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WATCH: Mona Scott-Young, Yandy Smith & Cristyl Kimbrough Dissect The Business Of Reality TV


The reality is, if your television is not programmed to remind you to watch any episode of a reality tv series, either current or past—your culture card has now been revoked. Seriously, girl, where have you been if you haven’t been glued to the tv following each and every storyline from the entrepreneur extraordinaires and media mavens themselves, Mona Scott-Young, Yandy Smith and reality TV newcomer, Cristyl Kimbrough.

With over a decade in both reality TV game on and off-camera as career women, Mona, Yandy and Cristyl had much wisdom to share while speaking during the ESSENCE E-Suite experience at the 2022 ESSENCE Festival of Culture shared the real of reality television and how the “show” business expands from behind the screen and into partnering with major brands and building businesses, all while taking personas and transforming them into budding stars.

“As a producer, it’s always important for me when I’m talking to talent coming into the [Love & Hip Hop] show that I say to them, know what you want out of this, because it’s an exchange,” Mona said. “There’s the good and bad of doing reality television, as we all know, but I do believe wholeheartedly that if you are you clear in what you want out of it, and you are clear about what you are willing to exchange with the audience for that ability to connect with them, there is no platform like reality television for building your brand, for exposure to an audience and for connection with an audience.”

Cristyl, who is a real estate attorney with own firm and currently stars on OWN’s Ladies Who List: Atlanta, says she learned quickly that being authentic by focusing on your professional goals while navigating the reality space is the only way to go for her.

“I certainly was not looking for anything in the entertainment industry. Reality TV found me,” she said. “And, when you focus on yourself and you feed and nurture yourself, your light will shine. So, that’s what happened with me and my castmates. “I walked into it knowing that this needed to feed into my business, because my dream is not to become an actress. My dream is to still be the top real estate attorney employing people who look like me and you. So, I had to be careful about what I portrayed and what I didn’t.”

Similarly, Yandy says she had her eyes on the larger prize from the very beginning. Rather than joining the reality TV circuit with the goal of fame like many, she was determined to use the platform to do three things: show young hard-working women that they could succeed in the Hip Hop industry without needing a man to validate their qualifications, grow her then newly-minted EGL lifestyle brand, and generate additional streams of income.

“I think in the beginning, the goal was for us to show a woman that got her stripes on her own in the space of Hip Hop and music. Not because she’s connected to a man, not because her man did this or because she’s a part of a group led by men,” she said. “I understand business, I was a business major and I grew up in the projects so, I always wanted to get a little bit of money because I didn’t want to go back to the projects. So, what I thought was, coming on this show, this a commercial. So whatever it is that I have to sell besides who I am and the brand that I’m going to create, I need a product. Week one I was like, ‘Y’all want to shoot me? Ok, cool, I have a jewelry line.’ My very first scene was me showing my jewelry line. I was very clear th,at, if I’m going to come on this show, it’s not because I want to be a famous star. My trajectory in the beginning was, I want to use this to catapult my career and make money.”

Check out the video above to hear the conversation in full. For more of everything you missed at the 2022 ESSENCE Festival of Culture, visit our official video content hub HERE.

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