These Black celebs desperately need an ‘Auntie Maxine’ makeover

Everyone can learn a thing or two from Waters, especially older Blacks who have chosen to lay in bed with whiteness (some literally), instead of fighting it.

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), lovingly known as “Auntie Maxine,” does something different than many in her position of celebrity in the public domain: she listens to younger, progressive voices in shifting conversations, shaping culture, and amplifying policy concerns impacting Millennials in particular.

What’s so fascinating about Waters is her ability to navigate spaces in multiple communities while still holding true to her own identities. She’s still Black, still woman and still bold.

That’s not so true for some Black public figures who seem happy to abandon parts of their identities to propagate outdated and oppressive rhetoric and ultimately uplift patriarchal, white supremacy.

Waters is audacious, inspiring, outspoken, and has been leading the charge against conservatives like Donald Trump and the cesspool that is Fox News station since pre-election. When no-job-having Bill O’Reilly once said that Waters had a “James Brown wig,” on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes” shefired back, saying, “Let me just say this: I’m a strong black woman and I cannot be intimidated. I cannot be undermined. I cannot be thought to be afraid of Bill O’Reilly or anybody.”

Recently, at a Congressional Black Caucus Town Hall, Waters implored Black people to not be afraid of the label, “controversial” and that she expected more from other Black leaders in backing her.

We do, too.

Everyone can learn a thing or two from Waters, especially older Black people who have chosen to lay in bed with whiteness (some literally), instead of fighting against it. These Black public figures, in particular, have an older brand or reach, but their political stances are outdated and do not align with today’s progressive, Millennial generation.

What they need is the ultimate Maxine Waters makeover:

Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg is one of my favorite actresses so it’s a pain to put her on this list. To date, her episode of Law & Order: SVU as Janette Grayson, a Department of Child Services supervisor who is put on trial for manslaughter after a child dies and falsified case reports, is one of my favorites. One scene in particular, when testifying about how society is to blame for young people in the child welfare system, still blows me away two years later. Check it out for yourself.

However, no matter how incredible she is, no matter how many Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, and Tonys she receives, I will always side-eye her over previous comments she’s made. Goldberg’s political stances have always leaned liberal, but when she’s wrong, she’s often loud, too.

In 2009, Goldberg defended Roman Polanski, who assaulted an intoxicated 13-year-old girl in 1977. Goldberg insisted that this assault was not the usual or ordinary assault, or as she called it “rape-rape.” “I know it wasn’t rape-rape… We’re a different kind of society, we see things differently… would I want my 14-year-old having sex with somebody? Not necessarily, no.” Do not mistake what Goldberg is saying: she is implying that a child has the ability to consent to sexual acts with a man much, much older. That’s called rape.

Sticking to her “rape-rape” values, Goldberg defended her friend Bill Cosby during his many rape allegations, saying, “I don’t like snap judgments because I’ve had snap judgments made on me, so I’m very, very careful. Save your texts. Save your nasty comments. I don’t care.” She continued, “I say this because this is my opinion, and in America, still, I know it’s a shock, but you are still innocent until proven guilty… He has not been proven a rapist.” This is a unique position considering just last year, Goldberg commented that it feels like police officers are hunting Black people amid shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Charlotte, North Carolina.

But they are innocent until proven guilty, remember?

Goldberg is in the best position to change if she can just realize that bodily autonomy is just that. Rape is always legitimate and if she doesn’t understand that, she will always sound like a speechwriter to Republican Todd Akin when referring to “legitimate rape victims” and abortions.


Kim Burrell

While Waters was ensuring there wasn’t a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, Kim Burrell was busy screaming about homosexuality and sin.

Early this year, days before Burrell and Pharrell were scheduled to appear on “Ellen” to sing “I See Victory” from the soundtrack of Hidden Figures, a tape of Burrell preaching at the Love & Liberty Fellowship Church began circulating online. In it, she said that “the perverted homosexual spirit, and the spirit of delusion and confusion, it has deceived many men and women.”  

“Anybody in the room who is living with a homosexual spirit, beg God to free you. If you play with it in 2017 you’ll die from it. If you play with it in 2017 in God’s house you’ll die from it. Y’all came to hear about carnal, I came to tell you about sin,” the gospel singer said during a sermon in a video posted online.

Burrell later clarified that she never said “LGBTQ” but only that homosexuality was a sin; one in which we will die from, apparently.

It is isn’t that Burrell’s comments were a surprise. She’s a pastor and homophobia runs abound in most churches, including the Black church. It’s that there’s an expectation on LGBTQ people to love these type of people in spite of them telling us that our personal identities are inherently wrong and deserving of prayer. But, ironically, none of that stopped Burrell from recording with Frank Ocean when she was receiving compensation.

Meanwhile, Waters, at almost 80 years old, understands not to alienate her base and attempts to at least learn from the LGBTQ community. Previously she has voted on bills prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and voted against constitutional amendments making marriage between one man and one woman. Waters could have easily used her age and upbringing as a reason to not, but she offered a different perspective: to learn.

Burrell should do the same.


Stephen A. Smith

Outspoken ESPN anchor Stephen A. Smith often reminds me of a broken clock because he’ll be right at least twice a day, but when he’s wrong, he is wrong.

There are small moments I find myself agreeing with Smith as in the case he makes against Trump. For example, during the onset of the #TakeAKnee movement and protests during the national anthem, Smith warned the NFL that Trump had started to dominate messaging.

“In the end, what it really, really comes down to is the president has successfully hijacked this issue, Smith said. “He’s turned it into an issue about patriotism and beyond.”

Smith was sadly right. But just as broken clocks usually go, the next few hours we found ourselves realizing that being right wasn’t that consistent.

Last week, on his radio show, Smith argued that the Cavaliers player wearing a hood while on the bench during the season opener against the Boston Celtics was inappropriate. “You’ve got a lot of those white folks in the audience that are going to think this is Trayvon Martin being revisited… The bench is no place for someone to be wearing hoodies,” Smith responded.

Smith’s comments about Black basketball players and images of Martin, who was killed at 17 years old, is a reminder to not care about what white people think. The hoodies are not now (and never have been) the problem. The problem is the criminality attached to Black people’s bodies regardless of wearing a hoodie.

Perhaps Smith can learn something from Waters.

When Martin was killed by bigoted self-appointed neighborhood watch leader George Zimmerman, she immediately called it a hate crime and didn’t make it about Black people wearing hoodies but about a Black child being murdered in the street.

Let’s us also not forget the time he blamed survivors for their own domestic assault. Do better.


Charles Barkley

In “Charles Barkley is a Great Example of a Black White Supremacist”, writer Michael Harriot wrote a scathing critique of the basketball player turned pundit. He correctly writes, “[M]ost independent thinkers sometimes have legitimate disagreements with the accepted opinions of black America, but black white supremacists never find fault with white America, which means that everything ailing black people is black people’s fault.”  This is the epitome of any statement you will ever hear of Barkley.

Barkley is the type of Black person that will blame anything on Black people being lazy: Don’t have a job? Lazy! Don’t have any food to eat? Lazy! Can’t afford a college education? Really lazy!

Despite Black conservatives like Barkley exclaiming the age-old expression, “Black people are not a monolith,” which is true and often used to escape accountability for being terrible, anything and everything is the fault of Black people. According to people like Barkley, racism is a thing of the past and doesn’t exist anymore.

In 2014, Barkley once said, “There are a lot of black people who are unintelligent, who don’t have success. It’s best to knock a successful black person down because they’re intelligent, they speak well, they do well in school, and they’re successful.” Listen, we’ve all been in situations where it may appear that another Black person is “hating” on us; not only is this not exclusive to the Black community, it also doesn’t call into question how oppression forces the success of one Black person at a time. To Barkley, that is not a reality, or at least not one he is willing to accept – to make it easier, just blame us.

Barkley may want to interrogate why this is his personal struggle, then ask Waters for help because he is in desperate need of a makeover – one that won’t blame Black people for systematic oppression that impacts all of us albeit differently.  


Tina Campbell

Tina Campbell – the obvious worst half of Grammy Award-winning gospel duo “Mary Mary” – isn’t having the best year of her life after revealing that she voted for Donald Trump last November. In an open letter she posted to Facebook encouraging people to “pray for” then-President-elect Donald Trump, Campbell explained why she (hesitantly) supported Trump.

“I was faced with two presidential candidates that I really did not approve of,” Campbell explains. “And so I had to find something, a commonality with one of them, that would make me feel like if I have to vote, I should utilize my right to vote. Since I don’t prefer either of them, what can I find that would make me vote? And some of Donald Trump’s views on Christianity, honestly, is what caused me to vote for him.”

Yes, you read that correctly: Campbell defended supporting her president because of her Christian values. What God does she serve?

Just last year, tapes were revealed of Trump happily discussing his objectification of women.

“I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything,” Trump elaborated. “Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything,” he continued.

This is the president whose Christian values she’s supporting. A person who has been accused of sexual harassment? A person who had admitted taking advantage of women by physically assaulting them? A person who irrationally tweets every five minutes? A person who bullies marginalized communities? Our God must be very different.

First, Campbell could have kept who she voted for to herself. But because she had to write an open letter about who she voted for and he happened to be a racist, sexist, vitriol, bully of a president, then now she had to deal with the consequences, like having to cancel a tour because of poor ticket sales.

Campbell can “go get, go get, go get, go get. go get” … up out our faces until she consults Waters on how to suck less at life.


Steve Harvey

Oversized suits. Saying “arthur” (read: author) when he’s describing his own writing. Writing books about women keeping a man despite his multiple divorces. Tanked television ratings. Misogyny covered in laughter. This is none other than Trump-loving, Steve Harvey.

In September, Harvey met with Trump and even chatted with Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, to discuss issues within the “urban” community. After receiving backlash on social media, he defended his position, arguing that it was important for him to meet with conservatives because they are now in power. The Black community – and apparently the rest of America – did not agree.

Originally doing well with his TV ratings, The Daily Mail reported that after Harvey’s visit with Trump, his ratings began to tank. I’m not the greatest at arithmetic but I do understand correlation; and I know that when Black people are frustrated, we know how to galvanize.

Chrisette Michele decided to sing at Trump’s inauguration and she was dropped from her record label. Harvey is also experiencing a devastating blow. Was it worth it?

NBC’s Steve Harvey Show consistently had a 2.2 in the ratings. His new show, Steve, had a 1.8 share, and he consistently loses to the likes of Wendy Williams and Rachael Ray. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if he rated lower than repeated episodes of Maury. How many more times can we watch about a man who may or may not be the father of a child? A lot, apparently.

Of course now he wants to change his image but it’s likely too little, too late. Black people remember when we were sold under a river and once that happens, it’s hard to let you back on that boat. If he’s lucky, we may let him borrow a flotation device. This is what happens when a person lets white supremacy trump (pun intended) their own community.

Maybe Harvey can give Waters a call, but even she may give him a notorious side-eye because she knows he has no credibility.


I love all Black people —but loving them doesn’t mean they must stick around, nor does it mean that we shouldn’t critique and hold them accountable for their tomfoolery.

For them to be taken more seriously –to be bold and audacious in ways that won’t negatively impact the lives of the marginalized Black people– it’s time for them to undergo an extreme makeover: Maxine Waters style!  

Preston Mitchum is a Washington, DC-based writer, activist, and policy nerd. He is a regular contributor with theGrio and has written for the Atlantic, Slate, Think Progress, OUT Magazine,, The Root and Huffington Post. Follow him on Twitter here to see just how much he appreciates intersectionality.