Neda Ulaby

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.

Scouring the various and often overlapping worlds of art, music, television, film, new media and literature, Ulaby's radio and online stories reflect political and economic realities, cultural issues, obsessions and transitions, as well as artistic adventurousness— and awesomeness.

Over the last few years, Ulaby has strengthened NPR's television coverage both in terms of programming and industry coverage and profiled breakout artists such as Ellen Page and Skylar Grey and behind-the-scenes tastemakers ranging from super producer Timbaland to James Schamus, CEO of Focus Features. Her stories have included a series on women record producers, an investigation into exhibitions of plastinated human bodies, and a look at the legacy of gay activist Harvey Milk. Her profiles have brought listeners into the worlds of such performers as Tyler Perry, Ryan Seacrest, Mark Ruffalo, and Courtney Love.

Ulaby has earned multiple fellowships at the Getty Arts Journalism Program at USC Annenberg as well as a fellowship at the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism to study youth culture. In addition, Ulaby's weekly podcast of NPR's best arts stories. Culturetopia, won a Gracie award from the Alliance for Women in Media Foundation.

Joining NPR in 2000, Ulaby was recruited through NPR's Next Generation Radio, and landed a temporary position on the cultural desk as an editorial assistant. She started reporting regularly, augmenting her work with arts coverage for D.C.'s Washington City Paper.

Before coming to NPR, Ulaby worked as managing editor of Chicago's Windy City Times and co-hosted a local radio program, What's Coming Out at the Movies. Her film reviews and academic articles have been published across the country and internationally. For a time, she edited fiction for The Chicago Review and served on the editing staff of the leading academic journal Critical Inquiry. Ulaby taught classes in the humanities at the University of Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University and at high schools serving at-risk students.

A former doctoral student in English literature, Ulaby worked as an intern for the features desk of the Topeka Capital-Journal after graduating from Bryn Mawr College. She was born in Amman, Jordan, and grew up in the idyllic Midwestern college towns of Lawrence, Kansas and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Television
4:00 am
Fri February 17, 2012

How Friday Night TV Started Producing Hits

Fridays used to be infamous as the worst night for TV ratings. It was where shows went to die. Now, between DVRs and people not going out because of the lousy economy, Friday has become a perfectly respectful night to have a certain kind of show on TV and even become a hit.

Music News
11:40 am
Fri January 20, 2012

Remembering Etta James, Stunning Singer

Etta James rehearses a song before recording at Fame Studios circa 1967 in Muscle Shoals, Ala.
House Of Fame LLC Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 2:03 pm

The "Matriarch of the Blues" has died. Music legend Etta James died Friday morning at Riverside Community Hospital in California of complications from leukemia. She was 73.

She was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles in 1938. Her first manager and promoter cut up Jamesetta's name and reversed it: Etta James.

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Monkey See
12:01 am
Fri January 20, 2012

Stephen Colbert Wants You To Know: That's Definitely Not His SuperPAC

Comedian Stephen Colbert appears before the Federal Election Commision in Washington, June 30, 2011. The FEC granted Colbert's request to form a political action committee.
Cliff Owen AP

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 11:06 am

Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert is running for president. He's parodying the process — including, now, superPACS — in the same way he has parodied cable news. He's getting plenty of attention, but to really look into his political practical joke, I needed to go upstairs and find Peter Overby, NPR's man on campaign finance. I warned him it would seem like a dumb question, but I needed his help. What, exactly, is a superPAC?

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Monkey See
4:00 pm
Thu January 19, 2012

Fox International Finds That Not Everyone Wants To Buy What Hollywood Sells

Stephanie Sigman as Laura, a beauty queen drawn into a Mexican drug gang, in the film Miss Bala.
Eniac Martinez Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

Originally published on Thu January 19, 2012 10:16 pm

Remember that movie Sarah's Key? Did you miss it? It was last year's highest grossing foreign-language film, but it made less than eight million dollars. The fact is that selling foreign language films to U.S. audiences is a notorious challenge. Nevertheless, Fox, one of the world's most powerful media conglomerates, is beefing up its investment in foreign films.

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Television
4:00 am
Tue January 10, 2012

TV Producer Profile

One of the most powerful producers in Hollywood is black, female, middle-aged and Muslim. Mara Brock Akil produces, along with her husband,The Game -- one of the biggest hit TV shows on cable. Last year, the couple collaborated on the film "Jumping the Broom.

Movie Interviews
3:42 pm
Wed December 28, 2011

Coming Out, Coming Of Age As A Teen 'Pariah'

Adepero Oduye planned to be a doctor, but after her father died suddenly, she decided to change course and pursue an acting career.
Focus Features

Originally published on Wed December 28, 2011 7:32 pm

When the new film Pariah opens nationally, it's safe to say it will not be competing with any other movies about a black teenager coming of age as a lesbian in Brooklyn.

"It's not so much coming out, but coming into," clarifies director Dee Rees. "Alike, the main character, knows she loves women. That's not her struggle. Her struggle's more how to be in the world."

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The Record
12:00 pm
Mon December 26, 2011

Skylar Grey: And The Hits Keep Coming

Skylar Grey.
P.R. Brown Courtesy of Universal Music Group

Originally published on Tue December 27, 2011 2:41 pm

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Remembrances
5:36 pm
Wed December 7, 2011

Harry Morgan, M*A*S*H's Col. Potter, Dies At 96

Col. Sherman Potter (Harry Morgan) was a father figure to Cpl. Radar O'Reilly (Gary Burghoff).
CBS/Landov

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Remembrances
12:03 pm
Mon November 28, 2011

Controversial Film Director Ken Russell Dead At 84

Central Press Getty Images

The acclaimed, eccentric, and very polarizing British film director Ken Russell has died, after a series of strokes at the age of 84.

The director of Tommy, Women In Love and Altered States, Russell was known for a florid style and fascination with sadomasochism that earned him condemnations and a cult following. His adaptations of classic literature and over-the-top biopics ranged from perverse to merely provocative — and an indelible nickname: "Kinky Ken Russell."

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Monkey See
12:01 am
Tue November 22, 2011

In 'The Artist,' A Silent Look At Old Hollywood

Silent Screen idol George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), a young and upcoming dancer, share a vivacious moment on stage in Michel Hazanavicius's film The Artist.
The Weinstein Company

Originally published on Tue November 22, 2011 9:18 am

Director Michel Hazanavicius met me at the Bradbury building in downtown L.A. It's the location of a key scene in his audacious new movie The Artist, which takes place just at the moment when talking pictures supersede silent films.

"It's mythic," said Hazanavicius of the era during which Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford were stars.

In the scene shot here, a dashing film star reminiscent of Fairbanks bumps into his lovely young protégé on the building's remarkable staircase. He's on his way down; she's on her way up.

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