Tonight WE tv, a cable channel known for female-friendly programming, will be premiering a new reality show revealing the family life of an R&B legend. Toni Braxton heads up an ensemble of six remarkable black women including her sisters and mother in Braxton Family Values. WE tv’s network logo is “life as we know it,” but so far the majority of black reality shows have failed to do just that — represent an accurate portrayal of the day to day realities of African-American families.
Two decades ago Toni Braxton was at the prime of her career. Having won numerous Grammy Awards and topped the Billboard charts with her sultry baritone ballads, Braxton was winning. In 1998 the songstress made headlines, not for a musical triumph but for being financially bankrupt. She quickly bounced back and recorded several more albums, appeared in two Broadway productions and headlined in her own Las Vegas show Revealed.
During her Vegas run in 2008 Braxton developed a heart condition which inevitably forced her to cancel her remaining show dates. After releasing her sixth studio album Pulse in 2010, the Grammy award winning singer filed for bankruptcy a second time citing up to $50 million in debt.
Today the renowned vocal talents of Braxton might be taking back seat to her family and personal health issues, and she will be bringing cameras along for the ride. Last night during a WE tv press dinner for her new reality show Braxton and her family were outspoken about their future plans. Fans waiting for Braxton to release her next album might want to get their fix while tuning to her reality series.
Braxton says she is not working on a new album and is considering retiring. “You know, I’m really thinking about retiring, like really. I’ve been in a little bit of a slump, I can’t deny it. I was really down when my doctor told me I would probably never be able to perform again. I’ve been doing little shows here and there to try and get my body ready. But to be honest I am a little bit down, and probably a little more scared than anything else.”
Braxton Family Values attempts to unveil the realities of sisterhood and dispel the myth that money solves everything. Toni Braxton joins her sisters Traci, Towanda, Trina, Tamar (the youngest Braxton sister, who has aspirations of getting her own record contract) and their headstrong mother Evelyn as they yell, cry and harmonize their way through the intricacies of sisterhood.
Currently there is a lot of pressure to “perform” on reality T.V. shows. Braxton says that her family shopped around their reality show pilot and chose to go with Magical Elves production company and WE tv because it was important to her that she and her family were able to be who they are, and not forced to portray any of negative stereotypes.
Tamar Braxton said “We were not interested in fighting or buffoonery, that’s not what we do. We are used to being candid and open with each other, but we are not trying to act like fools on TV.”.
“Hopefully we can set the standard for other shows; that you don’t have to act like a bunch of idiots to be on TV. It’s not what this is about. I don’t want to punch my sister in the face. I love my sister.”
WE tv’s SVP, Original Production and Development, John Miller released a statement saying:
“We’d like viewers to feel that We tv and Braxton Family Values is relatable to them because they share similar experiences within their own families. Braxton Family Values looks at the relationship between five sisters who, no matter what, all love and support one another. This show is about the real connection these women share, which is a rare quality in many of the reality shows on T.V. today.”In a recent interview Braxton stated that she agreed to do this reality show to reveal the truth about her personal financial issues.
“It always comes up. That’s the only thing people really have on me. But my sisters told me, “It’s time for you to tell your story. Tell it. Stop letting other people read about what’s not true.” This gives me the platform to finally tell what’s going on in my life with my health, what led to my financial woes.
Previously reality TV shows featuring the lives of African-American “celebrities” represented the culture in a negative light. Shows like Flavor of Love, I Love New York, Basketball Wives, Love and Hip-Hop, Being Bobby Brown, For the Love of Ray J, Real Chance of Love and The Bad Girls Club depict African-American as mistresses, ex-wives, addicts, womanizers, gold diggers and individuals that when unable to resolve an issue turn to violence and name-calling.
Viewers of black reality TV shows are catching on to the fact that many of the existing shows in the genre do not represent black Americans in a positive light. The cable network VH1 has long been the culprit of producing reality programming that celebrated negative black stereotypes.
A year ago, with the launch of What Chilli Wants the network that brought us Flavor of Love and many unfortunate spin-offs declared that it would be making a move to producing more mature material. VH1’s VP of original programming and production, Jeff Olde said “We constantly have to evolve and tell our audience different stories. I love that we’ve been able to get more diverse with our audience by — in large part — attracting African-American women to the network. We got them in the door with some shows, and now I’m excited about where we’re going and how we’re telling them different kinds of stories.”
Meanwhile this year on season 2 of VH1’s Basketball Wives, Tami Roman and Evelyn Lozada went to blows on the finale episode and cast-members aggressively argued throughout the two hour televised reunion special.
There is a void in programming featuring African-American celebrity families, not fighting to break-up or outspend their neighbors, but rather fighting to stay together and strengthen their family units.
Viewers who once winced at the notion of watching a reality show with black characters just might find the realities of the Braxton family to be a breath of fresh air rather than a guilty pleasure.
Tonight after the show airs and the reviews are in Braxton says she would like the headline to be “real reality T.V. Finally real reality T.V.”
When asked would the family be eager to take part in a season two, Toni Braxton’s manager Vincent Herbert answered “absolutely we will.”