‘White is beautiful:’ Why India needs its own Oprah Winfrey

— Tanupriya Khurana watches intently as her sister Bhavna gets a makeover at a designer cosmetics kiosk in the middle of one of Delhi’s most popular malls, Select Citywalk.

Shades of velvety pink blush roll over Bhavna’s olive cheeks. She holds up a mirror and inspects the results.

Behind the kiosk, a clothing and lingerie store displays trendy fashions on mannequins with blond hair, blue eyes and milky white complexions. They look nothing like Tanupriya and her sister or the hundreds of other Indians milling about this upscale shopping complex on a Sunday afternoon.

Even the advertisements and store posters that use Indian faces promote a look that is unattainable for most Indians: long, silky straight hair; a tall, thin body; and, most importantly, a fair complexion. The most popular Bollywood stars such as Aishwarya Rai — a former Miss World — look more white than Indian.

“Being white is the preference,” says Tanupriya, 23, an insurance brokerage firm employee. “There’s a different psychology here. I think Indian women have problems with acceptance.”

“Gori hai sundar,” she says. White is beautiful.

Khurana says this tongue in cheek. She knows it’s racist — and disagrees with this collective thinking. But she’s right. As far back as I can remember, a woman’s complexion has been a very big deal in my native land.

When I was a child, my aunt forbade me to play outside lest I turn several shades darker in the sun. The same aunt lamented after one of my trips to Iraq that the strong sun had made me “black.”

“You used to be so pretty,” she said. In other words: “You used to be so light-skinned.”

Many Indians feel their country’s disturbing obsession with fairness has been compounded in recent years with the invasion of European and American retail outlets and widespread access to information via the Internet.

The discussion was reignited after Nina Davaluri, a woman of Indian descent, was crowned Miss America. Many here wondered: Could someone as dark complexioned as Davaluri win a pageant in the country of her heritage?

Pratima Singh, the kiosk employee doing the makeover on Tanupriya’s sister, says she often has clients who choose foundation or powder that is too light for them.

“They say they want to look like her,” Singh says pointing to a giant clothing ad featuring a white woman. “But you can’t camouflage what you are.”

Khurana agrees. “That’s the saddest thing in our country,” she says as her sister’s face is transformed into Bollywood glamor. “Looks, color of skin — we should ignore such things.”

Should, yes. But even those here who do not dispute the new Miss America’s beauty said this: A pageant or a Bollywood role is one thing, but when it comes down to finding a bride for a beloved son, Davaluri, despite her stunning looks, would be too dark to make the cut.

Sure enough, matrimonial ads in India — arranged marriages are still the way many young people choose to wed — often read like this:

“Seeking match for beautiful, tall, fair girl …”

And those women who are the norm in India — that is, not light-skinned — are targeted by a $400 million skin-whitening-cream industry. It began years ago with a product called Fair & Lovely.

I was first introduced to it through a letter from India 35 years ago. It was from one of my childhood friends in Kolkata. She was getting married and wanted to look her best on her wedding day. Her parents thought they were lucky to have secured her a good husband in an arranged marriage. She was, after all, dark complexioned.

She said she had been using Fair & Lovely but wasn’t satisfied with the results. She wanted me to bring her something better from America.

I’ve noticed on my visit here that Fair & Lovely is still on the shelves. But women who can afford it have a wide selection of products from which to choose. There is even a vaginal wash that promises freshness, protection and, of course, skin lightening.

Some people blame the industry for making the problem worse. But Shivangi Gupta of MidasCare Pharmaceutical, the manufacturer of the vaginal wash, said the company is simply ceding to customer demands.

“We had a very proactive consumer coming in and asking us for this product, and I think it would be very irresponsible of us to not to provide that as a solution,” Gupta says.

In Kolkata, I ventured into a beauty products store that carried a dizzying array of skin creams. Employee Jayasree Sarkar told me the skin-lightening creams were the store’s most popular products. It doesn’t matter that they don’t really make you two shades lighter in a matter of a week. Women keep buying the stuff, believing there might be a chance.

Their hope is fueled by Bollywood megastars such as Shah Rukh Khan, a darker-complexioned actor who had been peddling a cream made by Emani called Fair and Handsome. Khan tells Indians that he gained success after using the cream.

Pria Warrick, a former Miss India who now runs a finishing school for women in Delhi, says India is still struggling to get over its colonial past.

“We, of course, in India are very obsessed with being very fair. I think it’s something the British left us with,” Warrick says.

Warrick tells me she is convinced that India needs someone like Oprah Winfrey to do for Indian women what the star did for black women in America — to make Indians proud of their culture, their heritage, their looks.

She also blames the infiltration of U.S. culture for making Indian society so focused on physical beauty.

“American culture places a lot of importance on looks,” she says.

Indians stand at a crossroads, Warrick says. “How much do we pick up from the West?”

Some Indians are trying to reverse the movement to be fair. Actor Nandita Das has lent her face to the “Dark is Beautiful” campaign, trying to foment change.

“The point is do we want to capitalize this prejudice and lack of self worth and further perpetuate it,” Das says in the campaign, “or do we want to address it in a way and empower more women and make them feel good in the way they are?”

Back at the Delhi mall, Jai Shukla, 31, says it’s a shame Indians are so obsessed with skin tones. “I think mentally, we are not free,” he says, admitting that he once tried lightening creams on his own chocolate skin.

He says he used to teach Hindi to Westerners at the posh Imperial Hotel in Delhi. Sometimes, the guards assumed he was a laborer. He says he was a victim of profiling because of his dark complexion. He tried skin-lightening creams but gave it all up once he began to gain more confidence in himself.

Rajat Tyagi, 28, rattles off a list of actresses he says personify his ideal of beauty: Kate Winslett, Angelina Jolie and Indian actor Katrina Kaif, who is light-skinned. But Tygai goes against the grain. When it comes to marrying someone, he says, he won’t care if she is white, brown or black.

It’s what inside that matters, he says.

“Really?” I ask him.

“Really,” he says.

I didn’t know whether to believe him, especially in the midst of the retail madness of this Delhi mall. His answer is cliche. But I am glad he said it.

CNN’s Mallika Kapur contributed to this report.


™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Bill Clinton: Chelsea would be a better president ‘over the long run’

Former President Bill Clinton thinks his wife would be a better president right now but in the long term, it’s all about his daughter Chelsea.

Clinton was responding to a question from CNN’s Piers Morgan about who would be the better President, Hillary or Chelsea.

“Day after tomorrow, my wife because she’s had more experience. Over the long run, Chelsea. She knows more than we do about everything,” Clinton said.

“I feel like I’m going to school every day when we have conversations.”

The full interview will air tonight at 9 p.m. ET on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live.”

Chelsea Clinton has taken up a place at the heart of her family’s foundation and not unlike her mother’s playbook, has declined to give a definitive answer about any future political aspirations while still feeding into continuing media speculation.

As for the elder Clintons, President Barack Obama’s informal “secretary of explaining stuff” once again deflected on another White House run by Hillary Clinton, who has nevertheless taken significant steps towards a 2016 run.

When asked about Hillary Clinton’s seeming abundance of energy and political ideas after stepping down as Secretary of State and if he could put America out of its misery waiting for an announcement, Clinton said: “No. But, it should scream to you something else: real life is a healthier existence than politics.”


™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Layaway makes comeback in holiday shopping plans

— This year is going extremely fast. Some homeowners have already started to put up their Halloween decorations. Merchants, far ahead of themselves, are advertising Thanksgiving food items. Here in September, some of you may already have Christmas on your minds. While I recognize that layaway plans are not as prevalent today as in the past, it is obvious that such plans still exist in some establishments. This was readily apparent from an email I recently received which emphasized free layaways for up to thirteen weeks. The national chain superstore which advertised this layaway plan has several locations here in the Greater Delaware Valley. If you grew up during the period when many of us had limited resources, yet had many needs as well as desires, you must recall that you could purchase almost anything by placing it on layaway back in the day.

Even if you did not engage in purchasing items under a layoff plan, I suspect that you have memories of your parents, other family members or friends making purchases through this delayed payment arrangement. It was commonplace for stores to arrange for shoppers to place merchandise on hold while making small payments until the cost was completely paid. I still recall signs in stores advertising that layaway was available to shoppers. If there was no sign, I remember my mother asking the salesperson if the store offered a layaway plan. If so, the purchase of a desired item was held by the store with a deposit and a specific payment plan. I understand from some of my friends that a fee was added to layaway purchases for the opportunity to make a purchase under a layaway arrangement but I do not recall such a fee.

Layaways were easy; everyone qualified for a layaway since there were no credit checks. Such arrangements involved no risk for the merchant. However, layaway involved some risks for the consumer. Perhaps you recall someone that signed up for a layaway plan and failed to make regular payments or failed to complete payments by the designated time. This happened quite often around holidays, in particular, Christmas. If you failed to make payments you lost the merchandise and also any money paid into your plan at that point. Since credit cards were not readily available, in the absence of cash, the layaway plan was the only way many of us were able to make a purchase, in particular the purchase of “big ticket items” back in the day.

My first personal experience with layaway was during my first year out of college, working my first job. I would often time walk down the street from my job and window shop. One day, after seeing a sweater in the store window over several weeks that I desperately wanted, I went inside to inquire about the price; a price which I knew I could not afford. Upon sharing this with the store manager, he advised that I could put it on layaway and provided the details for the layaway plan. I agreed to the layaway plan for the sweater and was given a deadline by which the full payment had to be made. I was given a receipt with my initial payment and each time I made a payment, it was recorded on the same receipt. I was told that my purchase would be held in the store’s layaway room. You may recall that stores had a separate room for layaway purchases. You can imagine my anticipation of getting my sweater once all payments were made and the gratification once I was able to take it out of the store. While I paid no additional fee for the layaway purchase of my sweater, it did open the door for a problem that some of you may have encountered under layaway plans. The ease and simplicity of making these layaway purchases, especially of pricey items, appeared to be quite manageable. However, this plan actually enticed me to overspend, overextend and overcommit myself by making unnecessary purchases, back in the day.

Layaway plans were also used for purchases other than clothing. If it was a television, you turned to layaway; a refrigerator, it was layaway; a sofa or dining room set, again it was layaway. If it involved toys that you told your children they would find under the Christmas tree as gifts from Santa Claus, often times, they got there by way of the layaway plan. The major problem was that if the item was being purchased for a special occasion such as Christmas you had to start making payments weeks, even months, far in advance. Interestingly, the reason why layaway plans came into existence in the past is the same reason why we see a resurgence of layoff plans in today’s retail environment.

An article by Bill Hazelton, CEO of Credit Card Assist, provides some background with regard to layaway. He indicates that layaway first became popular in the 1920s and 1930s when the Great Depression was in full bloom. It provided a way to make large purchases possible by breaking the purchase price down into more manageable payments. It is no secret that layaway plans started to disappear in the 1980s with the increase in the availability and use of credit cards. Thus, it should not be surprising to learn that layaways are returning because of the high interest rates that are now being charged for the use of credit cards. The return to layaway is welcomed news for some consumers who may have missed credit card payments and have poor credit. Missing a payment on a layaway plan has no impact on one’s credit score.

If you grew up back in the day and relied on layaway to make purchases on a regular basis, I know that you had some unexpected challenges. Did you ever have an item on layaway and the store went out of business? The reality is that you ended up without your merchandise and without your money. What happened after you made several layaway payments and then as sometimes happens your money became real tight and you were unable to complete the purchase? In some cases, because you did not have clarity with regard to the layaway rules, you forfeited the item as well as your money. Has anyone had an item on layaway only to have it go on sale? So, what occurred if a young lady made a layaway of a dress at this time of the year for New Year’s Eve and her eating habits were out of control? I do not know what happened when the new requirement is for a size 10 dress when the dress on layaway is a size eight.

While layaways of the past have seen a re-launch in recent years, such plans have drawn the scrutiny of congressional leaders such as U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer who is a staunch opponent of layaway plans.

Because there are no federal laws that control layaway plans, consumers must rely on the Federal Trade Commission Act against unfair and deceptive practices. The Federal Truth in Lending Act also comes into play if the consumer must agree to terms in writing to make all payments until an item is paid in full. Furthermore, there are those that argue that layaway plans are far worse in making purchases than credit cards.

Think about the old adage, “What goes around comes around,” as this is the case with the return of the concept of layaway today. If you are considering the purchase of something today, and you do not have cash and using a credit card may not be something that is available to you, layaway may be your only option. Just consider that it is one of those old fashioned ways to get things that you want and to get things you need today, just as our parents did, back in the day.

Alonzo Kittrels can be reached at backintheday@phillytrib.com or The Philadelphia Tribune, Back In The Day, 520 South 16th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19146.

Jay-Z, Beyoncé top celebrity couples earning list with $95M

— Forbes has released its list of this year’s highest-earning celebrity couples and that Jay Z and Beyonce have once again come out at the top of the heap.

Between June 2012 and June 2013 (the time frame established for the rankings), the hip-hop power-couple took in a combined $95 Million. The couple also topped Forbes’ celebrity couples list last year.

Beyonce is said to have earned $11 million more than her husband did this year, thanks in large part to her Mrs. Carter Show world tour, with average grosses of $2 million per night.

Jay Z also had success on the concert stage. Much of his earnings came from his profitable Watch The Throne tour with Kanye West – who also makes an appearance on the top earning celeb couples list..

NFL star Tom Brady and his supermodel wife, Gisele Bundchen, came in at No. 2 on the list with $80 million in earnings. Brady’s three-year extension deal with the New England Patriots included a $30 million signing bonus. Bundchen is the world’s highest paid supermodel, with $42 million in yearly earnings.

Brad Pitt and Angelina rounded out the top 3, taking in an estimated $50 million.

West and Kim Kardashian came in at number five with $35 million.

At 42, Jada Pinkett-Smith reflects on past addiction

— Hindsight is 20/20, and at 42 Jada Pinkett-Smith has clarity on her past addictions.

The actress and singer celebrated her 42nd birthday on September 18, and she reflected on Facebook the wisdom that age has brought.

“What I learned about myself is this,” she told her fans. “(W)hen I was younger I was not a good problem solver, meaning I had a very difficult time with dealing with my problems in life. I had many addictions, of several kinds, to deal with my life issues.”

But these days, “at 42, I have my wisdom, my heart and my conscience as the only tools to overcome life’s inevitable obstacles.”

Some of those inevitable obstacles may include press coverage of her marriage to superstar Will Smith. The couple have been the subject of a number of rumors over the years, including recent ones that they were headed toward a divorce or in an open marriage.

“Will and I can both do whatever we want, because we trust each other to do so,” Pinkett-Smith said earlier this year. “This does not mean that we have an open relationship. This means that we have a grown one.”

While she might have handled such speedbumps differently in the past, these days, Pinkett-Smith says she has “the tools” to be “a good problem solver … and I am damn proud.”


™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Thai locals arrested over Rihanna Instagram photo

— Two men in Thailand are in trouble with the law thanks to an Instagram photo posted by pop star Rihanna during her recent visit to the holiday island of Phuket.

The singer was visiting Phuket for a few days between stops on her Diamonds World Tour, departing on Sunday for Singapore.

During her visit she shared many of her experiences on Twitter and Instagram, including a photo of her holding a loris — an endangered primate native to Southeast Asia.

The Instagram picture, believed to have been taken at Phuket nightlife hotspot Bangla Road, was captioned “Look who was talkin dirty to me!” and “liked” by more than 230,000 viewers.

The problem is, it’s illegal for anyone to charge tourists money to take photos with the endangered primates — an issue wildlife groups have long been trying to stamp out on the island.

Thai authorities react swiftly

Officials in Thailand quickly went on the defensive when outrage over Rihanna’s loris image spread.

The government ordered the Ministry of Natural Resources and local Phuket officials to urgently investigate the matter, reported local website Phuketnews.com.

Sunday night, a raid on suspected touts led to the arrest of two men, aged 16 and 20, who were taken to a local police station and presented to the media.

“It is very difficult to do the raids because the touts have spies,” Awat Nithikul, leader of the patrol officers, told The Phuket News.

“If someone hears that the police are coming their way, there will be a person who calls the touts and tells them to move. But this is a big deal because it might affect Thailand’s reputation.”

The newspaper says the two arrested touts are waiting to be bailed, and the two lorises in their possession will be returned to a national park in the nearby province of Phang Nga.

Rihanna’s X-rated experiences

It wasn’t just the loris issue that stirred up controversy.

Rihanna’s tweets about her X-rated experiences relating to some of the country’s more infamous tourist attractions also led to red-faced explanations by embarrassed officials.

According to the Bangkok Post, an English-language daily newspaper, Rihanna’s tweets led to one official saying, “Sex shows were completely against the law.”

“The authorities and law officials have surveyed the area to arrest and fine those involved [in staging sex shows],” he said. “But the shows still happen.”

On the flip side, some of the photos posted during Rihanna’s holiday will likely be appreciated by the local tourism industry — including multiple shots of her in bathing suits that show off the area’s gorgeous scenery — given she does have more than 9.7 million Instagram followers.


™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved

The heart of the black conservative

Within the Republican Party, there is what I call this mystery of the black conservative. Let me explain:

Over the years, I have had this conversation with people from the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Ollie North, Mike Huckabee and Haley Barbour, etc. They would argue that there was this growing trend of “conservatism” within the black community. I told them all categorically that this was bull.

Blacks have always been conservative or, more accurately, traditionalists. This DNA was embedded in us from the depths of our African ancestry. The spirit of our forefathers has been planted into us to cherish the values that allowed us to withstand the invasions of varied enemy forces from without and many similar forces from within.

The basis of this African culture was strict adherence to tradition, thus the word traditionalists. These traditions recognized the man as the head of the household that was his birthright. But in exchange for that birthright, he was responsible for the upkeep of that family— the wife, children and when needed, the extended family.

Children were not given choices they were given direction. The daughters would sit at their mother’s feet and learn of her ways and the sons would stand with the tribal elders to hear their wisdom in all things.

Children were not told they could decide their own sexuality. Their sexuality was determined at birth. Children were not allowed to disrespect their parents without serious consequences. Those who violated the established values and morals were swiftly punished and when necessary, removed from the community. There was no 20 years of litigation and appeals.

In other words, the traditions demanded and expected strict adherence to certain behavior because the elders knew that without rules of conduct, the family would disintegrate and their nation would soon follow.

So, when Africans were exported to the U.S. as slaves, whites were amazed at the devotion Africans had to family, God and discipline, despite the newly found oppression as slaves. What whites failed to understand then, as well as now, is that these traditions are still part of our DNA. Admittedly, some in the black community have allowed this DNA to become dormant, but it is definitely still there.

Part of the reason for this dormancy is psychological. I have attempted to educate white and black conservatives about this issue, but to no avail. When you go into the black community and use the word conservative, what blacks hear is Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms.

Thurmond and Helms were both U.S. senators (both deceased). Thurmond was from South Carolina and Helms from North Carolina. They both represented the worst of America and the Republican Party at the height of their power. They both were the embodiment of America’s racist past. In fairness, in his later years as senator, Thurmond was moving towards a path of redemption that was born out in some of the legislation he sponsored in the Senate, including increased funding for black universities.

So, when Republicans and black conservatives specifically, go into the black community and start talking about conservatism, blacks hear racism. So, the conversation goes like this: “My name is Raynard and I want to talk with you about why I am a black conservative.” What is heard is: “My name is Raynard and I want to talk with you about why I am a black racist and a sellout to my community?”

Whites in the Republican Party have prostituted the word conservative to mean racist, state’s rights, segregation, etc. This has been borne out time after time. When you talk about specific issues that are important to conservatives— abortion, welfare, homosexual entitlements, etc.—blacks are overwhelmingly supportive. However, as soon as you put the label conservative with it, the dynamic changes.

Meanings are in people, not in words.

Currently, America and specifically the black community have allowed liberalism and political correctness to run amuck. We must breathe new life into the dormancy of our culture. We must water the DNA that is begging to raise its head once more.

For the first time in the history of Africa, homosexuality is sweeping across the continent, babies are being born outside of marriage, and they are sending their elderly parents to nursing homes.

I am one who makes a living based on my knowledge and understanding of the use of words and language. Before white and black conservatives address the black community on any issues, they first must define their terms of engagement. Bush 43 was called conservative, but spent money like a drunken sailor. Republicans leaders of Congress call themselves fiscally conservative, but constantly support deficit spending.

One needs to define what the word conservative means and why it is relevant to a person’s everyday life. Why black conservatives, especially those with a heart, have not done this is truly a mystery.

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC. a Washington, D.C.-based public relations/government affairs firm. He can be reached through his website: www.raynardjackson.com.

DAV Department of Maryland Commander, Lamarr Couser; Adjutant, Joseph Cuocci; and DAV Auxiliary Commander, Bonnie Cuocci; and Dennis Smith (far right), director of the VA Maryland Health Care System.

Outstanding October activities in Annapolis

October brings the much welcomed cooler weather and a number of outstanding outdoor activities to Annapolis. One of the first this month is the 2013 season’s final outdoor First Sunday Festival on October 6th from noon until 5:00 p.m. During the five hours of festivities, West Street is closed to cars and becomes a fun-filled, outdoor, free, family affair of creativity for all ages to enjoy.

The street transforms and becomes a stage filled with live music, entertainment, and over 100 booths of art, jewelry, house wares, accessories and so much more. Plus several restaurants become outdoor cafes with perfect seating to watch the festivities, fun and people go by. So begin your busy October and fall season in Annapolis by making the First Sunday Art Festivals part of your plans on October 6, 2013.

Live Entertainment on West Street


Courtesy photo

The Basement Band

The Basement Band – performing the music of Bob Dylan and The Band from Noon – 1:30 p.m. in Wiseman Park.

Children’s Theatre of Annapolis – delighting local audiences since 1959 with professional quality theatrical opportunities to the area’s youth – performing every 10 minutes from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. in Stan and Joe’s side lot.

Annapolis Dixieland Band – playing traditional New Orleans Dixieland music plus swing and jazz will perform from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. in Wiseman Park.

Around the Corner in Whitmore Park


Courtesy photo

Old Mill Steel Drum Band

Old Mill Steel Drum Band –join the students from Old Mill High School from 1:30 – 3:00 p.m.

LifeSongs Community Choir with special guests Lea Morris & Kevin Whisman–singing songs of peace, freedom, friendship, love and humor from around the world led by Elizabeth Melvin will perform from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.

We hope you can join the fun and festivities on October 6th for Annapolis’ First Sunday Arts Festival. Sponsored in part by: LeafFilter

There will be one more opportunity to enjoy First Sunday activities in 2013 on November 3 at the Holiday Art Sale at Maryland Hall. For more information, visit our Facebook page or call: 443-333-9067.

USPS releases Ray Charles stamp

With apologies to Chuck D, many African-American heroes are now appearing on United States Postal Stamps.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member and legendary “Georgia on My Mind” singer, the late Ray Charles, now appears on a United States Postal Service (USPS) forever stamp.

The USPS continues to honor African-American legends and momentous events in black history, including the release last month of a civil rights stamp, which followed those of Rosa Parks, tennis legend, Althea Gibson; and others.

The honors arrive more than 20 years after Chuck D, the legendary leader of the rap group, Public Enemy, famously remarked about black icons, “Most of my heroes don’t appear on (a) stamp.” Last year, Public Enemy and Chuck D, whose real name is Carlton Douglas Ridenhour released a new CD, titled, “Most of My Heroes Still Don’t Appear on [a] Stamp.”

“No matter how many awards and accolades he received, Ray Charles was genuinely humbled by each and every honor. To him, it meant people anticipated what he loved doing so much, his music,” said Valerie Ervin, president of the Ray Charles Foundation in Los Angeles.

For the new stamp, art director Ethel Kessler chose a photograph of Charles taken by Yves Carrère late in the great singer’s career. Designed to evoke the appearance of a vintage 45-rpm record sleeve, the stamp sheet contains two sides that include the stamps and the image of a record appearing to peek out of the top of the sleeve.

“We are very pleased to announce that the third stamp in the new, ‘Music Icons,’ series will celebrate the life and music of Ray Charles,” Postal officials said in statement. “This extraordinary composer, singer and pianist, blind since childhood, went beyond category, blending blues, gospel, country, jazz and soul music in a unique and highly influential pop music style.”

Earlier this year, the postal service revealed plans for a new stamp collection called, “Music Icons.” The series shines the spotlight on three American originals, the late Lydia Mendoza, a pioneer of Tejano music; Johnny Cash, the country music superstar known as “The Man in Black”; and Ray Charles, the musical trailblazer who many musicians, including superstar Stevie Wonder, consider an idol.

Released on what would have been the singer’s 83rd birthday— Monday, September 23, 2013, the stamp coincides with a new, “Ray Charles Forever,” two-disc CD/DVD. The 12-song set features Charles’ performances of classic hits like, “America the Beautiful,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” and “Imagine.” The disc also includes mega-hits like, “Georgia on My Mind,” “Hit the Road Jack,” “What’d I Say,” and “I’ve Got a Woman.”

Michael Jai White plays leading role in “For Better or Worse” on OWN

Michael Jai White plays leading role in “For Better or Worse” now on OWN

Best known for his roles in “Universal Soldier: The Return” with Jean-Claude Van Damme and as Mike Tyson in HBO’s “Tyson,” Michael Jae White is now a leading man in high demand. This week the third season of “For Better or Worse” aired with Michael Jai White in the leading role with Tasha Smith as his leading lady on OWN.

“I did the two movies [and] he [Tyler Perry] decided to make a television series based on those characters. It was a wonderful opportunity,” White said about the spin-off of the Tyler Perry films “Why Did I Get Married?” and the sequel “Why Did I Get Married Too?” “It’s the [same] character I did before.”

“For Better or Worse,” premiered on TBS in 2011 but the show wasn’t renewed for a third season. It was then picked up by OWN.

Michael’s credits also includes “Mortal Kombat: Legend as Jax Briggs”; “Kill Bill Vol. 2”, the animation film, “Black Dynamite” in 2012; Arrow in 2013 as marine Ben Turner the Bronze Tiger; The Dark Knight, and he directed and stared in Never Back Down 2: The Beat Down.

“I have a cartoon ‘Black Dynamite’ in its second season, ‘Arrow’ (MTV), and an action movie Favela,” White added when asked about other projects.

To learn more about Michael Jai White, visit: www.MichaelJaiWhite.com.

The Pulse of Entertainment is written weekly by Eunice Moseley. For more entertainment news, visit: www.ThePulseofEntertainment.com or www.FreelanceAssociatesInc.com.