Before Sheryl Lee Ralph sat down to film her episode of TV One’s hit docu-series, Life After she wasn’t sure where life would take her next. This surprising confession comes from a woman who earned a Tony Award nomination for originating the role of Deena Jones in the Broadway classic Dreamgirls; won over TV audiences on sitcoms such as Designing Women and Moesha; and is a long-time crusader in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“At one point I thought I’d settle, be a politician’s wife and do a local talk show in Philadelphia,” she admits. “God said ‘You do you and I’ll do God.’”
Having a little bit of faith has led to several new projects for Ralph including a book, roles on Showtime’s dramatic series, “Ray Donovan” and NickMom’s forthcoming sitcom Instant Mom. But it’s her September 11 episode of Life After—which kicks off the new season—that lets her know she has more work to do and a powerful story to share. “I’ve had my ups and downs but I never realized I had a story to tell. Then when I looked back on the piece I said, ‘Wow it’s been a good life.’”
Few stories have had as many twists and turns as that of ‘90s “Freak Like Me” chart-topping singer, Adina Howard. On her episode of Life After, Howard promises to offer insight on exactly what she’s been up to for the past several years, including her foray into the world of culinary arts. “On the show I talk about several things like my education, cooking career, family and my singing career. You will probably find out a few things that you did not know about me,” she teases. “But most importantly the fans will get an update and I think that they will be pleasantly surprised.”
In its fifth year, Life After has built a loyal audience which is no easy feat considering the plethora of reality shows on-air that capture the lives of celebrities. According to the show’s co-executive producer, Victoria McGinnis, Life After continues to stand apart by allowing celebrities to tell their story without the dramatic excesses and rumored contrivances of reality TV. “Life After is one of the only shows on television that allows its celebrities the chance to tell their story they way they want it told, from their own point of view,” she says. “This season will excite, entice and delight its viewers with autobiographic anecdotes straight from the mouths of their favorite stars.” Additional profiles during the fifth season include LeVar Burton, Shirley Murdock, Maia Campbell, Sheree Whitfield and more. [Full Disclosure: writer appears on several episodes as a pundit].
If Edwin Ramoran had his own episode of Life After it would end with a new beginning as manager of public programs and community engagement at The Studio Museum in Harlem. Ramoran assumed the position this past spring after having previously been the assistant curator at The Bronx Museum of the Arts and director of exhibitions and programs at Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art in Newark, New Jersey.
Having worked in areas such as the Bronx, Newark and now Harlem, Ramoran rejects the idea that these neighborhoods are marginalized in comparison to the mainstream visibility of one of the world’s largest art districts: Chelsea. “The idea of the periphery and the center is problematic because it assumes this centralized market for visual arts dominance. It is a construction,” he says. “I always thought of these places as centers. Harlem is a huge center of culture and society and ideas. I look forward instead of being marginalized when we are not on so many levels.”
It’s that attitude that he intends to bring to his work where one of his main goals is to increase local support for the museum’s mission. “It’s really about strengthening the local part of it and getting the local population more involved.” For upcoming events click here.
Life after amassing a resume that covers everything from illustrator to web series producer to marketing professional means that recording artist, Caktuz will keep on diversifying his portfolio. North Carolina’s self-proclaimed hip-hop rocker is on the promotional trail for the re-release of his single “Supahbaaddddd,” distributed via We Build Hits and SONY Red. The former was founded by veteran hip-hop artist, Billy Danze of M.O.P. Check out the video for Caktuz’s new single here.
With new ventures and new outlooks it’s apparent that for Ralph, Howard, Ramoran and Caktuz, life after is just the beginning.
The weekly column, On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.