With funky music splashed with soulful harmonies, glamorous fashion that revealed independence and the distinctive, yet ambitious dreams of three sisters trying to break away from their Detroit life in 1968, this new version of “Sparkle” is a refreshing take on the 1976 original.
Although there are numerous and obvious differences from the Joel Schumacher and Howard Rosenman project, the cast successfully drove the relatable story of continuous dream-chasing despite frustration and tragedy experienced along the way.
The story follows the lives of three sisters who make the choice to create a music group. Having to sneak out to performances because of their mother’s rules of staying in the church and having a wholesome image, the girls eventually rebel and try to sing their way to a record deal. However, the group begins to break apart when reality kicks in and shakes things up.
In her film debut, Jordin Sparks, (“American Idol” winner, Season 6) played 19-year-old Sparkle Anderson, a shy young woman who has both song writing and singing talents, but wants to be in the background. Through her journey of discovery, she is ambivalent about making career moves without her sisters, facing the wrath of her mother or leaving her family to experience love. Even though Sparks has an extensive singing résumé, she is able to convey an emotional performance.
The oldest sister Tammy Anderson, known as Sister, played by British actress Carmen Ejogo, has the dream of being a headlining act. Similar to the original, Sister is an independent, rebellious woman, but Ejogo reveals the motivation of Sister’s superficial dreams that swallow her up into a destructive relationship. The film could have gone with a different title simply because of Ejogo’s strong performance as Sister.
And keeping both Sparkle and Sister in line was the third sister, Dolores Anderson — known as Dee — played by Tika Sumpter. Unlike the original, which keeps Dee in the background, Sumpter brought the sassiness and intelligence of Dee to the forefront which balances the trio. Never loosing her essence and career goals, Dee maintains her poise while supporting and even protecting the sisters.
Emma — the tough, religious mother who tries to keep the sisters sheltered from the industry because of her own deferred dream — is creatively crafted by Whitney Houston (“The Bodyguard”). Houston’s character does not support the singing career of her daughters for fear that they will experience painful disappointment. Even with keeping the girls in the church choir, Emma cannot contain their passion.
There are sensitive themes of Houston’s real life paralleled to the lives of other characters. And yet, she plays the part well and sings a raspy solo.
Stix, played by Derek Luke, is a passionate dreamer in his search for a sensational girl group. And with his discovery, Sparkle shows him something that he wantsb more. Luke’s acting strength is able to pull out more vulnerable moments for Sparks which creates a believable chemistry between the two.
In the original film, Satin is a sly character who leads Sister to her downfall. Having Mike Epps play Satin Struthers — who is modified as a prominent Black comedian who tells jokes to white audiences at the expense of African Americans — was a surprising choice. Epps showed an unexpected dark side that spoke to his ability to play more than a comedic role.
Also in the film is Levi — the cousin of Stix — played by Omari Hardwick and Grammy Award-winner CeeLo Green who played Black.
Loosely similar to the original, this film draws a new generation of dreamers who will understand the complexity of breaking away from what’s familiar to the hard work it takes to accomplish a dream.
This film is directed by Salim Akil (“Jumping the Broom”); the screenplay is by Mara Brock Akil (“The Game,” “Girlfriends”) and produced by Debra Martin Chase (“Just Wright” and “Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”), T.D. Jakes, Salim, Mara and Curtis Wallace (“Jumping the Broom,” “Not Easily Broken”). It was executive produced by Whitney Houston, Howard Rosenman, Gaylyn Fraiche and Avram Butch Kaplan.
“Sparkle,” a TriStar Pictures release, is rated PG-13 for mature thematic content involving domestic abuse and drug material, and for some violence, language and smoking.
That seismic tremor felt Thursday was not the Earth’s crust shifting, it was the legions of people converging on Deliverance Evangelistic Church, on Lehigh Avenue, in North Philadelphia, to see one of America’s most famous preachers, Thomas Dexter Jakes, Sr., internationally known as, Bishop T.D. Jakes. Jakes is on a national media and church tour to promote his new book, “Let It Go” (Forgive others so you may be forgiven).
Jakes is the senior pastor of The Potter’s House, a nondenominational megachurch in Dallas, Tx. Deliverance Evangelistic Church is the largest church sanctuary in Philadelphia, easily capable of seating several thousand people, and visitors from the tri-state area packed the place to support Jakes. As huge as this audience was, it doesn’t compare to the 30,000 members Jakes preaches to every week at The Potter’s House.
“I have been watching T.D. Jakes for many years, and I cherish his ministry,” said the Rev. Walter Arthur, pastor of Hashem Christian Worship Center in Philadelphia. Arthur and hundreds of other pastors, ministers and evangelists came out in big numbers to support Jakes.
While Jakes was sharing his message of forgiveness, Antoinette Butler stepped out of the sanctuary for a brief moment to buy his book in the lobby. “It’s just an honor and a privilege just to see him in person, just to hear him speak. I read one of his (earlier) books, ‘Woman, Thou Art Loosed;’ (since then) I’ve been attracted to him for years,” admitted Butler.
Jakes’ message of forgiveness obviously resonated with Butler as she shared, “I’m going through a lot of unforgiveness in my own family, so I needed to come here (to receive a word) to minister to my own family." Butler is a proud member of The Church of the Redeemer Baptist in South Philadelphia, where the Rev. Dr. Wayne Croft is the senior pastor.
As Jakes walked across the pulpit, connecting with all sections of the audience, his image was projected on twin jumbo screens, and the enormous mass of people in the sanctuary stayed riveted to his story-telling/Scripture-quoting/psychoanalytical preaching style. Jakes is a multimillionaire and media mogul (i.e., best-selling author, TV and radio personality, music producer and Hollywood movie producer), he’s a bona fide supernova in the galaxy of ministerial leaders.
But as wealthy and famous as Jakes is, he projects a down-to-earth and warm demeanor that comes across as very genuine. He seems to get it. He’s one of those very rich, very powerful and very influential people who have remained grounded, approachable and very grateful for how God has blessed them. And the man is truly funny. He remarked that when he arrived at the church, the parking lot was so packed, “I thought the church was giving away free government cheese!”
E. Steven Collins, director of external relations and Urban Marketing/Radio One, admires how down-to-earth Jakes is on a personal level.
“He’s just real like that, Bishops Jakes is a regular person,” he said. “We truly are blessed, to have in T.D. Jakes (the kind of) leadership to help us…to reinvigorate us, to give us hope…”
Collins also hosts a popular on-air community affairs/news broadcast, “Philly Speaks,” on Sundays at 8 a.m., on 100.3FM/The Beat.
Jeffrey Gilmore, a seven-year member of Deliverance, believes that Jakes’ message on forgiveness was timely, “We need someone (like Jakes) to speak to us…to get to the root of our problems.”
According to Isiaeo Istick, 11, “He’s a good preacher, and I think that he’s spiritual, and he makes me feel the presence (of the Lord).
“People are looking for help,” was Michael Burney’s simple explanation for the capacity crowd in attendance. A 20-year member of Deliverance, Burney worked security detail for the evening.
Jakes’ audience transcended race, socioeconomic strata and age; the capacity crowd included youths, seniors and low-income, affluent, blue-collar, executive, Asian, Latino, African American, white and other diverse people.
During his 90-minute sermon/inspirational message, Jakes dropped many pearls of wisdom; his poignant-thought provoking quotes included:
“Unforgiveness is a useless product, it’s a self-induced affliction!
“Why should the devil curse you, when you’re cursing yourself?”
And there were key moments in between the frequent thunderous bursts of applause and loud praise, when a hush filled the sanctuary, as people were mentally digesting the thought-provoking commentaries that Jake kept hurling like a Cliff Lee fastball. When Jakes made the point about how most people want to genuinely express love toward others, but feel offended when their love isn’t reciprocated, you could hear a pin drop in the eerie silence.
Local radio celebrity Moshay Laren of 100.3FM/WRNB was in attendance, and it was apparent via her tears and jubilant praise that she certainly received a blessing from Jakes’ forgiveness message, “It was a soul-stirring evening. I feel refreshed, I feel rejuvenated, I feel hopeful, I feel replenished…I feel like I can finally let some things go…I’m cleaning out the residuals…I’m no longer playing in the chicken coop, I’m an eagle, I’m spreading my wings, and I’m flying!” This was a reference to one of Jakes’ analogies depicting God’s people as high-flying eagles and not ground-scavenging chickens.
He Rev. Glen Spaulding, senior pastor of Deliverance Evangelistic Church, hosted Jakes’ Philadelphia visit. He said Jakes’ forgiveness message resonated with so many people because, “Forgiveness is needed in every workplace, it’s (needed in) education, whether it’s in the board room, whether it’s in the church, (or) in the family, forgiveness is something that we all have to do, in order to be able to move on with our lives — in power, and in freedom, (to enable us) to walk in the destiny that God has for us.” Spaulding continued, “(God) doesn’t want us to walk around...with baggage from the past...We got to let it go, and move on, so that we can all be what God wants us to be!”
Commenting about his newest book, Jakes said, “(The book) ‘Let It Go’ was birthed out of a message that the Lord put on my heart about 18 months ago and that I began sharing with my church long before ever putting pen to paper. People need to know that forgiveness is the gift that you give yourself. It is a universal message for an appointed time. We no longer have to let our history define our destiny. It is up to us to take from life’s lessons and hurts what (we) can use, and exhale the rest. It’s time to set ourselves free by simply letting it go!”
The evening was a win-win on many different levels: Jakes’ book sales were hot; the local media got their story; the host church was packed; during the altar call, people came forward to give their lives to Christ; and Philadelphians turned out in show their love toward a preacher who certainly reciprocated in expressing his deep love for a city in desperate need of forgiveness.
In T.D. Jakes’ new book, “Let It Go: Forgive So You Can Be Forgiven” (Atria Books; $25), the spiritual leader explores what he calls “the art of forgiveness.” He goes beyond the topical meaning of the word and examines every facet of what it means to forgive and to be forgiven, offers examples as to what may have caused the crisis and provides solutions on how to work through betrayal and accept true forgiveness.
“It is not easy, and it is not for weak people,” said Jakes about forgiveness. “You have to be a strong person to do it. But the rewards justifies the process because some of our greatest minds, our finest artists, our most brilliant people in the world are who they are because they did not acquiesce into the abyss of small thinking, pettiness and unforgiveness; that they conserve their energy for their highest and best use. You can’t be a big person and then act little. You have to be able to move beyond — even tragedies and adversities — and on into the field of possibilities. If you don’t do that you become enslaved by the person and become victimized again, not only because of what they did, but what they continue to absorb from you is more damaging than what that took from you in the incident that you incurred.”
Jakes says he understands that he and fellow Christians share spiritual truths “that transcend time and culture and reflect a universal understanding of human nature.” The spiritual truth he explores in “Let It Go” concerns forgiveness and why it is important for those on the receiving end of wrongful behavior as well as those who commit acts of wrongdoing.
“Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself,” explains Jakes. “It has nothing to do with the perpetrator; it has everything to do with you uncuffing yourself from being tied to them or the incident. And conversely, to be unforgiving is something you do to yourself, because when you don’t forgive, and you continue to carry anger and hostility for long periods of time, it’s like drinking poison and waiting on someone else to die. ... So, unforgiveness is toxic to the person who carries it. It doesn’t defend or protect you from anything, it just causes insomnia, eating disorders, stress and hypertension. Because we have so many people that are going to do something to you all your life, if you’re going to put all of that much energy into all of them, you’re not going to have anything left for the people you love and what you want to do.”
Time magazine and CNN referred to Jakes as “America’s Best Preacher,” and his TV show, The Potter’s Touch, reaches 67 million households per month. So why an entire book on the topic of forgiveness? Because in the tradition of T.D. Jakes, he puts forth forgiveness as a life lesson. “Let It Go” is a comprehensive roadmap to forgiveness, arming readers with the knowledge and spiritual instruction that will enable them to release themselves from past offenses and acts that may be holding them back.
“Forgiveness is essential if we are to grow into the fullness of who God created us to be,” notes Jakes. “When we refuse to forgive, we basically insist on setting our standards higher than God’s. Forgiveness isn’t about weakening you but strengthening you to live again and love again, performing at your highest capacity unencumbered by yesterday’s maladies.”
Bishop T.D. Jakes will visit Deliverance Evangelistic Church, located at 2001 West Lehigh Avenue on March 23 at 7 p.m.
For believers the world over, the Bible is the Inspired Word of God, the guide by which decisions are made, faith is measured and relationships are planted, tended and cultivated.
“The T.D. Jakes Relationship Bible: Life Lessons on Relationships from the Inspired Word of God” (Atria, $39.99) adds new dimension to the age old text.
“The Bible is God’s open love letter to humanity — it is the greatest story ever told,” said Bishop Jakes, senior pastor of the Potter’s House of Dallas Inc. “By peeling back the sacred scripture and delving deeper into God’s vision for how we navigate the continuum between conflict and resolution, harmony and dissension, fear and freedom. With love as the cornerstone, we can get straight to the heart of the matter.”
As leader of a church 30,000-strong, Jakes discovered within his own congregation the need to address the compound subject of relationships from a Biblical perspective.
“The T.D. Jakes Relationship Bible” brings to laser-like focus the union between God and mankind, such as conveyed in the familiar passage of John 3:16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not parish, but have everlasting life.”
For Jakes, the rational behind such a monumental undertaking (the tome is 1,600 pages), was to offer readers the benefit of his erudition.
“Gaining insight into God’s relationship principles is like rotating a kaleidoscope of ever changing forms, shifting patterns and optical illusions until the reflection that what we envision is precisely what God intended.”
The T.D. Jakes Relationship Bible features practical teachings, inspirational lessons, and study tools for those grappling with the difficulties that can arise anywhere “two or more are gathered”: husband/wife, parent/child, worker/boss, doctor/patient, parishioner/pastor, student/teacher, friend/foe.
“Our greatest gift is our interdependence with God,” Jakes said. “As the vine is to the branch, we live our lives in service to others as the penultimate portrait of his sacrificial love for us. ‘The T.D. Jakes Relationship Bible’ unlocks the secrets to relationships and unearths a hidden treasure from within the Inspired Word of God so that we may flourish in our connection to others.”
Whitney Houston — known mostly for being one of the top-selling female vocalists of all time, and later in life, tragically for her bouts with substance abuse — was found dead in the bathtub of her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Saturday, Feb. 11. She was 48.
There’s been a cascade of grief and condolences for Houston, her estranged ex-husband Bobby Brown and the couple’s 18-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina; and the outpouring continued from the many local musical luminaries who knew and worked with the chart-topping diva.
“Whitney Houston was an unbelievable talent and one of the greatest voices of all time. Her passing is a tremendous shock and a terrible shame,” said Sound of Philadelphia creators Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff in a joint statement. “She had a rough life and was under so much pressure as an artist, because she meant so much to the music community. She was one of the most admired singers ever, who was loved by everybody.”
Houston, still trying to fully break into the industry in 1984, recorded the Teddy Pendergrass-duet “Hold Me,” which appeared on Pendergrass’ 1984 album, “Love Language,” the first studio album after the car accident which left him paralyzed.
But it’s that constant grind — the non-stop touring and the incessant requests made of a superstar — that may have contributed to Houston’s downfall. The double-edged sword of fame and celebrity has, in one way or the other, destroyed the lives of a number of celebrities.
“We are all still in shock. She was an amazing talent and a true songbird,” said Kathy Sledge, one of the members of the four-sister group Sister Sledge. “I met her a few times, and the first words that come to mind are spunky, fun and high-spirited. She was everything everyone saw her to be.
“But it’s hard to be an entertainer,” Sledge continued. “It’s a very lonely place. We know what comes with it. I hope this puts in perspective that Whitney is one of those artists you will never see on this planet again.”
Sledge said her and Houston met a few times and nearly became labelmates, but at the last minute, Sledge went with Epic Records while Houston signed with Clive Davis.
“You always want to get inside their head, and I can’t speak for Whitney but I can speak for artists, and I feel like, if anything, give love to her family and lift her up mightily, because that’s what we would want for ourselves,” Sledge said. “I think there will never be another Whitney, another Michael Jackson, another Teena Marie, so I hope fans grasp that they are people, and love them while they are here — embrace them.”
Houston had several connections with Philly music, and many local legends shared their interactions with the multi-platinum singer. As a member of renowned Philadelphia International Records studio band M.F.S.B., legendary drummer Earl Young had the opportunity to accompany Houston during “The Linda Creed Memorial Scholarship Fund Concert,” held at the Civic Center on May 10, 1987.
“She didn’t bring a band, so they hired us to play for the whole show, which was her, George Benson and The Stylistics,” Young said. “She had a keyboard player, and she sang ‘The Greatest Love of All.’ Quite naturally, I was a little nervous because it was the first time I had played for somebody that big since the Uptown [Theater] days, and I wanted to get it right. By me not being the greatest [music] reader in the world, I had to try to make sure everything was perfect, and ‘The Greatest’ is one of those songs that doesn’t really have a tempo — it’s all conducted, and it came out good.
“She was so little and young with such a big voice, that it really kind of blew me away,” Young continued. “I think I spent more time listening to her than I did actually playing. To me, it was an honor to play for somebody as big as her, and when we did sound check, she thanked everybody.”
Others spoke of Houston’s ability to carry a whole musical genre and thank her for contributions likely to go unduplicated.
“We love Whitney Houston so much for sharing her special gift with the world. Whitney took the torch from R&B pioneers before her and carried it to unimaginable heights,” said Rhythm and Blues Foundation chairman Damon Williams. “Our heartfelt condolences go out to all of Whitney’s family members. We are thankful for the many years of support from Whitney’s mom, Cissy Houston, and cousins Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick, who are all recipients of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award.”
While Houston is probably best known for her stunning vocals, she also made inroads as a hit actress, starting on the small screen with a role in 1984 sitcom “Gimme A Break!” before landing her debut silver screen role as Rachel Marron in the 1992 hit, “The Bodyguard,” in which Houston also contributed to the multi-platinum soundtrack. From there, Houston starred in “Waiting To Exhale,” “The Preacher’s Wife” and “Cinderella.” Production just wrapped on the “Sparkle” remake, in which Houston reprises the role of Emma. “Sparkle” is due in theaters later this year.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic and untimely passing of Whitney Houston, whom we were blessed to have just completed work with on the remake of the film ‘Sparkle,’ said producer Bishop T.D. Jakes. “We ask the world to join us in lifting up Whitney’s family in prayer and ask God for their strength and comfort during this devastatingly difficult time.
“At the apex of her career, Whitney had no peer, with a voice that shaped a generation,” continued Jakes. “She has left behind a musical legacy that will endure. She will be sorely missed by us all.”
Bishop T.D Jakes will bring his “Let It Go” service and book signing to Deliverance Evangelistic Church, 2001 W. Lehigh Ave. in Philadelphia on Thursday, March 29 at 7 p.m.
Jakes is founder and senior pastor of The Potter’s House of Dallas, which has more than 30,000 members and more than 50 outreach ministries.
Utilizing his talents as an author and an actor, Jakes has become a vocal leader in the African-American community. His sermons are broadcast nationally and internationally.
He has written more than 30 books, many of which have been on the New York Times best-sellers list.
The Rev. Glen Spaulding is the senior pastor of Deliverance Evangelistic Church.
“On the 7th Day” (Atria Books, $24.99) by T.D. Jakes continues the bestselling author’s exploration of marriage and is based on the second installment in his thought-provoking “Woman Thou Art Loosed!” film franchise. The film drama, “On the 7th Day,” featured Blair Underwood (“Madea’s Family Reunion,” “Set It Off”) and Sharon Leal (“Why Did I Get Married Too?,” “This Christmas”), and both are featured on the book’s cover. In addition to being an entrepreneur and filmmaker, Jakes is also the founder and senior pastor of The Potter’s House of Dallas, Inc.
A husband (Davis, played by Underwood in the movie) and wife (Kari, portrayed by Leal) find themselves in the midst of a crisis after their young daughter is kidnapped. The couple must race against time to find their child, who is believed to have been abducted by a serial killer that symbolically murders his victims, “On the 7th Day.” During their desperate search, a series of deep, dark, damaging secrets unveil a troubling past, putting the marriage and their futures in jeopardy.
The use of the number seven in the title is metaphorical, and symbolizes the timeline within the film by which the protagonists must resolve the mystery of their daughter’s abduction or face dire, unimaginable consequences. Like the movie, the book is a suspenseful race against the clock thriller which takes readers on a seven-day journey inside the souls and secrets of a married couple fighting to save their kidnapped child, while relying on their faith, strength and religious convictions to rebuild a broken marriage against all odds.
LOS ANGELES — Whitney Houston's life of glorious song and unnerving self-destruction apparently ended in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Grammy weekend, but it could be weeks before investigators know exactly why she died.
Coroner's officials say they will not release any information on an autopsy performed Sunday at the request of police detectives investigating the singer's death. Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter declined to say anything more about the room's condition or any evidence investigators recovered.
There were no indications of foul play and no obvious signs of trauma on Houston's body, but officials were not ruling out any causes of death until they have toxicology results, which likely will take weeks to obtain. Beverly Hills Police Lt. Mark Rosen said that his agency may release more details Monday about Houston's death, but it will depend on whether detectives feel comfortable releasing any information.
Security holds on autopsy results are used in some high-profile Los Angeles cases, with Michael Jackson's results being withheld for weeks while detectives pieced together the circumstances of his death in 2009. Toxicology results are frequently necessary before the coroner will release an official cause of death.
A member of Houston's entourage found the 48-year-old singer unresponsive in her hotel room on Saturday, just hours before she was supposed to appear at a pre-Grammy gala.
The Grammys on Sunday were in part a memorial to Houston, a six-time winner. LL Cool J introduced a clip near the start of the show of a glowing Houston singing her signature ballad, a cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You."
Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Wonder were among performers who praised Houston, and Jennifer Hudson capped the tributes with an emotional version of "I Will Always Love You" that ended with a personal note: "Whitney, we love you." Houston's most famous song was the most downloaded single for much of Sunday on iTunes.
Meanwhile, Houston's daughter was transported by ambulance to a Los Angeles hospital Sunday morning and later released. Bobbi Kristina Brown, 18, who is Houston's daughter from her marriage to singer Bobby Brown, had accompanied her mother to several pre-Grammy Awards events last week.
"At this time, we ask for privacy, especially for my daughter, Bobbi Kristina," Bobby Brown wrote in a statement. "I appreciate all of the condolences that have been directed towards my family and I at this most difficult time."
A sensation from her very first album, Houston was one of the world's best-selling artists from the mid-1980s to the late 1990s. She awed millions with soaring but disciplined vocals rooted in gospel and polished for the masses, a bridge between the earthy passion of her godmother, Aretha Franklin, and the bouncy pop of her cousin, Dionne Warwick.
Her success carried her beyond music to movies, where she became a rare black actress with box office appeal, starring in such hits as "The Bodyguard" and "Waiting to Exhale."
Bishop T.D. Jakes, a Texas minister and producer on Houston's final film project, a re-make of the 1970s release "Sparkle," said he saw no signs Houston was having any substance issues. He said Houston was a complete professional and moved the cast and crew to tears two months ago when she sang the gospel hymn "Her Eyes on the Sparrow" for a scene.
"There was no evidence in working with her on 'Sparkle' that there was any struggle in her life," Jakes said Sunday. "She just left a deep impression on everybody." -- (AP)