Whether you’re tuning in or wishing them away, reality stars are the new celebrities. The smart ones figure out how to turn their 15 minutes into a fortune, a $55 million dollar a year fortune if you’re Bethenny Frankel. A handful of black reality stars—Nene Leakes, Tamar Braxton, K.Michelle and Tami Roman—have turned their reality TV fame into a lucrative future. But in all fairness K.Michelle and Tamar had actual talent long before stepping in front of the camera. Both secured the No. 2 Billboard 200 spot when their albums were released in large part because of the audience they’d gained from reality TV. For the women like Nene Leakes who was an unknown name before her debut on The Real Housewives of Atlanta, banking on reality TV to secure rich futures is likely. We all know Nene Leakes is “very rich, bitch!”
Nene is the closest black Bethenny Frankel there is, and in comparison she hasn’t quite reached Bethenny’s status. Why aren’t there more black Bethenny Frankels?
Bethenny used the The Real Housewives of New York City opportunity to launch her Skinnygirls brand, which ultimately led to book deals, a spin-off, a talk show and racks on racks on racks. She was a smart businesswoman no doubt. But certainly she can’t be the only smart one presenting lucrative ideas to larger brands. Are the doors that are open to Bethenny not the same kind of doors open to black female reality stars, or are black reality stars not creating products that have the potential to earn as much as Bethenny’s Skinnygirl Margarita?
Perhaps the drink throwing, fights and bullying that are amplified when the stars are black (because white women fight equally as much on reality shows) is bad for business. There’s a long history of blacks not being viewed as individuals, but as a collective representation for the entire race, which means black women on reality TV carry the double burden of not giving credence to racial and gender stereotypes. When they do portray stereotypes petitions are started and scathing articles are written. Businesses may be leery of aligning themselves with reality stars who could potentially end up a liability. Meanwhile Bethenny showcased her emotional baggage, yelled and urinated in a champagne bucket on national TV unscathed. It certainly hasn’t stopped her success, but are black reality stars given the same pass?
Photo Credit: Celebuzz.com
It’s odd that in little over five years (RHONYC debuted in 2008) Bethenny alleged made $55 million as early as 2010 and not one black female reality star has been able to replicate that level of financial success. Kandi Burruss is rich, but had an uber successful singing and songwriting career long before RHOA. She’d made her first million before reality shows were popular. And then there’s the funny, tell it like it is Nene Leakes who is steadily climbing the ladder of success outside of reality television. Hopefully her success leads to the same type of multi-million dollar deals that were on the table for Bethenny. And hopefully more black female reality stars take note by thinking beyond the 15 minutes of fame. —Bené Viera