Reality TV's Mean Girls Play Nice

Evelyn Lozada and Crissy Lampkin

NeNe Leakes, Evelyn Lozada, and Chrissy Lampkin may be the breakout stars of their popular reality franchises (The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Basketball Wives, and Love & Hip Hop, respectively), but the antics that gained them fame are what concurrently made them TV villains. Such is life when you behave like a volatile, bitter, and arguably jealous hot head ready to belittle your adversaries with blows ranging from a sucker punch to flying glass or below the belt insults. (Can you tell I’m a big fan?)

Nonetheless, the three reality personalities have been celebrated far more than they have criticized, though those who aren’t exactly thrilled with these stars will be given a different glimpse of their characters in the new fall season.

Of the three, Evelyn Lozada may be the most controversial, and thus, vilified more intensely. After allegedly being assaulted by her husband, Chad Johnson, Evelyn found herself the subject of heightened scrutiny based on her behavior on Basketball Wives. The public scolding, which I found rather unfortunate, basically centered on, “How can anyone feel bad for you being allegedly being a victim of violence when everyone’s seen how violent you can be?”

It’s sort of unfair – this notion that Evelyn being and angry and confrontational in a carefully contrived situation that calls for anger and confrontation means she must act that way in all situations – but thanks to Johnson’s actions, we’ll never get to see how Evelyn behaves when not sitting around a bunch of women she can’t stand with the cancellation of Ev & Ocho.

Even so, Evelyn has been given another opportunity to show another side through the new OWN series, Iyanla: Fix My Life.

Oprah has already commented on it, tweeting: “Wait till y'all see what @IyanlaVanzant does next week with Evelyn Lozado. riveting.#IyanlaFixMyLife

Her appearance, airing in two parts on Sept. 15 and 16, features a usually defensive Evelyn actually inviting criticism from Iyanla Vanzant. What’s more, the leaked preview shows the Basketball Wife cast member admitting tearfully that her biggest fear is not being loved.

Speaking of, such will be the focus along with wedding and family planning on the Chrissy Lampkin-centered Chrissy & Mr. Jones. Sights of a baseball bat can be spotted in the super trailer for the Love & Hip Hop spin-off, though it’s not Chrissy playing the role of aggressor this time around. On the show that made her famous, it was Jim Jones’ tears that surprised watchers of the show. On that, Chrissy explained, “He’s got...a really soft side. He would kill me for saying that.”

Will Evelyn garner a bit more sympathy? Can Chrissy overcome the bully label? Might NeNe end up being known more for her comedic timing versus temper tantrums?

This time around, it’s Chrissy crying in multiple episodes – perhaps allowing this new show to do for her what Love & Hip Hop did for Jim, i.e. add a bit of depth to previously one-note character.

And then there’s NeNe Leakes whose latest project, The New Normal, has afforded her the chance to break into scripted television. That said, for the most part, her role on the Ryan Murphy-created NBC series is essentially just a fictionalized version of the “sassy Black woman” she played so well on The Real Housewives of Atlanta. But, for the sake of playing devil’s advocate, the show will follow Glee’s lead in introducing NeNe to a wider audience who might not know of the days when she was best known for wig-snatching and shade throwing.

So, in varying ways each of the aforementioned will have an opportunity to alter the public perception they’ve earned thus far. It will be interesting to see what they will make of it and how audiences will react.

Will Evelyn garner a bit more sympathy? Can Chrissy overcome the bully label the two seasons of Love & Hip Hop earned her? Might NeNe end up being known more for her comedic timing versus temper tantrums?

Could be, could be not. Who’s to say?

Whatever scenario happens, it’s hard to shake the reality behind how these chances came to fruition.

As Iyanla Vanzant told Evelyn Lozada about the source of her popularity and applies to all three: “You have been rewarded for being a thug among women.”

Although she warned Evelyn that she’ll eventually pay for it, it’s pretty apparent that the cost comes at no expense to her, Chrissy, or NeNe’s celebrity and the benefits that come with it.

Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer and blogger. You can read more of his work on his site, The Cynical Ones. Follow him on Twitter: @youngsinick