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Much like the instantaneous, fame-adjacent status he procured by being shown wearing trendy clothes that showed off his ankles on the internet, the older black gentleman known as “Mr. Steal Your Grandma” has hastily fallen from many folks’ good graces. Much of it has to do with a since-deleted Facebook status in which Irvin Randle laid out a few ground rules for the younger Negroes.

“I have a message for my young African-Americans if y’all want to succeed in this life and stay out of trouble,” Randle wrote. “I know being successful doesn’t spare us from getting killed but most of the times, it keeps us out of trouble.”

These tips included going to school, not wearing baggy pants, covering up that body with more articles of clothing and forgoing the option of “calling yourselves bad bitches.” Well, as a certified bad bitch who doesn’t typically mind the sight of sagging, let me just say, I’m glad many of the blacks respectfully told Randle to go back to watching old episodes of Sanford and Son and stop doling out “respectability politics.” Y’all gave that man too much for simply being an AARP-age man wearing tight-ass clothing anyway.

Unfortunately, Mr. Steal Your Grandma’s impact has already guaranteed that other pop-pops are about to storm your social media feeds with shots of them in those tight, black Adidas pants. In fact, I’ve already seen screenshots of older black men in their 50s and 60s more or less trying to “do it for the ’gram.” OK, Facebook, for the most part, ’cause old folks love themselves some Facebook, but you get it.

Sadly, the stampede cannot be stopped. Nonetheless, I can help you cope with the growing old-head movement happening online.

Step 1: Be like French Montana and don’t panic.

Listen, my grandparents have gone on to glory, so while I miss my pa-pa terribly, I’m glad I don’t have to worry about him showing up in my feed wearing tight shorts he got from a J.C. Penney or Macy’s sale trying to show you he’s still got it. For those of you that do, though, do not stress yourself out. We’re all black, so we really needn’t play with our heart rates like that—especially if we eat Popeye’s.

Breathe. Breathe some more. Exhale. Shoop shoop. Pace yourself.

Step 2: Think of Blanche Devereaux.

I’m not into cat daddies like some of my nasty friends are, but I do think there’s something to be said for respecting older folks who want to be seen as desirable. Yes, that denotes sexuality. Calm down. I know it’s your grandpa, older daddy, great-uncle or just someone who played one of those roles growing up. The point is, older chaps have always lived their lives despite growing older, only now, social media has made it more apparent. You need to accept this.

Step 3: Know that they are Ms. Evelyn, but you are Toni and Tamar.

By that, I mean you must acknowledge that one day, you’re going to be that older person who wants to still be fly. It’s fine so long as you don’t get carried away.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Toward the end of 2014, vicious and very much hateful people worked quickly to spread isolated, unedited vocals of a Mariah Carey holiday performance that was not her best (to say the least).

We know Mariah loves herself some Christmas, but unfortunately, when she performed “All I Want for Christmas Is You” during a Rockefeller Center Christmas tree-lighting special on NBC, she sounded like she had gargled with a lump of coal (no shade). Many folks took absolute glee in this spectacle.

In one post about the performance, a writer wrote: “Remember when Mariah Carey could sing? Most millennials probably can’t.”

As a millennial, let the record show that this is an absolute damn lie. Has Mariah’s once pristine and flawless voice shown signs of decline with time and possibly pinot grigio? I would never lie and deny this, dahling. Even if I am a proud member of her Lambily family, I can acknowledge that there have been moments in which one could say that Mimi sang as if she couldn’t fulfill the terms of her agreement with Ursula the Sea Witch, and thus, was being punished.

However, if there is one constant about Mariah Carey, it is that her vocal talent is enduring and ready to rebound. This would include Mariah during The Emancipation of Mimi era in which she let many doubters know back then that she was not washed up. This would also include right about now.

I’m not sure what Mariah has been doing—vocal rest, a new contract with Ursula, lots of prayer and tea—but she’s sounded lovely for most of the year. There are countless videos posted on YouTubefrom her recent Sweet Sweet Fantasy international tour. Maybe Mariah doesn’t sound like the MTV Unplugged special, but she is singing as strongly as she ever has in several years.

Mariah herself has also been posting video clips from her Las Vegas residency, Mariah #1 to Infinity, at Caesar’s Palace.

Read the rest at The Root.

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There is only so much one can glean from another’s social media accounts. Sure, there’s a lot that can be unraveled in terms of behavior and character, but these are not media in which anyone can do so in totality. So when it came to criticism about Nicki Minaj over her silence about the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, much of it felt unfair, or at the very least, not appropriately contextualized.

Would I have handled critics exactly like Nicki Minaj did? No, but there was a lot of presumption in one particular tweet that sparked additional online criticism. The tweet in question read: “I’m kind of offended that Nicki could tweet about a song but can’t acknowledge the shootings in Orlando.”

Minaj subsequently unfollowed him, resulting in more questions asking why she and other artists like Drake and Taylor Swift failed to express their grievances on their respective social media accounts.

As far as Minaj tweeting about her single, let us not forget that Minaj is an artist—you know, an employee—and part of an employee’s said duties would include the promotion of their work. That said, when it comes to Minaj, Swift, and Rihanna, I do understand the notion that considering how instrumental gay men have been in their careers as fans, dancers, make up artists, hairdressers, and other professional duties, there ought to be a specific sensitivity to tragedies directly impacting the LGBT community.

It is a valid observation, though a lack of social media updates does not necessarily mean these artists don’t care. The same goes for others in media and entertainment. Just this week, I saw someone tweet at the podcast “Another Round” about their lack of response to the Orlando shooting. The podcast’s response was: “we havent recorded a full episode since it happened.”

Beloveds, don’t let the internet fool you into thinking everything is or must be instantaneous. 

While it is true that Minaj has addressed matters like the death of Sandra Bland, it was not days after her death but months after a grand jury failed to make any indictments. I don’t know if these celebrities have actually made any donations to charities in support of Orlando’s victims. Neither do you. I don’t know if these artists will ultimately issue statements about the mass shooting at a later date. Neither do you.

What I do know, though, in my own life as a gay Black man, many people handle tragedy differently. Moreover, there is no one way to handle tragedy. So when the likes of Perez Hilton attacked Minaj online, I found his sudden urgency for decency, respect for humanity, and political correctness rather dubious. After all, this is the same person who called Will.I.Am a “faggot” and “thug” and he’s repeatedly been contemptous in his criticism of Black female celebrities like Nicki Minaj. To that end, if there is a hell, that hypocritical motherfucker can dive fingers and tongue first into the seventh circle.

Read the rest at Complex.

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In the wake of the terrible tragedy in Orlando, many have understandably turned to love. Love is warming. Love is beautiful. Love is an imperfect, but no less joyous feeling. So, it is not at all surprising to see multiple well-meaning, sympathetic people invoke “love wins” and “love is love” in response to the hatred that was conveyed in its most vitriolic and violent form at the Pulse nightclub.

 I love an early ’90s ballad from Mariah Carey and Céline Dion too, but love does not always win. Love is not always enough. Although love is beautiful, it has severe limitations.

The invocation of love made sense in the context of marriage equality, as a political strategy. This benefited the gay rights movement because love is a universal and lofty emotion that’s easily consumed.

Nonetheless, that was a specific use for a specific argument—one that is increasingly proving impractical with respect to advocating tolerance and our basic civil rights in areas outside of marriage.

When it comes to gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gender-queer people, we need to talk about these identities outside of the prisms of love and romantic partnerships. We need to be able to consider same-sex identities outside of just romance. Sometimes it’s not about love; sometimes people just want to f**k. Straight people should understand this. We are no different than you all in that regard.

Sometimes, when you see two men kissing, it is just passion, and yes, that denotes sex. Sex is perfectly natural. Sex and passion conveyed by two consenting adults is perfectly fine.

How two men express affection for each other—again, sex—is not widely seen in mass media. The sight still makes many—even those who claim to accept marriage equality—uncomfortable. We have learned that the sight of two men kissing each other angered the shooter in Orlando, Omar Mateen. Were those two men in love? None of us know. But more importantly, it shouldn’t matter: non-heterosexual relationships should not continue to be solely spoken of in the context of love.

As reports surface that Mateen not only used gay dating apps, but frequented Pulse before terrorizing it, it seems that he may have had some sort of conflict within himself about his sexuality. A former classmate of Mateen’s has said that he was gay and once asked him out. The man, who did not identify himself in his interview, went on to say, “He just wanted to fit in and no one liked him. He was always socially awkward.”

That internal struggle, which potentially manifested itself in rage and acts of violence, is not limited to Mateen. In March, Elliot Morales was convicted of a hate crime after murdering a man whom he referred to as a “faggot.” During Morales’ trial, prosecutors claimed that Morales was driven to kill by his own issues with his sexuality.

Read the rest at ELLE.

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More often than not, when I am asked what it was like being gay in the South, it is met with certain expectations. You can tell the person asking is likely anticipating me to offer a dramatic pause—perhaps one long enough to let a single tear fall down my face—before ultimately saying something that fits into their stereotypical presumptions. Maybe they expect me to tell a story about being shoved down by a gang of overalls-wearing homophobes on a hog farm, too. Who knows, but based on reactions, I typically don’t offer the response they’re seeking.

As someone who is also Black (and not having “transcended race”), I am used to this; it is very much akin to the falsehood that Black folks have some monopoly on homophobia. Much like that issue, homophobia in the South is not all that different at its core than it is anywhere else. If nothing else, perhaps it is unique in its delivery.

That said, when one says “the South,” specifics are required.

I am from Houston, Texas, with both sides of my family largely hailing from Louisiana. Texas is a nation unto itself and while Houston is southern, the rest? Eh, not so much. Similarly, you can’t expect major southern cities like Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta, or Miami to be the same as towns in Mississippi or Alabama. The reality is, while I chose to wait until I was a 21-year-old intern in New York City to admit to myself and my friends that I was gay, I could have easily done so in high school.

At the time, many of my friends were sneaking into gay and lesbian clubs where they were free to be themselves. One club in particular was called Big Yo’s. I never made it there—and though everyone comes out on their own schedules—a part of me wishes I was. It was always described to me as a fun, joyous place where people were allowed to live as individuals—a feat often unallowed in every other space of their lives. Rappers like Trina would perform at the clubs because (surprise, surprise) some people knew early on that money is money and that all people—even those defying heteronormativity and rigid gender binaries—are just people.

Years later, relatives would tell me about their drives to New Orleans to see groundbreaking queer rap artists like Katey Red perform. Some would join Katey Red onstage to twerk the night away. For all the current chatter about where hip hop needs to go in terms of allowing more LGBT representation, a fun fact is that this has long been happening in the South.

This same joy I’ve heard and seen in cities like Houston and New Orleans also exists in other places like Atlanta, and yes, Orlando.

The thing about us southern folk is while bigotry might be directly in our faces and heard at higher volumes, we have always found a way to bounce pass it—literally and figuratively. And the thing about hearing prejudice at its bluntest delivery is that it does not mean you are any safer in places where it is conveyed in softer tones. Donald Trump is a bigot and xenophobe, but he is nothing more than a reflection of the Republican Party, and in many ways, America.

Read the rest at Complex.

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Very seldom will you ever find me speaking ill of the legendary Bobby Brown. You’re now reading words from someone who will regularly inform you that if not for the Don’t Be Cruel album, it’s highly unlikely you will have artists like Usher, Trey Songz and Chris Brown. A person, who after finding out “The Kang of R&B” was selling BBQ sauce and fried chicken seasoning, immediately went online to place an order. So, my love of Bobby Brown is pure and everlasting.

However, there is news pouring out from a recent interview that’s troubled me. There are a few things in life I can look past. I pass no judgment on Bobby Brown for recently telling ABC’s Robin Roberts that he once had sex with a ghost is a fine example. Brown’s purported private ghost busting aside, I’m more frustrated that he felt compelled to discuss a long rumored part of his late ex wife’s life.

Speaking with Us Weekly, Brown addressed the outstanding rumor that Whitney Houston had a same-sex relationship with Robyn Crawford. Houston met Crawford as a teen before she ultimately hired Crawford to be her assistant and creative director. Rumors of a romance started in the late 1980s and traveled with the late iconic singer for years. The rumor reached its peak of speculation once Houston went on to join Michael Jackson in the afterlife choir and Crawford spoke with Esquire about their relationship.

In response to stories that Houston was pressured by family members not to see her, Crawford noted, “Nobody kept Whitney from doing anything.” Beyond that, though, there is a subtle gorgeousness to how Crawford speaks of Houston. It is quite clear that whatever their relationship was, it was rooted in love.

Crawford explained: “I have never spoken about her until now. And she knew I wouldn’t. She was a loyal friend and she knew I was never going to be disloyal to her. I was never going to betray her. Now I can’t believe that I’m never going to hug her or hear her laughter again. I loved her laughter and that’s what I miss most, that’s what I miss already.”

And: “I just hope that she wasn’t in pain and that she hadn’t lost hope. She gave so much to so many people; I hope that she felt loved in return. She was the action, for such a long time. She’s out of the action now. I hope she can finally rest.”

This should have been the end of that. No one who was not privy to the intel to confirm the specifics of their relationship deserved nothing more than what Crawford offered. Sadly, Brown has now chimed in, telling Us Weekly that when it comes to Houston and Crawford, “I know. We were married for 14 years. There are some things we talked about that were personal to us.”

Brown, who recently released a memoir, “Every Little Step,” alleges that Houston was bisexual. He told Us, “I’m a man and she was attracted to me!”

Read the rest at VH1.

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Recently, for The Guardian, Naomi Campbell shared an excerpt from a limited edition, two-volume book that chronicles her life as a groundbreaking and highly successful supermodel and all of the opportunities stemming from that. Yet, for all that is shared in the excerpt—her as a supermodel, her speaking with world leaders as a contributing editor to various publications—the article’s title homes in on what I’ve come to see as a well-meaning but no less flawed line of thinking. The title in question is, “Naomi Campbell: ‘At an early age, I understood what it meant to be black. You had to be twice as good.’”

Campbell writes: “When I started out, I wasn’t being booked for certain shows because of the color of my skin. I didn’t let it rattle me. From attending auditions and performing at an early age, I understood what it meant to be black. You had to put in the extra effort. You had to be twice as good.”

Picture it: Me, yawning at both the headline and the sentiment that inspired it. Of course, Campbell is not the only person who echoes this statement. However, I’ve only heard the “twice as good to get half as much” mantra by the mediums of pop culture or the bougie Black folks I encountered later in life after attending Howard University. As a child, not a single person ever told me this. I thank my Lord and Gyrator Beyoncé every single day for this.

Growing up, I was told to be great, but not from the perspective of doing so in order to attain an imbalanced portion of what some white person was getting for half the effort. When I think a lot about my childhood—well, besides the chaotic portions that often consumed it—I now have a greater respect for many of the values my mom instilled in me.

I did not grow up with a lot of money at all, but I was never raised to believe that there wasn’t anything I could not do. My first doctor was Black. My first dentist was Black. I had a Black priest when I was still a practicing Catholic. I went to Black schools, and when my mother aspired for me to go to a better school, it was not some white-populated institution; it was a private Black school. She couldn’t afford it, but the school of her choosing denotes that something simply being white did not constitute as better.

Was racism explained to and experienced by me? Certainly. However, I never thought that to be Black, I had to be twice as good as a white person. Likewise, I never operated under the impression that in order to see myself, I had to see it through the lens of whiteness or the prejudices forced upon me by white supremacy.

White people were just not the factor.Being Black was always enough. To be fair to Naomi Campbell, she has always advocated for the inclusion of more Black models. And Campbell takes great pride in being Black. Still, when I hear people—good intentions or not—play into this kind of folklore, I find it troubling and saddening. No one should ever define themselves in that way. None of us should put that kind of unnecessary pressure on any nonwhite person.

Read the rest at The Root.

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Earlier this month, Page Six reported that Beyoncé and Jay Z’s long-rumored duets album will arrive in earbuds around the world “very soon.” The news was met with mixed emotions: It seems some fans were less than thrilled about the idea of an album-length session of post-Lemonade couples counseling.

But why are we assuming that’s what this album will be? For all we know, it’s a bunch of up-tempo party tracks. Given that it’s been 10 years since Beyoncé’s fantastic B’Day, I’d be all for that. Failing that, I’m happy to entertain an album on which Jay Z explains in detail why Becky with the good hair ain’t worth a court-mandated visitation schedule for him and Blue Ivy. I don’t know what’s on this album, and neither do you. But I’m open to finding out, considering the pair’s well-established musical chemistry. Besides, any member of the Beyhive should know by now that there is no such thing as too much Beyoncé in the world.

The real reason I love the idea of a Jay Z and Beyoncé joint project, though, is that it could help usher in a new era for the duets album — a format that has tragically fallen by the wayside in our culture. Yes, duets still exist. No one dares disrespect the magic Ja Rule and Ashanti once made, or what Ciara and Ludacris did further down the country. However, none of those duos created a stand-alone project. Two of the aforementioned are hosting awards shows instead of performing at them.

More recently, we’ve enjoyed duets from Nick Jonas and TinasheAriana Grande and The Weeknd, and Justin Bieber and Halsey. But none of them have given us anything close to the magic Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell produced in the 1960s. In 2013, Maxwell announced plans to go there with Alicia Keys, telling Billboard, “We’re definitely working on an EP that’s sort of Marvin Gaye/Tammi Terrell.” Three years later, we haven’t heard a peep from either about the project.

So, yes, I would love to hear a duets album from Beyoncé and her husband. While we’re at it, isn’t it about time that Drake and Rihanna quit playing and offered us their own duets album?

Apologies in advance to all those who bow before Aubrey Graham — I’d rather pretend Views never happened.

Read the rest at MTV News.

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This is another piece that ended up orphaned. Look, I got paid so we Gucci, but I still felt it should live somewhere. The song is garbage, by the way. Jennifer Lopez could’ve easily just re-released the original version of “Good Hit” instead.

When I read on various sites and across social media that Jennifer Lopez’s new single, “Ain’t Your Mama,” was a “women’s empowerment” or “feminist anthem,” I chuckled like a cartoon villain in the earlier moments of the movie. Like, I don’t know much about algebra, but I know a single produced by a man being sued for sexual assault and battery doesn’t add up to either of those things. Thankfully, it didn’t take long for the online clapback to come.

Since then, Meghan Trainor, one of the song’s co-writers, has spoken in defense of J.Lo, telling Digital Spy of the criticism:

“[It was] not fair on her, not at all. I texted her the song and she had no idea — she thought I did it alone by myself at my house, which a lot of people think because I do do that. I sent it to her and said, ‘Do you like the song?’ and she said, ‘I love the song, my kid loves the song — he’s made me play it five times already so I know it’s a hit — when can I cut it?’, so I said immediately, ‘Whenever you want!’”

I have a hard time believing this, but I’ll refrain from hitting Scooby Doo and The Mystery Machine on the hip to further investigate. Even if Lopez had no initial idea that Dr. Luke played a hand in the song’s formation, there’s quite the process that happens between the recording of a song and its distribution. Therefore, somewhere along the way, it should have dawned on the artist in question who all had a hand in its creation. So let’s be clear that Jennifer Lopez and her label made a choice to release the single anyway.

As a fan of Jennifer Lopez’s music, it’s a choice I wish she hadn’t made. For one, the song itself isn’t especially great. It’s definitely no “If You Had My Love,” or hell, “Good Hit.” Couple that with the controversy and one wonders if the song was worth it the noise it has created.

While individuals are certainly innocent until proven guilty, there’s a notable contrast in the many artists who have expressed support for Kesha – Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Adele, Kelly Clarkson – and the virtual crickets over on Dr. Luke’s side. “Ain’t Your Mama” feels like a slap in the face to Kesha. It’s easy to understand why many are angered by the track’s release.

Yet, there’s also something to be said about when people pick and choose to speak out.

Kesha’s lawsuit against Dr. Luke was filed in October 2014. Less than a month later, teenage singer-rapper Becky G released “Can’t Stop Dancin’,” produced by Dr. Luke – whose label she signed to after meeting him at age 14. In April 2015, Becky G released “Lovin’ So Hard,” also produced by Dr. Luke. Months later came two additional singles in “Break A Sweat” and “You Love It,” again each produced by Dr. Luke.

Where was the outcry? If we are concerned about proximity to Dr. Luke, should there not have been more noise made about a teenage girl recording with him virtually non-stop? This is not to negate the efforts of people airing their disappointments with Jennifer Lopez to release a Dr. Luke produce single in the wake of his ongoing legal fight with Kesha. My point is that there should be consistency.

Nonetheless, we do have to hold our artists accountable for their actions.

Last fall, while hosting the Soul Train Awards, Erykah Badu referred to R. Kelly as a “brother” and argued that he “has done more for Black people than anyone.” In terms of his contribution to R&B, R. Kelly has certainly changed the genre and moved it forward it ways very few can ever claim similar rights to. Still, though he might have not been convicted in his child pornography case, he has a long history of accusations of sexual assault against underaged girls — one that he continues to struggle to explain.   

Though Badu doesn’t call herself a feminist, she has described herself as a humanist, telling The Guardian, “I consider myself a spiritual being first, a human being second, a woman third, and fourth is pretty … or ugly!” Perhaps we have different ideas of humanity, but I’m not especially fond of championing a man who has married teenagers and “allegedly” urinated on minors.

The same way I expect someone like Jennifer Lopez, who was recently named the first-ever Global Advocate for Girls and Women at the UN Foundation, to not release songs produced by Dr. Luke while he’s being sued for sexual battery.

That’s why no matter whatever explanation Meghan Trainor offers, it does not excuse certain realities. Jennifer Lopez made a choice. Somewhere along the way, someone had to have known about Dr. Luke’s involvement in the song. By now, Jennifer Lopez has to have been informed of the feedback, and yet, it remains unaddressed.

Those who position themselves as pro women or pro humanity rightfully deserved to be questioned if someone feels they are not holding up to that standard. It’s not about being perfect, it’s just about holding people accountable. Fans have a right to do that, only when it comes to the likes of Dr. Luke, it’s best to do so with consistency.

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Bless her heart: It’s been mighty rough for Tamar Braxton within the last year.

Not only was she forced to leave Dancing With the Stars because of a life-threatening health crisis, but her very good album, Calling All Lovers, caught the fade from consumers. Now one of the biggest breaks in her post-Braxton Family Values career—a slot on the hit daytime talk show The Real—has come to an abrupt end. While the official announcement claims that it was a mutual decision, the first outlet to report the news notes that Braxton was fired—something Braxton’s own fiery Instagram post suggests, since it claims “backstabbing.” Braxton didn’t name names, but she did unfollow everyone on the show except for her now-former-co-host-closest-to-the-ideals-of-Jesus, Tamera Mowry-Housley.

Quoting what it describes as a “very reliable source” (Wendy Williams suggested that it was Loni Love on Monday’s edition of The Wendy Williams Show), Love B. Scott reported: “Tamar Braxton just got fired from The Real. She wasn’t reading too well with the audience and sales people didn’t find her to be a good fit with advertisers. Also, production found her too difficult to deal with.”

Of course, when one reads phrasing like “didn’t find her to be a good fit with advertisers,” certain sensitivities are triggered. One of those includes the notion that maybe, just maybe, Tamar was too loud, and her rolling neck too active, to shill, oh, I don’t know, diet products, kale chips, Cheetos or whatever else daytime TV typically advertises. My people, my people. I feel you, but not in this instance.

Let’s be clear about The Real: Everyone on this show is loud minus Tamera, so while Tamar may be the real-life version of BET’s old cartoon character Cita, Loni Love has a volume set just as high (Jesus’ alarm clock).

As a longtime fan of Tamar Braxton’s (I listen regularly to the first album she pretends never happened), I think this is a teachable moment because I can totally see why Tamar might have gotten the boot. For one, she wasn’t always the most pleasant person on the panel. Her eyes rolled as hard as my body does after my sixth tequila drink (save the judgment) and the DJ turns on Beyoncé’s “Sorry.” She tended to talk over her fellow panelists. She could be dismissive here and there of their feelings, too.

In sum, she treated her co-workers the way Towanda Braxton claims she treats her sisters. The problem, though, is that there is no Mama Braxton to come and save her from their criticism. Moreover, these are co-workers, not kinfolk. Production doesn’t have to put up with you, especially once they realize that they don’t need you to survive. So as special as Tamar Braxton is and as magnetic a personality many find her, we’re all dispensable.

Shoutout to Star Jones and Rosie Perez.

I’m not Iyanla Vanzant, but I have a few suggestions for the littlest Braxton.

Read the rest at The Root.

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