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'SWV & Xscape: The Queens Of R&B': 7 Life Takeaways I've Gotten Out Of This Helluva Roller Coaster Ride
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'SWV & Xscape: The Queens Of R&B': 7 Life Takeaways I've Gotten Out Of This Helluva Roller Coaster Ride

1991 and 1992. Anyone who was a teenager or in college during that time knows that if there were two groups who were constantly on the airwaves and had music visuals in regular rotation, it was SWV (they came out first) and Xscape (they came out the following year).


Wanna talk about a no-skips LP? That would be SWV’sIt’s About Time (a soundbite from their current show is definitely Coko saying, “30 million records sold…bitch”…LOL). And when it comes to Xscape, I will play “Feels So Good,” “My Little Secret,” and “Do You Want To” like they just came out to this day.

So yeah, when news hit cyberspace that they were going to do a reality six-part series together, I automatically knew that I was going to make the time to check it out. I mean, I had watched their shows (featuring them separately) before, and, for better or for worse, it was definitely some must-see TV.

Honestly, that’s why it didn’t shock me one bit when I peeped the People’s article, “Xscape Members Admit to 'Reluctantly' Signing on for New TV Show 'Queens of R&B' with SWV,”; especially when I noticed that Mona Scott-Young was an executive producer (have we ever seen her and Bravo’s Andy Cohen in the same room? Just sayin’).

And now that we’re what, four episodes in, I’ll just say that as someone who’s covered entertainment for many years now, I get that 1) we will never know people, as well as the media, wants us to think that we do; 2) perspectives are just that; and 3) no one is perfect.

That’s why I thought that the show could serve as a bit of a teachable moment in the sense that, rather than ranting incessantly on social media about what everyone is or isn’t/should or shouldn’t be doing, I would pull out seven lessons that stood out to me personally — things that we each can apply to our own lives if we’d instead turn entertainment into some edutainment. Ready?

1. Passive Aggressiveness Is the Ultimate Form of Gaslighting

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If there is one thing that irks me to no end, it’s a passive-aggressive individual and at the risk of being, well, passive-aggressive (LOL). If you’ve watched every episode of the show, you know exactly who fits the bill. One-word answers. Constantly being in opposition just to make things difficult. Dropping hints instead of coming right on out and saying what the issue is. Always playing the victim. Has an ever-growing scorecard without taking any accountability. Whew, these kinds of folks are completely exhausting. And what really sucks about how they move is that their words and actions float under the radar to the point where, when you get sick and tired of their ish and respond or react, they act like you’re the crazy one for doing so.

At the end of the day, passive-aggressive people think that “keeping the peace” means doing things their way. Yeah, watch that. They’re also chameleons because they will keep switching up based on who they’re around to keep a certain narrative about them going. Watch out for that too. Because if you continue to interact with them without calling them out on their ish, they will get off on gaslighting you — which means getting you to the point where you start to question your own reality, feelings, or perception of things, even though you know what you’re experiencing is real, which can end up driving you totally up the wall with no real benefits for doing so.

2. Toxic Moms Are a Problem That Isn’t Discussed Nearly Enough

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Ms. Gloria (LaTocha and Tamika’s mother). LAWD. I was just saying in an interview not too long ago that it’s past time that we fully address the damage that toxic moms are able to do. And if you will get involved in grown children’s issues; if you will try to intimidate your own children by yelling and talking over them like they aren’t adults; if you will minimize one child’s feelings in order to uplift another’s ego (like when Ms. Gloria said that Tamika was jealous of LaTocha behind Tamika’s back while Tamika was venting about feeling mistreated by both of them); if you will call yourself the fifth member of a group that has only four members and act like that justifies you butting into their business at any given time point and time (which it doesn’t); if you will tell a child that your other child may have taken said child’s money because she needed it (what in the world?!) and, if you’ve got one of your children never having peace about her own voice in life because she thinks she has to muffle it in order to get your approval — these are all forms of toxicity in parenting.

Wanna know some other ones?

  • Toxic parents are self-centered
  • Toxic parents are emotionally unpredictable
  • Toxic parents are overly-critical
  • Toxic parents disrespect other people’s boundaries
  • Toxic parents have a justification for even the most destructive behaviors
  • Toxic parents are demanding — oftentimes unrealistically so
  • Toxic parents get off on using fear to get what they want, even out of their adult children
  • Toxic parents lack any level of self-accountability
  • Toxic parents are draining to be around
  • Toxic parents basically only apologize to get you to lower your guard so that they can do something else manipulative.

It’s truly irrefutable that Ms. Gloria checks off these boxes. Yet if there is a silver lining to watching all of this go down in Tamika’s world, it’s that it could help some people to “connect some dots” in their own world (by the way, another sign of toxic parenting is a controlling parent because their job, especially once you are an adult, is to advise not dictate; we’ll have to deal with that at another time, though).

You know, unfortunately, when it comes to toxic parents of adult kids, oftentimes we’re told to just grin and bear it out of “respect for our elders.” Uh-huh, and do you know what that is? It’s another sign of toxic parenting because it’s a form of manipulation. And when folks decide to bring the Bible into the mix, the kind of manipulation that it is, specifically, is spiritual manipulation. This brings me to the next point.

3. Spiritual Manipulation Is a Very Real Thing

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“You don’t have enough God in you to calm yourself down and listen to righteousness. And if I hear you jumping on your sister, there ain’t nothin’ in this world that won’t keep me from kickin’ yo tail.”

When I heard Ms. Gloria say the above message on Tamika’s voicemail, it was triggering as literal hell. I mean, you’d have to be completely delusional about what it means to have a Christ-like disposition to think that anything about that was loving, peace-filled, or compassionate. Yet, unfortunately, a lot of every-week-church-going people will think that Christianity is like Showtime at the Apollo back in the day.

What I mean by that is some of us are old enough to remember that they didn’t let you boo someone if they sang a gospel song, no matter how bad they were. In comparison, a lot of people think that they can’t be told about themselves so long as they claim to be a believer or they use — or is it manipulate? — a Scripture to justify their totally reckless behavior.

Even when LaTocha said, “We come from a praying family,” I couldn’t help but think, “there is PRAYING, and then there is PREYING” because if there is a constant discourse, pain, and drama, something is profoundly awry. After all, it is the Good Book itself that says that God is not the author of confusion but peace (I Corinthians 14:33) and that humility is where riches, honor, and life stem from (Proverbs 22:4).

And don’t get me started on the parents who think they can treat their children any ole’ kind of way under the guise of “Honor thy father and mother” (Exodus 20:12) because that very same Bible also says, “Do not provoke your children to wrath” (Ephesians 6:4).

Yeah, it really is time out for thinking that saying one is a Christian is enough to qualify as actually being one because if your character doesn’t complement how the Bible — not church culture but the Bible itself — says that one is supposed to act like, then something is off. WAY OFF. And you should be corrected for it. THE BIBLE SAYS SO.

“He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.” (Proverbs 15:22 — NKJV)

Besides, if you’re the only one who can delve out judgment calls and never be on the receiving end, not only is that highly hypocritical, that is actually spiritual manipulation at its finest. May we all beware of that.

Oh, and for the record, being spiritual means little if you remain in a state of spiritual immaturity. What are some indications of that?

  • Holding grudges is spiritual immaturity (Ephesians 4:26)
  • Unforgivingness is spiritual immaturity (Matthew 18:21-22)
  • Rudeness is spiritual immaturity (I Corinthians 13:5 — AMPC)
  • Not taking personal accountability is spiritual immaturity (I Corinthians 11:31-32)
  • Trying to be popular at the expense of avoiding truth is spiritual immaturity (Luke 6:26 — Message)

4. Funky Attitudes Could Have Underlying Issues

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Again, I have been a fan of SWV since my teen years (my first love used to sing "Weak" to me often). I adored them then, and I enjoy them now ("Rain" is always gonna be my fave). That's why I thought it was interesting when Taj said in the first episode that they hadn't had any — pardon the pun — harmony issues since their 20s. Umm, I watched their 2014 reality television show (SWV Reunited) on WE tv, and it sings a very different tune (check out one example here). And boy, if there was a consistency in why the waters were so rocky, Coko was it.

Coko is a Gemini, and so am I. So, when it comes to the "straight no chaser" delivery that she has, I get it. Although I have to admit that time and intentional maturity on my part has taught me that "just being that way" isn't good enough if it's hurting other people's feelings or it's ultimately doing more harm than good.

As far as Coko, though, it seemed like — I'm gonna bring a word back — being janky never really bothered her, and I always found that to be…fascinating, especially since she always talked about growing up in the church. Like, you don't ever care about ruffling feathers? Like…EVER? Even with all of the talent that you have (because she really can SANG sing), do you not miss out on opportunities because people don't want to deal with so much of your…muchness?

That's why I'm glad she shared that she deals with bipolar depression. Not only does it shed some light on what seemed to oftentimes be erratic behavior on her show, but it also serves as a reminder that sometimes people are the way that they are due to some underlying causes that they might not even know about. Random mood swings. Blindsiding people with certain actions. Projecting issues. Stuff like that can have reasons that require some real therapy and/or medication, which is nothing to be ashamed of.

What people should feel uncomfortable about is constantly making others uncomfortable without looking into why they can be so triggering for them. So yeah, I salute Coko for sharing that private part of her life. She also gets mad props for a headline that I recently checked out: "SWV's Coko Gamble Takes In Cousin's 12-Year-Old Twins After Losing Her to Lupus: 'No Brainer.'" Much respect, indeed.

5. Never Apologize for Having Your Own Voice

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If there's one thing that seemed to be a running theme with this show, it's everyone wanted to make sure that their voice was heard — and good for them. LeLee has an alter ego (chile…CHILE), for instance. LaTocha wants to do gospel music. And Tamika doesn't want to be the hype man for her sister anymore — and interestingly enough, she seems to be paying for it when it comes to what it's costing her with her sister (and her mother).

Listen, if you don't get anything else out of these takeaways — please take away this: no one is truly your friend, blood or otherwise, if they only like you/can support you/will respect you if you do what they want you to do and/or how they want you to do it.

This is why the people who I counsel know that I will oftentimes say that what causes a lot of discord in relationships is so many people aren't looking for an actual PARTNER; what they want is a FAN and an AUDIENCE. Someone who will tell them that they can do no wrong and will back them up even when they are making the gravest of mistakes. Someone who will discourage you from growing if it's going to cause them to have to share some of their own spotlight. Someone who may claim to appreciate them, but oftentimes, what's really going on is they are quietly jealous— jealous of what could manifest if less focus was put on them.

I remember when I was penning my first book; there were family members who gave me the silent treatment for months because they were trying to intimidate me into not penning my book because they were concerned about how they would look in it. Lucky for them, I was merciful, and honestly, they should've been more concerned about how they treated me than if others were going to find out. That's on them. Yet I'm so glad that I didn't let them silence my voice because, as Alice Walker once said, "No person is your friend who demands your silence or denies your right to grow."

Someone is in some sort of relationship, friendship, or business partnership, and they know that it is holding them back. Please let all that you just read in this particular section serve as a BIG GREEN LIGHT that it's time to do what needs to be done to go to the next level — with or without them. (Side note: If they are right for you, they won't require that you sacrifice one for the other.)

6. Don’t Stay Stagnant or Stuck

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When Todd said in episode three that Xscape and SWV should go to group therapy, even if he was joking, there really is truth in all humor. Between LaTocha and Kandi still having issues from 1998 ('98, y'all) to Taj asking Xscape if they even want to resolve their hamster wheel of drama to LeLee saying, "With girls, it's always some bullshit," to LaTocha still being mad at her group for saying, "If you had an ass to kiss" years later (what in the world?) — you would think that record labels and television shows would almost require that groups go to see a therapist, counselor and/or life coach at least a couple of times a year. Yeah, but that's almost too much like right…right?

It's kind of wild that a part of the reason why these kinds of shows continue to get picked up is that so much drama carries on from year to year to the point where stuff is still getting brought up from decades before — and that's why folks keep getting triggered and ish never gets fully resolved.

Not too long ago, I was in a session with someone who is basically on the verge of self-sabotaging their current relationship because they are still caught up in stuff that they wish their ex had done TWENTY YEARS AGO. And because they are still holding on to all of that, it's got them looking in the past rather than focusing on the present. And when we do that, it's impossible to fully move forward.

Listen, I don't know what the ladies on the show are gonna do. What I do know is healing is a choice, and there are plenty of resources available to us all in order for that to happen. As for this particular takeaway, all I will say is, it would be a damn shame for any of us to miss out on what's best for us because we're still holding onto things in the past that won't change no matter how much we wish that they would.

Hold folks accountable. Set boundaries. Do some releasing as needed (check out "Why I Don't 'Cut People Off' Anymore, I Release Them Instead"). Yet purpose in your mind that this will be the year when you do really learn to LET ISH GO. As the Chinese proverb goes, "It's later than you think," so why waste time holding on to what's only keeping you stagnant? Or worse, stuck?

7. EVERYWHERE YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE

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One more, and then I'm out. Did you peep how one person on the show is the common link in a lot of the drama, and yet that same person hasn't said one thing that they've done wrong? Whew, chile. Whenever I encounter individuals like that, the same quote always comes to mind — "everywhere you go, there you are" because it's the truth.

Indeed, while it's really kind of inconsequential for one person to say that you're problematic in a particular area if 20 folks are echoing the same point (especially people who claim to care about you vs. trolls on the internet…who cares about them?), only those who are complete egomaniacs or totally lack self-awareness wouldn't pause-and-ponder to see if there could be some truth into what is being said.

And those kinds of people? Tuning out the voices only to find another circle to hang out in is counterproductive as hell (Thomas Hobbes once said that "hell is truth seen too late") because if you don't do some self-correcting, the same stuff about you is eventually gonna creep up. That's how the universe teaches us to grow up.

So yeah — whoever gets under your skin the most on the series, my two cents would be to do a bit of self-reflection. Are you similar to them? Have some folks told you about yourself, and you, Elmo shrugged them off? Are you caught up in some patterns that you know it's time to break?

Listen, television programming is just that — TELEVISION PROGRAMMING (which is why we all should watch what we tune into and how much time we spend — or is it waste? — on the tube). Yet if we choose to step outside of just gawking and laughing, the good news is we can learn a few things. This show is certainly not exempt. Not by a long shot.

So, here's hoping that as you're playing your own favorite SWV and Xscape joints, you're taking in one or two life lessons along the way.

Now let me get off of this thing and listen to "You're Always on My Mind" for the billionth time to settle my spirit from all of this keyboard stroking. LOL.

Good times, good times. And yes, teachable moments too. Give thanks.

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