All Articles Tagged "love and hip hop"
— VH1 (@VH1) June 29, 2016
Amber Rose, also known as Muva Rose – How To Be A Bad Bitch author, emoji maven, SlutWalk leader, entrepreneur and feminist – is adding yet another title to her growing repertoire: late-night talk show host. On July 8 at 11 p.m. (tomorrow night), VH1 will premiere her pop-culture friendly The Amber Rose Show, making Rose one of a few women to ever host her own late-night talk show. What can you expect? Interviews with industry experts, celebrity guests, Rose’s point of view on the latest celebrity gossip, woman-on-the-street type interviews and an opening monologue, to name a few. This is a late-night show, of course. While we gear up to watch the self-proclaimed SVP of Women Supporting Women strut her stuff, here’s a little sneak peek of what promises to be one of the most talked about and exciting shows in VH1’s recent lineup. Will you be tuning in to watch The Amber Rose Show?
#TeamSomaya you ready? 💁🏻 My return to TV begins with one of my shows(s) on @Eonline “Famously Single” We premiere Tuesday, June 14, 2016 at 10:00pm ET/PT I’m sharing deeply hurtful pieces of my life I’ve never shared publicly. I choose to share my life’s downfalls, pain, highs and triumphs with full transparency in order to motivate YOU. Remember, your darkness doesn’t have to last forever if you don’t let it. Push thru💪🏽 – #LAJEFA #iAmNotAvictimIamAsurvivor #SomayaReece FYI to clear up any confusion I’m no longer single, I was when we were filming the show #FamouslySingle not single anymore tho @iamladyluck 💍
Most of us know Somaya Reece from her time on Love and Hip Hop New York. She was, of course, one of the OGs of the franchise, starring on Season 1 and Season 2 before leaving the program. You know, before things got a little too theatrical…
A lot has changed for Reece since then. She’s dropped down from a size 18 to a size 6, she’s dealt with a lot of personal issues and let go of pain from the past, and she’s even found love–with a woman.
A majority of these significant changes took place after joining the new E! reality show Famously Single. And while it sounds like a cheesy dating show from the title alone, it’s actually quite deep. Stars who have been on reality TV programs and struggled with their relationships get therapy from Dr. Darcy Sterling to help them get to the root of what has been holding them back from finding love. And during filming, Reece was able to unpack a lot of baggage. During the NBC summer series preview, we talked to Reece about where she stands with her sexuality, why she’s doing reality TV once again, what spurred her to lose the weight and keep it off, and how she made her haters her elevator.
MadameNoire: What persuaded you to take part in Famously Single?
Somaya Reece: Before I did this show, I was going through an entire period of soul-searching. So I was single. And I realized I got caught in a whirlwind of work. There was no balance. There was no dating. I was like, “I’m single, and I’m not dating.” And then I realized I was blocking myself, and I knew why. I didn’t really identify with it all the way, but I have dated women before. I just haven’t been public with it. I was on television, and everyone was making a mockery of same-sex relationships. People go on TV and will act like they’re gay for pay. So I really wanted to make sure that when I was ready to speak about that, people knew how genuine that is to me. And if you dig back to a bunch of my mixtapes, I’ve been talking about it for years. It’s nothing new. But women, I feel, need to be protected, so I’ve always protected my relationships with women. And when the show opportunity came about, I was kind of going through a couple of things that you will see. And I was considering therapy. But you know, in our Black and Latino community, mental health is always overlooked because people call you crazy for wanting to see a therapist. I don’t know why that is for us, but that’s what it is. You’re shamed for it.
MN: So it was emotional turmoil and wanting to open up about your own sexual identity that prompted you?
Reece: It was really two things for me. I thought maybe I can use this as an opportunity to talk about a couple of things that I never talked about. At the same time, I could get therapy. So why not? I also thought this could be groundbreaking for the community. To see that it’s okay to get therapy. You’re not crazy or needy for wanting it. And you don’t have to be in such a deep, dark place to want it. And then as it was going along, I realized there were a lot of other things I hadn’t dealt with and I was putting things in a bottle. I’m talking 12 years of pain.
A photo posted by Somaya Reece (@somayareece) on Mar 3, 2016 at 5:38pm PST
MN: So what was it exactly that made you want to be open about your feelings for women?
Reece: The sexuality thing came about because I was actually about to be outed by an ex-girlfriend who’s mad. So I was like, “Let me beat this chick before it comes to anything.” I’m not ashamed of it, and I don’t have to label myself. But what I definitely didn’t want was for someone else to tell my story. You know? I have known since I was seven or eight years old. I had a very good idea that I liked women. But I didn’t know that I liked women then. I just knew that I felt funny and happy around them. And you’re 8; you don’t know that that means that you like them because you’re not even sexual yet. But I just knew there was this happiness I would get with women, versus men. And when I really identified with that, that’s when I understood what that meant. And I’ve had relationships you guys didn’t know about it. And some with other public figures you guys didn’t know about it. There’s been a lot of relationships that I kept very quiet. And there’s only a few that came out because of one reason or another. But my current girlfriend just totally changed my perspective. She’s very private, and no one suspected or knew. So I wanted to be respectful towards her feelings too. But we didn’t get in a relationship until after the show. So I’m really happy. She makes me feel like I’m on top of the world. And I’m just going to live in my truth. Why do I have to hide? I’ve been living this for a long time.
For me, I’ve always just been like, “Just don’t label me.” I believe love is love. So if I fell in love with a man or I fell in love with a woman, I’m not confused. I know love is love. But what I have identified is that I’m definitely much more connected to women.
MN: So if you were single and a man approached you, would you entertain him or are you solely into women?
Reece: I mean, I can acknowledge God’s creation [laughs]. I can acknowledge it and appreciate it, but I’m truly not interested. But then again, my current relationship is the first one that has really made me feel like, “I don’t care if anyone knows. I don’t care.” I love her so much, and I can’t wait for you guys to hear and see everything. I’m totally in love with my girlfriend; I totally see myself marrying her and maybe having children, which I’m scared about, you’ll see why on the show, but we’re really heavily considering a lot of heavy commitment things.
MN: Another thing I wanted to speak to you about was your weight loss. You look amazing! What spurred that change and how did you do it?
Reece: We as women often go through yoyoing. On the show, I discuss how my eating disorders started. I had many. All of them. Across the board. So I had gone through years–if you Google Somaya Reece photos for the last 10 years, skinny one year, big another year. Skinny one year, bigger another year. Skinny, skinny, skinny–bigger. But then I had a heart scare. That’s what really took it over the top for me. And then I was on Love and Hip Hop Season 2, and I was overweight. People were making fun of me: “Oh she got fat, she lost it.” You know how people talk. But what it came down to was that I decided I needed to learn how to lose weight in a healthy way instead of going through the diet, and the binging, and the purging. And again, in our community, we don’t talk about these things. It’s always this taboo thing. So I decided that I was going to start blogging about it. And I did, and it gained an audience. And I was happy that I could help other people because I want to leave a message. My message is that you can overcome obstacles, you just have to try. And that developed into me creating the Get Slim detox tea. I am the owner and creator. That’s mine. And I now own seven natural weight-loss products under my company, ThisFitsMe. And it all stems from a temporary downfall. Now I’ve helped people lose thousands of pounds. I’ve helped my girlfriend lose weight. I mean, this is what I want to do for people. So it really stemmed from hate. People were hating on me so much; I had my heart scare, and it was just a lot going on. So it saved my life because I’m not supposed to be here. I’m very grateful and glad. But now it’s a whole new issue, trying to keep it off. And I’m in love, girl, so you know I done gained 5 pounds [laughs]. But I’m fine with it.
#CEOMindset Motivational Thursday!! Ya girl is back on the East Coast🗽 4 years ago I gained a significant amount of weight while living in New York filming my old show #LoveAndHipHopNewYork The world made fun of me, the media made fun of me, social media & blogs bashed me. Instead of crawling under a rock and feeling down about it, I did something about it. My inner fire and resilience would NOT let me FAIL! I turned it around and built a multi million dollar BRAND @ThisFitsMe ShopThisFitsMe.com where I carry 6 all natural weight loss and cleansing products. The most rewarding part about my success is I get to help people along the way. I help many around the world regain their health, regain their self esteem & confidence and I help them lose weight. Not bad for the “rapper girl” from @Myspace on #LHHNY that was living in the attic who couldn’t afford name brand shoes huh😉 Unlike other people they would hold hate in their heart over those things, I don’t. I keep it moving and don’t hold grudges. God got me. But I will tell you this. You never know who will persevere, who will overcome, who will rise above adversities. Some of us are built for WAR. I’m a soldier baby. You aint NEVER gonna beat me even on my darkest hours. If there is any advice I can give you guys, NEVER EVER give up. No matter how hard it seems, how many people don’t have your back or believe in you. YOU must keep your faith and keep it moving. Stay focused FYI – I have some NYC appearances, projects, and seminars I will be doing AND #FitnessWithFriends will be back this summer. I’m also looking for a few people & business ideas to invest in. Ya girl is a certified BOSS💅🏼
Check out Famously Single when it premieres this summer. It debuts on June 14 at 10 p.m. on E!
As told to Veronica Wells
I’m very fortunate to work in a pretty diverse environment. There are people of all races and backgrounds and even the people that are different from me, are liberal, accepting and openminded.
Of course, there are still White people. And my problem– if you want to be dramatic about it–is less about them and really more about me and how I believe I’m being perceived under their White gaze.
Let me explain. The phrase “water cooler talk” is real. In our office, which is pretty large, we have a full kitchen. And it was during what was supposed to be a quick snack break that one of my Black coworkers cornered me in an entertaining conversation. It started off rather innocently. My coworker, Roger, a gay man in his forties, was quietly humming a tune that sounded vaguely familiar. I listened, craning my neck to get closer to the sound.
After a few more seconds I realized it was Karlie Redd’s infamous “Pop Them Tags.” (I don’t know if that’s the official name of the song. But that’s how I know it in my heart and mind.) Immediately, I joined in on the chorus. “Louis, Gucci, Prada, Louis, Gucci, Prada. Pop them tags. Pop them tags.”
I was in a good mood so I added a convincing two step to go along with it. My coworker fell out! Literally. He flung his upper body on me in a fit of laughter. I had to steady myself so I didn’t tip over under his weight.
Now, we work in media. So this level of jubilation went unnoticed by our other coworkers. Somebody is always cuttin’ up.
Once we had composed ourselves and were able to speak again, my coworker exclaimed, “I had no idea that you watched ‘Love and Hip Hop!'”
“It’s not something I generally talk about at work. But yes, I love that show. I know it makes me feel a whole lot better about my own life.”
We were so deep into our conversation, happy to have found a common bond, that I didn’t even notice one of our other coworkers, Stacy, a White woman, walked in. Stacy’s always been cool people. So she felt comfortable jumping in the conversation.
“What makes you feel better about your own life?”
I literally felt my heart drop.
I was not about to tell this White woman that I watch “Love and Hip Hop.” For several reasons. I, one, didn’t want her to tell me she watched it too and begin throwing embarrassing stereotypes in my face. And I, two, didn’t want her to come home and catch the latest episode only to come back with quotables; or even worse, the assumption that I watched the show because I somehow saw myself in those personalities.
So I swallowed hard before saying, “Oh, just this show we both watch.”
Not really getting the hint, Stacy asked a very logical question, “What show?”
Roger, sensing the desperation of the moment, distracted her with a question about actual business.
“Stacy–I’m sorry to interrupt– but I’ve really been meaning to ask you about the feedback you received from that presentation you gave last week.”
There was a moment of hesitation before, Stacy, happy to talk about herself, launched into another story.
I finally filled my cup with water and narrowly escaped back to my desk. But not entirely comfortable.
Later, Roger sent me a text.
“These White folks can’t know everything.”
I nodded. He was right. But was it really so terrible for them to know that we watch and enjoy trash tv, like most Americans watch and enjoy trash tv? But another part of me knows that Black people aren’t seen like most Americans. The few spaces we occupy can end up reflecting the entire race in the eyes of the ignorant and unexposed. Our experiences are the same but perceived differently.
I pride myself on living for myself, abandoning respectability politics and being unfazed and unbothered by the White gaze. But today, when “Love and Hip Hop” and our enjoyment of it came up in the discussion, I realized there are still parts of me I have to hide.
We’re sure you already knew this but Erica Mena and Bow Wow are done. And in true former reality star, washed up rapper fashionm they’re using their social media platforms to talk about their breakup.
And then this one where she turned up a little bit.
Somebody was mad.
And what was Bow Wow doing during Erica’s outbursts? Well, he was galavanting about with his baby momma. He posted a picture of them in the club, left a comment under an Instagram video, with a bouquet of emoji flowers. He even flirtatiously called her “punk.” You know, in the same way dudes would call you “big head” not really knowing how to express their true intent or emotions.
Then earlier today, Bow Wow posted another image of himself and his baby momma hanging out in what looks like a home. There are no receipts but I wouldn’t be surprised if it were the basement that Bow Wow and Erica occupied during their courtship and engagement.
Well, if she was being sly or coy before, that picture sent Mena over the edge. (Which makes me believe that it was indeed the basement.) Within the same hour, she tweeted this.
Don't be bitter,I'm allowing you to collect what's left of those CBS checks. I'm not showing the world who you really are.Be grateful for it
— Erica Mena (@iamErica_Mena) December 10, 2015
It’s funny Erica is talking about CBS checks, when Bow Wow was the one who made her walk away from that VH1 “Love and Hip Hop” money. Wonder how she’s feeling about that now.
Then, as if that were enough. She’s also alleging that he beats women.
I don’t feel comfortable saying whether or not this is true, so I’m just going to leave this here. I do feel comfortable saying that everyone involved in this situation is a hot mess.
When these two first got together, I knew they would never make it down the aisle. And here we are. With shots and allegations being fired.
What’s so interesting about it though is that both Bow Wow and Erica were on this very public crusade against his baby momma, so it’s funny that she’s the exact one he went running back to. It would be even more interesting if she were indeed the victim of his abuse.
These two are something else.
What do you make of all this?
As we told you last week, Love and Hip Hop New York star Mendeecees Harris was sentenced to 97 months behind bars after pleading guilty to narcotics conspiracy. The eight-year sentence was part of a plea deal he made earlier this year. Harris has since issued a statement about his conviction, stating that “I completely accept responsibility for all that is going on. My transition to be a better person a productive person started well before this case.”
But right before his sentencing, Harris and wife, Yandy Smith-Harris, were asked to share how they were coping with his legal woes and how they would cope once Harris was sentenced and had to report to prison. VH1 filmed their responses.
Yandy said that this time around, things would be different with her husband away because she could at least be prepared. In fact, the couple has already started to prepare themselves and their family for his time away:
“The toughest thing about being married and then having this gloom over you of the unexpected future is you never want to internalize living alone once you’ve got into a commitment with your best friend. The person you want to wake up with every day of your life for the next 60 years if you’re so blessed to have. So when I was told that I might have to spend one night without my husband, heartbroken is not even the word for it.
I sometimes put myself in a fairytale box where I don’t think about the negative. I don’t think about what could happen. I live for what’s happening. And what’s happening is, we have beautiful children. We have a wonderful marriage. We have a wonderful home that I actually love. So the thought of not having that–any bit of that missing, would break my heart.
This will be different from before when Mendeecees went away. This time, I can prepare myself. I can prepare my life. We’ve already started to prepare. I think knowing is half the battle for me, but the unexpected is what I really couldn’t deal with and where I had a hard time.”
As for Mendeecees, he said that filming this season of Love and Hip Hop was difficult because he went through a lot with his case. And while he wishes he wasn’t in his current predicament, he’s learned a great deal from his choices and their repercussions:
“It’s a lot of stuff going on with this case. Cameras in my face. You have your good days and your bad days.
You have days where you don’t even think about what’s going on, and then you have the days when you actually are stressed about your current situation.
This was a rough season, one minute you’re happy, the next minute you’re sad. You don’t know what tomorrow brings. It was just an emotional rollercoaster.
I’ve been out for almost two years. Been working. Been doing a lot of positive stuff and leading by example. I never asked to be in the predicament that I am. I thought I was doing everything right, but sometimes–I really can’t make excuses for why I’m here. But I learned a lot. ”
The Harris family is spending as much time together as they can before Mendeecees has to start his eight-year bid, including doing charity work in Harlem and bonding with his kids. If you want to see how Yandy and Mendeecees deal with this crushing blow to their family, you can tune into Season 6 of Love and Hip Hop New York, which premieres Monday, December 14 on VH1.
Check out their remarks about Mendeecees’s legal woes below:
Two seasons of Love and Hip Hop Hollywood have brought every bit of drama Mona Scott-Young’s bank account could have hoped for. Whatever our reasons for watching (I watch to unwind, so, no judgment!), we tune in weekly to watch the racy and the ratchet do what they do best: make complete and utter fools of themselves for millions of us viewers. What we don’t realize is that too many young couples tune in week after week, watching dysfunctional relationships pan out, believing that the drama, the rollercoaster ride, the “real” and unresolved internal issues are normal. Like the following “situationships”:
Singer Ray J is looking for any and every moment to be in the spotlight, and clearly he doesn’t mind what he’s famous for as long as he is. Pair that low ambition with his childish ways and you have the makings of one of the worst relationship role models ever to grace ratchet TV. He has cheated on Princess consistently for two seasons. He’s manipulated her and put her in more than one awkward situation with his exes. Yet, he continues. Why?
Princess Love, though she seems to be a real sweetheart, admittedly has paternal issues she is trying to work through. On one of the final episodes of the second season, she realized that she had issues with her father that needed resolving, put her foot down and told Ray J she needed to be alone.
But not so fast.
According to last night’s Love & Hip Hop Hollywood reunion, the couple is not only together, but they’re engaged. He has written her a song, and they’ve professed their love for one another on Instagram. And yet, smiling while sitting on one of the plush reunion show couches, Princess admitted that Ray J is a bad influence on his friends when it comes to staying faithful.
This foolishness has become the new normal, what many young bloods are aspiring to and that is a huge mistake. Yes, reality TV is mostly for entertainment, but the cycles of brokenness it can promote definitely are no laughing matter, especially within the Black community.
Former B2K member Lil’ Fizz referred to women he has been casually dating as appetizers and main courses when explaining to former girlfriend Khamiya why he was not ready to settle down with her. To his credit, during the reunion show he apologized for what he said, stating that he would never want a daughter of his to be referred to in such a disrespectful manner. Apologies aside, the fact that his original statement has become the go-to way that a lot of men look at and interact with women has thrown a major wrench in how we communicate and build relationships. Too many of us lack the ability to think about building relationships because we’ve been basing our communication on texting and social media: I’ll get back to you, with half answers, when I’m ready messages; social media likes and DMs — “He liked three of my pictures in under one minute, I think he likes me!”; and the romanticized one-night stand. While reality television and social media makes this all look so glamorous and “cool” we are actually suffering major setbacks and malfunctions due to short attention spans and non-committal behavior.
And to anyone who watched this season, it is clearer than ever that Moniece Slaughter has been crying out for help for some time, and it’s no laughing matter. While some of the things she’s said (“I want you to stay…forever!”) to Rich have been quite funny, the underlying issue is not. The girl is at war internally. She’s at war externally. A young mother who is trying to balance what being a parent entails while trying to pursue her dreams and secure a loving relationship. Who’s to say if she should even be pursuing a romantic relationship until she has done the self-work necessary to be whole?
One huge lesson Millennials can learn from Moniece and Rich Dollaz’s connection is that one cannot rush or manipulate a relationship into growing faster or lasting longer than it is meant to. Reality television has warped our perception of relationships, and we believe they grow perfectly and fully over a few nights of drinks, dinner, and sex. Wrong. All wrong.
But no twisted “relationship” hurt my heart more than Nia Riley’s situation with rapper Soulja Boy. Constant and shameless cheating. A refusal to commit. And don’t get me started on the verbal disrespect. Soulja Boy called Nia Riley everything but her name when she confronted him about cheating on her with her former best friend, Nas. And after viewing the episode in which R&B legend, a.k.a., Nia’s father, Teddy Riley, tries to talk some sense into his daughter about Soulja Boy’s less than caring ways, the rapper responded by tweeting “F— Teddy Riley. That n—- lame.”
Stereotypes are reinforced, and all of the wrong things are condoned: It’s ok to throw a hissy fit when you get caught in a lie and are told that you’re wrong. There is no need for calm discussion and understanding. And when all else fails, call people names because THAT’S how you win an argument. Take no responsibility for improper behavior. Make no real effort to treat your loved ones better. Just curse them out, throw some jewelry on them, and rely on the fact that they care enough for you that they’ll be back.
Take these shows with a grain of salt. They are entertaining on the very thin surface, but just beneath are a host of traumas and internal struggles that are not meant to be made fun of, lauded or applauded. Understand that there is more to love AND hip-hop and that we’re all made for greater.
Follow Ashley on Twitter: @ashleylatruly
You know, I wanted to like Erica Mena. For a second there, I thought she could be a misunderstood woman trying to make her way and feed her family through reality TV. However, it’s her shenanigans off-camera lately that are a bit unsettling. Ever since Shad Moss, aka, Bow Wow popped the question, she has really been feeling herself. And while there’s nothing wrong with being happy about a new chapter and winning romantically, she hasn’t been a gracious winner. In fact, she’s been a bit mean: to her exes, to her former castmates, and as I found out this week, to the mother of Bow Wow’s daughter, Shai. I tried to hold my tongue, but after watching her tell another woman that she’s “just a BM,” I can’t deal. Hey, sometimes finding love can go to your head (check out our comical video on the subject). But the following behaviors are not a good look. Ladies, here are 10 things you shouldn’t do once your man puts a ring on it, as inspired by Erica Mena.
In the real world when engagements don’t end in a marriage, it’s something like a scandal. A big one. Speeches have to be made, explanations have to be given and everything else. But in the world of celebrity, particularly reality stars, engagements rarely end in marriages. Did you notice? Check out the couples who just couldn’t seem to make it down the aisle.
Now that we’ve said goodbye to 2014, it’s natural to use some retrospection to help guide us in the new year. Well, reality television can be a catalyst, not only for foolishness, but for lessons learned.
With that written, here are some of the lessons that reality television taught us last year.
Sil Lai Abrams, journalist, domestic abuse advocate and founder of Truth In Reality, doesn’t have any grand delusions that people will completely tune out of reality television. Nor is she really looking to shame anyone with a moralist message about virtue and respectability.
With that said, she does believe that reality television is creating a narrative around womanhood, particularly Black womanhood, that is both damaging and dangerous.
And through the Redefining HERstory Campus Social Action Program and Education Tour, Abrams is looking to inspire young people to – at the very least – think critically about what they are consuming.
On her campus tour, which began late last month at Grambling University and will be making its second stop tonight at 7 p.m at Kent State University tonight (Kiva Auditorium). The aim is media literacy. And during tonight’s event Abrams says she is looking to engage students in conversation on how sexist and racist stereotypes sometimes play themselves out on many of these shows.
After the event, the conversation will continue online for weekly #RealityInTV Twitter chats, where Abrams along with guest experts and media personalities including Roland Martin, discuss topics related to rape culture and institutional oppression, sexism in the media and male accountability. And it will continue on campuses as well, with watch parties and guest speakers, who will drive home messages related to anti-violence and women empowerment.
While the aim is to raise awareness and to alert young adults in particular to what she believes are destructive themes, the ultimate goal is to get young people, particularly young Black women to create counter narratives of their own to what they see in the media.
“Since folks are going to be watching it anyway, you might as well watch it and analyze it with them. It’s not about shaming or passing judgment. But as media consumers, you have to know what you’re watching and what the potential impact is having on how you view situations in real life,” said Abrams.
Like violence against women.
As Abrams suggest, the fairly recent rise in smack down and drag out relationship-themed reality television, like “The Bad Girls Club” and the entire “Love & Hip Hop” franchise, has created a narrative, which appears to both condone and normalize Black love steeped in violence and dysfunction. We laugh, mock and make snarky comments about how these women “deserve it” on social media, but rarely do we consider the context.
Like Mimi Faust from the wildly popular “Love & Hip Hop Atlanta,” who was stuck for 16 years in a traumatic relationship with music producer and fellow cast member Stevie J. Many people ridiculed her for staying in a clearly emotionally manipulative and abusive relationship for so long. However rarely did anyone consider that prior to landing a spot on the series, it was likely Faust was a pretty economically insecure single mother and that alone made her more susceptible to Stevie J’s exploits.
And then there was the much publicized domestic abuse incident involving former “Basketball Wives” stars Chad Johnson and Evelyn Lozada. Since Lozada was known for jumping on tables and basically bullying her fellow “wives” on the show, viewers had trouble seeing her as a victim in her real life relationship with the former football star.
“Basically most of the commentary around these incidences sided with the abuser and her perceived lack of proper behavior and decorum were viewed as the culprit. That is a direct result of conditioning,” said Abrams, laying out the connection between reality television and abuse. “There is extensive research, which suggests the viewing of violent images against women increase male aggression towards women. So these reality television shows, which feature violent images of women of color are contributing to the normalization and reinforcing of negative stereotypes that men who are violent or predisposed to violence use to justify and rationalize their abuse.”
There is also more nefarious correlation stemming from these images, which has little to do with abuse, said Abrams. In particular, the White gaze. She recalled a friend’s story about being in Eastern Europe and being confused with “Real Housewives of Atlanta” television star NeNe Leakes – in spite of looking nothing like her.
“It was the only point of reference they have for a Black American woman. So we have to remember that for lots of people, who never come into contact with Black people, this is the only narrative that they see. And that shapes perceptions of us,” she said.
Abrams said that she is no stranger to the lives lived by many of the characters on these reality programs (you can watch this short tour promo clip, which explains more her personal story). Her past includes being a former high school drop out, who struggled with an alcohol dependency issue before going into modeling and eventually the music industry, She was also a single mother with little education as well as a survivor of sexual assault and violence. Those vulnerabilities are the major reasons why she does not sit in judgment of their choices.
But she is concerned about whether or not, these images, which are highly edited, filtered and even scripted, are really letting us see these women’s full humanity or are these women just caricatures, being exploited for cheap entertainment. “There is a lack of balance in the portrayed. When go across all media, we are portrayed as centers around historical racist stereotypes which have been recycled and rehashed for entertainment today,” she said.
With violence infiltrating every aspect of popular culture and media including sports, film and music, It’s hard to say if the onus of these negative images lands squarely at the feet of Mona Scott Young. However Abrams is certain that violence has been a driving narrative of young women, between 18 to 49. She notes that “Love & Hip Hop” is tied for number three in ratings besides WWF wrestling.
“So when the top shows we consume are centered around patriarchy and pushing patriarchal themes, it’s easy to see how abuse is normalized and even how this culture of rape is shaped. That’s why it is imperative that we address the young people, particularly women, to let them know that this sort of behavior is not okay.”
Although a final itinerary has not been finalized, Abrams said the Redefining HERstory tour will be making a number of stops on campuses across the country. She also hopes to work with local organizations in vulnerable communities to reach out to even younger-aged women and men.
In the meantime, Abrams is offering a free downloadable media kit, which was created by developmental psychologist Dr. Scyatta Wallace of JANISAW, a consulting company specializing in leadership development and life skills programs for teen girls and young women, to help educators, youth counselors and other folks have similar conversations with young people in their own communities.
“Even before we take action, first we need people to understand that there is a problem. And then you have to engage them and then they have to become personally invested in the issue. Because what we are talking about here is personal agency. We can’t say that we want greater and more varied public images of Black women and women of color in the media, if we keep supporting those images we don’t want.”