FEATURE ROBIN GIVENSM
basically don‘t like the press. I don‘t trust the press. I think there‘s very little
credibility in the press.‘ So hisses Robin
Givens towards the end ofa
promotional do to publicise her first
feature film A Rage In Harlem. Set in the thriving Harlem of 1956. it is a fairly uproarious screen adaptation of cult novelist Chester Hines‘ feisty tale ofstolen gold. after-hours nightlife and gun-toting conmen. Directed by Bill Duke and cast alongside such black thespian luminaries as Forrest Whitaker. Danny Glover, Gregory Hines and Zakes Mikae, Givens and her improbably salacious wardrobe make something of an impression as the dangerous Imabelle.
Dropping in on London after a Cannes Film Festival launch where the film was favourably received (without winning any prizes) and her own performance attracted generous notices. you‘d think that Givens would be happy to be generating such positive publicity, but her remarks on the subject ofthe media are offered with an appreciable note ofdisdain. if not disgust. The reason is, of course. the frenzy of US tabloid activity which surrounded her increasingly acrimonious year of wedlock to former world heavyweight champ and all-round destroyer at large. Mike Tyson. Ergo, the thing that makes Robin Givens interesting to most journos is the one thing that she‘s determined to put behind her. We‘d been warned that it would be futile to ask about the aforementioned Mr T, but. in the end. la Givens proved to have plenty else to say for herself. Amidst the shocker headlines like THAT BITCH ROBIN
To date, actress ROBIN GIVENS remains better known as the ex-Mrs Mike Tyson, but with an eyecatching role in the newly-released 505 crime caper A Rage In Harlem all that could be about to change. Trevor Johnston catches up with a woman who knows what she will and will not talk about.
DROVE MIKE MAD and BEATINGS BY ?
TYSON TURNED ME ON. it rarely gets mentioned that this is one articulate lady. a Harvard Graduate School alumna. no less.
‘I grew up and I watched Marilyn Monroe.‘
she reﬂects on her models for the hurricane in a basque that is Imabelle. ‘I loved Rita Hayworth. I loved Lauren Bacall. those types of women. Those were the pictures I had on my wall as a kid rather than Dorothy Dandridge [slinky black acress who starred in Carmen Jones and Porgy and Bess during the 50s. before committing suicide less than
; a decade later when her career had nowhere ; left to run]. It was only when I got the part in ' A Rage In Harlem that I found out about
her. although I didn‘t look at videos or
6 The List 27 September — ll)
anything. I didn‘t think I should be turning my performance into me doing Dorothy doing Carmen. .
‘Actually I don‘t think there‘s been a black actress since Dorothy Dandridge who‘s been allowed to have that kind of sensuality. Often when you see black actresses on film they‘re in this nurturing capacity, either taking care oftheir own children or other people‘s families. In that sense Imabelle is very positive.‘
But don‘t you worry that you‘ll get typecast as some femme fatale figure?
‘Well. that would be a wonderful problem for a black woman to have!‘ she retorts with some vehemence. ‘If I‘m at the airport and I see Naomi Campbell on the cover of Vogue it‘s like YES! It‘s so seldom, especially in the United States, that you‘re actually considered beautiful. As a child, it was always amazing to me to look in a magazine and see one of the then very few black models. because there was someone who was just like me and who was obviously thought of as attractive enough to be on those pages.‘
Yet surely the problem for any beautiful young black actress is that she‘s going to be playing hookers or bimbo secretaries all the time?
‘Yeah. But we gotta move beyond all that. Thisis 1991!‘
At which point she makes that karate chop motion where you bring one hand down on top of your other palm. From out of nowhere there‘s a sudden burst offire. though thankfully not ofthe intensity that greeted Tony Parsons in a recent eyebrow-singeing Elle encounter that left the former NME punk survivor feeling sorry for poor old Iron Mike. Oy vey. It‘s little wonder that her catchphrase in Rage is a highly convincing Don 'tfuek with me.’.
‘For us to be having this discussion is shameful. It‘s 1991, where people are different shapes and colours. where they speak different languages and different cultures. but all that is what makes it interesting. Julia Roberts just played a prostitute so why can‘t I play a prostitute? She can be just a broad. but I‘ve got to carry the entire race? We‘ve really got to move beyond all that.‘
Looking closer to demure in today‘s floral sundress than she does on screen in outfits so tight she had to be daily sewn into them. the
native New Yorker simmers down again and is keen to talk about the (‘annes experience where Rage shared the limelight with the likes of Spike Lee‘s Jungle Fever. John Singleton‘s Boys N The Hood and Matty Rich‘s Straight Outta Brooklyn. ‘With this resurgence in African—American filmmaking. the danger. it seems to me. E would he that you‘d only get to hear one .' point ofveiw. The ghetto aspect. The drug 3 thing. The urban lifestyle. What Bill has 7 done with this movie is to show what a wonderful place I larlem was during that time in the 50s. rich with music and culture i and dance. It was a place ofour own which I we could be proud ofand I think you really