Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at claycane@gmail.com.


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    Thursday, June 05, 2008

    Looks like someone, not exactly sure who, might be taking advantage of the great legacy of Donna Summer. Back in October, AOL Black Voices reported that Tasha Smith, who was a crowd favorite in last year's Why Did I Get Married?, will star in a biopic of Donna Summer. According to AOL Black Voices the film "may or may not be adapted from Summer's 2003 autobiography 'Ordinary Girl.'"

    Black Voices noted, Robi Reed is part of the project, she is "an Emmy Award winner who has cast modern day black classic films such as 'Do the Right Thing,' 'Malcolm X,' 'Set it Off' and 'Love Jones.'"

    AOL Black Voices also added:

    '"When probed of Summer's involvement in the forthcoming biopic, Smith professed her affinity for the five-time Grammy Award winning dance diva (born: LaDonna Adrian Gaines), but added, 'I put it to you like this, hopefully she'll be a part of it ... but it still will happen.'"

    It will still happen? At the time, I wasn't exactly sure what that line meant.

    I recently interviewed Donna Summer for HX Magazine, which comes out in their June 20th Pride Issue. In addition to the interview, I asked about the biopic.

    Everybody is wondering about your biopic supposedly starring Tasha Smith. What's the latest on that?
    Donna Summer: Who is Tasha Smith?

    Tasha Smith was in Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married? and the word is she is playing you in your biopic.
    Donna Summer: She can do whatever she wants; it's not coming from my camp. I heard about that but it has nothing to do with me personally. I haven’t condoned it. Hopefully, when it comes to making my biopic we'll have some hand it picking the people who will be involved in it—if it's done legally and it's done with my consent.

    That's not good to hear for Donna Summer fans that you're not involved in this biopic.
    Donna Summer: I'm not involved in any biopic by anybody at this point. That contract is with a certain company and has been for at least a year and a half and she [Tasha Smith] has nothing to do with it. I don't know anymore about it than that.

    Not saying Donna Summer should know who Smith is, she is still an up and coming actress, but one would think if she is part of the Donna Summer biopic, the name would ring a bell.

    In the story from AOL Black Voices Smith says, "I'm going to do the same thing that Angela Bassett did," as we all know, Bassett played Tina Turner in the 1993 blockbuster smash What's Love Got To Do With It?

    Well, part of the reason why Tina Turner's film was so incredible is because the rock diva was deeply involved in her biopic. Anna Mae gave the greenlight for Angela Bassett even before the movie studio.

    Ray Charles received a Braille version of the script for his biopic, added much input and deleted two scenes.

    The legendary country singer Loretta Lynn, handpicked Sissy Spacek in her biopic, the Coal Miner's Daughter, which won Spacek an Oscar.

    We’ve all heard how in the making of Aretha Franklin’s biopic she allegedly gave a blueberry cornbread "NO!" to Jennifer Hudson and requested Halle Berry.

    So why would Donna Summer not get the same respect for her life story? The only excuse for an artist to have nothing to do with their biopic, or not give consent, is if the artist has passed. Summer is alive and well and just released her first studio album in 17 years, Crayons.

    On another note, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, so many black female artists from Nina Simone to Phyllis Hyman have been robbed by the entertainment industry. It would be disappointing to Donna Summer's legacy, and her fans, if Tasha Smith and/or Robi Reed, who are successful black women in the entertainment industry, would go forward with a film without the consent of the icon herself.

    With all the said, I did have the pleasure of interviewing Tasha Smith. She was a gracious, sincere, and humble spirit. Honestly, Smith would be a great choice to play Donna Summer. Much better than Mary J. as Nina Simone and Beyonce as Etta James!

    Donna Summer's Crayons is in stores now.

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    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 18 comments

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