"The 1940’s was a time when women in Jazz were frowned upon, in 1943 Graciela was summoned from Havana to join her brother Machito and brother-in-law Mario Bauzá’s Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra ,paving the way for other ladies of music to follow, a feat even more astounding when you consider she was an Afro Cuban female with little command of English performing with a revolutionary band without precedent." [Jazz Times]
"The First Lady of Afro-Cuban Jazz", Graciela Pérez-Grillo (sometimes referred to as Graciela Pérez-Gutiérrez) was born on August 23, 1915 in Havana, Cuba. Her adoptive older brother, Frank “Machito” Grillo began encouraging her to sing when she was very young. At the age of 17, she became a member of the popular all-girl orchestra, Anacanoa where she played guitar, bass, claves, and sang both lead and chorus.
Graciela left Anacanoa in 1941 to sing on the radio with El Trio Garcia. Around this time, her brother had been living and performing in New York City for several years. When Machito was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1943, Graciela was summoned to New York to become the lead singer of his band, the Afro-Cubans (a band he formed with his brother-in-law, Mario Bauzá). When Machito returned in 1944, he, Graciela, and Mario shared the lead. Pretty soon, the band would gain a huge following in New York, performing in popular venues like the Apollo Theater and the Palladium Ballroom.
As the big band era came to a close, Machito would rid the band of its brass section and soon after, Mario and Garciela would form their own big band. They toured and recorded Grammy-nominated albums until Mario’s death in 1993.
Graciela went into semi-retirement after Mario’s death. She won a Latin Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 and made her last public appearance at New York’s Lincoln Center on her 93rd birthday. Graciela had been hospitalized several weeks before suffering from renal and pulmonary illness. She passed away on April 7, 2010 at the age of 94.
Best Picture: 12 Years a Slave—based off of a black man’s life, screen adapted by a black man and directed by a black man, starring 2 incredibly talented black people
Best Supporting Actress: Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave
Best Adapted Screenplay: John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Best Music (Original Song): Robert Lopez & Kristen Anderson-Lopez for “Let It Go”, Frozen
Best Director: Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity
First POC male to win an EGOT? Robert Lopez
First Latin American director to win Best Director? Alfonso Curaon
Plenty of greatness to celebrate tonight
Black excellence. Such an amazing night.
just in case people don’t know, the composer of frozen is bobby lopez, a renowned filipino-american songwriter, and if he wins best original song tonight then he will be the first man of colour in history to win an emmy, grammy, oscar, and tony
Lupita Nyong’o accepts the Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role award onstage during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre - March 2, 2014
Congrats on Winning Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress Lupita Nyong’o!
Lupita Nyong’o arriving at the 86th Annual Academy Awards (March 2, 2014)
Belle will be released in the US on May 2.
Why did you decide to go the route of the Austenesque romance to tell her story?
In so many ways, it’s a romantic love story and it’s a paternal love story as well. It’s as much about her and [her surrogate father] Lord Mansfield, and also the fact that her biological father loved her as well.
It was much more practical in those days, if you had an illegitimate child of color, you could bring them into the household but had to keep them in the servant’s quarters, and have them work with servants where they’d be safe but wouldn’t be a full part of the family. The fact that her father decided that he didn’t want her to be brought up that way and brought her to his uncle [Lord Mansfield] and said, “Love her as I would had I been here,” was important to me.
When I did the research, it surprised me how many people had left Dido money in their will — Lord Mansfield left her money in his will [and] Lady Mary, Lord Mansfield’s sister, also left Dido in her will. The reality of it, then, was that so many people clearly [and] on paper showed their love for Dido that I thought it would have been disingenuous for me to tell a story purely about her suffering and a story that wasn’t about her love.
She had great love. That she married John Davinier, that she was able to baptize all of her children with him in the same church that they married in, I found that that was very romantic and beautiful.
I also wanted to understand, or communicate to the audience, what kind of men would love Dido during this period. Lord Mansfield, who adopted her, and also John [her husband] — what would make them so brave and so courageous enough to be able to love this woman of color during that period?
If I’m honest, I wanted to show a woman of color being loved. We don’t see it that often. I wanted to change the conversation a little bit, change the dialogue a little bit — we are loved, [and] we can be loved. Dido was valuable enough to be loved, she was worthy of being loved, and she was loved. Her challenge was showing people the right way to love her in the way that she needed to be. MORE
Switching gears a bit, how did you make that transition from acting to directing?
I had been writing and producing for quite a while in British television. I wanted to circle my screenplays around some of the things that we’ve discussed — race, gender, and class — and I wasn’t sure that TV was the right place for me to do it.
I had written my first script, A Way of Life — which, thankfully, went on to do quite well critically, and won me a BAFTA and lots of other international awards — and I was very protective of it.
One day, one of my funders at the BFI called me in and said, “Hey. I know you would really like to produce this movie, and that’s all very well, but actually we’d love you to direct it.” I sort of shrunk back into the sofa and said, “No, no. That’s not something I can do. I’m a writer. What I do is write, and this is the best thing I’ve ever written to date, and I don’t want to be the person who ruins it by trying to direct it. This movie is my baby and I’m not going to kill it!”
They were very adamant and said, “Look. You’re not going to kill your movie. We’ll send you to film school for a month” — like a month of film school, what’s that? — “And we’re going to give you some money so that you can shoot a pilot of the movie. We want you do a couple of scenes so you get used to getting behind the camera then we want you to go off and make a movie.”
It took about a month to convince me, to get the courage to accept the offer. Off I went to film school and had one-to-one training with cinematographers, other directors, and editors — I literally had one to one time with all of the heads of department that you’ve have on a real movie, then I went off and shot a pilot. Then I thought, “Wow, I really like this.” Being able to create the characters and then see it through, it felt like, this is what I was born for.MORE