We’re lying in the sun, getting pleasantly sloshed, when Halsey confesses that she’s read a story I wrote for Rolling Stone in April, about Planned Parenthood and a miscarriage I had. “I felt like I was suffocating reading that article,” she says. “Like someone put a shopping bag over my head. I didn’t want to meet you at all. I was really terrified of you, because I knew as soon as I saw you, I was going to need to tell you that last year on tour I got pregnant.” Then, at a breathless pace, she’s describing being in a hotel room in Chicago before Badlands even came out, back when her whole career could have easily been ruined (“What happens? Do I lose my record deal? Do I lose everything? Or do I keep [the pregnancy]? What are the fans going to think? What are the moms going to think? What is the Midwest going to think? What’s fucking everyone going to think?”), and before she can even decide what to do, she’s screaming on a hotel bed, bloody, naked from the waist down, hours before she’s to go onstage. “I’m like, ‘I have to cancel this show!’ And everyone’s kind of like, 'Well, it’s Vevo LIFT, and it’s 3 million impressions, so …’ No one knew what to do.” Eventually, Halsey sent her assistant to the drugstore to buy adult diapers. She put one on, took two Percocet and went to the venue to do her job. “It’s the angriest performance that I’ve ever done in my life,” she says, her voice breaking. “That was the moment of my life where I thought to myself, 'I don’t feel like a fucking human being anymore.’ This thing, this music, Halsey, whatever it is that I’m doing, took precedence and priority over every decision that I made regarding this entire situation from the moment I found out until the moment it went wrong. I walked offstage and went into the parking lot and just started throwing up.”
Halsey says she isn’t sure why she had a miscarriage, but it’s easy for her to blame herself. “I beat myself up for it,” she tells me, “because I think that the reason it happened is just the lifestyle I was living. I wasn’t drinking. I wasn’t doing drugs. I was fucking overworked – in the hospital every couple of weeks because I was dehydrated, needing bags of IVs brought to my greenroom. I was anemic, I was fainting. My body just broke the fuck down.” The part that bothers her most is that, as insane as it was to play that concert, no one forced her to do it. “I had a choice,” she says, though she did the thing that made her feel like she didn’t. She looks off toward the fields where children play in the distance. “I want to be a mom more than I want to be a pop star. More than I want to be anything in the world.” Later, she says, “I’m really scared of being alone.” We sit on the blanket, clutching our drinks. “I’m not trying to upset you,” she says softly. “I’m really sorry.” - Rolling Stone Magazine
Bay Area rapper Daveed Diggs had never seen a Broadway show before he was cast as Hamilton nemesis Thomas Jefferson. “I knew Fiddler on the Roof, because my mom really liked that and we always had the album around the house growing up, and that was about it,” Diggs says. “But I was totally intrigued the second I heard the demos of the songs in Hamilton and read through the music. The rapping is good – that’s what really got me.”
“When you’re developing your voice as a rapper, you figure out your cadence – your swag – and that’s how you write,” Diggs says. “Lin managed to figure that out for all of these different characters – everyone has their own swag, and it feels germane to them. And that’s really impressive. Hercules Mulligan [a Hamilton pal who spied on the loyalists during the American Revolution] raps exactly like a dude named Hercules Mulligan!”
Even more radical than the catholic musical approach is Hamilton’s reckoning with our country’s creation myth. There’s an almost indescribable power in seeing the Founders, in an otherwise historically rigorous production, portrayed by a young, multiracial cast. “It is quite literally taking the history that someone has tried to exclude us from and reclaiming it,” says Leslie Odom Jr., who comes close to stealing the show with his turn as Hamilton killer Aaron Burr. “We are saying we have the right to tell it too.” If every presidential administration gets at least one mass-cultural moment it deserves, then Hamilton has become the Obama era’s Wall Street, its 24, its Spice World – even more so, perhaps, because the show has actually managed to fulfill candidate Obama’s promise to bridge the divide between Red and Blue America. Fans of Hamilton include Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Dick Cheney and the president himself.
Christopher Jackson, Hamilton’s towering George Washington, has known Miranda the longest of any of the major cast members, having previously starred in In the Heights. “Lin told me about his idea for Hamilton a few days after that fateful vacation,” Jackson recalls. “We were actually onstage doing Heights. He said, 'I’ve got the next thing. It’s about the Treasury secretary!’ And then he paused, and before I could say, 'What?!’ the music started and we had to do '96,000.’ When Ron Chernow came to see Heights, I had never seen Lin that nervous. He said, 'Ron Chernow’s here!’ I said, 'What does that mean?’ And he said, 'The show needs to go well today.’”
Odom first saw a workshop version of Hamilton at Vassar and found himself responding, almost viscerally, to “The Story of Tonight,” an early number in which Hamilton and three friends (Mulligan, the Marquis de Lafayette and John Laurens) boisterously drink together in a tavern on the eve of the Revolution. “That’s the one that made me a puddle, because it was four men of color onstage singing a song about friendship and brotherhood and love, and I had never seen that in a musical,” Odom says. “I had seen white guys do it, in Jersey Boys, in Les Miz. Never seen a black guy. So I was a mess, and from that point, I was along for the ride.”
Phillipa Soo, who makes her Broadway debut as Hamilton’s wife, Eliza, says that she had to figure out her relationship to her stage husband, to answer questions like, “Who is this man to me, and why do I love him?” In the end, she realized her “research was already here for me. It became less about finding facts about Eliza and Alexander Hamilton and more about just watching Lin. I remember him coming into the rehearsal room in his slippers, because he’d been across the street writing. And I was like, 'Oh, my God, this guy is nonstop!’ Kind of like Hamilton.”
How Aziah Wells Is Being Erased From The Zola Story
I was so excited about the Zola Story. So excited. It entertainingly exhibited a Black woman’s agency, innovation, heroism and creativity. To me, and quite a few others on the internet, it was desperately captivating and entertaining as hell.
So imagine my excitement when I learned that Ava DuVernay also thought the story was brilliant. This is a woman who has the track record, the power and the clout to get this story on the big screen. The two tweeted each other. So I just knew they, two Black women, could make it happen.
The Rolling Stone piece,which got down to the fact and fiction of Wells’ twitter story (hint, it was mostly true), was written by David Kushner and, according to Variety, it is Kushner’s story, not Wells’, that is serving as the base for the script and eventually the film.
In case you couldn’t tell by the name David, Kushner is a man. After looking at his picture and doing some Googling, his race and ethnicity are still unclear. He may very well be a man of color. But we’ll get back to that later.
The script will be written by two more White men, Andrew Neel and Mike Roberts.
And at the helm, directing is White actor and director James Franco.
James Franco is talented. But he’s also the same man who felt it was appropriate to star in The Interview, a movie that made light of assassinating North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. It represented just a general lack of respect for a world leader. And I’d argue if that world leader were White (or American…that couldn’t happen with President Obama either), the film would have never been green lit by a predominately White Sony Pictures in the first place. I bring that up to suggest that perhaps, as a White man, Franco is not so in touch with people of color. Or not well enough to tell their stories.
I believe if he and his partners were indeed in touch, someone behind the scenes, either the writers or director would have been, in this particular case, Black. After all, they all swooped in to capitalize off the story of a Black woman, a White woman, White man and a Black (Nigerian to be exact) pimp. If you look at that cast of characters, White men are clearly in the minority. Yet, they represent all of the people chosen as leadership for this project.
Why wasn’t it Wells’ tweets that were used as the basis for the story instead of Kushner’s article, which though well-written and fact-checked, is basically just a rehashing of the twitter story.
In the Variety piece not only is Wells’ name completely absent from the discussion about the film, her image has even been erased from the article itself as if James Franco created a story that had the internet going crazy.
It’s just another glaring example of the ways White people, swoop in and commercialize our greatness for their gain.
And that’s not the only issue with what’s happening here. Not only are the director and writers White, they’re men.
I don’t have to tell you that men don’t and can never fully understand the plight of women. They don’t know what it’s like to be harassed on the street. They can’t relate to earning less money for the same amount of work, based solely on your gender. They likely don’t fear for their safety when they go out alone at night. The government isn’t trying to dismantle or completely destroy their reproductive rights. The police don’t have a history of systematically dismissing their rapes or incidents of domestic violence.
If men, in their positions of privilege in our society, fail to understand the experiences of everyday women, how much more out of touch would they be identifying with those women who work in strip clubs or in the sex trade. They simply can’t. Hopefully, these guys will do their research but this all is just very indicative of the lack of diversity in Hollywood. It’s not just about a lack of racial diversity. For far too long, there’s been a lack of stories about women as well. Think of how many stories we think are about women. But all the women do is complain or gush about a man. It’s played.
I don’t know why having a Black woman tell a Black woman’s story is such a novel idea. But unless some new information comes out about this project and the people behind it, I have absolutely no desire to pay to see a Black woman be co-opted out of her own life.
And as a bit of fun fact, Wells could certainly use this extra money as she and her fiancé are expecting a child, a little girl.