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Lady Gaga was on hand at The Daily Front Row’s Fashion Los Angeles Awards on Sunday night to help honor her longtime hairstylist Frederic Aspiras by presenting him with the Hair Artist of the Year Award.
“I’ve been through many highs and lows, consistently throughout my career, and Freddie has been there for it all,” Gaga said. “[He] has picked me up off the floor and told me I’m strong, I can persevere, more times than I could ever count. If I was on the floor, he was right there with me.”
Gaga, who has worked with Aspiras for over 10 years, also said that simply calling Aspiras a hairstylist would fall short.
“Even saying his full name, as the rockstar he’s become, I find myself thinking, ‘No, he’s not just in my eyes, the greatest hair artist in the world, he’s the brother I never had,’” she said.
Gaga recounted the highlights of his work, such as coming up with her signature “piss blonde” hair color while she was on her Monster Ball tour in 2009; his ability to change her lace-front wigs in 35 seconds while she changed costumes between performances; and the 2019 Academy Awards. The night before the Oscars, Gaga said the two stayed up all night, “because we’re both going, ‘B—-, we didn’t come this far to go to the Oscars with a root. We have to bleach it.’”
The Oscar winner also revealed a fact she said not even Aspiras knew, that he inspired her to write “Hair,” off her 2011 album, “Born This Way,” because “he helped inspire me to love myself, and be myself every day.”
Taking the stage after Gaga, Aspiras told the crowd that he represents “the American Dream.” He said that his mother was a hairdresser who emigrated from Vietnam, and that it was difficult for him growing up, because he was “different, growing up gay, being Asian, and not being able to express yourself at such a young age. “
“You’re being bullied, because you’re being beat up every single day, because you love to do hair and because you’re 13 years old and no one cares or are calling you names,” Aspiras recalled. “I am the American dream. It is to fight hard, it is to work through all your adversity, it is to fight, it is to demand, it is to believe in yourself.”
Aspiras also said that he wants his story to influence young people with similar dreams. “I hope to inspire a generation of young artists out there who hopefully, who hears my story and sees this tonight and that follows me, that believe that this can happen to you too,” Aspiras said.
Prior to the event, Aspiras spoke to Variety about working with Gaga throughout the years. “She believes in me and she trusts me to just do me. That’s what keeps me going,” he said. “You have to allow yourself to really be true to yourself, that people will see that. That’s what is so special about today is that I did nothing but just be myself this whole time.”
The evening’s other honorees included designer Christian Siriano, models Adriana Lima, Candice Swanepoel, and Slick Woods as well as Kate Hudson, who was recognized with the Fashion Entrepreneur honor for her sportswear line, Fabletics.
Even by the standards of network television, NBC’s “The Village” wears its inspiration boldly and openly: It’s “This Is Us,” except set among the disparate residents of an apartment building rather than the members of a family. “The Village” leans, hard, into the “This Is Us” formula of trauma-as-drama, deriving its tone from its characters perpetually making their way through the worst days of their lives and building moments of emotional catharsis and connection practically before every ad break.
Which is fine, as far as it goes — the medium runs on repetition, with slight alteration, and “This Is Us,” a surprisingly durable hit, is as good a template to crib as any. But, though it has plenty of its own issues, “This Is Us” is a notably well-acted and tonally consistent series. “The Village,” by contrast, veers all over the map and does not boast actors capable of selling all of the lines they’re given. “The Village’s” idiosyncracies, then, come to seem studied and affected, and its moments of connection like rudimentary and naked bits of manipulation.
The main story of the series involves Sarah Campbell (Michaela McManus), a nursing-home employee whose teen daughter, Katie (Grace Van Dien) reveals in the series’s first episode that she is pregnant. Meanwhile, military veteran Nick Porter (Warren Christie) has just moved into the same New York City building; I won’t reveal his connection to the Campbells here, so as to preserve the story, but there’s little sense of discovery once it’s revealed. The show can’t seem to get out of its way, revealing plot elements with thudding obviousness: These include not merely Nick’s story but also plotlines involving Lorraine Toussaint as a neighbor with cancer and Dominic Chianese as an older gent who’s looking for appreciation and love. Toussaint doesn’t just suffer — she collapses theatrically while performing at an open mic night. And Chianese isn’t just winsome — he goes on a quixotic mission to find a woman with whom he’s smitten, with only her misplaced library book as a clue to her identity.
These are the sort of things that make sense on the page but that fail to track when put before actors to perform. Unfortunately, the show’s heaviest lifting falls to McManus and Van Dien, who consistently bear the worst cliches and most unbelievable interactions. The nature of their relationship changes from moment to moment, depending on the intended effect. Sometimes they bond by talking in a “1930s movie voice,” like they’re on a less cerebral “Gilmore Girls,” and sometimes they bond by dancing cathartically together. McManus’s Sarah sometimes works in overwrought metaphor — as when she talks about mothers exchanging cells with their babies in utero and tells Katie “I’m in your bones, girl” — and is sometimes painfully, weirdly direct. (We learn that she was inspired to keep her baby by watching news coverage of Sept. 11: “I kept seeing those towers fall on the news. People so scared they were jumping out, and I couldn’t get out of my head that I needed to do something radically good in their memory.”) One line in the pilot suggests exactly when the script, with its familiar blend of strained metaphor and emotional self-indulgence, might have felt more fresh. Sarah asks a potential love interest whether he believes in soul mates: “Do you believe in that — one in six billion is perfect for you?” The world’s population hit six billion in 1999; it’s been past seven for years.
The characters of “The Village” feel put through the paces of real issues — teen pregnancy, post-traumatic stress, cancer, immigration enforcement, the strain of aging. But it’s vanishingly rare that they feel real. (Christie, for instance, is doing his best to give a real performance as the military vet, but is surrounded in every episode by characters whose behavior is so strange and unrecognizable as to deflate any impact his storyline might have.) For a show rooted in a single building, there’s remarkably little sense of place; this show exists not in a fictional New York but in the TV land where everyone is moments away from monologuing, a place that’s grown uninteresting as we’ve visited it so often. The show spends so much energy trying to make its viewer cry that it loses sight of what’s often the most emotionally moving aspect of art — our identification with characters we recognize. “The Village,” over and over, stops short at establishing the situation; that you’ll be dry-eyed is only a failure because the show’s goal of heart-tugging is so transparent.
“The Village.” NBC. March 19. Four episodes screened for review.
Cast: Warren Christie, Michaela McManus, Lorraine Toussaint, Frankie Faison, Jerod Haynes, Dominic Chianese, Daren Kagasoff, Grace Van Dien, Moran Atias
Executive Producers: Mike Daniels, Jessica Rhoades, Diane Kredensor, Minkie Spiro
Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV.
Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, “The Act” premieres on Hulu and “The OA” returns for Season 2 on Netflix.
“The Fix,” ABC, Monday, 10 p.m.
The legal drama, which is toplined by Robin Tunney and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, was co-created by Marcia Clark, the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson trial. Given that the story centers around a former prosecutor in the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office who lost a case against a famous black person, it would seem the show will be heavily based on Clark’s experiences.
“The Village,” NBC, Tuesday, 10 p.m.
Watch the series premiere of the show which follows the residents of a Manhattan apartment building as they find out that the more their lives intertwine, the more complex and compelling their connections become.
Based on the disturbing true story of Gypsy Rose and Dee Dee Blanchard, “The Act” stars Patricia Arquette as a toxic, overprotective mother and Joey King as her daughter who, in her fight for independence, discovers her mother’s dark secrets.
“The OA,” Netflix, Friday
Season two of the striking, puzzling, slightly bonkers sci-fi drama, co-created by Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglijshow drops on Netflix. Brit Marling returns as the central character who mysteriously resurfaced in season one with scars on her back and the ability to see, despite having been blind before, after having gone missing for seven years.
The final round of grants is going out to creators from various industries, including gaming, film, education, AR/VR/MR, and more. The latest recipients include the the following indie games:
- “Aeon Must Die!” from Limestone Games
- “BioStories” from Bio-Bridge Initiative
- “Cryptant” from Orchard
- “Eximius: Seize the Frontline” from Ammobox Studio
- “Kingshunt” from Vaki Games
- “Polter Pals” from Split Hare Games
- “The Forgotten City” from Modern Storyteller
These VR games and experiences were also given portions of the grant:
- “Eclipse” from BackLight
- “Glimpse” from Mr. Kite
- “Project M” from EVR Studios
- “Shooty Fruit Arcade” from nDreams
- “SnapClick: Fossil Diggers” from The Orphanage
Additionally, wards were given the educational online course “Complete Unreal C++ Dev” from GameDev.TV, the animated web series “Meta Runner” by Glitch Productions, the adoption of ray tracing features by Rense de Boer in “Photorealism in UE4,” the toolset “TrianGraphics” by TrianGraphics GmbH, and for visual design on “Visual Helsinki” by Zoan.
The Unreal Dev Grants are part of a $5 million fund meant to help bolster the creative pursuits of recipients across a number of industries. The official goal of Unreal Dev Grants is to “empower talented artists, designers, and programmers to build upon their outstanding work in and around Unreal Engine 4 while alleviating financial stress.”
“With today’s announcement, we’ve reached our $5 million goal for the Unreal Dev Grants program. As we look back at the list of those we’ve been able to support throughout the years, we can’t help but feel deeply honored to have played a part in the stories of hundreds of projects,” said Chance Ivey, Partnership Manager at Epic Games.
Epic Games will be holding its annual State of Unreal opening session at GDC 2019 at 9:30am PT on Wednesday, March 20. You can view the stream via the Unreal Engine YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook channels.
The first episode of the three-part docu-series launched Monday (March 18) on MTV Facebook, with the other installments to be released on following Mondays. “The Birth of Queen Naija” will also be available MTV YouTube on Fridays, starting March 22.
The series promises an intimate look at the 23-year-old rising singer’s journey as she navigates her first U.S. tour, pregnancy, family and her drive to succeed. “The Birth of Queen Naija” offers viewers a look behind her music with exclusive on-set footage, performances and personal video of family and friends.
“I’m so excited to partner with MTV on this incredible journey documenting my first national tour while pregnant with Legend,” Queen Naija said. “I cannot wait for my supporters to get a behind-the-scenes look at my life on the road.”
Queen Naija, who’s currently signed with Capitol Records, first gained prominence as a contestant on “American Idol” season 8, before amassing an online following of 3.9 million subscribers on YouTube (and growing). She self-released her single “Medicine” in 2017, and last June released her second single, “Karma,” on Capitol Records where it topped iTunes’ charts.
“The Birth of Queen Naija” is produced by the MTV arm of Viacom Digital Studios, led by Lars Silberbauer and executive produced by Garth Bardsley and Cory Midgarden.
Bernie Tormé, a veteran hard rock guitarist who played with Ozzy Osbourne, Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan and his own solo bands, died Sunday at the age of 66, according to a statement from his family.
“Bernie Tormé passed away peacefully on the 17th March 2019, one day short of his 67th birthday, surrounded by his family,” the statement reads. “He had been on life support for the past four weeks at a London hospital following post-flu complications. Bernie will be remembered for dedicating his life to his music for five decades. He will be sorely missed.”
Last month Torme’s Twitter account posted that the guitarist was in intensive care with virulent pneumonia; the same post stated that was owed nearly £16,000 by the financially troubled direct-to-fan marketplace PledgeMusic, “which was due last December on completion of his recent ‘Shadowland’ Pledgemusic campaign.” A subsequent post noted that Torme had “paid for all for all recordings, merchandise, CDs and all postage costs to honour his fans’ pledges out of his own pocket. He has as yet been unable to pay his musicians, drummer Mik Gaffney and bass player Simon Morton for their work on the album.”
While he worked for many years with Gillan and on his own solo projects, Irish-born Torme is best known for his brief stint in Osbourne’s band in 1982, immediately after Randy Rhoads — the singer’s key cowriter on his first two solo albums — died in a freak plane crash. While he was only with Osbourne for a few weeks, the singer credited Torme with giving him the inspiration and strength to continue performing. Over the years Torme also performed with Atomic Rooster, Desperado (with former Twisted Sister singer Dee Snider) and GMT.
He completed a tour billed “The Final Fling” in support of the “Shadowland” album in December, although it’s unclear whether the last-tour billing was due to his illness.
A March 3 tweet from the account reads: “On behalf of Bernie: Thank you to everybody for your overwhelming support and continued kind thoughts. We all have to be patient, he is receiving the best possible medical care. Keep those good wishes coming.”
The once broken-up, now reunited country duo Brooks & Dunn were named to the Country Music Hall of Fame’s class of 2019 Monday morning, a few weeks before the release of their first album in 12 years.
Also announced were comic singer-songwriter Ray Stevens, in the veteran performer category, and former producer and label chief Jerry Bradley, in the non-performer division. Brooks & Dunn’s appointment came in the modern-era category.
The formal induction will take place at a medallion ceremony in the fall. These three join 136 previous inductees into the Country Hall.
“It hasn’t soaked into me, and it probably will some time when I’m off to myself having an emotional moment,” said Ronnie Dunn, stepping up to the podium in the Hall of Fame rotunda. “Kix is gonna turn it loose on you here. Congrats to you, huh?” Dunn said to his on-and-off partner since 1990.
“That’s just weird. He never does that!” said Brooks, startled to have the mic turned over to him so quickly. “Like most of the people in this room, I’m just a fan of country music. The fact that I or we would be in the Hall of Fame, that’s not something you think about, even when you’re winning awards and stuff. The faces on this wall I will never consider my peers, most of ‘em. I idolize ‘em.”
An introductory speech by WSM morning DJ Bill Cody (filling in for an ailing Reba McIntire) noted that the duo had been put together by Arista exec Tim DuBois in 1990 when the aspiring singer-songwriters didn’t really know each other, and that they had gone on to become CMA entertainers of the year in 1996 (and, in the 2000s, hosts of the CMA Awards).
“Thank you so much for believing in us, because we didn’t really believe in each other,” Brooks said. In their award-winning days, he said, “We never really celebrated, because we knew it was gonna be over and it was bad luck. It was too weird this was happening, and this, this is really freakin’ weird.”
Unlike the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which is more liberal with its inductions, the Country Hall only names three new members each year, and only two of those three are “names” to the general public, as one is always reserved for a side musician or non-performer.
CMA president Sarah Trahern asked for a moment of silence for the Hall of Fame members who had passed in the last year: Harold Bradley, Roy Clark, Fred Foster, Maxine Brown Russell and Mac Wiseman.
Trahern recalled that in the year Foster was announced as an inductee, he gave a speech in which the veteran producer went on about his fellow new members — who hadn’t actually been announced yet. “We did in our briefing today remind all three not to share,” she said. In his speech Monday, Bradley made a joke of that, saying, “This is the greatest honor anyone could receive in country music, and I want to congratulate… [long pause]… the other nominees.”
But Bradley quickly broke down crying toward the end of his speech when he began to thank his father, the recently passed Harold Bradley, and uncle, Owen Bradley — both Hall of Fame members themselves — leading emcee Cody to take his notes and finish the speech for him.
Bradley was the head of RCA Records’ Nashville division in the 1970s and ’80s at a time when the label won its independence from the company’s New York office. He oversaw country’s first platinum album, “Wanted: The Outlaws,” an influential compilation album featuring Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and others. Bradley produced more than a dozen No. 1 records for Charley Pride, signed Ronnie Milsap and Alabama, was partly responsible for Elvis Presley returning to the country charts before his death in the mid-’70s, and was at the helm when Dolly Parton crossed over to pop with “Here You Come Again” and “Nine to Five.”
Ray Stevens had a No. 1 pop hit with “Everything is Beautiful,” had a summer replacement variety series on network television in 1970, and had his biggest success in 1974 with the five-times platinum novelty record “The Streak.” Subsequently, he focused most of his efforts in country, comedy records, and opening a theater in Branson and eventually a dinner hall in Nashville, as well as hosting shows on RFD and PBS.
Sitting in the front row for the announcements was Ricky Skaggs, who was the only living inductee last year, joining with the late Dottie West and Johnny Gimble. “I am so delighted that we have all three of our inductees present with us today,” Trahern said before naming this year’s class.
PAX East takes place Mar. 28-31 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in Boston, Mass. Fans who visit the Square Enix booth during the convention can try playable demos, catch some developer panels, participate in fan activities and giveaways, and more.
The aforementioned fan activities include the “Final Fantasy XIV” Seiryu Battle Challenge. Fans who actually beat Seiryu can win a t-shirt proclaiming their victory. They’ll also have a chance to win a “Dragon Quest Builders 2” slime plush by taking a photo and posting it on Twitter or Instagram. Meanwhile, the first 25 attendees per day to show proof they purchased “Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon Every Buddy!” will get a special themed lunch box.
Additionally, fans of strange video game branded beverages can get a promotional card redeemable at Kung Fu Tea locations throughout Boston for the “Tidus and Yuna’s Grape Elixir.”
Of course, Square Enix is bringing plenty of demos for current and upcoming titles. Here’s the full lineup:
“Dragon Quest Builders 2”
Platform: PlayStation 4 system
Developer: Square Enix
Available: Jul. 12
“Chocobo’s Mystery Dungeon Every Buddy!”
Platform: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4
Developer: Square Enix
Available: Mar. 20
“Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia”
Platform: Android, iOS
Developer: Square Enix, Koei Tecmo
“Final Fantasy” Trading Card Game
Developer: Square Enix
“Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster”
Platform: Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Developer: Square Enix
Available: April 16
“Final Fantasy XI Online”
Developer: Square Enix
“Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age”
Platform: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One
Developer: Square Enix
Available: Apr. 30
“Final Fantasy XIV Online”
Platform: PlayStation 4, Windows, Steam, Mac
Developer: Square Enix
“Final Fantasy XV: Episode Ardyn”
Platform: Xbox One, Windows 10, PlayStation 4, Origin, and Steam
Developer: Square Enix
Available: Mar. 26
“Kingdom Hearts Union χ[Cross]”
Platform: Android, iOS, Amazon
Developer: Square Enix
Platform: PlayStation 4, Steam
Developer: Square Enix
“Life is Strange 2”
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows PC
Developer: DONTNOD Entertainment
“Star Ocean: Anamnesis”
Platform: iOS, Android
Metro Goldwyn Mayer has hired industry veteran Robert Marick as executive VP of global consumer products and experiences.
In his new role, Marick is responsible for overseeing the expansion of MGM’s traditional merchandise, interactive and consumer products business. He’s also developing a global strategy with a focus on core consumer products licensing, digital and gaming, location-based entertainment and direct-to-consumer businesses.
Marick will report to Christopher Brearton, MGM’s chief operating officer. Marick has worked for Walt Disney Company, Twentieth Century Fox, Time Warner Inc. (now WarnerMedia), Mattel, and Discovery.
“Robert has a proven track record of taking complex entertainment properties and translating them into impactful consumer goods and experiences,” said Brearton. “His extensive knowledge of the industry and global marketing expertise will enable him to provide a unique perspective as we look to enhance MGM’s position as a global leader in consumer products and experiences.”
Marick will be working on MGM brands including “The Addams Family,” “Legally Blonde,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Vikings,” “James Bond,” and “Pink Panther.” He began his career working in toys at Mattel and managing Fox’s multibillion-dollar global licensing business, and implemented global franchise strategies for “Avatar,” “Ice Age,” and “The Simpsons.”
Most recently, Marick oversaw the global location-based entertainment and North America consumer products businesses at Discovery Inc., where he developed and executed global location-based entertainment and merchandise plans for Discovery, Discovery Adventures, Discovery Kids, and Animal Planet.