Instagram will now let creators and influencers sell items directly
Ingrid Lunden @ingridlunden / 19 hours The monetization hose is on full blast at Instagram now, and today at F8, Facebook unveiled one of the latest developments on that front. The company said that creators will now be able to tag items to sell them directly to people viewing their posts and Stories.
For now, this will work only on items that are tagged from businesses that are part of the new checkout beta program Instagram is running in the U.S.
It’s also part of a bigger transactional swing that we’re seeing at Instagram that extends beyond just catering to consumerism and influencers speaking to Instagram’s billion-plus users.
Today Instagram also confirmed that it would be adding donation stickers in Stories — something we reported it was working on several months ago .
The tags that creators and influencers can now add is a significant development on product tagging, which up to now had been reserved just for businesses and brands, not open to individuals.
But the purpose for now doesn’t seem to be to help creators make commissions on those sales. Facebook tells us that “at this time,” creators will not make a cut on any purchases made as a result of anyone clicking on links in their posts (meaning: it may come down the line).
Rather, the point is to cut down on some of the repeat questions that creators get about what they are wearing, and where to buy it. “People are already shopping from creators by asking product questions in comments and Direct,” a spokesperson said. “With the ability to tag products, creators can provide the information their followers are looking for and get back to expressing themselves and sharing what’s on their mind, which will make their followers happy too.”
But they are not getting diddly, either. The spokesperson notes that creators will also receive additional insights with shopping posts, such as engagements and shopping insights. For those who are making a living out of their influencer status, these could help them leverage better deals with those brands, longer term.
Instagram will start testing first with a small group of creators over the next few weeks, including on the accounts of Gigi Hadid , Kim Kardashian West , Kris Jenner , Kylie Jenner and Leesa Angelique (who runs @saythelees).
“It’s my job to share beauty secrets and tips,” she said about the new feature. “I’m usually writing long, detailed captions about the latest products I’ve been using. Having this tool just makes it that much easier to let everyone know what I’m wearing and from where – down to the shade.”
Labor’s franking credit proposal may prompt retirees to move their super
“I could end up closing my self-managed super fund, that’s a real possibility,” Mr Gledhill said.
Labor shows no sign of stepping back from the policy.
On April 13, surrounded by the party faithful in Burwood, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten railed once again against franking credit refunds.
“If you are getting a tax credit when you haven’t paid any income tax, this is a gift. It is a gift. It is not immoral, nor is it illegal, but it is a gift,” he said.
The Labor Party says it will outspend the Coalition on health and education. In order to pay for those promises and protect the budget position, it needs more revenue.
Mr Shorten said he is banking on saving a lot of money by scrapping franking credit tax refunds.
“It is a gift that is eating our budget. It is now costing our nation over $6 billion a year, and pretty soon it will cost $8 billion.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Labor should not restore the budget off the back of retirees.
“You’ll have a Labor government that is going to steal the money from thousands of retirees by taking away their franked dividend credits,” he said.
After 7.30’s last story on franking credits , the TV program was inundated with emails from viewers like Mr Gledhill.
Some viewers were angry because they believed Labor’s policy would unfairly target self-managed super funds and would not hurt industry (or as some termed them, “union-backed”) super funds.
It is worth noting that industry super funds have directors from both unions and employer groups.
Retirees are unable to make voluntary super contributions after they turn 75, so they cannot top up their super, but they are able to rollover their super to a different fund at any age. Would you be affected by the proposed changes to franking credits? Email your story to What the proposed changes would mean for super funds Photo: Eva Scheerlinck from the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees. (ABC News: Christopher Gillette)
Franking credits represent the amount of tax a company has already paid from its profits.
When an Australian shareholder receives their dividend from a shareholding and it is “franked”, they receive a tax credit for the tax already paid by the company on that income — thereby ensuring that the same income is not “taxed twice”. Find out how your views compare to Australia’s major political parties. Simply answer a few questions via Vote Compass.
At the moment it does not matter whether the super fund you are in — a large industry and retail superannuation fund, or your own personal SMSF — is a net taxpayer or not. Under Labor’s policy, however, that distinction becomes a vital one.
Under the present rules, if a SMSF owns those shares and all its members are retired (a SMSF can have up to four members, where each is a trustee) and not paying tax, those retirees receive that tax credit as a cash refund. Labor’s policy would stop this.
Industry and retail superannuation funds pool their members’ money to invest. They usually also have members in pension mode who are not paying tax, but they also have members who are still working and are paying tax on both their contributions to the fund and their earnings.
So most larger funds are net tax payers.
When a large super fund receives franking credits on its investments, under Labor’s new policy it will be able to use them to reduce the tax that it would otherwise have to pay.
“It’s one of the beauties of the system,” said Eva Scheerlinck, from the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees, which represents the not-for-profit super sector.
“It’s a pooled system. The contributions that go into the super fund, they’re able to invest that money as if there were large conglomerates, if you like, and have the benefit of being able to invest large amounts of money together.”
Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen said Labor’s policy has not been designed to hurt SMSF’s or advantage larger funds.
“This is a policy designed to stop tax refunds and tax cheques being sent to people or superannuation funds that have not paid income tax. That’s the fundamental principle,” he said. Losing sleep over franking credits Photo: Retiree Chris Phillips is unhappy about Labor’s proposed changes. (ABC News: Christopher Gillette)
Retired carpenter Chris Phillips, 83, expects Labor’s proposed changes will cause his living standards to take a big hit. He said franking credit refunds make up around $9,000 of his $36,000 a year income, and the worry is impacting his health.
“I never got any sleep at all last night thinking about the money that I’m going to lose,” he said.
Danielle Wood, a fellow at the public policy think tank the Grattan Institute, said younger workers are getting a dud deal with the tax scales weighted in favour of older people.
“I actually have sympathy for older Australians that are going to be affected by this proposal,” she said.
“People save for their retirement, they expect a certain set of policies, but policies do change and policies change for everyone. People will have to change their behaviour in order to deal with this.
“What I would say to those older Australia is the tax system has been very generous to you as a group. In order to make the system sustainable, we will expect you to make more of a contribution in the future.”
But retiree Mr Phillips does not believe younger workers are being hard done by.
“I think they seem to forget that they’ve never seen a recession, they’ve never really seen austere times. They spend money like water and go into debt. Whereas when I was brought up, I was lucky to get a second-hand bike,” he said.
Mr Phillips said he too might close his SMSF if Labor gets elected, and depending on the makeup of the Senate.
“I think a lot of people will go over to the industry funds. And I’m thinking about it myself. But I’m waiting until after the election to see if Bill Shorten gets in, which he probably will do. And if the legislation has to go through the Upper House.”
Ms Wood doesn’t think Labor is trying to push retirees into industry funds.
“I don’t think this is a conspiracy in order to benefit industry funds,” she said. ‘We can no longer be the only country that does this’
If a large cohort of retirees did wind up their SMSFs and move their savings into industry or retail funds, it could blow a massive hole in Labor’s projected budget savings.
But Ms Wood does not think that will play out.
“The Parliamentary Budget Office estimates that it will save almost $60 billion over 10 years,” she said.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty around that estimate butI think they’ve been conservative in their assumptions.”
Mr Bowen said he is not worried if people choose to change their superannuation fund.
“I understand that people who get these tax refunds might like them. I do understand that, I respect them. I say we’ve had the courage before an election to put our plans at the table to judge and decide,” he said.
“We can no longer be the only country in the world that does this. This costs more than what the federal government spends on public schools, three times what we spend on the Australian Federal police. It can’t go on.”
Conair travel dryer review: Is it the best travel hair dryer?
Get Stuff We Love Subscribe to our newsletter. SUBSCRIBE June 18, 2018, 3:29 PM UTC / Updated April 29, 2019, 2:12 Jen Birkhofer At TODAY we take care to recommend items we hope you’ll enjoy! Just so you know, TODAY may get a small share of the revenue.
Using interviews with specialists, online reviews and personal experience, TODAY editors, writers and experts take care to recommend items we really like and hope you’ll enjoy! TODAY does have affiliate relationships with various online retailers. So, while every product is independently selected, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.
READ MORE As someone with self-proclaimed “Hermione Granger hair,” having a good arsenal of heating tools is incredibly important.
That’s why I believe the cheap, convenient InfinitiPro by Conair is seriously the best travel hair dryer ever.
I grew up in Houston, where the humidity tops out at about 90 percent … on a good day. So I quickly learned how to smooth my hair out with a round brush, styling spray and a burning-hot flat iron . As I grew up, I tested out wands and curling irons, but nothing makes my hair as silky as a good hair dryer.
InfinitiPro by Conair Travel Styler, $29, Amazon
InfinitiPro by Conair “Would definitely recommend for anyone looking for a solid and well priced hair dryer,” one reviewer wrote.
$29.16 Amazon $31.62 Walmart $32.99 $34.99 Jet When I first moved to New York City, my go-to hair dryer, as if in protest to my cross-country life change, broke down and started smoking. After a few attempts at turning it on without burning my apartment down, it died — along with my dreams of going out to dinner with my hair down.
The next day, I was prepping for a trip out of town and headed to CVS for a quick fix. That’s when I found it: the lime green Conair InfinitiPro hair dryer .
It’s small The first thing I liked was its size. It’s pretty small to begin with, but its design allows you to twist it into a compact rectangle that’s perfect for packing in overnight duffels and gym bags.
It works quickly Courtesy of Jen Birkhofer I love how fast it is. It dries my hair in about five minutes. I’m not sure how it works so hard, but this Conair somehow dries my hair in half the time my other dryers usually take to blow out my kinky strands.
I recently brought it on a trip to Mexico where one of my friends proudly whipped that fancy $500 Dyson dryer out of her bag. “It’s the best,” she proclaimed.
I borrowed it and I have to say, I disagree. The Dyson is definitely quiet, and I’m sure it’s fancy vacuum-inspired technology is actually doing something good for my hair, but for a quick dry, this Conair is my go-to.
This hair dryer makes my hair silky smooth in minutes. I’m never letting go. Courtesy of Jen Birkhofer Long story short: I love it My lime green Conair hair dryer is probably the most embarrassing beauty tool I own. It’s a horrendous color, and it’s undeniably uncool when placed next to my girlfriends’ “fancy” hair dryers.
It’s the opposite of cool, but it’s effective. That’s what matters! Courtesy of Jen Birkhofer But it is the best hair dryer in the world, and, lucky for you, it now comes in blue and red .
Here are the other tools I use for an at-home blow-out:
Bestool Boar Bristle Round Hair Brush, $17, Amazon
Bestool Boar Bristle Round Hair Brush $16.79 Amazon A co-worker told me, “Jen, you’re the only person in the world who uses a round brush” — and if I’m wrong, I don’t want to be right. This brush helps me pull my hair straight as it dries while adding curl to the ends. Apparently, boar bristles are supposed to be good for your scalp and add shine to your hair.
Living Proof Perfect Hair Day 5-in-1 Styling Treatment, $16, Amazon
Living Proof Perfect Hair Day 5-in-1 Styling Treatment, 4 Ounce $17.29 $18.76 Amazon $28.00 Nordstrom $28.00 Sephora I first tried Living Proof products at a hair salon, and I haven’t looked back since. I love the smell of this 5-in-1 treatment, and I swear it helps my thin hair maintain its shape and volume throughout the day.
This article was originally published on June 18, 2018.
For more hair products, check out:
10 affordable hair dryers celebrity hairstylists swear by The best flat iron for your hair may not be the most expensive one This multitasking tool can straighten curly hair in 10 minutes To discover more deals, shopping tips and budget-friendly product recommendations, download the new TODAY app and subscribe to our Stuff We Love newsletter !
Broadway Star André De Shields on ‘Hadestown,’ Tony Awards, Racism, Sexuality, and Fulfilling His Parents’ Dreams – The Daily Beast
Broadway Star André De Shields on ‘Hadestown,’ Tony Awards, Racism, Sexuality, and Fulfilling His Parents’ Dreams exclusive Matthew Murphy André De Shields is marking his 50th year in show business in ‘Hadestown.’ In a candid interview with Tim Teeman, he talks coming out, racism, and fulfilling his parents’ dreams. Tim Teeman 04.29.19 5:15 AM ET
T he actual color of his red dressing room, said André De Shields, was called “rapture.” It was three hours before a performance of the Broadway musical Hadestown , in which De Shields, as Hermes the narrator, would walk-swagger out onto the stage wearing the fitted, shiny suit hanging on the door in front of us, inviting the audience to listen to the “sad tale” of Orpheus and Eurydice.
If you go to the Walter Kerr Theatre, look at the audience around you watching André De Shields sing, speak, and dance, you will see smiles of wonder. That is his charisma and power.
In his cozy dressing room, with his precise, rich, deep voice, De Shields had some stories of his own to share, of celebrating 50 years in show business, of growing up in poverty in Baltimore, of coming out as gay, of facing racism on both Broadway and the gay scene, of success (first and famously in the title role of The Wiz in 1975), of fulfilling his parents’ thwarted ambitions, and of his own dedicated pursuit of excellence—which, for Hadestown , might finally yield him a Tony Award this year, following two previous nominations.
The painting of the dressing room was a perk written into his contract, he said, and the color was significantly named. Hadestown had been an “anointing,” the spiritually minded 73-year-old actor said, and he wanted to keep “all the rapturous elements of my life in the immediate vicinity. Red is my aura,” he confided. “I don’t know if you put much credence in astrology, but I gaze at the stars, because I believe the stars are gazing at me.”
De Shields is a Capricorn, he said, “an earth sign, and the color of earth in terms of astrology is red clay. It is also the color of the first chakra from which all the other colors take their seed.”
Not even Buddha had achieved Nirvana, De Shields noted, adding he was not a Buddhist himself, although “in the 1970s Buddhism became a subculture in the arts community. Many of us chanted, ideally achieving a music of peace, harmony, tolerance, and collaboration. I’m a pantheist. When people ask if I believe in God, I say, ‘Put an s on that.’ I believe in gods.”
In a 50-year, multi award-winning and award-nominated career, De Shields said he had been able to find purpose “where the only guarantees are rejection and insecurity. I have a talisman, a touchstone. It’s easy to become dismayed. I’m going to be hyperbolic, but there are golden stones that have created my path in this industry. And now, at 73, in Hadestown I am able to be part of this important, significant new song cycle. It puts me in mind of Robert Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience .”
Every night, performing Hadestown , he recognizes “the scales fall from the eyes” of some in the audience, “as if they’re becoming lighter, the burden lifted off their shoulders, the yolks being broken, questions answered, crises resolved, the catharsis they are experiencing.”
They are having experiences he has had, and which keep him going forward, De Shields said, which guarantees “at 73, 83, 93, 103, I will prevail.” “ The chattering magpie of the mind wants to control us, particularly in this industry: ‘You don’t deserve this.’ ‘You’re too tall, too short, too skinny.’ ‘Your eyes are not the right color.’ ‘Your skin is not the right color.’ ‘You’re not educated enough.’ ‘You’re too educated.’ ”
He is in great shape, I said. “That is something I do religiously too. I eat judiciously, exercise vigorously, and I pray consistently.” So he is religious? “I don’t want to be put in this straitjacket of religion and call it prayer. I am not praying to anything. This is prayer as a condition if your spirit, a condition of your minds which young people now call ‘woke.’”
It can also be a salve. “The chattering magpie of the mind wants to control us, particularly in this industry: ‘You don’t deserve this.’ ‘You’re too tall, too short, too skinny.’ ‘Your eyes are not the right color.’ ‘Your skin is not the right color.’ ‘You’re not educated enough.’ ‘You’re too educated.’ What about the quiet vice of cardinal truth that speaks to you? There’s so much distraction you can’t hear it, and you have to.”
De Shields has never had therapy. “A shrink for $100 for information I know intuitively? No. We are born sentient. We know everything we need to know. If you can calm the distractions, the knowledge is in you.”
That charisma and command of the Hadestown audience comes down to De Shields’ hope that he is “remembering for everyone in the audience. I am saying to the audience, ‘We are geniuses. We know everything we need to know, and we haven’t forgotten any of it, so let’s celebrate that.’”
Hadestown , for him, is “epic” with that word transformed into an acronym meaning Expansive, Primordial, Innovative, and Cathartic: “What we are doing is expansive, returning people to primordial emotions, encouraging them to innovate or reinvent themselves. I look out and see people uncontrollably sobbing or opening up.”
In De Shields’ mind, many things come in three parts. His career, for example, he sees as “part one is to have the dream, part two is the dream itself, part three to manifest that dream in an epiphany in the conscious world.” Art, for him, comes as a three-sided equation: “Entertainment is the first part, enlightenment the second part, and ecstasy the third part.”
De Shields’ charisma was noticed first when he was young by his aunts, uncles, and older siblings. He was nicknamed by them all “Professor”; one of his aunts told him he had been quiet, happy to be by himself, and behaved nicely. She also told him he had “precocious thoughts” and was “preternatural.” He was also nicknamed “Jelly Belly, because that’s what I had then.”
De Shields grew up, the ninth of 11 children, on Division Street, West Baltimore. “We were impoverished. You know the beauty of the poverty? You have to be told you’re poor. You don’t know it until compared to someone who has material things. Then you start to think, ‘Oh, we’re different.’ But there’s knowledge that poverty teaches you. Lessons.”
His mother, Mary, was a domestic worker, his father, John, a tailor. “He made lovely suits for other people who could afford it.” De Shields looked at a dressing gown. “He could take this robe and he could turn it into a lovely smoking jacket.”
When I asked if it was a happy household, De Shields said, “As an adult I now understand that it was a disciplined household. I now know we were not happy.
“It wasn’t corporal discipline, but it was definitely Christian, and it was definitely ‘Be responsible.’ It was definitely you never coming home to 11 children and two parents at the table at 6 every night. You learned how to cook, sew, and clean house because this is your version of the United Nations—and what’s going to best equip you in this world is how to negotiate and be self-sufficient.”
In his autobiographical stage show, Confessions of a P.I.M.P. , De Shields said to get his “appropriate slice” of American pie, “I had to get out of Baltimore or die.” P.I.M.P. stood for Positive Individual Making Progress, he said.
In this excellent show, De Shields evoked the story of his life through song, dance, and storytelling, full of exuberance and piercing honesty. And, oh, the dancing.
De Shields said he was “the only hippie” from his family. “I grew up during the summers of love in ’64 and ’65. I’m the one who went to college [the University of Wisconsin-Madison]. I’m the one who brought white friends back to the ’hood. People said, ‘Is André crazy? But I’m the one who made it beyond 25, because growing up in Baltimore you had to check yourself, ’cause 25 is old age.
“Those communities were controlled by drugs, prison, and abandonment by the government, and then you’re told, ‘You’re lazy, you can’t do this.’ Now that rural white America is strung out on opiates, it’s not a crime, it’s a condition that needs to be resolved. When we growing up, we were criminalized.”
As a boy, he went to the local school two blocks away and then junior high school. But when it came to high school, De Shields went to Baltimore City College, still one of the nation’s leading high schools.
“At the time it was all-male, definitely predominantly white. What made it diverse were the young Jewish men going there.”
He had to take two buses to get there, then walk through a neighborhood “where people definitely looked at me as if I was a ne’er-do-well.”
De Shields noted that the song that closes out Act I of Hadestown , “Why We Build the Wall,” didn’t refer to President Trump’s real-life plan. The song was written many years ago and refers to the walls of our own making that constrain us. “It’s always something in here,” he said. “ They deferred their dreams. Somewhere along the line of those 11 children that x and y chromosome of deferred dreams had to be part of the conception of one of those children. And I’m lucky number 9. That’s the hunger you pass into the conceiving of your child—what was missing from your life. ”
When De Shields was old enough to have an adult conversation with his parents, his mother told him that her lifelong dream had been to be a chorus girl. Her parents wouldn’t allow it. “They were just a few years away from the Emancipation Proclamation, and their point of view was ‘No decent colored daughter of mine is going to shuffle her way through life.’”
Similarly, De Shields’ father wanted to sing and was a beautiful tenor. “But his parents said, ‘How do you hope to be a responsible breadwinner for your family with such an insecure position in your work field?’ So both of them were discouraged by their parents. They deferred their dreams. Somewhere along the line of those 11 children that x and y chromosome of deferred dreams had to be part of the conception of one of those children. And I’m lucky No. 9. That’s the hunger you pass into the conceiving of your child—what was missing from your life.”
His introduction to arts and culture came from going to Baltimore’s Royal Theater cinema every Saturday. “In the late 1950s, when there was such a thing called ‘continuous showings’ at the cinema, there was no such thing as a latchkey child.” De Shields received a weekly allowance of 35 cents; 25 cents would get him into the Saturday continuous feature, the other 10 cents bought him a box of Milk Duds.
The first showing began at 9 a.m., with a black-and-white newsreel. Then there was the “coming attractions” of future films. “Then a cartoon. Then the feature film. More often than not, that would be a Western with a white hero: Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy and Dale (Evans) Rogers and their horse Trigger, Lash LaRue, and the Lone Ranger.
“With Flash Gordon, I always identified with Ming the Merciless. Although he was portrayed as a stereotypical evil Asian, because of the ‘politics of other,’ I certainly did not identify with Flash Gordon. I didn’t have blue eyes and blond hair. I felt like I must be a member of the other community that didn’t look like me but was treated like me.”
The cycle of movies lasted two hours, then began again and again, till 9 p.m., when De Shields and his friends would go home.
“One magical Saturday,” he recalled, the movie Cabin in the Sky showed. A friend just bought De Shields a small poster advertising the film, which he has put on his dressing room wall. “I was 9, and this was the first time I saw black faces on the big screen. I was gobsmacked. I was no longer the other, but the dominant one.”
He knew every one of the celebrities in the film from reading Ebony and Jet magazines; they were the heroes of parents and older siblings.
He had seen Eddie Anderson as Rochester, the butler on The Jack Benny Show , but never as the Hollywood star the film made him.
“Firstly, my heart swelled. Secondly, my head swelled, and thirdly, I had an epiphany. John William Sublett was also in the film. He was one half of the vaudeville act ‘Buck and Bubbles.’ Buck would play the piano, and Buck would dance his ass off on top of the piano. “ My epiphany possessed me. Everything external shuts down. I am enthralled, and a little voice says very clearly, not shyly, ‘André, that’s what you’re going to do.’ ”
“In the film, his and Lena Horne’s characters are trying to break up the marriage made in heaven of Eddie Anderson and Ethel Waters. He enters the saloon through swing doors, resplendent in white, head to toe with great sass. He has a cane, three-piece suit, watch, spats, the whole thing: what I call a shining man. Which I consider myself to be.” (He says he is from a long line of “shining men,” including “Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, James Baldwin, and Bayard Rustin.)
Sublett’s character danced, finishing on a flight of stairs. “My head was consumed in cumulus clouds,” said De Shields. “That just isn’t what happens in film. My epiphany possessed me. Everything external shuts down. I am enthralled, and a little voice says very clearly, not shyly, ‘André, that’s what you’re going to do.’”
From then on, De Shields was focused on “the fulfillment of my destiny and payment on the deferred dreams of my parents. That was my driving force. I thought, ‘I’m going to be the next Sammy Davis Jr.’ There was nothing else to think. He was the epitome of entertainment at the time. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do excellently, superlatively, without exception. Then he fell in love with May Britt, a white woman. Then it was, ‘Oh, behave, Sammy.’” When the couple married in 1960, their interracial marriage was illegal in 31 states.
De Shields references the “huge brouhaha” when Louis Armstrong was considered as the voice of King Louie, the orangutan in Disney’s 1967 movie of The Jungle Book. “The guy who did it was Louis Prima, a white man, who then imitated Louis Armstrong. Like, wait a minute, what’s going on here?
“Racist Americans thought the lyric ‘I want to be like you,’ meant black people wanting to be like white people. That couldn’t be further from the truth in The Jungle Book . The orangutan is expressing his admiration and envy of the little boy; he is saying he wants the same power to make fire.”
De Shields appeared in a theatrical version of The Jungle Book at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. He played King Louie. “I was happy to sing that song. It has nothing to with racial preferences, but rather a desire to control a vital element of life.”
The first production De Shields appeared in was Raisin in the Sun , when he attended Wilmington College. He made his professional debut in the Chicago production of Hair , aged 23, and at 26 took the title role in The Wiz .
Over 50 years he has won and been nominated for multiple awards in Broadway and off-Broadway productions including Ain’t Misbehavin’ , Blackberries , Saint Tous , Haarlem Nocturne , Play On! , The Full Monty , Prymate , Dream on Monkey Mountain , Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe , and The Jungle Book .
De Shields has also appeared on various TV shows, including Sex and the City , and won special recognition awards (including from AUDELCO, honoring excellence in African-American Theatre). In 2007 he was awarded an Obie Award for Sustained Excellence, and already for playing Hermes in Hadestown has been nominated in the Drama Desk, Dream League, and Outer Critics Circle awards. He is also an adjunct professor at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study.
His parents are both dead, but De Shields recalled that his mother was “totally proud” of him. “She was very satisfied, vicariously, that I had lived her dream. She witnessed it.”
His father died at 50, when De Shields was 17, of a cerebral hemorrhage aggravated by cirrhosis of the liver, exacerbated by heavy drinking. “It affected me greatly, so much so I made it part of my interior architecture,” said De Shields. “People who encounter me can think I am being aloof, smug, arrogant, and supercilious. That’s because we have lost the gift and understanding of silence.”
Don’t let the confident showman, holding the Hadestown audience in the palm of his hand, fool you. De Shields said he was “a quiet and solitary man, alone for most of my working hours apart from having to come to the theater. If I don’t treat myself empathetically, how am I going to treat you or anyone else empathetically?” “ We were 11 children, now that’s down to three. I am the youngest of those three. My two younger siblings have died. I am 73, my older surviving siblings are 75 and 79. What I would like is to receive a Tony Award and have a member of my family be aware of it. ”
The Tony Award nominations are announced on Tuesday morning, and De Shields is surely a contender for a supporting actor in a musical. His previous nominations were “exciting, but I didn’t feel bereft when I didn’t win. What’s important to me now…”
He gets up, and picks up a scrap of paper. “I’ve made some notes. We were 11 children, now that’s down to three. I am the youngest of those three. My two younger siblings have died. I am 73, my older surviving siblings are 75 and 79. What I would like is to receive a Tony Award and have a member of my family be aware of it.”
Again, this comes back to “paying the karmic debt” back to his parents and their deferred dreams. “My studio lessons were not from Lee Strasberg, but growing up with 10 siblings. I would like someone to see the reward of all that they shared.”
De Shields spoke powerfully of his own experiences of racism. “I’m a black American. There’s no way in the United States of America for a black man to reach the age of a septuagenarian and not to have experienced the evils of racism, if not on a daily basis depending on where you live, then certainly in the cycle of generations, including in my chosen profession.
“It’s very common these days to use the terms implicit bias and unconscious bias. And I believe it’s being used as a rationale, as an excuse, for individuals to not to deal with the racism that is as American as apple pie.
“When racist acts or thoughts are entertained, what I want to know is: When were you unconscious about doing it? I don’t want to hear anything about unconscious bias. What I would like to talk about are the biases we carry around as Americans that is part of the culture. We cannot get away from it. There has not been an attempt to heal the evil that is racism.”
That failure, said De Shields, is marked by inaction at the very top.
“We are now up to President 45, and not any one of those 45 presidents—all of whom have been men and all but two administrations have been those of white men—have made an active initiative to heal this festering sore we call racism. For hundreds of years, the dominant culture in the United States has been the beneficiary of racism, whether that be slavery or institutionalized favoritism.
“Those cultures that are not dominant have been victims of those very institutions. One part of the culture is silently suffering guilt, the other part of the culture is silently suffering shame. If we never expose that, if we never destroy the veil, if we never burn the illusion, then that’s going to be future of this country.”
I asked what his experience had been of racism on Broadway.
“Broadway has come around to diversity, equity, and inclusion, but it’s come around after we dragged them screaming and kicking.” De Shields smiled wryly. “The Great White Way is not called that for racial reasons, but because many years ago it was electrified and it appeared as if it were daylight all the time. But it’s a marvelous metaphor if you want to discuss racism, because for so many generations we of color have been taught this is an inhospitable environment.”
De Shields said Broadway was “inhospitable” when he arrived in New York in 1973, but that securing the part in The Wiz was “a game changer for Broadway. It opened a door an opportunity, and it showed loudly and clearly to those individuals who had been treated inhospitably that ‘Look, you are finally and emphatically represented on the Great White Way. Come and appropriate this culture just as this culture has for hundreds of years appropriated yours.”
“We have to be twice as good to get half as much,” De Shields said of the experience of people in color working in show business and many other professions. “That has not changed, and here we are in 2019.”
De Shields said the racism he had experienced in his career had never been overt or vocal. “The explanation always is ‘We’re going in a different direction.’ You want to say, ‘Just explain to me why I’m not getting this gig, so I can understand and do my homework. But it’s never explained.’”
Did he ever confront or challenge it directly? “ You have to get beyond ‘living the dream.’ That’s part of the illusion. Once you live the dream, you have to change the reality that is the result of living the dream. Because the dream is segregated. The dream is racist. ”
“No, that’s not the way—to reference Hamilton —‘to get into the room’ where it’s happening. If it’s all about confrontation, then it will be denied and you will be forever persona non grata.
“The method that worked for me was to understand that the greatest work I can do is to be the best André that I can possibly be. You have to get beyond ‘living the dream.’ That’s part of the illusion. Once you live the dream, you have to change the reality that is the result of living the dream. Because the dream is segregated. The dream is racist.
“You have to be the change in the world you want to see. To change the world is hardly ever a result of confrontation, it more often than not is a result of achieving excellence. Then you change a few minds, you change a few hearts, and they change a few minds, and they change a few hearts and people become enlightened.”
“Love is important to me,” De Shields said. “Falling in love is not.”
Was it ever? “Yes, it’s just no longer important to me. That is one of those illusions I have deliberately burned. ‘Falling in love’: just listen to the idiom. I don’t want to ‘fall’ in love, it’s like stumbling over a pothole. I want to love. Those important men and women in my life have loved me into consciousness.”
When I asked if De Shields was bi, gay, straight, or something else, he said, “I have to use language people will understand. I’m gay. But with these cultural revolutions going on, that label needs to go away for everybody. One has to be received how one describes oneself, especially black men who are still fighting against such prejudice. Our flesh may be free but our minds are enslaved still. There are still shackles on our emotions, which is why black men will love and have sex with other black men but will not self-identify as gay because ‘gay’ is a political construct devised by white male homosexuals who can look to the world like the dominant white heterosexual male for whom the world is made.
“When it comes to sexuality and gender, we know who we are. It’s how we present it to the rest of the world that means it gets beaten into something else if it’s not considered normative.”
De Shields laughed gently, recalling playing as a little boy in the patch of dirt at the back of the house. He remembers an adult member of the family next door saying to him, “Hey, you little fairy.”
“I didn’t know what these words mean,” De Shields said; just that this neighbor was addressing him. He made it a mission to find out what a “fairy” was. He did, and thought, “Oh, I’m being identified by someone else.”
“That’s how we grow up: people putting appellations on to us. When we buy into it, that’s when we start forgetting the knowledge we are born with.”
As a teenager he worked in a library and read books about homosexuality, meaning he both understood the homophobic insults he endured, “but also how myopic medical science had gotten homosexuality.”
Getting involved with theater “was definitely the introduction I needed to know that I was not alone. I never ever thought I was the aberration because in my ’hood everybody grows up knowing an André. We’re everywhere.”
But he didn’t see his experience reflected in too many places. De Shields said in all his readings of the celebrated August Wilson, “and this isn’t to take away from his genius, I’ve appeared in his plays, but people like me are not reflected in any of his plays.”
Women come up to him all the time, De Shields said, while men keep their distance. “Growing up in Baltimore, I had to have girlfriends up until I was 19,” he said. Then he spent a junior year abroad in Denmark, where he had a significant relationship with a woman, Ruth, “who looked at me and saw my interior self. She told me, ‘It’s alright if you love men, just don’t stop loving me.’ That was like boiiing .” He made a motion of a flash of self-revelation. “She was telling me there was nothing wrong with me being gay.”
In Confessions of a P.I.M.P , De Shields recalled that by 1979, the sexual revolution was well underway; he was confident, fit, and “getting laid” every night. Then he talked about the impact of HIV and AIDS on his group, and how his friends came to be “counted”: Julio, Jesse, Ron (“who danced on mysterious rhythms… until his legs shriveled into fragile reeds unable to support even his shrunken torso”), Brian, whose skin was “eaten by purple blotches,” and many others known by first names, including Alan, Alvin, Barry, Carl, Paul, Quentin, Winston, Javier, and Zane. “ I would like to be with someone, but I think I am going to be single. The someone I want to be with is a fantasy. And until reality can match fantasy, it’s a fools’ game. ”
De Shields had two significant relationships; one for 17 years with a partner, Chico, who died of AIDS-related lymphoma, and another with a partner named John, who he was with for two years and who died of AIDS-related meningitis in 1995.
“I would like to be with someone, but I think I am going to be single,” De Shields said of the future. “The someone I want to be with is a fantasy. And until reality can match fantasy, it’s a fools’ game.”
In his dressing room, De Shields also spoke of the racism he had experienced on the predominantly white LGBT scene. In 1980, in a Hollywood gay bar, he was called a “n—er queen” by a white gay barman, apparently angry De Shields was questioning why a particular mixed drink wasn’t available. The barman said, “I’m tired of you arrogant n—er queens.” De Shields said: “A black man who’s confident. Forget his sexuality. He’s ‘arrogant.’”
Of course there is racism in the LGBT community, said De Shields. “Because we are in America and the seed of the seed of American culture is racism. What you’re fighting for is inclusion in a racist culture.”
What, for him, had been the impact of cultural landmarks like Moonlight and Pose ? “The excellence of the art is beside the point,” said De Shields. “What they have done is made it easier for some black people to identify as gay and trans. But the white gay racist still looks with utter disdain at us as the scum of the earth, which is what their heterosexual counterparts do.”
While “very fulfilled,” De Shields has much more he wants to do in his career. “That is very much dependent on how long I will carry the breath of life.” He thinks of his mortality, but has concluded that as he didn’t fear being born he shouldn’t fear “any process of being unborn.”
His personal crusade is “to break the “Methuselah Code,” and trying to figure out how he can live beyond the 969 years of the famous biblical figure.
He has surmised a possible answer via two stage door experiences. In 1993, a lady who had seen him in the original Wiz came to see him in that year’s revival. She bought her mother (who had taken her to the original show) and her daughter. “Three generations,” said De Shields. He recalled another couple who saw him in Hadestown in London last year. The lady in the couple recalled De Shields performing in Ain’t Misbehavin’ 40 years previously.
James Harkness, who plays Paul Williams in Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations on Broadway, thanked him recently for being an example to emulate. “Many people refer to me as a keeper of the flame. It’s humbling,” said De Shields.
Perhaps, De Shields thinks, the way he breaks the Methuselah Code is through his work, its influence and legacy extending into the future.
“Maybe Methuselah didn’t live for 969 years, but his reputation did and that’s what’s important,” said De Shields.
Later that evening De Shields went out on to the Walter Kerr stage, and as he dance, spoke, and sang, another Hadestown audience looked on in wonder. Roll on the next 896 years.
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