How Eboni K. Williams is changing the reality TV space for black women


Most of us may know Eboni K. Williams as a legal correspondent, lawyer, or host and executive producer of REVOLT’s. “REVOLT Black News”, but recently the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate took on a new role to add to her comprehensive and impressive resume. Williams was recently reintroduced to the world through a new medium – reality TV. Starting with the thirteenth season, which debuted in May, Williams became the newest actor and the first black woman to join the cast of Bravo’s. The real housewives of New York (RHONY) franchise.

“I think as a lawyer I’m kind of a classic risk assessment trainer and you still have to go through that analysis to make sure you make a good decision overall. The risks were related to what is associated with a reality TV show due to the rest of my career, of course was the main concern, ”she expressed of her initial reluctance to join the cast of RHONY. “I felt that these concerns were outweighed by the reasons I finally joined the show, which is that it is an almost unmatched global platform in terms of impact and reach. “

Williams continued, “What drove me to do the show was really connecting with viewers who would never get exposed to my work at any of those other outlets that I have occupied. unparalleled visibility and ability to reach a new, larger audience that consumes this content. The other reason is that there has never been a black woman on The real housewives of New York. There is something to be said for the esteemed honor and privilege of being the very first woman to be impressed and it is not a singular experience. Bringing a version of a live black woman experience in New York City to this franchise was a truly unique and special opportunity that I wanted to seize. “

For (bes) Culture has spoken to Courting with Eboni K. Williams podcast host on her experience on the Real housewives franchise, fair portrayal of black women in the reality TV space and how she deals with her mental health while reliving moments that aired on national television.

For (bes) Culture: What has your experience been so far as a cast member on The Real Housewives of New York City?

Eboni K. Williams: I would say there are several different experiences. It’s a mixed bag. It’s cool to see me in this format because I have many years in TV, but mostly in news or hosting. It’s a very different format to see myself on camera talking to my best friend Natalie or on the phone with my mom, Gloria. You see me reliving the grief of my grandmother’s passing, meeting these women for the first time, and navigating new relationships.

There’s looking back at it and then there’s a whole other experience that I probably hadn’t really anticipated that much. There’s a whole other subculture around the show on social media and it’s really intense. There are a lot of ups and a lot of downs, and I think that’s another variable. I would say it’s a vast experience, this Housewives thing.

For (bes) Culture: As the first black woman to be part of this cast, did you feel any pressure? If so, how did you fight them?

Williams: I think there is tremendous pressure and it is coming from everywhere, including me. I know many of us who have studied Blackness and Media work as I did during my undergraduate studies at [University of North Carolina] with my degree in black studies. The main things, one-on-one when you represented black in media spaces, because we’re so grossly under-represented in those spaces, there’s a huge lift. You fight stereotypes. You’re trying to put forward a pillar of black excellence, but also to humanize a full range of emotions that doesn’t just say, “I have to be the strong and perfect black woman in every episode”, because this is not realistic. It reinforces its own kind of stereotype.

Yes, there is a lot of pressure to show up for the crop and put on and kill looks. I see my role is to make it easier and maybe just more possible for other black women and women of color to follow me into this franchise. I think that’s mainly why I felt such extreme pressure. I might be the first, but I can be the last at any time and give myself the opportunity to present myself in space in a way that makes it easier for the next person.

For (bes) Culture: What’s the one thing you weren’t prepared for when it came to RHONY that you would like to be

Williams: I don’t know if I could have, but I guess I just didn’t anticipate enough how deeply moving it would be to relive and relive some of the trauma that happened during filming having to watch the episodes again. In the news, I could choose or choose not to watch this. Oddly enough, I never watched my show back. I put it in the box, it’s live, and you go to the next news item because the news is happening at a rapid pace. This show is different in the sense that you have to revisit those episodes to prepare for a reunion in which we all have to participate.

Every time I watch it I see something that I haven’t experienced in real time or I see something that I forgot to have experienced. There’s just a level of new trauma and emotional re-triggering that occurs with re-watching the episodes. I frankly find that very anxiety-provoking because it’s not just looking at what happened to me; it’s reviewing my reaction to things. You start doing all that Monday morning quarterback and guessing, and I think that’s pretty counterproductive and not a good experience.

For (bes) Culture: With these triggers, what do you do to deal with your anxiety as you watch and relive these episodes?

Williams: I have used real strategies like the Type A Total Virgo that I am. I recently took a break from social media. It was very helpful to take two weeks to log out of the app. I chose to dive in and get out if I wanted to make a [Instagram] live with Nina Parker, which we did with the support of the network, and then I logged out immediately. I will continue to use these breaks as I see fit.

Every morning after the episode airs, my good sister and soror Natalie sends me screenshots of a series of really positive and funny Tweets. I don’t watch the Twitter feed so she just sends me confirmation Tweets. I read them over my morning coffee the next morning, which is nice. I am fortunate to have extremely powerful co-warriors who work in various spaces. Having your brothers, sisters, and non-binary warriors who are in various arenas talking to you is so powerful. I am very fortunate to have individuals who periodically pour into me.

For (bes) Culture: How do you think reality TV has impacted black women over the years, and have you seen that change?

Williams: I really think the portrayal of black women on reality TV has evolved over the years. When I think back to the early years of portraying black women in reality TV, I think we have to start with The real world. Then you had a big splash at the start of the 2010 era where you had The Real Housewives of Atlanta, basketball brides, and soon after, you start to have Love and hip-hop. It was for me a part of the renowned theory where you saw a significant number of black women. Finally, we see The real housewives of the Potomac, Black ink crew, and all kinds of platforms.

So few of us are represented in these spaces. It becomes an unfair burden and responsibility for the few sisters who took up the space in the beginning because we would never ask that of white women. White women are drunk, trashy, knocked down, fight and curse each other because there are so many representations of white femininity in these spaces that you can be the most outrageous, violent and disrespectful white woman on TV. reality. Because there are also all these examples of white women who are not that, white women do not have to respond to each other the same as we as black women because there are so few of us. .

That kind of tropes and stereotypes that made a lot of black women cringe in some social circles and have a very negative reaction to black women on reality TV, I thought that was a bit unwarranted because these women are probably living their truth. We probably wouldn’t feel comfortable if there were at least that many black women representing something different. Whether it’s instead of just black women married to athletes – and there’s nothing wrong with that – but also showing black women showing off in their own professional abilities, which we haven’t seen. a lot at first. You see a lot more now.


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