Malinda Williams speaks on Love and Relationships

Detroit CEO Magazine caught up with the lovely Malinda Williams to talk about the relationship and love dynamics of the film and the importance of depicting wholesome images of black love throughout the media. Here’s what she had to say.

Malinda Williams

Christmas just ain’t Christmas without the one you love. The O’Jays knew what they were talking about when they penned the popular tune. The star-studded cast of UPTV Network’s holiday film Marry Us For Christmas reflects that with a heaping dose of reality. The must-see family film debuted on December 7 starring Malinda Williams, Karon Joseph Riley, Victoria Rowell, Kristoff St. John, GregAlan Williams, Marques Houston, Carl Payne, DeEtta West, Dawn Halfkenny and Chrystale Wilson. Tensions were high as an engaged Marcy (Malinda Williams) and Blair (Karon Riley) announced that their pending nuptials would come early than expected—like Christmas Day. Excitement brews as planning for a wedding, family traditions and scandalous dark secrets threatened to cast a damper on the entire season. (You’ll have to watch it to see how it all turns out). Detroit CEO Magazine caught up with the lovely Malinda Williams to talk about the relationship and love dynamics of the film and the importance of depicting wholesome images of black love throughout the media. Here’s what she had to say.

Hello Malinda how are you?

I am awesome thank you.

It’s good to speak with you again.

Likewise. Thank you.

How are your holidays going?

Well I live in Los Angeles so it always takes me a minute to realize that it’s the holiday season because the season hasn’t changed, the leaves didn’t change and it didn’t get cold. So it’s not until the lights start to go up that I go oh right it’s Christmas.

Indeed. We do receive the four seasons here in Michigan.


Congratulations on another amazing film. You look phenomenal as always. I already know most of your beauty secrets so keep up the great work.

Oh thank you. I appreciate that.

You’re welcome. And speaking of such, the wardrobes on this film were amazing would you agree?

Yes. We had a really great wardrobe department and let me tell you, I always commend wardrobe. I think it is the toughest gig on any film or television project. I mean there are so many changes and so much shopping. And then sometimes things don’t fit. Sometimes it’s the wrong colors and they’re clashing. It’s just so much to have to keep in mind of matching and continuity until I really commend our wardrobe department on this project because they did a great job—and it’s not an easy job to do.

Malinda what are your thoughts on how this film emphasized important issues on love and relationships?

I think one of things that it focused on is this idea that honesty is the best policy and that there really isn’t room for secrets in the relationship. We saw that with my character Marcy Jewel and my fiancé Blair, and how we’ve come to realize that each one has been keeping a very important secret from the other. It really threatened to jeopardize everything that they built as well as what they intended to build going forward. So if you’re in a relationship or have been in a relationship and I’m sure that everyone has at this point, you’ve thought about should I tell my partner that or should I share that. It really makes you think about those kinds of conversations.

Trust issues developed as you both seemed to lead with a quiet hand. What do you feel were some of the critical points about love and trust reflected in the film?

It really was about being on the same page and communicating. I think that’s one of the things you saw in the film where Marcy and Blair—even though there was this one thing that each of them did not properly communicate to each other, overall, communication existed where they had to consult one another. It was where if we’re going to build a life together that we’re going to have to figure out how to do each thing we want to do together. So there were lots of things they had to compromise within the relationship for the relationship. There were lots of things that were true in terms of what lots of couple go through.

I agree. Many junctures in this film were very relatable to the real world especially with mom, played by Victoria Rowell, dating a younger man who was really a suitable mate for you. Do you think that would be really hard for you in real life or is love—love?

Well listen I would like to say that I’d think that love is love. I would love to say that. However if confronted with that in reality, if my mom were to date a younger man (and by the way my mom is happily married to my father). But if my mom came home saying I’m dating someone that you should be dating, I really don’t know how I’d feel about that (laughing). I’d be very uncomfortable.

I get it. How important do you think is it for the world to see images of healthy black love? Not perfect images, but progressive images of two people working together.

I cannot stress the importance of us seeing those images of ourselves in love and love relationships. First of all it is rare that we get to see that. So when those images aren’t depicted in media, we tend to think that they do not exist. We then begin to emulate what we don’t see or what we think is unimportant. And so for us to be able to see couples working through issues and staying together, or even if they are not staying together but it’ still very amicable then that is always a good thing. They’re grown-ups. They are able to communicate and love one another. That is so important because I believe the most important thing is love. God, love and family are the three most important things. So yes we need to see a plethora of those images in film and television, books, art and everywhere. And like you said, it’s not just about being perfect, it’s about being true and progressive. There is no such thing as perfect people. There’s no such thing as perfect love, but whatever it is, we need to see it.

You had great chemistry with Blair and everyone on the set. Is there a ritual you perform to ensure all your roles fit for you and the cast?

Well you definitely have to look at the script and determine whether or not you’ll be able to bring authenticity to the character. That’s number one. In my opinion if you can’t do that then leave it alone. And as far as chemistry, you’re so right because I do tend to have great chemistry with my co-stars and I think it starts with knowing that I can bring that authenticity to that character and so I fit in the role. It is not a role that is so far outside of that what I believe. And I’m also very genuinely happy to be working. And I am happy to be working with the people that I’m working with. So even if I don’t have a relationship outside of that project with that particular actor, I’m excited to be there with them. And that comes through as chemistry.

I always ask is there anything you learned about yourself with this project?

(Laughing) Interesting. After seeing it and watching the characters go through what they went through, it really just reinforced how important communication and understanding is. It is understanding and having compassion about what the other one is going through. That has to go both ways in the relationship in order for it to be progressive as you stated. That is definitely one thing that made me take a second look.

Were there any instances on this film where you add-lib?  

There was definitely quite a bit of ad-libbing. We didn’t change anything, but our writer encouraged us to be natural. She wanted us to make it more real and authentic. She really encouraged that.

The UPTV Network promotes wholesome programming for the entire family. Would you agree that there’s definitely a need for more of this?

Oh I love UPTV and Aspire TV which is the sister network. And you are so right, we need those alternatives. And so I’m very excited about the programs they are doing. I do the Aspire Network’s Talk Show EXHALE so it is very uplifting, helpful, educational and fun.

Are you currently working on additional programming for EXHALE TV?

Yes we are starting our third season this coming January. So look out for the new episodes to surface probably in late spring.

Malinda what are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

My family gathers together at my mom and dad’s house. It’s my immediate family as well as some of my extended family. And one our favorite traditions is the ‘GRAB BAG’. This is where we play a game where everyone takes a number and the gifts are all lined up on the table. You then get to pick your gift based on what number you pulled. And everyone who has already pulled can either pull from the table or they can pick someone else’s gift. So that is very fun. And some of the gifts are great and some are really crappy. So it’s always fun.

Thank you Malinda and congratulations again on a great film. Happy holidays to you.

Check the UPTV network’s program listing to see Marry Us For Christmas—a movie for the entire family and connect with Malinda Williams on Twitter @MalinsWorld.

Leslie J. Griffin is a certified Life Coach, fitness advocate and Celebrity Entertainment Editor for Detroit CEO Magazine. Connect with her on Twitter @OneStopCoach.


Dr. Arica Johnson makes TOUCHDOWNS for Women and Education

Education ‘runs’ in the family—literally. Dr. Arica Johnson is a champion for women, optimal health and education. As the Vice President of the Calvin Johnson Jr. Foundation she directs the day-to-day operations to ensure underserved students are given opportunities to attend college. She spoke exclusively with Detroit CEO Magazine about the state of educational leadership, women’s health and transformational change.

By: Leslie J. Griffin

Education ‘runs’ in the family—literally. Dr. Arica Johnson is a champion for women, optimal health and education. As the Vice President of the Calvin Johnson Jr. Foundation she directs the day-to-day operations to ensure underserved students are given opportunities to attend college. Dr. Johnson is a highly-respected speaker, educator and expert in the field of mathematics and science. She spoke exclusively with Detroit CEO Magazine about the state of educational leadership, women’s health and transformational change. Her amazing story of overcoming cancer is a miracle of light and energy for those who have walked the journey. On Friday, September 26, 2014 6:00pm, Dr. Johnson was the keynote speaker at Christian Tabernacle’s Jackets, Jewels and Jeans event at Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.

As an educator for many years, how would you describe the current state of educational leadership and do you think it’s effective.

The current state of educational leadership is focused on strategic, organizational and quality content. It comprised of skill teacher experts, teaching and learning, curriculum reform, positive culture and climate, community and parental support, along with data-driven student achievement. I think it is effective as long as the leader’s results with support from all stakeholders to transform the primary customers “students” by providing quality learning opportunities whereby they can become productive citizens who leave school or college career-ready.

The parent-to-child relationship has always been crucial for the success of the student. How does your consulting firm work to see that this relationship is effective?

My company, Education Transformation LLC was formed in 2013. I am in the process of building a team of leaders who will work with me to support the parent-to-child relationship. The relationship will be in place once my company has opportunities to consult with businesses and schools whose businesses focus on quality parent-to-child relationships. The input of parent-to-child relationship experts via forums, parents and children setting goals together, parent-to-child relationship assessment, communication analysis and content and skill-based tutoring will determine if our outputs of creating intergenerational change, inspiring self-efficacy, adding value and making an impact are effective.

Your entire family is educated and most of them are in the medical field. Was this something you and Mr. Johnson Sr. planned for your children?

My husband and I have always been around educators who taught different disciplines and principals who were part of our family. When I thought about attending college I wanted to pursue a Fine Arts degree, but my dad insisted that I needed something to fall back on. So I agreed and obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Art Education, later obtaining certification in early Childhood Education. A few years later I pursued a Masters in middle grades Mathematics and Science, worked in an urban school district as a model teacher leader and facilitator of mathematics and science. I was also project manager for Mathematics and Science Department.

It was very important for us to ensure our kids saw how much fun they could have learning about science and mathematics concepts and skills growing up. Our children watched me on numerous occasions preparing exciting activities and presentations for students, teachers and administrators. I always shared how important mathematics and science learning would prepare them to be college and career- ready. If you look at the research right now, there are not many African Americans pursuing math, science or engineering, particularly women.

As parents we planned mathematics and science opportunities and made resources available for our children to focus and target their interest in mathematics and science. Presently Erica, our oldest daughter has two degrees: Bachelors/Biology and PhD/Biomedical Research. NFL Pro-Bowler Calvin “Megatron” Johnson wanted to be a dentist and later changed his decision once he entered Georgia Tech as a Mechanical Engineer major. Wali’, who is four years younger than Calvin is in his third year of medical school. Our fourth child, Sarai is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Science degree.

You’re very passionate about math and science.

Absolutely. As a teacher I taught math and science and made it fun and exciting. I always put my children in groups and differentiated their mathematics and science learning to make sure it was on their level and that success could take place. I also provided hands-on opportunities for them to see the everyday applications to mathematics and science in the real world. Even if the school I was assigned to did not have the money budgeted for certain lesson activities that required hands-on products and manipulatives, I made a way for it to happen. And the students loved it.

Please talk about your leadership at the Calvin Johnson Jr. Foundation.

As Vice President I am there to step in when Calvin is not able to handle a meeting. I help him with strategic design with other Board members in terms of where he wants to take the organization. I work to secure additional sponsorship support, provide leadership, lead fundraising efforts, build partnerships and refine program plans for the CJJRF investment in quality initiatives. Some of those initiatives are leadership conferences, STEM Education, physical fitness and health awareness and community support for the underserved. Every year the foundation focuses thousands of dollars on scholarships and book awards to assist cohort scholars.

What’s been one of your proudest moments with the organization being under your helm?

When the ‘Leaders With a Mission Leadership Conference’ was established and implemented in 2010, Calvin always wanted to have a conference for leaders, so co-executive director Erica and I worked together and made it become a reality. Being able to bring metro Detroit and Atlanta scholars back every year to network and enhance their content and skills is an accomplishment. Every scholar spent time with Calvin and I on establishing top ten SMART GOALS.

As a black woman, do you think emotional, physical and spiritual health concerns are the number one priorities for women?

Yes and you really cannot separate them because they are all interrelated. I recently went through a health issue with the blessing of a fall. It happened after one of Calvin’s games in Pittsburg in December of last year. I fell at the airport and a week later I started having pain on the left side of my abdomen. I made an appointment with my doctor and told her that my side was still hurting due to fall. So she scheduled me for an ultrasound. The results were abnormal so my doctor sent me for an MRI. Well those results came back that I had a Neuroendocrine Tumor on my pancreas and that was frightening and emotionally disturbing.

Was there ever a history of cancer or any kind in your family?

Never. There was none in my immediate family.

So what happened from there?

Through a biopsy, I found out that the tumor was cancerous. I had to really think about how I was going to deal with everything. My Doctor and I both cried in the office. Later, I decided not to tell my family and just handle my situation alone because I did not want my family worrying about me. But I thought about it and realized that I could not handle it by myself. I knew that I needed to pray about it and so I began to pray to God about healing my body from head to toe. And emotionally that’s the part that you saw…the emotions and then being able to release those emotions to God through prayer and having faith that He was going to deliver me from my present health issue. You have to believe in God. From that point on, I was able to go back and share my health issue with my family. Deep inside my heart I knew that I could trust my family with how I was feeling, because of the relationship we have with one another. When I began to communicate to my family about what was going on with me, we all began to cry. You know when you hear pancreatic cancer, you know it’s bad. I told them that I was going to be fine. So emotionally I had to get myself in check because if we believe in God and Jesus Christ then we have to understand that we have to release it to him. So as far as the other part, nutrition came into play and I began researching about the cancer. I researched the top cancer hospitals like M. D. Anderson and John Hopkins. John Hopkins is where I decided to have my surgery. After the surgery they took the pathology and they found out that none of it had spread.

Before my surgery I lost 10 pounds because I became conscious through research about the proper nutrition to keep the tumor from growing. I began eating right. I went to the American Cancer Society because they have so many resources for women. My entire diet changed. I was obedient. I ate what I was supposed to eat. I eliminated butter, corn syrup, red meat and soda. I added wild salmon, grilled chicken, trout cooked in olive oil, and I started doing fresh fruit smoothies with spinach and I am telling you that the Doctor told me the tumor shrunk. So I know that was God at work along with diet. You have to be able to listen to God and do what He says do.

But still emotionally people and family are coming at you asking if things are okay. I am feeling for my family and at the same time I need to stay in a certain wellness position with my thoughts, therefore I didn’t allow that to get me. I am just thankful to the Lord for healing and taking care of me.

But all of them are related, the health the emotional and spiritual relationships and having the faith in knowing that God will do what He said he will do. The key is being obedient to God’s word. It is also forgiving. I felt like I did not forgive a lot of people who had done things to do me, so I prayed to the Lord and forgave them. You have to treat people like you want to be treated and then there is no judgment.

Recently there have been increasing cases involving domestic violence. As an NFL mom, what are your words to women who have befallen this tragedy?

Do not allow domestic violence to affect your family, career, personal relationships, health, emotional well-being and physical fitness. Seek help as soon as it occurs from domestic violence prevention agencies, relatives and police. God loves you and cares for you and did not intend for you to be a victim of domestic violence.

Do you think that someone should lose everything they’ve trained their entire life for because of a personal incident?

I think that would depend on the severity of the personal incident and what the judicial system allows.

Do you think counseling should be provided for teammates and their family members?

Yes. It can help correct a lot of misconceptions.

As a mom, how would you advise your own sons and men who are in the NFL family when searching for a life mate? How do you know that someone is not just after what they have?

Give your life to the Lord Jesus Christ if you are not saved and be obedient to God’s word. Love yourself like God loves you and pray to God for a life mate who loves you for who you are not for what you have. Look beyond the outer appearance and get to know their family and friends. Spend quality time together doing things you both enjoy and ensure they have family core values (God first, love, respect and trust). When someone is after you for what you have it will be obvious, because they will only be interested in themselves and not in family core values.

How do you define personal transformation from a person who’s in a leadership role?

Personal transformation is an experience that brings about a complete change in the way I relate to myself and also to the world.

What do you want your living legacy to be?

That I was a minister for the people who could transform any person into a better soul and that I instilled core values in the lives of my children and people who I came in contact with. I want that to include every child and educator who crosses my path in the school setting. 



Leslie J. Griffin is a Certified Life Coach, Fitness Advocate and Celebrity Entertainment Journalist.  Connect with her on Facebook at and Twitter @onestopcoach.

Michael Jai White RISES in Falcon Rising

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By: Leslie J. Griffin

Actor, producer and expert martial artist Michael Jai White is no stranger to the silver screen. His chiseled physique and great acting style has been enjoyed in more than 30 films. He portrays ex-combat marine John Falcon Chapman in Falcon Rising and battles with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Falcon stops at nothing to the find the ruthless terrorists who critically wounded his sister Cindy, played by Laila Ali, as she investigated a criminal ring of child sex trafficking. Falcon literally destroys everyone in his path to obtain justice for Cindy and to avenge the young victims. Laila and Michael Jai sat down with Detroit CEO Magazine to talk about their on-the-set chemistry and why this film is so important. Complete with non-stop action and suspense, Falcon Rising opened in theaters on September 5. Here’s what they had to say.

Laila, please talk about your role in the film and its importance in terms of the message.

Well I was very excited to have done my very first film with Michael Jai White. I’ve always been a fan and of course I respect his martial artistry and fighting skills. So when I was asked to play the role of his sister Cindy, I was very excited. My role was very brief, but it was just enough to get my feet wet and even though I’m not acting much, I like that we tackled the issue of sex trafficking which is still a very big problem all over the world. I thought the storyline of the film was amazing and I’m hoping that this film will set the stage to do some sequels so that I can get in there and do some real fighting with Michael.

Michael, please talk about leading such a great role.

Well when I got the script and saw that it was an actual American hero and combat veteran that focused on contemporary issues, I thought it was great to really portray something real. You have people who do these actions movies that come out and they’re very much the Hollywood type but they don’t really touch everyone. But this particular project was something that was deep. And the fact that it was a real-life character made me feel like that’s what a great action hero should feel—that realness.

Laila, let’s talk about your chemistry on the set and working with Michael for the first time.

This was my first film and I could not have done it any better with anyone than Michel Jai White. He was truly like a brother as far as being on the set. He showed me the roles and made me feel comfortable. He helped me with my notes and lines. He just really made sure that everything went smooth for me and I appreciated that so much. And I had a lot of fun. I also had the opportunity to watch him and being that he’s a fighter and I’m a fighter, I just really felt that connection.

Michael, what are your thoughts?

Laila was amazing and one of things of having sequel potential with this film is who better than Ms. Laila Ali to be teamed up to kick some a – -.

Laila now that you’ve had a taste of being on the set. Is there anything you’d do differently to carry out a full action role?

Oh definitely. You know being that I’m a former boxer and a present athlete, I will always want to be the best that I can be. I would definitely prepare myself by working with my acting and coach and with Michael more. I am not a martial artist. It is one thing to fight in the ring, but it’s a different expertise when you’re on the set. So it’s a different skill to really look like you’re fighting, but you’re really not. So yes definitely, I would take that kind of a role very seriously and lean on Michael. You know he’s been doing this for years and he’s one of the best if not the best. So I will be saying ‘come on big brother’.

Michael as a martial artist expert, did you find that you had to hold back on the intense scenes?

I’ve been doing martial arts for a while now. There is a transition, but it is commonplace for me now and it’s easy not to hit someone. A big part of martial arts is control and so it has become a very natural transition for me. A lot of it is practicing not hitting people and there is a big difference between the art and fighting. So sometimes martial arts is where you’re not fighting someone, but you’re controlling yourself.

With this particular genre, are there lots of opportunities for work?

Oh the opportunities are very limited. And that’s why I’ve taken the hand to change that. There are lots of talented people who have not found avenues to work.

What do you want people to take from this film?

In the tradition of great action heroes coming from Kirk Douglas on down to John Wayne to Bruce Lee, I wanted to bring again an action hero that people enjoy. I want for everyone to be able to sit down and enjoy the hero. These are movies that I grew up with and these are movies that I love. I think today we have the internet and it’s so popular because people are drawn to reality and entertainment. I wanted to bring about a character that speaks to reality and this is what I plan on doing for my career with playing these types of action characters. So I hope everyone enjoys Falcon Rising and I hope that you support it. Falcon Rising is now playing in theaters.

Stay connected with Michael Jai White on Twitter @MicahelJaiWhite with Laila Ali on Twitter @TheReaLLailaAli.



Leslie J. Griffin is a Celebrity Entertainment Journalist. She is also a Certified Life and Wellness Coach, specializing in healthy living and loving.  Follow her on Twiter @OneStopCoach and connect with her on Facebook Public updates can also be found on Facebook by searching Leslie J. Griffin