Last night Women In Entertainment Empowerment Network held it’s Project REALism summit at the Helen Mills Theater in NYC. The interactive summit was hosted by Amanda Seales with panelists that included WEEN co-founders Valeisha Butterfield, Kristi Henderson, and Sabrina Thompson, as well as former “Love & Hip Hop New York” reality stars Emily B., Mashonda, Somaya Reece, and Yandy Smith, “Empire Girls” Adrienne Bailon, “Hollywood Exes” Andrea Kelly, and former “Basketball Wives Miami’s” Meeka Claxton. The panel was comprised of reality stars who have made an effort to be mindful of the image they project on television (including refraining from getting “physical” on their respective reality shows).
The event opened up with a viewing of actress Tatyana Ali’s controversial “Mona O’Neal” reality TV spoof that went viral a couple months back, followed by a discussion of the impact reality TV has on young women and the way women of color are being portrayed on the small screen. Each panelist spoke candidly about her decision to get into reality TV as well as her experience taping, and it was an incredibly insightful, and at times shocking, look at their behind-the-scenes experiences. Enjoy a few flicks from the pink carpet and I also got some really great video footage that I’ll have uploaded later this week.
Valencia Butterfield was super gorge in the Mcq by Alexander McQueen Stretch Knit Dress. The hot pink braided knit dress features short raglan sleeves, contrast intarsia patterns that create trompe l’oeil cables, and a form fitting silhouette. She styled the dress with nude and black peep toe pumps and Yves Saint Laurent’s YSL Large Patent Leather Clutch in fuchsia. Valencia talked openly about her own experience working in the entertainment industry for the past 10 years, how she was invited to join “Basketball Wives Miami” shortly after wedding her NBA husband Dahntay Jones, and why she turned down their very lucrative offer!
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New mommy Yandy Smith, who looked amazing and svelte in the T by Alexander Wang Neoprene Inverted Pleat Dress and pink Walter Steiger Swirl Platform Sandals, addressed how she feels the decision to cut a fool on a reality show is a personal choice. The cameras can’t make you punch someone in the face, throw a drink, or stomp someone to the ground. So although the situations are at times “scripted,” the behaviors we see are a reflection of who you are. She recommended that reality stars make better choices and be mindful that, whether you like it or not, your mother, your sister, your grandmother, your friends, and everyone is watching and you’ll have to be accountable to them once taping ends.
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Adrienne Bailon stayed true to her usual fun and flirty style in Opening Ceremony’s Ruffled T-Shirt Dress in rust and black and a pair of black Giuseppe Zanotti Booties. She agreed to do “Empire Girls” partly because she didn’t like the way she was depicted on her few appearances as Rob’s girlfriend on “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” It was important to her that her fans know that she is a “real” person who came from humble beginnings (i.e., the projects in NYC), rather than a rich “Hollywood” family. Moreover, she wanted a positive platform to showcase the interesting, challenging, and at times silly situations she gets into with her BFF Julissa Bermudez while pursuing her solo singing career dreams.
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Andrea Kelly, who was just as pretty and petite as she wanted to be, firmly stated that, whether you like it or not, once you sign up for that reality show you are a role model, and reminded her fellow reality stars to be mindful of the responsibilities that come with that. Preach, Andrea! She even gave us a “Baby Hair, Don’t Care” quip! Cute!
Friend to the blog, Emily Bustamante, divulged that she agreed to do “Love & Hip Hop New York” at a point in her life where she was going through her own personal issues, and realized that it played out on the camera in a way that caused people to judge her. While she has no regrets about her candor and the vulnerability that she displayed on Seasons 1 and 2, she revealed that she chose to step away from the show because she didn’t really like how VH1 attempted to heighten her personal conflicts by introducing new characters and story lines to the show that would stir up even more drama. With that said, Emily is really excited about the premiere of “Chrissy & Mr. Jones,” as it will show another side of her that she feels is a more accurate depiction of who she really is – when not surrounded by manufactured drama and artificial situations that would cause anyone to act out.
Emily was pretty in a semi-sheer lime green blouse that she paired with a black pencil skirt and Moschino belt, Celine Boston Bag, and taupe Giuseppe Zanotti Platform Bow Sandals. I just love the neon trend and hope it continues to go strong this season. Emily’s earrings are Rich Girlz’ silver and gold Spike Hoop Earrings [last spotted here].
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Meeka Claxton finally had the opportunity to share her side of her brief, but controversial, stint on the third season of “Basketball Wives.” She revealed that she was previously friends with producer Shaunie O’Neal and how she agreed to do the show after she was told that “Vh1 was looking to create a more positive storyline” that would add balance to the existing drama. Meeka was excited because the cameras spent a lot of time in her home while she interacted with her NBA husband Speedy Claxton and children, as well as taped her while she did charity and work for her own business. She stated that she was completely shocked once the season aired and she saw how the producers had edited the footage. There was no mention or video coverage of the other side of her and, essentially, she felt bamboozled. To this day Meeka continues to face criticism and hate from “fans” of the show who believe the caricature that VH1 painted of her. The audience sat open-mouthed while Meeka spilled the tea! Interesting…
Somaya Reece, who rocked a pretty a little blue wrap dress, felt that she was targeted somewhat unfairly by a few of her cast-mates in the first season of the show, and she acknowledges that she was involved in more conflict than she would have liked that season. With her focus and priority being on her music, she made a conscious effort to present herself differently in the second season. She then addressed her absence from the show toward the end of the last season, and alluded to the fact that “positive,” drama-free story lines often don’t get a lot of air time…
There was nothing but sisterhood and positive energy on that stage and in the audience, and I felt encouraged and inspired by the night’s end. Throughout the evening the ladies laughed, cried, and brainstormed ways to create more balance on reality TV. Thank you to WEEN for extending the invite! “Like” WEEN on Facebook and follow them on Twitter to learn more about how you can get involved in the movement.
Photo Credit: Reality TV Fashion
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