“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”
Reality television’s vengeful, ’bow-throwing drama queens get paid to ante up, catfight and go dumb for a living. They’re also funny, thoughtful mothers, sisters and self-made businesswomen who’ve spun our thirsts for theater into bankable fame. Can they live? —Bonsu Thompson
There’s a much-abused adage that’s referenced in chats, debates and tweets, usually in defense of questionable conduct: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” That remixed Marilyn Monroe quote could be an unofficial slogan for the reality television explosion. Especially given scenes like one on the recent fourth season of Basketball Wives. While filming inside the pricey New York City eatery Cibo, a rabid Evelyn Lozada, the VH1 show’s most vocal star, stormed around the dinner table, lifted an uncorked bottle of wine and launched it at cast freshmen Kenya Bell, who’d previously called Lozada “loose.” The beverage whizzed past the head of BBW executive producer, Shaunie O’Neal and exploded onto the floor. Expletives followed, along with a plate, but no repercussions.
While networks have churned perverse drama like this into a ratings mammoth (VH1, Bravo and WE tv lead all cable networks in adult female viewing), the stars whose salaries average in the half-millions are left with much fandom, fortune and flack. Until recently, much of the outrage about going ratchet for ratings has been confined to social circles. But after viewing a later BBW episode—in which Evelyn leapt on the table this time—media personality Star Jones produced a petition in hopes of aborting Evelyn’s spin-off, Ev and Ocho, premiering in September. Jones stated: “The violence on Basketball Wives is horrible and disgraceful…VH1 is rewarding this behavior.”
Unfortunately, the majority of these mavens of mayhem are also some of the biggest public representatives for African-American and Hispanic women. While reasonable adults can relish in junk food programming as toffeed guilty pleasure, those same exhibitions pose risks for impressionable youth. How does a parent advocate lady-like decorum when Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Nene Leakes fetches a million dollars per season for misbehaving the most. VIBE opened the floor to four of the genre’s leading ladies and spinoff recipients—Evelyn, Kandi Burruss (Bravo’s Real Housewives of Atlanta), Tamar Braxton (WE tv’s Braxton Family Values) and Chrissy Lampkin (VH1’s Love & Hip-Hop) in hopes of gaining insight on why these women are handsomely paid to seldom behave.