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Essay blasting reality shows’ portrayal of black Atlantans goes viral

kelly-smith-beaty-apprentice-224x300Metro Atlanta native Kelly Smith Beaty, herself a former reality show personality, has gone viral with a sharply worded essay skewering how reality shows set in Atlanta portray African Americans.

The piece, titled “Will the Real Black People of Atlanta Please Stand Up?,” has claimed prime real estate on the Huffington Post site. It’s been “liked” more than 4,000 times on Facebook and generated hundreds of comments on Twitter and under the post itself.

An excerpt:

“How is it that a city which was once the crowning jewel in the story of black America has allowed itself to be positioned as the melting pot of black affliction? The Atlanta that I knew and grew up in was one of great pride and self-respect. Our achievements were known across the globe, as people from far and wide would often respond, ‘Wow, I hear that black people are really doing their thing down there,’ when I would tell them I’m from Atlanta. Today that assertion is often met with, ‘Yoooo….I hear Atlanta’s got them bangin’ strip clubs.’…Really?!?”

Without naming shows, she makes thinly veiled references to “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and “Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta.”

“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,” Beaty wrote. “His first wife’s name was Adrienne Herndon and she was a teacher at Atlanta University.”

She also suggested a reality show called “Love and Hard Hats,” noting that “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 Russell would love to meet Kelly Beaty. Photo credit: Jim Fitts

Lovette Russell would love to meet Kelly Beaty. Photo credit: Jim Fitts

Beaty noted that “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.”

Russell told us that she started getting emails about the piece yesterday and had a chance to read it last night.

“Ms. Beaty sharply articulates the way most black Atlantans feel about how these reality shows portray us,” Russell said. “I was incredibly flattered by her remarks but even more impressed that she swiftly put pen to paper after watching such a degrading show. I would LOVE to meet her!”

In 2010, Beaty landed a spot on “The Apprentice.” (Here’s a link to an article my colleague Rodney Ho wrote about her at the time). Although she didn’t win, she said Donald Trump’s business oriented reality show was a good experience.

“Having been on ‘The Apprentice’ makes me interesting to some people so I get to have conversations that I may not have been able to before,” Beaty told the AJC. “I’m thankful for that. My life’s goal was never to be famous, but to be impactful, and slowly that is beginning to happen.”

A Spelman College alumnae who grew up in Fayetteville, Beaty now lives in New York and is vice president for marketing and communications for Dress for Success Worldwide, which provides professional attire and career help to disadvantaged women. She had no idea the response her piece would generate.

“At first it was mostly Atlantans saying, ‘Thank you for standing up for us.’ Now people who don’t even live in Atlanta are reaching out to me,” Beaty told us. “I’m definitely surprised by the response but I was literally just writing my frustrations. Apparently many people agree. Most people value decency, integrity, and pride and I think those who do, based on the responses, are ready to be heard.”

She wrote the piece after being fed up with how reality television portrays her hometown.

“People believe what they see on TV so to put Atlanta’s name on (such shows) is an affront to our city,” she said. “I don’t know what the laws are about usage of Atlanta’s name, but that should be illegal. It’s defamation.”

Beaty said she is working to relaunch a New York-based organization called Black Women for Black Girls, and keeps in touch with friends from home, including the head of an organization called Living Water for Girls, which serves girls who have been sexually abused or exploited.

“Much in this world that needs to changed so many causes that need to be championed,” Beaty said. “It’s a great privilege to help move what matters to me.”

445 comments Add your comment

Clarence Collins

June 21st, 2012
12:49 pm

I totally agree with her comments, it is about time the real Atlantans voice their contempt for being portrayed as hootchies and thugs , we’re about much more than that.

Alvap13

June 21st, 2012
1:11 pm

Thank you so much Ms. Beaty for raeminding the world that some of the so called “real” shows does in no way represent the real people of Atlanta (or any other city) and should be taken as a dysfunctional group of mis-guided people!. I agree with you that out teens need to see Positive, intelligent and informative shows that will guide them and help them be a better person. If those of us that are “real” and really want to make a difference in a young person’s life, would stop watching those trashy shows, perhaps we could encourage our teens to do better. Keep up the good work!

KDAWG

June 21st, 2012
1:20 pm

“If you’d like to make a reality show about prominent housewives, I’d suggest doing a retrospective on the wife of Alonzo Herndon”

Huh??? Hard to make a reality show about someone who is no longer with us… Yes, in “reality”, he’s dead and has been so since 1927.

That being said, I have lived in the A-T-L ALL my life and the portrail of Atlantians, especially within the black and hispanic commuities is pretty accurate. It is a Hip Hop town for all its good and bad. Atlanta celebrates it blackness and African Americans are pretty in your face about it.

Oh and those strip clubs… They are everywhere… Skank and upscale alike!

Proud Atlantan

June 21st, 2012
2:01 pm

@KDAWG: If you read the entire article, you’ll see that she eloquently walks you through generations of African-Americans, including those in the present day, who have made note-worthy contributions to society that could be highlighted on reality TV.

No one is denying that the element being portrayed on these shows exists; it is just disproportionally unrepresentative of the many black professionals that have called Atlanta home over the years. In a town where African-American mayors, media moguls, pop stars, real-estate kingpins, social justice pioneers, doctors, lawyers and engineers reign supreme, it is a shame that the cable networks choose to focus on and glorify the drama-filled lives of former strippers and baby mamas.

Oh and if all you know of are the types of African-Americans/Hispanics currently being portrayed on these shows then maybe you need to broaden your horizons past the strip clubs, open a book/newspaper and expand your social circle. I too have lived here my whole life and don’t know anyone like them.

Fred ™

June 21st, 2012
2:37 pm

Man, the truth hurts doesn’t it Proud Atlantan. You can’t have it both ways……..

Proud Atlantan

June 21st, 2012
2:47 pm

@Fred: I wasn’t trying to have it both ways. Perhaps you should re-read her article and my entry bc you’re missing the point.

SP

June 21st, 2012
2:55 pm

Excellent article. The Atlanta-based reality shows are a disgrace to ALL Atlantans. People, stop watching that crap and they will go away!

snapsbacula

June 21st, 2012
3:24 pm

The way blacks are portrayed in the media merely scratches the surface. Live in Atlanta for an extended time and you will see that it gets much worse than these reality shows portray. Atlanta is full of lowest common denominator people, not just blacks, but they certainly do over-represent themselves on a large scale & it is quite repulsive unless you revel in ignorance.

Judge Smails

June 21st, 2012
3:53 pm

Yeah, and if they had reality shows in the 50s and 60s, the world would have seen the racist, redneck side of Atlanta. Nice, law-abiding citizens of ANY color make for boring TV.

Really?

June 21st, 2012
3:56 pm

The African American community has no one to blame but themselves. I live downtown and every night I get postcards placed on my car (illegally of course) advertising all sorts of “booty shaking” parties at strip clubs with half naked women pictured. And if you were on Marrietta Blvd last weekend and saw the antics of the crowd there for the Hot 107.9 Birthday Bash you would know exactly what I am talking about. No respect for others and no respect for this city.

Say it aint so

June 21st, 2012
3:58 pm

As a native Atlantan and a WHITE MAN, I say GO SISTER GO!. Her essay hit the nail on the head. We should all be ashamed of the RHWOA show and the way it portrays our city. They could not have found six or seven more trashy people (including Kim) to represent our city…..If she wants to march on the network, send me the info and show me where to sign up. Way to go Kelly….good for you!

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Grace

June 21st, 2012
4:02 pm

I agree. Where are the smart, educated, decent acting, well-rounded black people portrayed on TV?

Grace

June 21st, 2012
4:02 pm

We need some!!!!

tom

June 21st, 2012
4:05 pm

I agree with the feelings of this lady. The problem is that TV would not want to provide the examples of black success by the people she mentioned. It would not be watched. Reality TV is about the absurd behavior of the people on the show. They want to paint the people and the town they live in as the worst of the worst. She is in line with Bill Cosby about what is going on in black America. Just in a different way. Go Girl.

kay

June 21st, 2012
4:06 pm

Really?

I live in gwinnett and I saw the crowd after Kenny Chesney Concert, They where church going people either. So stick to the conversation at hand Ms. Beaty point is there are just as many good african american as there is bad!

Nunya Business

June 21st, 2012
4:10 pm

If it weren’t for her racial slant on her comments, I would agree. I’m white and this issue goes beyond color. It’s more than just portraying Atlantans or even blacks in a bad light. Far more. We as a society should be shunning the vast majority of the idiots and losers on reality TV and I don’t care if they’re black, white, red, yellow, plaid, striped or polka-dotted. Color doesn’t have squat to do with it. If we WERE a decent society, these shows wouldn’t get any viewership. The fact that they do is a reflection on our society’s current values…..which are basically none. If we began shunning these freakin’ morons instead of making them millionares (such as with the TOTAL LOSERS on ‘Jersey Shore’ and the like), these shows would stop being made. You can thank the millions of people that watch them for the further decline of our society. Personally, I say ‘boooooo’ to Kelly for only giving a crap because of race.

asd

June 21st, 2012
4:12 pm

If they don’t show blacks complaining about something, or fighting, or shooting someone, how can it be called “reality TV?”

DP

June 21st, 2012
4:16 pm

I’ve never seen “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” but have seen snippets of Bravo’s (what a name for that network that used to present quite a bit of cultural programming) apparently similar trashfests like Orange County and New Jersey and there’s no way the black women on the Atlanta show are any trashier than the white women on those other shows. I don’t know why anybody from Atlanta would take it personally, there are trashy people everywhere.

Native Atlantan

June 21st, 2012
4:18 pm

Its not black women who give blacks a bad name, but all the groups of young black men who do home invasions / robberies/ murders/ kidnappings and are in the news EVERYDAY! There is a clear difference bt the church going God fearing blacks, and the others. Sadly, it seems the others are in the majority. This is why Femicide *murder by partner is the #2 killer of young black women in the US after HIV. No morals, no values, do anything to get $… yup that sounds like a good majority of black men you meet on the street.

who the hell cares?

June 21st, 2012
4:20 pm

i knew someone would have something really stupid to say on this subject. and im talking about you asd.

Nunya Business

June 21st, 2012
4:20 pm

Way to be a dumbass ‘asd’.

Dan-O

June 21st, 2012
4:21 pm

I am also a white man from Atlanta, I travel a lot and sometimes very reluctant and yes even ashamed to say I am from Atlanta. It was not always this way. I am proud of so many of our citizens of all races and their accomplishments. We have a lot to be proud of. To portray Atlanta the way these programs do is doing a major dis-service to our lovely city and state. Those who make these programs, thouse who watch and support them should be ashamed and speak out. .. sad thing is they are not and they just don’t get it.

KP

June 21st, 2012
4:22 pm

I understand her sentiments. I really do. As an African-American woman, I have a slightly differing perspective: if people choose to believe that all [Black] Atlantans act like what a few supposed “representatives” of our city behave like a on scripted reality television show, then that is their issue. I can’t worry myself with their feelings. My job is to represent myself to the best of ability and hopefully, represent my race well also. I love being Black and I embrace it all. Reality TV is not true reality. In addition, there are people in every city who do not do positive things. Nothing to do with the location, that is just people. People will be people. Just do your best to one of the positive ones and influence those who aren’t!

DP

June 21st, 2012
4:23 pm

By the way, if we’re going to progress past racial stereotyping maybe we can agree with an educated, articulate black woman with something other than “You go girl! and “GO SISTER GO!”

BehindEnemyLines

June 21st, 2012
4:28 pm

Just a small correction, no charge : “If you’d like to make a reality show about prominent housewives _that virtually no one would watch_ I’d suggest doing a retrospective on the wife of Alonzo Herndon”

And that’s the bottom line.

Native Atlantan

June 21st, 2012
4:29 pm

I love watching another black reality show based in Atlanta. Its called “Bait Car”.

Willa Boswell

June 21st, 2012
4:30 pm

I am in total agreement with Ms Beaty. All of the reality shows that are being produced are not protraying these individuals (Black or White) in a positive manner. I too am ashamed as to how our people act on these shows. All the differenct housewifes, regardless to what city or state they come from portrays themselves as bafoons. Truly the women are the worst.

Here in Atlanta we have some wonderful and successful people (sitting race aside) that have achieved so much and they are the ones that should have a “reality show.” But instill, the producers go looking for the very worse behaved persons to put before a camera. It’s awful and degrading to anyone that wants to sit in front of a screen and watch. . .I choose not to.

DP

June 21st, 2012
4:31 pm

Native Atlantan, don’t you have a Klan meeting you need to get to?

Impervious Pearl

June 21st, 2012
4:33 pm

Great article, but she must not “really” know Lovette Twyman Russell…cause baby…well, we will just leave that one alone.

Atlantan in Exile

June 21st, 2012
4:35 pm

As an Atlantan-in-exile, I’m glad to see someone finally standing up for the decent citizens of our city. This is long overdue. Someone said Atlanta has trashy people and these reality shows are the tip of the iceberg. Go to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington or any city in New Jersey, and you’ll see trashy people. Atlanta should be the creme de la creme as far as the urban south is concerned.

Not totally related, but still, I’ve also noticed that in other cities which are larger, more advanced and more progressive than Atlanta, the media and the citizens refer to the city as “our city” and not “the city”. The residents of Atlanta need to take ownership of our city and support our city and do things to better our city. Too bad we can’t extricate our city from the cesspool known as Georgia, though.

VV

June 21st, 2012
4:35 pm

Reality TV shows would not project this image if it did not exist. Stop blaming TV for showing the truth and get to work fixing this broken City.

Native Atlantan

June 21st, 2012
4:36 pm

While i believe that white “culture” is clearly superior to black culture, i am not a racist. In fact my girlfriend is a beautiful African American who has given up on black men because shes tired of being beat and controlled. In fact shes the 4th black girl ive known who refuses to date black men. I guess the real question here is, why are the more intelligent black women giving up on black men? And i damn sure believe in white pride. Just like Jessy Jackson believes in black pride.

Corporate Black Men

June 21st, 2012
4:38 pm

I dread every morning walking into work after Basketball Wives plays. My white co workers are like
“this is what you have to put up with everyday”.

otp

June 21st, 2012
4:38 pm

be serious, who would watch a show without any drama? Unfortunately America thrives on other people acting a fool. Reality shows that don’t have any drama won’t be on the air long.

otp

June 21st, 2012
4:40 pm

Native, white men don’t beat there women, your girlfriend is just trying to justify what shes doing.

pb

June 21st, 2012
4:42 pm

When someone expresses a negative statement about black people, like “Native Atlantan”, it doesn’t mean it is true. But there is usually some truth there, or it wouldn’t continue to be seen as a stereotype.. And everyone that says such things is not a Klan member or a bigot. But I agree with what Ms Beaty says. Some disgustingly bad behavior on these shows which enforces negative stereotypes.

DP

June 21st, 2012
4:43 pm

“In fact my girlfriend is a beautiful African American who has given up on black men”

That’s totally believable, it’s a well known fact that beautiful African American women love to date white racists.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Always will love him

June 21st, 2012
4:47 pm

Miss Beaty, it is long overdue for someone to share their feedbacks on these reality shows. Hopefully some of them will open their eyes to the fact that some of these shows are disgraceful for us and themselves. Great article!

Grob Hahn

June 21st, 2012
4:47 pm

I can’t help but wonder how an organization called “White Women for White Girls” would be received? I doubt it would be as readily accepted as “Black Women for Black Girls”. It’s called a DOUBLE STANDARD folks.
Grobbbbbbbbbbbbbbb

N2thaIzzo

June 21st, 2012
4:47 pm

While I agree that the television programs are horrible, I must say that these shows are put on for entertainment purposes. If a person watched RHOA and think all women in Atlanta think and act like those on the show, then that person has a problem. Flip through the television line-up and someone tell me if there are any positive shows on television. The days of the Cosby show and such are over. I don’t think having the Cosby show on during the 80’s did anything to enforce positive black stereotypes, anyhow.

otp

June 21st, 2012
4:48 pm

DP, massa has always had his concubines

Roger

June 21st, 2012
4:49 pm

Can everyone please ignore the Troll Native Atlantan, hes obviously trolling and trying to aggrevate you.

Carpetbagger

June 21st, 2012
4:50 pm

Back in the day, I remember in a twenty day period when former Mayor Jackson’s son “Buzzy” was arrested for woman beating… Then former mayor Young’s son “Bo”was arrested in a car with a gun… Then former police commissioner Napper’s son was arrested for robbery and stolen credit cards in his possession.

And they be worried about some fake TV shows?

The ATL is what it be!

4xtra

June 21st, 2012
4:50 pm

you guys know full well she is right.
I am from another city but have lived in Atlanta for a year and I noticed in a hurry that Atlanta is
“”The land of the $30k a year millionaire.”"

There are sistas in ATL that work with a relative of mine who literally go out of there way to attend any diner or club that the Atlanta housewives attend or hang out, (even though they make …..you guessed it, $30k a year)

Many people I spoke to outside of Georgia LITERALLY think everybody is “rich” in Atlanta because of these shows and what they see on Hip Hop videos.

There are some I know who have quit a good job, pack up and RAN down to Atlanta
thinking that because of what they seen on TV, all they have to do is wear a suit and tie, “look” and “act” important (Yea, I know P Diddy, Kasim Reed, Pookie, Ray Ray……..”) and they will be rich all because of what they see on T.V.

But when you
LEASE your Benz
RENT an apartment with 4 roommates or live at home rent free
WORK 2 jobs just to make ends meet
OWE $50k in credit card debt and just as much in student loans and pay the minimum

You can run around Atlanta “acting” like you are rich and successful.
Like they do on these “Ratchet” TV shows…..wait ……..oops I meant REALITY TV shows

The Shore

June 21st, 2012
4:54 pm

Reality TV Producers can find minstrels to act any way they want. Jersey Shore shows lowest common denominator Italian descendents. Shahs of Sunset finds the worst Persians. MTV is developing a show now in West Virgina to exploit their stereotypes and there’s a line of white people willing to do whatever the producers want just to be on TV.

Most intelligent people know that these are all gross stereotypes. The only way to make it go away is to stop watching.

Native Atlantan

June 21st, 2012
4:56 pm

Of course some white men beat their women also, but its not bragged about in white music and as accepted among the majority of the men. According to some reports, black women are abused at 7 times the rate of white women. Knowledge is power my friends. http://www.americanbar.org/groups/domestic_violence/resources/statistics.html

natasha

June 21st, 2012
4:59 pm

It appears that people who really care about Atlanta, actually grew up in Atlanta…it’s not hard to figure out…If you do not remember Jelly-Bean skating rink or the era of Mr. V’s Figure 8 Night club, and the THRIVING of Greenbrier Mall circa 285 east…you AINT (Country Ebonics deliberately inserted) from Atlanta. You may have moved to Atlanta, but you are not from Atlanta if your memory is jaded by pole-swinging, gun-toting, and the proliferation of the “negative side of Hip Hop.” The Maynard Jackson era is so profoundly etched into my brain, I did not think anywhere existed outside my peach state that could be more lovely and exciting. Atlanta was more than a black mecca – I knew nothing of the economical benefits as a child. Atlanta, as I muse in retrospect was a place where black people were connected, we got it. Southern, but not country, educated but not “boogie.” Religious but not extreme…oh yeah, and we had the racial situation “in check.” Through the 80’s our lives were turned upside down in lieu of the missing and murdered children’s serial killings and the Chattahoochee river became our worst winding nightmare. We rebounded with the Olympics, but it was a Pyrrhic victory apparently when all the riff-raff came to town, and like the circus never returned to “from whence they came.” The illegal immigrant mentality form other “hoods” that migrated into Atlanta is the cause, I believe of the paradigm shift from sweet and peachy to tasteless and artificial. I can tell, you are not home-grown because uncouth was not a part of the fertilizer. You are cheap hybrids, masquerading as the real thing and unfortunately TV execs benefit from the folly and fodder that is portrayed.

taylor

June 21st, 2012
5:01 pm

I really hat huffington post, they are so racist