Tag Archives: Denene Millner


Why am I sweating like a slave? A fleeting moment of reflection hit me, as I stood there screaming at the top of my lungs, hooting and hollering with my kids (football style) under each arm. Whatever! I was sweating, but having a blast!

UniverSoul Circus

What was I doing? Guest blogging (actually twittering) at the UniverSoul Circus in Brooklyn last night, at their show in Prospect Park. My friend Denene posted the opportunity on her blog, mybrownbaby.blogspot.com, weeks ago, and I jumped at the chance to blog backstage. Kristin Parker, with Elemental Interactive (creative corporate storytellers) reached out to me a few days ago and set it all up.

Anyway, last night, I packed the kids and wife into the Jeep, and we headed to Brooklyn, the second stop of USoul’s New York leg of the tour. We were treated (celebrity-like) to a behind-the-scenes look at USoul’s operations, and a pre-show meeting with the acrobats, jugglers, performers and contortionists we would later see onstage.

These kids toss each other around with their feet.

These kids toss each other around with their feet.

The performers, from all around the world, were a moving community, touring ten months out of the year. I was struck by the complexity of the circus culture. Despite the different languages they spoke, their various cultures and backgrounds, they worked as a cohesive unit, supporting one-another. I was also struck by the number of children in the circus. The death-defying stunts (I was later to see) were being performed by children as young as 12!

'Zanti' means 'show-offs' - I wonder why.

'Zanti' means 'show-offs' - I wonder why.

My kids were especially excited to see the horses, elephants and tigers backstage, and I couldn’t wait for them to actually see the show. Our tour of the tiger cages was cut short by some guy (read: me) who wanted to get a photo with his kids and a baby tiger nearly swiped his dreds! After a 30 minute meet-and-greet, we were led to our seats under the big-top. 

The show started with a skit by Maggie Shirley Lillie Mae Francis Upshaw Jenkins and Nephew Lucky, the night’s hosts, who introduced James Brown and his Go-Go Dancers. They were followed by the Rough Riders, Shandong Foot Jugglers (troop juggles people), Ethopian Foot Juggler (girl juggles things) and the Wheel of Death. Each act was as electrifying as the last, and the energy of the night built to a dizzying crescendo.

After intermission, Maggie Jenkins and Nephew Lucky introduced the China Soul Flyers, the Caribbean Zanti Dancers, Stilt Walkers, Twisted Soul, Magic Cats and the Elephants. There were skits a-plenty and the DJ kept the house rocking all night.

While the whole night was awesome, the most exciting part of the night was for me unceremoniously un-circus-like. It was an old-school/new school battle, in which two couples went head-to-head, center ring, acting out the lyrics to old and new school songs.  

The new school songs were ‘Kiss Me Through The Phone,’ by Soulja Boy and ‘Shoulda Let You Go,’ by Keyshia Cole. The old school songs were ‘Cause I Love You’ by Lenny Williams and ‘I’m Telling You’by  Jennifer Holliday. Needless to say, old school rocked the house – literally. People (including your sweaty children-toting blogger) were up out of their seats screaming.

If you haven’t been to the UniverSoul Circus, I strongly urge you to go. Unlike Cirque Du Soleil, which is very refined, or Ringling Bros., which is your traditional circus-going experience, USoul is pure energy, start to finish (um…did I tell you I was sweating). But don’t take my word for it. See if for yourself.

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By Denene Millner

The actual original front cover, before 'editing.'

The original front cover, before 'editing.' Kinda looks nice, dontcha think?

So my girl Denene Millner, world famous author, blogger, mom and all-around peeps (I’ve written about her in the past), recently released another book, Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man: What Men Really Think About Love, Relationships, Intimacy and Commitment, which she wrote with Steve Harvey.  Now anyone who knows Denene, knows that virtually everything in that book sounds like Denene, but we’re gonna let Steve Harvey get that one (wink, wink).

The 'after' cover that went to print.  What a shame.

The 'after' cover that went to print. What a shame.


Denene is clearly on the come-uppance (as she has always been since I’ve known her), but the intensity of her star shines a tad brighter, when a book she pens ends up number one on the New York Times Best Seller List.  Now I’m not saying that I know people….I don’t mean to brag…but Denene and I ARE rather close…so I guess you can say, I know people.

But seriously, all props to my girl Denene on another successful book!  

Denene, I know all of five people read my blog, so I aint trippin’ about putting up this little ditty, but you know I got you!  

Just so you know I know.  (c:,’

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Denene and Nick

A Love Story

A Love Story

In Lesson One, I put forth the premise that ‘you are the brand.’ That lesson may seem a little amorphous, so I feel its appropriate to provide context and give ‘concrete examples of people being the brand.’ Interestingly, after I penned that entry, I was chatting online in Facebook with a friend of mine, who I thought would make a perfect case study for this first principle.

The person I was chatting with was Denene Millner, who I’ve known for about 10 years. I met Denene and her husband Nick Chiles, through my wife, Chanel, who’s best friend, Angelou, is Nick’s younger sister. Denene and Nick are both award-winning authors, who have written at least ten books between them. Originally New York City reporters who met in Room 9, the legendary press room at City Hall, Denene and Nick are both Atlanta -based full-time writers, and the embodiment of being the brand.

Denene and Nick are constantly writing and promoting their published works. Each book-signing or announcement is done in a signature fashion. One of their book signings, for The Vow: A Novel (written with co-authors Mitzi Miller and Angela Burt-Murray) was at Harry Winston in their Fifth Avenue designer showroom. It was the most glamorous book signing I had ever attended. Despite the fact that Denene is barely taller than 5 feet, she commanded the room with a presence that rivaled the numerous diamonds and gemstones on display.

Denene and Nick are keenly aware of the need to promote themselves, as well as their books, in whatever they do. I recently received an email blast from Denene, upon the release of her latest book, Hotlanta, in which she implored all of her friends to not only ‘support a sistah’ but also to tell our friends to do the same. She was shameless in her appeal, reminding us that she had helped all of us out at various points in time and that she was cashing in her chips.

For anyone who has ever shopped at a Barnes and Noble or visited the Strand, there are countless titles from countless authors competing for our attention (and our dollars). Very few of those books ever see the ‘best seller’ list or get any of the ‘prime retail’ space reserved for hot authors or Oprah’s “book of the month’ selection. Needless to say, competition among authors is fierce (albeit passive).

What makes Denene and Nick remarkable (and why I chose to use them as my example for Lesson One) is their approach to writing. First, they are collaborative writers. Almost all of their books were written together or with other co-authors. Their ‘What Brothers Think, What Sistahs Know” series of books, offer gender-based opinion on issues ranging from sex and relationships to money and politics. Their novels explore the depths and complexities of male/female relationships, covering topics including fidelity and earning and income disparities.

Second, they know that a large part of the appeal of their books is them. The subject matter they write about, while always interesting and presented in a fresh (and Afro-centric) way, is still rather pedestrian and can be found in any number of books. But the fact that Denene and Nick are the authors imbues their work with something special that makes their books ‘must haves.’ More accurately, the fact that Denene and Nick announce themselves as the authors of their books, makes it clear that you’re not just buying a book, you’re buying into their celebrity.

Denene and Nick know that they are the brand, and they make it a point to keep that message at the forefront of everything they do. They started a marketing and communications firm called Odyssey Media, which publishes Odyssey Couleur and offers a full range of boutique leisure services to a discerning clientèle. Once again, the value of their personal brand has allowed them to expand into other areas.

‘You are the brand’ means that when it comes to promoting anything, the value that people attach to whatever it is you’re pitching, starts with the value they attach to you. Therefore, the more you cultivate your personal appeal, the greater an impact you will have when pitching yourself or any extension of yourself.

Until next time, class dismissed.


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