The Real on Reality TV

I fell off of the reality TV bandwagon somewhere between Flavor of Love and its spin-off, Charm School. It’s hard for me to sit through an entire episode of most shows, let alone watch an entire season of a reality TV show. With the exception of every Real Housewives franchise (my guilty pleasure), I’ve caught only bits and pieces of most black reality shows from For the Love of Ray J and I Love New York to Basketball Wives and Love and Hip Hop.

I’m not tuned into reality TV every night, but I read blogs every day. Every day I read about the problems with these shows ― how bad they make black women look, that the shows are scripted, the drama isn’t real…and the list goes on. The truth is, if black women didn’t act this way, there wouldn’t be a show to tape and it couldn’t be labeled as “reality”. And surely the millions of people watching these shows aren’t simply waiting for one cast member to throw a drink on another and the cat fight that follows. There is a deeper connection between the viewers and the cast.

I caught a scene from Basketball Wives with Tami Roman talking to her mother about sexual abuse that she experienced as a child and how she resented her mother for not being there for her. I could relate to that because of knowing women, black women, which have gone through the same thing. I recently saw Joseline Hernandez in a scene from Love and Hip Hop Atlanta telling her friend that she fell in love with Stevie J because he took her out of a strip club and gave her a chance. She said that anyone would fall in love with someone who did that for them. I could relate to that too because something similar happened to me. Jim Jones’ mom and his fiancée don’t get along, Phaedra Parks’ husband is an ex-con and who doesn’t have a friend like Mimi Faust?

Regardless of whether or not these shows are scripted or how they make black women look, some of the issues that are addressed on these shows are REAL and relatable and that may be the hold that these shows have on black female viewers. All of us aren’t willing to air our dirty laundry on TV, but some of these women have something in common with some of us and that’s not a problem, that’s reality.

Most of the cast members on these shows have nothing to lose by participating in them anyway. Being on a reality show has given some of them opportunities they may not have had otherwise. I’m just waiting to see who will be the first black female reality TV star to turn that fame into something really real, a la Bethenny Frankel and Skinnygirl Cocktails.


Adia Kamaria


Published by Adia Kamaria

Adia Kamaria blogs at and is the author of two books: the novel Ana’s Magic and the memoir Yellow Tulips & Red Buses. Adia holds a Bachelor’s in Business Administration from Florida International University and a Master of Arts in Marketing Management from Middlesex University, London.

5 thoughts on “The Real on Reality TV

  1. Was just thinking about this subject and said to myself, based on the relatable issues, that reality shows aren’t all that bad. My concern is for the children and the younger generations watching, looking up to these reality stars and thinking this is what life is about. However, I know that is where the job of parents and (hopefully) real life role models to come in to set a proper example and/or to create meaningful discussions around these issues.

    PS- Great seeing you in Target and I look forward to working with you once I am up and running. : )

  2. Although reality shows are mainly for entertainment purposes, I think the reason they are so popular is because people see at least a part of themselves in characters on the shows, or as you stated, knows someone who is in a similar situation or is like someone on the show. The big difference between us and them is that they are living their lives in the public eye for all to see and judge. They make the same mistakes, and learn the same lessons we learn. Act in ways that we ourselves might act but would not realize it, if not for seeing it in someone else.

    For young women growing up watching these shows, they can see firsthand and know not to make the same mistake. Or, glorify what they see in these shows and try to take the same path as some of these women, and not really weighing the consequences of their actions.

    We do all make our choices in life and like anything else, what we watch and who we have influence us as people depends solely on us.
    Our form of reality has only evolved, before we would tell stories about peoples lives, their love, heartache, DRAMA, finances,… I could go on and on, the point is we would never know these people but know parts of their lives through word of mouth. I think the only difference between then and now is that you don\’t have to hear these stories anymore, it\’s presented live and in living color for the world to see…Total strangers living their lives on television.. That\’s definitely reality scripted, or not.

  3. I saw last weeks episode of Love and Hip Hop Atl and thought back to this article and was like wow this is soo true. When Stevie J said he never knew his mom and she abandoned him at 8 months and Mimi said her mom left her when she was 13, it was REAL. That was not scripted and those pieces of information make sense as to why they are behaving the way they are. It was good though that they see the need to go to therapy and sort themselves out. Great post!

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