Robin Roberts is used to asking all the questions. For her Disney Plus show, Turning the Tables with Robin Roberts, she got uncomfortable. In intimate conversations with women across age, racial, sexual orientation, occupation spectrums and more, Roberts fielded and answered questions herself.
“Yeah, they turned the tables on me,” Roberts tells EBONY. “And it was very natural. It was just in the flow of a conversation like you would have with friends. And, I found myself sharing much more than I was expecting and saying some things that I never said before.”
Battling cancer, losing her mother, covering a hurricane that threatened her own family and publicly revealing her sexuality are personal aspects of Roberts’ life that she uncharacteristically shares on the show. “I felt comfortable in doing so here,” she explains. “I always pride myself on making my guests comfortable [enough] to be able to be transparent, to be able to share and they, in turn, did that for me. It was trust that we had with each other.”
Throughout the series, guests like Debbie Allen, “Black Like Me” country singing sensation Mickey Guyton, actress Jamie Lee Curtis, tennis legend Billie Jean King, Sheila E., singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge, Raven-Symone and more cover even more ground, touching on motherhood, relationships, sexual orientation, and work, among many other topics we rarely hear women candidly discuss at such lengths publicly.
“Women from different generations together for the public to see—whether you're a younger woman or an older woman, or you're transgender, or you're bi, or you're gay, or you're straight—that we all have a story” is how Roberts describes what transpired during the series. “We all have meaning. There's a purpose behind it. And to just have this kind of safe haven, it was a real comfort zone. And these women were so incredible and sharing, showing us that vulnerability is not a weakness; it's a strength.”
During conversation with Curtis, King and Roberts, Guyton, who was pregnant at the time the show was taped, shared her experiences and her fears as an expectant mother. Curtis was especially comforting, sharing her own experiences of how work prevented her from bonding with her newborn the way she wished. “She was able to tell her what it was like to be a young mother,” Roberts says of Curtis and Guyton bonding as mothers. Curtis also assured Guyton that her transparency would help others.
When the group discussed Guyton and her hit song “Black Like Me” catapulting her to country stardom, Roberts, who spent some of her early career at a country station and was raised partially in Alabama and Mississippi, was very moved.
“To have this Black woman being true to who she is admitting that she used to try and hide that part of her and then part of the reason she got the Grammy nomination is because she stepped into her truth; she stepped into who she is” was powerful for Roberts. “I’m so incredibly proud of her.
Another proud moment for Roberts came when Raven-Symone, with whom she goes way back, discussed not just coming out and having no blueprint for her walk, but also taking ownership of herself period. “I appreciate how real she was and how honest she was,” Roberts says. “I interviewed Raven when was like four years old. I was doing V103 Radio in Atlanta, Georgia. She was this little Cosby kid, and she was there with her mom and dad. And to see her grow all these years into the woman that she is today and to find her strength, to find her voice, [is great].”
Roberts does admit that she is not quitting her day job anytime soon. “I'll go back to asking the questions not answering the questions,” she assures EBONY.
"Turning the Tables with Robin Roberts" is streaming on Disney Plus now.