Is Reality TV Changing Our Perception of Black Christian Women?

There is an increase in the presence of Black Christian families on mainstream television. From Braxton Family Values and Mary Mary to the upcoming series The Sheards, Black Christian women and their families are allowing the intrusive cameras of reality television into their homes, introducing the world to their personal lives and careers on and off the stage.

Mary Mary, the successful Gospel duo consisting of sisters Erica and Tina Campbell, have a WE tv reality show of the same name. The series highlights many aspects of the Campbell sisters lives as they work together in the music industry, hire family members as employees, balance their professional and personal lives, and manage their lives as full-times wives and mothers.

There are a lot of melodramatic moments on Mary Mary, from mediocre performances to issues between management and family members. What is great about this show is that while there is authentic sister banter, there is also a realistic balance of failure and triumphs. This works to remind viewers how Mary Mary is strong in their faith and also go through things that any woman, wife, singer or sister would.

Braxton Family Values is a reality drama series starring R&B veteran Toni Braxton, her four opinionated sisters – Traci, Trina, Towanda and Tamar, and their stern, newly single mother, Evelyn. The Braxtons, formerly a sister girl group, do not currently sing gospel music in their individual careers, but the show reveals their firm Christian background. They were raised by a Methodist clergyman father and an active church member mother. The Braxtons don’t stray too far from their upbringing, as cameras catch moments of them singing a Capella gospel selections, reminiscent of their choir singing days, much to Evelyn’s approval.

As with all reality television, BFV has a lot of drama. The show draws attention to the familial problems of divorce, infidelity, infertility, autism, and financial challenges. Seeing the continuous ups and downs that the Braxton family faces, allows viewers gain insight into the daily lives and struggles of this musical family, painting a realistic picture of them being relatable and human.

The Sheards, a reality show chronicling the daily lives of the famous church and musical family, debuts on BET on April 7th, 2013. The show features Gospel music legend Karen Clark-Sheard, mega church pastor John Drew Sheard, their singer-daughter Kierra, and musician-producer son J. Drew.

It appears that The Sheards will be another holistic representation of Black Christian families on television. A range of issues play out on screen from Kierra’s successful Gospel career and journey to weight loss, her brother J. Drew’s career aspirations that lie outside of the church and their very different interactions with their parents. The show provides a glimpse into the lives of this very high-profile Christian family; the extended trailer can be seen here.

Arguably, the focal points of all three series are black women, their faith and their family. Their faith in God and loyalty to the church provides their foundation for all matters involving their families, lives, and careers. These shows also act as catalysts for the various family members, who feel overshadowed by their famous sibling or parent, and are given this platform to explore their fame and opportunities.

These shows serve to dispel the many misconceptions that are associated with the Black Christian community. They do a great job of presenting issues that are going on in any Black family, with or without a faith. There is drama, dysfunction, as no one is above making mistakes. The series most redeeming quality is that Black Christian women now have a voice and a growing, diverse representation in the media.

Braxton Family Values is currently in season three on WE tv, Thursday nights at 9PM. Mary Mary just wrapped up their season 2; reruns can be seen on WE tv as well. And The Sheards premieres on BET, April 7.

Precious J. is a 20-something, aspiring culture writer and music enthusiast located in DC. For more on her contemplations about blackness, culture and music, email her at:

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