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There is a certain sect of Christians so uptight I doubt even the hand of God could loosen them up. Whenever any reality show, or excuse me, “docu-series,” related to the faith surfaces, there is uproar. These are the people who launch campaigns to cancel shows like Oxygen’s Preachers of LA or even the TV Land sitcom Soul Man. Needless to say, upon word of Lifetime’s Preach, which chronicles the lives of four “prophetesses” and their mentees, it’s not surprising to see charges that the women are “exploiting the gospel” and “making a mockery” of prophetic ministry and subsequent calls of its axing.

However, if you watch the series premiere, which airs on Friday at 10/9 C, you’ll see that while there may be showmanship (the series features both the “Beyoncé” and the “blue-eyed soul” of ministry), it’s more substance than spectacle. These women believe in their gifts – i.e. to see catastrophes like Hurricane Katrina before they happen or to bring back people from the dead. Whether or not you believe them is another story.

We spoke with the show’s stars – Belinda Scott, Taketa Williams, Linda Roark, Kelly Crews – on sexism in the clergy, motivation to do the show, looming skepticism, and what Preach might do for millennials.

EBONY: Have you been met with sexism as you rose in your career and if so, was there any particular instance that stuck out to you? Like trying to break this “stain glass ceiling” as they refer to it on the show.

Linda: On several occasions, but in one particular was a Baptist man. I was just starting my ministry and I went out asking local churches if there were any extra chairs they would like to get rid of and the Baptist man had ask me what were they for, and as I began to tell him he immediately look at me and said women are not to suppose to preach. I began to tell him scriptures in the Bible, but he wasn’t having. Needless to say I walked away without any chairs. But that didn’t stop me I’m still preaching the gospel.

Dr. Belinda: About 15 years ago I started receiving letters from an unnamed source that was saying things like you shouldn’t be in the pulpit, you shouldn’t be in the pulpit, you shouldn’t be in the pulpit. I pay no attention to the letters at first, but then they became very, very violent and saying that women shouldn’t be doing this and they explained themselves. They didn’t give a real name but they explained themselves as being “a Christian, a man of God,” and this that and the other. I gave the letters over to the local police authorities who then turned them over to the FBI. Come to find out that it was an individual who really, really hated women in ministry and they handled it from there.

EBONY: What was your motivation to do the show?

Dr. Belinda: To be someone they can look up to say, “If Dr. Belinda can do it, then I can do it.” That’s my personal motivation as well as my spiritual motivation. To see women encouraged. I don’t just encourage women; I encourage men as well, men prophets and all of that. But it’s definitely to be an encouragement to people in life to be who they have been called to be, to be where they are supposed to be regardless of their gender.

Dr. Taketa: Initially, I shunned the idea of being a part of the reality show because of the stigmas that are associated with such type of work. However, I remembered a prophecy my husband gave me over 20 years now and he told me that my prophetic voice, not just my voice but my prophetic voice, my voice as a prophet would reach into Hollywood and I would begin to bless people with my gift. He told me that over 20 years ago.

Kelly: It took a while. It was a lot of praying and reading contracts. I just believe that people will be touched and that God will be glorified and that he will be able to portray us being his instruments in Earth.

EBONY: In the same way cast members of Preachers of L.A. were criticized, I imagine some church folks will feel a way about you doing reality TV. What do you say to say to those who might scrutinize your decision to do reality television?

Linda: I would just let them know everybody is entitled to their opinion, but that there opinion does dictate to what I know God is calling me to do and that is to take the gospel outside the four walls of the church.

Kelly: Well, I think that at this point I don’t have to validate their opinion. I feel that God has given me the green light. I am here to please God and I am not here to please people. I was just telling another lady, I said when Nehemiah was doing his job in Earth and he was rebuilding the wall and people kept intimidating and trying to tell him he wasn’t, you know, you are not supposed to do that or whatever. He looked at them and said why should I respond to the likes of you? That wasn’t an arrogant answer. It was just that I am confident in who God has created me to be. I am choosing to live outside of the opinions of people and be who God has created me to be in the Earth.

EBONY: Do you have any specific advice to women who want to be ordained?

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Earlier today, I finally answered the questions a young college student abroad sent me related to some assignment about racism in America. She asked me questions about police brutality, Black families, and fear. The fear I may or may not have whenever I come across law enforcement. The fear I may or not have as a Black man in general. The concerns I have for Black people overall.

There was one or two questions, though, that made me a bit frustrated. She meant no harm, but even though she is another person of color, those questions suggested a disconnect. The one question that stood out most was related to parenting. This idea – largely forged through stereotypes, one presumes – that Black parenting is related to…I don’t know, what’s happening to us collectively here.

Whatever the case, it showed disconnect as to how racism works in this country. How ingrained it is in our society. How multifaceted it is. How there’s only so much any “good thing” we do in terms of parenting and education can counter that. Southern Rites does a good job of highlighting this. As I’ve written before, it may focus on a school’s first desegregated prom, but when you watch what all else it covers – a Black man trying to be the town’s first elected sheriff, a young Black man being gunned down and his killer being given extreme leniency due to local politics – you see so much more. About that town’s story and the story of other ones in this country.

I ended up writing her again, saying, “If you have access to HBO, check out the new documentary Southern Rites. It does a really good job of expounding on some of the issues you’re addressing in your paper. Good luck.”

And again, so should you. It airs tonight at 9:00 P.M. EST. That’s after Love & Hip Hop Atlanta so no excuses.

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I wish I could share John Legend’s shock when he says, “I was so mystified how this could be happening in the 21st century” in the trailer for the HBO documentary Southern RitesThis being the story of segregated proms being held in Southeast Georgia’s Montgomery County nearly every year since its schools were integrated in 1971. One thing I learned about racism in the South is that though it may be overt in its expression, it is a disease rotting every other region in the country. We are more segregated than most acknowledge, but in this respect, it is at least interesting to see how blunt bigotry can still be.

I recall reading about this story in the New York Times years ago, which featured a photo essay by celebrated photographer Gillian Laub. After that, Laub traveled to Georgia to examine the story of the segregated prom as well as race relations in the area — including the killing of an unarmed Black man by a white resident that binds the residents of two small towns together. The film is executive produced by John Legend, who looks like bae in the trailer (respect to Mrs. Legend, Chrissy Teigen, though), Troy Carter (who managed Lady Gaga at her peak), and Mike Jackson, no relation to Randy or Jermaine. 

In a press release for the filmLucinda Martinez, SVP of Multicultural Marketing at HBO, said, “With a film as provocative as Southern Rites, creating a platform that inspires dialogue is integral to our promotion of the film. The film is not only the story of the residents in Southeast Georgia but in many towns all over the country. Laub is a compelling storyteller and we’re proud to support her work.”

Taub herself explained, “This is a story that needs to be told. This film is about giving a voice to the people of Montgomery and Toombs counties. This is their narrative. I’m grateful to HBO for their support and the opportunity.”

I’ll be frank and acknowledge that for a minute, I had become mentally exhausted with having to hear how bad things are and how stagnated so many of us can be. It makes me feel like the equivalent of the saddest Sade song ever, chopped and screwed. It is a lot to process, especially when you’re in the business of processing such news and the politics behind it all of the time.

At the same time, when a project about race and racism is done thoughtfully and tackled in nuance, I am all about supporting it. This is not “Who don’t said the N-Word now?” but rather, this is what it looks like on both sides and this is how we might actually have meaningful dialogue.

That not only makes me intrigued to see this film, but excited to do so. John Legend speaks of a story that seems sad on the surface with hope. Not to be all Mariah Carey, early 1990s ballad about it, but hope is all we have to deal. I’m looking forward to Southern Rites instilling some of that in me.

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For weeks now, Empire and its ever-expanding base of viewers have been teased about its inaugural season’s finale — most notably, that “everything will change.” Considering Lucious Lyon could drop dead any second now and more than one character has come face to face with the barrel of a gun, a shocking death is not out of the question. Now, I don’t have much in the way of making solid predictions outside of knowing when my Internet service will go out (at any moment, at any given day) or that there will be baes at the gym (part of the reason I joined that location). Nonetheless, I’ve been tasked with leading the guessing game so here I go, here I go (if you heard Mystikal’s voice, you get two points). The characters we believe have the highest chance of dying in the season finale are:

1. Hakeem’s flattop.

This is more like wishful thinking on my part. I don’t have a problem with the flattop. Hell, I rocked a curly one back in the early ’90s. But, watching Hakeem rock this flattop makes me feel old – and I’m too young to feel old. I don’t know if Hakeem’s hairstyle will die, but it should for that selfish reason alone. Besides, since Iman Shumpert (I didn’t know who he was either, no shade) is out here claiming that Hakeem and Tiana are based on him and Teyana Taylor (in vain, for the most part), I think it’s best we all start over.

2. Boo Boo Kitty

Based on the previews of next week’s finale, Anika tries to fight Cookie, which means it’s more than likely that Cookie will beat her down to the white meat and her debutante self will die. I don’t have beef with Anika personally. I mean, she’s not screwing my former no good husband who left me to rot in jail. However, she always tries Cookie and now that she’s gotten physical with a woman who did hard time, well, God bless her.

3. Vernon Turner

He gets on Lucious Lyon’s nerves and we all know what happens when a non-blood relative does that. Don’t we, Bunkie? (Remember, that was Cookie’s cousin.) So Lucious will try to strangle him or something, then the ALS will kick in, leaving him to grab his gun and shoot him before Vernon manages to catch his breath and help Lucious catch the fade. If this happens, I’ll be super sad. Like, Torres died on New York Undercover, and now more than a decade or so later, his partner finally joins him at the big precinct in the sky.

Read the rest at VH1.

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#Blackmendream from Shikeith on Vimeo.

I had the pleasure of being invited to participate in #BlackMenDream, a film done by artist Shikeith in which I, along with other Black men, tackled Black male expression through a myriad of questions. I wasn’t entirely sure of what I was walking into when I said I would participate, but ultimately got a lot off my chest. I’m glad I could help make a contribution to another Black man trying to tell our stories.

Speaking of, over the weekend, I saw that a white female documentary director will be helming a project about the “Black Male” crisis, focused primarily about Michael Brown’s shooting death in project. While I have nothing against Amy Berg, I do find it interesting that Nate Parker chose her to work with. Months ago, he complained about the imagery of Black male men in entertainment and went on to cite that as the reason why he would never play a gay male character.

So, he’s fine with a white woman telling our stories, but won’t play a gay character given he feels that would be an affront on the Black man. You know, as if gay Black men are not, too, men. I say that for two reasons. One, it reminds me of some of the issues of hypermasculinity tackled in “#BlackMenDream.”

And two:

What this genius said.

Enjoy.

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I’m as excited about watching the forthcoming season of VH1’s Basketball Wives as I am with the idea of massaging the tip of my dick with a pointy rock. I tweeted a while back about having no inclination to watch the show, and as fate would have it, I got sent a screener copy of the season premiere from VH1’s publicity department the very next day. Even so, I continued to not give a good damn about the show for good reason.

The first, last, and most important one is best expressed in the form of a question: “Just how much longer can I watch these evil women bitch each other out over absolutely nothing?”

Evelyn Lozada built a career off throwing bottles and drinks at people while dually avoiding actual fights. Tami Roman is a mean-spirited drunk who while hilarious, has a bully quality to her that makes it difficult to have any sort of a sympathy for her and her struggle for a better weave (mission accomplished, though). And she, too, doesn’t seem to be as nearly as tough as her bark and sucker punches suggests. Suzie is a messy instigator who should’ve been axed years ago. Then there’s Shaunie O’Neal, who as key enabler, is knee deep in all of their bullshit only she feigns aloofness and innocence when called on it. Meanwhile, viewers saw through that shtick a good three or four seasons ago so it boggles the mind as to why she even bothers anymore.

Mind you, these are the characters producers kept. Gone are any and all past co-stars who challenged them. That’s why I didn’t think to watch this show. It’s no Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, and hell, it’s not even anything remotely close to the original premise of the show.

However, my ass has to pay my bills, my telephone bills, my “audamo” bills, though if someone else did, I’d still be able to select chill on this show. But there’s not so I can’t. This is my elaborate way of saying that even though I’d rather not, I’ll be regularly recapping season five of Basketball Wives for VIBE.com.

Maybe the show will be better than I anticipate it to be. Perhaps these wicked witches of reality TV will display some of the growth they’ve been promising since the end of season four. Who knows? There’s a chance I’ll hate each of the aforementioned a little less.

No, I don’t expect any of that to happen either, but I can promise you that if you enjoy my live-tweets of TV and reality recaps for Complex.com and VIBE.com already, you’ll enjoy what I’ll be writing about this show. As a wise Queens-bred rapper once said, “Talkin’ ’bout money, we could have a conversation.” She then said, “The mun-mun-muny, the mun-mun-muny, the mun-mun-muny. Yen and the pesos.”

I’ll update this post with the link to my first recap. God help me. Anyway, I’m about to go twerk in my renovated shoebox considered an okay-sized studio by NYC standards to Nicki Minaj’s “Muny.”

Edit: First recap can be read here.

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She had me as, “I am Aretha Lewis, known to the world as Pumpkin; also known as Big Sexy.” I bet she sometimes spells it “SexC.” Then there’s Ms. Rich Bitch, Keyonate, Ms. Brown Sugar, Ms. Bling and Noonie aka Ms. Baby Mama Drama. I mean, my interest is piqued.

Still, I wonder just what in the Walmart clearance camera hell is this supposed to be?

Bless the hearts of these women and the blades at least three of them know how to sneak under their tongues when necessary. They haven’t a clue. You can tell by the fact that they have this loud ass music drowning out whatever it is they’re saying in front of their kids’ iPhone 3GS camera.

In my mind, one day they were all together, watching Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta on some bootleg cable when suddenly after finishing the blunt, one of them said, “WE CAN BE REALITY TV STARS, TOO, BITCH!”

A dream was born shortly thereafter though evidently not one developed much. Granted, they have the basics down: A general theme, women ready to curse out each other, and volume, etc. I can’t believe I’m writing this sentence, but The Real Baby Mamas of Richmond, Strip Club Queens: Atlanta, The Inmate Wives of Baltimore, Big Yo’s Lesbian Housewives, and The Real Rap Wives of Birmingham.

Ladies, I can tell you all want to be all of the rage of World Star Hip Hop, but try again.

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If VH1 doesn’t pick up Strip Club Queens: Atlanta and run it immediately after part two of the Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta reunion, someone should die. Well, not really, but they need to go find something else to do. I would tell BET to air it, but since y’all punked them into thinking they had to run nothing but wholesome shows (that are largely ignored), that’ll never happen. TV One isn’t an option, but maybe if VH1 makes the mistake of not scooping this brilliance up, perhaps OWN might give it a go.

At this point, Oprah seems like she’d air a Jesus sex tape if it’d win her the key demos. There’s always Oxygen, who could air this as one major fuck you to the folks who stopped Shawty Lo’s show before it truly began.

Whoever decides to pick this show up, though, someone needs to. Stat. This is like the reality TV version of The Players Club.

I am so fascinated with strippers. Unlike the more stuck up wing of the world, I don’t begrudge the women who strip. I do have issue with some of the reasons why women feel they have to strip to survive, but I also acknowledge that women who work in adult entertainment are just as multifaceted as other people. Now, I’m not entirely sure we’d get that from a show that looks like high grade World Star Hip Hop, but there are elements there.

Say, the woman with the huge neck tat with three kids, two houses and a pet pig. That one woman named Sinna who has the green mo hawk action going. Okay, I’m tired of spinning this in my favor. I want to watch this show every single week and I could give a damn what kind of ticket the morality police tries to write me.

Like, I need to see this show. Did y’all hear Boy Toy say, “I used to be a slum bitch from the ghetto and that’s what you gon’ make me be again ’cause you so worried about why my pussy famous and why yours is not?” A star is born.

And the one who said, “Financially, though. A bitch paid.” Girl, I am so jealous of you. I think about stripping every day I pay a student loan. To hell be with the lenders.

I don’t see it for the stuck up white girl who’ll probably get beaten to the white meat by episode five, but “MLK on that, bitches” is quite the memorable line.

There are episodes already available online that you can watch for .99 cents an episode. Uh, I don’t know how I feel about paying to watch something on the Web, but I suppose the hood needs its own version of Netflix and Redbox. I cannot deny that at this moment, I am very tempted to spend that dollar on this.

Still, this is must see (on) TV programming.

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In the last few weeks I’ve been asked twice if I was interested in going to see Rihanna on tour and twice I’ve laughed loudly at the suggestion before informing each questioner, “I don’t reward bad behavior.” As curious as I am to see Rihanna in concert, I don’t want to pay for it. It’s not about cheapness either. Even if Rih-Rih has absolutely no trouble filling up an arena nowadays, I just can’t bear to pay more than $100 to see a girl perform songs I could do better with the right alcohol level.

For a second, though, I was starting to regret that decision. Thankfully, that’s now over. Oh, girl. What is going on in this first clip? Do you need a B-12 shot? Well, I heard Rihanna might’ve needed some flu medication instead, though you’ve got to admit, this doesn’t look any different from a healthy Rih on stage.

I imagine you probably have an S-class model vagina, Rih, but don’t those come with self-heaters? Why are you rubbing it so much? I’d say masturbate on your own time, but as a pop artist, it’s likely a part of the show. Fair enough, but yo, don’t let your crotch be your crutch.

I don’t want to be a complete, dick. Rihanna’s p-pop and drop have slightly improved. In this second clip she no longer dances like the stripper on the last 15 minutes of her shift. She’s got at least an hour and pair of pennies before she clocks out. Werk?

And when picked her leg up I thought “gon’ girl.” There is nothing like lifting your leg in the air to twirk. The second best thing ever is patting your thigh as you grind to the ground. Or so I’ve heard. Mind your business, people.

And this. This! Did you see the way she dropped and swung that hair? How glorious. Also, how fucking gay am I?

Now if Rihanna were giving me 90 minutes to two hours of that, I’d whip out my check card and add to her booming tour box office the way I did for Beyoncé tickets (after several attempts and $250 later). But you just don’t know with Rihanna. One day she’ll surprise you by giving her all for a performance, the next nine she’ll give you the bare minimum because she knows she won’t face any real consequences for it. I grew up in the Madonna and Janet Jackson eras so anything less than consistency is uncivilized.

You just can’t be fucking with the church’s money like that, you know?

Ugh. I wish Rihanna would dedicate as much time to the performance aspect of being a pop star as she lends to its fame counterpart. I think that more than anything else is why I’ll buy her albums, but not rush to support her monetarily in other endeavors. I’d party with her, drink with her, eat chicken with her (I know you love KFC, Rih, but we’d have to have Popeye’s), or hell finally take a field trip into a woman (we’ve discussed this before).

But pay for her in concert? I am just not there yet. If you’ve got a ticket, I’ll go, but so far, Rihanna’s best work as an entertainer is found on her social media feeds…for free.

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After all these years, La Toya Jackson has finally found a project that can maximize her very limited stream of talent. Bless her heart, she was a reality star before reality television existed. She’s been a psychic cousin, appeared butt ass naked in Playboy pictorials, shot soft core porn flicks, appeared on national television in Michael Jackson drag face to accuse her own kin of being a kid-luster, and years later, claimed her husband trapped in the closet marriage and forced her to do all the aforementioned by way of brut force. Toy-Toy offers the kind of trash and scandal that VH1, Bravo, and E! viewers live for. Seriously, should any of us be surprised her BFF is Paris Hilton’s mama?

And now finally, mother Oprah is going to give the funniest Jackson of them all her just due.

I assume Oprah is going to try to class the show up a bit, but whatever, girl. It’s La Toya Jackson so we know shade, kookiness, and opportunism are going to reign supreme. In fact, I was reading about Toy-Toy signing Michael Jackson’s “lil’ white chillen” to her talent agency. Who knew she had a talent agency? I’m sure Toy-Toy didn’t either until the idea popped into her head after a bill arrived in her mailbox.

You see, Janet’s big sister wanted to be an entertainment lawyer before Papa Joe said, “You best get your light skint ass up on that stage and shimmy your ass off.” I suppose thanks to a combination of shifty medical professionals, tragedy and television executives in need of ratings-grabbing programming, part of that dream can now be realized.

Make no mistake, I do love La Toya Jackson. At least, since 2001 anyway. When I was a kid, I just couldn’t understand why Michael and Janet’s sister was walking around in Casper’s makeup throwing her people under the party bus. I’m over it now. As I got older, I understood that she’s an odd mix of naive child star and master villain. Like she might appear crazy as hell on Entertainment Tonight crying to what looks like a bored with her Bubbles, but deep down homegirl knows that in the end, a gig is a gig.

Life with La Toya premieres the day after my birthday. Clearly the universe wants me to enjoy April because I work hard, so I deserve it. I cannot wait for this show. Who knew she did impersonations? Good ones at that.

No, this doesn’t count.

Who knew she could slap the secret simp out of a UFC fighter? I can’t wait to learn more about my beloved Toy-Toy. Congratulations, La Toya. You have finally found the perfect vehicle for your abilities. Gon’, girl.

Although it will forever sadden me that she didn’t keep the nose that worked for her and became some Vanity/Apollonia-like two-minute star singer. And for the record, Toy-Toy is the one Jackson who I believe doesn’t truly sound like Barry White with a strep throat under that high pitched stage voice of hers. Now shake your rump if you feel the funk.

 

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