The Top 10 include Serena Williams, who leads all athletes; Mathew Knowles; Valentino Carlotti and Gilda Squire; James Patterson; Glenn Anton "Doc" Rivers; Lionel Hollins; Stephen Curry; Ta-Nehisi Coates; and Dr. Yvonne Thompson
BROOKLYN, NY; December 31, 2015 - What's The 411TV, a Brooklyn-based media company, today released its list of 25 Most Interesting People of 2015, and singer, songwriter, actor, and social activist Harry Belafonte; and social relevant photographer Stephen Somerstein, who documented the 1965 Selma to Montgomery, Alabama Civil Rights March are tied for first place on the list. In their own way, each has made an incredible impact on the civil rights movement.
What's The 411TV's 25 Most Interesting People of 2015 is an eclectic list of people interviewed by What's The 411TV reporters primarily as exclusives, but this year, we included a couple of group press conferences attended by our reporters. The list consists of people who have spurred a movement; those who have made an impact in their respective fields globally; iconic figures; athletes including Serena Williams (she leads all athletes); coaches (Doc Rivers and Lionel Hollins, who makes the list for a second time); entrepreneurs; and those making it happen behind the scenes. Domestic Violence dominated headlines in 2015, and two people, Katrina Walker and Melissa Holmes, survivors of domestic abuse, are on the list for telling their compelling stories and helping others. Ms. Walker, a mother of four children, left her abusive husband, found a job and then created 24-hour daycare centers in two states.
"We are grateful for another incredible year of capturing many great stories," said Ruth J. Morrison, CEO and Executive Producer, What's The 411TV. "I especially enjoy listening to the backstories of how people and things evolve such as Tonya Rapley moving from being debt-ridden to becoming "The Millennial Money Coach;" how Goldman Sachs Partner and head of the Institutional Clients Group's Securities Division, Valentino Carlotti and Gilda Squire of Squire Media and Management, partnered to bring Misty Copeland, the American Ballet Theater's first African-American principal dancer into the American consciousness; and international entrepreneur Dr. Yvonne Thompson, CBE brought to life the challenges faced by executive women in her book, 7 Traits of Highly Successful Women on Boards."
Below is a list of What's The 411TV's 25 Most Interesting People of 2015; which can be found online with links to each interview.
1. Harry Belafonte and Steven Somerstein: Even at 88 years-old, Mr. Belafonte is still fighting for human rights and social inclusiveness. Steven Somerstein: through his photography, Mr. Somerstein brought the plight of civil rights into America's consciousness by documenting the 1965 Selma To Montgomery Civil Rights Marchin a way few other could have done - Interviewed by: Luvon Roberson
2. The 21-time tennis grand slam winner, Serena Williams: because the legendary professional tennis player took tennis lovers and aficionados on an incredible ride, and we're still rooting for her
3. Beyonce's father Mathew Knowles: The creator and manager of Destiny's Child, Beyonce, and Solange; describesThe DNA of Achievers in his book of the same name- Interviewed by: Courtney Rashon
4. Valentino Carlotti and Gilda Squire: The team behind-the-scenes making things happen for Misty Copeland, American Ballet Theater's first African-American principal dancer –Interviewed by Glenn Gilliam
5. Award-winning author James Patterson: For his initiative to help independent bookstores and because he's a great storyteller - Interviewed by: Luvon Roberson
6. Los Angeles Clippers Head Coach Glenn Anton "Doc" Rivers: Because he's a sage and he helped to keep the NBA intact- captured by Keisha Wilson
7. Brooklyn Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins: This is the second time he is on this list and we have learned a lot more about Lionel Hollins in the past year. He's a straight-shooter, instructive, and he manages the New York media
8. Golden State Warriors Guard and NBA MVP Stephen Curry: He understands his limitations and has developed strategies to overcome them; a lesson for us all
9. Award-winning author Ta-Nehisi Coates: for speaking and writing about the elephant in the room- Interviewed by: Luvon Roberson
10. Dr. Yvonne Thompson, CBE: for shining a light on the challenges of executive women in the boardroom- Interviewed by: Luvon Roberson
11. Dr. Brenda Greene, Executive Director, Center for Black Literature and English Department Chair; Medgar Evers College, CUNY: for being a curator of African-American culture through literature and art - Interviewed by: Luvon Roberson
12. Freedom Williams of C+C Music Factory: for keeping us entertained while diversifying his portfolio, and for providing insight into the "new" music industry - Interviewed by: Courtney Rashon
13. Metta World Peace: a fierce competitor and when he's in your presence, there's never a dull moment
14. New York Liberty forward Swintayla Marie "Swin" Cash: She parlayed her prolific scoring and rebounding skills into a studio analyst gig for select New York Knicks games
15. Sherrie Young, National Book Foundation Director of Marketing and Special Projects: standing at the crossroads of literacy and literature and keeping up the good fight- Interviewed by: Luvon Roberson
16. Katrina Walker: an abused wife and mother of four children who turned her adversity into entrepreneurship and philanthropy; she is the owner of 24-hour daycare facilities in two states - The What's The 411TV Team of: Courtney Rashon, Kizzy Cox, and Onika McLean16.
17.Kelly L. Jackson: an entertainment entrepreneur who uses her national radio platform on Sirius/XM Radio to blend entertainment and wellness - Interviewed by: Courtney Rashon
18. Financial Educator, Tonya Rapley: for teaching millennials (and others) how to manage their personal finances; that's why she is The Millennial Money Coach - Interviewed by: Kizzy Cox
19. Performance Artist, Olutayo Bosede (professionally known as Olutayo): for working hard at his craft and thoroughly entertaining us with his voice and dance moves as the Lead Crow on the NBC production of The Wiz Live! - Interviewed by: The What's The 411TV Team of: Essence Semaj, Onika McLean, and Courtney Rashon
20. Andrea Lewis: an actress that is not twiddling her thumbs waiting for the callback, she is creating great webisodes and distributing them through digital media – Interviewed by Glenn Gilliam
21. Stephen Witt, a journalist turned entrepreneur that created a much-needed digital media company, Kings County Politics, focused on the politics of what else, Kings County aka Brooklyn – Interviewed by: The What's The 411TV Team of: Kizzy Cox, Onika McLean, and Courtney Rashon
23. Nikkia McClain, CEO, Tene Nicole Marketing and Public Relations, a celebrity marketing, and public relations company: she does whatever it takes for the benefit of her clients, including washing dishes
24. Melissa Holmes: an abused wife and mother who is using digital media and other platforms to help other women abused by their husbands and partners – Interviewed by: Kizzy Cox
25. Chrissy Monroe: an entrepreneur who turned her appearance on reality television into an opportunity for scripted television and other ventures, including the ambassador for Pretty Girl Gang Cosmetics – Interviewed by: Courtney Rashon
Mychal Thompson, former NBA player and father of NBA All-Star Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors: because he still has no problem giving his son fatherly advice.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson: a rookie NBA player with the Brooklyn Nets who is currently sidelined with a broken ankle; is a selfless millennial who, along with his brother, bought his mother a house as soon as he signed his NBA contract.
Previous personalities on What's The 411TV's list of 25 Most Interesting People include: the late Maya Angelou; NFL Hall of Famer Michael Strahan; breast cancer survivor and founder of Beating Cancer in Heels CEO, Marlena Ortiz; Motown Founder, Berry Gordy; Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov; New York Knicks great and Basketball Hall of Famer Willis Reed; Basketball Hall of Famer and entrepreneur Earvin "Magic" Johnson; Brooklyn Nets head coach Lionel Hollins; NBA player Jeremy Lin; NFL player Richard Sherman; former heavyweight boxer Mike Tyson; former WNBC-TV news anchor Sue Simmons; and more.
Nothing happens in a vacuum, therefore I offer special thanks to Angelo Ellerbee, Gary Sussman, Aaron Harris, Eli Pearlstein, Jeanmarie Daily, D.A. Abrams, Vincent Novicki, Clarence V. Reynolds, Nikkia McClain, Brenda Greene, Patricia Green, Gilda Squire, Sherri Young, Simone Smalls, Pauline Barfield, and of course the What's The 411TV team: Gregory Alcala; Kizzy Cox; Donna Leslie; Onika McLean; Courtney Rashon; Luvon Roberson; Essence Semaj; and Keisha Wilson.
About What's The 411TV
Based in Brooklyn, New York, What's The 411TV is a division of What's The 411 Networks, a media/news, marketing, and events company. What's The 411TV connects sophisticated multi-cultural audiences with its content through its distribution platforms of television, online, mobile, and social media.
What's The 411TV produces two weekly television shows, What's The 411, an award-winning entertainment and lifestyle television show and What's The 411Sports, a sports news and commentary television show. The company covers the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, New York Giants, US OPEN, and other sports events.
What's The 411TV's celebrity portfolio consists of interviews with Magic Johnson, Beyonce, Denzel Washington, Meryl Streep, Morgan Freeman, Danny Glover, Harrison Ford, Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Hudson, and many, many more.
About Ruth J. Morrison
Ruth J. Morrison is the CEO and Founder of What's The 411 Networks, an integrated media, marketing, and events company, which produces the award-winning weekly news and information television show, What's The 411; What's The 411Sports, and the soon-to-be, What's The 411Business.
A video streaming pioneer, Ms. Morrison developed and launched from conception the City of New York's multi-channel cable television network and served as a Communications Director and Legislative Advisor to a New York member of the U.S. Congress. She is the first African-American independent television producer to have a weekly television show on WNYC-TV and for three years, she worked in Brasil as an entertainment and television licensing consultant for an American company.
Ms. Morrison earned a master's degree in Interactive Telecommunications from the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and she was a Communications Fellow at the Annenberg Washington Program of Northwestern University. She taught courses in telecommunications at Fordham University and she completed her coursework towards a Ph.D. in Political Science at Columbia University.
Flushing Meadows, NY - The air is filled with anticipation, as kids from Elmcor Youth & Adult Activities Community Center from Corona, Queens, fill the Grandstand court waiting to meet the reigning US Open Women's Champion, Serena Williams.
The Back Story at the US OPEN 2014
It is Thursday afternoon of "Qualies" week and after participating in the Open "Draw Ceremony", the No.1 Women's Player in the world who had already appeared on Dave Letterman the day before, will be front and center during Arthur Ashe Kids Day in two days on Saturday. I mention these activities because I think we take for granted the Williams Sisters and Serena especially and the hefty responsibilities that she and her sister have carried for the better part of 15 years as the best of American tennis and never more so than now. It's amazing to watch them handle their media and philanthropic obligations, play singles and doubles in the same day, and on consecutive days. It really shows how strong-willed they are, their incredible commitment, sacrifice and desire to win and how important it is to have that strong family bond that their parents created from the start. It's also been a real boon, as fan favorites, to the entertainment value of each day's US Open ticket, to have them as part of the daily draw.
An unfortunate casualty of the first round draw was pitting the defending champ against American Junior Champion, Taylor Townsend of Chicago. The eighteen year old lefty, as an American and African American, may have made some noise in the tournament, if not for playing her mentor and friend in the opening round. That is correct, I said friend, as we confirmed in Serena's first interview, when asked What was your initial reaction when you found out you were opening against top ranked junior, Taylor Townsend?
"Yeah it's going to be a great match for me," said Serena. "She's such a great player. Extremely young, I have been able to see her play a little bit. She does everything really, really well. We're really good friends. We always talk and always text each other. It's going to be a really tough match for me."
I followed by asking about her thoughts on the history that lay ahead.
"You talked after winning the Western & Southern, you feel like you could play for a long time," I said. "If you get to 22 or 23 Grand Slam titles might you decide to hang them up?"
"Well, that would be just really amazing if I can make it that far,' she said. "Competition is a little stiff now, so I have to do the best I can and I can't even think that far to be honest."
Watch Video: Serena Williams on Getting to 22 or 23 Grand Slams
"Well would you consider it an unsuccessful year if you don't win a Grand Slam," I asked.
"Probably, yes," Serena stated. "But there's always next year and the year after, so I don't necessarily – you don't give up. You just keep going and you keep fighting to continue to win more."
Watch Video: Serena Williams on If She Didn't Win a Grand Slam This Year
How is your school in Kenya going," I asked switching the subject.
"It's going good," responded Serena. "We just had a great update. We built a new building. It's been really, really amazing".
A reporter asked Serena that a couple of people had heard that she was having a show for Aneras in a couple of months and asked if she could talk about it.
"Yeah, no; I'm having a fashion show for Serena's Signature Statement and I'm launching Aneras," Serena Williams responded. "They are two totally separate fashion lines. This show we are doing for fashion week, New York has always been a dream of mine to have a fashion show at NY Fashion Week. We are doing the collection that sold on HSN for Serena's Signature Statement. We have casted the models and it's been a really great experience. I'm really excited and nervous at the same time to see the reactions and hopefully we'll get a full house."
Watch Serena Williams talk about her fashion line, Serena's Signature Statement
During her early matches Serena's biggest challenge was the unpredictable winds that made consistent serving difficult, until adjustments could be made, but her opponents never really threatened her, as she never conceded more than 3 games in any set, winning each match in straight sets as she did in two previous title wins. Although she hadn't really been tested in the singles and unfortunately lost in the doubles with sister Venus, this is the first Grand Slam all year that she had reached the Singles Quarterfinal round and it showed as she raised her arms in victory over Kaia Kanepi in the 4th Round and gave a ball to an adoring fan and emphatically declared to the cheering crowds "I made it to the Quarterfinals!" And with all that was riding on it, it seemed like destiny, here's what was at stake.
The milestones are historic: -15th Anniversary of her first Grand Slam victory, and US Open - the 1999 US Open. -18th Grand Slam Title which ties her with Chris Evert & Martina Navratilova, for fourth all time. Margaret Court (24), Steffi Graf (22), Helen Wills Moody (19) -She is a three-peat US Open Champion, winning the Open 3 years in a row. -Her 6th US Open Title overall, tying Chris Evert for top honors. -At 32, Serena continues to extend her reign as the Women's Champion with the greatest number of years between her first and last titles (15) -She is the 2014 Emirates Airlines US Open Series Champion winning an additional $1MM and Serena's prize money has made Women's Tennis history, taking home a record $3MM check for a new highest payday in tennis and wining $4MM total after clinching the title. She already holds the previous record at $3.6MM, with Rafael Nadal, for winning it last year.
In our last interview we asked her what we know everyone's been dying to know.
"Does the new leopard print outfits mean the "catsuit" might be making a comeback," I asked.
"That's a good question," said Serena. "We all loved the catsuit; at least I did."
"Gives us hope," I responded.
"Keep hope alive," Serena added.
"Where is the catsuit," another reporter inquired.
"Yeah, I have all of my outfits. I saw it the other day actually in my closet, Serena said.
"Sounds like a hashtag campaign," I added.
"Right," Serena concurred and then added, "Of course hashtags didn't exist back then."
So please hit us up at #411SportsTV and join the #BringBackSerenaWilliamsCatsuit campaign.
Watch Serena Williams Talk About Her Famous Catsuit
All jokes aside, Serena Williams' victory in the US OPEN 2014 Women's Final over close friend Caroline Wozniaki (6-3, 6-3) was another seminal moment in arguably the greatest female athlete's career ever and it makes us even more excited about 2015 and going down under to Australia...we'll see ya there.
It was 2007 when Taylor Townsend was sitting in the nosebleeds watching Serena and Venus Williams play a night match at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Fast-forward to 2014 where Townsend earned a huge seat upgrade, not simply in the front row, but on the court, as the opponent of the No. 1 seed, Serena Williams, at the same stadium for the opening-round match of her US Open debut.
When Townsend found out about the news she didn't believe it.
"I found out on Twitter," she said. "Okay, let me double-check. It was true. So then I was just immediately really excited. I just thought that it was a huge opportunity."
Townsend turned professional at the end of the 2012 season after achieving the world No. 1-ranking as a junior, the first American girl to do so in 30 years. She made her Grand Slam debut earlier this year at Roland Garros as a wild card and advanced to the third round.
Townsend winning 2012 Australian Open girls’ singles title. Photo: Shuji Kajiyama/Associated Press
In lieu of the 18-year old Townsend's success, she looks up to Serena as she is one of the main reasons why Townsend is present in the tennis world.
"I mean, Serena's an African-American woman from Compton, California who won [now 18] Grand Slam titles. Like, who would have thought? Anything is possible. She's paved the way for me and not only African-American girls but girls in general, people in general, [she] just has changed the game of tennis. I think I've just learned from her story that anything is possible."
Their friendship blossomed last year at the Fed Cup in Delray Beach, Florida, when she talked to Serena and Venus Williams during a rain delay. Surprisingly they didn't talk about tennis, just casual girl-talk about hair and nails. Then later in Charleston, South Carolina, they chatted again for more than an hour and capped it off with selfies at the players' party.
Taylor Townsend’s selfie with Serena and Venus Williams
Williams was just as excited to play Townsend for the opening draw match.
"We're really good friends. We always talk and always text each other. It's going to be a really tough match for me." Serena continued,"she's such a great player. [She's] extremely young. I have been able to see her play a little bit. She does everything really, really well."
Entering the match, they both won in the nail department. Townsend wore a gel manicure with deep, hot pink polish with blue tips. Williams rocked pastel pink nail polish with crystal, pink and black leopard-prints her middle nails. But only one could win the tennis match, which was Serena 6-3, 6-1 who moved on to win her first 1st Grand Slam title of 2014.
American professional tennis player, Taylor Townsend Photo Credit: Getty Images
Legendary American professional tennis player, Serena Williams, rocking pale pink manicure. Photo Credits: Getty Images (right) and AP (left)
Although Townsend lost the match she didn't let it get to her negatively. She was honored to face her idol and was all smiles.
"I just tried to go out on the court and really have a good time, embrace the moment, embrace the crowd and just use it. I did the best that I could."
The match helped put in perspective that she's doing all the right things - her serve can be a weapon and she can be a threat in the pro circuit with her style of play. Serena also applauded Taylor and referred to her as the "Future of Tennis." Williams continued to speak positively of Townsend.
"She's a lefty. I always wanted to be lefty," she said smiling with envy. Why does Serena envy lefties? "That just in general puts you on a whole new level as a player. She's a very aggressive player. She comes to the net, she makes her shots. You don't really see that in tennis so much. You see players that, you know, stay aback and hug the baselines, as I do. But it's good, refreshing, and I think it's the future of tennis just by doing what she does."
Just how Townsend is inspired by Serena's story, Taylor is creating a story of her own for the current and future generations of tennis.
"I've always said that I wanted to use my tennis to inspire and help people. I want to continue [to be an inspiration and role model] as I progress in the pros and get better just because if we have these gifts and talents [and] we don't use it to help try to make a difference, then it really doesn't matter."
Taylor Townsend with kids before the 2013 New Haven Open Tennis Tournament at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Photo Credit: Bill Weiss/New Haven Open
As Townsend said, "anything is possible." It took her seven years to earn her huge seat upgrade, which she saw as unfathomable at the time.
Townsend serves as a refreshing reminder that one can achieve their dreams with hard work and dedication.
VIDEO CONVERSATION: Teddy Bridgewater, NBA FINALS, Serena and Venus Williams, Deron Williams, Anthony Mackie, and more
The DONALD STERLING saga: SHELLY STERLING sold THE LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS to former MICROSOFT CEO, STEVE BALMER
The NEW YORK RANGERS playing the LOS ANGELES KINGS for the STANLEY CUP
NBA FINALS: a repeat of the MIAMI HEAT V. THE SAN ANTONIO SPURS
LANCE STEPHENSON’S antics. Immaturity or much ado about nothing? Is STEPHENSON taking zeroes off of his next check?
BROOKLYN NETS GUARD DERON WILLIAMS underwent successful ankle surgery. BIANCA PEART gives a rundown of D-WILL’S recuperation period and his expected time to return to the team. GLENN GILLIAM asks did WILLIAMS get surgery on his heart. CHRIS GRAHAM says he’ll be back before DERRICK ROSE.
SERENA, VENUS, STEPHENSON, and FEDERER are out at the FRENCH OPEN. According to GLENN GILLIAM, the FRENCH OPEN commentators treat the foreigners better than the Americans; GLENN’S also disturbed that SERENA was in and out because she didn’t bring her a game. BIANCA added that SERENA was sitting courtside at GAME 6 of the MIAMI V. INDIANA PLAY-OFF GAME.
LOOKING AT WHAT’S FLYING UNDER RADAR
Eighteen-year-old tennis sensation TAYLOR TOWNSEND beat 21st-ranked ALIZE CORNET in the FRENCH OPEN.
The 205th-ranked TOWNSEND'S feat made her the youngest U.S. woman to advance to the third round at the FRENCH OPEN since 2003 -- is even more impressive considering just two years ago, the U.S. TENNIS ASSOCIATION attempted to keep her out of competition at the U.S. OPEN. It was suggested they would not restore their support until the teen, then the top-ranked junior player in the world lost weight.
RAPPER 50 CENT
It looks like TAYLOR TOWNSEND has better aim than 50 CENT. The rapper was on a publicity tour and displayed his poor pitching abilities at a recent METS game. He threw the ball very wide left; 50, stay in your lane!
WHO IS IN THE DOG HOUSE?
It’s DOG HOUSE time and it seems like by the end of the segment, GLENN GILLIAM put both FLOYD MAYWEATHER and T.I. in the DOG HOUSE for MAYWEATHER’S inappropriate relationship with T.I.’S wife, TINY and for telling T.I. that he needs to check his “BITCH.” T.I. seems to be in the DOG HOUSE for seemingly boasting that he went toe-to-toe with MAYWEATHER.
WHAT’S IN THE SPORTS PIPELINE:
Actor ANTHONY MACKIE is shopping a JESSE OWENS biopic.
ANTHONY MACKIE, of CAPTAIN AMERICA fame, is shopping around a JESSE OWENS biopic with WE ARE MARSHALL writer JAMIE LINDEN, ACCORDING TO DEADLINE. The would-be movie, which MACKIE would produce and star in, focuses on the lead-up to the 1936 BERLIN OLYMPICS, where OWENS won four gold medals in the shadow of HITLER'S REGIME.
The NBA DRAFT is on Thursday, June 26, 2014
FIFA WORLD CUP starts Thursday, June 12, 2014.
NOTE: What’s The 411TV hosts' comments are their own and not necessarily the opinion of What’s The 411 Networks.
What's The 411TV captured some of the sights and sounds of the activities at the Arthur Ashe Kids Day 2012 held at the US National Tennis Center.
In this video, What's The 411's Andrew Rosario spoke with the winners of the Arthur Ashe Essay and Art Contest.
The Arthur Ashe Essay and Art Contest celebrates the writing and artistic skills of young people connected to the National Junior Tennis Learning (NJTL) network founded by Arthur Ashe.
New York City Mayor David Dinkins was on hand to help celebrate the winners of the Arthur Ashe Essay and Art Contest. The winners learned a great deal about Arthur Ashe and were genuinely honored to receive their awards.
Overall, Arthur Ashe Kids Day 2012 offered something for everyone. There were opportunities to watch tennis pros practice; attend concerts with pop and R&B stars such as Carly Rae Jepsen and Mindless Behavior; tennis clinics for the little ones; and a tennis volley contest featuring Serena Williams.
Arthur Ashe was born on July 10, 1943 in Richmond, Virginia and is remembered for his excellence as a tennis player as well as his efforts to further social causes. He remains the only African American player ever to win the men's singles title at Wimbledon, the Australian Open or the US Open. His legacy continues to have a positive effect on our society.