We’re witnessing the democratization of celebrity. There’s the selfie phenomenon, and those impromptu photo shoots in which everyone seems to take part, even for the most unceremonious occasions. The exploitation of our ordinary lives is faciliated by Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook. Our lives are everywhere. Everyone is everywhere. Everyone is special, therefore no one is special. The same goes for being famous. In 50 years, some predict everyone will be followed around by cameras.
But until then, we are all guilty of indulging in the lives of those who choose to partake in that phenomenon a bit more directly. Yep, we're talking reality television. As she previously discussed, Demetria L. Lucas, contributing editor at The Root, is one of six professional women who will appear in a Bravo reality show titled Blood, Sweat & Heels. It airs this Sunday, Jan. 5, at 9 p.m. EST.
The premise is fairly clichéd: All six women are hustling, building their respective brands in media, entertainment, fashion, etc., in New York City.
In a candid exchange, Lucas chopped up it with The Root about a bunch of stuff, primarily whether she thought she would be compromising the integrity of her brand by appearing on a reality-TV show. Her engagement came up, too, since her fiance is featured—every now and then—on the show. Lucas prides herself on being a fairly open book, given her work as a life coach and dating expert. Even so, we were curious to know what her impetus was for doing the show, beyond the clichéd "I’m doing this to improve the perception of black women on TV."
The Root: How does your professional work influence your relationships with your cast members, especially since issues relating to dating and marriage come up fairly often for successful women?
Demetria L. Lucas: For the last decade, dating and relationship talk has consumed my working life. I’m a life coach, have authored a dating advice book, A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-To Guide for Living Your Best Single Life, with another book, Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love coming in March. I was the relationships editor at Essence magazine for years, and before that an editor of romance novels at Harlequin. But when I’m off the clock, just like attorneys don’t like to give legal advice and CPAs don’t want to talk taxes, I don’t like to coach or advise over brunch or cocktails. When I have to, it’s frustrating.
In my downtime, I’d rather be a friend, not an expert, which means if someone shares their dating woes, I tend to lean back, listen and let them vent. No one wants to hear, “what you should do is ... ” when they didn’t ask. That said, if we’re chatting, and I think something is blatantly wrong or detrimental to a healthy relationship, I can slip into “coach” mode when it’s someone I care about.
TR: A media outlet once dubbed you the "black Carrie Bradshaw," and in Carrie’s case, she went through some pretty tumultuous times with her relationship with Mr. Big, which at times had women question just how much she knew about dating and love. Do you ever fear that you’ll have a disastrous moment in your personal life, akin to Carrie and Mr. Big’s “runaway groom” incident, that might cause your castmates to ridicule you, or question your professional advice?
DLL: Carrie Bradshaw was a convenient shorthand to describe me at the time. I was working as a relationship editor at Essence, penning a blog and book about my dating experiences in my 20s. Oh, and I live in New York.
Disastrous moments are a part of life, and they happen to everyone who lives long enough. I recently celebrated the seventh anniversary of my blog,ABelleinBrooklyn.com, which is a humorous take on all the things that have gone wrong in my personal life, from not setting boundaries, being assaulted by a friend, breakups, etc., and how I learned from those experiences. When something else disastrous happens, I’ll write about that, too, and try to find the bright side. Optimism is my signature trait.
My validity as a life coach and relationships columnist isn’t based on my personal life. I have a resume and a decade of experience to back up my profession. A lawyer who loses a case isn’t suddenly a hack, just like a CPA who misses a number isn’t inept. People, including life coaches, take hits like everyone else.
Oh, and Mr. Big and Carrie never should have been together anyway. The emotionally unavailable thrice-married guy who drags you along for 10 years, marries someone else while you’re “on break,” cheats on his wife with you and makes plans to move across country without telling you only makes a “good” husband in scripted TV and movies. As a huge SATC fan, I always wished Carrie went back to Aidan, or found someone like him. He wasn’t the guy she wanted, but the one she needed.
TR: In the show’s trailer, we see you weigh in on an issue relating to feminism and gender. Were you generally disappointed, or underwhelmed, by the group of ladies whom you were cast alongside, because of their views on these sorts of issues?
DLL: Surprised is a better word. This isn’t the first time I was approached about doing a reality show, only the first time I accepted the offer. What attracted me to the show is that each of the women are leaders—either they are running a business or have a solid business plan in place. So I was shocked to hear women who lead in their professional lives say that they didn’t think that is a woman’s role. "I’m sorry. What?" That conversation still boggles my mind.
To be frank, some of the opinions were startling, but that’s tolerable. The times I woke up wondering, “What have I gotten myself into?!” came from the behavior of some of my castmates, not their perspectives. I wear my thoughts on my face. When you watch, you’ll know every moment I’m referring to now.
Read more: here
“A Belle in Brooklyn” relationship columnist Demetria L. Lucas, who grew up in Prince George’s County and hit it big as a blogger with columns on dating advice for African-American women, is set to star in a reality television show. “Blood, Sweat & Heels,” produced by Bravo, debuts Jan. 5 and features a group of women who are “movers and shakers in New York’s elite circles.” The other stars of the show are: a former “video vixen” turned realtor; Melyssa Ford, a real estate firm partner, Brie Bythewood; a modeling agency owner, Mica Hughes; an “affordable style” advice person Daisy Lewellyn; and “style scholar” Geneva S. Thomas.
Lucas, who was raised in Mitchellville and graduated from the University of Maryland College Park, said the reaction to the show’s trailer from her hometown has been amazing.
“People are very happy to see a ‘local girl’ or a ‘real Prince George’s girl’ on TV,” Lucas said. “The show is another gust of wind in what has been an unimaginable whirlwind for me. I’m from Maryland. I was taught a government job or a lobbyist job with benefits was the be-all and end-all. To break tradition and be a writer, then editor, then author, then TV personality is unbelievable to me.”
After graduating from the University of Maryland, Lucas moved to New York to attend NYU and received a masters in journalism. She began working for Harlequin, dissecting romance novels, when her friends started coming to her for relationship advice. She eventually became known as the “Black Carrie Bradshaw,” dispensing advice in a blog called “A Belle in Brooklyn.”
Her “Number One Rule” was simple: “Smile & Say, ‘Hi.’” Other advice: “If you want to meet a man, look like you want to meet a man. Lip gloss and comb never hurt anyone. Use both liberally.” And “Men don’t notice you across a room because of your brain. Give them something to look out for.”
She adds: “I’m very thankful to be a representative for thinking, responsible, educated Black women. I just wanted to chase a dream, my passion. I never thought it would take me this far or land me on TV.”
Lucas, who is now “happily engaged,” said, “”The cameras follow me and my fiancé, as I juggle way too much work, including celebrating my seventh year as a blogger and the publication of my second advice book, ‘Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love’.”
Read the article on The Washington Post: here
There’s no sense in beating around the clichéd bush: There are a lot of people who don’t think highly of reality TV or reality-TV stars, especially when there are black women involved. The women are all thought to be exploited or selling their souls, either searching for a quick come-up or in a desperate hunt for what Andy Warhol called “15 minutes of fame.”
I’ve been highly critical in my writing of the fighting, the bottle throwing and, in general, the bad behavior by women and men who have been depicted under the guise of entertainment. And yet I signed on to participate in a reality show anyway.
It’s not for the money. The salary for a starting season isn’t a number most would find impressive. And while there’s an opportunity to make some coin, most people don’t, and an uncommon number even lose all that they gain. Earlier this year the Huffington Post looked at the number of women with money problems among the 67 in Bravo’sReal Housewives franchise, and found that a startling 12 had filed for bankruptcy. My lawyer conveniently sent me a link to that story just before I signed my contract for the show. I still signed the contract.
I began blogging in 2006 because I couldn’t find a “character” like me on TV or in media, period. It had been years since Living Single went off the air, and as much as I loved Tracee Ellis Ross in Girlfriends, I needed an East Coast girl to relate to. I was a huge fan of Sex and the City and wondered how, in all of New York City, where people of color outnumber white folks, there wasn’t a black woman or any woman of color on the show. Black shows always got a token white person; why didn’t this white show?
I wanted to see a black woman who treated her city like a social playground, who thrived in her profession or was at least climbing the ladder, who had her relationship ups and downs as I did (and do) but still managed to have fun and remain optimistic. Black women were too often portrayed as tragic, excessively struggling, loving the wrong men hard and getting bitter as a result. That’s a story of black women, but it isn’t the only story, and it wasn’t my story or the story of the women I surrounded myself with. I was complaining that there were no women like me in media, until I stopped whining and started typing.
My blog was published on HoneyMag.com in 2007 and was immediately successful. Apparently, there were a lot of women like me, looking for someone like them. Who knew? The popularity of that blog led me to a position as the relationships editor at Essence magazine in 2007, where I eventually landed my own column about dating and relationships, which earned an award for Best Personal Blog in 2010. Then I earned a book deal based on my blog in 2011.
I’m told that a casting director of Blood, Sweat & Heels found me when she Googled “the Black Carrie Bradshaw,” a phrase that was used to describe me when the Washington Post did a profile about my blog and dating adventures in 2010. The producers originally conceived the show as a black Sex and the City, and I was a fit. When my manager told me about the show, the first thing I said was something like, “I’m not the black version of a white fictional TV character. I’m me. They have to want that.”
Read more: here
I rolled my eyes dramatically and looked out at the Brooklyn, N.Y., skyline. I'd been invited to a rooftop event, a monthly brunch when a group of mostly accomplished women, with degrees and jobs and probably a side hustle or two, gather to network.
Usually I prefer brunches where attendees are left to their own devices to sip champers and talk among ourselves about whatever strikes our fancy. But this particular hostess organizes the conversation, an icebreaker of sorts to make sure we're all engaged. This isn't a bad idea. I just wished that the topic she'd picked was something juicy that would spark some quality debate. Usually we discuss dating and relationships, but this day she was branching out.
Back in March, the New York Times posed a similar question as the topic for its popular "Room for Debate" series. Across the Internet, women collectively were offended that the question even was being asked in 2013. There have been several studies by the Harvard Business Review suggesting that not only are women fit to lead but they also make better leaders, a conclusion reached by men and women alike.
It's a foregone conclusion with a resounding yes -- yes! A woman can lead. Asking about women's capability as if it is somehow up for debate is like seriously asking, "Do you think water is wet enough?" The flak over the Times' question was so bad that the publication ran a follow-up storyon all the negative feedback.
So there I sat, surrounded by women, gazing blankly at the Barclays Center in the distance and wondering what woman in her right mind was going to say, "No, no -- I, woman, think a woman would make an unfit leader simply because she is a woman."
And then the woman sitting next to me spoke up. "Well, it depends," she began, instead of giving the "Uh, duh" I expected to hear.
"Women are more emotional, and we have PMS and that affects our thinking," she said. "I would only support a woman leader if her No. 2 was a man who could check to make sure she was being logical and giving a rational opinion."
I like to think of myself as quick-witted, but on this day, I was uncharacteristically slow. I'm used to hearing this sort of opinion from some men, mostly unintentional misogynists or those well-meaning men who are clueless (or in denial) about male privilege and would like to pretend that their perks are God's will instead of a social construction. But I didn't expect a woman -- not in 2013 -- to think she couldn't do anything a man can do.
I was raised by a mother who might shy away from calling herself a feminist because of the bra-burning, man-hating (both incorrect) associations. But she told me until I internalized it, "You can do anything a boy can do" (and anything I set my mind to).
Over the weekend, I attended a brunch where I had an interesting discussion with a few women, some of who hold a rather cynical view of relationships. The cynics believed that all men are capable cheating, and further this makes them justified in snooping through emails, cell phones, voicemails and stalking her significant other (and all potentials for the position) on social media. Their position: if you don't check that a man is cheating, then how do you really know he isn't? Le sigh.
Admittedly, this outlook isn't exactly farfetched. According to a study on Men's Fitness, 70 percent of women do an online search before agreeing to go out with a guy, and 63 percent of guys do the same before going on a first date. The same poll also found that 49 percent of women have checked their lover's computer history, and 76 percent go through the e-mail inbox if it's "accidentally" left open.
If you've ever read anything I've written on cheating and snooping, then you know my position: this is ludicrous. All of it.
Do all men have capability of cheating? Of course. (All women do too.) Do all men-- or women-- cheat? No. There are people, including men, who don't. There is a type of person who is or becomes dissatisfied or just desires what you aren't offering and they leave to explore other horizons as a single person who can do as they please with no accountability to anyone but themselves. That's the type of person we should all desire to be with.
If that's not the type of person you believe you are with, snooping is still not okay. Here's the thing, digging through pockets and cracking passwords is a sign that you don't trust your mate. Trust (and communication) are the core foundations of any relationship. If you lack trust, then I have to wonder why you are there. And further, if you believe all men cheat and you're not okay with cheating, then why do you even want a man? If you have this outlook, either you putting up with cheating or staying with a man who cheats is the inevitable outcome, no?
I threw that logic out there and was met with this: D, you can't really know if a man is cheating unless you check. You should respect yourself enough to want to know the whole truth.
To which I countered: you should have more faith in yourself enough to pick a good mate and know when something's up.
One of the women shot back that she was once engaged-- her first of four times-- after six months of dating. Via snooping she found that the man she was betrothed to had a long-term girlfriend. She said she had no suspicions that there was another woman; she was just going through her routine look-see into his emails. "How else would I have known about her if I hadn't looked?" she asked.
I countered that if she dated him longer-- you know how I feel about dating for seasons to get to know people-- she more than likely would have found out. I also think there were some major signs she must have overlooked. He's juggling two serious relationships and she had no clue whatsoever that something was amiss?
Another woman added that she snooped on her ex and discovered that he had four women on the side. She knew something was up when they had plans to return home after a vacation, and suddenly he had to fly to another destination "for business." So she snooped, found about the other women, and actually gave a call to at least one of them for more information.
"For what?" I asked.
She wanted details.
"But why did they matter?"
I was so baffled by her admission that I don't remember her answer. (My core view on calling another woman to ask about your man is that is her man, not "yours". I mean, she has more information on "your" alleged man than you do, right?)
Back to that first "thing" though: if you genuinely think your partner is lying, then whether they are or not is irrelevant. It's still time to go, either to the exit, or if it's worth it, to a therapist. A relationship without trust is inherently dysfunctional, and going nowhere fast.
I wish more women would recognize this, this being that it's okay to just trust themselves. There's no need to reduce yourself to a a crazed super-sleuth by digging through emails and social media platforms. They're making a simple issue unnecessarily complicated. Trust yourself to pick a good mate. If you can't trust him, leave. Find someone you can trust, and if you can't do that, head to a therapist-- it's not the domain of a life coach-- who can help you deal with your own trust issues.
And this leads me to a second thing: What if you snoop-- with no intentions of getting caught, of course-- and find nothing… but then your partner finds out you're snooping? That's a huge violation, a flashing red sign that you don't trust him, and a sign that he can't trust you. What kind of relationship is that?