Commentary: The Groundbreaking Genius of Fashion Queens

Derek J, Miss Lawrence and Bevy Smith are not trying to be (or look) like everyone else.

Posted: 11/21/2013 03:30 PM EST
Derek J, Miss Lawrence and Bevy Smith

If you stay up late enough on Sunday nights (or set the DVR), you can catch the most fashionable revolution going on on television. The Bravo show Fashion Queens, now in its first official season after a short trial run, is much more than it seems on the surface. On the surface, it looks like Bravo's answer to E!'s Fashion Police, a weekly takedown of some of the best and the worst in celebrity fashion, but through the eyes and commentary of an all-Black cast. Not only dishing out the thumbs up or down to the week's fashion, Fashion Queens is also daring America to get comfortable watching men in lace and sky-high pumps and a woman who is not a size 2, sexy and very confident.

Of course, this isn't what America is used to seeing, so reactions in the beginning ranged from "you go" to "what the hell"? The banter between male hosts Derek J and Miss Lawrence, faces familiar to viewers of Real Housewives of Atlanta, led a number of viewers to say that the two gay men dishing about style and wearing designer duds and bold accessories was very "Men on Film"—a reference to the old Living Color skit about the stereotypes of gay men.

Meanwhile, other viewers did not know how to handle the female host, Bevy Smith, who's been popping up on television screens for over a decade as a talking head on various television shows. She's a curvy woman with big breasts, a butt, hips and thighs, with a love for tight dresses. And you won't catch her moaning about needing to go on a diet or acting like anyone’s Mammy (another popular role for Black women on TV who were not skinny). She's just being her most fabulous self. In a culture obsessed with thin, she offers up real. On last week’s episode, Smith admitted that she had caught a lot of flak for a super low-cut dress she had on in an earlier episode which viewers commented that she looked like there was “an ass” sitting on her chest. She shrugged it off and life moved on.

The reason the “ass” dress and many of the others looks that are seen on Fashion Queens has led to higher ratings, not outraged letters demanding that they be cancelled, is because television has the power to normalize images that may initially be unexpected. If you see something episode after episode and the content is good, it transforms from feeling awkward to right. And that’s why Fashion Queens is waging its own mini-revolution, forcing people to see differently in a culture that wants us to think that what’s good has to look the same.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.


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(Photo: Courtesy of NBC)

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