R&B star Alicia Keys to host 2019 Grammy Awards

Alicia Keys, is a 15-time Grammy winner and sold more than 30 million records. (AFP)
Updated 16 January 2019

R&B star Alicia Keys to host 2019 Grammy Awards

  • Alicia Keys will replace James Corden, British-late night comedian, who hosted two years in a row
  • Numerous female performers are contending for the awards this year

LOS ANGELES: American singer and songwriter Alicia Keys will host the Grammy Awards next month, she announced Tuesday, one year after the gala came under fire over diversity concerns.
Keys -- herself a 15-time Grammy winner -- will be the emcee for music's biggest night, which this year features a diverse slate of women and hip hop artists as leading contenders.
"I know what it feels like to be on that stage, and I know what it feels like to be proud of the work that you've put in and to be recognized for it," Keys said in a video posted on social media.
"I feel like it's the perfect opportunity for me to give the light back and lift people up -- especially all the young women that are nominated," she added.
"To me, it feels like sister vibes."
Keys replaces James Corden, the British-late night comedian who has hosted the awards the past two years.
Since releasing her blockbuster album "Songs in A Minor" in 2001, classically trained pianist Keys has sold more than 30 million records and become a successful film, television and Broadway producer.
Her appointment as Grammy host comes after the Recording Academy -- which organizes the event -- faced backlash that the show is consistently too male and too white.
Academy head Neil Portnow said in May he would step aside when his contract expires later this year, after he triggered outrage after saying women artists should "step up."
"A dynamic artist with the rare combination of groundbreaking talent and passion for her craft, Alicia Keys is the perfect choice as host for our show," Portnow said in a statement.
Rap superstar Kendrick Lamar is leading the Grammy pack with eight nominations, propelled mostly by his work on the "Black Panther" soundtrack.
Women performers also boast a heavy presence in top categories after being largely snubbed a year ago.
Rapper Cardi B, pop diva Lady Gaga and folk-rock singer Brandi Carlile all nabbed key nominations for the show, which will take place on February 10 in Los Angeles.


‘My quest’: Priyanka Chopra brings Bollywood to Toronto

Updated 14 September 2019

‘My quest’: Priyanka Chopra brings Bollywood to Toronto

  • Priyanka Chopra was the first Indian actress to lead a primetime US series
  • ‘The Sky is Pink is Chopra’s first Hindi-language film in three year

TORONTO: No Indian star has made a bigger splash in Hollywood than Priyanka Chopra — and the “Baywatch” actress said she is on a quest to shatter myths about Bollywood, including its approach to sex.
Chopra was the first Indian actress to lead a primetime US series with FBI thriller “Quantico,” and cemented her global celebrity status by marrying pop singer Nick Jonas last December.
That star power secured a glitzy, red-carpet slot at Toronto’s film festival for “The Sky is Pink,” Chopra’s first Hindi-language film in three years. It is the only Asian film on the prestigious gala lineup at North America’s biggest movie festival.
“People get surprised when they see ‘The Sky is Pink’ and they’re like, ‘this is not a Bollywood movie.’ Bollywood is not a genre!” Chopra said ahead of the premiere Friday.
“It really is my quest to educate people in that.”
Directed by Shonali Bose, “The Sky is Pink” tells the tragic true story of Aisha Chaudhary, an inspirational Delhi teenager whose life was cut short by a rare genetic disorder.
Chaudhary delivered a TED talk and wrote a book on her battle before her death in 2015 at the age of 18. But the film focuses on her parents, exploring how their marriage and love — and even their sex life — survived the loss of two children.
Until recently kissing was rarely shown in films made by conservative Bollywood, better known abroad for its colorful musical numbers and fairytale romantic plots.
“I don’t think we haven’t spoken about sexuality in Indian films — we do,” said Chopra, 37. “I think sexuality is spoken about in many different ways in Indian cinema.”
“It’s culturally sensitive, yes,” she added. “India is an amalgamation of modernity and tradition. And this film is made by a modern Indian. So hence, you see what her language is. This is true to who she is.”
Bose, whose own marriage ended after she lost her son, was approached by Chaudhary’s parents to make the film.
Chaudhary had been a fervent fan of the director’s work, and never fulfilled her “dying wish” to see Bose’s previous film “Margarita With A Straw.”
Bose said she was moved by the request but chose to focus on the parents after learning of their “amazing” love story and care for their child.
“They wanted the film to be about their heroic dying teenage girl, and I don’t feel she would’ve wanted to be on a pedestal — actually she was really cool and humble,” she said.
Chopra, who does not have children, said she drew on others’ experiences, including Bose’s, to play Chaudhary’s mother Aditi.
But there is plenty of Chopra in the role too. At one point her character is described as “the ‘almost’ Miss India.” Chopra herself was crowned Miss World in 2000.
As beauty pageants led to acting, Chopra, who attended school in the US, said she held onto her global outlook.
Also a singer, Chopra has released songs with US chart-toppers including Pitbull and The Chainsmokers.
“It’s a genuine quest of mine to be able to cross-pollinate cultures, and to be able to take Indian cinema to the globe as much as I can,” she said, adding: “It’s not the language that’s the barrier — it is the fear of the unknown.”
Movie-mad India has the largest film industry in the world in terms of the number produced — up to 2,000 every year in more than 20 languages, according to industry data.
Bollywood star Akshay Kumar regularly appears in Forbes’ annual list of the world’s top 10 highest-paid actors.
In recent years Bollywood’s influence has spread in North America, thanks to a growing, affluent South Asian diaspora — and a smattering of Western converts.
But while other Bollywood actors and actresses have landed high-profile roles in the US, such as Deepika Padukone in 2017’s “XXX: Return of Xander Cage,” none are as recognizable as Chopra.
“I really hope that there’s so many more entertainers from India that get the opportunity and push themselves toward global entertainment,” said Chopra.
“The world of entertainment is so global now,” she added. “With streaming coming in everyone from anywhere can watch anything.”