VH1 Stars: ‘Unfortunately, Ratings Don’t Lie’

Simone Smalls

VH1 stars Mo and Kita -- Terrell Owen's brand managers on "The T.O. Show" -- hit the District this week for the UNCF's Empower Me Tour. The ladies chatted exclusively with Niteside about headlining the tour, starring on VH1 and why they refuse to be negative on television.

You're here in the District on the UNCF tour -- why was it important for the both of you to be involved?

I think it's just a responsibility that lies on us and it's so important to give back. Kita has a different story because the UNCF actually helped her through school.

Kita: I went to the University of Kentucky and when my financial aid was cut, UNCF actually gave me a scholarship to help me complete school, so it's near and dear to my heart. Also, being on this tour will show young people that you can rise through the top through dedication and education.

Speaking of young people, you all recently started Define Your Pretty?

Yes, we felt like as women who are on this huge platform with young impressionable minds [watching], we had a responsibility to help young women especially. A lot of young viewers would write in about our hair, our outfits, purses, skin, and we thought: wow, we can use this platform to teach young women how to define their own pretty, and Define Your Pretty was born.

We're not only teaching them how to define their own pretty, but we have products as well. We want to give them advice, set standards and then say and you can get these products right here. We're so excited!

You've been doing "The T.O. Show" for a few seasons now. How do you think the show stands out from so much negative reality TV out there?

I think what has stood out and always has stood out is that Kita and I are executive producers of the show. When we first started, there was no reality TV show out there about athletes and we wanted to create something positive that showed a real athlete's life.

Kita: Honestly when we first started this, Terrell had an ugly image. To be an African-American man who's an athlete is already difficult enough, and when people don't think you're a nice person it's even worse. We wanted to change [this] perception and we didn't realize we'd be changing our lives at the same time.

We went to Bravo, E!, MTV and so many networks to pitch this show. They didn't think people would invest in the story of a man of color. We kept pounding the pavement until we found a network who wanted to work with us and it was VH1. They've become the network of sports and we created that lane on the network. I feel like our show stands out and always will because we're the originals.

What perception do audiences have of women of color on TV today?

I think that, unfortunately, ratings don't lie. It's more of a negative perception than positive. However, I can't help but think... are the viewers really seeing a part of themselves in some of these shows? I don't know what to call all these negative shows.... I just wish [there] were more shows out there that have the viewers really seeing a part of themselves in some of these shows. I don't know what to call it; it's not a lifestyle. Why are people feeling a connection to this? Why are people so drawn to something they're not living?

Kita: I think it's sad how some shows have gotten out of hand. It's like some of these reality stars are saying, 'OK, the more crazy things we do, the more attention [we] get.' It's sad what some people will do for a paycheck. A lot of these women, like on "Basketball Wives," work for hire. If they're not in an episode or on screen they're not getting paid.

What I love most is that we're teaching young women to think in terms of business. If we're not on any episodes, Mo and I are still getting paid, so we don't have to stoop to a ridiculous level just to get a paycheck. We don't throw water and wine; we'll leave that to Jesus.

It's tough to transition from behind the scenes to stardom; how do you deal with it?

I think we deal with it by being smart. There are only so many club appearances you can do before you stop being relevant. If there's nothing positive about you underneath the surface, you won't last, period. You have to think about your actions.

Mo: Also, I think a lot of these reality stars who are women of color forget that if you're not Halle Berry, Zoe Saldana or Jada Pinkett-Smith, you don't matter to mainstream. Like Kita said, think about your actions, think about who you're representing; you have to be smart.

What's next for you two?

We want to grow the Define Your Pretty brand, and we're also in the process of writing the Define Your Pretty book as well. Overall, we'd like to continue the message of empowering women.

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