Newark’s Princess of Soul

Newark’s Princess of Soul

Newark native, singer, and finalist on The Four: Battle for Stardom on FOX, Leah Jenea James has been nicknamed Brick City’s Princess of Soul. After attending a Newark City Hall camp at the age of eight, James realized she wanted to sing. She originally attended the camp for dance but soon realized her love for singing after a solo performance of “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston.

Growing up, James’ favorite singers included Jill Scott, Amy Winehouse, and Chrisette Michele. She was also inspired by the skills of Newark’s very own songwriters, Whitney Houston and Lauryn Hill. In 2017, she released her EP, Life W.T.R., on which she wrote every song.

This year, James made Newark proud when she became a contestant and -finalist on The Four TV show. While in the process of preparing for prom, graduation, and college, a friend made her aware of an opportunity to audition for the show. She was also preparing to do a concert with singer Musiq, a.k.a. Musiq Soulchild. When asked how it felt to be on The Four, the 18-year-old said it hadn’t registered yet. “There’s still a part of me that’s just like, ‘Wow, that really happened!’” she said.

When it comes to her hometown, James loves Newark’s arts and entertainment scene. “I go to a lot of open mics around here, a lot of art exhibits. And, also, just walking around Newark and seeing the murals. That really -always makes my day because it feels like they’re always changing up.” James said.

In November, James was signed to Cinematic Music Group. She expects to release her next album, Leah Meets Nina, in 2019. It will include approximately six songs and be a mixture of her vocals and Nina Simone’s vocals. When asked if she had any advice for aspiring entertainers, the singer said to be true to you. “Just continue being the same you that you were when you first started. You’re going to see a lot of things and go through a lot of things, but if you stay true to yourself and stay honest with yourself, everything will come very easily.”

5 Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day in Newark

5 Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day in Newark

NJPAC is in a city with hundreds of restaurants, so live entertainment and food are highly compatible. No matter what your plans are for Valentine’s Day, you’d better have tickets in advance, recheck dates and times, and reserve early for this dining destination weekend second only to Mother’s Day.

Visitors to the Arts Center know they don’t have to go farther than the lobby to find creative cuisine, handcrafted cocktails, and pre-performance buzz at NICO Kitchen + Bar. In the following scenarios, however, Destination Newark and NJPAC play matchmaker by connecting NJPAC attractions to something cookin’ in the area:

#1 – Toni Braxton and Marcus B&P

Avoid this year’s February 15-17 crunch by celebrating on February 8, when NJPAC co-produces a concert featuring Toni -Braxton, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, and SWV at the Prudential Center (The Rock). Braxton’s As Long As I Live Tour promises plenty of ultra-smooth R&B, which warrants a restaurant with a high degree of cool. Try the Southern -specialties at Marcus B&P, celebrity chef Marcus -Samuelsson’s chic establishment in the Hahne & Co. building.

Valentine"s Day Comedy

#2 – A-List Comedians and BBQ

On Valentine’s Day itself, Michael Blackson, John Witherspoon, Luenell, Smokey Suarez, along with the evening’s host Bill Bellamy will be dishing out the laughs at NJPAC as part of the Valentine’s All-Star Comedy Show. Then, on February 16, Emmy-winning comic Russell Peters brings his Deported World Tour to Prudential Hall.

Get a serious “ribbing” from the grill at Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.

Patti LaBelle and Freddie Jackson

#3 – Patti LaBelle and ‘Blues’

Philadelphia’s Grammy-winning Patti LaBelle, who returns to NJPAC on February 15, knows soul. Her appearance with special guest Freddie Jackson calls for pre-show helpings of feel-good kitchen favorites. Savor the soul rolls stuffed with kale, sweet potato, and black-eyed peas at Eleven Clinton Smothered Blues, or dig into the health-conscious comfort food at Vonda’s Kitchen.

Patrizio Buanne

#4 – Patrizio Buanne and Bella Notte

Also on February 15, Patrizio Buanne, the ambassador of romantic Italian songs, brings The Special Valentine’s Day Show to the Victoria Theater. Celebrating amore over a superb dinner comes naturally to proprietors of time-honored Italian restaurants throughout Greater Newark, like Luigi’s in the North Ward.

Maurice Hines

#5 – Maurice Hines and Fine Wines

Think of seductive songs like “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” Now think of “fizzy” and “bubbly.” Nothing goes together quite like the Great American Songbook and wine, especially sparkling wine. In two shows on February 16, the ever-sophisticated tapper Maurice Hines performs standards like those and tells his story in Tappin’ Thru Life, backed by the all-female DIVA Orchestra.

An oasis on Newark’s bustling Ferry Street, Adega Grill, whose name comes from the Portuguese for “wine cellar,” offers a “wow” selection of wines and Champagnes in its cushy lounges and dining areas. 

For tickets to NJPAC events, visit or call 1-888-GO-NJPAC (466-5722).

To the Stars and Back: Tobias Truvillion & Michele Morgan-­Truvillion

To the Stars and Back: Tobias Truvillion & Michele Morgan-­Truvillion

Husband and wife team Tobias Truvillion and Michele Morgan-Truvillion are accomplished veterans in the film and television industry. This power couple resides in Newark and is very involved in the city’s arts community.

A former rapper signed to Def Jam Records, Michele recently did voiceover work for a new animated series produced by comedian Kevin Hart. Michele started out in the Spike Lee film New Jersey Drive and later became the voice of character Juicy in Eddie Murphy’s animated series The PJs.

Currently, Michele is serving as the senior community relations specialist in Mayor Ras Baraka’s office at Newark City Hall and was instrumental in the coordination of the filming of the Joker movie, which began in October 2018.

Husband Tobias is an actor, photographer, filmmaker, and arts educator. He has starred as Derek Major on the hit Fox network series Empire, Kenny Armstrong on NBC’s Chicago PD, and Bennet Thompson in the BET series In Contempt.

Never losing sight of the community, Tobias worked with the late Rodney Gilbert who founded Newark’s Yendor Arts Organization, to bridge the gap between inner-city youth and the arts. He is an active Yendor board member.

To the Stars and Back: Darnell “J.D.” Williams

To the Stars and Back: Darnell “J.D.” Williams

Newark native Darnell “J.D.” Williams is an actor best known for his roles as Kenny Wangler in the HBO series Oz, Brodie Broadus in the HBO series The Wire, and Froggy in the Paramount Pictures film Pootie Tang. With over 20 years of experience, Williams has worked on various television shows, movies, and commercials. At press time, he was starring on the Bounce TV soap opera Saints & Sinners playing Jabari Morris.

Williams attended Newark Arts High School and, in 2015, returned to Newark to offer free acting coaching workshops to the youth, working in conjunction with Mayor Ras Baraka, the City of Newark Municipal Council, and the Newark Youth One-Stop Career Center.

To the Stars and Back: Michael B. Jordan

To the Stars and Back: Michael B. Jordan

In early 2018 Michael B. Jordan hosted a private screening of his box office smash hit Black Panther at his alma mater, Newark Arts High School.

The 31 year-old actor was raised in Newark. He is noted for his role as the villain Erik Killmonger in the successful Marvel film Black Panther and for his role as Adonis Creed in the Rocky sequels Creed 1 and Creed 2.

Jordan attended Newark Arts High School where he studied drama. Early in his career he worked as a child model, then officially started his acting career in 1999, appearing on television shows such as The Cosby Show and The Sopranos. His first primary role in film was in the 2001 movie Hardball, where he played Jamal.

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