Von Decarlo‘s rise to the public spotlight has been filled with triumphs and tragedy. But Decarlo is a survivor, both personally and professionally. You may know Decarlo as one of the relationship experts and comedians on Centric TV’s new relationship series According to Him + Her. She also has her own Centric spin-off digital Instagram series, “Coach Von’s Playbook.”
Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, the now New York-based singer, actress, and television personality actually landed her first entertainment gig on her very first audition. She found herself in Belize shooting for Fox’s hit reality show, Temptation Island. But her first taste of reality television was short lived as she voted off the show in the first episode by the other female cast members for being the most “intimidating single female.”
Decarlo went on to concentrate on her music. Her debut album was titled “Not As Pretty As I Used To Be,” and it covered such issues as self-image and low self-esteem. She also performs live comedy at various New York City comedy and improv clubs with her musical improv group Good Catch Comedy.
Along the way Decarlo met and fell in love with the late comedian Patrice O’Neal, who died in 2011 one month before he and Decarlo were to marry. Now she’s picking up the pieces by reflecting on their time together and revisiting various projects she started while he was alive. One is a stage show called “Lasagna,” anticipated for 2015, for which she will utilize songs from her debut CD as well as pen new music. She also has a new book coming out, Speak Fluent Man – The Top Things Women Should Consider Before Blaming the Man, which she says was inspired by O’Neal.
Decarlo and O’Neal weren’t just a couple, they collaborated creatively as well. She wrote and produced the theme music Cool Ride for O’Neal’s Comedy Central special, Elephant In The Room. When he died, she took on the role as president of the company for his name and likeness in which she produced two successful comedy albums, Mr. P and Unreleased.
Decarlo chatted with MadameNoire about how’s she moving forward with new and old business ventures.
MadameNoire: How did you get into offering relationship advice on TV?
Von Decarlo: I went in for the show and they loved my take on relationships. My take is funny but also a little different that other women.
I’m a woman who doesn’t always think that the man is always wrong. I learned a lot in my relationship with Patrice. He opened my thinking up to the male’s perspective. Men simply think differently from women and it is good to understand how they see things. We women want men to be men yet we want to mold them into want we want them to be and sometimes when we do that we don’t like them anymore. We think of them as weak.
MN: Your appearances on According to Him + Her are so popular you landed another project from the show.
VD: I am a big sports fan, and sometimes I even talk about relationships in sports terms. So I got and Instagram spin-off series called “Coach Von’s Playbook.”
MN: You also have a book coming out.
VD: The book is actually a lot of what I learned from Patrice and my relationship with him. Women may find the title strange, but it’s about seeing things from the other side sometimes. When I was with Patrice it took me some time to work my way through the double standard I had for men and women in relationships. Women need to keep in mind that equality and accountability are a two-way street. Couples need to learn to work together to build on things that mutually benefit the both of them. And the book isn’t just for women, it’s for men as well. If people register at my website, they can get a discount on the book.
I was actually working on Speak Fluent Man: The Top Things Women Should Consider Before Blaming The Man before the show and before Patrice died. He helped encourage me to finish, but I was insecure a bit about it. But his death gave me the strength to finish it and other projects.
MN: What are some other projects you are working on?
VD: We are working on Patrice’s official documentary; I am executive producing. Hopefully it will all come together soon. I am also doing a one-women show called “Lasagna.” It’s on love, lost, and hope. Patrice actually named it for me; it was a project I have been working on for a long time. The show is a pre-development stages.
MN: How are you handling your loss?
VD: I am not going to lie: I like to be straightforward. I am STILL picking up the pieces. It’s scary. He was so much a part of me. He helped me in so many ways. He helped me be a better woman, mother, wife, businessperson, performer, how to be funny. He helped me with my self-image issues and self-esteem. And we also worked well together creatively. He pushed me to do better. You know I had to submit six songs for the theme music to his special before he was satisfied with one. He supported me with my first indie album. We were working on a ton of projects together.
But I find myself being strong because of my teenage daughter. How can I tell my kids to be strong and that they can do anything if I can’t be strong myself. So I stay very focused on God and that everything happens for a reason. Even I do not yet understand, the reason will eventually unfold.
MN: What business lesson did you learn from reality TV?
VD: I was voted off Temptation Island right away so it really taught me to stop focusing on trying to be famous, and instead focus on developing my talent.
MN: Why do you thing reality TV is dominated now by Black women?
VD: Black women are hella entertaining. We are very interesting. We have a way about us. Even if [the shows] tone down all the violence, Black women will still be entertaining. We have charm, we’re sassy, strong, successful businesswomen.
MN: What advice would you give someone who wants to enter into a non-traditional career, such as entertainment?
VD: My advice is to do what God put in your heart. If you go against your heart you will be tortured mentally, spiritually forever. And there is no time limit; you can do it whenever. You just have to have the courage to go for it. I started a long time ago and coming from a small town to NYC I have been given every reason to give up, but you cannot stop. If you believe in our heart it is what you are supposed to be doing, then move forward boldly. Practice your skills and take your success into your own hands. I have a degree in production so that as an actress and singer, I wouldn’t just be sitting around waiting on others. I can produce things myself.
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