I have watched the last four episodes of Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, while taking notes, fractured wrist and all, because I knew that culturally this show represented a kind of shift in Black women on reality television.
Furthermore, I knew that I needed to commit to watching the show. I was at a dinner party and a friend who works in television told me that the wages that women earn in reality television are stratified by race, meaning White women tend to earn more than Black women. My jaw dropped. This is particularly relevant to Love and Hip Hop Atlanta because of the popularity of the show with a crowd that has historically been tech savvy, consumption hungry yet lacking broad representation in mainstream media; middle class and affluent Black women.
According to an article in Newsday VH1 has recently realized ow much of an untapped audience African Americans are,
“All of a sudden, the network is starting to look like how the world looks,” said VH1 president Tom Calderone, who views the network’s airing of “Hip Hop Honors” in 2004 as the “watershed” moment in realizing there was an untapped audience. Series such as “Love & Hip Hop” are a reflection, he added, of what networks need to do to remain relevant: “We’re creating new celebrities. ‘Mob Wives’ are new celebrities. ‘Basketball Wives’ are new celebrities. I think our role is to put a mirror on pop culture and influence pop culture — that’s important.”
So this post will be about three things. First, why is the show popular and what does it’s popularity mean. Second, what are the differences between what Black women and White women earn in reality television spaces. Third, I will connect the Carol’s Daughter “transition kits” to my ideas around LHHA.
Several other folks have written about Love and Hip Hop Atlanta. Bianca Laureno wrote, “Abortion, Reality TV and Women of Color”, Jamilah Aisha Brown wrote “Love and Hip Hop and Transphobia” and Akiba Solmon has written “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta Shouldn’t Embarrass Brown and Black Women”. #readthem.
As I watched the shows over the last few weeks, I saw image after image of Black women in pain, which is legitimate because many of us are in pain. However, what became clear to me after seeing two weeks straight of grown women confronting each other (Joseline and Mimi; K.Michelle and Karlie Redd) I thought, why are public displays of Black women in pain so attractive and lucrative?
Given how lucrative Black women’s pain is in this context, how does this show impact how people interact with us on a day to day basis? Black girl pain is real and legitimate.
We also have to consider that Atlanta and it’s geographical context. DMV and Atlanta contain the two largest concentrations of high income earning African Americans in this country.
Which brings me to the money. According to a post on Radar Online, for White women working on the Real Housewives of Orange County,
Vicki Gunvalson is the top earner, bringing in a cool $450,000 a season. Hot on her heels is Tamra Barney who commands $350,000, followed by Gretchen Rossi with $300,000, Alexis Bellino is paid $200,000 and at bottom of the list is newcomer, Heather Dubrow at a paltry $30,000.
Now keep in mind I know that this is a small selection of earnings from one show, however it is important to note what some White women earn for a hugely popular show. Here is a list of the highest earning reality tv stars, with the highest being Kim Kardashian at an estimated $6M. However this number includes not only her show earnings but her earnings from endorsements as well.
Furthermore, according to the Radar Online article, Nene Leakes earned $750,000 per season on Real Housewives of Atlanta. At nearly a million dollars a season, the racial, cultural and financial significance of these shows must be considered.
I am not certain how much the women on Love and Hip Hop Atlanta earn, however a blog titled Love and Hip Hop Atlanta which doesn’t have any supportive links, states that Stevie J earns $30,000 per episode and it is set to rise to $95,000 per episode. This is interesting. I wonder how much Mimi and Joseline earn. I wonder also how much the advertisers pay Viacom to advertise on the show.
Nearly two weeks ago when I started thinking about writing this post I had just learned that Carol’s Daughter started selling $40 transitioning kits. Like reality television, Black women’s hair care is a lucrative industry, as it was valued in 2008 at 1.8B.
I guess what is bizarre to me is that the kit represents how Black women’s natural hair has been commodified on a whole other level. By commodified, I mean something that we see everyday that is now packaged and sold for a profit. I am of two minds about this transitioning kit. On one hand, if you don’t know how to do your natural hair, then having a kit may be useful. Reading the product review comments is a testament to this fact. On the other hand it speaks to me as a lack of imagination and creativity and a willingness to explore.
Think about it, part of me believes that a huge part of going and being nappy is about a path of self discovery and a willingness to experiment, mixing and matching, making concoctions at home, trying out styles that you have seen in a magazine or a blog. What makes a corporation the authority on what grows out of our heads?
Both the existence of these transition kits and the popularity of Love and Hip Hop Atlanta reminds me that Black women can make corporations a lot of money (I also understand that there are Black women earning substantial wages from reality tv and from the hair cure industry.)
However, given the fact that Black women have been rendered property, I find the show and the kit illuminating and peculiar.
So, I have three questions:
What do we have to believe about Black women in order for this show to make sense to us?
And if it doesn’t make sense to you, what do you think that other people have to believe about Black women in order for it to make sense to them?
Is the transition kit weird to you too? Did you use one? What did you think?Share on Facebook
Tags: Love and Hip Hop Atlanta