The women of the new web series ‘Lez Be Proud’ put real life on display
RICH LOPEZ | Staff Writer
Lately, reality TV is all about the ladies. The drama of a real housewife is addictive to watch. Bridezillas make for the most bizarre entertainment. Even the lives of policewomen are on display.
Lesbians have entered the fray with The Real L Word, but one show expects to take the catty drama away to portray the true life of everyday Texas lesbians.
“Most GLBT television exposure and media coverage do not portray us or even come close to our family dynamic,” says Debbie Forth, creator of the web series Lez Be Proud. “We also know that our lives do not reflect the norm that is promoted in the media. Our lives include homework, soccer practice and work. I tossed this idea around in my head for some time.”
Instead of the sensationalism portrayed by network shows, Lez Be Proud hopes instead to educate and bring awareness to issues faced not just by lesbians but the entire LGBT community, and to highlight local charities and life in Texas.
Lez Be Proud show follows business owner Forth and three other women: Dawn, a communications and telecom specialist, and Forth’s partner; and another couple, Kristi, a vice president of a business management firm; and Lauren, a senior loan officer in a bank. One of the emphases is on Dawn and Forth’s family unit: With two children and a baby daddy in the mix, they truly depict a modern family.
“People we meet are always intrigued by our relationship and the dynamic we share as a family,” Forth says. “Meanwhile, the idea of same-sex marriage and the opposition to our lifestyle was constantly in the media. This negative press left me questioning, ‘Where’s my voice? Who would understand my family and view?’ I liked the idea of promoting our positive alternative family to give others in the community hope for their families.”
Lauren and Kristi have unique stories of their own. Kristi comes from a Southern Baptist background and was a youth minister; Lauren finds the importance of equality for all people through her personal trek.
“I came to America with my family to escape communism in Vietnam in order to live in a free country,” she says. “Many Americans take their freedom for granted while others still try to take away the freedoms of those who are different. I hope my story makes people more aware of the prejudice and persecution that homosexuals experience in pursuit of the rights and respect we deserve.”
Dawn’s military background kept her in the closet for much of her adult life. She plans to relate that experience as well for people who struggled during their service — and are perhaps still struggling.
“I was always feeling I had to keep my personal and professional lives segregated. I’m ready to live a life that allows me to be totally true to my family and myself. I hope to share the inner sanctuary of my home with others so that they can see that it is possible to be out, proud and professional,” she says.
The show may sound like something heavy PBS might run, taking itself very seriously, but the teaser trailer on the website has polish and a light tone. It hints at the packaging of those previously mentioned network shows but with an added wholesomeness. Being that they do have hopes for a network pick up, it would seem only minor adjustments would needed to be made to graduate up to TV.
This first season is expected to consist of a minimum of eight episodes running about 20 minutes each, with plans to expand as it grows in sponsorships. The show debuts May 27 on LezBeProud.com. Future episodes will be archived on the site and can also be seen on OneMoreLesbian.com.
What it definitely is not, is the Real L Word — even if this is a reality show about lesbians and their daily lives. Kristi sees humor in the comparison, but works to dissolve the idea that these women have lives centered solely around sex — or rather, reality TV sex lives.
“Our show is more about educating people and having them not see us as second-class citizens,” Kristi says. “We have families, we’re CEOs, we have houses. We represent all levels of society and for people to know us as human beings instead of lesbian. That’s what’s gonna change the world. That’s our goal.”
The cast talks with good energy about the show, but interestingly has already received flak. There have been complaints that they are “too pretty to be lesbians.” Three of the four are also Anglo, leading to criticism the show doesn’t represent the diversity of the community. But, they defend, it is still a work in progress.
“We’re only here to start this not finish it,” Kristi says. “We want to see more culture and we love the butch community. This show is for all shapes sizes colors and cultures. Too pretty to be lesbians? Really?”
If their goal is network, there are some templates that most shows have to have. Of the Lez Be Proud cast, one has to be the bitch of the show.
“Ha! We’re told if a network picks us up that we need to have some strong personalities,” Kristi laughs. “We don’t have a bitch character, but if you ask any of us on a day we might be arguing, we’ll certainly throw them under the bus.”
Show me the money: Bravo’s grab for glamour glory
In order to get a show on Bravo, it doesn’t hurt to have one of three words in your title: “Top” (as in Top Chef and its spinoffs), “Housewives” (as in one of the seven iterations of that franchise — “real” is also acceptable) and now, it seems, “Million.” From Million Dollar Listing to Millionaire Matchmaker, Bravo seems to be selling glamour: hence, the reality show Million Dollar Decorators debuts the same week as Platinum Hit (platinum, million — same diff). Neither reality series is as compelling as the network’s biggest hits.
Platinum at least has the somewhat tarnished pedigree of host Kara DioGuardi. You may call a cable show slumming for the former American Idol judge, but based on this Idol season, I say she was thrown off a sinking ship. Not that there’s much to keep this one afloat. A dozen budding songwriters compete to compose the next pop hit, but listening to writers (most without instruments or strong voices) croak through their R&B isn’t the best way to showcase talent (though several shine). And DioGuardi, paired with host Jewel, doesn’t show any better judgment than she did on Idol. There are some cute contestants (none clearly gay based on the premiere), but we have enough pretty-boys in the music biz. We need more substance than Platinum Hit manages. Yeah, cuz substance is what reality TV does best.
The uber-gay non-competition Decorators trots out familiar tropes — so familiar as to be ho-hum. This type of show rises and falls on the personalities of the cast members, above; sadly, “bitchy drama queen” has become a description meant to apply to most people in every reality show — which basically means none of these stand out (well, maybe former boy model Ross). Pretentious, egotistical even self-deluded claims to influence (“Sometimes I think my job is more important than the president,” one says; “That goes without saying,” agrees his friend) define most of the men and women here, even as they deal with artificial crises (“Sharon Osborne needs it three weeks early!? I guess I’ll have to make my magic again!!!”). Been there, decorated that.
— Arnold Wayne Jones
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 27, 2011.