Even as Her TV Shows Generate Controversy, Mona Scott-Young’s Private Life Smashes Stereotypes

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Scott-Young is also resistant to becoming a poster child for Blacks, women, or anyone else. When discussion turns to the flack she has received for casting women of color who are either in messy relationships or quick to resolve conflict with blows, she laments the judgmental nature of such critique as well as the responsibility implied by her color and gender.

“My preference,” she makes clear, “is to be viewed as a producer first and foremost. Not a Black producer, not a woman producer, not a Black woman producer, but just as a producer.”

She allows, “As a woman, the scrutiny that I’m under, it does bear some weight for me and it does bring a certain modicum of responsibility to me. But my first responsibility is staying true to whatever it is I’m doing.” Specifically, staying true to the stories of the women and men that star in her different series.

“I don’t think that there’s anybody who’s been a part of [the hip-hop] culture and who understands the world from firsthand experience… who can look at the show and say that this is not the stuff that happens,” she says.

Meanwhile, Scott-Young adds, her detractors aren’t as quick to condemn her Caucasian counterparts. To be fair, Bravo TV’s Andy Cohen is rarely mentioned in blowback about the epic fights between the Real Housewives of Atlanta stars, and most people don’t even know the name of the Bad Girls Club’s Executive Producer (it’s Jonathan Murray, according to the Internet Movie Database).

“I understand that our playing field has never been level. I’m very, very clear about that,” she says, “but I think every single day I struggle to create a level playing field for myself.”

To this end, Scott-Young is not really focused on naysayers. “If you are busy judging and condemning others,” she asks, “when do you have time to take over your own world?”

Nor is she concerned with chatter percolating in the blogosphere that she is being sued for stealing the idea for Love and Hip-Hop.  

“One minute, I had access to their idea and I shared it with Vh1. And then I saw another report where Vh1 had the idea and stole it and gave it to me. And then they even mentioned that, somehow, Chrissy Lampkin took the idea and gave it to me. So, my thing is this: the show has been on for six years. Why on earth is this just popping up now?”

She takes the opportunity to describe the process of pitching a show, particularly one based on people’s lives.

“There’s no way to lay claim on somebody’s life and say I own this idea of putting a camera on your life. Was there a parallel show being developed? Maybe. Probably. But this happens all the time. I pitch stuff all the time with the networks that’s ‘Oh, we’ve already got something similar. What else do you have for me?’ It doesn’t mean I could then turn around and say ‘I’m suing you for this idea because I pitched it to you,’” she said.

Her end goal — with the shows, Myx Fusions, and what may come next — is fulfilling her every aspiration, and her advice to anyone interested in being a success is focusing on his or her own end goal too.

“Don’t look for anyone else to pave the way for you and to make life easy, or to even help you,” she warns. “I always say, ‘In life, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.’ So make sure that you are negotiating a course of success and that you stay focused on that… That’s the only thing that’s gonna get you to where you’re trying to go.”

She encapsulates her advice with a personal anecdote.

“You know, I spent many, many years in music and was there when it was at its height, and was there still when things took a turn,” she remembers. “[Going into reality TV] was about taking a chance on me and venturing out into the world and really kind of testing what I was made of in a way that was both… exhilarating and reaffirming. So, that’s what I really want my legacy to be. That’s what I wanna pass on to my daughter and my son, and that’s the message that I wanna send. We have one life. Let’s live it to the fullest.”

I enjoy Love and Hip-Hop, but I’d much rather watch Mona at work. Wouldn’t you?

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond is the author of the novel Powder Necklace and founder of the blog People Who Write. Follow her on Twitter @nanaekua.

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