Metro 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.
“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.”
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.”