By Sheryl Aronson
On Thursday, February 9th, 2017, the Whole Planet Foundation held a Pre-Grammy Showcase and Benefit event at the OHM Nightclub in Hollywood. They were honoring the co-founders of Alaffia, an organization based in Olympia, Washington.
Alaffia empowers people through community projects, women’s cooperatives, education, and involvement in their local communities, and have funded 4,463 births, planted 57,575 trees, donated 7,482 bicycles to students, built ten schools, and provided school supplies to 32,842 students.
Whole Planet Foundation is a Whole Foods Market foundation that alleviates poverty worldwide where the company sources products. The nonprofit’s mission is to empower the world’s poorest people with microcredit and the chance to create or expand a home-based business and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
The Pre-Grammy party had a red carpet plus featured top musicians to perform during the evening’s festivities: Renee Marie, ( Grammy nominee) La Santa Cecelia Band ( Grammy Nominee) , Chris Assaad, The Reluctant Apostles with Katey Sagal, and Givers and Takers.
The Hollywood 360 was on the red carpet that evening. Here are some of the interviews.
The Hollywood 360: Tell us what you do.
Arnold Mintz: I am a chef and a drag queen. I was on Network Star a few years ago and Top Chef. I have three restaurants in Nashville. I live in downtown LA. I have a dinner club, DTLA Dinner Club. It’s a pop up out of my Loft.
The Hollywood 360: Is it private, who gets to go there?
Arnold Mintz: It’s private, invite only. But actually it started to raise awareness for Whole Planet. Whole Foods sponsored it for a half a year.
The Hollywood 360: What is your specialty?
Arnold Mintz: I can actually do it all. My specialty is that I cook in heels! I am also the reigning, Miss Gay America.
The Hollywood 360: What do you do?
Monique Coleman: I am an actress. I was in The High School Musical movies.
The Hollywood 360: What are you excited about this evening?
Monique Coleman: I’m excited when Art intersects philanthropy. That’s what makes me feel good. So on this Grammy week, I love the fact that Whole Planet Foundation is putting on this event.
The Hollywood 360: (Interviewing the executives of TruRoots) Talk about your organization and the meaning of this evening.
TruRoots Executives: TruRoots is a part of Smucker National Foods. It’s a brand, a source of ancient grains from South America and we’re happy to be partnering with Whole Planet to help alleviate poverty in the world.
The Hollywood 360: What kind of programs do you have?
TruRoots Executives: We are participating in Prosperity Month in the month of March with Whole Foods and Whole Planet Foundation. We are also participating in various events throughout the year with the Whole Planet Foundation to help support the cause.
We partnered with a non-profit in Bolivia to help expand organic farming for quinoa.
We had a chance to go around LA with the Whole Planet Foundation.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about being here this evening and what it means to you.
Chris Assaad: I’m grateful to have an opportunity to share my music and songs in conjunction with a good cause.
The Hollywood 360: You are a very positive person and you like to write songs that have a spiritual meaning as well. Talk about how you combine both of those together in your music.
Chris Assaad: I write music and play music for my own healing and I share it in hopes that I can offer that to the people who listen to it.
The Hollywood 360: You went through a very difficult situation with your hearing. Please tell us about that.
Chris Assaad: I consider that a blessing in disguise. So when I started playing music, I was also going to Law School. As soon as I started playing the guitar and learning how to sing, my hearing was on the way out and it was rapid. I found out I had a hereditary condition and had two surgeries within two years of that initial somewhat crises. I was blessed with the miracle of my hearing and a second chance with music. From that point on I was on fire for learning songs, learning how to use my voice. I’ve never turned back.
The Hollywood 360: Being an artist that has a very deep message, it’s important to combine your struggles with beautiful music.
Chris Assaad: The world needs a lot of love right now to bring people together, heal and open their hearts.
The Hollywood 360: You are going to perform tonight. How many songs?
Chris Assaad: I am opening the show and I think four or five songs. I will be playing “All My Love” which is the new single we are releasing on Tuesday. I will be playing “I Won’t Die” which is the title track off of my new album. I got to save a couple of surprises.
The Hollywood 360: Renee Marie, your voice is phenomenal, please talk about your creative spirit.
Renee Marie: It’s about allowing what is inside to come out instead of editing it. Sometimes it’s…I better not sing about that…I shouldn’t put that in the songs. The whole thing is allowing it the freedom to come out.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about how you feel being nominated for a Grammy, Best Jazz Vocals.
Renee Marie: I’m trying to relax. All of my life, I’ve watched this happen (participating in the Grammys) and never thought I would be part of it. Two years ago for our first nomination, I was stiff and worried. But this time I decided to have fun. I like this way much better.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about your performing schedule.
Renee Marie: We have performed all over. We’re going to China, we’ve been to England, France, Italy, and Spain.
The Hollywood 360: Who are some of your favorite jazz singers?
Renee Marie: Of course Ella and Sarah. There are two young singers in NYC that I love too.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about your new album that was nominated for Best Jazz Vocal.
Renee Marie: It’s called The Sound of Red. The Sound of Red covers the gamut of human emotions. Some songs on the CD are about my personal experience, not proud of what I did, but it’s very realistic. There’s a song about being homeless and adultery.
The Hollywood 360: You are singing about life. These are topics that are real.
Renee Marie: If this is happening to us, then it is most likely happening to someone else.
The Hollywood 360: Tell us about your music career.
Lynn Kowal: My company is called Curly Girl Music. I got into composing as a girl back in Baltimore. Barry Levinson gave me my break on his first television show, Life on the Street and literally I stood up and said, ‘I’m this little girl from Baltimore. I want to be a composer. But I can get coffee for the guy you already hired.’ He said, ‘I haven’t hired a guy yet. Send me your stuff.’ I sent it, he loved it, the rest is history. So I’ve been a composer for feature films.
The Hollywood 360: That’s a tough industry to get recognition in as a woman.
Lynn Kowal: I know. We’re fighting a strong fight. Women have less than 1% of the feature films out there. I have a Master’s Degree in Electronic and Computer Music from Peabody Conservatory in John Hopkins University, I am well qualified and accomplisher. I can write a symphonic work. Women aren’t getting the breaks. And why? You’re behind the scenes, behind the scenes.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about your music career.
Dyson: I am a pop singer from the UK. My first single just debuted on Billboard this week called, “Feel Like Home.” It’s about love. It’s about no matter where you are with that person, it feels like home.
The Hollywood 360: What does it mean to you to be here tonight.
Dyson: I’m very happy to be here tonight. I love the fact that this foundation helps not only people, but women essentially to create new lives for themselves, to create businesses, to put these women in more powerful positions in their lives.
Vince Wilburn, Jr: This is a great cause. A lot of my friends are onstage. I’m just going to be natural. This is a great honor to be here.
The Hollywood 360: Talk to us about your musical career. You’re a great drummer and you have a very famous Uncle (Miles Davis).
Vince Wilburn: I am a little drummer boy from outside of Chicago. We have a band called The Miles Electric Band which consists of Alumni who have played with Miles. We are going to Australia, April 3rd, Melbourne, two nights in Tokyo, going to the Blue Note in Honolulu. Then we come back and go to Calvary.
The Hollywood 360: Will you be playing in LA?
Vince Wilburn: We will be playing here in 2018 at Cal State Northridge.
The Hollywood 360: Whose playing trumpet in the band?
Vince Wilburn: In Japan it will be Etienne Charles, in Australia it will be Christian Scott. We feature different trumpeters.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about the music for the movie, Miles Ahead.
Vince Wilburn: In 2006 we were receiving The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame award. So someone asked me who did I see playing my Uncle in a biopic? I said, ‘Don Cheadle.’ I had never met him, I didn’t know him. When we flew back to LA, we began meeting with Don. Don decided to do his directorial debut. Robert Glasper scored it. It was amazing. Everybody stepped up. We did an Indie Go Go campaign. We got money from other celebrities too.
The Hollywood 360: Can you please talk a little about Miles Davis.
Vince Wilburn: He had a great sense of humor which a lot of people don’t know about and he could cook his butt off. He was a master chef.
The Hollywood 360: Was he intimidating?
Vince Wilburn: Intimidating, yes. But in a way that he cared about the music. The music was first… we called it going to the Miles Davis University.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about being here tonight. You are up for a Grammy and you will be performing tonight.
La Santa Cecelia Band: We are happy to be part of the pre Grammy festivities, to be supporting a great cause, and to bring our music and have fun. It will be an awesome 30 minutes.
The Hollywood 360: Describe your music.
La Santa Cecelia Band: We’re a band from LA, we’re all from different parts of Mexico, the United States and South America. Our music is what you hear in LA…a little bit of everything. A lot of influence of Latino music, Mexican music, and rock and roll.
The Hollywood 360: What will you be playing tonight?
La Santa Cecelia Band: We will be playing music off our new album. We just recorded an album in Mexico City which is a live album, a concert/documentary video thing. It’s all live, it’s beautiful, it’s all traditional music. We’ll be playing some of that tonight along with some classics from La Santa Cecelia.
The Hollywood 360: What is the name of the album.
La Santa Cecelia Band: To Love and To Live.
The Hollywood 360: Say more about being in Mexico City.
La Santa Cecelia Band: We were out there for a week in different locations. It was outdoors…you have all the traffic and people in the background. We had a great time.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about tonight
Manny Patel: I’m here for the kick off Grammy Party. Last year I was actually at the Grammys doing the red carpet. I’m doing the Oscars in two weeks. I am going with a nominee. I’ve been training for that.
The Hollywood 360: You DJ for many big events.
Manny Patel: I DJ the BAFTA Awards, the Ovation Awards and I am DJing an Oscar Party too depending who wins.
Monica Cabbler: I am actually a track and field star. My background is in fitness and passionate for kid’s fitness.
The Hollywood 360: Have you ever gone to the Olympics?
Monica Cabbler: I’ve been to the Olympic trials three times. I did compete a the world class level for many years. But music is key to my training. I always had my playlist when I train.
The Hollywood 360: Where did you go to college? What were your events?
Monica Cabbler: University of Georgia. The triple jump and the long jump.
The Hollywood 360: What is the name of your band?
Christopher Leyva: My band is called the Falling Doves and is a rock and roll band. I’m originally from Mexico City but lived in England for a long time. And now I’m here in Hollywood. I am a singer/guitarist.
The Hollywood 360: Do you write the songs?
Christopher Leyva: I do. I collaborate as well with the other band members.
The Hollywood 360: Where do you play?
Christopher Leyva: We are beginning to play around LA, but we had played in England for a long time.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about being here tonight.
Christopher Leyva: I’m here to support the community and support the event. Being a part of the community here now, you have to come out and support the artists. The smallest part of support means a lot.
The Hollywood 360: Is there a difference between people listening to your music in England than here in LA?
Christopher Leyva: It’s sad really because when we were in England it was hard to get people to be receptive to our music but when we moved out, they were so into it. We were getting a reputation in Liverpool.
Inside the OHM, the Pre-Grammy party continued on with the bands entertaining the crowds in the front room, and a delicious healthy food buffet was offered in the back room with an open bar. Vendors from the sponsoring companies had booths displaying their products. The OHM nightclub throbbed with excitement all night long as the guests enjoyed superb music and scrumptious goodies.
The event was supported by Presenting Sponsor truRoots and Community Leader Sambazon. Foundation Partners were BluePrint Organic, Cedar’s Mediterranean Foods, City National Bank, Saffron Road, SeaSnax, Lifeway Kefir, Lily’s Sweets, PopChips, prAna, and VOSS Water. Event Supporters included Coyo, Harmless Harvest, Health-Ade Kombucha, Justin’s, KeVita Sparkling Probiotic Drinks, NadaMoo, Playing for Change Foundation, Rishi Tea and Volvic. Event Contributors include Cabo Chips, Castor & Pollux, Doctor Kracker, Greyston Bakery, Heavenly Organics, KIND Bar, Madécasse Chocolate, MS Event Production, Navitas Naturals, Papyrus-Recycled Greetings, Planet LA Records, Purely Elizabeth, Putumayo, Rhythm Superfoods, Scarlette Bartending and The Seaweed Bath Co.
Proceeds from the evening will go directly to Whole Planet Foundation.: wholeplanetfoundation.org.