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Brooke Crittendon of 'Harlem Heights': 'I'm So Much More Than Kanye's Ex-Girl'

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Forget everything you've heard about Brooke Crittendon. This Syracuse University grad is nobody's gold digger. So what she dated one of hip-hop's dopest artists and had a public breakup that even caused her ex-rapper beau to criticize her in song. This time around, Crittendon is calling her own shots, and contrary to belief, she doesn't ride any man's coattails of success. ESSENCE.com chatted with the former MTV employee to discuss what reality TV offers her that the media never did, why she's more than "Kanye [West's] ex-girl" and what folks might be surprised to discover about her.

ESSENCE.COM: As the former girlfriend of rapper Kanye West you are no stranger to the media's flashing lights or scrutiny. How is reality television different for you?
BROOKE CRITTENDON:
Personally, I felt misunderstood and was tired of telling people what I'm not. I did this show because I thought it would let people see what I'm about and give them a truer canvas of myself. Every other cast member is a fresh face, but I have to go play clean up. On the flip side of the coin, the grind of New York life is glorified and we are giving folks a look at the before-you-make-it phase. We're young, Black and fabulous, but we're not rich—we take the trains and cut corners like everyone else out there who's trying to make things happen.

ESSENCE.COM: How are you misunderstood?
CRITTENDON:
People always used to say, "She thinks she's all that!" As far as keeping up with the Joneses, that was never my motivation, but I was with a celebrity and had to live under his shadow and the attention was on him. As a result, people put labels on me. I didn't have a platform because they weren't interested in me. I always had to play the background yet people formulated opinions about me, saying things like, "Oh she's on the come-up," when really I was just living in a big city on my own and had to live in the shadow of that's "Kanye's ex-girl." I'm so much bigger than that, and when I did try to use a platform it was a total disaster. I admit that I was young, hotheaded and it might not have been the smartest thing to do at that time, but I've grown. I know now to never discuss who I'm seeing with the public.

ESSENCE.COM: So do you and Mr. West still speak and have an amicable relationship?
CRITTENDON:
Yes, Mr. West and I are amicable. I wish him the best and he wishes me likewise. As far as I'm concerned if he ever needed anything I'd be there and [he would do] the same for me.

ESSENCE.COM: That's great to hear. Are there any personality traits that you feel you had to tone down?
CRITTENDON:
Drawing upon my past experience of being misunderstood and some folks having a negative opinion about me. I was very cognizant of my b---- moments. Even with dealing with the clashing of opinions, I tried to handle it in a positive way and not let things get out of control. But I didn't just do that for the camera, I tried to do it in my everyday life. I admit that I do have a temper and a hothead, so I had to figure out better ways of communicating.

ESSENCE.COM: What insight do you think this show will offer Harlemites?
CRITTENDON:
I think this show will help everyone gain a better understanding that every personality has 365 days and some days will be strong and uplifting and other days it might not be. Also, never judge a book by its cover and maybe realize that Brooke is a cool down-to-earth girl who didn't choose the limelight and money or to depend on someone who already has those things. Instead she chose love and respect and to focus on matters of her heart.

Check out "Harlem Heights" tonight on BET at 10 P.M. PT/ET.

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