Jerel Duren moved to Los Angeles five months ago, but did not forget about his Detroit roots. A singer/songwriter by profession, Duren grew up singing in church on Detroit’s east side and like everyone else in the city, had a love for Motown Records.
To show his admiration and appreciation, he decided to honor the 60th anniversary of Berry Gordy Jr. founding Motown Records in his hometown by recreating some iconic photos of some Motown greats, including Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, the Supremes, and Marvin Gaye.
“Because I’m from Detroit, I wanted to honor the legacy of Motown, because it’s so important to me,” said Duren, who has performed all over the world with the likes of Kierra Sheard, Childish Gambino and others. “My parents grew up in the Motown era and always had me listening to the Motown classics. Motown is such a huge part of who I am as a performer and singer and I wanted to commemorate their legacy.”
The photos were taken in L.A. by photographer Ashley Osborne and Duren gathered up a few of his friends and was able to rent items from a local costume house to pull the looks together.
Duren recreated the iconic photo of a young Stevie Wonder with his hands on his face, appearing to be bashful. He probably was, since he signed with Motown in 1961 at just 11-year-old!
“I saw that picture of Stevie years ago and always thought it kind of looked like me,” said Duren, whose favorite Stevie Wonder song is As. “It was my profile picture on Facebook and since I’m the biggest Stevie Wonder fan, when the idea came about, I already knew what picture I wanted to do.”
Duren used four of his other friends, artist NEITHER, Kendall Adams, JaVonte Pollard, to bring the Temptations back to life. The group started in Detroit in 1960 in Detroit, signing with Motown in 1961, and consisted of David Ruffin, Otis and Paul Williams, Melvin Franklin, and Eddie Kendricks.
NEITHER, a musician from the DMV area, portrayed fellow D.C. native Marvin Gaye in the shoot. In 1973, Gaye released his 13thstudio album titled, “Let’s Get It On”, wearing a blue shirt and orange skully hat, while playing the piano.
For the final shot, Duren recreated the Supremes posing together. The trio, Diana Ross, Mary Wilson, and Florence Ballard, were portrayed by Carmalita Wilson, Courtney Turner, and Ndia Hall. The Supremes were founded in 1959 in the Brewster Projects of Detroit, striking a deal with Motown in 1961.
“All the people in the shoot are people that I went to college with and a couple of people that I’ve met since being in California,” said Duren. “They were super supportive and down for the cause. I didn’t assign them to any specific people in the group shoots, because I wanted everyone to add a little creative flare to the photos.”
Duren said he wants his project to reflect that young artists do pay homage to those who paved the way for them. He said his career would be nothing if it were not for the trailblazers who recorded music at a home on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit, that is today the Motown Museum.
The Lip Bar’s founder and CEO, Melissa Butler, has been a candid supporter and promoter of black women, since starting her business in 2012. To celebrate Black History Month, her company launched a campaign titled “SHEros” where she and two models recreated political activist/educator Angela Davis, civil rights activist Rosa Parks, and abolitionist Harriett Tubman.
Butler starred as Davis in the campaign, bringing back the iconic photo of the former Black Panther Party member in an orange turtleneck in 1972 during an interview in the California State Prison. The interview was about the state of the Black Panthers at that time and why violence is part of protest, because it is an inherent element in the daily lives of black and brown people.
One model portrayed Rosa Parks, the civil rights activist who became widely known after refusing to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. She was arrested, and her mugshot shows her holding up the numbers 7053. Parks lived in Detroit later in her life and died here in 2005.
Harriet Tubman, whom the last model portrayed, was born into slavery in Maryland in 1820 and escaped to freedom in the North in 1849 to become “the most famous ‘conductor’ on the Underground Railroad.” Tubman was also a “leading abolitionist” before the American Civil War, helping the Union Army during the war by primarily working as a spy.
“I think it’s super important to highlight black women at all times; not just Black History Month,” Butler said in a video for the campaign. “But this was one of those instances where there was no better time to look at all the heroines that came before us and be grateful for the path that they’ve led out for us.”
DaShuane Hawkins grew up all her life hearing that she favored Diana Ross. And she does. So she decided to recreate a couple of Ross’ more iconic shots, with the help of budding Detroit photographer Cyrus Tetteh. Ross was born in Detroit in 1944 and grew in the predominately black neighborhood called the North End, before moving to the Brewster Projects to form the Supremes.