Mary Mary

Ivan Genasi/Mary Mary

There’s a reality show starring two Black women working in music that relies upon several familiar tropes within the genre: infidelity, family strife, finding balance between work and family, seemingly shady business partners, and the persuit of greater celebrity. However, very few tackle these issues the way WeTV’s Mary Mary does. The show, which launched its fourth season last night, stars Mary Mary members and sisters Erica and Tina Campbell.

The two handle conflict differently because as gospel artists, they are not able to curse people out, throw wine bottles, or snatch each other bald. If either of them did on their reality show, “the Saints” would surely soil their legacy and send them directly into the saturated land of secular music. As an avid viewer of Love & Hip Hop Atlanta, I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem if the Marys did any of the aforementioned, though it is refreshing to see that they do not.



All reality shows need conflict to work, and if the aim is to be truly successful, lots of drama. Mary Mary offers both, but again, without any of the behavior that your more respectable cousin would deem “ratchet.” Feel free to insert your “amen” here. Or a “boo, hiss.” Whatever’s clever, beloved.

Last season, Tina Campbell had to grapple with the reality that her husband, Teddy Campbell, has been unfaithful. Tina revealed this in her EBONY cover story, but as we learned in season three, had no idea that his infidelity included numerous women spanning several years. Her level of anger was equally measured to the number of times in which he played her.

In many ways, Teddy is Saved Stevie J, but Tina is no Mimi or Joseline. She threw him out and contemplated divorce, and while she ultimately decided to take him back, she did not pretend Jesus would lock her out of heaven if she decided to end her marriage because her husband broke his vows several times over.

Meanwhile, Erica and Tina were at odds over Tina’s commitment to the group and Erica’s yearning for success as a solo artist. Erica is itching to be the gospel equivalent of Beyoncé whereas Tina’s attitude has been more or less like one of the children left behind destiny, content with being where she is. Based on the preview of the new season, Tina is going solo, so here’s hoping she can be their Mary J. Blige. Lord knows she’s got some real struggle to sing about.

And then there is the issue of their former manager, Mitch, who failed to live up to the sisters' expectations. They fired him on air and Mitch subsequently filed a lawsuit. Despite all of this, he’ll be a part of season four.

It’s often easy for people of faith – particularly those who profit from spirituality – to minister, but not so much practice what they preach when tested themselves. While I have had issues with the members of Mary Mary over their past comments about homosexuality, I do admire that this show serves as a living testament to them embodying the very advice they sing to their supporters.

At this stage of my life, I am very much a heathen. This show is as close as to attending church as I’m going to get outside of baptisms, christenings, and my youngest niece asking, “Uncle Mikey, are you coming to Christmas mass with me?”

WeTV touts the show's success, but I often wonder if enough of us watch it. More importantly, I don’t think Mary Mary gets enough credit for being so entertaining without being totally tacky. So for those who constantly argue about the medium of reality, when you get the kind of show that serves drama without the debasement, lift your hands up and praise it.

Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem, and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him @youngsinick.



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