You are an established Hollywood actress now – an Oscar winner for 12 Years a Slave, do you have any plans to start your own business, be it a production house or otherwise?
Well, I actually am producing a film, Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and I am putting that hat on my head.
And how is it going wearing two hats?
It is going well, it’s a learning curve for sure. But this is an industry I am very passionate about, I love storytelling. So I am just learning a new way to tell a story.
The experience of being on the red carpet that night of the Oscars, what goes through your mind when they announce your name?
It was very confusing.
In what sense does time stop?
It’s just I didn’t know if they had said my name or if I had said my name or my brother said my name, and you have no time to figure it out, you have to get up there and say something.
And in terms of your process for a role, what do you do to embody the character, what is your method as it were?
Each role speaks for itself and you kind of design your preparation, depending on the kind of role. But it always starts with research about the world the character lives in.
What kind of research did you do for Queen of Katwe?
Well, it was about learning as much as I can about these people. I was fortunately privileged enough to have the real Harriet – she is very much alive and kicking – and I sat with her and asked her to tell me about herself from her perspective and that was really cool, to ask her why she let Phiona go to Robert Katende’s chess academy and she was very practical, she said ‘he could give her a cup of porridge when I couldn’t’. So this is a woman who is very practical and principled as well and I felt very honoured to play because her dignity is one that doesn’t have a price tag on it.
What is the experience of shooting in Uganda like?
It was incredible, to be on location shooting in the places where these things transpired, you are doing research as you walk and every day you are learning something new and deepening your understanding of your character and the world you live in. So for me, it was very fertile to be in Kampala, in Katwe, in its environments.
As an African actress, you’ve now very much become an icon on this continent, do you feel it’s a big responsibility to shoulder and how do you feel to potentially mentor young girls to get where you’ve gotten to?
Well I don’t feel a responsibility at all, I feel like it’s my opportunity, it’s a conviction of my heart. I didn’t grow up seeing very many movies like Queen of Katwe, certainly not told by Disney so to have a chance to be that mirror this time feels very meaningful.
Marvel’s Black Panther… what is your involvement there, are you are allowed to talk about it?
I am allowed to say who I am playing which is Nakia, and that’s about it.
Is it a big studio film or…?
It’s Marvel… so it’s in the league of Captain America, Avengers and Iron Man… those kind of movies.
Other than that, what are your future plans at this stage?
I am definitely looking forward to that, I have not shot that yet. So that is coming up shortly, and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and totally new role for me and I will be producing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah as well and I hope to do comedy sometime soon.
In terms of influences, who are they, be it directors, actors or actresses?
Oh…I am very fortunate to work with people like J.J Abrams, Mira Nair, and Steve McQueen to name a few. I love Cate Blanchett, I love her work, I loved Elizabeth Taylor as well, Viola Davis is fierce, Sidney Poitier is incomparable, yeah, those are some of them…
‘There Will Always Be A Need For Live Art’
South African dancer Mamela Nyamza revived a 30-year-old dance festival to help local artists connect with the rest of the world.
An eight-year-old graces the pulpit of her hometown church capturing the attention of the congregants with her nimble dance moves. Little do they know she would go on to dazzle audiences on some of the world’s most prolific stages.
As the deputy artistic director of the South African State Theatre, it all still feels like a dream for the award-winning contemporary dancer who never imagined her passion for dance would lead her here.
Mamela Nyamza owes it all to her childhood.
Your upbringing will always find a way back to your artistic life.
From running in the rain to dance classes, with a leotard packed into a plastic bag, to curating one of the biggest dance festivals in South Africa, Nyamza is hoping to transform the art form in Africa.
Sitting in her office in South Africa’s capital Pretoria, she understands the responsibility of her position.
“I know how important it is for people to come and showcase their work in this theater because I came from a space where doors were not opened for me. The space I come from has taught me a lot as an artist and it has actually made me the artist I am today because everything I do will always reflect that life,” she says.
She hopes to merge the line between art and life by curating the Dance Umbrella Africa Festival.
The festival, formally known as Dance Umbrella Johannesburg, which downed its curtains in 2018 due to lack of funding, has been revived by Nyamza to incorporate a continental approach towards contemporary dancers.
She took it upon herself to revive the program that gave her an opportunity at the start of her career.
“I cannot sit back and watch a festival that groomed many artists in this country close in front of me while I am watching. If it was not for Dance Umbrella, I would have never performed internationally,” she says.
For Nyamza, the festival brought programs to South Africa which opened a gateway for artists to connect with the rest of the world, allowing them to showcase their body of work on international stages.
Institutions that support the dance community are needed to assist both aspiring and established dancers, she says.
“You cannot do it alone; you need these structures to help you help others. Our role here is to serve the patron, the audience, the artists and everybody.”
The position seemed daunting to her, at first, but she soon realized it was time for change in the industry.
An office job has not tethered the artist’s free spirit.
“I was not going to leave the industry; it is all about leading the industry. I still go out there and work, I still practice my art and I feel, as an artist, I have done Mamela a lot. So why am I still holding on to me? It is time to give back. Right now, being here, I feel like there is a reason for being here. I feel like this is a calling.”
Heeding the call to make a difference, Nyamza, who is dressed in African print, recollects the challenges she faced when she turned her hobby into a profession.
As a black woman, taking it on as a career was the hardest part, thus turning a love into a strange relationship.
Being the only black woman in her dance classes made her feel like “the other” at all times.
“It [ballet] was not accepting me as a black woman. It made me interrogate [ballet] as an artist. Hence, most of my work will always go back to ballet,” she says.
“I was deconstructing something that I know. I was not just talking about ballet, I was deconstructing something that did not accept me as a black woman or did not accept my body.”
This interrogation is reflected in most of her work.
Surprised by the high number of artists in their early 20s who showcase their work at the State Theatre, Nyamza applauds the transformation that has made these spaces accessible since her early 20s.
A kind of access she had to fight for.
“Right now, my son does not know that we used to walk while it was raining to go to ballet classes. We were not dropped off in cars. It was not easy, it was something you did for love and that is when passion is created. Because of the different times that we come from, it took me years to even put my work at the Artscape [Theatre Centre in Cape Town]. You always look at these differences and not that you are against them, you always just say ‘wow, this is great’.”
As much as there has been the incorporation of digital innovation to ease access to dance and performance, the need for live theater will always be imperative for her.
“There will always be a need for live art because it touches different parts [of us]. When something is live, you remember the liveness of it, the body of it. With technology, you can see it [a performance] there and also have it here, it is easy access but a live body is not easy access and that is what people forget. You have to go out there, pay money, support and watch it live because that live memory stays with you,” she says.
“As artists, it is hard for us to say, ‘here’s my DVD’ and as artists who perform outside of the country, people ask ‘can you show me something online?’. I tell them that they can see me online but it is not the same. It is never the same. It is all about liveness and experiencing it live.”
The upside is that it opens the window of opportunity for African artists on international stages, which, at times, may pose cultural barriers.
“By being a solo artist, it has been easy for international people to get the whole history of South Africa from one artist and you don’t have to bring the whole [cast of] 80 people to talk about the story. It is easy because you are in South Africa, you are South African. Your work is South African. How you do it is up to you because you are an artist and as an artist, you can interpret your work in any way.
“When showing your work, there is already the assumption that you are from Africa and you need to do celebratory work or ceremonial work and if you don’t do that, there is a question of, ‘I did not accept that from an African woman’. There are so many ways people engage with us as artists coming from Africa,” Nyamza says.
At times, it was easier for men to succeed in the industry, she says.
“When we came as women, we didn’t entertain too much. There was an element of [not all men, some], ‘we are men showing six packs and the body’ and actually giving exactly what the other wants to see. With women, we came with issues that needed to be interrogated and debated. We provoked things and sparked some conversations that will stay with people. We were talking about things that are happening in our country and became the window to our country.”
But back home, the locals are still grappling to understand the art industry, leaving artists like Nyamza with a greater popularity beyond African shores. Locally, she feels the audiences are not as supportive and open to attending live shows.
“At home we don’t have that culture of knowing what is good and understanding our own artists. It is not something our people have grown up with. Much like me studying dance was questioned as ‘what else do you do?’ Nobody will know that I am an international artist. They know us internationally but at home they will ask ‘who is Mamela?’ Not that I want them to know. I am an artist, I just do my work and it speaks for itself.”
Looking at the growing interest for ballet-dancing among black people in South Africa, Nyamza argues that ballet is moving away from the traditional format of only wearing pink tutus and has become more accessible, thus allowing locals to make their own interpretations of the artform. However, the lack of continuity concerns her.
“I always see young black kids doing ballet and then later on there are none. Where are they? What happened to them? But then again, I think this situation is because we don’t have many black female dance teachers who these kids can relate to and aspire to be.” It is a fact most artists and art managers agree on.
The Forgotten Angle Theatre Collaborative managing and artistic director PJ Sabbagha says the arts are socially marginalized but it is the artist’s responsibility to change the way it is viewed. Through exposure in his community-based work in Mpumalanga, Sabbagha has realized that an appreciation for the arts is increasing.
“The art is very alive in communities and so is dance, in various forms. We still live in a world where people don’t view the arts as being real. They view it as a hobby or part-time activity. It partly has to do with the way art has positioned itself and also the way society views the arts, it has, basically, never really been seen as a real economic driver with potential for social change.
“The older generation doesn’t see how people’s lives are impacted through the arts. They can earn an income and that it can be a meaningful career or that it can benefit society. Although, things have changed, the economy in the country does not help; there is less investment in the arts because we need to save failing infrastructure,” Sabbagha says.
These are nagging concerns to answer. Because the work of many unknown artists is based on personal impact and interpretation, it becomes challenging to assess what art in small pockets of the world mean to those viewing it. Perhaps, the greater question is, what can be done to get people interested enough to attend an art show? Should it all lay at the feet of artists or should people be more proactive about who and what they view?
Artist, Icon, Billionaire: How Jay-Z Created His $1 Billion Fortune
Nine years ago, two unlikely lunch partners sat down at the Hollywood Diner in Omaha, Nebraska. One, Warren Buffett, was a regular there. The other, Jay-Z, was not. The billionaire and the rapper ordered strawberry malts and chatted amiably, continuing the conversation back at Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway offices.
Buffett, then 80, walked away impressed with the artist 40 years his junior: “Jay is teaching in a lot bigger classroom than I’ll ever teach in. For a young person growing up, he’s the guy to learn from.” This moment, which was originally captured in our 2010 Forbes 400 package, made it clear that Jay-Z already had a blueprint for his own ten-figure fortune. “Hip-hop from the beginning has always been aspirational,” he said.
Less than a decade later, it’s clear that Jay-Z has accumulated a fortune that conservatively totals $1 billion, making him one of only a handful of entertainers to become a billionaire—and the first hip-hop artist to do so. Jay-Z’s steadily growing kingdom is expansive, encompassing liquor, art, real estate (homes in Los Angeles, the Hamptons, Tribeca) and stakes in companies like Uber.
His journey is all the more impressive given its start: Brooklyn’s notorious Marcy housing projects. He was a drug dealer before becoming a musician, starting his own label, Roc-A-Fella Records, to release his 1996 debut, Reasonable Doubt. Since then he’s amassed 14 No. 1 albums, 22 Grammy awards and over $500 million in pretax earnings in a decade.
Crucially, he realized that he should build his own brands rather than promote someone else’s: the clothing line Rocawear, started in 1999 (soldfor $204 million to Iconix in 2007); D’Ussé, a cognac he co-owns with Bacardi; and Tidal, a music-streaming service.
Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean, the superproducer behind some of Jay-Z’s biggest hits (“On To The Next One,” Beyoncé’s “Upgrade U”), looks at Jay-Z as something others can model: “It’s bigger than hip-hop … it’s the blueprint for our culture. A guy that looks like us, sounds like us, loves us, made it to something that we always felt that was above us.”
“If he’s a billionaire now, imagine what he’s about to be,” Swizz Beatz says. “Because he’s only just starting.”
What’s Jay-Z Worth?
To calculate his net worth, we looked at the artist’s stakes in companies like Armand de Brignac champagne—applying our customary discount to private firms—then added up his income, subtracting a healthy amount to account for a superstar lifestyle. We checked our numbers with a roster of outside experts to ensure these estimates were fair and conservative. Turns out, Jay-Z really is a business, man.
Armand de Brignac
Jay-Z has used his music to shill the $300 gold bottles of the “Ace of Spades” champagne since launching the brand with the 2006 video “Show Me What You Got.” More recently, his verse on Meek Mill’s “What’s Free” put a half-billion-dollar value on the wine, which seems like a bit too bubbly a number.
Cash & investments
A vast investing portfolio includes a stake in Uber worth an estimated $70 million. He reportedly purchased his piece for $2 million back in 2013—and then wired founder Travis Kalanick another $5 million in an attempt to increase his holdings, but was rebuffed.
Jay-Z’s cognac, a joint venture with beverage giant Bacardi, moves almost 200,000 cases and has grown nearly 80% annually. “Jay-Z resonates with consumers who are attracted to the ultra-premium lifestyle,” says Eric Schmidt, Beverage Marketing Corp.’s Director of Alcohol Research.
In 2015, Jay-Z submitted a bid to purchase the Scandinavian streaming service’s parent company for just shy of $60 million. He relaunched Tidal later that year with a roster of celebrity investors including his wife, Beyoncé, and other music luminaries, from Kanye West to Calvin Harris.
This wide-ranging entertainment company started over a decade ago as part of a joint venture with concert giant Live Nation. Roc Nation represents some of the top stars in the entertainment through its sports agency (Kevin Durant, Todd Gurley) as well as its record label and artist-management arms (Rihanna, J. Cole).
Before the beginning of his stint as Def Jam’s chief in 2004, Jay-Z negotiatedthe eventual return of his master recordings from the aforementioned label that helped launch his career; in a separate deal with EMI, he clawed back his publishing rights. Wise move: his hits now clock close to 1 billion streams annually.
In the song “Picasso Baby,” Jay-Z boasted about a “Basquiat in my kitchen corner.” He probably wasn’t kidding. For over a decade, he’s been scooping up masterpieces like Basquiat’s “Mecca,” purchased in 2013 for a reported $4.5 million. “He’s rapped about it all in detail,” says Fab 5 Freddy, a contemporary and friend of the late painter. “Jay-Z helped educate millions of hip-hop fans mentioning Jean-Michel.”
After welcoming twins in 2017, Jay-Z and Beyoncé bought a pair of homes to match: a $26 million East Hampton mansion and a $88 million Bel Air estate. Jay-Z also owns a Tribeca penthouse, snagged for $6.85 million in 2004.
–Zack O’Malley Greenburg;Forbes Staff
This ‘Game of Thrones’ Fan Demands A Rewrite—And 1.2 Million Sign Petition
The creator of the notorious Game of Thrones petition calling on HBO to remake the show’s eighth and final season only learned of its success (more than 1.2 million have signed) on Thursday, days after it went viral.
HBO’s high fantasy series Game of Thrones has for years been a juggernaut, giving the network some of its highest ratings ever. But the show’s final episodes have drawn the ire of fans and some critics who say the writing has been sloppy and plot points were unearned.
After offhandedly making the petition more than a week ago as a way to vent, Dylan (he declined to give his full name to Forbes), a 30-year-old analyst for a health system in Fort Worth, Texas, hadn’t given it a second thought. That is, until a coworker approached him after work.
“Hey, is this you?” the coworker said.
And that’s how he learned his Change.org petition had blown up. After learning of his newfound internet fame, he provided an online update, where he told the world that no one from HBO has approached him. He doesn’t reasonably expect HBO to remake anything, he said, but he wants to send a message: he’s disappointed.
In an email exchange with Forbes, here is what Dylan had to say about the petition. Warning: This contains spoilers.
What exactly prompted you to start the petition? You said it was a few days after Episode 4. What in particular were you disappointed by, both in that episode and the next one?
Really it was a combination of Episode 3 and 4’s failures that brought me to the point of writing the petition. There were many, many qualms I had with the episodes, but I’ll mention a couple. The Battle of Winterfell was a strategic disgrace. I mentioned in my long update that the show suffered from “everyone is stupid” syndrome. I’m sure there is a better term for it, but when the plot is intense and dramatic simply because every character involved is an idiot, that is not great writing. You had some of the wisest, most experienced individuals in Westeros all in one room, and THAT was the defense strategy? As for Episode 4 I had many lamentations, but the specific one that made me facepalm the hardest was how Rhaegal died. Easily one of the cheapest deaths of the whole series. I could probably go on for a long time about it, but that’ll do for now.
Have you started other Change.org petitions before?
I have not. I understand that they are normally for more social and humanitarian issues, but maybe this whole thing has drawn more people to the site that can browse these other petitions.
What do you make of the overwhelming response this petition has gotten? And some of the backlash about “entitled fans” and whatnot.
Well in my long update I talked about how I started it and how surprised I was by the response when I checked back in after a week. I was mostly just chuckling at it, taking it lightly, then I learned my parents had contacted news institutions and reporters and I was taken aback. This petition isn’t about me. Any passionate nerd could have written it. Heck I clearly put like the minimum effort into the original post! I have seen a few things calling out the petition and its signers as a whole, but nothing yet that calls me out directly. I guess if we’re entitled, we’re entitled together. I hoped to clear some things up in my update post, but I may have taken too long to put some clarifying words out there.
Did your parents reach out to reporters after you found out the petition had been doing well? Are they fans of the show as well? (Author’s note: I asked this question in a follow up email).
Yeah I had called them on my way home from work after I found out myself, just to say, “Hey check this out, neat huh?” They were notably more excited than I was about the “internet fame” and started reaching out to reporters on their own. I wasn’t terribly thrilled about it, but they were excited for me. Yes, I got my parents into the show maybe around season 5 or so…can’t remember when, but I introduced everyone in my immediate family to the show.
Has your life changed at all since the petition blew up?
Well since I only learned of its success [Thursday] after work, the only life impact I have experienced so far is a lack of sleep for one night. I think I was too pumped to sleep well last night! I would imagine that after the finale the petition will garner more attention, but we’ll see.
What do you hope to get out of the petition now? I know you said you don’t expect HBO to actually remake Season 8 and that no one from HBO has been in contact with you.
That’s the question isn’t it? Sometimes acknowledgement of the outcry is enough, and decisions are made behind the scenes to adjust for such backlash. I am also one of the somewhat disgruntled Star Wars fans as well – relatively unhappy with the writing of the new trilogy – so seeing D&D (D.B. Weiss and David Benioff) lose their Star Wars contracts might be interesting. I have seen people call for that. I just don’t know why they should be rewarded with another beloved story after what we saw from the end of Thrones, but who knows? If we get a Star Warstrilogy from them that’s as good as the first few seasons of Thrones, I might be eating my words.
Do you still think Game of Thrones is one of the greatest TV shows of all time?
Absolutely. It is a universal cultural phenomenon. I heard someone once say something along the lines of, “This show shouldn’t even exist. It’s this crazy, convoluted fantasy epic with dragons and zombies and castles and political drama. We should be happy it was brought to us.” That’s some huge paraphrasing, but I do agree with the sentiment. In my long update, I say that D&D deserve praise for their adaptation of the books during the first several seasons of the show. Obviously the praise stops short towards the end of the rushed series.
-Rachel Sandler; Forbes Staff
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