Who would’ve thought that The Style Network would have the most positive reality shows on television? I really enjoy their line up and how it excludes the hair pulling, drink throwing, name calling, face-scratching, drive by-ing, and overall negativity of typical reality programs that star women. I think we can all appreciate the network’s nonviolent shows like Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane, Tia & Tamera, and now, Empire Girls: Julissa & Adrienne.
I’m really digging Empire Girls. Julissa Bermudez is an actress and was a VJ on BET’s 106 & Park back in 2005 to 2007. She’s also hosted a ton of those Jersey Shore Reunion-esque shows on MTV and hopes to have her own talk show one day and reach the pinnacle of mogul-dom like Tyra Banks. Adrienne Bailon is a former member of 3LW (remember them?!) and The Cheetah Girls, but is now known more for being the ex-girlfriend of Rob Kardashian— you can see how that can be frustrating. She just signed a deal with Ne-Yo’s record company Compound and is working to become the next Jennifer Lopez. These gals are crazy ambitious not to mention gorgeous and fashionable.
I think plenty of young women can identify with these two. Whether you’re in the Concrete Jungle or Podunk Town USA, plenty of women have to fight to be acknowledged for their legitimate talents and accomplishments because they were overshadowed by a man (Adrienne). I’d say even more are trying to achieve their dreams and sometimes have to make tough decisions like living at home (which Julissa was doing at 28 years old).
In the first episode I really took to Julissa’s conflict which arose from a conversation with her agent. His main contention was that, with her strong Dominican accent “she will not appeal to Middle America moms.” This was confirmed when she went on an audition and was asked again to tone it down. I understand if her accent hindered her from being understood, but as a veteran television personality, she speaks clearly and coherently. After hearing this, my sister Jessica and I looked at each other incredulously. It’s not that we were surprised with a person of color being told to whitewash a fundamental part of herself but it’s still crazy to see.
“Would you do that?” Jessica asked me after Julissa joked about having to change the pronunciation of her name from Joo-Lee-Sah to Juh-Liss-Uh to appease the mothers of Middle America. I mean, my name is Spanish but I’ve never pronounced it as ¡Marrrrrritza! so I don’t really think about that. I do remember hearing this Haitian girl in middle school absurdly pronouncing her classic last name of Jacques as “Jack-Wez” so she could distance herself from her culture and maybe have a more “pleasing”, non-Haitian sounding name. That memory has remained with me because I can’t get over how really unfortunate it is that Hyphenated-Americans feel the need (or are sometimes forced) to do this.
Even a few people in the Twitterverse had something to say, encouraging Julissa to keep her accent. Fellow Latina and 106 & Park VJ Rocsi Diaz chimed in too:
Either way, Joo-Lee-Sah said something amazing: Half of America is going to sound like me soon so get used to it.
So what say you? If, on your path to living a glamorously marvelous life, you were asked to change the way you speak to get to where you want to be… would you?
You can catch Empire Girls on Sundays at 9:00PM EST on The Style Network. We’ll be live-tweeting @glamlifeblog so watch with us!