voting is open for 8th annual event on Feb. 23

CLOSE

Yolanda Smilez (Photo: Provided)

Yolanda Smilez of Rochester wanted to celebrate people doing good things around her, but she didn’t know how. Then the BET Awards came on TV. “That’s it!” she said to herself. We need an awards show.

She gathered some friends, and they brainstormed about 30 categories to honor people who lived and worked in what she called “my urban world” — people and small businesses in the city that didn’t often have a platform or get a lot of attention. The Roc Awards were born.

They spread the word through social media and fliers, booking the Rochester Riverside Hotel for the first-ever Roc Awards Show a year later in 2013.

“The first year, we didn’t think we were going to get much support,” said Smilez, who works as an accounts receivable specialist at Pathstone and also as a stand-up comedian, using Smilez as her stage name.

They sold 300 tickets to the event. Those people came — and so did about 400 more to buy tickets at the door.

Winners rub elbows with stars

Now, eight years later, she’s still running the show, which has attracted more voters over the years: 54,000 already this year from the public, she said, with more than a week still to go (Vote here.)  before the 2020 show on Feb. 23 in Monroe Community College’s Brighton Campus Theater.

Some of the winners have made waves. Between 2013 and 2019, Joél James won best male comedian five times, best actor once and best sketch comedy twice. Last year, he was chosen as one of three regional comics to appear on an episode of Kevin Hart’s Hart of the City series on Comedy Central.

“My Roc Awards to me confirm support from my hometown, and that means so much to me,” James said. “I didn’t realize this until now but my success in Rochester means just as much if not more than success in Hollywood.” 

Keita Moore (at right in image above) won three times for makeup artist of year, 2013-15. He has gone on to form a New York City-based business, picking up celebrity clients such as Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey.

Smilez said it’s more than just recognition. “I think the Roc Awards help a lot of people who take it seriously,” Smilez said. “They put it on their résumés. Because it says ‘My community has voted me the best,’ people see that you’re doing well.”

The organizers continue to add new categories — this year, the list expands with baker, fitness director and event decorator. Other recent additions, in part from community input, have included nail technician of the year and braider of the year.

Gone are some of the more whimsical categories from those early years, such as best club chicken. And they do have to say no when, for instance, people have wanted to suggest their relatives for uncle or grandmother of the year.

Rolling out the red carpet

At the black-tie Roc Awards Show, a red carpet will greet guests, who will see performances and presentations for the main categories, along with a rising star award, lifetime achievement award and special awards for humanitarian work and community contribution. 

Also look for a remake of the 1988 song “Self Destruction” performed by local hip-hop artists — part of a theme to “push positivity” in the face of violence, Smilez explained.

The Roc Awards will be handed out Feb. 23 at a black-tie event. (Photo: Provided)

Smilez, as a comedian, author and motivational speaker in addition to her other work, has hosted the event in the past. But it has grown too big for her to both organize and host.

“I’d probably lose my mind,” she said.

But she did manage to keep things running in 2015 when, three weeks before the show, her family’s house burned down. True to the spirit of the Roc Awards, people worked to raise money at the event to help her family recover from losing everything.

The show must go on. 

To vote, visit the Roc Awards website. Tickets are $40 for general admission or $70 for VIP (which includes dinner and a gift), also available on the website. The Roc Awards Show begins at 5 p.m. Feb. 23 at Monroe Community College’s Brighton Campus Theater, 1000 East Henrietta Road, Brighton. For more information, call (585) 210-8841.

This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Sign up today for a digital subscription.

Read or Share this story: https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2020/02/14/roc-awards-show-voting-open-8th-annual-event-feb-23/4749299002/


Source link Lifetime Fitness

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *