Straight ignorance – this is the thought that runs through my mind as I sit down to watch the new E! Network series, Candy Girls. After the barrage of obscenities, including the offensive use of the “N” word, I feel like I have just wasted a half hour of my life that I will never get back. The imagery is destructive and counter-productive to the self-esteem of young girls who aspire to live the celebrity lifestyle. It’s the reality show gone wrong – again, this time remixed to fit the hip hop lifestyle.
What is this insatiable fascination that we have with reality shows? Reality shows create a bonanza for television networks as they are much cheaper to produce than sitcoms or other staged programs. However, the cost of exploitation may far outweigh any savings. Broadcasting images which are sexist and/or racist are not worth the stain on our moral fiber. Hip hop has enough negative images that are projected through the media. We do not need yet another reminder of the stereotypes that mischaracterize the true spirit and meaning of hip hop.
Candy Girls attempts to glamorize the video vixen. The “plot” features attractive young women who live together in a house in between jetting off to jobs where they star in music videos alongside some of today’s biggest acts. These “models” work for an untraditional modeling agency run by an over-the-top agent who acts more like a jealous girlfriend rather than a boss. The setting reminds me of a brothel. Danielle, the agency owner, takes on the role of the older madam who makes sure that the girls are ready for their johns while holding onto the purse strings. Danielle is an agent, yet she gets personally involved in her employees’ personal life. Danielle resembles the other women, with the exception of one cast member, in that she is a woman of color who is working to support herself while living to meet the expectation of others. Yet Danielle sells her girls out to the highest bidder.
Candy Girl’s clients include rap and R & B superstars who book the agency’s models to fill the set of their videos. The “girls” also act as eye candy for some of Hollywood’s hottest parties and venue openings, hence the title “Candy Girls.” With each video and each party we begin to see the ugly side of the entertainment business from the viewpoint of under-represented women clawing their way to the top of a short-lived career. The earning potential of these women is limited in that they will only book jobs if they fit the stereotypical demographic for what the artist or record company is looking for – the Latina girl, the biracial girl, the white girl with blond hair, the black girl with long hair and a large derriere. If they do not follow directions, they are threatened to be replaced by the next “it” girl lining up to take their place.
The working conditions on the set or at the club often include some form of sexual exploitation and harassment. The women are directed to wear skimpy and seductive outfits, which become their uniforms, while acting in a suggestive manner. At times they are approached by the celebrity client while being groped and served alcoholic beverages. All of this happens while the cameras roll, filming every indiscretion. Several episodes feature these young women becoming romantically involved with others in the music or sports industry while living under the constant accusation of being a groupie.
In the cut-throat entertainment industry, these women try to weather the storm of the sexual innuendos and allegations. A couple of the women are single mothers who suffer under their vulnerability as they try to parent and live the party lifestyle. Absent the fame and fortune, these women are struggling to make a name for themselves with their looks. Some crack under the pressure of the rumors of their sexual mishaps. They take pride in serving as the lead model rather than an extra in a rap music video, all the while ignoring their true potential to be the lead in the boardroom or the courtroom. While sex sells, the time has come for us to let the E! Network know that we cannot afford what it is selling. Microphone check 1-2, 1-2…is this thing on?
- Kamille Wolff