Yes, There Are Positive Images of Black Women on Reality TV
As critics bemoan the image of the angry black woman -- perpetuated by NeNe Leakes -- on reality TV, shows that portray black women in a positive light go unpublicized.
When it comes to shows about women running their own businesses, right now E! is airing The Dance Crew, with Laurieann Gibson. Produced by Ryan Seacrest, the show follows Gibson -- now the creative director for Lady Gaga -- and her team of aspiring dancers as they prep for various A-list performances around the globe. The longtime choreographer has another show, Born to Dance: Laurieann Gibson, premiering on BET in August.
And then there's mom and businesswoman Kimora Lee Simmons, whose Life in the Fab Lane has been airing for several seasons. Those looking for a more traditional look at black businesswomen missed their opportunity with the Centric reality show Keeping Up With the Joneses. The show chronicled Tracey Ferguson, the founder and editor-in-chief of a Houston-based luxury publication for women of color.
While that show's time is up, viewers searching for more than bickering black women can also look forward to what squeaky-clean Tia and Tamera Mowry will be bringing to the Style Network this summer. After the successful run of their pilot last year, the network ordered a full season of Tia & Tamera Take Two. That show will follow Tia as she preps for her first child while her twin plans her wedding.
And before the reality pair of Tia and Tamera, there was Tiny and Toya on BET. Yes, they netted this show based on their relationships with rappers (Lil Wayne and T.I., respectively), but with episodes centered around opening businesses, fighting Alzheimer's disease and raising children, the show wasn't exactly Amos 'n' Andy. Perhaps their Southern twangs and lack of pedigree couldn't bypass the "talented tenth" definition of positivity, but overall, the theme of the series was progression.
None of these shows have reached the popularity of any featuring Leakes, but that isn't surprising. Producers on unscripted (in the word's most loosely defined form) programs rely on fame-lusting personalities to create spectacles for ratings. And people of all races, ages and sexual orientations like spectacles.
When it comes to black women on reality TV, it's not an issue of wanting more than just snaps, shouts and shade. More is already there. The question is, are you watching it?