratulations on the amazing career you have been able to have. What has it been like for you to reflect on all you have achieved in the entertainment industry?
It’s been exceptionally rewarding when people give acknowledgment to my achievements. Truthfully, I always have my eyes set on new heights, often overlooking these accolades, rarely giving attention to the past. I’m grateful, however, to everyone who continues to support me!

Have you always known that acting or performing was something you wanted to do?
Yes, absolutely; Well, I should say since high school. I’ve been asked for a long time what inspired me. My response: “I have no idea.” I’ve always appreciated strong communication and the opportunity to share the human condition, even under imaginary circumstances. Movies just seemed like the right fit.

This issue of Conversations Magazine is all about acting on faith when it comes to pursuing your goals. What gave you the courage to go for what you wanted in your career.
I could argue that my mother instilled a belief in me that anything I wanted to achieve was possible. Simply put, I will not accept anything less than the very best of myself. When I set a goal, I hit it. When you want something bad enough, you will walk through walls for it. I guess that says that I really want to live different, and I’m confident enough to reach for it. 

I’ve noticed from following you on social media that you’ve been able to engage a lot with your followers. What has it been like for you to pick up new fans from project to project?
It’s been such a blessing. I’m confident in who I am and don’t base my worth over how many likes I get, but just like anyone, It’s nice to know you’re appreciated.

Outside of being a creative yourself and acting on stage, television and film you also have your own production company. How did you get the courage to take that step to bring stories to life through your own platform?
The career of an actor is a challenging one. You’re often at the mercy of other industry professionals when it comes to bringing you on to their opportunity. I chose to give myself the power to create my own opportunities and with a little time and experience Chris Connell Productions was born.

I found out about you, Chris, through a mutual friend . That says a lot about the relationships you have formed in your career. How important has that been for you to have people in your corner who believe in you and your abilities?
It’s critical, and to be honest, I didn’t place enough value in it early in my career. I assumed talent was enough. When you connect with like-minded people who share a similar purpose, you now have a reach positioning you for exponential growth. Social media give us a unique opportunity to make those connections and those who are wise will take advantage of this platform.

The Promise is one of the projects you’re able to promote this year. Tell our readers about it and what it’s like to have your production company bring it to life. 
It’s been truly special to watch this vision develop into a reality, this only possible by the talent and dedication of the team I’m working with. “The Promise” follows an American WWII fighter pilot who’s shot down over the South Pacific. Fighting for his life, he forges an unlikely friendship to help him uphold a promise he made to the love of his life. Making this has been purely incredible, and I appreciate the way it’s challenged me as a filmmaker.

This year has brought challenges to us all, but the entertainment industry has been hit especially hard. How have you been able to use this time to stay active and productive?
I’ve actually leveraged the opportunity. With so many other projects on hold, my team was available more than ever, and I know we all welcomed the chance to build something we’re proud of. I made the decision to never take my foot off the gas, and work within these unique circumstances.

Any advice for anyone that is interested in pursuing a career in the arts, either in front of or behind the camera?
I can respond in so many ways to this question.  If you seek this professionally, you MUST give everything to it. There’s nothing casual about this. For something so engaging, so exhilarating, it’s going to be competitive. Those who rise to its demands will give all of themselves for it and unless you feel the same it’s going to be a tough road. If it’s in you, follow the calling and be bold in your actions.

Thanks for the time, Chris. Glad we had a chance to connect. How can our audience stay connected with you and what’s to come?  
www.chriswconnell.com
Instagram: chriswconnell
Facebook: chriswconnell
chriswconnell@gmail.com

Chris Connell photo:  Dylan Patrick
The Promise post: Chris Connell Productions 

[FITNESS] Five Tips for Getting Fit by Branden Nicholson

 by Branden Nicholson

Starting a fitness journey is always a challenge, but it may feel even more daunting when you’re carrying a few extra pounds.

If it’s been awhile since the last time you laced up your sneakers, you may not be 100 percent sure what you’re still capable of — which can make it a little intimidating to hit the gym alongside people who look like chiseled bodybuilders and aspiring fitness models.

But “fit” comes in many shapes and sizes — and you can always nail fitness goals in your own living room if the gym isn’t exactly your happy place.

Here are a few tips for getting in shape, no matter what your shape.

1. No workout is off limits
Have you ever seen a workout that looked intriguing, but you were concerned you didn’t have the “right” body type for it yet?

Maybe you want to try martial arts, but you’re worried that you lack the mobility, coordination, or power to execute a jab/cross/snap kick combo like a Muay Thai fighter. Or you want to try yoga, but you can barely hold a pose.

Put those worries aside. If a workout program looks fun don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and try it — because you’re more likely to stick with a workout program you actually enjoy. You can always modify exercises to make them less strenuous until you build the strength and mobility needed to execute them fully.

2. Don’t underestimate your fitness abilities
Your weight or BMI (body mass index) can help you determine your starting point, but they’re not the only (or even the best) way to measure fitness.

Instead, gauge your progress by how strong and energetic you feel, and when you notice your workouts getting easier, go harder. If you begin to notice that the modifiers aren’t leaving you out of breath and drenched in sweat by the end of a workout, it’s time to move on to the main moves.

3. Get the right workout gear
Splurging on workout gear might feel kind of vain, but it isn’t just about taking awesome sweaty selfies. The right gear can keep you comfortable and even help prevent discomfort and injury.

For women a supportive sports bra can keep everything in place during plyometric (jumping) exercises, for example. Working out with the right shoes is vital for many reasons. Unless you’re running, stop wearing running shoes when you exercise. Consider purchasing training shoes instead. Everyone’s feet are different, so it’s not one-size-fits-all. But for anyone — especially anyone who’s plus-sized — make sure you have a shoe that supports the workout you are doing.

4. Pay attention to your technique
Proper form is always important. Not only does it help you get the most out of the exercise, but it can also help you reduce your risk of injury. It’s really important to make sure your technique is there — especially if you’re carrying around more weight because you need to protect your joints.

Work on proper alignment and proper technique so you’re avoiding injury — and getting better results, as well.It can be tempting to go full-throttle from the get-go, but that can backfire — if you get hurt, you won’t be able to work out for awhile.

5. Set non-scale goals
Don’t let the scale be your only barometer of success — look for other signs that you’re getting stronger and slimmer. Have you lost an inch off your waist? Are you using heavier weights than you were last month? Can you hold a 10 seconds plank longer? Do you see a thinner profile when you look in the mirror?

Focus on non-scale victories, like how you’re feeling during the workouts and if you have more energy during the day. That includes emotional victories, too, such as feelings of pride and confidence following a tough workout. The keys to meeting fitness goals are to stay positive and not get discouraged. Stay consistent and be patient — results will come.

After a tough workout a lot of people feel like a new and improved version of themselves, regardless of how much weight they have lost. Results vary depending on starting point and effort. Exercise and proper diet are necessary to achieve and maintain weight loss and muscle definition.

Always consult your physician and follow all safety instructions before beginning any exercise program or using any supplement or meal replacement product, especially if you have any unique medical conditions or needs.

For more information on ways to get fit with Branden Nicholson visit www.bnickfitness.com.

[The J Spot with Shari Alyse] Always Allow Love to Offer Wisdom


Quite a few years ago, when that Tom guy was running that hugely popular social networking site (yeah, you loved it too), I received a random email from a 15 year old boy that said, “You are an old b*#ch and should stop trying to look so hot and stop acting like a whore.”

Wow. 

That was a bit unexpected (to say the least) and quite a message to wake up to that day. I didn’t know the boy. I didn’t know why I received it. All I did know was that my first thoughts were how immature he was. And then the anger and defensiveness came over me and I started going over in my head how he’d be lucky to have a woman like me, how I felt sorry for his parents, that he must not have any friends, and on and on and on. Suddenly, I had the realization that as I was going off in my head about this boy, I was acting in the same manner he was. I was lashing out at him because of some hurt I was feeling. I stopped dead in my tracks, took a breath and did something I had never done before up to that point.

I decided to act with LOVE.

I decided right then and there that this boy needed love. I wasn’t sure why that thought came to me, but I knew it was something that had to be done. It didn’t need to be a novel or lecture telling him how childish and rude he was and how he would learn one day or anything like that. It only needed to be love. I opened up his message and simply wrote, “Love and peace to you” and signed my name. That was it. I went on with the rest of my day.

The next morning, I saw in my inbox that I had a new message and the sender was this boy. My heart sunk a bit not sure what rudeness I was going to read now. What came next almost knocked me over. It read, “I’m sorry for what I wrote yesterday. I’m just a young, immature kid and I hope you can forgive me.” I must have re-read that email about 10 times in that moment and had the biggest smile on my face.

It was right there that I knew for sure that love and kindness are always the way to go in any situation. 

I learned right then that if I had reacted in the same manner as him, then any lesson he could’ve learned would have been lost through the nasty things I would’ve said. By me acting from a place of love and kindness, he was then able to see his behavior clearly. I see it happen every day. I see people go back and forth in fighting and never see how they play a major part in what is happening.

The woman who was blocking a door at the grocery store while on her phone will never see how she was being self-absorbed and selfish because all she will talk about and remember is the “crazy” woman who went off on her at the grocery store. The guy who was being rude and not letting the other driver in on the freeway, won’t see that he was not being kind, he will only remember the “animal” on the road who flipped him off and blared his horn. The woman at Starbucks who forgot her manners by not holding the door open for someone, will not see her behavior, but will instead only see the angry woman who mumbled under her breath calling a few choice swear words. All of those people now go about their day, being upset, unhappy, pissed off and then sharing that negative energy with all the people they come across. Do you see how this cycle works?

I, alone, cannot bring about world peace, but I can bring inner peace to myself and to my immediate surroundings by being guided by kindness, love, and compassion with all those whom I come across every day. We, individually are responsible for the energy that we bring into a room and into the world each day. I invite you to begin thinking about what you want to leave behind when you walk out of a room. Do you want to be that person that brings joy into it and leaves others with a smile or do you want to be that person that brings everyone down when you are around and then can’t wait for you to leave? We have choices in every single moment, and even when it might seem hard to take the higher road, it is possible and it will bring forth a gentler and kinder world for others, but most importantly, for yourself.

When faced with challenging situations, always remember to A.L.L.O.W. (Always Let Love Offer Wisdom) love and kindness to guide you in all that you do.

We never know what the other person is going through on that particular day and we would only hope that we would receive the same forgiveness when we act in ways that might not always be in our higher, better self. None of us are perfect, and if we can remember as much as possible that most people just want to be loved and felt appreciated, we can begin to act from this place of LOVE and witness as everyone and everything in our lives begins to change. I will admit that it’s not always easy, but as they say, it is always worth it.

By the way, I wrote back to that boy, “Of course I forgive you. I was immature once, too. Still am sometimes.” He simply responded with a smile. A special thank you goes out to that young man for his apology and for allowing me now to be led by a life of compassion, kindness, love and forgiveness.

“Treat everyone with politeness, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are.” − Unknown


Shari Alyse is the best selling author of the book, Love Yourself Happy. She is also a motivational speaker and self-love coach. If you’d like to work with Shari, you can find out more about her at www.ShariAlyse.com


One-on-One with Luenell, the ORIGINAL Bad Girl of Comedy


by Cyrus Webb

I first had the chance to interview Luenell in 2019, and it was definitely one of the highlights of the year. The talented comedian/actress has made a name for herself on the stage, on television and in film---but it is in LIFE that she really shines. In essence what you see is what you get, and her fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

Luenell has been recognized for her work literally around the world, and at the beginning of 2020 she was honored at City Hall in Los Angeles as part of the city’s Black History Month celebrations.  Even the Coronavirus pandemic hasn’t stopped her. Luenell started her own show on Youtube called “Hey Luenell” where she has been able to talk about current events and all things going on with pop culture and the world.

In this conversation we talk about her success, her realness and the importance of being you.

Luenell, thank you so much for the time. What has that been like for you to do something that you love and to see the type of response you have gotten, especially online?
Well, it's very beautiful for me, because with all the things that can go wrong with social media, there's a lot of things that have gone right with it. The fact that I can get emails and stuff from people in Amsterdam, from people in Sweden and from people in Zimbabwe has been amazing to me. I wouldn't even think that my brand of comedy or way of thinking would translate to those other countries when in all actuality it has!
I guess like you stated it’s my realness.  I've lived long enough to see the social and moral compass of our country go straight in the toilet. And I think that the fact that I have been literally the same person since I left the streets of East Oakland in California and moved to Los Angeles and incorporated myself into Hollywood and Beverly Hills, I think that's refreshing to a lot of people. You do see people change as they climb up the ladder, but I have not. I've not been affected like [some] people are when they have access to excess, you know what I mean?

 Yes, I know exactly what you mean. Luenell, you said something I want to go back to, because I think it is an important point. There are those who have not had a quarter of the success that you've been able to have and have changed. Do you think that realness is one of the reasons you have not been affected by the spotlight like others have?
The family that I have and the friends that I have would never allow that. If they saw me slipping into a ‘Me, me, me, look at me. I'm so great’ type of category I would be quickly slapped back down to reality. So there is no chance of me ever, ever, ever, going Hollywood as they say. I'm just such a regular chick that, you know, I'll curse out an executive in a meeting just like I'll cuss out a person on the street. That’s just me.

Well, again, that goes to why people love you so much. I mentioned there are so many different platforms you’ve been on: stage, television and film. Do you find that stage is where you're the most at home?
Yes, I do. I like the immediate interaction with people. I like to see the people. I like to be able to feel the laughter. It doesn't translate as well through film and television for me, unless you're shooting a television show that has a live studio audience.

I grew up in church choir, which had that immediate response. I went into theater and did a lot of theater when I lived in Oakland and performing in San Francisco. People in LA don't even know about my theatrical chops. I just enjoy people, and I enjoy the vibe of people. I enjoy the immediate reaction of people. That's why movies are such a hard thing for me, because you get excited about it, you build a family and a relationship, then it's over. They're gone, You're gone… and the movie doesn't come out for another year. For someone who doesn't have a lot of patience like me, that's a real ball-buster.


You have also embraced the things that sometimes people run from. Right. You're not afraid to go there. I noticed even when I was prepping for this segment and you know, am thinking about not only the special but just in your, you know, in your life you've been able to kind of just go in on these things. Do you find yourself kind of capturing or keeping your power by attacking things that some people might try to use as negatives?
Well, as far as age, weight, relationships and all that, these are obvious things. It's like there's nothing more pitiful to me than somebody who tries to be younger than they are. You know, you can be hip, you can be with it, you can be knowledgeable and up on some of the terminology and the slang and the culture, but c’mon. Have some class and maturity about yourself.
I think that it's cool to talk about the obvious. If you’re chubby, then you can't erase that away. You can't embarrass that away. You can't pretend like it's not there. Address it. If you have one arm, you wouldn't come out on stage and pretend like you have two arms. You don't. We can see that. So let's talk about that. You know, I'm not sure where I got this boldness from, but I know that it has been very liberating for me to just come clean about the obvious, you know?

 I don't aim my humor for anybody that I'm not. I aim my humor towards people like me. And those are ticket buyers, movie watchers. I appreciate the love that is reciprocated, because I definitely am talking to you about all these subjects with love in my heart.

Stay connected with Luenell’s journey at her website www.heyluenell.com, Instagram at www.instagram.com/luenell and her Youtube channel at www.youtube.com/heyluenell.