When Will Black Reality Stars Get Their Props For Running Pop Culture?

If you believe you can scroll down Twitter without coming across a Black reality star’s impact, I wish you, in the words of Tiffany “New York” Pollard, an ounce of luck. Yet when the MTV Movie Awards granted its 2022 Reality Royalty trophy, it went to Bethenny Frankel, not a Black starlet whose fingerprint had been stamped (and re-stamped) on culture.

Frankel’s true first television appearance was in 2005 on Martha Stewart’s season of The Apprentice in 2005. After being fired in the final round, she wound up on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of New York three years later. Her priority was promoting all she knew about the world of food and drink, which culminated with the sale of her premixed drink, the problematic Skinnygirl margarita, for $100M in 2011. She used her screen time to build a brand, but what exactly constitutes reality royalty?

Meanwhile, Linnethia “NeNe” Leakes rose to prominence in 2008 on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta. She has one of the show’s more blunt personalities and her biting banter is either why you love her or hate her. She’s appeared on a number of shows and films and even had a stint on Broadway and a clothing line with HSN, but according to Celebrity Net Worth, her net worth is over 5x less than Frankel’s. It seems Leakes has the world’s attention right now, so why doesn’t she, or another Black reality star, have a heavier purse and this most recent accolade?

ATLANTA, GEORGIA – NOVEMBER 14: NeNe Leakes speaks onstage at the Atlanta Ultimate Women’s Expo at Cobb Galleria on November 14, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/WireImage)

It’s also not lost on me that Leakes is suing Bravo, Andy Cohen and The Real Housewives of Atlanta, accusing them of racism and a hostile work environment. So not only is it difficult for difficult for Black women to get the credit they deserve, they also allegedly have to endure discrimination while they influence the way we speak, think, and show up for ourselves.

Yes, Frankel is still on television. The first season of her show, The Big Shot with Bethenny (during which, through relentless verbal attacks, she tries to secure her Vice President of Operations for her Skinnygirl company), aired in 2021. It was blasted by critics for leaning into an outdated “girl boss” ethos. It is also unclear if the show will return for another season.

When I consider people who have changed the game, my mind goes to the Black women I see gifs of and references to almost daily.

A few weeks ago, Kandi Burruss’ “Legs, Hips, Body” was inescapable, Leakes is constantly jogging in heels up my timeline and Tiffany Pollard is the undisputed queen of one liners with replay value. The former two, who are currently still on television were not nominated in the MTV Movie Awards’ Best Reality Star category either. Furthermore, Tami Roman was the only Black woman included in the Best Reality Return category, though she’s a veteran of the show type with just under 30 years of television dominance.

In short, impact matters. But to whom?

Below, we rounded up a list of Black women reality stars who deserve more credit for all they’ve brought to culture. Keep scrolling to check it out.


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