If you tuned into NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice last night to catch some of the much-hyped tension between Star Jones and NeNe Leakes you were likely disappointed. Last night’s premiere was very mild. Star Jones took charge as the project manager of the ladies’ team and succeeded. Although she and Lisa Rinna clashed a bit, Jones and Leakes appeared to be cool. That, as several articles have promised, won’t last for long.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Jones called Leakes “ghetto trash,” a description that would get many black women’s blood boiling. Leakes has labeled the attorney, who gained national celebrity as a co-host on The View, a “horrible bitch and a terrible snob.” In addition, Leakes reportedly found Jones’s behavior curious since “she’s descended from slaves just like me and just like every other black person in America.”
Jones has come out and expressed disdain for Leakes’s comments, telling People magazine, “I did Celebrity Apprentice to raise money and awareness for the American Heart Association, which has been instrumental in my life, not to see it reduced to a cliché where black women attack one another for publicity’s sake.”
WATCH STAR JONES AND LIL JON DISCUSS ‘CELEBRITY APPRENTICE’:
Reportedly Trump loves the tension because that means a ratings bonanza. In 2009, ratings slipped by 21 percent after the season premiere, but rebounded greatly in 2010 due to rocker Bret Michaels’s surprising life-threatening condition during the show’s airing. As the season goes on, ratings shouldn’t be a problem, as many will tune in to catch Leakes and Jones fight tooth and nail. While Trump only sees it as a benefit for him, the real question is — will it be good news for black women?
Now it must be noted that Celebrity Apprentice is unusually diverse for a network television show. In addition to Leakes and Jones, LaToya Jackson and Dionne Warwick are also contestants. While Jackson doesn’t come across as the brightest crayon in the box, there is something warm about her. She certainly seemed harmless enough and incapable of any conniving board room behavior on the season premiere but time will tell.
Warwick is another surprise. Considering that we haven’t really seen her that much since her stint on the Psychic Friends Network in the 1990s, any appearance from her just seems odd. Let’s just say she showed her age and her status with her inability to nail the finer points of operating a credit card machine smoothly. Like Jackson, she didn’t appear capable of any backstabbing but it’s only the first episode.Given that The Apprentice franchise has been built on cunning or, as it’s sometimes been called, “business acumen”, we should not expect any feuding by Leakes and Jones to reflect negatively on black women. If that’s what’s required on the show from everyone, why should black women be more negatively stereotyped than others?
Omarosa Manigault, who reportedly became an ordained minister last month, milked that black villainess title for all it was worth, making several reality show appearances and starring in her own show, The Ultimate Merger, produced by Trump for TV One, to find love.
Of course folks expect drama from Leakes. Since her resume in no way compares to that of Warwick, Jones or that other Ms. Jackson, her placement on the show most definitely reflects her super reality status from The Real Housewives of Atlanta. On that show, she’s well-known for stirring up trouble with her outspokenness as well as shaking a wig or two. But everyone has a softer side and good can come out of seemingly not-so-good situations. Her candidness about her own domestic violence experiences early on The Real Housewives has brought some more attention to the problem and her charitable cause on The Celebrity Apprentice does benefit efforts to help those in similar situations.
Still, the feuding between she and Jones may well erase that semblance of positivity. Early on, Jones may have an advantage, considering that it’s hard not to feel for someone who had open-heart surgery a year ago against a generally healthy person. But then again, Jones does have quite the reputation. Her parting from The View still ranks as a surprising TV moment. Yes, she was leaving anyway because the network was not renewing her contract but Barbara Walters was none too pleased to hear live on air, with everyone else, that Jones had decided to leave earlier than they agreed upon in 2006. Needless to say Jones burned a bridge there.
All of her troubles seemingly began with landing a husband as well as becoming skinnier. Few can forget the over-the-top way in which Jones planned her wedding. If getting married is every woman’s dream, then Jones lived out the fantasy to the hilt on The View, accepting and receiving gifts that some found questionable and labeled an abuse of power. But the way she flaunted her then upcoming nuptials to Al Reynolds was in sharp contrast to her hushed mouth regarding the way in which she lost more than 160 pounds in three years. Jones was extremely reluctant to share that she had undergone gastric bypass surgery and it became a point of contention with the media, especially given the candor she had previously displayed on The View.
Regardless of how ugly Leakes vs. Jones gets, the fact that this feud can draw so much media attention is interesting. Let’s face it: black women who aren’t pop stars like Rihanna or an Oscar winner like Halle Berry aren’t that much of a draw in mainstream media. The fact that an attorney and a reality star can generate this much buzz is noteworthy. These shows don’t thrive on playing nice so, in a weird sense, Leakes and Jones may indicate some progress as far as television and ratings are concerned.
But sadly, however, the inability of Leakes and Jones to get along is just another chapter in the long story of female cattiness that ultimately fails to help black women move closer to securing any real unity and any real power, even if it is in the name of raising money for heart disease and domestic violence, two causes which greatly affect black women. Even for The Celebrity Apprentice, two goods don’t make it right.