Is Tami Roman the greatest reality star of all time?

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by Thembi Ford
Clutch Magazine

We’re well past the point of griping that shows like Basketball Wives make black women look bad and that everyone — from the executives at VH1, to executive producer Shaunie O’Neal, to whoever had the misfortune of applying Meeka Claxton’s pressed powder for the reunion show — should be ashamed of themselves. I teach writing to a bunch of Korean teenagers and one of them bonds with me weekly over what happened on Basketball Wives. I love the shallow gossip, but also hope that she moves forward in life knowing that not all black women are crazy like Tami; some of them have their heads straight like Ms. Ford. And that brings me to the topic of this article.

Tami Roman is a complete mess and in need of counseling or anger management or whatever keeps you from slapping people for no reason. We’re well past the point of griping about that too. But this is not the first time we’ve crossed over this threshold with Ms. Roman nee Anderson nee Akbar. Oh, you don’t remember Tami Akbar from MTV’s 1993 installment of The Real World: Los Angeles? Please allow me to refresh your memory.

Way back when, before the airwaves were inundated with reality shows, the people on such programs were actually real. The Real World was supposed to be the true story of seven people, well really usually more like eight or nine once people started moving in and out, picked to live in a house. If you grew up during the nineties you know the rest. The year was 1993 and the reality television landscape was completely different then.

The purpose of The Real World was for us to learn from one another. There were no prizes and no props, except perhaps the chance for aspiring actors or singers to get noticed on the show. Few did (see Eric Nies, Heather B, Kevin Powell, and pretty much no one else).

Yet instead of following today’s standard reality show casting method of picking every mentally unstable narcissist with cleavage or abs to flash, back in the olden days the producers kept it lively by just picking people. Some of them, Irene the cop for example, couldn’t even be bothered to stick around for the entire season. Homegirl got married and went back to work rather than stay on the show. What sacrilege!

Tami is another story. Either the producers of The Real World LA had just hopped out of their DeLorean from the future and found out exactly what kind of antics reality TV would eventually turn to for flavor, or Tami Roman is the original reality TV hot mess, almost 20 years strong. Not only did Tami Akbar proudly announce her Muslim faith (and further, how it made her uncomfortable with another housemate’s lesbianism), she did a bunch of things on reality television that had never been done before.

1. Catch Phrase: It wasn’t not funny! Tami shouted each word of this phrase so distinctly and so seriously that it has been permanently etched in the brains of all who saw it ever since. There is no path of good grammar through or beyond it.

2. Unhealthy Body Obsession: This child got her jaw wired shut and then proceeded to try to talk to people through it the whole time, as if everyone hadn’t already had enough of her mouth.

3. Abortion: This is something people just don’t do on television.

4. Get a Cast Member Kicked Off of The Show: This was unheard of! And completely unfair for David, who really was just playing when he snatched off her covers.

So no, I’m not proud of it, but I do enjoy watching the dustbowl of drama that surrounds Tami Roman; serving up nonsense is her birthright and maybe her talent. I’d personally rather finish up my Master’s degree, but she invented “acting a fool on a reality show,” and the last time I checked few people have blazed such trails.

That’s what makes Tami Roman the greatest of all time. Do I wish she’d get therapy and fix her face, and above all else, fix her weave? Yes. But do I look forward, and ultimately expect, to see her on The Real Spinsters of Retirement Home Living stirring up drama in 2045 and accusing people of having stolen her dentures? Yes to that too.

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