Without prior knowledge of the new Lifetime show (9 p.m. Wednesday), I thought it was a makeover show for women of the clingy, passive-aggressive, snooping, argumentative and controlling variety.
Turns out, it's a makeover show for women of the white variety.
"Trapped inside of every white girl is a strong black woman ready to bust out," says cast member Tanisha.
(Really? Even in the whitest-white gals we can think of? Ann Coulter? Martha Stewart? Anne Hathaway? Paula Deen?)
"Each week, we take a BW -- a Basic Woman -- and turn her from a red-hot mess into a bootylicious babe. We are four black women taught to always have it together and tell you like it is. This is way more than a makeover, this is Girlfriend Intervention."
Think Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, only it's more like Sassy Sis Saves the Cracker Miss.
And it's more insulting. At least that was my initial reaction to the generalizations made by cast members Nikki (home expert), Tiffiny (style expert), Tracy (beauty expert) and Tanisha ("soul" expert -- huh?).
"Black women, we are taught to always look your best. Even though hell could be happening behind closed doors, Honey, as long as you look fabulous, that is all that matters."
"With Caucasian women, you get married, you marry the man of your dreams, you have his children and now it's time to stop taking care of you? Girl, I missed that memo. I'm not understanding."
"No self-respecting black woman would ever hide herself ... if she wants to keep her black card. Show off the curves, that is what makes us hot!"
In last week's debut episode, the team was enlisted to help Joanie, a white mumu-wearing 35-year-married mother and former dancer, get back her groove.
And get some new shoes. Tiffiny on Joanie's boots: "Is that a hole? In the toe? Of an Ugg?" Tiffiny on Joanie's sandals: "Jesus wore those. Do what Jesus would do. Don't wear what he wore."
Ouch, with Girlfriends like these ....
I felt for Joanie -- a perpetually ponytailed, modestly dressed, makeup-free mom struggling with body issues. Taking care of family, she had lost sight of taking care of herself, and now self-consciously avoided going to events with her dancer husband. And here she was being subjected to the Home Invasion, Catwalk of Shame and Rack Attack (trying on clothes), segments of the intervention her stepdaughter arranged.
But then I heard empowering advice from these women -- a confident, composed coterie of fairy godsisters of various shapes and sizes -- that I had never heard from white women whose self-improvement talk inevitably centers on excessive exercise, starving and surgical fixes.
"There is not a sister on this planet who would miss a red-carpet event because she felt like she was too fat. Honey, that is a white-girl problem if I ever heard one. If I have to take a Hefty bag and make a dress out of it and look fabulous, that's what I will do."
"Who knew she had a beautiful situation back there?" another said about the tush Joanie always disguised. "What issue are you having with yourself that you can't accept the beauty of the booty on you?"
"As a black woman, we definitely embrace our size for what it is. Just like race, your dress size is not indicative of your self-worth, it's just a number, it's a characteristic of you. It's not everything that you are. Unfortunately my white girlfriends, if they're anything other than a Size 2, they are nervous and scared."
In their sprucing of Joanie's house, wardrobe, hair and makeup and a trip to a salsa dance studio, they weren't trying to change her, but rather encourage her to celebrate who she is.
By the end of the hour-long show, Joanie looked radiant, but not just from the red hair extensions and new clothes. She had been lit up from within.
"What you guys did for me by telling me I was beautiful before any of this, that spoke into my life," Joanie said.
Now those are real Girlfriends, indeed.
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Style on 09/02/2014