Why One Atlantan Hates ‘Love & Hip Hop ATL’

Will the real black people of Atlanta please stand up and stop 'Love & Hip Hop'?

Author and Atlanta native, Kelly Smith-Beaty

If you’d like to make a reality show about prominent housewives, I’d suggest doing a retrospective on the wife of Alonzo Herndon- a former slave turned businessman who went on to found the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, became the city’s largest black property owner by 1900, and made history as Atlanta’s first black millionaire.  His first wife’s name was Adrienne Herndon and she was a teacher at Atlanta University.  I’m no screen writer, but it seems to me that being the wife of a “new negro” in a post slavery south would be wrought with drama and ratings drivers.

Looking for something more current? Sure. How about doing a docu-series on the Russell wives? We could call it “Love and Hard Hats.” Herman J. Russell successfully built one of the nation’s most profitable minority-owned business empires whose construction and real estate projects include the famed Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the Georgia Dome, Phillips Arena, and Turner Field. Lovette Twyman Russell, wife of the company’s current CEO, Michael Russell, is  stylish, sassy, and savvy. I’ve never met her, but I’d bet she’s brimming with reality-worthy one-liners and sound bites.

If music shows are more your speed, I’d think that the hometown of LaFace Records, the 1989 music start-up that led Atlanta to be dubbed the “New Motown” and gave the world such iconic acts as Outkast, Toni Braxton, Usher, TLC, Goodie Mob, and Pink would be overrun with stories about making it in hip hop without cringe worthy commentary about feminine hygiene product usage and an entire cast of beautiful, distressed women fighting to stay in relationships with disinterested men.

I’m not going to digress into a history lesson on the great African-Americans that call Atlanta home—although I could easily do so since we boast such historically significant and societal shifting institutions as the nation’s largest consortium of African-Americans in higher education- the Atlanta University Center, Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Apex Museum, Atlanta Daily World- the oldest African-American daily newspaper still in circulation, and the Sweet Auburn Historic District- the incubator for early black entrepreneurship and the southern hotspot for the likes of Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington.

My point is only that the city that has had an uninterrupted succession of black mayors since 1974, beginning with the first black mayor of a major southern city, Maynard Jackson, to present mayor Kasim Reed, and the city that birthed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and gave rise to the likes of W.E.B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, baseball great Hank Aaron and modern day mogul Tyler Perry doesn’t have to settle for being the butt of any reality franchise’s humiliating and reputation-damaging joke.

Our REALITY is progressive, proud, prestigious, and prominent. No, it is not squeaky clean, but it is not an eye sore in the American tapestry either. We as Atlantans, black Atlantans, the Real Black People of Atlanta, whether we currently reside there or benefitted from its nurturing for only finite periods of our lives, should no longer sit by and allow our city’s rich legacy—our race’s rich legacy—to be marred in the name of discount entertainment.

The Website of the National Registry says it best: “the story of the largest southern city can be told through the experiences of its largest ethnic minority.” What do the stories in these new crop of so-called reality shows tell our children, our nation, the world about us?

That Georgia peach that appears at the end of these shows is rotten. It is time that we come together to throw it out. Exactly how we go about that task remains unclear but if there is anything that our legacy teaches us it is that we truly can accomplish anything.

Kelly Smith Beaty is a proud Atlantan, currently working and residing in New York but a regular in Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Kelly loves Spelman College, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, and Home Depot, in addition to metro-Atlanta as a whole. A contestant on season 10 of “The Apprentice” and a former reality TV junkie, Kelly is becoming increasingly frustrated by the negative images of people, women and minorities in particular, perpetuated in reality TV.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=505962096 Alisha L. Gordon

    Ms. Beaty just schooled us all! THANK YOU for this great write up on my great city!

  • Msbyb4life

    I also watched appalled, we have to be better! Very well written!

  • Nicole Parker

    Great article!!! I could not have stated it better myself! Please keep me posted on what the next steps are to portraying Atlanta and African-Americans more positively!! Thank you!!

  • Cedric in Oakland

    This is a good start, but why stop with Atlanta? This entire genre of “black b*tch” shows (including scripted shows like “The Game”) are – at best – in poor taste and continue to portray black women mean-spirited, conniving, violent, vain, and vapid. Enough!

    Of course someone will make the counterargument that we don’t have to watch if we don’t like it or these women choose to participate in these spectacles and are handsomely paid for it. Neither of those is an excuse for allowing black women’s collective reputations to get beaten up. If your mom, sister or daughter were on one of these shows, would you have the same excuses?? Enough. Where do I sign up for further action?

    • Who’s really at fault?

      :-s I really hate to tell you this but that’s how a lot of black women are and that’s why they are portrayed like that on television. Instead change from a television network looking to make money, why not demand change from your peers?

      • Atypical Typical Black Woman

        I know not one single Black woman who behaves in the manner in which “reality stars” do. Perhaps YOU need to look at the company YOU keep instead of stereotyping all Bkack women. The Black women you know that “all” behave inappropriately are a reflection of you.

        • Who’s really at fault?

          Aaaand you just proved my point.
          I never said all black women. When did I say that? Never. I also never said they were women with whom I am friends with. But immediately you take offense, get an attitude and put words in my mouth.
          Don’t get mad at me that there are people out there you feel give you a bad name  It’s not my fault. Just because you don’t act that way doesn’t mean there aren’t women who do. And obviously there are or this network would have nothing to film!

          • Oh boy!

            Yes you did not say all however when you say “a lot” that implies more than average. I, like you, don’t know every single black woman, but of all the ones that I do know none of them act like that. And regardless of the true number/percentage of Black women that act like that it is still WRONG! You ask who’s really at fault? That really doesn’t matter because we could play the blame game all the day long. The real question is how do we change so that the most important people, the Black young girls and teenages, don’t  aspire to only be a hip hoppers side piece, baby mama, or ex-wife. Regarless of who’s at fault, we ALL have to do a bit better and even though there are other shows that aren’t that great THIS ONE RIGHT HERE is totally unacceptable.

        • D. Rose in the paint

          I KNOW TONS of black women who act like the women portrayed on television, and I dont need to change the “company I keep” because I dont even hang out with them…but I have to work with them day in, and day out in my office! And I see the reality show type of drama and BS all the time, and sometimes worse. So you can cut the crap!

          • kesh

            I agree, everyone knows somebody that acts like the women on that show! Its not even a matter of the company you keep, its just a mater of being a member of society and interacting with people! Your bound to meet someone like those women

  • Sheriff of Ratchet-town

    Ratchet behavior will no longer be tolerated. Please look up Tommy Sotomayor on youtube as he is an ally (look past his schock jock style). Also, his website is http://www.yourworldmyviews.net

  • Guest who is embarrassed

    Thankful for this article…coming from a TRUE Atlantan….is there some kind of way that this article can be shown to the fools at VH1 who keep insulting minorities, women, etc.?

  • Gene Folkes

    Kelly, Great Article of course!!! 
    An industry that isn’t concerned with proper portrayals of minorities that will do anything to increase ratings isn’t going to receive continual support. While I have not viewed this program nor am I a viewer of reality television in general, I know YOU and your assessment is of course spot on. What I do know, is what I experienced at the hands of unscrupulous network programming, misrepresentation regarding the truth and being affiliated with someone lacking integrity, ethics and plain ol’ common sense.
    Black Atlantans have long been proud of bucking stereotypes, focusing on education and creating opportunities. I chose to be educated in Atlanta because of the rich culture, intense educational institutions, history and seeing african-americans strive for perfection and being proud of who they are without apology. What seems to be a simple reality program is in essence a less than subtle attack on the historic accomplishments, sacrifices and future opportunities of not just blacks in Atlanta, but for black everywhere. We have to control our image and guard it just like our forefathers did. 

  • http://www.kafiahaile.com/ Kafia Haile

    Thank you, Kelly, for your insightful article. I’m disturbed when non-natives believe Atlantans are as materialistic and mean-spirited as they appear to be on reality television. The Atlanta I know is full of friendly and talented people with a sense of pride about our history. I sincerely wish producers of these shows would consider the impact of their work on more than just their wallets. 

  • Yes Ma’am to you!

    The Cosby’s filmed in Atlanta at Stillman/Spelman and the many things that were reputable and posititve which drew me to Atlanta in the late 80′s seem to be overshadowed by negative portrayals as of late. This article is soooo on point.  From Basketball Wives, Real or not so Housewives, and Single and Desparate….whatever…. African Americans and Atlanta were paramount to Civil Rights, Dr. King and Coretta legacy and more!  I agree with the article that the creativity has waned, and the media is exploiting a generation and giving the Gem of the South such negative publicity. Reminds me of some attention is better than none at all.  Currently living abroad, I ran into a fellow American who referred to me as “Shawty” when I said I was from Atlanta.  I corrected him with “Ma’am” will be just  fine! ;-)

  • Jae Coley

    we as black people need to stand against foolery like this and get shows like this off the air

  • Evitab24

    Very well-written article! As a proud Atlantan, I’m glad someone finally had the courage to stand up for our city.

  • http://twitter.com/SocialHenry Henry

    We are all being manipulated for the sake of profit and ratings.  The fabricated situations, pre-scripted drama and over-the-top shenanigans are misleading.  This type of reality TV induces behavior that usually ends with a criminal conviction. 

  • Teivajohnson

    Great Article

  • Disgusted

    I was so angered and disappointed by what I saw.  I couldn’t put it into words the disdain I have for these reality shows in Atlanta.  This article does exactly that.

  • Shatae

    Great article!

  • Shatae

    Great article!

  • Shatae

    Great article!

  • darrell hines

    This article says it all, we must demand more respect from these shows. Not all black folks in Atlanta live drama filled lives! They need to take that crapp off the air and replace it with a reality show that has class! lets boycott this mess by not tunning in! Thanks for the positive article sister.

  • Darrell Brown

    The Seven Deadly Sins are wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. It really hurts to see that broadcast to the world.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=636831487 Anthony Garrett

    Thank you SO much for this article. I’ve been saying for a long time that we need to stop applauding these shuck and jive coonery tv shows.

  • Superbran

    This show is just a visual representation of all the BS dope boy/strip club music they play on V103 and Hot107.9 all day. We can sing the songs and watch the videos…but we also need to see what happens when the strip club lights turn on, the music stops, and the real reality of what we are doing to ourselves sets in.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=8210721 Joy Kamille

    Knowledge dropped!!! I appreciate the history lesson.

  • Quentin

    great article!

  • Young P

    Atlanta is a nice place to live, but it does have things that’s sweep under the rug, so for a negative reality show like Love N Hip Hop, it shows Atlanta as “reality” and not just something that is labeling atlanta, rappers can say call it “Magic City” because of the strippers but, if you read a book and learn the history, you know it has a history, rappers aren’t tour guides so i shouldn’t expect my friends to think thet are, lol

  • Young P

    alot of typos lol

  • kesh

    I appreciate and applaud all you had to say. Black woman are being displayed in negative lights that are deemed glamorous and accepting by society. However, due to black women accepting the stereotype we sometimes cannot be mad. Its a sad situation

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=813520494 DeAndre Jones

    I’ve decided not to support shows like this. I’m so sick and tired of Hip Hop making black people look bad…YEAH I SAID IT! I dont see that much positivity coming from hip hop anymore. It makes black women look like a piece of meat, simple and very one sided and our boys uneducated and uncivilized. Back in the 90′s I remember people mentioning that ATL was a nice place for young black professionals. Morehouse, Spelman, Clark, Morris brown, the MLK center all of that. Now its basically recognized by its gay men population wearing heels and how coonish and hood the black folks are. I am not trying to us on tv where we are living up to negative stereotypes people see in us. Sorry Love and Hip Hop, you won’t be getting my ratings on WHATEVER night you come on.

  • Nina

    If you dislike it so much then why watch? Why not try and bring positive images on tv? Start a mentor group in which we can show our young girsl that this is not real life!

  • @natural_luv

    Kelly you did this article!!! I couldn’t have said it better. I am what you call an imported peach. I am an Atlantan by way of Antigua and Barbuda. I have grown to love this beautiful city that i have called home for over a decade. I have not seen this show nor do i plan to, but I have heard my co-workers talk about it in disgust because it seems that the show has set African Americans back hundreds of years. I am not sure why our society soaks up things like this, oh wait yes i do! They call it “entertainment”. Those are the same people who are saying its the “white man” who’s trying to bring us down when in all actuality its US!!! Our African American society is so focused on the new shoes, new car, new this and that. How about picking up a book and learn something that can bring some worth to your life. it seems like African American always willing to pimp themselves out for a little fame! Don’t pimp yourself out to get your 15 minutes of fame especially when that “fame” you are seeking comes with a heffy price. Its time for these reality shows creators to find another meal ticket! **exits stage left*
    Thank you for this article! It’s a must read and share!

  • Redd

    The point isn’t to paint a beautiful image of any city (i.e. Real Housewives of NY, OC, NJ, etc.), Mob Wives, Jerseylicious, Big Rich Texas, etc.). The people accepting these checks aren’t anybody of true status in these cities. If they were they wouldn’t be on TV. People with money don’t flaunt it in tacky ways.