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4 Michigan Artists Capture National Attention

by Lisa Diggs

The arts community in Michigan is vibrant and diverse, representing multiple genres. Every day there are talented Michiganders in recording studios, behind lenses, at rehearsals, across from canvases, and in front of laptops in coffee shops. They hone their skills and create so that the world will be nourished through art. That is why it is always exciting when local artists capture the nation’s attention, as is the case with these four.

Author Josh Malerman
His career as a writer may not have been an overnight sensation, but the Sandra Bullock movie based on Josh Malerman’s novel, Bird Box, certainly was. Netflix began streaming the film worldwide on December 21, 2018, and according to Netflix, it was viewed by 80 million households in the month following its release. That has brought a lot of attention to the book, which was Josh’s debut novel, released in 2014. The Ferndale-based author reportedly wrote his first draft of the thriller back in 2006. The resurgence in attention landed the novel on the New York Times Bestsellers List.

Since finishing Bird Box, Josh has written several other books, at least two of which have been optioned for films. His latest novel, Inspection, is set to be released on April 23.

Dancer Lauren Yakima
Thanks to several different national talent shows, opportunities for dancers to gain mainstream recognition have been on the rise. Northville's, Lauren Yakima made her debut on NBC’s World of Dance last month. She got a standing ovation from the judges and a huge score of 95.7, prompting Jennifer Lopez to exclaim, "This is the level that World of Dance expects." Lauren is following in the dance steps of her sister, Amy, who made her mark as the female winner of the tenth season of Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance. Both talented artists trained at the Noretta Dunworth School of Dance in Dearborn. Other alum of the school have gone on to Broadway, the Rockettes, and renown ballet companies. World of Dance airs Sundays at 8pm.

Singer Alena D'Amico
Michigan’s musical history is legendary, and now another young lady is fighting for her space on the list. Alena D’Amico stepped out on the ominous stage at NBC’s The Voice to take her shot. The entrepreneur from Shelby Township always loved to sing, but up until now has chosen to pursue a career in cosmetology instead. She owns The Beauty Gals, a concierge service that offers in-home hair, makeup and style services.  Many brides use her service, and they began to ask Alena to perform at their weddings. The spark was reignited. Before you know it, Alena landed at The Voice, where she belted out the Shawn Mendes hit, In My Blood. The performance wowed both Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton, leaving her with a choice of coaches. After pitches from each to capture her attention, Alena yelled out an enthusiastic, K-Cee!” to announce her decision to join Team Kelly. The Voice airs Mondays at 8pm.  

Singer Beth Griffith-Manley
A much more seasoned Detroit crooner also took the stage on NBC’s The Voice this season. Beth Griffith-Manley shocked the judges when she revealed she was 46-years young. The soulful vocalist grew up with music running through her veins. Her father, Johnny Griffith, was a member of the famed Motown band The Funk Brothers and the keyboardist on countless Motown hits. Beth got her start in music working as a receptionist at Harmonie Park Studios. She sang on some demos and impressed legendary producer, Michael J. Powell, who introduced her to Anita Baker. She was a background vocalist for Anita for five years, and now works with Kem. Beth brought all of her Motor City musical roots to the table with a stirring rendition of Aretha Franklin’s Until You Come Back to Me. The performance turned two chairs. Everyone, especially the judges, seemed to think she would go with John Legend, but noting the similar rasp in their voices, Beth also chose Kelly Clarkson, who was clearly shocked by the news screaming, “What? Wait, what? Oh my God, are you picking me? Oh my God. Oh my God!” While she started out on Team Kelly, Beth was stolen by John Legend.


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