Why We Need To Talk About The Colorism Issue On “Basketball Wives LA”
I definitely tuned into Basketball Wives when it premiered almost a decade ago, and the easy success wasn’t a mystery, when you consider the already cluttered landscape of reality shows depicting faux-celebs and celebrated socialites, who were allowing the cameras to capture the realness of un-reality.
Keeping Up With The Kardashians was already in full swing, and the The Hills was about to die on MTV in order to make way for the more “mature” offshoot on Bravo that initiated the current assembly of “Housewives” via “Orange County.”
But honestly my heart was sold to the ratchetness on VH1, as early as Flavor of Love, and then shit went all the way in with I Love New York with splashes of For the Love of Ray J, before the disastrous introduction to Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, that hosted the mind-altering antics of washed up celebs, who were desperately securing the last morsels of fame.
The addictive mechanisms of Basketball Wives, orchestrated by the creator of ratings haven for Black women who excel at addictive chaos, Mona Scott-Young, and Shaunie O’Neal, the ex-wife of a major baller, who conceived the gem, are both responsible for the intense hunger for still-developing vehicles of staged mayhem.
For me, it was The Real World that opened my eyes to the complexities of relations when you’re tossed in a house located in popular cities, and charged with the responsibility of “making it work” for the cameras, at all costs.
I continued that streak and never wavered until Bad Girls Club, hit the scene with the provocative tagline of:
“A new group of diverse young women who consider themselves “bad girls” moves into the Bad Girls Club.”
At first the insanity fulfilled the initial vibe of wanting to indulge in the reverie of disorder, courtesy of the unrestrained antics of young women, who were set up to fail. But as the seasons flew by, there was the need to curtail the number of offerings that were validating the worth of finessed buffoonery. And so I bid adieu to the “diverse young women,” who were beating themselves senseless for camera time.
However, it was ride or die with the “Housewives,” and ‘Basketball Wives,” and that had a lot to do with the inside look into the lives of women who are living their #bestlives with the facade of how nothing else matters, until you marry well or at least get your shit together in ways that keep you #relevant.
But as the years piled up, it became challenging to watch grown ass women fighting on a bus to LA or at a local diner, which explains why I dropped all of it and kept the women of “Beverly Hills” who adequately embody the fantastical elements of the high life.
But I remained steadfast in my commitment to the original, offshoots of Basketball Wives, that always seemed to revolve around the preferential default of Shaunie & Co., which includes the legendary fieriness of Brooklyn-born, and Bronx-raised Evelyn Lozada, who has spent a huge portion of her airtime battling it out with targeted enemies.
Unlike The Real Housewives of Atlanta that showcased Black women settled in households that funded their worth with the extra dose of that independent streak, Basketball Wives presented the antithesis of “settlement,” with the appealing sentiment of how women of color can navigate the path to whatever looks good enough to marry, in more ways than the common definition.
The enticing locales of Miami and Los Angeles, both of which I’ve been privy to when it comes to the long weekends of mandated sinfulness, also helps to bolster the dramatics whenever the former and existing “Wives” of Black athletes meet up to for episodes that are never devoid of the captured troublesomeness from key members of the posse.
Evelyn was undoubtedly living up to her assigned description for better or worse, and the tantrums were spearheaded by lesser valuable cast members, who were primed for the raging tendencies of those who were getting paid to curse them all the way out.
Cleary the head of the crew was is Shaunie, and Evelyn is next in line, which translates to the truth of how both “Wives” are given free rein when it comes to the rules of engagement.
When it comes to keeping things together and in order, Shaunie is the supposed voice of reason, who scolds with the mission of peacemaker. But somehow, Evelyn can say or do whatever she wants, even when it’s completely out of order because she’s apparently “hot” enough to get away with it.
After a handful of seasons away from the theatrics, due to the wide, wide world of streaming, I found myself back at it, thanks to YouTube, and the curiosity about the current status of the “Wives,” who still have the anchor of the old guard: Jackie Christie, Malaysia Pargo, and Jennifer Williams, and of course Evelyn.
The latest season that just ended was filmed in LA, and my uneven experience of living in the City of Angeles prepared me for the controversial unrest between two women of color, who perfectly demonstrate the still-hushed but prolific issue of colorism, and how we instinctively believe the innocence of the fairest one of all, over the darker-skinned foe.
It all started with the infusion of the newest member of the “Wives” club, Ogom Chijindu, better known as “OG,” and how her specific Blackness didn’t quite gel with the cast of women who possess the delicacies that usually evoke the level of acceptance that leads to flexibility when orneriness is at stake.
OG happens to be quite an accomplished woman and athlete, having spent almost a decade playing football for the Legends of Football League (LFL), and presently lends her impressive skills to the Los Angeles Temptation team.
As the newbie joining the party of mostly established cast members, who have enjoyed the impressive run that most reality shows hope to attain, the pressure to stand out with that “first impression,” can be nerve-wrecking, not to mention tricky as hell. But the LA-raised, OG was able to juggle those duties with seamless precision, which caused the inevitable friction.
The only way reality shows survive the test of time is if they have the capacity to deliver the blow by blow storylines that feature grown women battling it out in the gauntlet.
Evelyn Lozada understood that well from the beginning, which explains why she underestimated OG.
The restraining order that Lozada tried to process against OG was denied by the judge who concluded that the outstanding lawsuit of defamation would cover the basis of those baseless claims about how the American-born Nigerian is somehow a threat.
As an American-born Nigerian who grew up in Lagos, and attended boarding school where the mixed kids who boasted White British mothers and Nigerian fathers were placed on the pedestal of excellence, and won all the beauty contests, I can attest to how and why the darker-skinned newbie is readily assessed as the viable meat for the ravenous prey.
There were plenty of curse words to go round this season, but it was note worthy that Lozada called OG “ugly.”
This was in reaction to OG’s claims that the reality star’s ex, Chad Ochocinco had been trying to get with her as far back as 2011. The only line of defense was to shut that down with the dismissiveness that caters to how we’ve been trained to accept the unworthiness of Black women who are too Black for their own good.
And what’s even worse, is how this war has escalated into the valves of pop culture, with hotspots like “Hollywood Unblocked,” extending an invite to the lighter-skinned “Afro-Latina, who is able to make her case in ways that satisfy her biased hosts, who also agree that OG is ugly AF.
Regardless of how this plays out, we can’t be blinded to the acuteness of colorism in our community, and how White supremacy mandates the vilification of darker-skinned women, who can’t be gifted the allowance to be “as bad as they want to be” without the labels of aggressiveness against their lighter-skinned adversaries.
Imagine that the reunion show for Basketball Wives catered to the ridiculousness of Shaunie & Co. who vehemently rejected sharing the stage with the Black woman who more than earned her spot, as payback for how she “threatened” to exact physical arm, which they took very seriously — for once.
Living in LA exposed me to how my Blackness wasn’t readily received with the same stamp of approval that elevates Tracee Ellis Ross, and the others who are presented as the version of Black that champions “natural hair movements” and the “diversity” initiatives that White Hollywood can seamlessly fulfill with the help of Zendaya and Yara Shahidi.
Having darker skin gave my mother’s friends permission to point out that fact as if it were a faulty feature that prevented me from embodying what would’ve aligned my beauty in ways that matched the woman who birthed me.
Evelyn Lozada was able to be the “bad bitch” of the group under the guidance and empathy of Queen Shaunie and her loyal subjects, who just had to take the shit for the sake of the show.
And now that another woman has entered the fold, with accomplishments that are far exceed her positioned foe, with the self-confidence that won’t stand for the storyline that diminishes her stance, suddenly the “aggressor,” who challenges the reigning champion has to be demonized for being “ugly” enough to evoke those biases.
OG isn’t ugly. She’s Black woman who looks African. She’s not mixed with the exoticness that makes feeble Black men with a shit load of money gravel for attention, and she’s dark enough to give much lighter-skinned women with pointed noses and silky strands the falsehood of their superiority.
It’s about time that we tackle the issue of colorism with the vigor that leads to us admitting why we’ve been programmed by the White man to hate our own, especially when they possess the armor of Blackness that’s potently undiluted.
If we are going to stay on the reality TV train, we might as well take advantage of these notable moments because nobody else outside of our race is going to attempt to dissect the self-hatred that causes us to regard a Black woman who looks “Black” as ugly.
We keep letting this shit slide, and nothing gets done.
But let me leave these parting words: