‘The Sisterhood’ Is Not Just for Believers

Star Ivy Couch tells The Root that her reality show about pastors' wives has a message for everyone.

Ivy Couch in TLC's The Sisterhood (Screen grab courtesy of TLC)

I do think when we merge with a national television network that knows how to promote television, they are also going to do their job at pulling in viewers. The previews may not reflect the totality of the show. Of course, that’s going to rattle viewers. It’s brilliant television because it’s making people watch. People will be blessed when watching this show.

TR: What is it that people don’t know about the culture of pastors’ wives that’s essential to know?

IC: We’re much more thick-skinned than people give us credit. I have a sweet nature. I love long and hard and smile a lot of the time, so people often think that you’re gentle and just happy to be the pastor’s wife. A lot of people think because you’re smiley and undergirding your husband, then that’s all you are. You get the, “Isn’t she cute?”

Don’t take meekness for weakness. Pastors’ wives are tough. You see financial issues, marital issues — us going through so many issues but solving them with God’s love and grace.

TR: When do representations of black women get to become whole in film and television?

IC: I happen to watch some of these reality shows, and what is going on in them is awful. When you have millions of viewers watching shows where women are pulling out hair weaves and slapping each other, we get lumped into that, and people are quick to boycott our show before it even gets a chance to develop. While they’re boycotting our show, they’re watching the other shows that actually are doing real harm.

Unfortunately, it’s all about the numbers. When you have the numbers talking for you, then it becomes what sells. It’s challenging to figure out how not to have that negative stuff infused with our show. It is exhausting — I want to show that I’m educated. I want to show that I have values. I want to show up with bells on and give the best that I have, but knowing at the end of the day, what gets shown is up to the editor.

I’m proud of Domonique for sharing so much of herself [sexually abused as a child, former child prostitute and recovering drug addict], because she could have come on the show and acted like that part of her life never existed. It’s amazing to me how people like to see people fight, and people like to see drama. We’re trying to do something different. We just want the chance to show it.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. She is also editor-in-chief of the Burton Wire, a blog dedicated to world news related to the African Diaspora and global culture. Follow her on Twitter.