Welcome back to the ATL and our five divine R&B divas.
This episode starts out with Nicci going on the radio to promote her new plus-sized clothing line, Curvato. (Italian for, you guessed it, curvy.) Immediately, I felt a personal feeling of redemption for last week’s episode of Project Runway, wherein “plus sized” was repeatedly treated like a dirty word. But here Nicci says, “Just because I’m big does not mean I cannot be absolutely fabulous and beautiful.” Exactly, girl. The only sad thing to me is that Project Runway’s message probably reached more viewers than Nicci’s will.
Even more important than the “big is beautiful” message, Nicci also reminds us that “Skinny does not equal pretty–and I had to learn that the hard way.” She describes the things she went through early in her career, either due to pressures from her record label or from herself, including fat camps and a tummy tuck when she was 24. A tummy tuck at 24! This is so upsetting and unhealthy, y’all. She says she wants to share the mistakes she made in the past with the world, particularly young people, so they won’t make the same ones. I want to applaud. Nicci for the win.
We then have some more brief drama with Keke and Michael, and I just don’t even know what to say about this whole situation. Keke trusts men so little that she literally does not let Michael out of her site, and freaks out anytime another woman so much as speaks to him. We also learn that Keke is trying to get over the reputation she earned after she stabbed her last abusive husband. I don’t think Keke is crazy, at all, I just feel so deeply sad for her, at the things people do to one other, at the ways our faith in each other and ourselves can be so deeply broken.
The real heart of this episode, though, for me, was the arrival of Monifah’s daughter, Akemi. We had learned in the previous episode during preparations for Keke’s baby shower that Monifah had a child, but there wasn’t much detail given. Now we learn more of the real story: Akemi was born when Monifah was 19 and not ready to be a mother. She was gone for a lot of Akemi’s childhood, and when she was there, she was often drunk and depressed. Yet after all of this, they both still scream and hug each other fiercely when Akemi knocks on Monifah’s door.
Monifah says that she and Akemi are reconnecting and getting to know each other again, which seems like a genuine statement from the way they interact. Monifah also reveals that her own father, whom she was close to, died when she was a little girl from a heroin overdose. She realized two years ago when she started to get clean that she didn’t want a similar story to happen to Akemi. Essentially: life has not been easy. But right now, both Monifah and Akemi look healthy and happy and vibrant, and I’m feeling all the happy things.
Until the whole lesbian thing is brought up.
Akemi has apparently been “saved” and has a deep belief in God. Monifah also has a deep belief in God, as she says it was God who helped bring her back from her addiction. But as we all know too well, believing in God can mean very different things to different people.
Akemi says, “The word is the word, and the Bible is clear about homosexuality. I believe homosexuality is a broken [part of] of our sexuality.” When Monifah asks if she can accept her and Terez’s union, she says, “I don’t. I don’t support it.”
When Akemi asks if this hurts her, Monifah, while barely holding back tears, says no, that she “really respects” her daughter standing by what she believes in, and that she’s proud of her. They both affirm that they love each other, while having different views.
Deep breath. First of all, Akemi, I believe Heather Hogan could talk to you about that Bible-being-very-clear thing. But beyond any of this, what is most upsetting about this exchange is when Monifah says it doesn’t hurt her. I believe being able to have this exchange at all is a healthy thing, and they are both very open and concise with each other. Many daughters and mothers still aren’t even able to have a basic conversation such as this one about these issues. And it is clear that Akemi doesn’t let her disapproval of Terez compromise her love for her mother; she shows her love for Monifah proudly throughout the episode. But if you fail to love the part of someone that makes them truly happy, you are not loving them for who they really are; you are not loving them in the complete and true way that every being deserves. And Monifah, I understand being proud of your daughter for having a clear conviction about something and standing by it. At least I understand the concept of that. But you’re also human, and you’re allowed to say that it hurts you. You’re allowed to say to your daughter, “I understand that, and I respect you, but it still hurts me.” Because your tears show that it does. And your daughter needs to know.
This exchange is also so interesting because so often we hear about children worrying about not being accepted by their parents. Less often, if ever, do we hear about the equally heartbreaking story of parents not being accepted by their children. It squeezes my heart real tight just thinking about it, but they are all stories that need to be told.