Unfortunately, I spend a good deal of my professional life wondering aloud some version of “What is wrong with people?” It’s kind of the nature of journalism (and blogging) to critique, cajole and question. I’m always clarifying something, rallying against someone, or shaking my head in astonishment at the stuff some of God’s children say and do. If it’s not a congressional representative confused about the the female anatomy, it’s a reality star advocating nonviolence and then threatening to hop on another woman (or actually hopping on her), or a rapper who seems to think “b—h” is synonymous with “woman.” With all that battle-crying, occasionally I forget to give credit where it’s due.
I need to offer a slow clap of applause to TV One. Chairwoman Cathy Hughes, new president and CEO Wonya Lucas (no relation, and yes, she’s Black), and their team are doing their thing right now. That’s it. I don’t have any buts, howevers, or sarcasm to add.
The channel is living up to its tagline, “Where Black Life Unfolds.” (Which, until I put my glasses on, I thought read, “Where Black Folk Unwind.” It works either way.) They lured me in with the first season of Unsung, lined me with the Martin marathon on New Year’s Day, and had me staying up late to catch reruns of Lincoln Heights before I finally got a DVR. This year TV One stepped its game all the way up with Love Addiction and Dr. Steve Perry’s Save My Son — and now, after the season 2 premiere of Verses & Flow and the series debut of R&B Divas on Monday night, I’m officially hooked.
It seems I’m not the only one. R&B Divas set a new viewing record for the channel on Monday. And I’m not surprised — it was good TV. I’ve been anticipating the show since filming was announced last year, but I was a little nervous as to where it would go. Reality TV doesn’t have the best rap, even if shows like La La’s Full Court Life, Tia & Tamera, and Mary Mary brighten the horizon a bit. With Divas in the title and the troubled backgrounds of some of the co-stars, it could have been messy or marvelous. Luckily, it was the latter.
I’m happy the folk over at TV One took notice of Black women repeating, petitioning and wailing that we have normal lives worthy of being showcased. And by normal, I mean supporting each other, loving hard, and resolving issues without resorting to throwing objects (or ourselves) on other people. The lineup of ladies — Faith Evans, Nicci Gilbert-Daniels, Syleena Johnson, Keke Wyatt, and Monifah Carter — might be Black household names, but their day-to-day living is relatable. Who hasn’t been charged with pulling an event together at the last minute, or struggled with their finances, or rolled their eyes at a woman trying to henpeck her man? There’s plenty of conflict worth watching in simply following these talented ladies rebuild their careers. Those glorious voices — remember when most singers had those? — in unison are “just” a bonus.
Kudos to TV One for making great programming and receiving great ratings for positive shows. It sends a message. Hopefully other channels will take note.
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk