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B-Ball Wives Cast at Essence Music Festival “Empowerment Experience.” Really Essence?

I've been meaning to talk about the show Basketball Wives for some time now.

But when I learned that cast members Shaunie O'Neal, Evelyn Lozado and Tami Roman (among others) would be appearing at EMF as part of the "Empowerment Experience", I really could not hold my tongue any longer.

Really Essence? Empowerment?

I'm not sure which is worse, the fact that these women will be featured under the themed day of "Transforming Your Life," along with Iyanla Vanzant, Soledad O'Brien, Cornell West and other respected success stories.

Or that they will be participating in a panel discussion (along with Nene Leakes. SMH) on the images of black women in media, which is beyond ironic given that they are single-handedly responsible for 99% of the negative images of black women currently in media rotation.

With all due respect to my former employer, I'm not sure what Essence is thinking here. I have a lot of respect for Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications, who was gracious enough to share her pregnancy story with me in The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy. But for a magazine and trusted brand that claims to pride itself on empowering and uplifting black women, this is a real head-scratcher.

What's next? Will Flava Flav headline at the Black Enterprise entrepreneurs conference?

The problems with the show could fill a dissertation. But the part that really gets me going is the fact that calling the show, Basketball Wives,  is a gross misnomer–because there aren't any actual wives of actual basketball players on the show. Am I the only one bothered by this blatant lie ? The closest thing is Jennifer, who is divorcing a retired basketball player. Talk about over selling and under delivering.

But let's get to the heart of the matter, the show is nothing more than black women gossiping, back biting, pitting sides, fighting, throwing drinks at each other, gossiping, backbiting, pitting sides, throwing drinks at each other, gossiping, backbiting… oh wait, I said that already, but I forgot to throw in the requisite "she say, she say" and the occasional physical altercation just to mix it up a bit. 

If  there was ever a degrading portrayal of black women as trifling and petty–this is it. The show is pure Neg-anigans–(that's shenanigans by Negroes) to borrow a phrase from my girl, Janene.

And I really don't like the way Shaunie always plays goodie two shoes peacemaker when, as executive producer, she benefits the most from the BFD (black female drama). In fact, the show should really be called Shaunie's Bitches.

Then I heard Shaunie on The Tom Joyner Morning Show saying that Shaq's current girlfriend Hoopz (or maybe it's an S) would NEVER, EVER appear on the show. How do you create, produce and star in a reality show but not share YOUR reality?  So, It's okay to put everyone else on blast but not share your own scandalous backstory??  (please refer again to my suggested name change).

Now, don't get me wrong, I like a good train wreck like any other human being looking to feel better about myself. But the Basketball Wives train is just the same nonsense, over and over again. And it feels more like blatant and extreme exploitation of the stereotypes of black women, rather than an entertaining ride.

And BTW, do these women work?? I haven't seen Royce dance the Cha Cha Slide, let alone a money-earning two-step. And even when they show Evelyn in her boutique, its like a ghost town up in that piece with only tumbleweeds rolling through… And I'm not sure what the rest of them do.

I know the show is popular, though I'm not sure why. And those ladies deserve their spot in the EMF Celeb-reality Pavilion or in the Scandalous Pavilion or sitting alongside Wendy Williams or something.

But the "Empowerment Experience"??? Please. Stop.

Black women deserve better. And we should demand more from Essence.

Am I the only one bothered by this?



26 Responses to “B-Ball Wives Cast at Essence Music Festival “Empowerment Experience.” Really Essence?”
  1. Penny Perry says:

    You are completely right. I used to be embarrased for us with Flava of Live, not Basketball Wives has taken it to a whole new level. More like Basketball Groupies. The show is silly and sickening. Shows people don’t care how they profit from each other lives. Just like ATL housevives. None of them are housewives. If these are America’s portrayals of Black women it clearly shows we take three steps forward and five steps back.

    • Kimberly says:

      I hear you ladies, there is definitely a place for their tomfoolery but it is NOT in an empowerment seminar and Essence should rethink this asap. Our young black women are watching!! …and @therese, I have to say that Mark Burnett as EP stays BEHIND the scenes, but if you put yourself on the show as the star, then be ON the show!! … It’s just the hypocrisy that bothers me. And I have no problem giving Shaunie her props for making lemonade from her lemons, but to do so by profiting from degrading black women is not the entrepreneurial spirit we need to be applauding. … I’m just sayin’. Do we need to start letter writing????

  2. THERESE says:

    I hear what you are saying BUT I think that only one that should be on the panel is Shaunie because the she is Executive Producer…and most execs are willing to air someone elses dirty laundry and leave theirs hidden very neatly in the wayback of the closet in the corner 🙂

    I don’t think anyone else from that show OR Nene Leakes should be on the panel…I think that Nene is on her way to becoming all that she wants to become…it doesn’t take away her ghetto although she is “from Athens” LOL…I guess there is no ghetto in Athens.

    Well Shaunie doesn’t need to work, Evelyn is sleeping around with enough men that she is probably charging by the hour, Jennifer probably got a nice settlement and Tami, remember she was on welfare and her children are in public school (her daughter goes to school with my daughter), so she is probably the only one working and very happy to get on this show, so she can get paid.
    Anyway, tootles and keep up the good work!

  3. Say it. Say that. Then say it again. I don’t understand using them in the empowerment seminar. Unless they doing a What NOT To Do segment. I believe there are so many more interesting and uplifting people they could have invited. But since they’re clearning trying to have a Jerry Springeresque segment, they could have thrown in Tamar Braxton for the trifecta.

  4. Olusola says:

    I’m in total agreement with you. Unfortunately, DH does watch the show so I am not insulated from the madness. I did get specially miffed on yesterday’s episode when one of the girls goes to a doctor to discuss IVF because she “wants twins”. Like she’s ordering babies off a restaurant menu. IMHO it makes a mockery of the purpose of IVF which is to give INFERTILE couples a chance at being parents.

    I’m still mad, can you tell?!

    • Kimberly says:

      @Olusola, I hear you. She actually wants twin BOYS only, not girls. Definitely not the purpose of IVF, but welcome to the life of the rich and famously sleeping with athletes…. What she really wants is twin paychecks to make sure she is set for life with Chad’s seed!!… and did you see his shock at her age of 35??? What kind of “fiance” doesn’t know your age???… I can’t take anymore. … and thanks for bringing up a real issue.

  5. Jasmyne says:

    NO ma’am. You’re not the only one bothered by this. I actually did see last night’s show and was disgusted at “GROWN A** WOMEN” fighting in public at a restaurant. REALLY???? I’ve decided to ban myself from watching such foolishness. I cannot clean my soul and spirit watching stupidity like that. And they’ll all older than I am. I’m still in my 20’s, and I cannot see myself doing the things they do for money and “primetime”. And yes, the title! Please! It should have been, “I STAYED WITH AN ATHLETE SO LONG, AND I JUST KNEW WE WERE GETTING MARRIED, BUT I GOT SCREWED AND NOW HAVE TO MAKE A LIVING. THAT’S WHY I’M ON THE SHOW”.

  6. Niecy says:

    You are absolutely justified in your reaction. I watched last night for only second time and couldn’t make sense of why women would put themselves on national tv acting like that. We are called to be so much more than that.

    I would strongly encourage Essence to not go for perceived star power and provide women with true empowerment – women who celebrate each other, encourage each other to do better and to live to their highest potential.

  7. Michelle says:

    You are so right! I was thinking the same thing when I saw the lineup in Essence (I’m a subscriber). I was like, are they sh_tting me (excuse the language), Nene, Evelyn, and Tami. I don’t think any of them should be on the panel, including Shaunie. She is the Executive Producer and she is promoting what is seen on that show. You hit the nail right on the head Kimberly and NO you are not the only one bothered by this.

  8. Lynne says:

    I have to say, my first thought when I read Tami, Evelyn, Shaunie and Ne Ne Leakes were going to be on the Empowerment panel at EMF, I was wondering…. WHY?? What can they really added to this symposium to positively uplift and inspire women? Nothing, that wouldn’t be hypocritical of their behavior on camera. I don’t agree with the BBW or ATL Housewives platform and imagery of beautiful black women. No, Shaunie doesn’t air her dirty laundry. Why should she?? These other women should have the same common sense. But, yet they act like silly high school girls. Now, I can understand if Shaunie shares her experience of living in the shadow of an iconic athlete and how she lost her identity in the process. Many women may be able to relate to finding themselves while raising a family and starting a new life after a divorce. I don’t think any of them are relevant to this topic other than Shaunie. I hope Essence will rethink their choice of guest speakers.

    • Kimberly says:

      @Lynne, you are sooo right. Shaunie has a potentially relevant and powerful message to share but chooses to go gutter instead. Smh

  9. Shametra L. says:

    The truth is….as sad as it is, this is the way (now) Essence rolls. Essence use to be the go to magazine for a little brown girl like me who desired indepth articles, empowerment and fashion to long for. I use to save to buy issues of Essence. Now I save my time and money because the magazine has issues and lost its Essence. They’re online presence is also a joke so I’m not suprised. They often profile who look nothing like me or where I’m going. And yes it makes me a little angry and sad.

    • Kimberly says:

      Things are definitely changing. … Maybe Constance can help bring it back…but the corporate pressure is def strong.

  10. Kenya says:

    I have to agree with you here honey. This is ridiculous and a complete joke.Where in our community are these women empowering and enlightening.? I love Essence and will not say that this is enough to stop reading but I will stop and take a look at things. Heads up Essence everyone is not infatuated with drama or glued to the TV waiting for this to come. I would hope that the vast majority of our sisters are focusing on saving for our children’s lives, or who will be teaching our babies next year then running to the TV for this junk. It’s like the “keeping up with the Jones'” has gone from the neighborhood to the entertainers and ladies they get paid for what they do.

    • Kimberly says:

      @Kenya, you are soo right. There are so many issues in our community that Essence could take on in a meaningful way to really “empower” us…. and while I understand that sometimes you have to give the people want they want, a real leader also knows how to give them what they really need. I know this is a real struggle for Essence given their need to perform financially–when I was an editor there, I lived the frustration first hand. But this one is too far. SMH

  11. Imani Capri says:

    I believe that all of the point you bring up in this piece are valid. I guiltily admit that I tune in and watch Basketball Wives from time to time to see if anything has evolved , but each time I am disappointed. It’s true that many of us enjoy watching a train wreck, but what is happening on that show is beyond a train wreck.

    The characters in Basketball Wives are really despicable. They are all back stabbers and have money but no refinement, no class, or sophistication.

    If Essence is inviting them in to discuss issues related to empowerment, the discussion should really involve how these women are destroying the image of empowered black women in the media. These women should not be featured as stories or examples of empowerment.

  12. "the clean up woman" says:

    Thank YOU THANK you for your open comment. I just want to say and they (meaning us as black women) WONDER why…. It’s A SHAME!!!!

    PS WOMEN NETWORK GROUPS, SISTERHOOD ORGANIZATION, BLACK OWN BUSINESS This type of behavior is why we struggle to break the cycle that we are label as/with from shows like this.I am a person that want shows that will impact lives. Ms.oneal with a little o it would be wise to find something more rewarding than drama.If u cant I will. Tell Shaq to start me a show. By the way I also agree why isn’t your lips loose about your business.

    tell Essence to come find real women with real stories that want to help women achieve; come find me and I will get some more; we are not hard to locate. thanks while in waiting.

  13. Kelley says:

    Sad to say I used to defend these women on FB and Twitter because even though they were spitting foolery they were making a living for their family by any means necessary. I anticipated every new season and sat glued to my TV watching this train wreck. But as the seasons progessed (term used loosely) i’m starting to question my judgement. The last episode sealed it for me. I’m already having problems with the dramatic show Single Ladies but BBW is losing me too. I’m asking myself 1) how old are these women, 2) why am i wasting my time watching this crap 3)why doesn’t Ocho know the age of his fiance? So last week was my finale. I am raising two girls and am banning this energy from my home along with the rest of the nonsense that comes from ALL the shows that self-degrade women: Mob Wives, Housewives of New Jersey, New York, Orange County and Atlanta. it doesn’t matter the ethnicity they are all acting crazy. Give me a reality show on how to balance family, managing your business, getting your hustle on…I’m so not interested in she said, she said BS. So yes Essence has stooped to this level of journalism in an effort to sell magaines. But I’m sure in the dying age of integrity that Earl Graves would ever put such immoral characters on the cover of Black Enterprise and as a showcase at his conferences. Thanks Kimberly for having this exchange…I needed to vent this morning.

  14. frank says:

    Ladies, lets go to the seminar and express your distaste for their lake of taste. Let them know that, America is beginning to see black women in the same light that they are casting. And don’t give Shaunie a pass, she’s the problem because she signs the checks for this BS!

  15. Natalie Banks says:

    All money is not good money. They all have been living up to BBW, why does it has to be taken to such a negative level now?

    I see it in a form of “selling your soul to the devil.” Why have an issue with being out of the spotlight of your husband fame, when you did not have fame prior to him coming into your life. The only one that did was Tami Roman. So at least I can give her that. At the same time, she is a single mother who recieved nothing from her life of being married to a basketball player. She signed a prenup. So I can say that I view her differently from the rest of them. Her husband child support was sparse in coming. It was like she was not married to him at all. So for her I see it as a hussle to provide more for her children as a single mother with a deadbeat dad. I am sure she wants more for them than she had. However, I would not be pimped into stereotypes, by them pulling her string, by tellling her Evilyn slept with Kenny while she was married to him. Tami needs to become better vocal and less physical. Physical is for people who can not explain what they are going through at the time something occurs. So I think she should work on that and move on to her own show because I truly think she is the only one out of all of them who character rises above money for the sake of having money.

    Shaunie is a shame and disgrace. She made sure she would be rolling in the dough when she was given the boot. She stayed pregnant more than she was on birth control and not pregnant. You can not keep someone by having their child, we all know that, she knows that, but she could care less about that. She had to know sooner or later somewhere in the marriage that Shaq was unfaithful. She just kept on having those babies thinking all the time, I am going to be set for as long as I can. Her children were nothing more than a way to maintain her way of life. I believe she loves them, but I do not understand why she needs money so soon and on a national scale money, LOL after she has be provided for by her divorce decree. It like those girls on You are Cut Off with her and Evilyn. They can not understand living within the mean and being happy. Happy for them is the life they were accustomed to when their BBH’s were making big paychecks, and damn it’s hard for them to go back where they came from. That is to much egg on their face, so before they do that , they will sellout to maintain the lifestyle that they became accustomed to. It so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.

    I would not want anything that controlled me like a drug. They are like drug addicts, willing to anything to get that next bump. Fame, Money, and the next rich pimp. If Shaq was to tell Shaunie he wanted her back, she would leave o boy in a heartbeat.

  16. Tami says:

    This was a very good read! You said that! What’s so funny is, most of them have kids and daughters! #amess.com

  17. Ananda Leeke says:

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I totally agree. By the way, my friend Tonya in ATL loved your Mocha Manual. I gave it to her for her first baby. She had a girl on May 1. Your work is amazing. Keep inspiring.

  18. I couldn’t have worded this better myself.

  19. Tee says:

    Really Essence? Really?wow….

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