Television’s ever-shrinking daytime audience got a major boost when The Real launched its first full season last fall. Employing the standard talk show format, co-hosts Tamar Braxton, Loni Love, Tamera Mowry-Housley, Adrienne Bailon and Jeannie Mai chat about relationships, pop culture and everyday life from a decidedly younger view (pun intended). And the formula’s working. So far this season, The Real is tied with Wendy Williams at No. 4 among all talk shows in the 18-34 female demographic.
Comedian and actress Loni Love may be new to daytime talk, but she makes no bones about the rise of the popular gab fest. “We’re five different women at five different areas of our lives,” she recently shared with EBONY.com. “Like Tamar always says, ‘We’re girlfriend check-in hour,’ where we are talking about issues and it’s all women of color on the panel, which is historic. We have issues and aspirations just like Caucasian women, and we’re thankful for the opportunity to present ourselves in such a positive light. There’s a better way to show up, so that’s what we’re all about.”
EBONY: You’re a co-host on the show, but always give a great overview of what’s going on during the chat between all of the ladies at the beginning. Is that intentional?
Loni Love: I’m in the middle, so it’s easy for me to hear everybody simply because of my position. Sometimes Tamar may not be able to hear Adrienne because they sit so far away. And then you have the audience clapping, so I can hear a lot more. If I feel someone hasn’t heard somebody, I try to clarify and help the viewer. I like the way the show is set up, because we’re all co-hosts. Some days, one of us will introduce a topic or a guest or do an interview. We’re all true co-hosts.
EBONY: There was a recent episode where Tamar was talking about an abusive relationship and there was not a dry eye in the house. Is it hard to be so open and in the moment?
LL: All the girl chat [at the top of the show] is unscripted. We never know what we’re going to say. Tamar said something and I heard her, and Tamera said something, but I went back to Tamar, and said, “What do you mean about getting out?” And that was something that triggered that conversation. We’re all truly friends and are in contact outside of the show. You could just feel that there was something else…
Tamar could have said, “I don’t want to talk about it,” but you could tell it was [a subject that was] heavy on her heart. I’m hearing from fans about how they got out of an abusive relationship. That’s why I tell people, you’ve got to watch The Real. We are about comedy and inspiration, but personal moments come up and people are moved by it. We don’t plan that out.
EBONY: You don’t see that on most talk shows.
LL: Because we’re taped, we can’t talk about events as they happen on the spot. I hear some fans ask why we didn’t talk about this current event or that situation. But it’s not always timely. We’re not a news show, we’re really an entertainment show, and we’re really there for women.
EBONY: We’re just beginning 2015, and it’s always a time when people talk about resetting their lives. You’ve done that in your career, going from an electrical engineer to entertainer. What was the turning point for you?
LL: I was unhappy in my situation. I had a good job and that was nice. And I had this boyfriend and he was nice. I was at this point where was I going to keep working at this job and get married and have a baby, but I was truly unhappy with myself. So I took some time to think about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. At my job, my manager had a massive heart attack we had layoffs. It made me realize that nothing is certain, nothing is for sure, and if I’m going to make a move, I gotta make a move now.
EBONY: So how did comedy come into play?
LL: I did all this standup comedy in college, and from that point on, I tried to develop myself and get my name back out there. Finally, we had another massive layoff and that was the tipping point. I went to my new manager and said, “Please lay me off.” He looked at me like, you’re giving up this good job with benefits? I saw that layoff as an opportunity; I saved somebody’s job and I never looked back. I worked harder at my craft, and it took some time, but here I am today doing what I want to do, which is entertain people.
EBONY: Comedy is one of the hardest hustles out there. Who’s been most supportive of you in that world?
LL: People think this magically happened, and a lot of people are just being introduced to me by The Real, but it has taken work. As a female in comedy, I was lucky enough to develop relationships and friendships with people like the late Joan Rivers. Chelsea Handler, she put me on her show, and we’ve always been friends. I was able to learn from her. And a couple of years ago, right before I got The Real, Ellen DeGeneres allowed me to become a regular on her show. These women have helped me so much, not only in comedy but in life. They looked at me like, “you’re talented, and I am going to help.” Wendy Williams has always been supportive of me and gave me the training to where I was able to conduct myself in the talk show realm and get The Real.
EBONY: Since you’ve been doing the talk show, do you still go out and perform stand-up much?
LL: Yes! I’ve been on the road for 15 years. I still go out to the clubs in L.A. and that’s how I prepare the new material, so that people who haven’t seen me will see my act, but people who have seen me get something new. All of my dates are posted on LoniLove.com.
EBONY: You’ve got a Valentine’s Day show coming up, tell us about that.
LL: Lipshtick Showcase is at the the Venetian in Las Vegas. It’s a historic show lineup because it’s all female headliners. With my name being Love, it’s nice to work on that day. If you want to bring your girls, come and have a nice time in Vegas!
EBONY: Where else can we see you in 2015?
LL: I have an independent movie called Bad Asses on the Bayou starring Danny Glover and Danny Trejo. And I’ll be with Kevin James in Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, that’s coming out April 17. That’s a really great film. I’m excited about those. I’m also working on my own project, which you’ll hopefully hear about soon. I’m on a new Fox show called World’s Funniest Fails on Friday night’s with Terry Crews. I also just did Who Wants to Be a Millionaire with Terry, too. Right now we’re finishing up taping for The Real, we wrap the season in late May. The show is just growing and we’re getting great guests. It’s nice to see a little show grow. I try to be the encourager of our group. Like yes, the show is just starting off, but it’s not all about the guests, but it’s really about the dynamic of the co-hosts. It’s our first year and we’re going to keep growing.