Tricky - May 31st

Today, I'll be closing out National Foster Care month with one last amazing alumni. For me, this was a personal commitment to increase the visibility of these very successful, familiar people's childhood stories. I hope it has made you smile, say 'wow', surprised or touched you and above all gave you a glimpse of their resilience, strength and tenderness. You can be the difference in the life of a foster child.

Tricky --- called "The Majesty of Trip Hop", much to his chagrin. He is an English musician, actor and producer, once called the most brilliantly enigmatic pop figure, with his steely, sung-whispered lyrics. Tricky has mastered a musical fusion of rock and hip hop, high art and pop culture. Tricky was born to a Jamaican father and a mixed-race Anglo-Ghanaian mother. His father left the family before he was born, and his mother was a poet, who committed suicide when Tricky was only four. He spent his youth in the care of his grandmother and on the rugged streets of Bristol, England. His tenth studio album, "False Idols" was released this week on his own label, a subsidiary of Island Records.

Tricky

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Larry Ellison - May 30th

Larry Ellison --- called the "Prophet of Software", he is a business magnate, co-founder and chief executive of Oracle Corporation. Ellison was listed on the Forbes List of Billionaires as the fifth richest man in the world. Ellison is the third richest American, with a net worth of $43 billion. Larry was born in the Bronx, New York. At nine months, he contracted pneumonia, and his unmarried 19-year-old mother gave him to her aunt and uncle in Chicago to raise. Until he was twelve years old he did not know that he was adopted. He met his mother for the first time when he was 48. From an early age, he showed a strong aptitude for math and science, and was a bright but inattentive student. After dropping out of three universities, Larry's adoptive father was convinced that he would never make anything of himself, but the seemingly aimless young man had already learned the rudiments of computer programming. He took this skill with him to Berkeley, arriving with just enough money for fast food and a few tanks of gas. Eight years later, the Oracle Corporation was a multi-million dollar business.

Larry Ellison

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Tommy Davidson - May 29th

Tommy Davidson --- comedian, film and television actor. Born in Washington, D.C., Tommy's account is that he was thrown in the trash as an infant, found and taken in by a white woman who went on to adopt him when he was 2 years old. Davidson started his career as a stand-up comedian in the mid-1980s. His first major exposure came on the variety show In Living Color. Davidson provided the voice for "Oscar Proud," the father in the Disney animated series The Proud Family. More recently, he has played the role of Cream Corn in Black Dynamite, Adult Swim’s highest rated cartoon. He is also working on a biopic of Sammy Davis Jr., which he will star in. He has been a vocal and present advocate for adoption and has lent his time and comedic talent to fundraising efforts for foster care and adoption for years.

Tommy Davidson

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Tony Shellman - May 28th

Tony Shellman --- co-founder of clothing lines Enyce and Mecca. As an infant, Tony was left in the care of Catholic Charities because his parents felt they could not adequately provide for him. He was adopted at age 2. He is a graduate of Parsons School of Design in New York City. Tony has made his mark on the industry as a fashion, marketing and culture trend setter. Enyce was acquired by Liz Claiborne in 2004 for $114 million and is now owned by Sean Combs. Shellman dedicates his time to providing job opportunities to youth and working with them as a mentor.

Tony Shellman

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Langston Hughes - May 27th

Langston Hughes --- poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. Hughes is best known as a leader of the Harlem Renaissance. Langston's parents divorced when he was a baby, his father moved to Mexico to escape the racial prejudice that stopped him from practicing law, while his mother traveled around for work. From 1903 to 1915 he lived mostly with his grandmother, Mary Langston. Mary was a free black and one of the first women educated at Oberlin College in Ohio. She instilled a great sense of racial pride in the young Langston, before she died when he was 12. He lived with family friends and spent part of his teen years bouncing between both of his parents. Hughes earned a B.A. degree from Lincoln University in 1929 and was good friends with classmate Thurgood Marshall.

Langston Hughes

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Nelsan Ellis - May 26th

Nelsan Ellis --- is an award-winning film and television actor and playwright. He is well known for his role as Lafayette Reynolds in the HBO series True Blood. Growing up in foster care, Nelsan moved around a lot. He says, “My mother had some difficult times after her brother died and my parent's divorced. She needed a break. And we [Ellis and his siblings] were never given back to our parents, so we remained wards of the state. I lived with my grandmother in Alabama part of the time, but most of the time I lived with my auntie in Chicago.” Ellis joined the Marines, but quit not long afterwards. At 21, he was accepted into the Juilliard School's Drama Division and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 2004.

Nelsan Ellis

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Trent Reznor - May 25th

Trent Reznor (kinship) --- singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer. As both a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, Reznor is best known as the leader of the industrial rock project Nine Inch Nails. In 1997, Reznor appeared in Time magazine's list of the year's most influential people and Spin magazine described him as "the most vital artist in music". His parents abandoned him at age 5 and he was raised by his grandparents. Reznor began playing the piano at the age of five. In an interview, his grandfather remarked, "Music was his life, from the time he was a wee boy. He was so gifted".

Trent Reznor

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Carol Burnett - May 24th

Carol Burnett (kinship) --- actress, comedienne, singer, and writer. She is best known for her long-running TV variety show, The Carol Burnett Show. Carol's parents were alcoholics, and her earliest memories are of their screaming, drunken fights. Her father abandoned the family when she was eight, and her mother soon faded into the bottle, leaving Burnett to be raised by her grandmother in an impoverished area of Hollywood where they stayed in a boarding house. They became very close, and Burnett's famous "ear-tug" gesture, offered at the end of all her live performances and on her famous TV series, began as a silent signal to her grandmother, meaning "Everything is OK."

Carol Burnett

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Steve Jobs - May 23rd

Steve Jobs --- Father of the Digital Revolution, entrepreneur, inventor, co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc. Jobs was the genius who brought the world iTunes, the iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Retail Stores. Steve was born to a white mother and Syrian father in 1955. The couple were unmarried graduate students who gave their unnamed son up for adoption. As an infant, Steve was adopted by Clara and Paul Jobs. As a boy, Steve and his father would work on electronics in the family garage. Paul would show his son how to take apart and reconstruct electronics, a hobby which instilled confidence, tenacity and mechanical prowess in young Jobs. When Steve would be asked about his "adoptive parents", his standard reply was "they are my parents 1,000%".

Steve Jobs

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Willie Nelson - May 22nd

Willie Nelson (kinship) --- 'Outlaw' country music star, songwriter, actor, author and philanthropist. Nelson is widely recognized as an American icon. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993, received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1998 and he was inducted to the National Agricultural Hall of Fame, for his labor in Farm Aid and other fund raisers to benefit farmers. Willie was born in 1933 in Abbott, Texas, then abandoned by his mother at only six months old, he and his older sister Bobbie were raised by their paternal grandparents. Despite the poverty which the family underwent during the Great Depression, Nelson and Bobbie were never deprived of music. They grew-up with Gospel, Country and Frank Sinatra. Nelson has acted in over 30 films, co-authored several books, and has been involved in activism for the use of biofuels and the legalization of marijuana. Nelson began scribbling poetry at the age of five and when he received his first guitar at six, he began to put his lyrics to music. When Nelson was still very young, his grandfather died, leaving a gaping hole in his life. He used his talent and songwriting ability to translate his grief into music. At the tender age of 10, he started performing! In 1962 Nelson's big break came in the form of country music legend, Patsy Cline. Her version of 'Crazy' became one of the biggest songs she ever recorded, cementing Nelson's reputation as one of the greatest Nashville songwriters of all time.

 

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Esai Morales - May 21st

Esai Morales --- my fellow Puerto Rican brother! Handsome and talented, Morales is well known for his role as Bob Valenzuela in the 1987 biopic La Bamba, Fame, NYPD Blue, My Family/Mi Familia with fellow Boriquas Jennifer Lopez and Jimmy Smits and much more. When he was 12, Esai saw actor Al Pacino in the movie “Dog Day Afternoon”. From that moment on, he knew that all he wanted to do was act. By age thirteen, it was clear to Morales that his mother did not support his dream of an acting career. So Esai made a very difficult decision. He ran away from home and became a ward of the state. At first he lived in a group home, later living in a series of foster homes. While he was in care, Morales pursued his dream and attended New York’s prestigious High School for the Performing Arts (the school immortalized in the movie “Fame”). At fourteen, he made his stage debut at the New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park, playing opposite the late, great Raul Julia in The Tempest. Morales has described himself as an "activist", primarily as one of the founders of the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, taking inspiration from his mother, who was an organizer for the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union.

Esai Morales

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Tina Turner - May 20th

Tina Turner --- born Anna Mae Bullock in Nutbush, Tennessee. Her parents had a volatile relationship and often left Anna Mae and her sister with relatives - sometimes together, sometimes separately. Anna Mae was finally abandoned for good when she was 13. In her late teens, her grandmother passed away and she headed to St. Louis to be with her mom - a difficult relationship that remained strained throughout her mother's lifetime. Turner is listed on Rolling Stone's list "The Immortals — The Greatest Artists of All Time". She is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, and three of her recordings, "River Deep - Mountain High", "Proud Mary" and "What's Love Got To Do With It" are in the Grammy Hall of Fame. Tina has won 8 Grammy Awards and has sold more than 100 million records over a 50-plus year career.

Tina Turner

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Eric La Salle - May 19th

Eriq La Salle --- best known as Dr. Benton on the TV medical drama ER, but he's also a writer, director, and producer. Eriq has worked on Broadway, off-Broadway, in television and movies. He entered foster care shortly after birth and was one of five children brought up by foster mother Ada Haynes. He attended prestigious Juilliard and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from New York University. My favorite role of his: Darryl Jenks in Coming to America "Just let your Soul Glo!"

Eric La Salle

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Jamie Foxx - May 18th

Jamie Foxx --- winner of an Academy Award, Grammy and Golden Globe is an actor, stand-up comedian and singer-songwriter. Born to a very young couple who shortly after his birth felt overwhelmed by the burden of parenthood. When Foxx was just seven months old he was officially adopted by his maternal grandparents. His grandmother had a profound impact on her adopted son, and in interviews Foxx credits her as being his inspiration.

Jamie Foxx

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Keyshia Cole - May 17th

Keyshia Cole --- Four-time Grammy nominated, multi-platinum-selling R&B singer-songwriter and record producer. She gained nationwide acclaim when her 2005 debut album, The Way It Is, was certified platinum. She has been viewed as one of the more genuine urban songstresses to emerge in the 2000s. Keyshia was born in Oakland and almost immediately went into foster care. Her mother has a lengthy history of drug abuse, incarceration and having her children taken from her. Keyshia has expressed tremendous gratitude to family friends Leon and Yvonne Cole who adopted her at age 5.

Keyshia Cole

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