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VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta is turning the tables on what we know as reality television today, especially when it comes to the perception of Black women. Heading into the 10th season, Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta is putting the spotlight on boss women who handle their business and keep it cute.

The Love & Hip Hop franchise, which has expanded to cities such as Hollywood, New York, and Miami over the past 10 years, has depicted the many milestones, trials and tribulations the ladies have experienced as individuals and together as a group.

Atlanta cast members Sierra Gates, Rasheeda Frost, and Yandy Smith-Harris joined ESSENCE’s own Senior Entertainment Editor Brande Victorian for a panel during this year’s virtual ESSENCE Festival for a discussion about the forthcoming season of Love and Hip-Hop: Atlanta ahead of its premiere on July 5th at 8/7c on VH1.

The panel, A New Outlook: A Panel Featuring the Women of VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, kicked off with discussing the mental impacts of police brutality, COVID-19 and social activism throughout the past year. Eventually, Victorian shifted the conversation to talk about sisterhood and the importance of forming meaningful relationships and bonds. Smith-Harris, who is the founder of YELLE Skincare, expressed her admiration for the ladies of the Atlanta cast.

“Every single one of these ladies out here got businesses, brick and mortars. It really made me feel inspired,” she praised with a smile. Smith-Harris also noted how Frost’s restaurant and boutique Pressed ATL is filled with Black and brown employees, and Gates is training young Black women on how to be millionaires, which she noted as a form of activism and ownership.  “I love being around them because they’re always opening something new [and] expanding.

After speaking with Frost, Gates, and Smith, Victorian expressed to ESSENCE her hopes for the positive representation of women on the franchise. Her main hope is balance — the balance between the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. “Life has good moments and bad moments, confrontations and celebrations and it’s okay to share that,” she said. “These women are successful business owners who inspire a lot of Black women to become entrepreneurs.”

Frost noted that the women of the Love & Hip-Hop: Atlanta cast have a responsibility to utilize their platform as public figures and bosses in their industry to band together. “There’s strength in numbers and when we’re able to elevate one another, there’s nothing more beautiful than Black women uplifting other Black women,” she said. As a multi-business owner herself, Frost expressed her pride in the high percentage of women owning businesses and pursuing entrepreneurship. Though she cites herself and her panelmates as a “work in progress,” Frost acknowledges the growth towards being better women every day.

Love & Hip Hop is a platform and as such provides opportunities for its cast members to use it how they see fit,” Victorian said of the cultural impact of VH1’s franchise over the past decade. “You don’t have to look any further than Cardi B to see how taking advantage of the show’s reach in a positive manner can lead to a successful and lucrative career.”

As the panel began to wrap, Gates shared her thoughts on the impact of Love & Hip Hop, which she cited as “a great opportunity” to tell her story on a public platform, especially as a teen mother. She is grateful for the opportunity to have given those teen mothers who may have gone in a different direction a glimmer of hope. “I just look at the good out of it,” she said during the panel. “God works in mysterious ways and he will use certain things to spread the word in His light to so many people. I appreciate Love & Hip Hop genuinely because I was able to tell my testimony.”

Be sure to watch season 10 of VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta every Monday night beginning July 5 at 8/7c on VH1!

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