Review: GuRu by RuPaul

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GURU, RuPaul. Dey Street Books, $25.99 (208p) ISBN: 9780062862990
Publication date: October 23, 2018

If there is anything RuPaul is more passionate about than being unapologetically fierce, it is probably helping others tap into their fierceness—unapologetically, of course. Now, let’s take it further. It’s great to be fierce and fabulous, but how do you treat others? How do you treat yourself? In his new book, GuRu, RuPaul doesn’t just empower readers to live their best life, he understands that this can effectively be accomplished when people are prompted to take an honest look at themselves and reflect on where their thoughts come from and how much of them are influenced by society. When is the last time you watched, let’s say, a YouTube video and formed your own opinion before looking at the comment section?

GuRu has a plethora of dazzling images that showcase the icon’s versatility in supreme drag queen aesthetics and is an asset to your coffee table. However, it is more than a pretty book with colorful quotes; it is a book that is there whenever you need a reminder that you’re not alone (RuPaul does get personal in the pages), or you need a pick-me-up, and/or a boost of motivation to keep moving forward in life with your head, standards, and heels (if you wear them) high.

Previous book by RuPaul: Workin’ It!: RuPaul’s Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style (It Books, 2010).

Rating: So Cool

Rating Scale:
Cool: Decent
So Cool: Good
Booking Cool: Excellent
So Booking Cool: Masterpiece

Interview With Ben Philippe, Author of “The Field Guide to the North American Teenager”!

ben 2If you are passionate about writing and want to pursue it professionally, you might want to keep certain skills off your resume. Ben Phillippe, author of the forthcoming debut novel, The Field Guide to The North American Teenager (Balzer + Bray, January 9, 2019) is one of many who had jobs that he disliked, but when he removed Microsoft Excel from his resume, he yielded opportunities that were a lot more appealing. “For a while my resume was just a bunch of stuff I knew how to do, but that didn’t make me happy because the only thing that makes me happy is writing,” he explained to So Booking Cool.

“I would get these temp jobs that required a lot of Excel and Microsoft Access because that’s what I was advertising to the world, and then I just started to remove them. They were small jobs–I was living month to month, but I was just doing stuff that was close enough to writing so that I could keep the passion alive.” Phillippe would go on to write for a host of publications including Vanity Fair, Observer, The Guardian, Thrillist, and Playboy, just to name a few. He also has a background in ghostwriting and teaches writing at Barnard College.

FGTNAT - CoverAs for Field Guide, Philippe hopes people will find the book funny. He also feels his character Norris is an underrepresented one in mainstream storytelling.  “Representation is kind of a big thing these days, especially in YA literature, which is great. We see a lot of characters that we wouldn’t normally see, like ten years ago we wouldn’t see characters of color in bestselling books, but I think there’s still the expectation that when you’re reading a story about a black male character, ‘oh no, it’s gonna be sad at the end; oh no, it’s gonna get Precious.”

While Philippe notes that Norris does have stakes and an emotional journey in the book, the story is more about comedy and a young guy’s high school experience. Listen to the interview to learn more about Philippe, The Field Guide to The North American Teenager, creating characters, his insight on ghostwriting, why he loves teaching and how it fuels his writing, who he envisions portraying Norris, his thoughts on the reboot of Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and more! For more information visit his official website.

Interview With Executive Editor of Riverhead Books, Courtney Young!

courtney youngCourtney Young carefully considers our question: whether it is enough for people to write a manuscript if the thought of doing so crosses their mind. Understandably so, the executive editor at Riverhead Books believes it is different for everyone; in other words (no pun intended), like many things in life, it depends.

“I will say writing a book is a lot of work, and you have to be, especially on the nonfiction side, prepared to go really deep on your subject and on working on the book,” she told So Booking Cool. “Be prepared for it to take years to get to the outcome. It’s not easy and the hardest thing is to commit to a book that your heart isn’t in.”

Young can relate to doing something that her heart wasn’t in. Prior to embarking on her 12-year career in book publishing, she pursued engineering. She was expected to follow in the footsteps of her father and brother. However, Young realized her true passion was in English, prompting her to take it on as her new major. She worried about disappointing her family (and to an extent she did), however, leave it up to a book to become the solution. Her father would later gift her The First Time I Got Paid for It: Writers’ Tales from The Hollywood Trenches by Peter Lefcourt (Editor), Laura J. Shapiro (Editor).

“ ’Well, I guess people can make a living if they’re not engineers, and I assume you’ll be okay,’ “she recalled her father saying. The Detroit native also had a stint working at NASA in California as a technical writer, where she edited proposals and journal articles. She was grateful for the opportunity, but, again, this wasn’t her ideal career. Her vision clear, she relocated to New York City and officially began her publishing career at Penguin Random House’s Portfolio Books, a business imprint. She has not looked back since.

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Some of Young’s favorite titles she’s edited include the New York Times bestsellers What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe; Romeo and/or Juliet: A Chooseable-Path Adventure by Ryan North; Spineless by Juli Berwald, just to name a few. Young also discussed some of the forthcoming projects that she is excited about, such as Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein (May 2019), who wrote the bestseller, The Sports Gene (she also worked with him previously).

the sports generange bookThe Sports Gene is a really fascinating, wide-ranging book that a lot of people came to, and he found the thing that most people were interested in is this idea of early specialization,” Young said. “The idea that if you want to truly be great at something, especially sports, you have to start early and focus; be kind of like Tiger Woods, and just sort of get ahead of everybody else. And David was turning over all this research that said the opposite, that the people who are actually most successful aside from those few stories like Tiger, are generalists.” In his new book, Epstein presents information on why thinking broadly and having diverse experience and various interest will enable an individual to thrive.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Young, her insight on what makes a strong editorial team, some of the proudest moments of her career, her insight on book reviews, and the other upcoming projects she looks forward to sharing with the world. Don’t be a stranger, visit Young on her official Twitter.

Interview With Conscious Artist and Lyricist Kyle Knight!

kyle knightConscious lyricist, rapper, producer, and businessman, Kyle Knight, is aware that art with heavy material pushes people away sometimes, however, he believes creating art that tackles serious issues is for the betterment of the masses. Knight has discussed topics involving social issues, misogyny, domestic abuse, and political corruption. “I feel that it makes us stronger as a people,” he explained to So Booking Cool. “Not only that, but it grows our consciousness level as people too. And I feel that when you have a good artist, such as myself, and you have good lyrics and good production, and you’re able to make [the social issue] as relevant as possible, then you know you’re in the winning seat.”

Knight’s musical roots played a part in his becoming active in music at the age of seven. In his family’s home recording studio, Knight’s father started him off with production, which sparked a passion for songwriting as well. When it comes to musical influences, James Mtume, Tupac, Nas, and Common are among the names he cites as artists who he believes successfully address social issues. He also admires Bruno Mars for being an artist who refuses to let himself be defined by a specific genre.

When it comes to his advice for those looking to work in the music business, Knight believes in individuality and finding ways to advance old trends. “The sky’s really your limit,” he added. “What I tell the listeners out there is to not be afraid of sacrifice, not to be scared of rejection. Understand that it is a process and you’re not gonna come out an overnight success; you are not gonna come out on Drake’s level overnight. It really takes a ladder to climb and it really takes a road to walk down. It is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Listen to the interview to learn more about Knight, The Truth Chronicles, the positive reception to his single “Hey Sister,” his love for books, music publishing, his thoughts on conscious artists getting accused of “selling out,” and more! For more information, check out Knight’s official website.

Interview With Literary Publicist, Lathea Williams!

LATHEALathea Williams might not have initially chosen book publishing as a career, but the driving force for why she chooses to remain in the industry is due to history. “There was a point in time where as a black person, we weren’t even given the opportunity to read. We were chastised for it. So I’m very much aware of my history and that’s one of the main things that keeps me in this industry,” the publishing professional said to So Booking Cool.

So far, Williams has worked as a literary publicist for over ten years. She attended City College where she earned a degree in public relations and advertising. Her internships included public relations in the fields of investment and music (one of her stints saw her intern at Columbia Records). But it was the publicity internship at Little, Brown that ended up being her favorite.

ATLAS OBSCURABook publicity was another territory and Williams was delighted that her responsibilities consisted of reading, writing (press releases, which she says are like writing book reports), and building media contacts. “Years ago, proud moments for me was when I would get a media hit in a magazine, like Oprah Magazine or a Today Show or Good Morning America hit, but now, I’m proud and happy when I can give back and I can see someone excel and succeed and have as much passion and joy for what they do a little much as I do,” said Williams. “And bestsellers are great!” she added laughingly.

Williams has gotten several bestsellers, including Dylan Thuras’ and Rosemary Mosco’s Atlas Obscura’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid, illustrated by Joy Ang. What was one of the most integral parts of the children’s book’s publicity campaign? The plentiful school visits that Thuras made.

A WOMAN GUIDES TOI WILL TEACH YOU TO BE RICH

Now, Williams has been gearing up for the upcoming releases of A Woman’s Guide to Cannabis: Using Marijuana to Feel Better, Look Better, Sleep Better–and Get High Like a Lady by Nikki Furrer (Workman Publishing, January 2019) and the 10th anniversary of I Will Teach You to Be Rich: No Guilt. No Excuses. No B.S. Just a 6-Week Program That Works by Ramit Sethi (Workman Publishing, May 2019). Check out the interview to learn more about Williams, publicity, her personal story, her advice for aspiring publicists, what she’s currently reading, and more! For more information, visit Williams on LinkedIn.

Interview With Rock ‘N’ Roll Pianist, Singer & Actor Jacob Tolliver!

jacob tolliver“Santa Baby” was originally Jacob Tolliver’s least favorite Christmas song—in fact he dreaded it—but when the emerging rock ‘n’ roll artist, pianist, and actor had the idea of collaborating with Full House and Fuller House star Jodie Sweetin for a holiday song, he saw no better choice than the classic record. Tolliver’s 50’s, 60’s, 70’s rock ‘n’ roll piano skills meshes with Sweetin’s pop sound for the rendition, which will release worldwide this Friday, November 16.

“It’s kind of a pretty relevant theme in pop music within the last five, ten years of blending retro sounds with modern beats and modern sounds, like Bruno Mars, Michael Buble, Post Modern Jukebox or Megan Trainor,” he told So Booking Cool in description of the song. “Baby” has now become Tolliver’s favorite.

JODIE AND JACOBTolliver, who hails from Ohio, has been active in music since he was a child. Currently, he is the opener for legendary rock n’ roller Jerry Lee Lewis aka The Killer. Previously, Tolliver portrayed the pianist in the Las Vegas production of “Million Dollar Quartet.” The popular musical tributes the famous recording session between Lewis, Elvis Pressley, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins. During his run on the tour, Tolliver was recruited for the 14th season of American Idol. Both stints have allowed Tolliver and Lewis to build a close bond.

“The man truly is a genius,” Tolliver said. Lewis is also an exception to the “never meet your idols” phrase. “He’s 83 and he’s at the point in his life where I think he’d love to see somebody wanting to keep [rock ‘n’ roll] alive and keep it going ‘cause it is really great music. If you’re at a dance and let’s say “Johnny B. Goode” comes on, everybody starts dancing…people love that music, it makes people happy, it makes people dance.” Tolliver’s goal isn’t to copy; it’s to help keep the genre going.

Before making it big time, Tolliver actually was interested in public relations. He saw himself being the publicist for a musician. Proving that life has an interesting way of unraveling, Tolliver was not always passionate about playing the piano. Listen to the interview to learn more about his trajectory, including the time he stopped playing the piano for five years, how friend and Full House creator Jeff Franklin’s party led to Tolliver befriending Sweetin, the book he’s currently reading, Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll by Peter Guralnick (Little, Brown and Company), his thoughts on mentorship and the new Bohemian Rhapsody movie, and more! For more information visit Tolliver’s official website.

Interview With Recording Artist Mimi!

Mimi Saballa - Yellow background photoIt’s minutes before 18-year-old rising music sensation Mimi has to take the stage in Orlando, Florida as co-headliner (along with rapper Silento) of the 10th annual High School Nation tour. The tour, which will run throughout November, is recognized as the country’s premiere music and arts festival for teenagers. It is Mimi’s first time touring, and the opening date of the tour was her first performance.

“It’s a lot, the flying away from home is always difficult, but I enjoy it. I enjoy performing and meeting all of the students and getting to interact with everybody,” Mimi told So Booking Cool. Hawaii is home for the young singer, born and raised. It is also where she launched her music career at 15-years-old when her uncle asked if she wanted to sing.

HSN Fall 2018 tour posterMimi has transitioned from island music to a more mainstream sound. She raps on her new single “Lightweight,” a fan-favorite, in which Mimi describes as a “hype song to turn up to.” While she says her new sound is most reflective of her musical taste, she makes it clear that she does not want to be put into a box. When discussing her newly-released EP, The Life of Mimi, she said, “Each song has a different texture to it. I wanted to just touch on various topics. I don’t want to be constrained to one sound so I do a whole bunch of them so people can’t label me as a pop artist or a hip hop artist. I just wanna be known as an artist.”

Check out the interview to learn more about her views on artistry, performing, what she learned from fellow Hawaiian music star Bruno Mars’ concert, her favorite book, and more! For more information, visit Mimi’s official website.

 

Interview With Painter & Illustrator Alvaro (PART 2)!

“I love that we’re talking more about reality than we are about art because it’s so much more important to get inside the artist than about the physical of the art,” painter and illustrator Alvaro says to So Booking Cool during the second part (check out part one ) of our interview.  “You’ve dug in and you let the art surface around, but you went inside. And I wish more people would do that with people that are very emotional and passionate.”

In part two of our conversation, Alvaro, candid and engaging as ever, opens up about being a “little” psychic. He also recalls his favorite books, including his 30-book Marilyn Monroe collection, the books he’s illustrated (Constance Gibson’s She Can Go Where Pretty Girls Go; Iman and Naomi Campbell) the time he discovered model and actress Joy Bryant, working with Mariah Carey, his thoughts on how the modeling world is evolving, more on his solo art exhibit, which will be open at Casa House 625 West 51st Street for a month, and more.

445_picture_of_coveraAs far as whether Alvaro plans to pen a memoir? The veteran artist says he will write a picture book about art instead of his life. “No one’s gonna wanna know about me. Not yet.”

Interview With Writer, “Wild N’ Out” Star, & Author of “Please Don’t Grab My P#$$Y,” Julia Young!

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Comedian, Producer, Actress, Improviser and Wild N’ Out star Julia Young has expanded her skills of television writing and rapping into co-writing her newly-released book, Please Don’t Grab My P#$$Y: A Rhyming Presidential Guide. The adult picture book, published by Animal House Media Group, was co-written with comedian and entrepreneur Matt Harkins, and illustrated by Laura Collins. The impetus for the book came after this past presidential election, in which Young felt upset, but inspired.

When asked what she hopes readers will takeaway from her debut, Young replied, “I hope that they get a laugh first of all. I think people who are buying this book don’t like Trump, it’s a very divisive book. But I hope people realize things need to change, and obviously it’s never okay to grab women by their genitalia, and maybe just come away with a little bit of a laugh in these very, very difficult times,” she told So Booking Cool.

Young, who has produced for Desus and Mero, has written for many hit shows including Brain Games, Girl Code, Hack My Life,  Impractical Jokers, TRL, Safe Word, and Celebrity Death Match, among many others. Before joining Wild N’ Out as a cast member, she was a consultant for the show. She has also taught creative workshops for improvisation. Her road to success has not been a linear one, as she describes, which can actually help people get closer to their dreams.

“I think you just have to say yes to every opportunity. I got on Wild N’ Out because I was consulting for them. I was there and people thought I was funny and after one season, they were like, ‘hey, do you want to be on camera?’ I also think I’ve succeeded in comedy and in this world because that was never not an option…I can’t do anything else, therefore this will happen.”

Listen to the interview to learn more about Young, including her approach to comedy, her book publishing experience, how she overcame bullying, her favorite authors, and more! For more information, visit Young’s official website.

Interview With Painter and Illustrator Alvaro! (PART 1)

alvaro2This Thursday in New York City, renowned painter and illustrator Alvaro will launch his new solo exhibit, which will showcase a raw range of his art. “I’m very excited about this because I’m going to be able to show people that it’s not just pretty things that I paint. These are my real paintings. These are not just illustrations that I’ve done for magazines or models and things, this is my more serious art,” he told So Booking Cool.

alvaro1Alvaro started his career at 18-years-old, which would go on to span 37 years and counting. He has illustrated several books and has created classic pop, political, parody, and fashion art (his portraits include his friends Iman, Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, and Linda Evangelista). His robust clientele includes everything from shows, private collectors, Giorgio Armani, The New York Times (his first feature), Calvin Klein, Vogue, and Bazaar to David Bowie and Mariah Carey, just to name a few. He is currently working on a piece in tribute to his all-time idol Harriet Tubman.

Alvaro, who grew up in the South Bronx, may have experienced bullying in his youth, but this did not deter him from believing in himself and chasing his dreams. He knew he would be successful and even carried around a portfolio with him. Alvaro knew he would meet his idol, legendary illustrator Antonio Lopez, and took the steps to make it happen and found a mentor, dear friend, and father figure all in one. What are the most important lessons Alvaro learned from Lopez? “To be kind, to respect people. To be chivalrous to women,” he answered.

Listen to part one of our must-listen interview with Alvaro, in which we chat about the unforgettable encounter he had with Andy Warhol, his thoughts on why some people do not open doors for others, versatility in art, cyber-bullying, such as stan wars, and more! For more information, follow Alvaro on Instagram.