Singers promote positive reality with 'R&B Divas'
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Catfights among women on "Love & Hip Hop," ''Basketball Wives" and "The Real Housewives" franchises are not unusual. In fact, fans of the shows expect harsh language and the knock-down, drag-out fights that are featured.
But "R&B Divas," TV One's newest reality series, looks to change that dynamic.
The show follows the lives of singers Faith Evans, Nicci Gilbert-Daniels, Monifah Carter, Syleena Johnson and Keke Wyatt as they join forces to record "R&B Divas," an Evans album that features all the ladies and also pays homage to inspirations such as Whitney Houston.
"We all know that life has drama," said Evans, who is also the widow of rap legend Christopher "The Notorious B.I.G." Wallace. "But what we wanted to showcase was that the drama doesn't always have to be resolved in violence or fighting, that there can be some inspiring (going on) as well through reaching resolutions."
Gilbert-Daniels, whose voice was among those in the 1990s trio Brownstone, said she approached Evans about pitching a reality television project and the two devised the show's concept after lamenting the state of programming that constantly "glamorizes the buffoonery."
"I've never jumped across a table to get my point across," Gilbert-Daniels said, referencing the altercations that are regularly seen on other popular reality shows. "There was definitely a void in programming and in a real representation of women we know."
Evans and Gilbert-Daniels are executive producers of "R&B Divas," which airs Mondays at 10 p.m. EDT. It delves into Carter's challenges with her daughter and others regarding Carter's homosexuality; Johnson's financial struggles and Wyatt's battles with past abuse and her resulting insecurities. One episode also shows the women's tribute performance at the 2012 Essence Music Festival to Houston, Etta James and others.
"I've had nothing but good feedback," Evans said when asked about reaction to the show. "I'm happy that fans are receiving it in the spirit that we wanted."
The show has definitely struck a chord with fans: It was the most-watched original premiere in TV One's eight-year history when it debuted last month.
Still, not all of the feedback has been positive, Gilbert-Daniels said.
"I get a little of that 'You're bossy, mean, controlling and have an Oprah complex,' but that's the price you pay when you open up your life for all to see," she said.
Creative tension between Gilbert-Daniels and the album's producer reared its head in a couple of episodes after she appeared disconnected during a spontaneous writing collaboration with Johnson and Carter.
"Everybody had a clear understanding going in that I'm a bit disenchanted with the music industry and have not pursued a career in music so that I can create other opportunities in my life. I've been focused on the behind the scenes," Gilbert-Daniels, who is launching a full-figured clothing line, explained. "Still, I have always been very excited and supportive and 100 percent on board for this project."
The Whitney E. Houston Academy in East Orange, N.J., will receive some of the proceeds from sales of the CD, which is scheduled to be released Tuesday. The first single, "Tears of Joy," by Evans, is already heating up the airwaves.
Gilbert-Daniels noted that although there's some conflict on the show, there's also resolution.
"That's the most important aspect of the show," she said. "Everything is rooted in love and we work to resolve our problems in the most amicable and peaceful of ways. That's what I hope resonates loudest with the fans."
Evans and Gilbert-Daniels said there's no talk yet of a Season 2, but they're hopeful.
"God's been tapping me on my shoulder saying that it will be a done deal," Gilbert-Daniels said confidently.