I’ve never been a fan of these so-called reality-based TV shows networks seem to crank out more often all year, every year. I became even less interested when I’ve learned that these shows produce stereotypes. And we all know that in this society, stereotypes matter more than actual people.
But, I had high hopes for one show in particular, R&B Divas. I looked forward to it when I heard it was going to dispel negative stereotypes about black women. You know, the loud, angry, argumentative black woman stereotype? I wanted to see sistas in a positive light – for once – in a reality show. I was tired of the angry black woman mass-produced images these “shows” constantly put out. I wanted R&B Divas to stick that stereotype right up the ass of a racist nation. But, I guess it was too much to ask.
I was under the impression that the show would feature singing and womanhood. Instead, what we’re given is a heaping helping of girl fights and ego clashing. To add insult to injury, it involved legends of some of the most memorable R&B songs many of us grew up listening to.
One of “storylines” that stuck out the most was the beef between singer Syleena Johnson and Brownstone member Nicci Gilbert. Since season one, Gilbert has been getting the most negative responses for her portrayal on the show. Many fans of the show criticize her as being loud, angry and abrasive, and shady, especially when it comes to fellow divas like Syleena.
The footage of the series helps solidify Nicci as the “villain” of the show. Meanwhile, she is on the defensive claiming that her portrayal on R&B Divas was created due to editing and that she is the real victim of the drama. She generally denies being this ‘angry black woman’ that is seen in millions of homes every Wednesday night on TV One. Still, what she doesn’t seem to realize is that what people see is what people will get, and if she still wants to re-launch Brownstone and get her clothing line up and running, she has to clean up her image somehow. I’m just saying.
Unfortunately, Nicci’s still getting bad press. Her clothing line Curvato has been rumored to have been made in China, not designed by Nicci as once believed. There are also rumors that producers of the show don’t like working with her – that she is the common denominator behind the drama the show didn’t want to have. And now, a video on a radio interview with Jason “The Diva Maker” Williams has surfaced where he buries her in the public. His description of Nicci is that she is a manipulative and jealous woman who will do anything for fame, including stealing ideas. He claims the idea for R&B Divas was his idea and Nicci just took credit for it.
It’s more than clear that Nicci Gilbert’s image is dark and unlikable to many. She may shrug it off, and it may be entertaining, but it’s really just sad, especially if you plan on a comeback. But it’s sad on another level. R&B Divas basically betrayed its viewers who hoped for a change in the usual bullshit. All fans got in the end was bullshit.
So, who is to blame for this two-year failure of expectations? Nicci Gilbert, the Divas, the producers, the network, the fans or all of the above? Did the producers and Divas, including Nicci, really intended to break stereotypes, or was this one huge deception – like false advertising – to get people to watch something we’ve seen before on Viacom-owned channels? At this point, it doesn’t matter. The show is already out there. It has a considerable fanbase. And one of the reasons why people watch it is because of the drama.
We are entertained by drama if and when it happens to people we don’t know or were(are) famous. When it comes to reality TV, it’s much more appetizing because we believe what we see is real and unscripted. The good guys and bad guys are ordinary people in any given outrageous competition. Celebrities that were once on top are given a second chance at mediocre fame for at least a few episodes. And the exploits of the rich and talentless are always in the spotlight.
Reality TV’s darkside has always been its use of stereotypes. From poor Southern whites to spoiled, dumb rich girls and from Dopey young Italian Americans to ghetto and dysfunctional African Americans, reality TV is part of the campaign against women, people of color and the poor whether the networks admit it or not. And audiences everywhere eat that shit up regardless of the harm it’s doing.
As R&B Divas Atlanta is coming to a close and R&B Divas L.A. is about to launch, I will tell you this: I fear and dread more of the angry black woman stereotype emerging in the next season. People will be watching, but I prefer not to. It is too depressing in my humble opinion.
They see watching reality-based TV is to indulge in guilty pleasures. No doubt two of those “pleasures” are racism and sexism.