Basketball Wives & Love & Hip Hop

The Portrayal of African-American Women on Reality Television

Written by Vanessa Leger

Lately there has been an influx of African-American women featured on their own reality shows on cable networks such as VH1 & BET. Shows such as Basketball/Football Wives, Love & Hip Hop, and Real Housewives of Atlanta have been eating up the ratings. Clearly, these shows are great for business, but what have these shows done to the image of the black woman?  These shows have been catapulted to fame by catfights, screaming matches, and even fist fights. No matter who the star of any reality show may be, these are the ingredients to get the engine going, but, for African-American women displaying these behaviors is a completely different because of the stereotype we could never escape.

After shows such as Nurse Jackie and The Cosby Show, positive images of African-American women have dwindled. It is difficult to believe that the younger generation looks up to these reality stars that hurl drinks into each other’s faces (Evelyn Lodaza is a great prime example of this in Basketball Wives) and decides who remains in and out of “The Circle”.

The main issue is that none of these women on reality television will put down their knives and guns to play nice at tea time because drama, tears and fights define what makes reality television and well, basically their jobs.

In the case of the white women, they have a balance in which they are able to argue and fight, but they are also the anchors of the evening news, or debating on CNN with another expert regarding a topic important to the world. It is no secret that African American women are lacking a strong presence in that field. What happens when they are on a different type of reality setting? Nene Leakes on last season’s Celebrity Apprentice made it clear to show reality audiences what that would be like.

In a shocking and extraordinarily embarrassing display of confrontation with Star Jones, Nene Leakes stepped into Star Jones’ face snapping her neck with a strong bravado asking her nemesis to bring her “street game” in front of their team members, Donald Trump and the clients they would be working with during that episode. Despite the fact that I was at home with my mother and my boyfriend, I felt a flushed in my face and embarrassed for Black women everywhere.

There is no solution to this growing problem because reality television will never be a positive glowing ray of light for anyone, especially African-American women. I can only hope that one day, black women will be able to counter the stereotypes and behavior perpetuated by the indignities caught on film and played back to us in our homes.


Black Women Being Misrepresented On TV Reality Shows


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