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Character actress Carol Speed died Friday at her home in Muskogee, Oklahoma, her family announced. She was 76.

Born Carol Ann Bennett Stewart in Bakersfield, California, Speed was the first Black homecoming queen in Santa Clara County.

Speed is best known for her roles in blaxploitation films The Mack, Black Samson and Abby.

She played Lulu, Max Julien's prostitute in The Mack (1973), a possessed woman in Abby (1974), and the girlfriend of a lion-owning club owner (Rockne Tarkington) in Black Samson (1974).
 
RELATED: RIP: Max Julien, Star of ‘The Mack’, Dead at 88
 

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Speed's The Mack co-star Max Julien died on New Year's Day at age 88.

Speed also played an inmate opposite Pam Grier in The Big Bird Cage (1972) and she was left stranded at the alter by Lamont (Demond Wilson) in the "Sanford and Son" episode "Here Comes the Bride, There Goes the Bride."

She starred on an episode of NBC's Julia opposite Diahann Carroll and had a recurring role on the NBC daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives in 1970.

Speed had one child, a son, who died. She leaves behind a grandson, Marc, and sister Barbara.

Watch scenes from The Mack featuring Carol Speed and Max Julien below.
 

 

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Actress Ion Overman is among 19 people indicted for federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) fraud in Atlanta, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Since all 19 defendants had business ties in Atlanta or live in Atlanta, they were charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of Georgia.

The separate indictments linked the fraudulent PPP loan applications to a single Atlanta-based businessman who was paid a fee for each successful loan.

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Overman, 45, is best known for her roles as Det. Elena Ruiz in CBS' Wisdom of the Crowd, Candace Jewell in The L Word (pictured with Jennifer Beals), and as Linda, Derek Luke's fiancée in Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail.

She also had a recurring role as Maria Scott in Desperate Housewives.

Also indicted were music producer Carlos "Clos" Stephens, actor Dale Godboldo, and media personality Marvin Lewton, aka "Shadi Powers."

Mark C. Mason Jr., of Atlanta, was charged separately in the six other lawsuits as an "unindicted co-conspirator," according to court documents obtained by the AJC.

According to the documents, Mason is accused of submitting fraudulent PPP loan applications for two of his own businesses, Atlanta Business Capital and Advocate Business Capital. He received nearly $600,000. He is also accused of assisting the other defendants in submitting fraudulent PPP loan applications.

If the loans applications were successful, Mason assessed a "success fee" of between 2-5%, the documents said.

One of the defendants, Melissa Myrick, who worked for the IRS, allegedly supplied Mason with signed PPP applications that contained blank spaces for the number of employees.

Mason reportedly filed in the missing information after speaking with the other defendants.

The complete list of defendants are:

  • David Burge, of Tennessee, CEO, and president of Elemental Comfort LLC
  • Gina Destito, of California, owner of HomePoppins.com LLC
  • Jim White, of New Jersey, owner of AJW Home Services and Design LLC
  • Richard Mahee, of New Jersey, owner, and president of ARG Media LLC
  • Kristen Alexander, of Colorado
  • Morgan Brown, of Tennessee, owner and CEO of BHG LLC
  • Michael McGee Jr., of Georgia, owner of Arc Michael Logistics LLC
  • Marcos Soza, of Arizona, owner of Yes Auto Sales Inc
  • Melissa Myrick, of Florida, an employee with the IRS
  • Michael Myrick, of Florida, owner of MYCO Enterprises LLC
  • Kirk Codrington, of North Carolina, owner of KC Global Enterprises Inc
  • Dereck Clark, of Florida, owner of Dee's Landscaping LLC
  • Darius McCants, of Alabama, CEO, and owner of BBF Inc
  • Dondre Berry, of Georgia, CEO and owner of Houzzit Inc
  • Mark C. Mason Jr., of Georgia, owner of Atlanta Business Capital

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Breakout star, entrepreneur, and bestselling author, Taja V Simpson is making waves on the current season of BET's & Tyler Perry's, The Oval.

She is best known for her role as long-suffering wife and White House staffer Priscilla Owen in BET's #1 scripted cable drama, Tyler Perry's THE OVAL.

Taja was born and raised in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and is very proud of her southern roots. Her journey hasn't always been easy, but it's been worth it.

Taja has quickly become one of the screen's most sought-after artists. She is starring in her new film Lola 2, which is slated to begin production in March 2022.

Through this success, she launched her own academy, The Working Actors Academy, which helps advise up and coming actors.

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The award-winning actress believes in helping others and sharing knowledge within the industry. She created The Working Actors Academy to help show actors the ins and outs of how the business works -- a skill that isn't shown or taught really anywhere else.

Membership with TWAA gives an inside look, into the business and teaches aspiring and working actors how to successfully book jobs and has received rave reviews since its inception.

Entertainment isn't the only thing Taja is passionate about. She also loves the beauty industry and she's all about bold looks and bright colors. She started a lipstick line called the Taja V. Simpson Collection.

At the moment, she has three different shades of lipstick on sale in her online store. Taja also launched her own hair growth line, "TAJ. Hair Growth." The company was born out of her own past experiences with hair problems.

Taja is co-author of a best-selling book, "Cracking the Acting Code," which teaches aspiring actors how to jumpstart their acting careers.

Source: Press release

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Actress, jazz singer and composer Suzzanne Douglas has passed away. The 64-year-old actress died on Tuesday, July 6, according to her cousin Angie Tee's post on Facebook.

A cause of death has not been revealed.

"Suzzanne Douglas a beautiful and talented actress made her transition today. She warmed our hearts on movie screens and television sets all over the world. This beautiful soul was my cousin," the post read.

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Angie Tee continued:

"I can remember growing up, there weren't very many black actresses who had starring roles but there was my cousin with the lead role in Tap starring alongside great dancers such as Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. She also performed with Angela Bassett and Whoopi Goldberg in How Stella Got Her Groove Back, The Inkwell, Jason's Lyric and so much more the list goes on. The world will miss your talent but your soul will live on forever Rest in Paradise my beautiful cousin Suzzane [sic] you will be missed RIP."

As well as starring in When They See Us, Suzzanne had starring roles in WB series The Parent 'Hood and Whitney, in which she played Cissy Houston.

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Actress Ellie Kemper, best known for her role in the TV series "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," was once crowned queen at a KKK ball.

Kemper, 41, starred in the TV series from 2015 to 2019. She played a woman who is rescued from a doomsday cult and begins a new life in New York City. The series also starred comics Tina Fey and Tituss Burgess (pictured above with Kemper).

A photo showing then-teenage Kemper being named queen of the Veiled Prophet Ball in St. Louis prompted accusations of white supremacy.

The photo was published by the Post-Dispatch newspaper in 1999. The photo caption reads: "Elizabeth Claire Kemper, as the 1999 Veiled Prophet Queen of Love and Beauty, is attended by her pages."

According to the NY Post's Page Six, "The Veiled Prophet is said to be dressed with a white klan-style hood and robe while armed with a pistol and rifle."

Another Post-Dispatch article described Kemper as a 19-year-old freshman student at Princeton University.

A Twitter user posted the newspaper image along with the caption: "So was no one gonna tell me Ellie kemper aka kimmy Schmidt was crowned KKK queen in 1999."

Film critic Jon Negroni tweeted:

"it really is something that Ellie Kemper was the star of a tv show about a woman who leaves a racist cult and tries to rebrand herself while pretending it never happened. no reason why I’m bringing this up of course,” film critic Jon Negroni tweeted."

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Actress Ashley Taylor Gerren passed away in her sleep at 4:30 a.m. on Sunday, her family confirmed in a statement on Monday. She was 30.

Essence.com first reported the news of the actress's untimely death. She was previously known as Gerren Taylor.

Ashley became the youngest model ever signed by the runway division of LA Models. She was also signed with the Ford Modeling Agency and was booked by the designers Tracy Reese, Tommy Hilfiger and Betsey Johnson.

Although no official cause of death was disclosed, Ashley's friends on Facebook and Instagram say she recently took the Covid-19 mRNA vaccine.

"I told you not to get that vxxxxxe ash f***," a commenter wrote under a photo of the "Baldwin Hills" star on Monday.

It isn't clear which vaccine Ashley received, but the Johnson & Johnson single injection vaccine has been blamed for multiple incidents of blood clots in the brain.

Tributes poured in on social media for the fresh-faced beauty who was known as the "It Girl."

Ray Cunningham, Ashley's co-star on BET's College Hill reality series in 2006, took to social media and wrote: "Just got the worst news. I hate it's on the internet already. RIP to my @BET fam, my babes Gerren (Baldwin Hills)."

Ashley leaves behind a pre-teen daughter.
 

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Beloved actress Cicely Tyson has passed away at aged 96. Her cause of death is unknown.

Tyson's longtime manager, Larry Thompson, confirmed the sad news in a statement on Thursday, Jan. 28 - two days after the release of her memoir, Just As I Am.

The statement read: "I have managed Miss Tyson's career for over 40 years, and each year was a privilege and blessing. Cicely thought of her new memoir as a Christmas tree decorated with all the ornaments of her personal and professional life. Today she placed the last ornament, a Star, on top of the tree."

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The multi-Emmy winner's credits included the films The Help, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, and Sounder, in which she portrayed the matriarch of a Depression-era sharecropper family.

She also starred in TV drama How to Get Away with Murder, playing the mother of Viola Davis' character, Annalise Harkness. She portrayed abolitionist and slave escape leader Harriet Tubman in the 1978 TV series A Woman Called Moses, and she tackled the role of Martin Luther King, Jr's wife, Coretta Scott King, in TV mini-series King.

Tyson also showed off her comedy skills in Tyler Perry's films Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea's Family Reunion.

Born in Harlem, New York City in 1924, Tyson began her career as a model and landed her first acting role on the U.S. TV series Frontiers of Faith in 1951. She landed her first movie credit as Dottie in 1957's Carib Gold.

She was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and she received an Honorary Oscar in 2018.

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Natalie Desselle-Reid, who starred in films including B*A*P*S, and the UPN TV series, Eve, has died from colon cancer. She was 53.

Reid was diagnosed with colon cancer earlier this year. She died in hospice care, surrounded by family, according to TMZ.

Her death was confirmed by actress Holly Robinson Peete, who announced that Reid died Monday morning from colon cancer. No further details were given.

"Just absolutely decimated by this news... Actress Natalie Desselle, a bright shining star passed away this morning," Holly Robinson Peete wrote on Twitter. "I got to know her when my mom was managing her. She will be so missed... sending out prayers to her children and husband. Rest In Peace, Sweet Girl."

Desselle-Reid was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. She starred in many films, including Madea's Big Happy Family, and guest starred in Family Matters. She is best known for her role as Mickey in B*A*P*S with Halle Berry.

She also had a bit role as Tanika in the all-female bank heist film Set It Off (1996).

Desselle-Reid is survived by her husband, Leonard, and three children.

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Actress Viola Davis says she expects to be treated like she was born with less melanin than her Hollywood counterparts.

Davis, 55, says her dark skin has resulted in a "lack of access to opportunities" in Hollywood. She demands to sit at the same table with her white counterparts.

In an interview with InStyle magazine, the Oscar winner compares the disparity to eating the finest steak instead of leftovers.

"I want and I expect to get the same filet mignon that white actresses get!"

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She added: "Cooked at the exact temperature. You cannot throw me a bone with a really nice little piece of meat still on it and expect that's good enough for me. I love my collard greens and all of that, and I know we were given the leftovers. I know how to cook that, but I want a filet mignon."

The Ma Rainey's Black Bottom star goes on to say she "fully expects changes" to occur in Hollywood. But the slow changes are driving her to drink.

"I'm trying to lift my hopes up. Even if it takes a little bit of vodka. If we don't move forward together, then we don’t move forward."

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Actress Nia Long turns 50 today (Oct. 30). The gorgeous actress rose to fame in the 1991 iconic film Boyz n the Hood. She is considered one of the most beautiful Black women in Hollywood.

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Nia's movie roles include Friday, Love Jones, Soul Food, The Best Man, Big Momma's House and Are We There Yet?.

The Brooklyn native was 2 years old when her parents divorced. She moved with her mother, Talita, to Iowa City, Iowa, to study fine arts. They moved to South Los Angeles when Nia was 7.

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Nia's earliest role was in the Disney television movie, The B.R.A.T. Patrol. Later she starred in the television series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Third Watch and Empire.

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Nia shares a son, Kez Sunday Udoka, with her longtime fiancé Ime Udoka. Her firstborn son, Massai Dorsey, 20, played her screen son in Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club (2014).

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Nia is pictured with her sons in 2012 and below in 2019. Take a trip down memory lane with Nia Long in the gallery!

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