Divorce is never easy. I can imagine it’s even more difficult when the dissolution of a marriage is in the spotlight. That’s the case for Tina Knowles and Richard Lawson, who recently decided to end their eight-year marriage. Knowles filed the papers, citing the cause of the split as “irreconcilable differences,” according to TMZ.
Before their separation and subsequently their divorce, there was chatter across the internet about the couple seemingly becoming distant. As the public appearances slowed down, Knowles prioritized joining her superstar daughter, Beyoncé, on the European leg of her Renaissance tour and cute Instagram posts of the couple began to fade away, causing folks to speculate and wonder if there was trouble in paradise. Apparently, there was. The trolls on the internet couldn’t let the end of their relationship rest. Instead, they decided to dig up old interview clips of Knowles and Lawson appearing on OWN’s hit show, Black Love to speculate about their marriage and journey as a couple as a reference point to prove further that there was trouble in paradise for some time.
In the 2018 interview, Knowles was quoted reflecting on her then-husband.
“I envisioned the type of man I wanted. I prayed for the type of man I wanted, and I got pretty much that. Is he perfect? Absolutely, not,” she said. Lawson looked befuddled and sarcastically responded, “I’m not?” “Absolutely not,” Tina said with an added eye roll. Knowles’s statement and body language from more than five years ago was quickly analyzed on Twitter and Instagram, with one social media user saying, “I mean, the writings were on the wall for Tina Knowles and Richard Lawson.”
Knowles later addressed the now-viral snippet with a classy clap back, which only a Southern diva could do. She shared a thoughtful quote from actor Michael J. Fox: “I am careful not to confuse excellence with perfection. Excellence, I can reach for; perfection is God’s business.” Her caption read, “I could not agree more,” she said. “Any human being who thinks that they are perfect or is shocked and hurt that someone does not believe that they are perfect is delusional. I believe that Only God is perfect! What about you?”
While I’m used to nosy social media trolls up in celebrity business and taking delight in the downfalls of their marriages, I was taken aback by how OWN’s Black Love series was thrown into the conversation about Knowles and Lawson’s situation, and in a negative way. The Black Love platform, founded by Codie Oliver and her husband, Tommy Oliver, in 2014, was created to find community amongst other couples, both married and partnered. As the two filmmakers worked on their marriage, they intentionally found ways to learn from other couples, which led them to create the series on OWN.
Their show premiered on August 17, raking in 1.2 million viewers, ultimately breaking the record for OWN’s most-watched unscripted series premiere. The popularity stemmed from Black American couples and those who wish to be partnered wanting to see themselves reflected on television. Despite its current criticisms on social media, the show proved to highlight the spectrum of what Black love could be – yes, that includes the good, bad, and the ugly too, as partnership, especially marriage, isn’t a leisurely walk in the park. Codie Oliver went on record to speak about the show’s early success. “I think the show has been successful because nothing like it had been done before,” she stated. “To see Black love in a relatable way allowed people to see themselves reflected in the series.”
Oliver also noted the importance of highlighting the couples’ imperfections on the show, as she felt discussing cheating was just as important as tackling conversations about bankruptcy. Black Love was committed to showing the beauty and challenging side of committed relationships, as the stories shared on the show ranged from rosy first encounters to navigating mental health issues, and conquering infidelity, in the name of love.
“These people didn’t say they had it all figured out. They just cared enough to stay and work through issues,” she said to ESSENCE in a previous interview. “Even in the stories of infidelity, I also began to see the story of accountability, humility, and the commitment that it took for the offender to work their way back into their partner’s life. Most of the people who went through infidelity that we talked to, it broke their relationship wide open and allowed for healing and rebuilding.”
Since its inception, The Olivers interviewed over 250 couples, including Viola Davis and Julius Tennon, Tia Mowry and Cory Hardrict, Ryan Michelle Bathe and Sterling K. Brown, Tamia and Grant Hill, Erica, and Warryn Campbell, and more.
Of those celebrity couples featured on the show, Mowry and Hardrict, Knowles and Lawson, Niecy Nash and Jay Tucker, and Meagan Good and DeVon Franklin are divorced. These celebrity breakups have the internet, mainly Twitter, in shambles as users on the platform are accusing the platform of promoting struggle, love and being cursed.
It’s ludicrous and far-fetched. The platform served as a healthy outlet for partnered and married couples to be honest about the ups and downs of their relationship, which should be celebrated and not torn down.
When it comes to the Lawsons, their troubles in their marriage really shouldn’t be up for public consumption. Still, aside from that, it’s unfair to judge and bash a platform dedicated to uplifting, honest representation of Black love in all forms just because several celebrity couples featured on the show didn’t work out. Perhaps they were already trying to find their way through things when they appeared on the program. Maybe their relationships didn’t work out because, even in marriage, people change and grow in different directions. Or, maybe they didn’t work out because they weren’t meant to — and that’s OK.
Instead of villainizing the platform, try commending their tireless work in the Black community to bring diverse stories of Black love to the forefront, no matter what it looks like.
I do hope the Black Love slander doesn’t continue, as it’s fruitless, pointless, and does the complete opposite of the show’s intended purpose, to showcase a positive representation of Black love throughout all mediums and forms – which is what the world needs more of.