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On Thursday night singing sensation Solange surprised guests attending the premiere party for HBO’s Bessie with a surprise performance at Millwick in Los Angeles.

The event capped off HBO’s Bessie 81 Theatre Tour which kicked off  in NYC with a surprise performance from Janelle Monae, and also featured a new artist showcase (with King, Kehlani and Tiffany Gouche) and a workshop for aspiring musicians with top songwriter Stacy Barthe and acclaimed Grammy-winning producer Brian Michael Cox.

HipHollywood was on hand for the Los Angeles activities and spoke with Barthe and Cox about why Bessie’s story needed to be told. “I feel like I am Bessie,” said Barthe. “From refusing to play second fiddle … to being sexually ambiguous. I just feel her.”

Directed by Dee Rees, the film follows the story of Bessie Smith, one of the first singers to break racial barriers in the 1920s. Queen Latifah stars and executive produced the film and told us it was a huge role to step into.

“She inspired everybody from Janis Joplin and Rolling Stones to Mahalia Jackson for that matter. You name it, she inspired them. It was really a beautiful thing to step into her shoes and tell her story.”

Bessie also stars Mo’Nique, Michael K. Williams, Tika Sumpter, Khandi Alexander and Mike Epps. be sure to check it out on on HBO  May 16th.

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EXCLUSIVES

‘Annihilation’s’ Leading Ladies Use Intense Military Training As Bonding Experience

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Annihilation is one hell of a visually stunning sci-fi film with five female leads on an expedition to uncover the mysterious phenomenon that is expanding across the American coastline.

For Natalie Portman, Tessa Thompson and Gina Rodriguez, the film, which also lends a voice to what is being called the year of the woman, dressing in head to toe military gear and going through tactical training was a bonding experience.

“”t was really fun. It’s weird to say that. But to have all these women in military training together, where we had to do these exercises … it was a great bonding experience with each other.” Portman told us.

And although the women had the opportunity to use real guns, firearms is not something the ladies of Hollywood advocate. “I’m anti gun to be honest,” Rodriguez said. “I say no guns. There’s no reason for people to have guns especially when you have these,” she said while holding up her firsts.

This past week Gina has been very vocal via social media about gun legislation and the idea behind policy and change following the tragic high school massacre an Parkland, Florida.
Annihilation, also starring Oscar Isaac, hits theaters on February 23.
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