K-Ci and JoJo…Come Clean, TV One’s latest foray into reality television, is definitely a sign of the times. No longer are battles such as extreme weight loss or substance abuse waged alone. What used to serve as private celebrity challenges have now become shared televised experiences. Still, with the exception of early re-runs of Starting Over, a reality show about women all living in one house together as they tried to reclaim their lives, most TV One reality-style programs have avoided heady issues.
It’s probably not a stretch, however, to attribute the recent programming change of heart to the success of its popular Unsung series, which explores the behind-the-scenes trials and tribulations of artists like the late Phyllis Hyman from its inaugural season in 2008 and Tammi Terrell from its current season. After all, it is not uncommon for biographies in the series like the one for the DeBarge family, for example, to touch upon substance abuse issues.
In many ways, K-Ci and JoJo, the soul-stirring brother singing duo from North Carolina legally known as Cedric and Joel Hailey and one-half of the now legendary Jodeci, are an Unsung episode in the making. Like many of the show’s subjects, they are very well-known among black audiences but not so much among more mainstream audiences and, in this instance, it’s alcohol that has held them back from even greater success.
Interestingly, an incident at the “Jingle Jam,” held in Los Angeles in 2000 where Christina Aguilera and other mainstream artists performed, is the duo’s most infamous moment. According to many audience members, some there with children as young as 5, K-Ci indecently exposed himself on stage. Three months later, he received charges of 23 counts of indecent exposure and one count of lewd exposure three.
Eventually, K-Ci pleaded no contest to significantly reduced charges. Still, the damage was done and the reported misconduct at the concert continues to dog him and, by proxy, his brother JoJo. Making matters worse, a video of a 2008 performance in Australia where JoJo literally passed out on stage quickly worked its way through the black blogosphere. Well-known African-American gossip guru Jawn Murray called for an intervention in his weekly BV Buzz column, a sentiment echoed by the duo’s fans.
Well finally that intervention has come and it turns out that alcohol has been the main culprit behind their long-talked about unhealthy appearances and, more importantly, their career sabotage. Of course, the two brothers are not alone. Even if the overall percentage of African-American alcoholics is generally low when compared to other groups, the consequences are not. For example, African-Americans suffer from alcohol-related medical problems at a greater rate than white Americans. Also, because of the increasing collaboration between music and alcohol, alcohol use among African-American youth is on the rise.
As with anyone engaged in an addictive practice, the moment of truth where one stops to face that demon is a personal and unique one. “When you have a habit like drinking and partying,” K-Ci told theGrio, “there comes a time when you say [enough]. What really stopped me was when I found out that I was about to be a grandfather.”
To even begin the process of any program, televised or not, K-Ci, who is single, told theGrio that “I had to take inventory of my life…It’s like Michael Jackson said: I had to look at the man in the mirror.”
The nine-episode journey was not completed alone. Their longtime manager Damon Jones, who conceived the reality show, is a significant player in the show and so is the youngish Baltimore-based reverend, Dr. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, who has been tapped to lead the efforts. Bryant’s therapist sister Thema Bryant-Davis is key in identifying why the brothers have relied so heavily on alcohol throughout their careers and the concept of “liquid courage” is indeed a major factor. In addition, actress-turned-fitness guru AJ Johnson tries to coach the brothers into a healthier lifestyle.
Most controversial is the administration of PROMETA. “Traditionally,” reads the California-based Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center web site, “treatments for substance dependence have not directly addressed the underlying medical aspects of the disease. Changes in brain chemistry and function play an important role in the physical and behavioral symptoms of substance dependence, including tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, craving and relapse. PROMETA includes medically supervised treatments designed to address both the neurochemical imbalances in the brain and some of the nutritional deficits caused or worsened by substance dependence.”
As the brothers attempt to get clean, the show also offers a glimpse into how the music industry has changed from when they first hit the scene until now as they re-energize their career. Because the show was filmed earlier this year, this newfound sobriety is relatively new and only time will tell if it succeeds. Subsequent shows, according to their manager Damon Jones, are dependent upon ratings. “It’s still a business,” he shared. “In TV, it’s all about the ratings. If the ratings are good, I guess you’ll hear more from us.”
Those wishing to break the cycle of alcoholism, especially today when liquor is so closely intertwined with African-American music and pop culture, have a hard road, according to JoJo. “Every song is talking about sitting at the club, sipping on bub. That’s the knock. That’s what you hear in every car. That’s what you hear on commercials so that’s what it is,” observed JoJo, who is married.
“The only thing I can do right now, thank God, is try to correct and critique my life. That’s the only thing I can do and hopefully somebody will see that because I’m not ministering to nobody; I’m just sharing my life with people,” he explained, regarding the potential impact of K-Ci and JoJo…Come Clean.