âFashion Queenâ Bevy Smith [INTERVIEW]

Bevy Smith, queen of the 'Fashion Queens'

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Entertainment Television for a proposed mentorship/networking vehicle. 

And then Cohen called again. 

“He’s always kind of kept a close eye on me and wanting to work with me,” Smith says. “When Fashion Queens was being developed, he said, ‘Oh, I know the perfect person to work with the boys.’ He called me. I had a deal at that time with BET and he said, ‘Let’s not let that stop us from trying to make it happen.’ And we worked it out with the lawyers and the agents and voilà, I was on TV on Fashion Queens.”

Calling her a “bevelation,” Cohen says Smith is “made for television. Her personality is electric and so fun. She’s someone you want to be around.”

All that glitters isn’t platinum, however. Fashion Queens has been met with some criticism. The show, produced by Embassy Row, has been called a “knock-off” or “Bravo’s answer to” E’s wildly popular Fashion Police talk show, headlined by comedian Joan Rivers. Some even consider it “the Black version” of Fashion Police. “I get that comparison, but I’m pretty colorblind,” Cohen says. “What makes this show unique is its stars, and they are totally unlike anyone or anything anywhere else on TV. They make me smile for a half hour, and you can’t bottle that.”

Another opprobrium heard: Derek J and Miss Lawrence portray negative stereotypes. On the heels of the show’s debut last spring, an op-ed on the Black gay website Mused noted: “Archetypes of Black people, like the mammie, ‘girlfriend,’ or vixen are prevalent to this day. And the archetype of ‘gay man’ hasn’t changed much either, especially when it comes to Black gay men. We are still given Black gay men that are all dressed up in expensive cosmetics and high heels, with hairstyles that are even more of a statement.”

Smith, who says she’s embraced the gay community and gay culture since she was an adolescent, rebukes such remarks. “I think it’s interesting that a lot of those criticisms actually come from Black gay men. I think it’s a real sad state of affairs because I feel like a lot of times Black gay men may not be so comfortable with all spectrums of the sexuality and homosexuality. And they kind of feel like these guys are making it harder for them to be whoever it is that they are,” she states.

“On that same vein, if you’re penalizing them for being who they are, then what’s the difference between what you’re doing to them and what people are doing to you? I don’t think my boys are putting on a show for a TV show. That’s them, and that’s their natural state of being, so should we want them to butch it up a little bit? Should we want them to say that they’re not hairdressers and that they’re construction workers? I don’t know what people want, but I do know that they have to live their truth, and that’s what they’re doing.”

Smith remains a testament of someone living in truth… and stepping out on faith.   

“It feels like wow, I stepped out on faith when I quit my job eight years ago at Rolling Stone, which [was] a very lofty gig. And when I quit, everyone thought I was crazy to pursue such a very tough profession. But I did it. I have my faith, and it actually turned out well.”

Karu F. Daniels’s work as an entertainment journalist has been featured in The Daily Beast, CNN.com, Playbill, Essence and Uptown. His website is www.karudaniels.com.