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BILL VAUGHAN’S TASTY CLIPS: Penny Johnson Jerald backs Little Miss African American Pageant

By Bill Vaughan

Entertainment Writer

Back when performer/choreographer Lisa Ruffin created the Little Miss African American Scholarship Pageant, her fellow celebrity friends like Penny Johnson Jerald were quick to lend their support.

“My husband and I wanted our daughter to see what young people were doing,” said the celebrated actress whose credits include “Castle,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and Seth MacFarlane’s hit Fox sci-fi dramedy, “The Orville,” where she portrays Dr. Claire Finn.

“When Lisa described her program as an educational one under the guise of a pageant, I just thought that was magnificent.”

And the love affair continues with the event that has awarded hundreds of scholarships to girls between the ages of 6 and 12 years old, as it returns for its milestone 25th annual edition at 3 p.m. Aug. 12 at the Nate Holden Theatre (www.littlemissafricanamerican.org).

Johnson Jerald is co-hosting with former “Celebrity Apprentice” Claudia Jordan. James Pickens Jr. (ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy”), Keith David (OWN’s “Greenleaf”), Ella Joyce (“Roc”), Roz Ryan (“Amen”), Janice Freeman (NBC’s “The Voice”), author/professor Ron Brewington, and Krista Campbell, the reigning Little Miss African American, are among the special guests and judges confirmed.

The Baltimore native, whose stardom was almost derailed by a high school counselor’s narrow-minded guidance, feels it is vital that young people realize that they have to follow their dream.

“No one can define who you are. You define who you are with your actions, your deeds and your mouth oftentimes,” she said. “That’s the advice I give to young people and especially our girls because they are bred in a generation where they’re given more opportunities than our men. If we don’t respect ourselves and respect our men, we’re never going to bring each other up together. It’s not an equal playing field.”

As for acting, Johnson Jerald admitted that she was born to do what she’s doing.

“I’d do it for free if I had to. Being in the entertainment industry is something I have to do. It’s not something I want to do. It’s like you have to drink water every day. It’s what I’m made of. It’s in my DNA.”

“Growing up I didn’t really see anybody like myself except you know, Peggy on ‘Mannix’ and Diahann Carroll and ‘Room 222.’ And so I never pigeonholed myself as an African-American actress. I just am that. I can’t take the skin off of being. I can’t take my experiences away from me, but I don’t want to be labeled as such because most of the roles that I have been able to be blessed with, (like “The Larry Sanders Show”), they’re not ethnic descriptive. I’ve never seen them described as she is black. I go in there and just have the confidence.”

You would think that being a Democrat portraying Condoleezza Rice twice in TV movies would have been daunting, but she cites her most challenging television role as that of the complex Sherry Palmer on “24.”

“I saw it as a prequel to setting the stage for America to understand that it’s coming — the presidency. And then lo and behold, right after that there’s Barack Obama and Michelle. I have to say that because I feel as though America, somewhat through the lens of “24,” was able to be color blind and choose the best.”

CLIPPETTES: Remain seated during the end credits of Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” (opening Aug. 10) to hear “Mary Don’t You Weep,” a rare recording of the spiritual by Prince in advance of its release Sept. 21 on the live album “Piano & A Microphone: 1983”

Earlier this week, Prince’s “Black Album,” which he attempted to destroy because of his hatred of it, was sold on Disgos for $27,000, making it the most expensive item sold on the site per CelebrityAccess

Jill Scott has been cast as a “First Wives Club” member in a Paramount Network series version of the 1996 film under the supervision of “Girls Trip” writer Tracy Oliver …

“The Us Festival: 1982 The Us Generation” is now available on Blu-ray/DVD with remastered live performances from Santana, the Police, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, The B-52s and more

Hilltop Coffee + Kitchen, the long-awaited new View Park-Windsor Hills cafe featuring a menu designed by Chef Jason Fullilove (of Barbara Jean fame), is slated to open to the public on Aug. 13 with locally roasted gourmet coffee, fresh cold-pressed juices as well as all-day breakfast and lunch offerings …

Gregory Porter performs selections from his latest album “Nat King Cole & Me” at the Hollywood Bowl with Vince Mendoza conducting the orchestra and tap dancer Savion Glover opening on Aug. 15

FX’s “Fargo” returns for its fourth season next year with Chris Rock starring as a 1950s gangster

Rising Charleston-based black roots quintet Ranky Tanky is set for an Aug. 16 date at the Skirball Cultural Center

Tessa Thompson (“Westworld”) and Ruth Negga (“Preacher”) are starring in a movie version of Nella Larsen’s 1920s racial novel “Passing,” to be adapted and directed by bi-racial actress Rebecca Hall, daughter of opera singer Maria Ewing.

TC ON TV: Aug. 10 – “All About The Washingtons” (Netflix): Rev Run aka Joseph Simmons and his wife Justine Simmons turn their life into a scripted family sitcom where they play fictionalized versions of themselves. “David Tutera’s Celebrations” (WE): Niecy Nash. “Great Performances” (PBS): “Chicago Voices” features Michelle Williams, Lupe Fiasco, Kurt Elling and Grammy-winning soprano Renée Fleming, whose new album “Broadway” with guests Leslie Odom Jr. and Christian McBride, hits Sept. 7 on Decca Classics. “Real Time with Bill Maher” (HBO): D.L. Hughley

Aug. 11 – “Iyanla: Fix My Life” (OWN): Neffe (Keyshia Cole’s sister) and her man Soullow get another session. “Mind Your Business with Mahisha” (OWN): Curls CEO Mahisha Dellinger is here to help other female entrepreneurs live out their dreams and take their small businesses to greater heights.

Aug. 12 – “Celebrity Family Feud” (ABC): Emmitt Smith vs. Todd Gurley II and Craig Robinson vs. Casey Wilson. “Teen Choice 2018” (Fox): Nick Cannon hosts with a performance by Khalid. “Insecure” (HBO): Issa Rae and Yvonne Orji return for a third season.

Aug. 14 – “No Passport Required” (PBS): Chef Marcus Samuelsson dines, dances and dishes with the Ethiopian community in the nation’s capital in this season finale. “Bizarre Foods America” (Travel): Andrew Zimmern explores “The Underground Railroad” and eats meals typical of the slaves who escaped on the route like roadkill stew, fire-roasted bullfrog, deer jerky and chitterlings. “The Haves and the Have Nots” (OWN): The Tyler Perry primetime soap seems to be shaving the cast. We’ll see who survives tonight. “Love Connection” (Fox): Johnathan Franklin, a community affairs executive with the L.A. Rams, and Amber Sibbett, a therapist from Huntington Beach go on dates.

Aug. 15 – “Martha & Snoop’s Pot Luck Dinner” (VH1): Mac & Cheese with Terrence Howard, Queen Latifah and Jussie Smollett; then Chinese food with Margaret Cho and G-Eazy.

TASTY QUIP: “When I first started, 21 years ago, I was told that it was hard for me to get onto covers of magazines because black people did not sell. Clearly that has been proven a myth.” –BEYONCÉ in a cover story for Vogue. Tickets may still be available for her current tour with Jay-Z at www.ontherun2tickets2018.com/


As featured in the Los Angeles Wave and Independent, Tasty Clips is one of the leading entertainment newspaper columns on the West Coast, serving nearly one million weekly readers. To reach Bill Vaughan, send email to tastyclips@yahoo.com or via Twitter @tastyclips.