What makes reality television shows soar in ratings? Sleazy story lines, sex, scandals, deception, and women chasing after entertainers. It’s sad, but true.
The urban reality television world is the leading trend in misogynistic television, with shows like Flavor of Love and I love new York, in which the cast members are becoming overnight celebrities and influencing the youth with negative imagery.
Yet, all is not lost for urban reality shows. Thanks to television industry veterans, Tracey Baker-Simmons and Wanda Shelley, founders of Simmons-Shelley Entertainment, there is now a balance to urban reality programming with quality shows that the whole family can enjoy!
These two pride themselves on being able to deliver content that tells a story and allows viewers to really get to know the characters inside and out. This is shown through their past shows including Being Bobby Brown which follows the life of Music giant Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown, Platinum House featuring R&B group Dru Hill and MTV’s Sprite Step Off which follows the life of HBCU students as they compete in a step competition to win scholarship money.
The ladies are currently working on a new show, PowerBrokers which will follow the careers and personal lives of prominent woman executives and how they balance their work and life.
Where did they come up with this idea, you ask? This plot is one that is all too familiar to the ladies because their everyday lives are centered on being able to execute business and raise their children. (I had the opportunity to witness this during our interview!) Not only are they entertainment geniuses, they are also proud mothers and women who are strong in their faith. Tracey and Wanda define what it means to be a POWER WOMAN!
Socialtik Mag sat down with these POWER WOMEN to get their secrets on success!
How do you choose projects to produce? Is there a certain story or format that draws your interest? What makes the shows you produce different from the others?
TRACEY: Basically it is instinctive. We have to feel good about it, must be a market for it and a network for it. Then we go for it! We are passionate about telling good stories. We are not just trying t o do television, we are trying to make good TV and tell good stories in a creative entertainment manner. Our stories aren’t perfect, but we don’t want to just glamorize or glorify imperfection, we like to enhance! For example, Bobby Brown (Being Bobby Brown), he had great attributes that the world did not know about.
Wanda: We are very resourceful and I want to see our youth be resourceful also!! We study, we read, and we are very ingenious about nurturing relationships. That is apart of our blue print. It’s important to give them (the networks) what they are looking for. That’s what we do, we separate ourselves. We provide balance; the drama has some sort of resolution and dimension of the characters. We want it to be organic and realistic.
As producers, you ladies take the role as story tellers, what are the key components in making good stories come to life on television?
Wanda: Truth is important and easy. We hold to the basic principles of storytelling, which is conflict and resolution. In (other) reality television, there is no resolution.
Tracey: We value the richness of characters, how people relate to the characters and the depth of the characters. In situational reality TV, they don’t do character development, we try to do that, so u can get to know those people. For example, just like Sergio from Clark Atlanta University (Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity), he was head strong, arrogant and passionate. Character development is not happening (in other reality TV) so that hinders the actual characters in the story.
Tell me about your new show, “Power Brokers.”
Tracey: Hopefully it will be inspirational television. It is about how women get their jobs done. They manage the lives of entertainers and one of them is a broker. They are either influencing or assisting people in making big decisions in their careers or their lives. We expose their stories and show that you can’t control real life, although these ladies have a lot of control at work.
Wanda: People take for granted how African American women influence business. We hope that it shed’s light that these women are powerful but still gentle. The show highlight how they manage the two. We want the ladies to see themselves and be able to see their great aspects. We want to inspire women to be powerbrokers overall in life.
How do you balance your professional life and your personal life?
Tracey: My son is 17, when he was younger I allowed him to travel and go on sets with me. Unfortunately, he had to adapt to things, his dad was a baseball player, and we had to adapt to that as well. Adaption is what is important. Life isn’t traditional as it used to be, so you must give them structure, a home environment and giving them things that they need to feel secure.
Wanda: I feel fortunate to be in this industry. We do a great job at bringing them (children) into our world. When you are trying to do and be a business woman, you need to let the children embrace and learn the business also. The industry makes it so exciting for them.
Tracey and Wanda are breaking barriers and creating opportunities out of uncertainty. Yet, they accomplish their goals with the youth in mind, in which they look forward to educating and grooming the next power women and men of the future.
With their non profit organization, B2, they hope to put people in front of kids to help them realize their gifts. Their goal is to create a Simmons-Shelley legacy that will give opportunities to people who are not in the business but have a skill set that can attribute to the industry.
Tracey Baker-Simmons and Wanda Shelley are changing the scope of Urban television and they are shining light to how being black is beautiful and transparent! After interviewing these ladies, I had made sure that I gave them big hugs so that some of their girl power was rubbed off on me!
Socialtik Magazine would like to congratulate Simmons-Shelley Entertainment for being nominated for a South East Region Emmy!