Through iconic scenes and vulnerable story lines, Black women have helped define the genre and its future.

What does reality TV owe Black women?

Holly Hatcher-Frazier will never forget when she walked through the door of her daughter’s dance studio and was greeted by a demand.

“I want her in an Afro,” dance instructor Abby Lee Miller said, pointing at Holly’s 10-year-old, Nia. “Do you have one?”

After sardonically pretending to check her purse for a wig and coming up empty, Frazier absorbed what she was seeing: All the young dancers were dressed in colorful, sparkly costumes, while Nia — the only Black girl — was adorned in leopard print. Nia was usually never assigned solos, but this time she was: a routine to the tune of drag queen Shangela’s “Call Me Laquifa.”

The incident was broadcast on Lifetime’s “Dance Moms,” the hit reality show starring Miller, the tyrannical teacher who ran a Pittsburgh dance studio. Throughout the 2011 episode, Frazier and Miller had several confrontations: Frazier was uncomfortable that her daughter was treated as the “token Black kid,” dressed in a stereotypical costume with a jungle-themed routine. Miller argued that she was giving Nia an advantage because she needed to prepare for future auditions for “ethnic” dancers.

The frustration and hurt may have been heightened by the producer-inspired drama of reality television, but they were real. When the episode aired, Frazier heard from many fans, particularly Black women, who were horrified. But she also encountered dismissiveness from viewers and White moms on the show who thought she was being, as one woman put it, “a little hysterical.”

“People were like ‘You’re just being too sensitive. You ask for your kid to have a solo, she finally got a solo. You’re never satisfied,’ ” Frazier said in an interview. “No, it’s not a life-or-death issue, but it still has a profound effect on a child’s development. … It was the idea that someone else had the power and audacity to tell me this is what Black women — what Black girls — look like.”

The dynamics of the infamous “Laquifa” scene, as it’s known online, have played out since the dawn of reality TV two decades ago. Black women are stereotyped as angry or too sensitive or ill-informed. Then, they’re sidelined and villainized.

But one thing is often overlooked: Reality TV would never have become the billion-dollar industry it is today without Black women. They have appeared as some of the genre’s most iconic stars and are the subject of quotes and memes that fuel Internet culture and social media discourse. They have carried shows with powerful story lines and memorable scenes that expose us as a society, which is the whole point of the “reality” genre.

In interviews with more than a dozen Black women who have starred in some of the most famous reality shows, as well as producers, network executives and casting directors, almost none say they regret opening up their lives and revealing their vulnerabilities to millions of viewers. Shows with predominantly Black casts including “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” “Basketball Wives” and “Love & Hip Hop” have made ensemble shows a thriving subset of the genre as their casts and creators face intense criticism that their White counterparts are often spared. But even with the drama, the fights and the suspiciously edited scenes, reality TV has given many of these women careers, introduced them to romantic partners or helped them achieve financial security — while giving some a platform to make meaningful change.

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There are signs of progress, particularly in the past year and a half, as networks and producers have faced their own culpability. Frazier in particular has received some overdue acknowledgment — even if she has never received an apology from Miller herself. (Lifetime severed ties with Miller at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests last summer after the dance teacher posted in support of the hashtag #BlackoutTuesday campaign, and was accused of hypocrisy by cast members who recalled her making racist comments.) Networks including ABC and We TV did not respond to a request for comment on specific criticism they have received for various story lines and allegations in this article; Lifetime and Bravo declined to comment.

However, Frazier said, “I have seen and heard from a number of people. Like, ‘Wow, I misunderstood you. I get it now. I understand why you were so frustrated. I understand why you were objecting.’ ”

So, after two decades of contributions to the genre and the culture — and an ongoing reckoning around racism in entertainment — it’s time to ask: What does reality TV owe Black women?

Reality TV owes Black women ...

When Eboni K. Williams was approached about joining the 13th season of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of New York” as the first Black cast member, her close friends expressed reservations about her joining the infamously drama-filled franchise. They knew how hard she had worked to establish credibility as an attorney and journalist. But for Williams, the platform and visibility she stood to inherit made it worth the leap.

“I think Black women risk more than anyone else by being on reality TV. I also think Black women potentially stand to gain more than anybody by being on reality TV, depending on how we choose to use our platforms,” Williams said. “Black women are the most misunderstood beings in American society. And I think reality TV, for better or for worse, can be a great opportunity to inform what that looks like.”

One long-standing cultural narrative, often fueled by reality TV, is the “angry Black woman” caricature — one of the earliest and most famous reality TV examples being former Trump administration staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman, who appeared in the first season of “The Apprentice” in 2004. Her role as the villain, one that she has unabashedly leaned into, made her the most famous contestant. “I don’t think that they’ve ever been around a strong African American woman, to be quite frank,” Manigault Newman told the camera after one of many arguments with castmates. “I’m going to fight back.”

This trope has persisted, from shows in the early and mid-aughts such as “Flavor of Love” and “Love & Hip Hop” to “The Bachelorette,” where the show’s first Black lead, Rachel Lindsay, saw her 2017 season finale center on her emotional breakup with the runner-up rather than the happily-ever-after with her now-husband. Just a few months ago, Williams was called “angry” by a castmate in the same “Housewives” scene where co-star Leah McSweeney, who is White, called everyone “hoes” and stormed off after an expletive-ridden tirade.

“She was not deemed as angry,” Williams said. “It really just was a double-down on the double standard of the emotional permission that we give women of color and Black women in particular.”

“I’m pretty cool, calm and collected,” she continued. “Now, I can be emphatic and impassioned and deliberate, but those are very different emotions than ‘angry.’ And when you start defaulting to an angry label to a person of color in particular, it’s an extraction of our humanity and it’s extremely problematic.”

Dominique Cooper, who starred on “Big Brother” in 2017 and was the only Black woman in the house, remembers telling the producers, “ ‘You’re not going to get the kind of response that you’re expecting from me.’ ... I want to explode, but I know that I can’t.”

“I knew that a little girl was going to look up at that TV and say, ‘Oh, my gosh, she looks just like me,’ ” she added. “I just could not find it in my being to perpetuate the unfortunate angry Black woman stigma that you see in reality TV.”

A similar idea is what helped spur J’Tia Hart, a 2014 contestant on CBS’s “Survivor,” into joining with multiple Black alumni last year to push the network for more diversity in front of and behind the camera, leading to the creation of the Soul Survivors Organization. The hugely popular competition show, which debuted in 2000, has long been criticized for its portrayal of Black contestants as lazy, ignorant or angry. Hart is pleased that CBS has started to make changes, such as announcing in November 2020 that their reality shows will now have at least 50 percent of contestants who are Black, Indigenous or people of color.

“Some people have never known a Black person. They really get their information about Black people from TV and film,” Hart said. “If they can do a better job of portraying Black women on TV, then maybe when there’s a traffic stop and it’s a simple infraction, that person won’t have to go in jail and die in custody because they won’t be in custody because maybe they’ll be given the benefit of the doubt.”

“I feel like it was important to push this narrative,” Hart said, “because I felt like it could literally change society.”

Reality TV owes Black women ...

The Season 2 premiere of Bravo’s “Real Housewives of Atlanta” in 2009 featured a tense meeting between socialite Shereé Whitfield and an event planner who was falling short of her expectations. The exchange hit a climax when the event planner urged Whitfield to “watch yourself before you get checked.”

Whitfield smirked and leaned forward: “Who gon’ check me, boo?” she asked, arching her eyebrows above dim, tortoiseshell shades. The phrase instantly fueled memes and merchandise — including several of the best-selling items in Bravo’s online shop.

More than a decade later, Whitfield’s viral quip is considered one of the most memorable moments in the Housewives franchise’s 15-year history. It’s also representative of the harder-to-quantify contributions Black women have made to reality TV since its inception.

Even casual fans recognize the GIFs that keep on giving: Alasia Ballard’s tearful fist pump and host Tyra Banks’s “We were all rooting for you!” on “America’s Next Top Model”; the ecstatic exit Da’Vonne Rogers made from Season 17 of “Big Brother”; the many expressions of Miss Minnie on “Little Women: Atlanta”; NeNe Leakes proclaiming “I said what I said” during a RHOA reunion. More than a decade following her breakout on “Flavor of Love,” Tiffany “New York” Pollard, the de facto villain, reached a new level of fame as social media users began to co-opt her most memorable on-screen reactions.

Of course, the influence Black women have had on reality TV goes beyond viral clips and broadly appropriated catchphrases. In 1993, Tami Roman forged a standout presence on the second season of “The Real World,” which led to several groundbreaking episodes: When a male castmate jokingly ripped a blanket off Roman’s partially nude body, she confronted him, prompting a heated conversation among the roommates about rape culture — and the first expulsion from MTV’s now-iconic series.

In one of the genre’s most intimate moments, Roman also documented her decision to have an abortion. Bunim Murray, the production company behind “Real World,” was hesitant at first. But Roman pushed to tell her story authentically.

“People really were receptive, responsive and appreciative that we decided to cover that,” said Roman, who was cast at age 22. “It was like ‘I’m not alone. I went through this, too. I understand how sad you felt. I understand how traumatic of a decision that was to make.’ ”

“There’s not a moment that I regret doing that,” she added. “Because for the five letters that were like ‘I can’t believe you did this,’ there were 10,000 that were like ‘I’m so happy that you did this.’ ”

However, “I did not know that the genre would blow up so much,” said Roman, who later became part of the Basketball Wives franchise. “If I had, I would have changed my contract and said, ‘I’m one of the pioneers, I’m going to need commission on everything after me.’ ”

Hollywood has pay structures in place to compensate actors when their images are used in reruns or on streaming, but the average reality show is not beholden to those rules. Pay is often inconsistent between stars and series. Cast members earn anywhere from a few thousand dollars an episode if it’s a new show to a seven-figure salary per season if the series becomes a hit. Because no one knew how lucrative “The Real World” would become (or that each episode would one day be available to stream on demand), there was no blueprint for its stars to generate revenue. In essence, Roman said, “everybody is making money except” for her and her castmates. That’s relevant to Internet culture as well — it’s difficult to monetize a GIF.

There are other ways networks could ensure its top talents are reaping the benefits of a successful show, Roman said. “Once a network realizes who is a fan favorite … there should be opportunities afforded to that specific talent in other areas on the network because you recognize that they are an asset to the franchise.”

But after nearly three decades in the industry, Roman says she doubts it will happen. “It would be something that the networks or the production companies would have to just say ‘This is the right thing to do for these people’ and do it.”

Reality TV owes Black women ...

Before “Married to Medicine” aired a single episode, a group of students from Howard University’s medical school urged Bravo to cancel it. “The depiction of Black female doctors in media, on any scale, highly affects the public’s view on the character of all future and current African American female doctors,” the 2013 petition read, stating that the series “heavily associates Black females in medicine with materialism, ‘cat fights,’ and unprofessionalism.” The students also called out the dearth of Black female doctors; eight years later, Black women still account for fewer than 3 percent of physicians in the United States.

LEFT: OB/GYN Jackie Walters during the “Married to Medicine” reunion in 2021. Though Walters had concerns about how she would be portrayed on the show, she’s also received feedback from fans thanking her for highlighting health issues such as fibroids, infertility and breast cancer. (Heidi Gutman/Bravo) RIGHT: “Real Housewives of Potomac” cast members Gizelle Bryant, left, and Wendy Osefo. (Carlos Rodriguesi/Bravo)

Jackie Walters, an OB/GYN in Atlanta, was conflicted herself when she was offered a starring role on the show. She thought it would be fun, but had concerns about how she might be portrayed and what her patients would think about her being on TV. But “I really thought ‘My life is so boring, there is nothing that could be portrayed as anything other than what it is,’ ” Walters said.

The petition controversy highlighted the unique scrutiny that Black women face in reality TV and beyond. Gizelle Bryant says “there’s no question” she and her “Real Housewives of Potomac” co-stars are held to different standards than their White colleagues. “If I decided to pull a Sonja Morgan and pull down my pants and pee wherever I felt like I needed to pee, I think the whole world would stop,” Bryant said, referencing an infamous RHONY moment.

Her castmate Wendy Osefo, who is also a political commentator and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University, sees a double standard in how Black reality stars are perceived in altercations of any kind. After she cursed and yelled during an argument with Bryant in an August episode, Osefo received emails from White viewers calling her a “hoodrat” and “ghetto.” Meanwhile, Teresa Guiduce’s angry table-flip from the first season of the “Real Housewives of New Jersey” is merely considered one of the franchise’s most “iconic” moments.

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Amid criticism about perpetuating racial stereotypes, the discourse surrounding these shows has always included a whiff of respectability politics. Increasingly, Black reality TV innovators have pushed back on the undue pressure to be representatives for their entire race.

“What people have to understand is that Black women and Black people as a whole are not monolithic,” Osefo said. “We come in all shapes, sizes, colors and we also come from different backgrounds. And so, we cannot be expected to be put in a box.”

Some reality stars have been disappointed and discouraged with the way they have been depicted on-screen. In an interview with People a year after she survived a suicide attempt, Tamar Braxton, who has appeared on numerous reality shows, said her concerns about editing and how she was portrayed on We TV’s “Get Ya Life!” and “Braxton Family Values” were “ignored.” The increasingly negative depiction on “Family Values,” a show “about a positive Black family,” she told People, was “when things really started to go downhill for me.”

For Black women who appear on reality shows with mostly White casts, backlash from the public can be even more intense. Despite being the only Black woman in the competition, LaNease Adams didn’t have a bad experience on the first season of “The Bachelor,” where she and inaugural suitor Alex Michel shared the franchise’s very first kiss. But after leaving without a rose, Adams, along with several of her fellow contestants, found herself unequipped to deal with the judgment from strangers.

She was particularly unsettled by racist viewers who raged over the interracial kiss and wrote missives to the effect of: “Who does that Black girl think she is?” Having grown up in Los Angeles, Adams, then 23, says she was “naive” and thought racism was a thing of the past. She became deeply depressed, developed an addiction to anti-anxiety medication a friend had shared with her and failed to show up to a scheduled taping of a “Where Are They Now” special.

Eventually, her concerned mother took her to the hospital, where she began therapy and started prioritizing her mental health.

In the decades since Adams landed on the pioneering dating competition, reality stars have become better at handling — or at least anticipating — unsolicited feedback from strangers. Networks are also taking steps to protect the mental health of reality stars.

But time didn’t inoculate Rachel Lindsay — the first Black Bachelorette and a vocal critic of the Bachelor franchise over its long-standing lack of diversity from the same criticism Adams received. Lindsay took a break from social media and stopped hosting a Bachelor podcast last year after facing racist bullying from fans. The vitriol increased following a tense exchange on “Extra” with longtime franchise host Chris Harrison about a “Bachelor” contestant’s attendance at a 2018 antebellum party.

Harrison announced that he was leaving the franchise in June. A month later, Lindsay alluded to the burden of her efforts to make “The Bachelor” more inclusive. “I’m exhausted from defending myself against a toxic fandom,” she told New York magazine.

Despite the setbacks, appearing on a reality series does provide its stars with a bigger platform. Without “Married to Medicine,” Walters said, “I don’t think I ever would have been afforded an opportunity to spread awareness about women’s health and use my own life as a teaching tool.” She’s received thousands of emails from women thanking her for illuminating health issues such as fibroids, infertility and breast cancer.

Several reality shows are also more candid about race discussions because it comes up naturally for the women on predominantly Black casts, said Salena Rochester, a Bravo/NBC Universal executive. An episode of RHOP saw Osefo and her husband having a frank discussion about police brutality with their young sons following Derek Chauvin’s conviction for George Floyd’s murder. “Married to Medicine,” which is based in Atlanta, began filming its most recent season just weeks after Rayshard Brooks was fatally shot by an Atlanta police officer.

A 2019 episode of RHOP saw the cast particularly emotional after they traveled to Bryant’s hometown of New Orleans and visited the plantation where her ancestors were enslaved.

“That was so powerful, I got so much feedback from that because we aren’t able to tell our story very often — the history of it all,” Bryant said. “I would love to see more Black women just be able to show their stories, their real stories, where they’re from … how they learned how to cook certain things, just more of our culture and what we’re just so proud of.”

RHOA’s Cynthia Bailey, who announced last month that she is leaving the franchise, said Bravo has always been willing to show her various business ventures, a focus that often gets overlooked. “With everything that I’ve tried to do — all the way to my wine cellar, to my pop-up shop last season — it always makes the cut.”

The ability to address more serious topics on popular television such as the Housewives franchise — once referred to as “a minstrel show for women” by Gloria Steinem — is a responsibility not taken lightly, but doesn’t dictate the full breadth and depth of these women’s lives.

“As a woman of color, there is a responsibility that I have to protect the image of Black women and of Black people, as transmitted by the world and I recognize that,” said “Love & Hip Hop” creator Mona Scott-Young on an episode of TV One’s “Uncensored” earlier this year. “But what I also feel as strongly about is that there is a right for every Black person to tell their story.”

Reality TV owes Black women ...

During filming of an episode of “Married to Medicine,” Walters recalled a non-Black producer asking questions about Black sororities and fraternities and what “stepping” — an integral part of Black Greek life — meant. The cast was amused: “We laughed, like, ‘You have no clue.’ ”

“Cultural competency is important,” said Walters, who noted that Bravo has added Black producers and more women to the crew.

Understanding such nuances is just one reason there also has been a push for more Black women behind the scenes as casting directors, producers and network executives.

Melody Murray, a former reality TV producer, was hesitant about signing on to Oxygen’s “Bad Girls Club.” She changed her mind after she found out the season would feature life coaches for the women. She’s well-aware of the criticism that the show — and similar female-centric series such as “Basketball Wives” — has received for featuring so many fights. She’s now a therapist, so she’s also thought a lot about what motivates people, particularly Black women, to join the shows in the first place.

“Black women have seen — I will go so far as to say — more trauma in this country than anybody, outside of Native Americans,” she said. The choice to participate in a reality show is obviously not for everyone, but Murray believes that seeking out that often-chaotic environment is “an interesting way subconsciously to use that fire that’s inside — to be heard.”

“Because these women, in a lot of ways, are speaking on behalf of so many other women who have felt stifled, felt silenced,” Murray said. “This is the way they choose to get it out.”

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Producer Tracey Baker-Simmons remembers the shock from people when she pitched “Being Bobby Brown,” a Bravo reality show in 2005 that followed Brown and his then-wife, singer Whitney Houston. In addition to the public dysfunction surrounding the couple, some couldn’t get over the idea of Houston, a pop icon, appearing in a reality show.

She recalled viewers being surprised when Houston was shown with her hair up in a bandanna, whereas for Baker-Simmons, it was completely natural to see Houston “code switch,” or be a different person at home than she was at work. “To humanize a person, you really do have to have a vision of what that is culturally as well,” she said.

“Not to say that only Black women can tell Black women stories,” she added, “but I do think that it’s important for a voice that is reflective of the subject to be represented in the process. Because oftentimes I feel like we are produced as characters that people see us as, and not who we really are.”

Rochester noted it’s also important on the network side. “I’m a Black woman before I’m a TV executive,” she said. “I think just having that Black point-of-view behind the scenes can help ensure that we are mitigating things that might come off as offensive or culturally insensitive.”

It’s important for those on-camera, too, such as Iris Caldwell on Lifetime’s “Married at First Sight,” in which people literally get married at first sight. Iris’s main story line, which focused on her virginity, received an overwhelming amount of attention.

It helped, she said, to have a “diverse group of people” who were hands-on and higher-ups behind the scenes.

“It was great seeing other Black women in high roles that I was able to say, ‘Oh, you’re amazing for being there,’ ” Caldwell said. “They were like ‘Hey, you got this, we got this. … If you ever need someone to talk to, we’re here.’ ”

Michelle Rice, president of TV One, which targets an African American audience, said the conversations at other networks are more all-encompassing than they have been in the past.

“It’s not just about putting a Black movie here, having a Black TV show here,” she said. “It’s about having Black people in production and programing roles that have true green-light power to make sure that we’re putting things on the air that are true, authentic and quality representations of all people of color.”

Progress is slow, but many say executives are realizing the importance of having more people of color behind the scenes.

“I think what happened last year affected everybody,” said Jacqui Pitman, a casting director who created Bravo’s 2018 series “To Rome For Love,” about five Black women who go to Italy to find romance. “I can’t tell you how many phone calls and emails I got from top executives at networks who said, ‘We want to do better, we’re going to do better.’ And so all I can trust is they will.”

Reality TV owes Black women ...

Last year, as protests over racial injustice flared across the country, fans of the Bravo reality show “Vanderpump Rules” called out performative Black Lives Matter posts from its cast members. Faith Stowers, who used to be on the show, addressed the issue in an Instagram Live discussion that June, telling MTV reality star Candace Rice, “I know some of them, and I know they definitely don’t care about Black people like that.”

During that conversation, Stowers shared that two of her former castmates, Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute, had once falsely reported her for a crime. Schroeder herself told the story on a 2018 podcast, laughing as she recalled calling the police on Stowers after seeing a tabloid story about a robber they said looked like her. The only thing Stowers had in common with the unidentified woman was that they were both Black.

Schroeder and Doute faced no consequences for the incident until Stowers raised it. Following public outrage, Bravo fired Schroeder and Doute days later. Scenarios like this unfolded at institutions across the country last year as prominent figures were held to account for racist behavior.

But for Stowers, who joined “Vanderpump” in its fourth season, the reckoning her co-stars faced was a long time coming. Her presence on the mostly White show had been peripheral at best, and even after it was revealed that a prominent castmember cheated on his girlfriend with Stowers — drama that fueled story lines for the better part of Season 6 — she only appeared in two episodes.

“I wasn’t given the chance to really tell my side of the story” after being villainized on the series, Stowers said in an interview. She balked at an invitation to clarify things on the show because, she said, the network refused to pay her for the appearance. When she attempted to tell her story in an interview with “Entertainment Tonight,” Stowers says she received an email from Bravo’s parent company, NBCUniversal, warning her that doing such an interview was a violation of her contract. (Bravo declined to comment on Stowers’s claims.)

Stowers said she did not hear from the network or Lisa Vanderpump, who is also an executive producer of the eponymous series, after Schroeder’s podcast confession resurfaced. “I felt slighted,” she said, especially after Vanderpump and executive producer Andy Cohen suggested, in separate interviews, that they had second thoughts about the network’s decision to fire Schroeder and Doute.

“Honestly, I expected a little more from them,” Stowers said.

When Leakes, an original RHOA cast member, announced last fall she was leaving the series after 12 seasons, Cohen called her “an icon of the genre” and a “gif and catchphrase machine.” But Leakes hinted at discord with Bravo in her own statement about her departure, saying she had endured an “extremely long, exhausting, tiring, emotional negotiation” with the network. While she was asked to return, she “did not think it was a fair offer,” she told “Entertainment Tonight.”

RHOA, the third entry in the Housewives franchise and the first with a predominantly Black cast, was Bravo’s highest-rated series for years, and Leakes quickly became one of the network’s marquee personalities. In the months after she left, however, Leakes strongly criticized the network, calling Cohen “racist” in multiple social media posts and urging her followers to “Boycott Bravo.” In one particularly scathing YouTube video, she told Cohen to “remember, no one knew you until you knew me.”

Leakes, who did not respond to requests for an interview, has alluded to wanting more creative control, spinoff opportunities and better compensation. In an Instagram Live exchange with civil rights attorney Ben Crump, she noted that her RHOA success paved the way for other Black ensemble reality shows. She also touted a fan-started petition that urged viewers to boycott Bravo over “the unfair and biased treatment they have displayed towards their African American talent.” (The petition also references “Married to Medicine” creator and former cast member Mariah Huq, who said on social media last year that she had not received a contract for the show’s eighth season. Huq reportedly filed a lawsuit against the network, according to an exclusive report in January by entertainment website All About the Tea. Emails to Huq’s representative and her attorney went unanswered, and Bravo declined to comment on Huq’s allegations.)

Sharing the petition, Leakes told Crump, was a way “to take a seat at the table and have a conversation with Bravo.”

Stowers said Leakes was one of the many people she heard from amid the “Vanderpump” controversy. “I got so many emails and DMs from people that are being discriminated against at their workplace.” And it’s those types of issues, she said, that reality TV networks should be spotlighting through their diverse talent. “It doesn’t take much to add a castmate to the show. It’s about highlighting issues … that deal with diversity, and people being held back because of the color of their skin.”

Reality TV owes Black women ...

Ten years after the “LaQuifa” incident, Holly Hatcher-Frazier still thinks about how frustrating it was. But there were some silver linings: She and Nia have a great relationship with Shangela, the drag queen who sang the song, and one of the judges who was at that competition became one of Nia’s closest mentors. “So there are some positives that have come from that,” Frazier said. “And I think that’s just the way that we try to live our lives.”

Frazier, along with everyone else interviewed, hopes other Black women who have opened themselves up on TV in the same way get everything they are owed: financial support, emotional support, recognition for their game-changing impact on the genre.

Really, Black women are owed everything.

“I salute them because I just know the work that it takes to do that. The vulnerability, the willingness to put yourself out there, to be scrutinized by other people and to let people into your world and into your home and into your lives,” Frazier said.

“It takes a person who has a lot of courage and a person who is willing to show the world their experiences, and I love that there’s not just one,” she added. “I love that there’s diversity among the lives and experiences and the narratives of Black women and reality TV.”

About this story

Illustrations by Uli Knörzer for The Washington Post. Photo editing by Moira Haney and Annaliese Nurnberg. Videos by Allie Caren, Amber Ferguson and Nicki DeMarco. Editing by Caitlin Moore. Copy editing by Briana R. Ellison. Development by Leo Dominguez. Design and art direction by Eddie Alvarez.

Bethonie Butler writes about television and pop culture for The Washington Post. She joined The Post in 2010 as a member of the social media team.
Emily Yahr is an entertainment reporter for The Washington Post. She joined The Post in 2008 and has previously written for the Boston Globe, USA Today, the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader and the American Journalism Review.