After thrilling audiences with biographical films that chronicled the lives of some of music history’s most celebrated female vocalists (i.e. Aaliyah, Whitney Houston, Toni Braxton Britney Spears, etc.), Lifetime is turning the spotlight on Gospel’s reigning royal family – The Clark Sisters.
Premiering tonight (April 11) at 8/7c, ‘The First Ladies Of Gospel: The Clark Sisters’ stars Emmy-nominated actress Aunjanue Ellis as the group’s mother (“Mattie”), Christina Bell (“Twinkie”), Kierra Sheard (“Karen”), Sheléa Frazier (“Dorinda”), Raven Goodwin (“Denise”), and Angela Birchett (“Jacky”).
Ahead of its small screen arrival, ‘First Ladies’ – based on the trailer alone – has already garnered acclaim for its accompanying soundtrack (click here to listen), costuming and design, and more.
Now, after invitation to a private screening, That Grape Juice is among the critics lauding the biopic and has compiled a list of 5 reasons why it was an absolute knockout!
Black Girl Magic
Black women shine a-front and behind the scenes of ‘The First Ladies Of Gospel: The Clark Sisters.’
Beyond the actresses tasked with recounting the life stories of its titular characters and their mother, the film was written, directed, and produced by Black women.
GRAMMY-winning music icons Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, and Missy Elliott are credited as its covey of executive producers, while Christine Swanson and Camille Tucker serve as the movie’s director and writer respectively.
It Goes “There”
GRAMMY wins, top-selling albums, electrifying stage performances, and reverence from generations of female singers that succeeded them are just a few of the highly publicized wins the group’s collected over its 40+ year tenure. Yet, their personal failures have been largely undisclosed.
History has seen them fiercely safeguard their privacy, but in ‘The First Ladies Of Gospel’ many mysterious aspects of the quintet-turned-quartet’s life off-stage are addressed including Twinkie losing the rights to their songs (as seen in the clip above), sister Denise Clark‘s sudden absence, and much more.
When vocal performances reach certain levels of excellence, they can no longer be classified as merely “singing.” Instead, the saints call it “flatfoot sangin” – and that’s exactly what the film houses in plenitude.
Like the musical Lifetime biopics before it, ‘First Ladies’ does see its titular characters’ works re-recorded for the purpose of the movie. Unlike its Lifetime predecessors, however, the actresses – Christina Bell (“Twinkie”), Kierra Sheard (“Karen”), Sheléa Frazier (“Dorinda”), and Angela Birchett (“Jacky”) – are all critically acclaimed vocalists capable of doing the roles justice.
Lifetime’s no stranger to harsh criticism for casting missteps in their previous biopics (see: ‘Aaliyah: Princess of R&B’), but ‘The First Ladies Of Gospel’ will not be able to claim the same.
While impressive attention to detail in costume, hair, and makeup turned its six main actresses into time-warped versions of the Gospel greats, Aunjanue Ellis (“Mattie”), Sheléa Frazier (“Dorinda”), and Angela Birchett’s (“Jacky”) uncanny resemblances to their real-life Clark counterparts was almost frightening at times.
The Clark Sisters Were Involved
On the note of criticism, the network has also fielded jeers due to some of its unauthorized biopics lacking the approval of its titular character or said person’s estate (see: Aaliyah, Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, etc.).
Lifetime’s take on the Clark story started off on the right foot given the divas’ presence during the planning and film-making process, thereby adding authenticity to the actresses’ respective performances and re-enactment of life scenes.