“R&B Divas” recap (Ep. 4): “Gay Pride.”

Oh boy, oh boy, this episode is full of Only Good Things: the ladies actually starting to get down with the singing and songwriting; road trips; and best of all, gay pride and drag queens! Holla! I know there’s only been four episodes of this thing so far, but am I tempted to say it’s one of my favorite shows of all time? You bet I am!

The first half of this episode revolves around studio time with Big Jim. While the other divas have already met him previously, Keke has been a little busy havin’ a baby and stuff. So she meets with him for the first time, mere-days-old babe in tow. Ain’t no resting for this mama; girl is serious. And for good reason: while we’ve mostly heard her voice only used to nag Michael thus far, when she uses the force for good and sings, it is magical. It is lusciously pretty. Even though she laments that she has lost six octaves in her range by having six kids. Kids! Who needs ‘em!

Monifah, Nicci and Syleena also sit down with Big Jim later for a song-writing brainstorming sesh. Before any lyrics are even written, Monifah starts to break down and cry as Big Jim talks about how special the project is going to be. She says, “Something came over me. And I just had to release.” Right? Sometimes you just have to release! I feel you, girl! It happens! Sometimes life is so wonderful and people are so beautiful and we are so lucky and you just have to let it out, you know?! What I’m saying is, Monifah is my spirit animal.

From this positive atmosphere in the room, they jot down lyrics and riff on melodies along the theme of bravery or fearlessness. Both Syleena and Monifah are killing it. My favorite line Monifah writes is, “Try to toughen my skin, but not my heart.” Spirit. Animal. Nicci, however, is not feeling it. She says, “I don’t really write in groups.” Oh. Okay then. She then commences to have an entirely awkward conversation with Big Jim which amounts to Big Jim saying, “I want you to participate more!,” and Nicci responding, “But I don’t want to! Wah!” He says that he and Mariah — you know, of the Carey variety — wrote a hit in five minutes earlier in the week. Nicci says yeah, that’s because Mariah feels passionately about music. (Wait, she does?) But it just isn’t where Nicci’s head is anymore.

All right, hold up. I understand having your own mode of doing things, and working in a group can feel strange. But what did you think you were signing up for when you joined in a COMPILATION project? I also don’t know if it’s just insecurity or bullheadedness, but I don’t understand anytime she talks about music not being in her anymore. If I was granted the gift of song, I would never give it up. Music isn’t like accounting; it’s not a job you can try out for a while and then figure out it isn’t for you. Music rests inside in a deep, important place. Being fed up with the music industry, sure, I can understand that. But when someone’s trying to help encourage you to just be yourself, to just let your voice speak? Why are you turning that away?

I know I just got on my soapbox a little, but I have Music Feelings, and Nicci’s attitude is really pissing me off.

Yet another session that includes all five ladies together — finally! — goes even worse when it comes to Nicci and Big Jim. In fact, Nicci ends up walking out. Hey, didn’t she walk out on something last week, too? I’m sensing a trend here. Of all the ladies, it’s clear that Nicci is the true diva.

Before this dramatic walk out, though, Faith has a surprise for everyone. She has a show coming up in DC, and she wants all the ladies to be there for it. And this show just happens to be for GAY PRIDE, Y’ALL! Syleena and Nicci scream. Michael gets panicky eyes. Oh, because Michael is there, too. Duh. Faith explains that she has a big gay following which she loves; she later refers to all these gays as her “kids” in this sweetly affectionate way. Aww, Faith.

There’s a little bit of a problem, though: She somehow forgot to take into account that Keke just had a baby a week ago and won’t be able to fly with him on a plane. Keke immediately gets her feelings hurt, trying not to cry, as she feels she’s being shut out of the fun. Understandably! Nobody wants to miss Pride! Okay, Michael does, but forget him.

Classy Miss Faith comes up with a solution, though. When departure time comes, she’s rented a fancy ol’ tourbus for all the ladies. The driver strolls out holding a tray of champagne. Monifah and Syleena are pumped. I’m pumped! I love road trips! I love champagne! Get me on this bus! Michael and Keke seem somewhat ambivalent about the long ride, but it means they all get to go, even tiny baby Wyatt. But Nicci has yet to show up. They wait for a while; Monifah calls her. She says, oops, I got sick. I’ll grab a flight, see you bitches later. Monifah says, thanks for that load of bull, Nicci! Overall lesson from this episode: Monifah and Syleena are the fun ones; Nicci is a bummer.

The trip on the road takes a hefty 11 hours, but Monifah and Syleena appear to be somewhat drunk for a lot of it, so at least they have that.

Monifah has also contacted her favorite drag queen in DC, who goes by the absolutely fabulous name of Shiqueeta Lee, to concoct a secret outing for all the divas. I already know Michael is going to love it!

After a good night’s rest in DC, Monifah drags the girls to a club called Love. When it’s clear that they’re here for a drag show, everyone hoots and hollers as Michael hastily whips out his cell phone to take care of some apparently urgent business, avoiding all possible contact with every human in the room. Terez is also there — yay Terez! — and in order that the divas can sit together, she gets stuck on the same couch with this killjoy, which is unfortunate for her.

Also, Terez, these glasses. You’re killin’ me.

By the way, Michael has said that he “doesn’t believe in and doesn’t agree with” homosexuality at least three times at this point in the episode. So in case we weren’t clear, he 1) doesn’t believe in it, and 2) doesn’t agree with it. Got it. He also keeps announcing that Monifah and Terez are gay in this hilariously unnecessary way, just in case we weren’t sure. It sounds like he’s just learned the word and wants to show it off as much as he can. “Monifah and Terez are GAY. She is GAY. I am NOT GAY.” Michael, you poor homophobic little puppy.

To offset this, Keke puts on an amazing teasing exchange:

Keke: You gay?
Michael: No. I’m straight.
Keke: You’re straight?
Michael: I am straight.
Keke: You bi?
Michael: No.
Keke: (Disappointed) Oh.

While Michael sinks into the couch, the divas are loving the show. Because this isn’t just a normal drag show. The drag queens are playing the divas, acting out their individual greatest hits. Bestest idea! Monifah is loving the queen who’s performing “Touch It”:

Michael: “If I don’t look, it isn’t real! La la la! Everything is fine!”

But yet again, Nicci is nowhere to be seen, and when her queen comes out, the rest of the girls just have to cheer in her place. Not only is this offensive to Monifah, who put this thing together, but it’s offensive to the drag queen who worked hard to get Nicci’s performance down! You’re going to have to pull some super duper awesome stunts to get me back on your side, Nicci. Even Faith has shown up, and she’s the one who has to prepare for a concert! But the divas who are there live it up.

After the drag show, they head to Ben’s Chili Bowl, a requisite DC stop. I ate here once a long time ago. The only thing I remember is that I kept repeating, “Bill Cosby eats here! Bill Cosby eats here!” inside my head in a chant. Also, I mean, it’s chili. What else do you need to know?

A heartfelt moment is had as Keke reveals that she’s going to start seeing a therapist to work on her issues. Adding to the momentousness of this announcement is the explanation that it was Monifah saying that therapy worked for her that gave Keke the courage and push to finally commit to it. It sounds like Mo and Keke didn’t know each other that well before this show, and were both slightly apprehensive about how they were going to get along. And now here they are, changing each other’s lives. Shocker: Monifah cries again.

Time for Faith’s show. Nicci finally makes an appearance, two hours late. When she shows up, Syleena and Keke exchange this look, which really says it all:

Mmhmm. Right there with you, ladies.

The club is absolutely packed and the crowd is pumping their fists in the air, loving every moment of Faith. I love it too, but the truth is what I really want are all those divas up there on stage alongside her. I know it’s coming later in the season, and I can’t wait for the glory of it.

How did you enjoy the diva road trip? Is it strange that even though Michael is the biggest homophobe around, I love him and Keke more and more? Who’s your favorite diva so far?

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