We all watch it. Even if you say you donâ€™t, you probably do (admit it). Itâ€™s really kind of hard notÂ to watch. Though many of us may turn our noses up at the drama, the scandal, and the outlandishness that is reality television, you canâ€™t really deny that despite, and perhaps even because of, all of these things, reality television is wildly entertaining.
What happens when you arenâ€™t the entertained viewer, but youâ€™re instead the entertaining subject? BlackEnterprise.com caught up with one of those subjects, entrepreneur, hairstylist, business coach, and star of WE tvâ€™s Cutting It in the ATL, Maja Sly, to find out if the experience is all that itâ€™s cracked up to be. Check it out.
BE: Howâ€™s reality television going?
Sly: I hate the process. Itâ€™s not a fun process at all. Itâ€™s not glamorous. You donâ€™t just show up while weâ€™re having lunch and drinking; and thatâ€™s what I initially thought. No, it is a job. I shoot a lot, because my story has a lot of layers and a lot of content. You have to know who you are before you go on that television screen, because it is completely different than what you signed up for.
BE: How has the reality show helped your business?
Sly:Â I have to pimp myself on television to sell hair, because itâ€™s a platform. My business has benefited in a way that I couldnâ€™t have paid for. What television does for you is put you in someoneâ€™s living room, and they feel like they get to know you. I could have purchased every billboard in Times Square and not do what one episode did for my business. When I went on television, I did it for a specific reason; not to be a celebrityâ€”I wanted to use the platform for what it was worth. When Iâ€™m on screen, I get to talk about myself, my brand, my business.
BE: What was your initial expectation in doing a show, given the drama surrounding many other reality shows currently airing?
Sly:Â I talked to my attorney, and she said they could put things in my contract that stated that if things go a certain way, then I didnâ€™t have to film. I said, “If I do this, Iâ€™m going to do it my way, and Iâ€™m going to be the change I want to see.”
I was clear with production, when I sat down with them. I said, “I know you think every black girl just wants to be on TV, and I know you think every black girl will do anything for the camera, but if I tell you I will not do something, Iâ€™m not doing it.”Â We have that right. We are not slaves. We are paid, per episode, to show up and film. If I show up and I donâ€™t like the situation, I leave.
If you want to do reality television, just know who you are before you do it. Set the expectation and the boundaries and donâ€™t get caught up in the silly stuff.
BE: What has been your biggest gain from reality television?
Sly:Â I grew my business on television. I opened my online store four months before the show came on, so I was able to measure completely by the show. What we sold before in a month, we sell in a day now, and when the show is on, in an hour. Â Iâ€™ve spent six figures a year on marketing, since 1998. Last year, I spent $6000 on marketing and my business grew 700%.
BE: What has been your biggest loss?
Sly:Â My biggest loss is time; the amount of time you spend filming a show takes away from your personal life. For the past 24 months, Iâ€™ve been filming for 18. I have no life. You film a lot, and then when the show comes on, you have to be ready to capitalize off of it. They put you on television, [but] itâ€™s up to you to create the opportunities.
BE: What would you change about being on the show?
Sly:Â If I had it to do over again, I donâ€™t think I would change anything. When I look at it in its totality, you have to take the good with the bad. The double-edged swords are just what they are.
BE: What does the end-game look like for you?
Sly:Â My end-game is to grow my business, Pretty Hair, and our affiliations, so that the business is on auto-pilot. Also, to grow the brand, so I can sell it and do other things that I love to do.
BE: Has it all been worth it to you?
Sly:Â Itâ€™s worth for me, because of the way I went into it. This show, for me, was a God-wink.