Yancey's Big Reign
When I walk into a room, other women either leave or gather into
small groups. That's the kind of woman I am. So imagine my surprise
when that stopped happening when I moved to the West Coast. I was
used to the seas parting for me. But I guess LaLa Land hadn't been
warned about me.
About a month ago, my record company gave a listening party at one
of Hollywood's newest eateries, Reign, for my soon-to-be-released
CD, I'm Not in Love. The party was swimming with members
of Hollywood's black elite and their flunkies and was a West Coast
version of a Ghetto Fabulous plush bash. It was a great event, but
if I had to rank them, it was the second-best party where I was
the guest of honor. The best party I ever attended was the day before
I was supposed to get married. We had a spectacular party at Laura
Belle, in New York City, and as delicious as that party was, my
wedding day was an equal disaster. My groom-to-be dropped a full-tilt
nuclear assault bomb on me: He decided the morning of our wedding
that he would rather spend the rest of his life flip-flopping between
the beds of both men and women instead of sleeping with just me.
But when I really think about it, Basil and I had more problems
than a college entrance exam. He had a difficult childhood. I had
a miserable one. He lied about his past. I embellished mine. He
wanted children, while the only thing I desired with the letter
C was a Career. And not just any career, mind you, a C-A-R-E-E-R
that would rival that of any diva, living or dead.
My name is Yancey Harrington Braxton, now known to the recording
world as "Yancey B," pop singer fabulosa. (Move over,
Whitney. Step aside, Mariah. J-Lo, get outta my way.) I relocated
to Los Angeles a day after being left at the altar, and it has turned
out to be the best move I've ever madeóthat is, if you don't
count not speaking to my former fiancé and my mother.
I arrived in LaLa Land with no agent or manager, no permanent residence
and very little money. Thank God the real estate market in New York
was so hot; I was able to get a much-needed equity loan against
my East Side town house. The L.A. weather was so inviting when I
arrived that it was hard to close myself off from the world, as
I had intended. I went to Malibu, did lots of window shopping and
started reading the trades looking for work. The only contact I
had with New York was a call every other day from my good friend
Windsor, who was staying in my house until the right offer to sell
One night I found myself having dinner alone at the hotel's Polo
Lounge restaurant. After finishing a chicken caesar salad, I went
into the bar, had a drink and soon found myself singing and confiding
in the piano player. Turns out Bobby Daye was not only a talented
piano player, but a wonderful songwriter as well. After he finished
his set, he took me to several other clubs while I told him my life
story. When he dropped me off, he looked at me and said, "I'm
going to write some songs for that voice." I thought it was
the liquor talking, so I was shocked when he showed up a week later
at my suite with five songs written just for me. Three weeks later,
we were in a West Hollywood studio recording a demo. One month later,
not only did I have a record deal with Motown Records, but an agent
and manager as well. Who said dreams can't come true in Hollywood
Right now I'm living right in the middle of Beverly Hills, in a
lovely two-bedroom guesthouse behind the mansion of my manager,
Malik Jackson. Malik (a.k.a. Roosevelt) stopped counting birthdays
some fifteen years ago but looks to be in his early fifties. I get
to live rent-free; I just have to perform a few duties for Malik
every once in a while. Trust me when I say I'm not talking about
cooking and cleaning.
I've been so busy recording my CD that I've had very little time
to concentrate on my movie career, but that will come soon enough.
I do know that Hollywood is a lot like New York. A few divas (Angela,
Nia, Lela, Ms. Jada and Vanessa L.) get all the work while the rest
just pray the unemployment checks come on time.
I'm an actress and a damn good one. And if my word isn't enough,
just ask anyone who was at my wedding. Even though Basil had drop-kicked
me unmercilessly that morning, I'm a diva and the show must go on.
So after all the guests arrived, I stood at the head of the table,
poised like I was one of the last two beauties standing in the Miss
America pageant, confident that my name would be called after they
announced the first runner-up. I told the assembled guests and press
that I had had a change of heart and had decided not to marry John
Basil Henderson. Damn . . . if Julia Roberts could leave Kiefer
Sutherland on their wedding day, then why couldn't I leave Basil?
At least I showed up. I shared with a few of my guests the exciting
news that I had been offered the lead role in a movie being filmed
in Toronto based on the life of Lena Horne. I reported that I had
beat out Vanessa L. Williams, Halle Berry and Sanaa Lathan. I asked
them to keep my news on the QT since the producers hadn't told the
other ladies I got the part. In front of the press, I acknowledged,
softly, that Basil was heartbroken and had left the hotel in tears.
I even bit my lips as my own tears appeared on cue. I encouraged
them to keep Basil in their thoughts and wish me much success. And
then I greeted my guests, each one of them, accepting their hugs
and kisses for over an hour.
So after a year I think I'm ready to return to the scene of my greatest
acting triumph ever. In conjunction with my debut CD, the record
company has decided to film my first video in New York City as well
and has set up media interviews with BET, VH-1 and MTV. We're releasing
a house version of the first single a couple weeks before the single
is dropped. The A&R manager thought it might make sense to do
a couple of performances at some gay clubs in New York and Washington,
D.C. He told me if the "kids," as he called them, loved
the song, then it would be Billboard number one here I come.
I am a little nervous about returning to New York. But I knew I
couldn't stay away forever. I can't wait to visit with Windsor,
eat some of her cooking, and stroll through Shubert Alley. I plan
to stop at the stage door of the theater where I first heard the
sounds of thunderous standing ovations.
There are a few places I want to shop and some scores I need to
settle. Damn . . . now I'm sounding like my mother, the been-done,
broke-down diva Ava Parker Middlebrooks. There was a time when I
would have said that with great pride. But every time I breathe
the air and look at the sun, I shed layers of Ava. I know that one
day very soon, I will finally be the marvelous, amazing, and incomparable
Yancey I was placed on earth to be. And trust me, everyone will
know my nameócoast to coast. The real reign of Yancey B is
just beginning. To update a line from one of my favorite movies,
All About Eve, Strap on your seat belts. And don't say you
weren't warned. . . .
from Any Way the Wind Blows by E. Lynn Harris Copyright 2001 by
E. Lynn Harris. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division
of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt
may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from