On Wednesday I headed to Radio City Music Hall, where rehearsals were underway for the upcoming Garden Of Dreams Talent Show, a free event on March 27. The annual show offers kids who are overcoming obstacles in the tri-state area the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform on the great stage at Radio City.
The participants also receive tutelage from a number of celebrity mentors, including Sports Illustrated model and dancer Damaris Lewis. She chatted with us during the rehearsal about working with the kids and on their curiosity as to who she knows and has worked with.
Lewis and her fellow mentors will be back at Radio City to support the kids on March 27; the event starts at 7 p.m. and is open to the public.
The world is still mourning the loss of Prince, who passed away at just 57 years old. Many of his fans would describe “The Purple One” as legendary or iconic. But supermodel Damaris Lewis came to know the “When Doves Cry” singer as a regular person, “just like you and me.”
“I think Prince has done an amazing job at building an immense amount of respectability around his career,” Lewis replied when I asked what it was like to be out in public with the superstar. Earlier this month, the model joined my show to chat about some of her charity work; this past March Lewis and Prince sat courtside at a Warriors/Thunder NBA game in California. “He says hello and does what he has to do but at the end of the day, people really respect his space.”
As far as any hang time with Kevin Durant or Stephen Curry, Lewis said that didn’t happen because they arrived to their seats just after the tip-off and left right at halftime.
“We are really big basketball fans,” she told me, just weeks before the singer’s demise. “I’ve been his dancer/muse since 2012; really good friend and we watch basketball. That day, we just went to the game.”
Prince played Oracle Arena, home to the defending NBA Champions, the following evening.
Lewis, who first met the “Purple Rain” singer six years ago, has been a guest on my show a handful of times over the past years. In one instance, I asked her what the kids she was mentoring through the Garden of Dreams Foundation could learn from Prince.
“Working with Prince, the one thing I notice is that he hears everything,” she noted. “He’s very observant and that’s important if you’re going to go in to a career in entertainment. You need to know what’s happening all around you at all times.
“Prince is definitely a person who has taught me to be very aware.”
Lewis’ comments reflect some reporting this past week from TMZ, which estimated Prince’s net worth at about $150 million. The website, which also broke the news of his death, said that figure could be much higher but Prince almost always refused to license his music catalog.
The reason? Like other artists, Prince was protective of his art, and was probably aware of others’ ulterior motives. This along with his notoriously private lifestyle and tight inner circle only added to the mystique and aura of the artist.
And in a day where so many public figures over-share their lives with others, this aspect of Prince’s life may have drawn fans closer to him. The artist has posthumously sold over 3.5 million albums and singles. His LPs “The Very Best Of Prince” and “Purple Rain” re-entered the Billboard 200 album chart as one and two respectively.
Stars from across entertainment and sports showed up to support the kids performing at the Garden Of Dreams’ annual Talent Show. The show offers kids throughout the tri-state area who overcome obstacles the opportunity to perform on the Great Stage at Radio CIty Music Hall.
Lending their support and speaking with us on the show’s red carpet included celebrity mentors Damaris Lewis and Nastia Liukin along with Broadway star Jay Armstrong Johnson, Impractical Jokers Joe Gatto and Murr, and HBO host John Oliver.
Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model Damaris Lewis stopped by to chat about the upcoming Garden of Dreams Foundation Talent Show at Radio City Music Hall, where kids from throughout the tri-state area will have the opportunity to perform on stage at Radio City.
Lewis also chatted a bit about her recent outing to a Warriors/Thunder NBA game, where her and friend Prince (yes, that one) sat courtside to see Stephen Curry and the defending NBA Champions take on Kevin Durant and Oklahoma City.
The Garden of Dreams Talent Show is Monday, April 11, at Radio City Music Hall. Tickets to the event are free and will be distributed upon entrance in to the venue.
The Garden Of Dreams Foundation, Madison Square Garden’s charity that aims to improve the lives of kids facing an array of obstacles across the tri-state area, is preparing for its annual talent show. It is an event that provides children with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform on stage at Radio City Music Hall.
And for that reason, TV personality Hoda Kotb is returning a second time to help out.
“This is one of those events that you have to do again. You can’t do it once,” Kotb responded when I asked why she reprised her role of “Celebrity Mentor” alongside the likes of gold medalist Nastia Liukin, model Damaris Lewis, The Rockettes, Broadway star Christina Sajous and hip-hop legend Darryl “DMC” McDaniels. “There are so many events and wonderful charities in New York. This particular one does it exactly right.”
Citing what the participants take from the experience, The Today Show co-host elaborated.
“It transforms lives. It changes the trajectory of someone’s path,” she explained. “You actually can physically watch someone change, and how often does that happen in your lifetime, that you get to watch someone transform right in front of you?”
According to the foundation, over 100 children will participate in the talent show, and each child took a different path to the great stage. For Caroline Waters, she battled Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. The 16 year-old Queens native was diagnosed at age two and began chemotherapy before later receiving a bone marrow transplant from her younger sister, who was just four at the time.
Waters has been cancer-free for 13 years, and chose to perform Andra Day’s “Rise Up” at the event.
“I find it very inspiring,” she said of the track. “It’s such an anthem; everything happens for a reason, so whatever happens, it’ll be OK.”
It’s quite a profound comment from a teenager like Waters who has faced so many trials and tribulations. Yet, her disposition reveals not only how this organization benefits children, but how it also reflects back on to the volunteers.
“I learned that these kids, when you look at the hardships that they have to sort of overcome, you learn that at the base of it we’re all just human beings,” Kotb responded when asked what she took from last year’s talent show. “We all just have basic needs. These kids have such incredible talent and I think sometimes they don’t get a fair shot at it because of where they began.
“I just like this because it puts everyone on the starting line together. Here we all are, together. Now 1, 2, 3: go. That’s how it works, and everyone gets their shot.”
In essence, the talent show gives everyone their own opportunity to rise up.
The Garden of Dreams Foundation held its annual Talent Show at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday. Children from across the tri-state area who are facing obstacles were chosen with the help of partner organizations to perform on the Great Stage at Radio City.
“People need to see the beauty in each person, no matter what situation they’re in,” Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels, one of the celebrity mentors to the kids, told “Ralphie Tonight before the show. “That’s what we do here at the Garden of Dreams.”
In addition to the celebrity mentors from across the entertainment industry that helped the performers prepare, a number of other stars showed up on Thursday to lend their support – including “Sopranos” actor Steve Schirripa, Kevin Jonas and Chef Anne Burrell.
“If you have found your path, hopefully much earlier than I did, you know what? Stick to it, and love it,” Burrell said of the advice she usually gives kids. “And if you love it, you’ll be good at it.”
Other mentors for the show included model Damaris Lewis, The Rockettes and “Today” host Hoda Kotb. The event was hosted by MSG Networks’ Al Trautwig and Jill Martin.
There certainly was no shortage of star power, or inspiring stories. Braeden Hahn is a 14 year-old from Fredon, N.J. He was treated for severe aplastic anemia, but on Thursday when I asked him how he was feeling, that seemed to be the furthest thing from his mind. The singer and guitarist told me he was a little nervous, but excited to perform at Radio City – the largest stage he had yet to grace. Hahn chose to sing John Mayer’s “Gravity.”
“When I was in the hospital, I first heard the song and it just got to me because my sickness was trying to bring me down, just like the gravity, and I wouldn’t let it.”
Damaris Lewis is a celebrity mentor for Thursday’s Garden of Dreams Talent Show at Radio City Music Hall. The Brooklyn-born star brings a diverse resume to the table: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model, backup dancer for Prince and cameo in Kanye West’s music video for “Monster” are just a few of the things found on her Wikipedia (of course, we confirmed). Not surprisingly, Lewis was able to answer a question about what kids participating in the show could learn from the aforementioned musicians with relative ease.
“Listen,” she responded when asked what “The Purple One” could teach others. “I think that working with Prince, the one that I notice is that he hears everything. He’s very observant, and that’s important if you’re going to go in to a career in entertainment. You need to know what’s happening all around you, at all times.”
Perhaps his public persona would prevent others from linking Kanye West to a mentorship role at a kids’ talent show, but GRAMMY Awards and chart-topping albums don’t come without hard work and talent.
“Be yourself,” Lewis said of what Mr. West could teach those performing at Radio City Thursday. “Never be afraid, just like Hoda (Kotb), to be the same person you are when you wake up when you’re on that stage. If you carry that energy that you have on the stage in to your real life, your confidence levels will be the same in both areas.”
The “Today” host, along with stars from Broadway and The Rockettes, also serve as mentors to those participating Thursday.
“I love Garden of Dreams because they bring you people who are the same on the camera and off the camera,” Lewis noted of her colleagues. “I think it’s really important for the kids to see that as well because they’re going to meet Hoda, and then they’re going to watch her and say, ‘Wow! That’s the same woman I met!’
“It’s really great energy for the kids to have, on-and-off the clock.”
The Garden of Dreams Talent Show will feature children found through its 25 partner organizations that are facing difficulties, such as extreme poverty or homelessness. The event takes place on Thursday at Radio City Music Hall, and is free to the public. It kicks off at 7 p.m.