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Culture Movies/TV

Director Sacha Jenkins On Wu-Tang Clan’s Success Story, 25 Years Later

From being inspired by the T-Birds in Grease to the teachings of Islam to the secret back story of the Statue of Liberty (she’s a black woman), the Wu-Tang Clan met their storytelling match in filmmaker Sacha Jenkins.

The director has been a personal fan of the Wu-Tang Clan and has consistently pushed the group’s message into the mainstream. He wrote the iconic group’s first ever cover story in indie hip-hop newspaper Beat Down in 1992. “Their authenticity is undeniable,” said Jenkins, a native New Yorker who is known for his documentaries Fresh Dressed (about hip-hop fashion), Word is Bond (about hip-hop lyrics), and Burn Motherfucker Burn (about the 1992 Los Angeles uprising after the beating of Rodney King).

Jenkins premiered his documentary series, Wu-Tang Clan: Of Mics and Men, at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The docuseries, which will air on Showtime in four episodes this spring, is centered around the reunion of the Staten Island-born crew celebrating the 25th anniversary of their seminal album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and includes never-before-seen, intimate interviews with members getting personal, emotional and political.

The docuseries begins with the members reuniting for their album’s anniversary after admitting to hardly any interaction outside of performances. The group sits front and center watching old interviews and clips from the past 20 years of them exploring their neighborhood and performing, intercut with talking head interviews discussing the rise of hip-hop in ‘90s New York. Episode two shifts from hip-hop backstory to the creation of the album and political state of racism and classism in New York at a time that heavily influenced their lyrics and the public perception of the group.

“I want viewers to come away knowing that the Wu-Tang success story is an amazing, important American success story. While their experiences might be different from someone in the suburbs, there are universal themes inside their struggles and success that everyone can relate to,” Jenkins said the day of the premiere. To Jenkins, if there’s any subject that deserves the cable docuseries treatment, it’s Wu-Tang. “If the Grateful Dead can have like a six-part documentary, why can’t Wu-Tang have a four-part documentary?”

How did your longstanding relationship with Wu-Tang impact telling this story?

Sacha Jenkins: There are nuances that are very important to understand. People around the world love Wu-Tang. But I’ve always wondered, do you really understand what these guys are talking about? When we first put them on the cover [of Beat Down] back then, we didn’t have any expectations. We were an underground zine. We liked them. We thought they were great, but we didn’t think they were going to be what they became.

Was everyone on board with divulging a lot of personal subject matter?

Jenkins: What’s unique about this film is that you rarely see black men be vulnerable and very honest about experiences that are extreme, and often challenging manhood. A lot of us are in these situations in the inner city where we feel like we need to be tough; often times we have to be tough. Talking about your pain and sorrow is not something that’s celebrated. So the fact that these guys were so honest and open about their life stories is what’s going to make the crucial difference here with this film.

Who do you see as the target of the documentary?

Jenkins: I like to make films as a native. The people who come from where I come from, they can watch that movie and say, “Hey you know what, that’s what it is. That’s what it’s about. That’s who we are.” At the same time, if you’re not where I’m from, you can watch it and feel like you actually learned something.

In this country, you have something called Black History Month and in that month, you celebrate your history. But the problem is, when you have massive issues with law enforcement, and you have black kids getting shot all around America, people get nervous because people are talking about black lives matter, it’s like no—these are American lives. If we started to look at black culture as American culture and not just African-American culture then maybe things would be different in this country.

With Wu-Tang, so many young executives in the film and television industry grew up with Wu-Tang. Forty-two-year-old white executives are like, “I went to high school. This is my music.” But what does that say? It says that rock ’n’ roll is no longer the dominant sound and kids, American kids, not just white kids, not just black kids, not just brown kids, American kids—hip-hop is their music. So I felt like no one fully understood where they were coming from unless you were from there. Their music has brought people together and has educated people in ways that are powerful and important.

Sacha Jenkins

Rock ’n’ roll is no longer the dominant sound and not just white kids, not just black kids, not just brown kids, American kids—hip-hop is their music.

Aside from Wu-Tang’s music, is this film a vessel into helping people see everyone as American and just recognize the political background of it?

Jenkins: It’s recognizing that there are differences and because of society, and how society affects particular people, here are the differences, but I think pain, suffering, sorrow and the desire to change your situation, change your environment—that’s universal. Music is more than just entertainment; at least for me. It’s communication, it’s language, it’s expression, it is hope, it is sorrow. It’s all these things rolled up in one. Wu-Tang when they came out, it’s like their shit wasn’t happy, but so many people get so much joy from it, and I wanted people to better understand that.

Some of the more recent news about Wu-Tang was around pharma bro Martin Shkreli buying the one copy of the Once Upon a Time in Shaolin album for two million. How do you feel about that?

Jenkins: When you go to the very beginning of who Wu-Tang were, and are, and where they came from, and how it wound up in the clutches of this weirdo, it’s almost like out of a Spider-Man movie or something. To me, that speaks to—even a weirdo like Shkreli understands the value and the authenticity. It was an antenna for him. It was a lightning rod for attention, that’s what he wanted. He wanted attention and guess what—he got it.

What do you want to say to Wu-Tang fans who may not fully understand the subject matter of the music?

Jenkins: Sometimes, I don’t understand what you people get out of this shit [gangster rap] because do you really understand what’s being said? I’m not saying that the music shouldn’t be made. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t enjoy the music. I’m saying that if you’re going to listen to this shit and enjoy it, fucking understand what’s being talked about. I feel that was my goal of the film.

I’m not saying, “OK, now that you know there’s so much sorrow in the Wu-Tang Clan, don’t listen to it. I’m white, I can’t listen to Wu-Tang.” That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying these are American artists and the environment that they come from is not in Botswana—it’s America; and it’s fucked up America.

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Careers Grind

Meet the Dude Who Lives Out of His Tesla

Nico Nevolo used to work for the Tesla corporation—first out of Los Angeles in the vehicle delivery department, and later at the company’s headquarters in San Francisco as an analyst. Now, eight months later, Nevolo has officially left the company. He lives full-time out of his Tesla Model X and claims he’s still “one of Elon’s best salesmen,” spreading the gospel of Musk from his $82,000 electric dream car, working as a Lyft driver.

The 26-year-old has been living out of his car, making videos and documenting his experience for over the past year. “What I care about is electric vehicles, and spreading the idea of sustainable energy, and sustainable transportation. This is, like, my thing,” Nevolo said.

Inspired by the #VanLife movement—a phenomenon popular among millennials, where they pack up their belongings in order to live out on the open road—Nevolo took that concept one step further, based on his belief that sustainable energy is the way of the future.

“There are so many people that love van life, there are so many people that love Tesla, and there are so many people that love electric vehicles,” said Nevolo. To sermonize his sustainable lifestyle, Nevolo created the YouTube channel and Instagram handle @TeslaVanLife, posting video content and photos of his adventures driving—and living—in his Tesla.

The opportunity to purchase the Tesla came about when he was still employed at the company as a business analyst. Tesla offered employees the opportunity to purchase a vehicle “around 50 percent off.” He couldn’t pass up the deal. The one question remaining before embarking on this adventure: “Can I lay down in the back of a Model X?”

On the same day that he returned his apartment keys to his landlord in San Francisco, he picked up his new Tesla.

For the first seven months spent living out of his car, Nevolo was still working at headquarters. “At first, [my co-workers] were like, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ But when I outlined my goals and the logistics involved, it’s super [logical]. It’s orchestrated. I’m combining a whole bunch of costs,” he explained. Nevolo’s major goals include, but are not limited to, becoming “the first person to live an electric vehicle” and “an entertainment personality.”

By showering at his gym and storing food in an ice cooler, Nevolo set up his small home with a bed in the back.

Photo courtesy of Nico Nevolo

Since quitting Tesla—Nevolo’s main source of income has been providing rides in his home through the ride-sharing service Lyft. “If people think I quit Tesla, they’re wrong. I still work for them,” he said. In some videos, Nevolo is shown asking his riders questions such as “Do you know what this car is? Have you heard of the company Tesla?” “I give every single Lyft passenger a pop quiz on every damn ride I do, because that’s part of my mission. My mission is to spread the gospel of electric vehicles. That is my goal in life.”

Nevolo gave himself 12 months for his experiment. “If I didn’t get [where I wanted to be] with my social media, then I would seriously reevaluate my situation—sell my car, and get a job if I had to. We’ve passed the 12 marker, I’m at 15 months now,” he said.

To help achieve part of his content goals, Nevolo did a collaboration with Instagram artist @ComboPhoto that was later featured on Tesla’s Instagram page. Another milestone he noted was a video feature with Dylan Magaster—a fellow VanLife enthusiast, and now, sailboat dweller. These pieces helped Nevolo confirm that he was on the right path.

But what he described as “the final validation” happened this past December. “Some electric vehicle article [featured] that [Magaster] video and wrote an article about me. They tweeted it, and Elon saw that tweet and ‘liked’ it. I was like, ‘Oh shit, this is rad’. I got all my validation. I can’t stop.”

Nevolo’s 2019 goals include a podcast, more video and Instagram content. Life on the road provides him with what he describes as “luxury.”

“I get to be my own boss, live my own life, and create content.”

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Entrepreneurial Athletes Grind

Marshawn Lynch Takes ‘Do What You Love’ to the Next Level

While in the midst of a prolific playing career in the NFL, Marshawn Lynch generated headlines in 2016 by claiming he hadn’t spent any of his lifetime football salary—around $50M—instead, he lived off of endorsement income from deals with Skittles, Nike, Progressive and others. As one of the most visible personalities in the NFL, that income amounted to about $5M annually, according to Business Insider.

This sensibility made Lynch unique are as a pro athlete: Because he wasn’t depending on his salary, he had more options as his 30s approached—he didn’t have to keep playing the game for the wrong reasons. (Lynch retired at 29, only to return for a couple seasons with his hometown Oakland Raiders). Lynch’s financial approach, by itself, would merit inclusion on our 30 Most Entrepreneurial Athletes list. But of all active athletes, Lynch has set himself up to have one of the most interesting post-careers in the modern investing landscape.

Across sports, Marshawn earned a reputation as a savvy investor, someone who knows where mainstream attention is going to go.

“Marshawn is one of the smartest entrepreneurs I know,” said Hingeto CEO Leandrew Robinson in an Ad Age interview last year, commenting on Lynch’s gift for apparel opportunities in his capacity as founder of Beast Mode Apparel. Lynch is probably the only player capable of getting the relatively player-unfriendly NFL to bend—the league allowed him to sell Raiders jerseys that included a Beast Mode patch on them, an unprecedented allowance.

Lynch has also placed a few bets for the future. Lynch was an early adopter of the esports phenomenon, helping to seed gaming team NRG esports in 2017 alongside investors like Alex Rodriguez, Jennifer Lopez and Twitter COO Anthony Noto. He also has a gift for programming—his appearance on Running Wild with Bear Grylls is must-watch television, and he’s weaponized his sly, sardonic humor on Conan and ESPN.

But above all, Marshawn knows Marshawn, and tends to lean into what he knows best as an entrepreneur. “It doesn’t matter how big the check is,” said Beast Mode CEO Bryan Shaw told Ad Age. “He rides his BMX bike to work every day, so he got a deal with SE Bikes. He only works with stuff he’s passionate about.”

This piece is part of our monthlong series featuring the 30 Most Entrepreneurial Athletes. For other entries in the series, head to our 30MEA page.

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Culture Music

#Face2FaceTime with loveliveserve

An idea that started just a month ago has quickly flourished and become one of the internet’s most talked about visual concepts. loveliveserve, a YouTube channel started by two young men by Ryan Burton and Noah Taitano, has introduced an interesting new way of paying homage to pop and hip-hop culture.

“When the music video doesn’t match the song” is the title of the concept that has fans going crazy. The idea came when Burton pulled up a random trap music video and then opened up another tab and played a pop song. Suddenly, a lightbulb lit up and Taitano said to himself, “We can do this.” 

The first installment, featuring Big Time Rush’s song, “Boyfriend”, was a massive hit that has been seen by more than 6 million people on YouTube. The video became so big that even rappers tweeted Burton and Taitano to express their appreciation of being reintroduced to forgotten hit tunes like Jesse McCartney’s “Beautiful Soul”. 

The most recent addition to their channel is building on their immense success. The remake of Justin Beiber’s hit song “Somebody to Love” exceeded 2 million views in two days. 

Watch here as Burton and Taitano sit down with ONE37pm associate editor Omari White to discuss their funny and genius idea.

Categories
Culture Gaming

Eager Gamers Waited 13 Years for ‘Kingdom Hearts III’—Was the Delay Too Risky?

When the last numbered Kingdom Hearts game came out in December 2005, Apple had just launched an iPod with a color screen and The Office was in its second season. Hungry fans waited for 13 years for Kingdom Hearts 3, the official sequel in the crossover series featuring Disney, Pixar and Final Fantasy characters, among other familiar faces.

Over the years, while developer Square Enix pushed out multiple filler games that never seemed to cure what ailed the fandom, lovers of the franchise have used Kingdom Hearts as a touchstone for their collective appreciation of all things video games. In turn, a vibrant and rich fan base has been built up.

Thirteen years is a long time. For a franchise, it might mean the loss of its relevance. It might help create a dedicated, loving fan base driven by anticipation. It might spawn a frenzied, overly passionate mob whose expectations for another canonical entry are impossible to meet. In its 17 years of existence, the Kingdom Hearts series has done all three. And in the process, it has shown the advantages, and some of the dangers, of leaving fans hanging for so very long.

The effects of prolonging anticipation

Look. People are going to love Kingdom Hearts III.

The series has a huge, wild fandom. There are multiple and massive fan communities, wikis and Tumblr blogs. It inspires enough cosplay for whole clothing lines to be made around it. 

Most Kingdom Hearts fans will probably have a great time with the game. It only takes the briefest of glances at social media to see the sheer joy that it has brought to so many. Fans are primed, hyped and ready to accept it.

And the critical consensus seems to be behind them. On launch day, Kingdom Hearts III had a Metacritic score of 88/100. The majority of reviews released on major sites celebrate the game as yet another solid entry for the series.

However, the critical acclaim, the salivating fandom and the high review scores are overshadowed by the years hanging over the game’s release. Something we’ve seen many times in the age of internet fandom is that, after such a long gap in between sequels, quality can be exceptionally hard to judge. Fans want the game to be good, so many of them simply will it to be so. Many reviewers, who are no doubt trying their best to be impartial, fill their copy with phrases like “Disney charms make it worth the long wait” and “all those emotional payoffs that have been building for 17 years await” and “this is a Kingdom Hearts game worth waiting for.”

These are loaded statements, and you can’t really fault the writers. They are weighed down by the 13 years, which have created higher expectations for the game. Reviews like this are, and should be, written by fans, so they can speak to other fans about what to expect. But what if the years have raised the stakes too high? Or made every fan too close to tell what is good? Or raised the anticipation to a level where critical appraisal is impossible? What if it’s too difficult to tell if any or all of these things are happening?

In the week before the game’s release, Kotaku’s Tim Rogers laid out that Kingdom Hearts III is basically unreviewable, given the heavy baggage that comes with it. To the fandom, he says,” it’s more than just a product, it’s a work of meaningful significance.”

One of the biggest problems of taking so long with a sequel, from a critical standpoint, is how connected nostalgia can join with an experience. I was a young adult when Star Wars: Episode I was released and I loved it. All of my friends loved it too. We had grown up on the original Star Wars trilogy and waited so long for a new chapter in the story that basically anything they could have put in front of my face that had an opening text crawl would have left me applauding.

Time is cruel. That movie turned out to be not great. But hype had blocked out everything except for blind faith that whatever had Star Wars in the title would be amazing. The same thing might not happen to Kingdom Hearts III, but prolonging anticipation for a franchise can have very real effects on hungry devotees.

The damage development lag can do

Another inherent issue with a sequel taking too long is especially present in the video-game medium. Sony announced Kingdom Hearts 3 six years ago at E3 2013 and reports show that director Tetsuya Nomura was working on the game since 2010 at the earliest. This drawn-out development process would spell bad news for any television show or film. But it looks especially bad in video games, where a dozen years or so is something of an eternity in terms of hardware capabilities and development practices. Kingdom Hearts II came out on the PlayStation 2, and most people assume we’re at the tail end of the second console generation to come after the game.

That delay in development can have an enormous impact on game play, mechanics, game design and many other factors that evolve over time. Best practices change, player habits adapt and new game development standards become expected.

Take The Last Guardian. Created by Fumito Ueda, the creative force behind Shadow of the Colossus and IcoThe Last Guardian began its development sometime in the late PlayStation 2/early PlayStation 3 era. While it’s not a sequel, Ueda’s previous games had created a spirited fan base around whatever the studio was working on. And when it was finally released for the PlayStation 4 in 2016, seven years after Sony had announced it, many reviewers were struck by how dated it felt. Game play, technical performance and other aspects were called out for seeming unchanged from the previous generations. “The Last Guardian has been in the works in some form or another for nearly a decade, and the wear of that age shows,” proclaimed Polygon senior editor Philip Kollar.

Square Enix

Development lag can also be especially damaging to a game’s tone.

Duke Nukem Forever, which couldn’t be further from Kingdom Hearts III, was another game stuck in development hell. For 15 years, various studios worked on the action game about a brash, blond, sunglasses-sporting protagonist before its eventual release in 2011. Reviews were mixed at best, with many calling out the extremely dated bathroom humor and misogyny that seemed to come from a completely different culture. That’s because it did. Between 1997 and 2011, the culture shifted and the one that greeted Duke Nukem Forever probably would have preferred to keep that door closed.

Surely, this does not seem to be the case at all with Kingdom Hearts III, which knows its tone as well as its audience. In fact, judging by the first round of reviews, it seems to escape most trappings of a game long in development. Still, years weigh heavily on any story that takes its sweet time to tell itself.

Fandoms evolve over time

Kingdom Hearts is really something of an anomaly, even in the wildly unpredictable landscape of video-game development. If a series can’t get off the ground, it’s usually shelved or put on ice for future reboots and remakes.

However, plenty of other examples of long-delayed sequels showing up in other art forms. It took J.R.R. Tolkien 17 years to write The Lord of the Rings after the success of The Hobbit. It took 15 years for Guns N’ Roses to release Chinese Democracy. It took 45 years for Return to Oz.

At times like these, it’s worth remembering that video games as a medium are still extremely young. Kingdom Hearts III’s gap of 13 years is roughly a third of the total time we’ve had video games at all (counting Pong as the first).

As games continue to grow up and cement a concrete history with generations of players, it will be fascinating to see how various series keep their fans engaged. The medium still has so much to figure out about what it can mean to its fans, how that fandom evolves over time and how to deliver on a promise that it has shaped with longevity.

While taking a long time on a sequel definitely has risks, a lot can be said for enjoying something for something’s sake. If Kingdom Hearts gives you joy, then revel in another one. Live your life. As long as the game doesn’t stray too far from its roots and gives people an experience they are somewhat expecting, then a great number of fans will enthusiastically enjoy it. And why shouldn’t they?

It was a genius move for Square Enix to partner with Disney and bring that extremely potent bit of magic together in the first place. Though long-developed sequels can carry many pitfalls, it’s almost a miracle if a series can still give fans that same excitement after 13 long years.

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Culture News

#TheUnknownHustle: Anderson Cooper

Anderson Cooper, after graduating from Yale in 1989, was ready to enter the workforce as an investigative reporter. His brother, Carter Vanderbilt Cooper, committed suicide at age 23 by jumping off the balcony of their family penthouse. The tragedy propelled Cooper to tell stories of survival. “I wanted to figure out how to survive,” he told Maclean’s magazine in 2006. “My brother hadn’t survived. I wanted to go places where people were surviving and there had been tragedies and people were getting through them.”

His first attempt at breaking into journalism, starting from the bottom, did not pan out. “I started out trying to get a job answering phones at ABC and I couldn’t get it—which I guess shows the value of a Yale education,” he joked in a 2004 interview with Media Bistro. So in 1991, Cooper—with no professional training or experience—borrowed a Hi-8 video camera, asked a friend of his to mock up a fake press pass, and set off to Thailand.

Armed with his phony press credentials, a camcorder, and the faintest idea of a plan, Cooper set out to document Burmese refugees at the Thai-Burmese border as they attempted to overthrow their country’s military dictatorship. He sold the footage to Channel One, a closed-circuit television station where he had previously worked as a fact checker. Eighteen months later, he was hired as a correspondent.

For two years, Cooper toiled in political flashpoints like Bosnia, Croatia and Rwanda. His boots-on-the-ground approach to these rather harrowing stories gave him experience in front of the camera and showed a willingness to get into the thick of it. At 25, based solely on his work at Channel One, Cooper received an offer to work at ABC News—three years after they turned him down for a job answering phones. Now, Cooper works at CNN, hosting his own program, Anderson Cooper 360. He is worth a reported $100 million, and probably does not answer his own phone.

Categories
Sports Strength

These Are the Best NBA Fits from January

Due to popular demand—from us—we’re moving the Best Baller Fits program into a monthly format. So, without further adieu, here are the best fits from NBA’s locker room tunnels in January.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander Signs to Sub Pop

In the crucible of NBA fit Instagram, critiques occur most often when a player either repeats an outfit or repeats a look someone else recently attempted. And while we rebel against the concept of a “work uniform”—a utilitarian outfit whose repeatability is its chief selling point—we like that Shai is getting many wears out of this black-and-white tartan Supreme flannel. It’s a staple that doesn’t feel diminished by its usage rate. It’s utilitarian, but not in an “I don’t even want to think about it, just give me a wardrobe full of expensive staples!” way.

Shump Moves On

Shump revamped his wardrobe when he got traded—no more Thom Browne suits! After a year of being on the Kings’ roster, he’s gotten into a Nor Cal rhythm. Straight crushing rolled-up beanies, round glasses, cropped pants and Vans like he’s the 6-foot-5 hooper version of Anderson Paak.

Shump makes “extra” just enough. Got every girl DM-ing her man asking why he doesn’t claim her like Shump does, while bringing back the puffy and subtle matching like it’s ‘03.

P.J., Open for Three

Of all the anointed NBA style gods, P.J. Tucker is the most self-aware. He’s reading the comments. So if anyone was going to heighten the two-shoe locker room tunnel trend, it was always going to be him. He’s got three pairs here—four would be pushing it too far, too meta. But P.J. already knows that. He knows it better than you will ever know anything.

Kevin Durant, Cozy Boys’ Elected Representative

Gucci sweats and Tom Sachs Mars Yards just to give Boogie a light contest is a flex. Most players style themselves to stunt in the tunnel, but K.D. really just dresses for a lackadaisical post-practice game of one-on-one, and it feels good to see him in his element. No matter the time or situation, if a ball rolls Durant’s way, you know he’s going to be ready.

DeAndre Ayton, Doing It for the Rooks

This isn’t a formal submission, but it is an important milestone in the journey of a rookie’s drip that is definitely worth including. Note the tropes that young DeAndre falls into here—an all-too-common slipup. Where he heard that have heard that rocking one’s own alma mater’s varsity jacket is cool, or this luxury brand called Yves Saint Laurent—we don’t know. But what is clear, however, is that this leap into the land of drip will not be his last. Keep experimenting, big man. Who says centers can’t have style?

NBA CuffWatch

Speaking of heightening, cuffing season is approaching. Things are about to get preposterous, cuff-wise.

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Entrepreneurial Athletes Grind

Ronda Rousey Is Still Dominating

Almost as soon as Ronda Rousey arrived in the UFC in 2012, she became the sport’s most visible star. A medalist in the 2008 Olympic judo competition, Rousey brought the nascent women’s UFC division a new dimension of prowess. Her two-and-a-half-year undefeated run still stands as the record, and her dominance in the UFC became a pop-culture interest, something that no one in the men’s UFC division could hold a candle to until recently.

Eventually, Rousey’s MMA career wound down to the tune of a few unexpected defeats. But Rousey had her eyes set on a larger cultural impact before she was done with the UFC.

While Rousey has found success in other arenas—acting, for one—the reason we’re celebrating her as an entrepreneurial athlete has a lot to do with her agreement to join WWE. When Rousey was revealed as a WWE roster wrestler at last year’s WWE Raw, it represented pro wrestling’s renaissance coming full circle.

In the past, WWE has made stars like the Rock—who went on to become the highest-paid actor in America—but its recent star power has diminished, save for Brock Lesnar’s flighty relationship with the company. Rousey’s involvement with WWE and its newly thriving women’s division gave WWE leverage at an important time. This fall, two WWE programs will begin two huge rights deals with Fox and USA. Rousey, whose wrestling persona quickly became a fan favorite, is at the center of the WWE’s return to pop cultural relevance. 

Not everyone would have taken this step.—Rousey’s move to WWE was the ship that launched a thousand think pieces. But her risk will turn out to be prescient as more stars from the athlete community explore the jump. While there’s talk of Rousey taking a planned leave from the company, her contract extends to 2021. By then, she’ll be considered a pioneer not just in sports but in entertainment as well.

This piece is part of our monthlong series featuring the 30 Most Entrepreneurial Athletes. For other entries in the series, head to our 30MEA page.

Categories
Culture Music

7 Super Bowl LIII Performers Who Are Not Maroon 5

More than 100 million people worldwide watch the Super Bowl Halftime Show every year, usually attracting more viewers than the actual big game itself and making it a lucrative promotional gig for the headliners and guests whose sales and streams always spike immediately after their performances. Maroon 5, the headliner for Super Bowl LIII, will likely experience this post-game bump barring any major performance flubs. 

Seven-member band Maroon 5 won’t be Super Bowl Sunday’s only musical entertainment, with four pre-kickoff performances to warm up the crowd for the televised tailgate, “America The Beautiful” and the national anthem. And like many recent halftime shows, Maroon 5’s roughly 12-minute set will be peppered with confirmed guests and a surprise guest or two (we make one prediction at the end of this list). 

1. Aloe Blacc

“I didn’t know I was looooooooooooooost! I didn’t know.” You’ve definitely heard Aloe Blacc‘s voice on Avicii’s six-time platinum hit “Wake Me Up,” which Blacc co-wrote and also later released his own solo version (above). You’ll hear the Grammy-nominated singer again during Sunday’s televised NFL Tailgate Party on CBS, where he’ll be joined by Atlanta gospel group David Walker & High Praise for the performance.

2. Tim McGraw

Country behemoth Tim McGraw will serve as the headliner for CBS’s pregame show, Super Bowl Today, tackling his new single “Thought About You” (above) and other hits he’s delivered since his career started in 1992. We’re hoping he pulls his Nelly-assisted “Over and Over” and the inspirational “Live Like You Were Dying” out of his bag of hits. 

3. Chloe x Halle

Sibling duo Chloe x Halle, often dubbed as Beyoncé’s protégés, will sing “America The Beautiful” before kickoff. They previously performed the National Anthem at the 2017 NFL Draft (above). Chloe x Halle will now join an impressive list of performers who have sung “America The Beautiful” during a Super Bowl, including Alicia Keys, Ray Charles, Mary J. Blige, Marc Anthony, Faith Hill, Leslie Odom Jr. and Queen Latifah.

4. Gladys Knight

Empress of Soul Gladys Knight has earned the coveted honor of belting the “The Star-Spangled Banner” to more than 100 million viewers tuning into this year’s big game. The Atlanta native is following in the recent footsteps of Pink, Luke Bryan, Lady Gaga, Idina Menzel, Renee Fleming, Alicia Keys and Kelly Clarkson. Other memorable Super Bowl national anthems of yesteryears include Whitney Houston, Garth Brooks, Mariah Carey, Faith Hill, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross, Jewel, Harry Connick Jr. and Cher.

5. Big Boi

Assisting Maroon 5 during the halftime show will be hip-hop legend (and resident ATLien) Big Boi, who won Album of the Year at the 2004 Grammy Awards as part of Outkast for his and André 3000’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Though the halftime show setlist is traditionally kept secret until showtime, Big Boi likely will perform part of his 2017 collab with Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine (above) in addition to snippets of a solo song (maybe “All Night”) and Outkast hits (maybe “Ms. Jackson,” “Roses” and “Hey Ya!”). 

6. Travis Scott

Travis Scott, fresh off a massively successful 2018 which saw his Astroworld album debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and his “Sicko Mode” single (above) reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, will also get major airtime as a special guest during Maroon 5’s halftime show. If he brings any amusement park tricks from his recent high-flying tour, which ONE37pm contributor Kenny Cousins proclaimed was one of the best tours of 2018, then the halftime show will be a visual feast, potentially with a roller coaster or carousel. Anticipate a quick medley, similar to Missy Elliott’s guest spot during Katy Perry’s halftime show in 2015, of songs from his Grammy-nominated Astroworld.  

7. Christina Aguilera

It’s a sure bet Maroon 5 will perform the 2011 chart-topping hit “Moves Like Jagger” featuring Christina Aguilera (above) at some point during the halftime show. So don’t be surprised if X-Tina makes a surprise, unannounced appearance for this portion. Levine and Aguilera have become closer friends, partly because of both being coaches on The Voice, since the song’s release eight years ago. And coincidentally, X-Tina just announced a Las Vegas residency. The timing seems ripe for her to pop up on the field to belt her “Moves Like Jagger” parts. “Take me by the tongue!” 

Categories
Mental Health Strength

How to Overcome Gym Anxiety

Do you even lift, bro?

Or, rather, did you resolve to start lifting on January first, but haven’t? On those rare days you do go to a gym, do you hover by the elliptical machines, steering clear of the gym’s more testosterone-dominated free weight area for fear of being eaten, or worse, judged?

Your Problem Might Be Gym Anxiety

There are plenty of excuses not to work out. You don’t have time. You don’t have energy. You do have Netflix. But some of these excuses are actually rooted in gym anxiety, an ugly cocktail of perceived inadequacy, incompetence and judgment. The key word is “perceived,” because most of it is going on in your own head, which doesn’t make it any less difficult to deal with.

Gym anxiety is a lot like social anxiety and can manifest itself in different ways: Excessive fear of being judged, worrying that you’ll embarrass or humiliate yourself, or being so self-conscious that it’s hard to concentrate.

You’re not alone. In fact, really ripped guys with lots of Instagram followers have felt the same thing.


“When I joined the gym, I was always self-conscious that my form was bad and people were looking at me,” says Adam Pfau, a fitness influencer who has 740,000 Instagram followers and looks like he can bench press five of your closest male relatives at once. “That was always in the back of my mind. Rather than worrying about doing it correctly, I was really worried about what other people were thinking.”

There are real, tangible steps you can take to lower your gym anxiety. The first step is knowing what’s going on.

Gym Anxiety Is Social Anxiety’s Cousin

Whether you’re a novice who feels dread at the mere thought of entering a fitness club, or a vet who still feels the occasional twinge of fight-or-flight, you’re normal and OK. Gyms are places with lots of noise and stimuli, lots of clanking, lots of grunting. It kind of feels like a fight could break out at any minute, but also like everyone is about to take a selfie? There are mirrors everywhere! Gyms can be weird.

But if these stimuli create a fear that’s excessive (or makes you want to not come back), you’re probably experiencing a form of social anxiety, says Noah Clyman, a cognitive behavioral therapist in Manhattan and the founder of NYC Cognitive Therapy.

“Social anxiety is a condition where people are excessively afraid of negative evaluation by other people,” says Clyman. “It’s also linked to negative beliefs that the individual has about himself or herself. These beliefs can be things like, ‘I’m awkward, I’m defective, I’m weird’ and so on.”


People with social anxiety tend to have anxiety about anxiety, says Clyman. In other words, they tend to try and suppress it or avoid at all costs. If the gym is giving them anxiety, they’ll avoid the gym. But there are better ways to deal with the issue than avoidance.

Know That You’re Going to Be Self-conscious, and Then Count the People in the Room

Clyman says that when someone enters the gym as a beginner, or they’re simply prone to anxiety, they’re going to be self-conscious. That’s the just the nature of the game, so don’t spend time beating yourself up about it.

“That’s going to happen,” says Clyman. “They’re going to focus attention on themselves, automatically. It’s not their fault.”

Instead, people experiencing gym anxiety should work on shifting their attention from the internal to the external. Focusing on what’s going on in the room is a good way to do this. What color are the walls? How many people are in the room? Try to count them. Seriously: Count every person in the room. By putting yourself through these mental paces, you’re putting your focus back on the outside world.

Clyman also recommends identifying an object in the room—a water fountain, a clock—and focusing on it for 30 seconds. What shape is it? What texture? After you focus on it for 30 seconds, re-evaluate your anxiety level. It probably went down.

Have a Plan

Before you even step into the gym, do some research. Find a fitness plan that’s right for you, and then stick to it. This sense of structure can cut anxious feelings way down.

“Now you’re walking in with a ton more confidence because you know you have a plan,” says Pfau.

He recommends a full body beginner’s routine. You can find one with a quick Google search, but spend some time looking at the reviews. It will probably put you in the gym three days a week, on non-consecutive days (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, for example). This is enough of a structure to keep you motivated, but not so daunting that you’ll feel overwhelmed. Also, by focusing on the whole body, Pfau says you’ll see the most substantial progress in the shortest amount of time.

“You’re building your overall strength,” says Pfau. “You’re only in the gym three days a week, so as a beginner you don’t need to be in the gym that often.”

Get the Movements Down by Using YouTube, And Start Light

Pfau recommends compound movements, like deadlifts or squats, to build size and strength. For the novice, however, these movements can be intimidating.

“I remember first trying to deadlift,” says Pfau. “I was definitely paranoid that people were looking at me.”

He recommends watching YouTube videos of the movements and practicing them. Then, when it’s time to work out, don’t use too much weight. Allow yourself to become comfortable with the movement first.

In fact, it’s OK to work with no weight on the bar at all.

Know That the People Looking at You Are in the Same Boat You Are

You might feel weird bench pressing a bar with no weight on it. Like you’re about to be judged by the guy next to you who’s absolutely yoked. But Pfau, a guy who is absolutely yoked, says that’s not the case.

“If someone else is looking at you, it’s because they’re in the exact same position as you and they’re just as self-conscious,” says Pfau. “They’re looking around because they don’t know what they’re doing.”

Meanwhile, the people who are more advanced are so deep in their own habits, that they barely notice anyone else in the gym. These people are too focused on their next set, or on the podcast that they’re listening to, to care about how much weight you’re putting up. They’re in their own rhythm, one that’s built up over years (and sometimes decades).

“It’s really important to say that the people who are judging you are the in the same exact position as you,” says Pfau.

Set Achievable Goals and Be Relentless in Giving Yourself Credit

If it’s your first day in the gym, it’s not realistic to think you’re going to bench press 500 pounds. Instead, create a concrete goal based on your fitness level. That goal can be something like, “I’m going to walk into the gym and do more pull-ups than I did yesterday.”

And then give yourself credit. Acknowledge that you achieved your goal and that you did better than the day before. “Just thinking these things isn’t going to be enough, at least for most people,” Clyman says. ”Writing it down will make it much more impactful.”

Your achievements will sink in more when you write them down, thus creating positive forward momentum. You can keep your ongoing list of accomplishments on your phone’s Notes app. Over time, that list gets pretty long. The longer that list gets, the more your confidence takes off.

Go With a Friend

This may not be an option for you (not because you don’t have friends, but because their schedules might not line up with yours). But if it is an option, do it.

When Pfau first started working out, he always went with a buddy. This alleviated some of the self-consciousness he felt about his form. Having a friend can provide much-needed support, and you two can keep one another on point.

Go During Off-hours

Whenever possible, Pfau recommends working out when the gym is less crowded. If you can go during your lunch break—or if you’ve got flexible work hours—do it.

Typically, that means avoiding the 6 p.m. after work crowd, but you can check the “popular times” feature on your gym’s Google Maps listing.

Remember Why You’re Going in the First Place

Be extremely clear with yourself about why you’re going to the gym. Is it to be healthier? Is it to look better in your clothes? Clyman says that the clearer you are in your rationale for working out, the more likely you’ll keep going to the gym.

He recommends keeping a list of reasons that you’re going and referring back to it any time you start to feel shaky. “If you’re starting to waffle, that’d be a good time to pull out that list,” says Clyman. “Just remind yourself of why you identified that as your goal and why that’s important.”

Know That There’s Something Really Cool Waiting for You on the Other Side of Your Workout

The ironic thing about gym anxiety is that exercise is instrumental in reducing anxiety and stress. If you can manage your anxious symptoms—either by employing the tips above or seeing a therapist—just know that there is a whole world of wonderful, joy-inducing chemicals waiting for you on the other side of your gym session.

When you complete a workout, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins improve mood and pain resistance, “two critical features of a successful stress autoregulation” according to the Archives of Medical Science. You begin to rewire your brain’s reward system, and your body starts to look forward to the dopamine and endorphin hits it gets from your workouts. You basically get a neurochemical prize from going to the gym, and start to associate it with good feelings—not anxiety and dread.

Once that forward momentum starts going, it can be hard to stop.

Just remember to set achievable goals and give yourself credit. And maybe one day, you’ll be able to bench press all your male relatives (or, at the very least, feel pretty damn good about yourself).