|Iyanla Vanzant & Hazel E|
By Brenda Alexander
Although reality television is a guilty pleasure of mine, I avoid the Love & Hip Hop franchise. From fights – to love triangles – to social media scandals – to manufactured beefs for ratings and even going as far as bringing innocent children into the picture to be subjected to the shannigans, the show just does way too much for my liking. Its cast members seem to be the most exploited and then rewarded, going from season to season and jumping cities with pay increases and instagram endorsements. Aside from K. Michelle, Amina Buddafly and Cardi B who used the platform to successfully take their music to new heights, the rest continue to marvel in the madness. Never did I think that an example would be made out of one of the franchise’s stars after seasons of showing her ass. Instead of being reprimanded for throwing drinks on her fellow co-stars or simply acting a fool, Hazel E was instead given the axe after posting disparaging comments about her nemesis’ skin color. Black twitter wasn’t having it, production felt it was too much of a PR nightmare to recover from, and her “career” has taken a hit. So what did the fallen reality star do when she had no luck elsewhere? Call Auntie Iyanla of course.
Saturday’s episode of Iyanla Fix My Life opened with screenshots of 37-year-old Hazel E’s social media tangent about her “hating” co-stars and comparing their looks to a “black a$$ monkey” among other things that you’d think only a Trump-supporting, Republican and confederate-flag-waving Southerner would so bodly post online. Iyanla speaks to her mother to get Hazel’s backstory, as we know, Ms. Vanzant likes to unravel people’s story from beginning to end. Throughout the episode, viewers learn that Hazel was brought up in an unstable home and taught she was better seen and not heard. Born to a teenage mother without a father who passed before her birth, Hazel’s mother Angela entered into another relationship that was revealed to be physically and verbally abusive, to both she and Hazel. To make matters worse, Hazel also revealed that she was sexually violated as a child by two black women of darker skin tones than she and when she told her mother, she was informed to never speak of it again. Hazel internalized that experience and her sexual violation at the hands of darker skinned women manifested itself into the hateful words she spilled about her co-stars so many years later. That’s a lot to take in.
First, looking at Hazel E, I had no idea she was black, and apparently neither did half the world which explains the intense backlash she received post her social media debacle. Colorism should never take place; but it’s always an outrage when someone (who appears to be) from outside of the community takes such ignorant digs.
The exploitation she suffered in childhood from women entrusted to care for her, and her own mother silencing that is unfathomable. Hazel identifying darker skin tones with the women who abused her seemingly as the enemy speaks volumes. Bad behavior should never be excused but it was clear how deep Hazel’s wounds run. She’s been trained to be quiet about anything that’s deemed remotely uncomfortable for those around her. It’s only natural that as an adult, she acts chaotic.
|Iyanla & Hazel in the ‘legacy room’|
The most powerful part of the episode, and in my opinion one of the best parts of the series overall, is when Iyanla takes Hazel into “the legacy” room. Hazel, who considers herself an entertainer, is surrounded by photos of the great black women in entertainment and Civil Rights including Ruby Dee, Della Reese, Rosa Parks and Harriet Tubman. The exercise was to show Hazel that in order to be your best presently, you must know who and what came before you. From the edit, the only figure she recognized was Rosa Parks, which was sad. We live in a time where there’s a stark contrast between black excellence being sought in the more traditional sense contrast with those who seek and will do anything for fame. With Iyanla making Hazel recite her own racy rap lyrics while in the “legacy room” about twerking and popping bottles, she reprimanded Hazel in the most stern yet educational way explaining, “You know what pop my butt meant to Harriet Tubman? It meant a whip.” That scene proves just how oblivious not just Hazel, but many women of color can be. The fact that our ancestors fought for such freedom for us to diminish one another as we do.
They say, “Once you know better, you do better.” Behavior is a personal reflection of oneself. I hope that we can all take the Iyanla approach and correct ourselves so that as Iyanla would say, we show up in the world correct.
Given what we now know about Hazel’s past, does she deserve a second chance?
Brenda is a Philadelphia native with a love for Marketing, Creative
writing, wine and Jesus. Her work has been featured on Mayvenn’s Real
Beautiful blog and she is the co-author of the book Christmas 364: Be
Merry and Bright Beyond Christmas Night (available for purchase on
amazon). Follow her on IG @trulybrenda_ and trulybrenda.wordpress.com