We’re witnessing the democratization of celebrity. There’s the selfie phenomenon, and those impromptu photo shoots in which everyone seems to take part, even for the most unceremonious occasions. The exploitation of our ordinary lives is faciliated by Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook. Our lives are everywhere. Everyone is everywhere. Everyone is special, therefore no one is special. The same goes for being famous. In 50 years, some predict everyone will be followed around by cameras.
But until then, we are all guilty of indulging in the lives of those who choose to partake in that phenomenon a bit more directly. Yep, we're talking reality television. As she previously discussed, Demetria L. Lucas, contributing editor at The Root, is one of six professional women who will appear in a Bravo reality show titled Blood, Sweat & Heels. It airs this Sunday, Jan. 5, at 9 p.m. EST.
The premise is fairly clichéd: All six women are hustling, building their respective brands in media, entertainment, fashion, etc., in New York City.
In a candid exchange, Lucas chopped up it with The Root about a bunch of stuff, primarily whether she thought she would be compromising the integrity of her brand by appearing on a reality-TV show. Her engagement came up, too, since her fiance is featured—every now and then—on the show. Lucas prides herself on being a fairly open book, given her work as a life coach and dating expert. Even so, we were curious to know what her impetus was for doing the show, beyond the clichéd "I’m doing this to improve the perception of black women on TV."
The Root: How does your professional work influence your relationships with your cast members, especially since issues relating to dating and marriage come up fairly often for successful women?
Demetria L. Lucas: For the last decade, dating and relationship talk has consumed my working life. I’m a life coach, have authored a dating advice book, A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-To Guide for Living Your Best Single Life, with another book, Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love coming in March. I was the relationships editor at Essence magazine for years, and before that an editor of romance novels at Harlequin. But when I’m off the clock, just like attorneys don’t like to give legal advice and CPAs don’t want to talk taxes, I don’t like to coach or advise over brunch or cocktails. When I have to, it’s frustrating.
In my downtime, I’d rather be a friend, not an expert, which means if someone shares their dating woes, I tend to lean back, listen and let them vent. No one wants to hear, “what you should do is … ” when they didn’t ask. That said, if we’re chatting, and I think something is blatantly wrong or detrimental to a healthy relationship, I can slip into “coach” mode when it’s someone I care about.
TR: A media outlet once dubbed you the "black Carrie Bradshaw," and in Carrie’s case, she went through some pretty tumultuous times with her relationship with Mr. Big, which at times had women question just how much she knew about dating and love. Do you ever fear that you’ll have a disastrous moment in your personal life, akin to Carrie and Mr. Big’s “runaway groom” incident, that might cause your castmates to ridicule you, or question your professional advice?
DLL: Carrie Bradshaw was a convenient shorthand to describe me at the time. I was working as a relationship editor at Essence, penning a blog and book about my dating experiences in my 20s. Oh, and I live in New York.
Disastrous moments are a part of life, and they happen to everyone who lives long enough. I recently celebrated the seventh anniversary of my blog, ABelleinBrooklyn.com, which is a humorous take on all the things that have gone wrong in my personal life, from not setting boundaries, being assaulted by a friend, breakups, etc., and how I learned from those experiences. When something else disastrous happens, I’ll write about that, too, and try to find the bright side. Optimism is my signature trait.
My validity as a life coach and relationships columnist isn’t based on my personal life. I have a resume and a decade of experience to back up my profession. A lawyer who loses a case isn’t suddenly a hack, just like a CPA who misses a number isn’t inept. People, including life coaches, take hits like everyone else.
Oh, and Mr. Big and Carrie never should have been together anyway. The emotionally unavailable thrice-married guy who drags you along for 10 years, marries someone else while you’re “on break,” cheats on his wife with you and makes plans to move across country without telling you only makes a “good” husband in scripted TV and movies. As a huge SATC fan, I always wished Carrie went back to Aidan, or found someone like him. He wasn’t the guy she wanted, but the one she needed.
TR: In the show’s trailer, we see you weigh in on an issue relating to feminism and gender. Were you generally disappointed, or underwhelmed, by the group of ladies whom you were cast alongside, because of their views on these sorts of issues?
DLL: Surprised is a better word. This isn’t the first time I was approached about doing a reality show, only the first time I accepted the offer. What attracted me to the show is that each of the women are leaders—either they are running a business or have a solid business plan in place. So I was shocked to hear women who lead in their professional lives say that they didn’t think that is a woman’s role. "I’m sorry. What?" That conversation still boggles my mind.
To be frank, some of the opinions were startling, but that’s tolerable. The times I woke up wondering, “What have I gotten myself into?!” came from the behavior of some of my castmates, not their perspectives. I wear my thoughts on my face. When you watch, you’ll know every moment I’m referring to now.
TR: Describe the process of your becoming more comfortable with revealing the identity of your fiance and filming with him. Now that you’ve finished taping, do you have any regrets about that decision?
DLL: I’ve always been candid about my personal life. There’s seven years of blogging and a book to prove it. I’ve talked about being assaulted, seducing a guy in a club, sexual experiences and so much more. I think of the show as a TV come-to-life extension of all the things I’ve written about.
My fiance is a private guy. He’s not a writer or in entertainment, and when we began dating, he asked not to be written about in detail on my blog. That’s a fair ask, I thought. As far as the show, it would have been weird to be on a show that includes my personal life and ignore the biggest part of it.
My fiance agreed to appear “a few” times, just as you mentioned, and he’s there to support me. We drew a line at getting into the nitty-gritty of our relationship, which I’ve always been clear has its ups and downs like anyone else’s. If you want the details on that, you’ll have to wait until there’s a book.
I don’t have any regrets about our decision to include him on the show.
TR: In a piece for The Root, you describe your initial aversion to reality-TV shows, especially with regard to their portrayal of black women. Do you think reality-TV show producers and executives make it difficult for women to climb up from under that stigma, and shine light on other facets of their personalities and work?
DLL: Most of the women on Blood Sweat & Heels came to the table with brands in place or with a solid strategy to build one whether the cameras were there or not. All of us have business relationships, corporate sponsors and/or family names to consider, and that means we have a lot to lose by going hog-wild for the cameras.
Based on the first episode, which is the only one I have viewed, it does seem like producers and executives put a stronger emphasis on our lives as businesswomen and the upsides of friendship than any show I’ve watched previously. I hope that continues throughout the season. I’ve watched—and critiqued—a lot of reality TV over the years. I don’t think there have been women like this cast on TV before. There are some real unique personalities here, and they are shown in all of their—good and bad—glory.
I am a successful woman of color in a reality-TV show, in part to show another side to black women. I’m not perfect, but I bothered to try, and I called, as Iyanla liked to say, “a thing a thing” when some folks went too far. I haven’t seen all the episodes, so we’ll find out together, every Sunday at 9 p.m., whether I should have taken the risk.
TR: Is there anything particular you’d like people to know about Blood Sweat & Heels, and what they can expect from Demetria L. Lucas’ contributions to the stories that this season will tell?
DLL: This season will show the behind-the-scenes of my work as a contributing editor for The Root, celebrate my seventh anniversary as an award-winning blogger at my long-standing "Cocktails With Belle" event series, finalize my upcoming book, Don't Waste Your Pretty (which will be out in March) and begin planning a wedding with my fiance. The biggest hurdle for me is trying to balance my career and wedding planning, with maintaining a healthy relationship and wondering if all the work is worth the personal sacrifices.
Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is an editorial fellow at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web show that parses those compelling topics in your favorite TV shows, songs and movies. Follow her on Twitter.