Tony-Award winning actress and Broadway star, LaChanze, has been gearing up for her national tour and preparing to launch her new EP called Feeling Good. Beginning on Monday, February 27th at the Highline Ballroom in NYC, LaChanze will be sharing the music of her heart and soul. Before hitting the road and embarking on her adventure, LaChanze talks to SWAAY about her journey recording the EP, her musical influences, and the importance of music in her life.
Winning the 2006 Tony Award for “Best Actress in a Musical” in the original cast of The Color Purple, LaChanze is commonly known as a Broadway legend. She also has stared in musicals such as If/Then, Once on This Island, and Ragtime, as well as movies like Hercules and The Help. Now, LaChanze is expanding her horizons by beginning to create her own dialogue with her new EP Feeling Good. “I am used to having people write for me and reading scripts, but it is so amazing to work on original pieces,” LaChanze said, “sometimes I will wake up with a melody in my head, and I would take my phone and make a voice memo of me humming the tune, all while I am still in bed.”
The EP is based on her personal experiences and journeys that have impacted her life. “I talk about my favorite music from the late 60’s and 70’s, and how that music impacted my life,” LaChanze says.
“I also talk about my late husband, and how my children helped me get through those tough times.” Through the EP, she aims to touch and influence the audience by taking them on her personal journey through sharing the music of her life. “The music that I am performing during my tour has influenced my life and helped me become the woman I am today,” said LaChanze.
Feeling Good is meant to uplift the audience by inspiring them to reflect on their personal journeys, and help them through whatever they are dealing. LaChanze’s new EP is about comfort, hope, faith, and inspiring others. The Feeling Good tour begins in early March and will occur all across the country. “I am looking forward to traveling to new cities and inspiring people to look at the Broadway community differently,” said LaChanze.
Along with preparing for her national tour, LaChanze is also writing a memoir about her life so far. “My life has been pretty interesting, and I have gone through quite a bit of things that people may not know of,” said LaChanze. She has also written a children’s book Little Diva, which presents a story about a day in the life of a little girl with big Broadway dreams.
“Feeling Good is a peak into my life through song,” stated LaChanze. The tour will give listeners a peek into her life through song with original material as well as musical highlights from her career. “I found some really great music, some original and some that people are familiar with, as well as some that people know me from in the musical theater world,” said LaChanze. As of now, LaChanze is focusing on her our, but will go back to Broadway after her daughter graduates from high school.
“The journey has been tumultuous at time, but also very inspiring, and at the end of the day, I want to inspire others by telling my story,” stated LaChanze.
To follow LaChanze on her musical journey, follow her on Twitter at @laChanze or instagram at @mslachanze.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.