It’s great to see that the now much-lauded BET three-part series, The New Edition Story, lived up to all of the hype. There are many reasons for the show’s success. First, the group, and the iconic music producers who worked with them (such as BabyFace, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis), all played a role in the feature.
Second, the network invested in storytellers, like director Chris Robinson, who have a great understanding of African-American culture and what resonates with the audience. And third, the writers did an awesome job of capturing the very real-life issues that made the group’s journey unique, relatable and chock-full of teachable moments that aren’t just relegated to life in the entertainment industry.
Whether you’re a New Edition (NE) fan, trying to be in the industry or simply looking to improve your how you handle stress, the series is a a great watch. And here are few talking points that are bigger takeaways.
Vet Your Savior
When people are in stressful situations they often look to point the blame at one thing or person, and create a fantasy about how another thing or person will completely rescue them from their dire circumstances. For New Edition, this manifested itself in believing that one manager would save them from a debacle created by another manager and record executive. The thing is, they didn’t do the background work. The guys, and their parents, didn’t understand the intricacies of their new manager’s duties or read their contract. They just took his word for it. Exercising a bit more due diligence may have helped the guys pocket a few more million dollars, and get out of the projects. The same goes for affairs outside of the music biz. If you find yourself in a tight spot and someone is offering assistance, whether it’s a business or personal relationship, take time to see what’s in it for them— and do your homework.
Believe You Are Worthy
Throughout the series we see the gentlemen evolve as they begin to have faith in their talent, business acumen and judgment. Yes, some of this due to the maturation process, but another reason for their delay is how they saw themselves. Despite their tremendous success early on, NE held on to the perspective that they were “just kids from the projects,” which framed what they accepted they deserved despite what logic was telling them. They were hesitant to push, make demands, and ask questions. Many people have identities—race, gender, weight, socioeconomic group, religion—that the world tells us deserve less. And much like in the miniseries, in real life, you won’t get more until you require it… and fight for it.
Fear is a Mofo
This is a recurring theme in movies and television because it resonates with so many people in real life. Fear makes people create limiting “what if” stories in their head and prevents them from taking any leaps, whether big or small. In the flick we see how fear paralyzes the group in their business negotiations and their interpersonal dynamics. As young men, they were afraid to advocate for their financial livelihood because fear told them they would be stuck in the projects and have nothing to do—and complacency made that a reality for a long time. What if they were willing to take the risk earlier? Similarly, fear prevented the members from having real conversations about where they wanted the group to go sans management’s manipulation. Again, once they got over that hump things changed.
You Have to Hold Friends Accountable
While money and parity were big issues for the guys, what really derailed the New Edition train was the brothers’ inability to hold each other accountable for their responsibilities. Ralph Tresvant seemed to bottle up much of his emotions about the guys not doing their part, and the guys were passive aggressive about their need to have Ralph stand up a bit more to record execs, as a friend and co-worker. Had either side communicated more effectively, expressing their angst and frustration, perhaps they could have understood each other’s perspectives a bit more sans the anger and hurt, which is a start.
Love Doesn’t Always Mean Sacrifice
The most significant kind of love is the one you have for yourself. It’s as important to honor your personal goals as it is to help others get to theirs. In real life, we know this gets messy, particularly when finances are involved, that is why you have to be proactive. That means communicating effectively. For example, Ralph’s solo desires may have been easier to swallow if an entire album wasn’t done behind his boys’ backs. Also, it’s important to remember your wants can change. You can grow. But you have to say something. There is no need to be surreptitious or lie when you are doing something in a principled manner. Most important, you have to be willing to accept that people may still be hurt, even when you make your best attempts. The goal isn’t to capitulate to a loved ones’ wants but to let them know that you value the relationship enough to be honest.
S. Tia Brown is a the lifestyle director at EBONY magazine and a licensed therapist. She also believes in love and the promise that it gives. Follow her @tiabrowntalks.