Confessions of a 'Tiny & Toya' Addict

Don't be so quick to judge. Weaves, tattoos and Southern twangs aside, BET's latest reality show isn't as one-dimensional as you may think.

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Admittedly, I was suspicious of news that Tameka “Tiny” Cottle and Antonia “Toya” Carter—concubines of hip-hop royalty, T.I. and Lil Wayne, respectively—were going to have their own reality show on BET: Was this BET’s answer to The Real Housewives of Atlanta? Did we really need to see The Baby Mamas of Bankhead?

But Tiny & Toya, which airs its season finale tonight, surprised me. It’s far from being yet another entrant into the Coonery Hall of Shame.  

Granted, the show is not without faults. If I weren’t a Southern boy, I’d probably watch Tiny & Toya and wonder whether slavery ended only a week ago, given the intensity of their accents. The tough twangs aside, this show offers a bit more depth than you would imagine.

I wasn’t expecting to see Toya fight to keep her drug-abusing mother off the streets of New Orleans or Tiny cope with a parent suffering from Alzheimer’s. I anticipated shopping at Lenox Square Mall, fights at Magic City and random trips to tattoo parlors.

But so what if it did? Tiny & Toya is not paving the way for the destruction of black people.

The same can be said of House of Payne, The Game, The Real Housewives of Atlanta or any other show perceived to be “low brow” and full of “buffoonery.” Sure, these shows are often

one-dimensional and rely too heavily on racial, gender and class stereotypes for laughs. But welcome to the world of television, where “real” life is frequently played for laughs.  

Far too often some black people feel compelled to label anything perceived as “ghetto” as a minstrel show. Tiny & Toya is the latest scapegoat, dubbed by its detractors as a disgrace to black women. Others have branded the show reality TV’s answer to Garfield & Odie.

Perhaps both Tiny and Toya are a little too dependent on the famous men in their lives, but Garfield & Odie? What’s next? Calling Frankie & Neffe—BET’s reality show featuring Keyshia Cole’s mother and sister—the new Lilo & Stitch?

This sort of condemnation often reads as elitist and ignores the fact that no matter how embarrassing these images may seem to the black upper crust, they represent a very real slice of life for many television viewers.

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