I was hooked on R&B Divas as soon as I heard the title. But if you need a little more information, here’s the set-up of this new reality show on TVOne that premiered last night: Faith Evans, singer, author, and former wife of the Notorious B.I.G., has decided to round up a bunch of her favorite R&B singers to Atlanta to record an all-star compilation record. This cast includes Syleena Johnson, Nicci Gilbert, Keke Wyatt, and the girl we’ve only recently learned plays for our team, Monifah.
Turns out Faith got inspiration for the idea from one of the all-time best-ever divas: the one, the one and only Whitney Houston. Faith was in charge of helping to organize a Grammys party which included Whitney’s last-ever performance before her untimely death. At this event, Faith was reunited with Monifah and the other singers for the first time in too long in a performance setting. Monifah herself was just getting back on her feet after a seven year struggle with cocaine. After Whitney’s death, Faith realized once again that life is short, and that she should take advantage of time and the beautiful ladies in her life and make this album. Sounds good to me, Faith.
And what, exactly, is a diva? Syleena tells us: “Being a diva means being a woman who has endured this industry. Being a diva means you are divine, intelligent, vivacious, and amazing. If you’re not those things, you are not a diva.” Divine! Intelligent! Vivacious! Amazing! Love it! We should all aspire to be divas.
Once the five ladies are all gathered together in Hotlanta and signed on to the project, we’re also introduced to Monifah’s lady, Terez, who apparently doesn’t live in Atlanta but is visiting from New York. And I have to say that both Monifah and Terez are looking fine.
The first event Monifah is taking Terez to is Keke’s baby shower, and her nerves are feeling a little jangly, and understandably. It’s the first time she’ll be introducing Terez to all the ladies, and she’s not exactly sure how everyone will react, Keke and her husband in particular. Here’s the quick lowdown on this duo: Keke’s husband Michael is a Christian minister-in-training; they already have five kids, and since Keke has “trust issues” from previous relationships, Michael has to be with her at all times. Like, legit, all times. Yeah, this seems unhealthy. And yep, this is already a source of drama.
As Monifah talks out her apprehension both to Terez in her kitchen and then to Faith as they go baby shower shopping, I start to think about how remarkable this really is. There have been lesbians of color on TV before, of course, but in proportion to white characters, the representation–like, sadly, most aspects of entertainment–is still woefully lacking. And while I know most people give reality TV guff as being not as important, showing people being out and proud in “real life” can in fact be incredibly empowering, moving, and yes, important.
I also love all the supremely accepting support Monifah gets from both Faith and then Nicci, who are both pumped to meet Terez. It is wonderful. But on the day of the shower, Monifah has told Terez that it’s “up to her” if she wants to join or not, since she’s still not sure what the reception will be like, so Monifah at first shows up alone. They are all into the first silly baby shower game when Terez walks through the door. Monifah is so adorably happy that it almost makes me cry. “I knew she would come,” she says. She also introduces Terez to the circle as her “honeybunny,” which is adorableness overload.
As she’s introduced, everything seems to be so far, so good. Faith is thrilled that she’s there because she’s “so happy to see [Monifah] happy.” You guys, Faith is pretty much the best. Keke says, “Nice to meet you, Honeybunny.” She also happens to be making a lot of pained faces, but I really think this has more to do with it being real hot out and her being hella pregnant.
As the baby shower game is progressing, a pass-the-baby until the music stops game, the divas who are progressively kicked out are creating an impromptu choir for the game, singing nursery hymns and church songs for the baby to be passed around to, and it is so glorious! This show is amazing!
As Keke and Michael chat afterwards though, it ends up as Monifah expected, slightly–Keke is apparently more than fine with it, since she has three gay brothers. (Three gay brothers!) But Michael believes that God made a man and a woman so that they can be together and procreate. And as he had no idea that Monifah was gay–a fact that, yes, Keke might have perhaps filled him in on–he is taken aback for a while, and tells Keke that he doesn’t know how to act around them. You know, like we’re aliens. Or as Keke tells him, he can be surprised, “But it’s not like it’s a foreign language.” And when he says he doesn’t support it, Keke says, “That’s the problem,” and shoves his chest away. Preach, Keke!
Overall, this looks like the best baby shower ever. At the end of the episode Monifah says, “There’s nothing better than celebrating life. And that’s what we did.” Maybe I’m over-emotional, but this show already has me.
In the previews for what’s coming in the rest of the season, it appears as if there is some true amazingness ahead as we jump into the actual musical side of things. There’s stress in the recording studio and then the excitement of big shows and going on the road! There is continued drama about Terez and about Michael! There is family drama! Keke has a baby and it can’t breathe! There are lots of tears! There are a lot of amazing outfits! R&B Divas, I am there. Well done, Faith Evans. Well done.
If you missed this first episode or if you don’t get TVOne, never fear, because you can check out full episodes for free and without commercials on their website. I highly recommend it.
Did anybody else catch this show? What did you think of the first episode?