A&E Round-Up: Prince and P. Diddy

Newsweek entertainment reporter Allison Samuels discusses the latest showbiz buzz on Sean "Diddy" Combs and Prince's latest release.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

This is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Farai Chideya.

It is Friday. Time to talk showbiz. Newsweek's entertainment writer Allison Samuels is here to give us the scoop. Hey, Allison.

Ms. ALLISON SAMUELS (Entertainment Writer, Newsweek): Hi, how are you doing?

CHIDEYA: Oh, I'm great. Now, let's talk about P. Diddy. Sean "Diddy" Combs reported that he was leaving his long-time girlfriend, or rather there were reports, mother of his three children. She was leaving their New York home, moving to Beverly Hills. But other reports say they're still together. What's going on?

Ms. SAMUELS: I think those two will be together on and off, you know, forever, because I just think they have the three kids together. They've been through thick and thin, through J. Lo's, through, God knows who else. And Kim has (unintelligible) by fight. So I don't think she's going anywhere.

I do think she has ambitions to be an actress. I think she's in New Orleans now making a movie, "Mama, I Want to Sing!", right now. So she wants that but I don't think she's going anywhere. I think, you know, these rumors about he and Sienna Miller are upsetting to her. I mean, who wouldn't be upset when you have three children by the man?

But I think, you know, she's proven it. If she could go through J. Lo, and that was a very, very torrid, you know, very, you know, outlived visible affair that she put out with. If she could put out with that, I have to believe she'll put up with whatever else. I'm sure there's a rocky point but I think she'll stay with him.

CHIDEYA: Talk to me a little bit about the feature that Essence did on them. And do you think that it reflects anything about where black folks? You've talked before about black folks not wanting to criticize our own.

Ms. SAMUELS: Right.

CHIDEYA: How does it - that all tying?

Ms. SAMUELS: Well, I think, the interesting part about the Essence article where the two of them were on the cover and they talked about their relationship and how they've gone through the J. Lo incident. And she was pretty critical of J. Lo, which I thought was sort of unfortunate on her part, just to criticize the other woman in that situation. But I think African-Americans didn't like it because this is a woman who's been with this man all these years. They have three children, and he's saying, I don't want to get married. I'm not even ready to be your good boyfriend.

So you sort of question, well, why you have all these kids together and what does that do for the family unit? So I think African-Americans were critical of that, and critical of Essence, sort of, putting them in this sort of spotlight where they were sort of uplifting them and saying, oh look at this great couple. And, in fact, really, is it a great couple? Do they have a great relationship and is that the kind of family unit you really want in the African-American community?

So I think, you know, black people definitely took issue with that. They got tons of letters, tons of criticism.

CHIDEYA: Well, there was some good news for P. Diddy. He is the second African-American in history to win the FiFi Award for his cologne, Unforgivable. It's a top honor in the fragrance industry. Is that a big deal? Why didn't it get more press?

Ms. SAMUELS: It is a big deal. But I think, you know, there is sort of like oversaturation thing with Puffy that goes on. I mean, these are - he, you know, you just read about him all the time. He's doing so many different things that I think when honors like that come, it's, like, okay, it's more interesting to talk about his girlfriend lately. That was on the front page of The Post. That's, you know, scandal sells. I mean, him winning an award, I don't think anybody really cares about, obviously. Although, it is a big award.

CHIDEYA: Let's move on to another scandal, or at least for the music industry. It seems that the British music industry is not happy with a certain prince. We're not talking about William or Harry, but The Artist Formerly Known As, the artist formerly known as Prince.

Now, he released his new album as a few giveaway in a Sunday British newspaper. Music store retailers were outraged because they're already taking a hit from downloads. So what gives? Why did Prince do this? Why did the paper do this and what's - you know, some stores were saying, we're not even going to sell your album.

Ms. SAMUELS: Well, I think, Prince has always been the rebel. And I think he's always had this thing against the music industry in the way they sort of put his music out. You know, he's always wanted to put his own music out. He had such a long relationship with Universal that, I think, he did not - Warner Bros. - that he really didn't really feel like he got the best - the best money, the most money and the most respect that he deserved. Remember when he was walking around with slaves written on the side of his face?

CHIDEYA: Slaves, oh, yeah.

Ms. SAMUELS: So I think this is his sort of big, you know, I'm not going to do what you want me to do. I'm going to sell my music the way I want to. He sold a lot of his music on the Internet anyway. So I think - I'm not surprised. You know, I mean, I think he is going to do his own thing, but people love him. And I think as long as his fans stick with him, you know, they may be mad for a minute - the record stores - but I think his fans will continue to support him.

CHIDEYA: So in - we're sitting in the L.A. area. And you got a chance to go, and I am jealous - I'll just admit this - to this exclusive performance at the Roosevelt Hotel.

Ms. SAMUELS: Right. Right.

CHIDEYA: Standing room only tickets were listed at $312.10. You were one of the lucky few that went. How was it?

Ms. SAMUELS: It was wonderful. But now, that 312 was for standing room. Sofas, we in the front - where Chris Rock and Jessica Biel and Eve were sitting. They're worth 21. Because everything has to equal seven - three-one-two-one. So it has to add up to seven. That's Prince's (unintelligible). But those tickets were, like, $3,000. Right. Oh, (unintelligible).

CHIDEYA: I saw online. And I was like, you know what? My bank account can't be tapped like that right now.

Ms. SAMUELS: You can't handle it, but it was worth it. I mean, because he is, you know, he is one of a kind. I mean, I don't think there are any other performers like him out there now. And I don't know if in 20 years, we're going to see above(ph) artist that can continue to have the consistency that he's had for the last 20 years.

CHIDEYA: What was the best song he played? For you, like, just the most exciting live rendition?

Ms. SAMUELS: It has, you know, unfortunately - not unfortunately, but it's so cliche, but "Purple Rain." Because he just went - he did it for, like, 50 minutes.

CHIDEYA: Wow.

Ms. SAMUELS: And this was - that's hard as, sort of, Jimi Hendrix challenge -Jimi Hendrix at the end (unintelligible) that it was just so amazing. But he is just incredible. And he doesn't look a day older than he did 20 years ago. That's the part that I'm questioning. I don't want a cologne. I want his beauty secrets.

CHIDEYA: That's right. No, he's - and when you see him do a split, you're like wow.

Ms. SAMUELS: Wow. Everything, you know, he's very James Brown, with the thing.

CHIDEYA: Yep.

Ms. SAMUELS: You know, so - no, he was great. It was worth the money, I have to say.

CHIDEYA: Absolutely. Well, let's jump in to the acting world. Isaiah Washington recently on Larry King talking about him leaving "Grey's Anatomy," all the beef over that. He even mentioned an article that you wrote about him. In the transcripts of Larry King we found, quote, "and you know if something comes out in Newsweek where they say that, you know, maybe because I'm six-one and dark skin and this booming voice, you know that I'm intimidating and I think, at this time in 2007, that any African-American, be it woman, man, or minority that has a presence but people who are underexposed feel threatened by it."

So did you think that was a critique of the perception of black men, a critique of your work? Did you see the interview?

Ms. SAMUELS: Yes, I saw the interview. You know, it's weird. I don't know what I thought of what he said. I wasn't really sure because I looked at it a couple of times trying to figure out what he meant. I just know that when I interviewed him he was very much focused on the American-American aspect of being released from that show that if he were not African-American, would he have been given a second chance. And he cited like Robert Downey Jr. and all these people who would - had different kind of issues but were forgiven not just once but twice, and even three times. So I think that he wanted to sort of make that point.

But I think people - that's one thing. You can use certain things, but when bring out race in America, people get really upset. And I think that article got him a lot of attention that, I think, the producers of his new show that he's trying to get on weren't very happy with. It makes people very uncomfortable when you blame things on race. Although, I thought, he had a legitimate point. Although we got a lot of letters saying, oh, it couldn't have been about race. And I was just amazed at how people could - dismissed out of hand his opinion of his work environment.

CHIDEYA: Oh, yeah.

Ms. SAMUELS: You know?

CHIDEYA: Well, there's always a divide in perception.

Ms. SAMUELS: Yes.

CHIDEYA: But before we wrap up, actress Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon have taken it all off for Playboy's August issue.

Ms. SAMUELS: Right.

CHIDEYA: Haitian-American beauty. She was the character Frenchie on "The Jamie Foxx Show."

Ms. SAMUELS: Right.

CHIDEYA: She's 40 and currently pregnant with twins. Was this a smart move for her career or just does it demean her?

Ms. SAMUELS: Well, not to be mean, but I don't know what career she has. I mean, I don't remember the last time she's had a role in anything. And I'm not being mean, I mean, it's true. She's a black actress. I mean, when is the last time you've seen her in a role? This is probably going to get her more attention than she, you know, has gotten in years - even though she's always in those little in-styles for what she has on. But I think she wants some other type of attention. I think she wants that, you know, front-page attention.

And to be on the cover of Playboy, I mean, how many black women actually get that? I'm not saying it's great, but I'm saying if you're an actress and you want visibility right now, and you're over 40, you're about to have twins, so, you know, I think that's going to sort of take her out of the spotlight for a while. You know, I guess this was the last, you know, resort for her. Let's do something big and blow it out. So I think it could…

CHIDEYA: Blow it out like Pamela Anderson blow it out?

Ms. SAMUELS: Well, you know, what it's going to do for her career, not that I'd think for a black women, I don't know if it's going to have the same impact that it would for a white woman doing the cover. But for the next three days, people will be talking about her.

CHIDEYA: And probably have a lot of private (unintelligible).

Ms. SAMUELS: She looks great, though. Yeah, she looks great. She's a pretty girl.

CHIDEYA: All right, Allison, as always, thank you for the scoop.

Ms. SAMUELS: Thank you.

CHIDEYA: Allison Samuels is an entertainment reporter for Newsweek magazine.

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