Demetria L. Lucas is an award-winning author, journalist, media personality, podcast host, and former Relationships Editor of this very publication.
While at ESSENCE, Lucas published her first book, “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life.” Three years later in 2014, her second book, “Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love,” followed. Now, that dating and relationship manifesto has been adapted for a TV movie set to release this Sunday on TV One. In a way, it’s a full-circle moment in her career trajectory, considering where her desire to write began.
Around 11 years old, Lucas came across a copy of Terry McMillian’s “Waiting To Exhale” (which was later adapted into a movie) that her mother left on the counter at home. Remembering all of the women in her and her mother’s hair salon talking about the bestseller and its author, she picked up the book, laid down on the couch, and read it cover to cover.
“I didn’t quite grasp everything that I was reading, but I knew that it was different from the types of books that I was reading in school,” she tells ESSENCE. “The cannon of white literary authors had this language and these stories about these people that I didn’t really relate to and they used these words that I never heard in conversation.”
The language in McMillan’s book, however, was familiar. It reminded Lucas of the conversations she heard her mom having with her friends in the kitchen when she would sneak around the corners of her home to eavesdrop.
“I always had a love for reading but that was the first time I thought maybe I could be a writer and I would want to write in a way that was relatable, have characters that reminded me of people that I saw every day, and have conversations about things that people I knew were speaking about.”
The DMV native started her career as an intern at VIBE, covering hip-hop music and entertainment, and later transitioned into editing romance novels for BET Arabesque Books, a leading publisher of romance content from Black authors. She later transitioned to Harlequin where her love of relationship content grew as she edited and shaped manuscripts by mainstream authors and researched dating and marriage trends among women. She also took notice of the contrast in experiences between those of her colleagues — typically 30-to-40-year-old white women whose husbands worked on Wall Street — and the Black women in her circle.
“We would have these conversations about dating and relationships and the perspective was so vastly different,” Lucas explains. Her curiosity in those dissimilarities led her to pay more attention to the way love was discussed in media and entertainment, especially on television series like Sex and the City.
“I would watch that show and I would always notice, one, there are typically no Black people or Black women, but also how the portrayal of Black women when it came to dating and relationships was always so hard.”
Rather than critique that representation, Lucas created an alternative. In June 2007, her blog, A Belle In Brooklyn, was born on MySpace and quickly snowballed into a freelance column on Honey Magazine’s website. Six months later, she joined ESSENCE as a full-time Relationships Editor where she spearheaded “Single Man of the Month” and her own relationship, dating, and love column.
The Ratchet & Respectable podcast host cites talking with women and men about their various relationship experiences, likes and dislikes, wants, and habits, as the most rewarding aspect of her time at the magazine. “There’s so many statistics about Black love, people talk about us, people talk at us and people try to solve us, but when you actually speak to people and you’re not just speaking to them as a percentage but as real people with real lives and feelings, you get to the nitty-gritty of what’s going on with people.”
When interviewing for ESSENCE, Lucas met with former Editor-In-Chief Vanessa K. De Luca, who was the Executive Editor at the time. When she asked De Luca why she worked at ESSENCE, she said, “Because I feel like Black women deserve the best of everything. We deserve covers and features and not those little 100-word blurbs that sometimes appear in mainstream magazines.” Since that conversation, Lucas has carried those words with her and it’s fueled her passion to create meaningful content for Black women.
Don’t Waste Your Pretty, starring Keri Hilson, Jasmine Burke, and Deborah Joy Winans, is a manifestation of that devotion. Directed by Tamara Bass, the opportunity to make the film was a dream come true for the former Brooklyn resident who now resides in Los Angeles.
“I know there have been other books like Steve Harvey’s Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man or He’s Just Not That Into You and hardcore advice guides that have been turned into films, but I never saw it for that book,” she admits.
While the book-to-film adaptation concept might not be new, the exploration of “love, romance, and what it’s like to date as a Black woman” that viewers will see on-screen with this movie is. Lucas says she and scriptwriter Katrina O’Gilvie were particularly mindful of character development and storylines. “We didn’t want it to be struggle-y, for lack of a better word, because sometimes when Black love is portrayed there’s so much drama involved. Finding love, romance, and happiness can be challenging without lies, deception, infidelity, disrespect, and outside kids. We wanted it to be a very fun and fresh rom-com.”
Lucas describes her journey as an author, blogger and journalist as quite the “wild ride,” including her most recent pursuit of screenwriting. As a Black woman who has explored various mediums of writing, she encourages every budding writer to not limit themselves to one avenue. “Just go where the story takes you and go for the platform that best suits your story, which is sometimes hard to figure out,” she says. “Always do your best and go after your story. If it’s something burning in you that you feel needs to be told, do that.”