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 adventurousnessβ€” 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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The Salt
4:58 pm
Mon July 21, 2014

For These Vegans, Masculinity Means Protecting The Planet

Mixed martial arts fighter Cornell Ward (from left), chef Daniel Strong, triathlete Dominic Thompson, lifestyle blogger Joshua Katcher and competitive bodybuilder Giacomo Marchese at a vegan barbecue in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Courtesy of James Koroni

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 2:32 pm

Real men eat meat. They kill it and then they grill it.

That's the stereotype, or cliche, that's about as old as time.

At a recent barbecue in Brooklyn, N.Y., a half-dozen guys who resist that particular cultural stereotype gathered together. Many of them are muscled semi-professional athletes, including triathlete Dominic Thompson, competitive bodybuilder Giacomo Marchese and mixed martial arts fighter Cornell Ward.

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Television
3:20 am
Fri June 27, 2014

Cory Still β™‘s Topanga As A New Generation 'Meets World'

In Girl Meets World, Topanga (Danielle Fishel) and Cory (Ben Savage) have two kids β€” Riley and Auggie β€” and Cory teaches history at his daughter's middle school.
Ron Tom Disney Channel

Originally published on Sat June 28, 2014 3:08 am

Among that enormous demographic of people born after 1981, you'll find a major generational touchstone: the TV show Boy Meets World.

Nick Gray, 24, says, "Everybody that I know that is our age --"

"-- watched it," interrupts his girlfriend, 21-year-old Elizabeth Spivey, "and loved it!"

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Television
8:01 am
Sun June 22, 2014

Why TV Drama Is So Obsessed With Pandemics

Originally published on Sun June 22, 2014 12:56 pm

Transcript

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

And now for a warning. Television is in the grip of a terrifying pandemic. Or maybe an obsession with pandemics is a better way to put it. This year has seen a feverish spike in dramas where the antagonist is a deadly virus. These shows include "Helix" on Sy-fy, "The Strain" on FX and "The Last Ship," which starts Sunday on TNT. NPR's Neda Ulaby wondered why the enthusiasm for these programs is so infectious.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: You can probably trace this outbreak to one of the most popular shows of the past few years.

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Monkey See
5:47 pm
Fri June 6, 2014

'I Kinda Stole The Show': Laverne Cox And The Path To Prestige Television

Laverne Cox of Netflix's Orange is the New Black.
Netflix

Originally published on Fri June 6, 2014 7:29 pm

"My femininity was seen as a problem that needed to be solved."

Laverne Cox is talking about her childhood in Mobile, Ala. She remembers being routinely chased and beaten by classmates after school. Cox was born biologically male, and her gender identity was confusing and threatening not just to other children but to the grown-ups in her life as well. Her third-grade teacher warned her mother, "Your son is going to end up in New Orleans wearing a dress if we don't get him into therapy right away."

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Television
5:30 am
Sat May 24, 2014

'Normal Heart' Teaches New Generation About The Early Years Of AIDS

In the HBO adaptation of Larry Kramer's 1985 play, The Normal Heart, Mark Ruffalo (right) plays Ned Weeks, who begins to seek answers after he observes a mysterious disease claiming lives in his gay community. Joe Mantello plays a member of the AIDS service organization, Gay Men's Health Crisis.
Jojo Whilden HBO

Originally published on Sat May 24, 2014 2:09 pm

Why would Ryan Murphy, one of TV's hottest and most prolific producers, decide to adapt a 30-year-old play about the forming of an AIDS service organization for HBO? Because he thought the story of the outbreak of AIDS was being forgotten.

Murphy is the creative mind behind the shows Glee and American Horror Story, and he's remaking The Normal Heart β€” Larry Kramer's 1985 off-Broadway sensation which revealed the gay community's often fractious response to an epidemic that was then essentially ignored by the government.

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Pop Culture
3:38 am
Fri May 9, 2014

Hard 'G' Or Soft, The GIF Takes Its Place As A Modern Art Form

Dramatic chipmunk is one of the examples of the The Reaction GIF: Moving Image as Gesture installation at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York City.
Courtesy of Museum of the Moving Image

Originally published on Mon May 12, 2014 3:26 pm

"!!!!"

That was the body of the note from NPR producer Evie Stone, along with a link to an exhibition at the Museum of the Moving Image titled The Reaction GIF: Moving Image as Gesture.

Obviously, Evie and I share a certain sensibility. And just as obviously, I had to go to Astoria, Queens, to check out the exhibit β€” and report this piece.

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Television
4:54 pm
Thu May 8, 2014

Lurid Meets Literary In 'Penny Dreadful,' An All-Star Gothic Revue

Showtime's new psychological thriller re-imagines classic Victorian boogeymen like Dr. Frankenstein, Dorian Gray and Count Dracula all lurking in London's darkest corners, discussing romantic poetry. Reeve Carney and Eva Green star as Dorian Gray and Vanessa Ives.
Pat Redmond Showtime

Originally published on Thu May 8, 2014 8:19 pm

There's a specific subset of NPR listeners who are also dedicated horror fans. If you fall in that category, the new drama Penny Dreadful -- premiering Sunday on Showtime β€” may hit all your sweet spots. Imagine an all-star Gothic revue that brings together Dr. Victor Frankenstein, Dorian Gray, Count Dracula β€” plus a core team of original characters including a Wild West sharpshooter, an astringent lady spiritualist and an intrepid explorer, in the Sir Richard Burton or David Livingstone mode.

But the show's creator was originally inspired by romantic poetry.

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Monkey See
4:21 pm
Wed April 23, 2014

On Television, More Transgender Characters Come Into Focus

Laverne Cox plays Sophia on Netflix's Orange Is The New Black, one of several current shows exploring the lives of transgender characters.
Paul Schiraldi Netflix

Originally published on Wed April 23, 2014 11:06 pm

Over the past year or so, I've looked at how TV's expanding universe represents gays and lesbians and working women. This piece about transgender representation feels like an important part of the same project.

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News
5:25 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

NSA Coverage Garners Pulitzers For Post And Guardian

Originally published on Mon April 14, 2014 6:42 pm

Winners of the 2014 Pulitzer Prizes were announced Monday. The Washington Post and The Guardian were among the notable winners, commended for together breaking the news of NSA surveillance programs.

Remembrances
4:01 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Dance Music Legend Frankie Knuckles Dies At 59

Frankie Knuckles in 2007.
Getty Images

Originally published on Wed April 2, 2014 10:45 am

Frankie Knuckles, a legend in the world of dance music and one of the inventors of house music, a steady, beat-driven style played in nightclubs all over the world, died unexpectedly at his Chicago home on Monday. He was 59.

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Pop Culture
3:26 am
Fri March 14, 2014

Forget Nancy Drew: Thanks To Fans, 'Veronica Mars' Is Back On The Case

In the movie, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) is a recent law school grad living in New York when an old flame β€” Logan Echolls β€” calls her back to her home town of Neptune, Calif.
Robert Voets Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment

Originally published on Fri March 14, 2014 5:03 pm

When Rob Thomas created Veronica Mars, his show about a sharp-elbowed girl detective, he had an ulterior motive: He wanted to kill off the reigning queen of teenaged sleuths β€” one who's been around for more than 80 years.

"Nancy Drew," Thomas says, his soft-spoken affect barely betrayed by a trace of a snarl. "Like, I feel like she had her run."

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Business
9:50 am
Sat March 1, 2014

A Picket Line At The Oscars: Visual-Effects Artists To Protest

Originally published on Sat March 1, 2014 11:37 am

Hundreds of visual-effects artists are planning to picket the Academy Awards on Sunday for the second year in a row. They're hoping to bring attention to what's been happening in their industry.

The field is losing jobs and relocating to countries with bigger subsidies for employers. It's the result of a technical revolution that's changed the profession since it kicked off in the 70s with Star Wars creator George Lucas' visual-effects company, Industrial Light and Magic.

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The Edge
7:22 pm
Thu January 23, 2014

A Baby Didn't Bump These Moms Out Of Competition

Malaysian shooting athlete Nur Suryani Taibi was eight months pregnant in 2012 as she prepared for the Summer Olympics in London.
Rebecca Blackwell AP

Originally published on Fri January 24, 2014 5:32 pm

Let's be clear: Olympians handle the physical challenges of childbirth differently than most of the rest of us.

Aretha Thurmond is a discus thrower who'd already competed in two Olympics when she went to the hospital in labor.

"So I get there and they're like, 'Yeah, whatever, you're 4 centimeters dilated. Go walk around the hospital and come back,' " she says.

Thurmond's hospital was part of a university, so she headed straight for its track, where she power-walked for the next two hours. Then the school's discus throwers came out.

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Television
5:21 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

The Few, The Fervent: Fans Of 'Supernatural' Redefine TV Success

Dean Winchester (left, played by Jensen Ackles) and his brother Sam (Jared Padalecki) battle evil beings on CW's Supernatural. The brothers may be easy on the eyes, but sex appeal alone doesn't explain Supernatural's passionate fan base.
Cate Cameron The CW

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 7:44 pm

How do you measure love?

OK, it's a huge question. And maybe not one generally applied to television. But the metrics of success determine whether a television show lives or dies. (If this is the sort of topic that seems frivolous, consider the billions of dollars TV and other copyright industries contribute to the U.S. economy. The stakes start feeling higher.)

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Remembrances
5:44 pm
Thu January 9, 2014

Amiri Baraka's Legacy Both Controversial And Achingly Beautiful

Amiri Baraka, shown here in 1972, was a renowned poet whose politics strongly shaped his work.
Julian C. Wilson AP

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 10:31 am

One of America's most important β€” and controversial β€” literary figures, Amiri Baraka, died on Thursday from complications after surgery following a long illness, according to his oldest son. Baraka was 79.

Baraka co-founded the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s. His literary legacy is as complicated as the times he lived through, from his childhood β€” where he recalled not being allowed to enter a segregated library β€” to the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. His poem about that attack, "Somebody Blew Up America," quickly became infamous.

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