Natalie Portman was sexually terrorised at 13

Natalie Portman has detailed how she was a victim of “sexual terrorism” at the age of 13 when shooting her first film.
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Current/Elliott Hires Natalie Ratabesi as Senior Vice President of Design

Natalie Ratabesi has been tapped as senior vice president of design at Current/Elliott, a division of The Collected Group, whose portfolio includes Joie and Equipment, WWD has learned.
Ratabesi will work closely with The Collected Group’s chief brand officer, Sarah Rutson, to oversee design direction of the denim lifestyle brand’s women’s wear and men’s wear collections, beginning with the fall 2018 season. In addition to her new role, Ratabesi will continue to design and operate her own line, TRE by Natalie Ratabesi, a designer collection that will be shipped to stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Net-a-porter, Forward and Harvey Nichols this month.
Ratabesi takes over the women’s design responsibilities from Michele Manz, who was vice president of design for Current/Elliott women’s. The men’s wear designer remains Kirk Von Heifner.
Rutson, former vice president of global buying at Net-a-porter.com, joined The Collected Group in July and was charged with identifying potential acquisitions to help build the group’s portfolio beyond the contemporary labels currently in its portfolio. The game plan is for The Collected Group to assemble a broader offering across designer, beauty and lifestyle categories.
“We are delighted to bring Natalie on board to head up the Current/Elliott design team. I am

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Natalie Massenet Announces Birth of Her Baby Boy

OH, BOY: Natalie Massenet has become a mother for the third time, announcing the birth of her son, Jet Everest Torstensson, on Instagram.
The baby boy is Massenet’s first child with her partner, Erik Torstensson.
Massenet, founder of Net-a-porter, is chairman of the British Fashion Council. She also serves as non-executive co-chairman of Farfetch, and is an independent investor. She has two daughters with her former husband, Arnaud Massenet.

“Erik and I are so proud and happy to welcome to the world our much longed for addition to our family and our first son — Jet Everest Torstensson,” Massenet wrote.
“Jet was born September 15 in Los Angeles and came into our lives with the most generous help from our surrogate. We are grateful to our friends and family for their incredible support and affection.”
Torstensson is the cofounder of Frame Denim with Jens Grede. The two are also founders of Saturday Group, a multimedia fashion marketing agency.

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Is Natalie Portman returning to Marvel?

The director of the upcoming Thor sequel Ragnarok has posted a cryptic image of actress Natalie Portman on social media.
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Natalie Portman And Benjamin Millepied Welcome Baby No. 2

Natalie Portman and Benjamin Millepied have welcomed their second child together!

A rep for the actress confirmed the news to The Huffington Post Friday. 

The baby girl, named Amalia, was born on Feb. 22 ― one week before her mom was meant to attend the Academy Awards. However, we’d say a new bundle of joy is a pretty great reason to skip the ceremony, as Portman did. 

“Mother and baby are happy and healthy,” the rep said in a statement. 

Amalia is the second child for Portman and her choreographer husband. The two are also parents to 5-year-old Aleph

Portman and Millepied met while filming 2010’s “Black Swan”; he choreographed and appeared in the film. The two got married in 2012

Congratulations to the happy family! 

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Red Carpet Watch: Red Carpet Watch: Natalie Portman

The actress’s maternity style for awards season is as on point as ever.
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Natalie Portman reveals ‘crazy’ gender pay gap

Natalie Portman, tipped for her second Oscar this year, has revealed a “crazy” salary disparity between genders in Hollywood.
Entertainment News – Latest Celebrity & Showbiz News | Sky News

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Gotham Independent Film Awards 2016 Red Carpet Arrivals: See Natalie Portman, Katie Holmes and More Stars

Natalie Portman, Gotham Independent Film AwardsLet the award show season begin!
Close to two weeks before the Golden Globe nominations are announced, Hollywood’s biggest stars from the big screen headed to Cipriani Wall Street in…

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Natalie Portman Looks Elegant in Refined Patterned Gown at Beijing Film Festival

Natalie Portman’s red carpet style never disappoints.

The Oscar winning actress took to the 6th Beijing International Film Festival in China’s capital — and brought her elegant style along with her.

Portman, 34, donned a patterned, floor-length gown that featured a plunging neckline and black sash at the waist. she topped off the look with a simple, sleek up-‘do, sporting a middle-part.

Natalie PortmanVCG/Getty

The actress has a loyal following in China, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and was slated to introduce a special screening of her directorial debut, A Tale of Love and Darkness.

RELATED PHOTO: See Natalie Portman Transform Into Jacqueline Kennedy Wearing Famous Pink Chanel Outfit on Set of Jackie

The Thor actress has been keeping busy, with a number of movies slated to be released this and next year. Last month, Portman gushed to PEOPLE about her 2015 film Knight of Cups, saying that her costar, Christian Bale was “fun” but “sometimes scary” to work with.

“Christian would do surprising things all the time,” Portman told PEOPLE of her first time working with Bale. “It’s fun to watch — and sometimes scary, like when he’s, like, diving off a dock into the ocean when you don’t expect it in the middle of a scene.

“But he also keeps everything feeling very alive and spontaneous. It was really a fun, unusual experience.”

What do you think of Natalie’s elegant red carpet look?

–Char Adams


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Jennifer Lawrence and Natalie Dormer Share an Awkward, Accidental Kiss on the Red Carpet, Recover in the Best Way

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RBG Says Natalie Portman ‘Insisted’ On Female Director For Biopic

Natalie Portman reportedly refused to sign on to the upcoming Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic until it had a female director.

Portman is set to play the Supreme Court justice in “On the Basis of Sex,” which will chronicle Ginsburg’s early days as a lawyer.

In conversation with California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu at this year’s American Constitution Society convention on June 13, Ginsburg revealed that that Portman was adamant a women direct the movie, putting the project on pause.

“Natalie Portman came to talk to me about this, and we had a very good conversation,” Ginsburg said. “And one thing interesting that she insisted on, it held up the project for awhile. She said, ‘I want the director to be a woman. There are not enough women in this industry. There are many talented [women] out there.’ And now they do have a woman director.”

In May, it was reported that Marielle Heller, director of “The Diary of a Teenage Girl,” is currently in talks to direct the movie, though the director of the film has not been formally announced.

Beyond pushing for more women calling the shots, Portman discussed the need for more dynamic female narratives with Elle UK in 2013: “The fallacy in Hollywood is that if you’re making a ‘feminist’ story, the woman kicks ass and wins. That’s not feminist, that’s macho. A movie about a weak, vulnerable woman can be feminist if it shows a real person that we can empathize with.”

(Though we can all agree that Notorious R.B.G. totally kicks ass.)

Portman recently directed her first feature film, “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

H/T MSNBC

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Natalie Portman Explains What She Learned Going Through ‘Dark Moments’ At Harvard

Attending Harvard University, said actress Natalie Portman, “changed the very questions I was asking.”

Portman, a 2003 graduate of Harvard, was the keynote speaker at Harvard College’s Class Day on Wednesday. Portman joked up front that she had wanted some comedy writers for her speech because at her Class Day, Will Ferrell was their hilarious speaker. She didn’t get anyone to help her craft jokes, she said, and so Portman’s speech largely focused on her explaining how she confronted her own doubts when she went to Harvard.

In high school, she was voted most likely to be a contestant on “Jeopardy,” which Portman said was “code for nerdy.” But when Portman came to Harvard, after the 1999 release of “Star Wars: Episode I” that she starred in, she was worried she’d be viewed as unworthy and only gotten in because of her fame.

“I got in only because I was famous — this is how others viewed me and how I viewed myself,” Portman admitted. Portman said she would have some “pretty dark moments” as a Harvard student.

“There were several occasions I started crying in meetings with professors, overwhelmed with what I was supposed to pull off when I could barely get out of bed in the morning,” she recounted.

class day

Bouncing between researching about underground groups for her role in “V for Vendetta” and making the stoner comedy “Your Highness,” among other films, Portman said she learned to find her own meaning and not have her success determined by box office receipts.

Portman learned as she studied for her role in “Black Swan” that “the only thing that separates you from others is your quirks, or even flaws.”

“There was a reason I was an actor,” Portman said, “because I love what I do and I saw from my peers and my mentors that was not only an acceptable reason, that was the best reason.”

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Natalie Portman Found the Coolest Wedding Band to Pair With a Halo Engagement Ring

By now you’re well-versed in the merits of halo engagement rings (you can review them here), but things can get tricky when you try to pair your mega-sparkly halo ring with a wedding band. Because…




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Natalie Douglas Honors Judy Garland And Homeless LGBT Youth With A Performance Of ‘Stormy Weather’

Judy Garland became the consummate star of Hollywood’s golden age thanks to turns in “The Wizard of Oz” and “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Nearly 46 years after her death, she remains a icon of tenacity whose talent was offset by personal struggles that gave her performances a heartbreaking authenticity.

At 2014’s “Night of a Thousand Judys,” New York cabaret star Natalie Douglas paid appropriate tribute to the legend with a stirring rendition of “Stormy Weather.”

In this exclusive clip above, Douglas tackles the Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler classic, which Garland first performed at her storied Carnegie Hall concert in 1961.

Now in its fifth year, “Night of a Thousand Judys” — which is a special presentation of New York- and Los Angeles-based actor, writer and performer Justin Sayre’s variety show, “The Meeting,” and timed to coincide with Pride Month — will benefit the Ali Forney Center, a New York advocacy group dedicated to homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens and young adults.

As in previous installments, performers from Broadway, television and downtown cabaret will hit New York’s Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Center June 1 to croon songs made famous by Garland during her fabled career. The 2015 lineup includes Melissa Errico, Liz Callaway, Michael McElroy, Lauren Worsham and The Skivvies, among others.

Sayre interviewed Ali Forney Center founder Carl Siciliano for his “Sparkle & Circulate with Justin Sayre” podcast. You can check that out here.

Meanwhile, you can also view some previous performances from “The Meeting” on Sayre’s official YouTube page. For more Sayre, head to Facebook and Twitter, too.

“Night of a Thousand Judys” plays New York’s Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Center on June 1. Head here for more details.

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Natalie Portman Shines in Sequins at UCLA Nazarian Center 5th Anniversary Dinner

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Natalie Portman – Photo credit: Vince Bucci

Dressed in a sequined Christian Dior mini dress, Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman took the stage at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, CA to present Israeli author Amos Oz with the UCLA Israel Studies Award.

Oz is the author of over 41 books, which have been translated into 42 languages. His International bestselling memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness has been adapted by Portman who will play the role of Oz’s mother Fania. Portman will also be making her directorial debut in this screenplay. The film is slated to premiere at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

“As both an Israeli and an American, I understand well the importance that Israel is,” said Portman. “His beautiful and moving memoir, A Tale of Love and Darkness, which I am so proud to bring to the screen, weaves his own life with a history of a young state of Israel. The two are linked. Thank you Amos for packing your suitcases for this long Jewish travel, putting words to our longings and for never losing to cynicism and your insistence on peace, even when it is not as popular as it should be.”

The award presented to Oz is a sculpture created by Soraya Nazarian, an internationally renowned artist and sculptor, and is entitled Strong Roots, Grounded. The tree’s strong roots portray identity, origin and strength to weather difficulty and the unknown.

Following the awards ceremony, an elegant dinner was held on the patio catered by Lucques.

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Natalie Portman Will Play Ruth Bader Ginsburg In New Film

Natalie Portman is set to play Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in a new biopic, according to reports from Deadline and Entertainment Weekly.

Portman will take on the role in the upcoming film “On The Basis of Sex,” about the obstacles Ginsburg faced during her decades of work toward equal rights for women. “Diary Of A Teenage Girl” director Marielle Heller is in negotiations to direct the biopic.

Ginsburg, who was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton, was only the second woman, and the first Jewish woman, to sit on the court.

Nearly 40 years before, Ginsburg was one of just nine women in her class of 500 at Harvard Law School. She finished her studies at Columbia Law School, after moving to New York for her husband’s job, and graduated tied for valedictorian in 1959.

Despite her remarkable academic achievement, Ginsburg was unable to land a clerkship with Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter because Frankfurter said that he was not yet ready to hire a woman. She went on to found the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. As the ACLU’s general counsel from 1972 to 1980, she worked on landmark cases before the Supreme Court that led to the removal of laws that treated men and women differently.

Ginsburg was the principal author of a brief on behalf of a female plaintiff in a case called Reed v. Reed, in which the court struck down an Idaho law that said only men could be administrators of an estate. It was the first time the court applied the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection, to laws that discriminated based on sex.

She also helped establish the “intermediate scrutiny” standard, which the Supreme Court now uses to review laws that discriminate based on gender.

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Knight of Cups Official Trailer #1 (2015) – Christian Bale, Natalie Portman Movie HD

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Knight of Cups Official Trailer #1 (2015) – Christian Bale, Natalie Portman Movie HD

“Once there was a young prince whose father, the king of the East, sent him down into Egypt to find a pearl. But when the prince arrived, the people poured him a cup. Drinking it, he forgot he was the son of a king, forgot about the pearl and fell into a deep sleep.

Rick’s (Christian Bale) father used to read this story to him as a boy.

The road to the East stretches out before him. Will he set forth?”

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Dear Governor Cuomo: A Conversation with Natalie Merchant, Plus Catching Up with Freda Payne

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A Conversation with Natalie Merchant

Mike Ragogna: Natalie, what have you been up to lately beyond the new album?

Natalie Merchant: I’ve become extremely active in the fight against hydraulic fracking in New York. Where are you based?

MR: Iowa, though I grew up in New York, so this concerns me as well.

NM: Well, New York is sitting on the Marcellus Shale, which has huge reserves of natural gas, but the only way to extract them is by exploding the bedrock a mile or two under the surface and pulling the gas up using hundreds of millions of gallons of freshwater which will then be contaminated. It’s also extremely radioactive down there. We’re watching what’s happened in other states with the contamination of aquifers and the devastation of previously rural areas that are now highly industrialized. There’s also quite a bit of contamination of the air that occurs with hydraulic fracturing. Anyway, I’ve been involved in that, and I made a film called Dear Governor Cuomo, because of the moratorium that was put in place by Governor Patterson before Governor Cuomo–which he has upheld.

MR: Natalie, do you think he’s weighing the economics heavily and that’s what’s affecting things?

NM: If he’s doing it for short-term gain, he would have opened the flood gates long ago. I think it’s politically very contentious because there’s a massive grassroots movement against this. Actually, we had a big victory last week, the court of appeals in New York ruled that all of the village, town, and city bans that citizen groups have put in place will be upheld. It’s a huge blow to the gas industry. Anyway, we’re just saying that it’s an extreme form of extraction that’s extremely dangerous, and we want an independent health study that tests what the impacts on the environment and health of not just humans but wildlife would be and what sort of impact it would have on our natural resources. Then we can weigh out whether it’s worth that risk. That’s happening in Colorado and North Dakota and Texas and Ohio and Pennsylvania and West Virginia, there are these thirty-six other states where they’re fracking and there’s massive devastation of prairie. We’re also questioning whether it’s wise to make that a major export. We’re talking about energy independence. We can supply for our own needs, but if we’re talking about selling that gas to other countries we’ll need to get three to five times the amount. Anyway, that’s one thing I’ve been doing. I’ve also been involved in local activism in the domestic violence advocacy groups, and made another film called SHELTER. I’ve gotten into this new form of protest that is multimedia. We gather together the community activists, and in the case of Dear Governor Cuomo, we have scientists and victims from other states who have had their water contaminated, and then we put together a program with music that is relevant to the subject we’re trying to educate people about and put together an evening where we alternate between appealing to the heart and appealing to the mind, left brain, right brain. People take in the information in a completely different way than if it was given by a speaker. We also have visuals, photographs, film, and we film the whole event so that it can be a tool for activists between the organizing.

That’s what we did with the domestic violence issues, too. I got to go to some district attorneys’ offices in the two neighboring counties where I live in the Hudson Valley and we asked the prosecutors for statistics. We wanted to quantify the problem of domestic violence in our area because we felt it was a crisis but we couldn’t really sound the alarm without telling people how large the crisis was. The statistics had never been gathered in one place before, so we actually did a service to the domestic violence community by gathering the statistics and publicizing them. We found out there have been thirty-seven homicides over the past fifteen years related to domestic violence. They involved a child of three months all the way to a woman who was seventy-eight years old. People brutally murdered. And this was in this rural, bucolic environment. Then we started to look at how many domestic incident reports had been filed that year and the year before. There were tens of thousands. Then we checked how many arrests, how many convictions. When we actually did the event I decided that we as a community hadn’t acknowledged properly the deaths of these people, so I took all the names of the victims and I went back into the newspaper and I looked at the way their deaths had been reported. There was more written about a local football match than the brutal murder of two women. I decided that we have to memorialize these women.

MR: What was the commonality? When you looked at all the information, were there any conclusions that you came to?

NM: The conclusion I came to is that we need to have a community response. What was interesting was that I had this bias of, “I live in the country, this happens in the city.” It was not evenly distributed, but it was actually weighted a bit heavier in the countryside. There’s more domestic violence in the countryside, but the homicides are evenly distributed in both the urban and rural communities. That was jarring to me. But we took the thirty-seven names and we had a string quartet play a requiem, a piece that I had written, and we projected their names. It was an incredibly powerful moment for our community, to acknowledge that this was happening and to mourn these people. Anyway, I did that, and then I also did the Leave Your Sleep project which was a massive five-year project with a hundred and thirty musicians. I wrote a short book about the poets and spent a whole year talking to defendants of the poets and their estates and their executors, going to different institutions, finding photographs. A lot of those poets are so obscure there are no biographies–probably four of them had biographies. That was a really fun, engaging project that I could work on while having a small child.

MR: That approach was very original.

NM: It was interesting, I finished the project and I took it Nonesuch and Robert Hurwitz who’s been running Nonesuch for thirty years said it was the most original project he’d ever seen. I took that as a huge compliment coming from him. He’s worked with Steve Reich and Philip Glass for years.

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MR: Let’s get to your latest album. It’s simply titled Natalie Merchant. You could have taken that approach before, why now?

NM: I wanted to make a distinction, I wanted to set this album apart from previously, and the album that preceded it, The House Carpenter’s Daughter, which was vocal music. I wanted to say, “This is my work.” That’s what I was trying to achieve through the self-title. It’s a piece of work that’s been in progress for probably fifteen years. I was focusing on having a family and my community activism and interpreting folk music and adapting other people’s words to music. I was also in a kind of journal-keeping fashion writing my own songs because it’s a compulsion. I have to do it. It is a kind of catharsis that comes from journal writing. So much happened in fifteen years, it’s a pretty sizeable piece of time. So much happened, not just in my private life but in the world. Wars began and ended. We as a global community recognized that we are seeing the impacts of our wanton ways on the climate, Hurricanes Katrina and Irene and Sandy. We’ve seen typhoons. This ongoing crisis of people being displaced by war and natural disaster, which I ended up writing about in the end. The UN figures–I’ve read 27.5 million people displaced by conflict. I’ve also read figures up to 40 million. It depends on what state those people are living in. Some people are living under tarps, some people have had to move to other countries to build their lives, but they still count as refugees and displaced people.

MR: Do you think there’s any solution?

NM: It would take a spiritual revolution. That’s what I’ve been praying for my whole life, that spiritual revolution. And it’s not recognition of one got or one creed. The spiritual revolution that I’m waiting for and I’m praying for is when we realize what a miracle it is that we even exist on this planet.

MR: My son and I have been watching the updated Cosmos series. In relation to the time and space of the universe, what a speck of a speck of a speck times a trillion and more each human being actually is.

NM: How very minute we are. We’re just misguided. Our brains are just large enough to completely undermine our whole existence. It’s tragedy on a scale that cannot be imagined. it just devastates me every day. We have scraped away topsoil that people in the arid regions of the world would lay down their lives for and covered it with tar. Just start with that. We don’t value what sustains us. We poison the water, we poison the air, we destroy the soil. It’s maddening. You know what’s even more maddening? To explain this to a child. I didn’t really consider that when I got pregnant that someday I would have to try to interpret the madness of my species.

MR: The hardest thing is when you try to raise them to be decent people and the world throws at them messages that are contradictory to that.

NM: And you hope that you’ve given them a strong enough foundation that they can be critical enough to say, “That’s wrong.”

MR: Yeah.

NM: That’s the goal of good parenting; to raise critical children who can look at the world with a strong base and a critical eye. And then you hope and pray. The other thing that I’ve really wanted to do is provide a protective environment for her long enough to have an authentic childhood. I think every child deserves that. It’s just heartbreaking that so few children get the opportunity. That protective coating that you put on your child, it seems like the whole world is conspiring to bust it open, with the types of film that are created and the books and the video games and the violence and wanton destruction that exists in the world. I’m just constantly shielding my child. I’m really thankful that I live in the country. When I take her to the city, we’re just assaulted by the imagery. I have no control.

MR: Do you see a spiritual renaissance happening to the planet?

NM: I think it’s happening on a tiny scale. When people say, “Are you optimistic or pessimistic?” I say, “I’m optimistic about individual transformation, but it’s the massive institutions that take so long to change.” They’re so inflexible. I’m pessimistic about that. What can we do about the stockpile of nuclear weapons in the world? What can we do about it? Nothing. What can we do about the carbon in the atmosphere at this point? There’s nothing we can do. What can we do about the great lakes? What can we do about the icebergs? This is going to a dark place, but that’s why I made a dark album. I just feel that people need consolation. If Billie Holiday had never recorded “Strange Fruit” 1939 would have been remembered as just the year that The Wizard Of Oz and Gone With The Wind were released and the Andrews Sisters had a number one hit about whatever, and we wouldn’t know that there were artists who saw the world for what it was, saw the dark of the world and were disturbed by it. Billie Holiday had the courage to make art about it.

MR: What advice do you have for new artists?

NM: I would just encourage them to dig deep into themselves, find their authentic heart and be vulnerable. Allow people to see that part of themselves, because that’s what people are going to respond to. I think that’s what’s going to be your lasting legacy. Think about that. What would you like to bring into the world. I think the most powerful thing you can put into the world is that part of yourself that’s felt so deeply.

MR: And that would probably not only be good for the art, but for the human as well.

NM: Mm-hmm. There are so many other aspects to a musician’s world these days, it started with the MTV business. Younger people are just more conscious of trends and branding. That kind of thing didn’t occur to us years ago. There weren’t that many platforms for it. You had a record cover and you had a poster, and that was it. Then came MTV and then came the internet. It’s fascinating and it’s fun to play with and there’s so much you can do with it if you have that capacity. But a lot of artists are just songwriters or singers or guitar players and that whole visual component and having to constantly promote yourself, that can be daunting.

MR: It sure can.

NM: I remember what it felt like, and it still feels like that. When you connect with another person over a piece of music that you both love… We were doing that on the tour bus the other night. My guitar player pulled out his guitar and we were singing songs for hours after we’d already played music for five hours between sound check and the show. We just love it, that feeling of connection and camaraderie, it’s so powerful. Everybody wants to feel like they’re included. That’s what music is about, to me. It’s inclusion. “I feel that. You feel that? We feel the same thing,” whether it’s feeling it with the artist or later on with someone else as you share that same piece of music.

MR: An anthem is a powerful uniter.

NM: Think of how powerful Nirvana was. Think of how powerful Bob Dylan was. Some people are like lightning rods.

MR: That’s a good way to put it. Natalie, we really haven’t talked much about the album yet, can you walk me through it just a little?

NM: This is a survey of fifteen years of work. It wasn’t that I just wrote ten songs in the last fifteen years, I probably wrote thirty or more. But this collection began to coalesce, these songs seemed to belong together more than any of the others. The thing that they all seemed to have in common was they seemed to be about transformation on some level. They also seemed to be about intensely personal subjects, or the world at large. Somehow I wanted to make that connected. I wanted intersections between public and private like we all have. I’ve always used this technique of creating characters and then either inhabiting those characters or having a dialog with them, which happened a lot on this record. “Ladybird” is a woman who has reached that point in her life where she feels extremely dissatisfied but knows that she has created a life that she can’t abandon. So it’s about self-sacrifice, it’s about yearning, it’s about limbo and assessing your life from wanting to change but not being able to because there’s so much at stake.

MR: How does it feel to have created one of the most memorable singer-songwriter albums, Tigerlily?

NM: It was as much a surprise to me as anybody. After 10,000 Maniacs, we had toured for years, we’d done that large MTV Unplugged album, it was kind of the pinnacle for us, with “These Are Days” on that last album. Then I kind of got to the edge of the precipice and I jumped off and I said, “I just want to start again and I want to make a little, quiet record with a little band.” I paid for the record myself, I produced the record myself, I did all the preproduction in my garage and I recorded it pretty quickly at Bearsville Studios. I was so close to the ground with that record, and then it exploded and sold five million copies. Still to this day, when I play those songs, there’s such a huge response. I’m actually re-recording the record next year with all these beautiful string arrangements that I’ve written for all these orchestral shows. I decided, it’s the twentieth anniversary of the release of this record and I’d like to revisit these songs. The truth is I don’t have to revisit them because they’ve stayed a part of my repertoire throughout my life.

MR: Has the material evolved as Natalie Merchant has? Have the lyrics or the arrangements changed significantly over the years?

NM: I think I was pretty precocious, because they’re still extremely relevant, songs like “Carnival” and “Wonder.” The thing that I find really wonderful is how it was embraced by people. One of the things that we’re actually doing is interviewing people at these concerts I’m doing right now about Tigerlily and hearing their stories. The song “Wonder,” in particular, because it’s become an anthem for sick children. It’s become an anthem for children with physical and mental challenges, and it’s so much about the love and support of the parents in helping those children overcome any obstacle. I’ve talked to doctors who said, “We don’t really know how to understand that impact that something like your song has on children, but it has an impact. It has healing properties.” I’ve actually had doctors tell me that.

MR: I’ve heard quite a few artists say they modeled their albums after Tigerlily.

NM: I don’t think of myself as extremely influential or important. I sort of think of myself as a fringe artist. An out there, cult artist on the fringe.

MR: Would you say that you’re still developing as a human?

NM: I hope so! I think having a child really changed me in a really profound way. I have been living on the edge of society, just passing through towns for years. If I put all the years I toured together, end to end, it would be twelve solid years of sleeping in a different bed every night. All the while I was yearning for a home and a place to belong. I think that when I settled in one place and I had a family and watched my child grow up and became somebody who people depend upon on my community in a real way, not just, “Oh while I’m in town maybe I’ll do a benefit for you,” but in an, “Oh, you need someone there at ten o’clock to set up chairs? I’ll be there. You need someone to make all these cupcakes? I’ll be there. You want me to teach the kids civil rights? I’ll be there,” way. Becoming a part of a stable community was very transformative for me. When you embrace a place as home you want to protect it. I remember when I met Pete Seeger. I’ve been in the Hudson Valley for twenty-seven years now, and Pete much, much longer. I remember we took the train together down to the city and by chance we bumped into each other at the railway station upstate. We had this lovely talk all the way down to the city and I remember him telling me, “Natalie, you just have to find a place, make it your home, and stay there.” He said, “Musicians get lost.” It was a wonderful source for that advice. So I took that to heart.

MR: What a beautiful moment. I would add–my perspective coming from being a new parent–that your child also is your home. That could be as big a part of it as one’s geography.

NM: But I think if everybody embraced and protected their home, we’d be golden. The familiarity is important. Once you know a place and love it you want to protect it. When we were organizing both the anti-fracking event and when they tried to start a logging campaign in the state parks of New York we toured all around New York state having petition drives and playing concerts and we publicized that there was this plan to allow logging in the state parks and a cement factory in the Hudson. We ended up presenting a petition to the governor with signatures from a hundred and twenty artists from New York who didn’t want that to happen. Even things like noticing that the Headstart playground was falling apart in my local town, just being more proactive. It just goes on and on. I decided I would not do shows in my community for anything but the benefit of my community. You know who I learned that from? Fugazi. When they played in Washington, if they charged money, it was to benefit their home.

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne

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A Conversation with Freda Payne

Mike Ragogna: We have quite a few things to talk about here, especially your new album, Come Back To Me Love. So who is this love you want to come back to you?

Freda Payne: [laughs] That’s an interesting one, no one’s ever asked me that one before… “Who is this love you want to come back?” I guess all the loves I’ve ever had. The ones who are still living, anyway. [laughs] The song “Come Back To Me Love” is about a person who separated or split up for a little while but they still love that person and want them to come back into their life. I’m just saying that you can read that any way you wish.

MR: You recorded one of my favorite jazz songs, Kenny Rankin’s “Haven’t We Met?” It’s become a real standard over the years, huh?

FP: Oh yeah! I had become friendly with Kenny Rankin, I got to meet him doing a special annual benefit at the home of director Oz Scott here in Sherman Oaks. It was for The Jackie Robinson Foundation, he had it at his home, he has this huge backyard. It’s an event where he invites close to about four hundred people and it’s called Jazz On The Grass. He had artists like the late George Duke, Marcus Miller, everybody. It’s just one of those kinds of events where you could go and see Sheila E., or Lalah Hathaway or anybody like that. I’ve done it several times where I was also one of the guest artists as was Kenny Rankin. We met and got to be friends. Of course he passed away two years ago, but the thing is that I always liked that song. When I was in the process along with my fellow producer and orchestrator Bill Cunliffe I said, Bill, I’ve always liked that song “Haven’t We Met?” and he said, “Yeah, I like it, too!” and that’s how that came about.

MR: Kenny Rankin’s death was a surprise. I know that he reached a certain level of fame and appreciation, but it almost seems like especially after albums like Silver Morning, he should’ve been a household name.

FP: He was special. He was really a special musician and singer. You’re right, he should’ve gone to even greater heights of fame.

MR: Yeah, it’s unfortunate. Let’s look at some of the other material. Do you have any stories of how you related to this material when you were younger?

FP: Every single one. “You’d Be So Nice To Come Home To,” I always thought of that as a cool standard, a swinging upbeat song to do, and of course everyone knows Cole Porter.

MR: What about the songs by Tom Robinson?

FP: Tom Robinson wrote six of the songs on the album and I like all six. “Lately” is something I think a lot of people can relate to in terms of another personal relationship that’s not quite in balance.

MR: There are two more by Gretchen, “Come Back To Me Love” and “Whatever Happened To Me.”

FP: “Whatever Happened To Me,” you know when you’re kind of perplexed and not sure of yourself, it’s almost like a psychological kind of thing where you go, “Hey, wait a minute, what’s going on here, what am I doing? Is you is or is you ain’t my baby?” [laughs]

MR: [laughs] Nice.

FP: Then there’s “You Don’t Know,” that’s like you’re on the prowl. You know that feeling when you’re out there at a singles bar, or you’re at a club or a supermarket or ayour gym and there’s somebody that comes in who’s at your spin class or your yoga class and you start noticing them–“You don’t know what I’m feeling, you don’t understand. I love you with a passion, baby, my heart’s in your hand. You’ve got to know that I just want to be with you.” You’re out there trying to hook up.

MR: It’s funny, you swing the words when you talk about it as much as you swing them when you sing them.

FP: Yeah, when you get into it–I don’t know if I told you, but I have more of myself and what I like and my choice of songs on this CD than I’ve ever had ever in my entire recording career. Usually when you work with a big company and they give you a producer or, in this case I chose my producer. I’d already worked with him and he’d been currently working with me as an accompanist as well and he has his own name, Grammy Award Winner Bill Cunliffe–as well as a Thelonius Monk Award winner. We both chose these songs and these things I wanted to do. We basically chose from about twenty two of Gretchen and Tom’s songs the six we liked the best.

MR: How about “Save Your Love For Me”?

FP: Oh! “Save Your Love For Me,” that goes back to the sixties. Cannonball Adderley and Nancy Wilson. I always loved that song. I never sang it before I did it on the album. I never performed it ever. Now I’m doing it. I always liked that song. There are always songs you’ve always liked but you never did. “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” is the only one of them on the whole album that I had been accustomed to performing prior to this.

MR: Did you discover more layers of the material as you delved into them this time?

FP: Yes I did, and guess what? As I go and start performing them in front of people in clubs and theaters and areans or wherever I’m going to perform them it’s going to get better, because I like it better as I go.

MR: And it seems like you had a blast with these songs.

FP: I’m having a blast, and I have a blast when I perform them. When you’re doing material that you love, it’s so much better. There are songs that I’ve recorded in the past, songs from the seventies where I wasn’t that into the song but I did it because the producer said, “We need to do this, this is the best song for you,” but I wasn’t that crazy about it. As a result I wound up not really performing those songs that much.

MR: Yeah, and who can blame you? It gets a little painful to sing songs you’re not into.

FP: Yeah, it is. Now, I’ve got to say, my hit “Band Of Gold” that I had back in the early seventies, I do that because people love it so much and I get requests for it no matter what I’m doing. Let’s say I do a whole jazz show and I come back with “Band Of Gold” for the last encore, people love it! They want to hear “Band Of Gold” because that’s how they know me.

MR: And also “Bring The Boys Home” during a time in history when yet again we had a war and people were raising their voices to bring the troops home.

FP: Right.

MR: “Band Of Gold” and “Bring The Boys Home” were both about that same topic, was that a concept that was close to you?

FP: I’ll put it this way: I’m far from being a Jane Fonda. I am not on that cutting edge at all. I did the song because bascially number one I believed in it and number two I felt the deep, heartfelt sentiment and the emotional tag of it–that you could feel the pain of people who had relatives or loved ones or husbands or daughters over there. And to be honest with you, the company was trying to get a hit record.

MR: So was it really Holland-Dozier-Holland and Invictus Records directing that?

FP: They called me into the office to play the demo of the song and upon my first listen it brought tears to my eyes. I said, “This is right on time. This is what the public would probably want to hear,” and they said, “Yeah, we feel the same way, too. You need another hit record to follow up ‘Band Of Gold.'” So that’s how it all happened.

MR: Wow. Interesting. You weren’t exactly Crosby, Stills & Nash, but you really put a voice and a face, an identity, to the concept of, “I’m a real person, let’s bring the troops home.”

FP: Right. I mean, I wasn’t walking down Pennsylvania Avenue protesting and getting arrested, but just like Crosby, Stills and Nash and all these other singers, I was in the pop vein who did cutting edge material delivering messages through their lyrics and their artistry. A lot of poets do that, too.

MR: Exactly. You’re one of the centerpieces of the Holland-Dozier-Holland Invictus story.

FP: I am. There was a documentary done a few years ago and they entitled the documentary “Band Of Gold,” because that was the biggest seller during the time they had the label.

MR: It was a huge record. But you also brought “Joy” and “Deeper & Deeper” and other non-topical songs.

FP: And when I did “Band Of Gold” I got nominated for a Grammy for “Best R&B/Soul Singer (Female)” and then I got nominated, twice actually, for the album Contact.

MR: That’s right! That’s right! To me this is a jazz album, what you’ve just put out.

FP: It’s definitely a jazz album, on a jazz label.

MR: But jazz these days also hints towards R&B, funk, all these other areas that it has embraced over the years.

FP: Because jazz came from all of that. Jazz came from funk which came from the gospel church which came from the pentecostal church and the baptist church. Jazz has also infiltrated the hip hop world, you hear a lot of jazz infused into certain mixes.

MR: And there’s the connection to the blues.

FP: Oh yeah, the blues is jazz, too, as far as I’m concerned. You go to a jazz club and you can hear–as artistic as some jazz artists might be–when they start playing some blues that’s a whole other thing. There’s raw blues, the pure blues, and then there’s blues intermixed with jazz. It’s more of a jazz inflection on blues chords. For instance, in my show, I do a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald. When I do the “St. Louis Blues,” there’s a version that Ella did that I kind of emulate. She starts it off rubato but slow, the piano is playing very slow, bluesy chords, it’s funky. It might have been Tommy Flanagan or someone like that as her pianist at the time and they’re playing real funky blues for let’s say twenty four bars of the song and then they’ll jump start it and go back to the top with an uptempo version of it and do it like that. That’s a very clever way of doing the blues.

MR: Lots of people know you as a pop R&B singer, but you actually started out as a jazz singer with Quincy Jones, and now you’ve sort of come full circle. What is it about jazz that got you into this and keeps you fulfilled now?

FP: I think it speaks more to my intellect musically, based on how I’ve been trained and how I was brought up. It speaks to my inner soul, I’ll put it that way. I didn’t really get into R&B until I was in my early twenties, and that’s because of Motown becoming more sophisticated and using better arrangers.

MR: That’s a good point, they sort of took a few steps forward from what was R&B to establish “The Motown Sound.”

FP: Now we call them The Funk Brothers, but the musicians who were employed by Motown and did a lot of the Motown sessions, whom I wound up working with back then–Earl Van Dyke became my musical director for twelve years, he was one of the key Funk Brothers.

MR: But Holland-Dozier-Holland had those original Motown roots anyway–is that how the crossover happened?

FP: Yeah, absolutely. I went to high school with Brian Holland. I had met Eddie Holland when I was fourteen years old. Berry Gordy, Jr. brought him to my house. That was when Berry was trying to get me to become one of his artists. This was pre-Motown years. Berry Gordy wrote three songs for me and took me into a studio in Detroit called United Sound, recorded them, and he wanted them to sign me as an artist. My mother wouldn’t follow through with it because she wouldn’t agree to his terms.
MR: [laughs] That seems to be the cutoff with some artists, why they were or weren’t on Motown.
FP: Same thing with Aretha Franklin, don’t you think he tried to get Aretha Franklin? She had her dad, the Reverend Franklin and he sat down with Berry and said, “No go. No go.” She went to Columbia and then Atlantic and the rest is history.

MR: But it’s interesting how you’re Detroit, it’s a natural fit, you went to school with Brian.

FP: Oh, and I forgot, I’m leaving out Lamon Dozier. He’s an integral part of HDH. I went to school with Lamont all through middle school. I went to school with Lamont from the sixth grade to the eighth grade. I had more of a history with Lamont. It’s almost like we’re all from the same pot.

MR: Have you had reunions, especially with Lamont, over the years?
FP: Oh yeah, I just did a think in honor of Lamont here in Beverly Hills on June seventh. The brand new Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts in Beverly Hills which opened just last year, a man by the name of Charlie Fox–have you ever heard of him?

MR: Of course, Gimbel & Fox.

FP: He asked me to participate in honoring Lamont Dozier as well as David Crosby of Crosby, Stills & Nash at the Annenberg. I participated in that with my sister, who was one of the Supremes. So I just saw Lamont recently. As a matter of fact I just bumped into him at the supermarket the other day!

MR: [laughs] Nice!

FP: And also in 2011 I did a tour with Lamont over in Europe with Sir Cliff Richard. We did a nine city tour of all arenas called the Soulicious Tour. Lamont was one of the acts along with Billy Davis and Marilyn McCoo, James Ingram, Percy Sledge and myself.

MR: Where is the album with all of you performing together? With all of these friendships over the years, it seems like you’d have a lot of fun doing more tours and collaboration albums.

FP: You’re absolutely correct. That’s what happened with the Soulicious Tour in the UK, but something like that would go over well here in the States, I think.

MR: I think so, too. What is your advice for new artists?

FP: It depends on what stage. If you’re trying to be discovered I’d say try to get on these talent contests that are flooding the market now, like American Idol, The Voice, X-Factor, Rising Star, because that seems to be one of the quickest, easiest avenues to get exposure. The other way I see it with this world of technology that we’re being sucked into more and more, get on YouTube or Facebook or whatever. Try to perform as much as you can for local things in your city, maybe clubs or little music festivals, just get exposure. That’s the only thing I can say. Don’t be quick to turn any opportunity down. I remember once a wise person said to me, “Sometimes something good comes in a small package.” It’s not always, “Oh, this is a big opportunity, you’re going to really excel with this.” I’ve done shows where the money was just enough to pay for my weekly grocery bill, or a play where you’re doing regional theater and the money really couldn’t support me, but you do it because it could lead to something bigger and better and it comes back to you four- or five-fold. And it also enriches you as an artist!

MR: Can you remember anything in particular like that? You’ve have both overtly big breaks and nice subtle relationship with people that led to something nice.

FP: Yeah, sure, I did a musical called Blues In The Night back in 1990. The salary was like, “Are you kidding me?” but I did it for the love of the music and the art and fact that it was muscial theater and I am an Equity member from having done a string of Broadway musicals on the road. It always led to something else. I did Blues In The Night and that led to me doing Jelly’s Last Jam here in L.A. before it went to Brodway, and then that led to me doing the first and only national company after it left Broadway and making much better money for a whole year. That’s what I’m talking about.

MR: When does Come Back To Me Love, Part 2 come out?

FP: [laughs] Well that’s up to the company! That’s up to Mack Avenue if they want me to do another one. I’m certainly hopeful that it might result in that. What do you think?

MR: If there isn’t another one by this time next year I’m going to write a protest letter.

FP: [laughs] Maybe you should let them know that, too.

MR: Well, I did mention that I liked the album

FP: You know what’s so funny, Mike? I’m getting this kind of response from people who know me from “Band Of Gold” and “Bring The Boys Home.” I was thinking, “All these people who like those songs so much are probably into the R&B and pop stuff and they probably won’t really like this that much,” but I’m getting very positive responses from people. And although it’s a jazz album, I call some of these songs urban pop. The one I think could be a good crossover tune is “I Just Have To Know.” Another one I like is “Lately.” It moves nicely.

MR: There must’ve been other songs you considered that didn’t fit on the album. I bet when you’re performing this album there are a few others you sneak in there.

FP: Yeah, I do some more stuff. Actually, when I perform live I still do “Band Of Gold” and I may throw in some other standard tunes.

MR: This album is like, “Hello again, Freda Payne.”

FP: All right!

MR: Is there anything left to cover? I know we only touched on Broadway a little bit.

FP: When you think of Broadway shows I’ve done, I’ve done Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, I’ve done eight companies of Blues In The Night, I’ve done some plays by a playwright named Donald Welch, I did A Change Is Gonna Come. Most recently I did a film version of play called Divorce, strictly as an actress, there’s no singing involved. You can get that on DVD.

MR: I was going to ask you about that. Do you have an acting bug? Do you want to fulfill a little more of that, too?

FP: Yeah, sure, that goes along with the territory. Look at all the singers who are doing a lot of acting, now. Especially rap artists.

MR: It’s a natural fit.

FP: There’s a lot of them out there.

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
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