My time last year backstage at the reunion of the first season of I Love Money was one of the most negative experiences of my life. Not on a personal level (and mind you, it was still quite fun), but the animosity ran thick there: I left shaking my head, mumbling to myself, “God, those people really hate each other.”
What a difference a season makes! I’m not sure what accounts for the difference (the more serious emphasis on strategy? the lack of Megan?), but whatever it was, it made for a lighter affair. Below: condoms, simulated fellatio, Lil’ Wayne references and even more Celebreality star incest!
“I’m handsome, right?”
That’s the first thing any on-air talent said to me after arriving on set. Those words sprung from the mouth of the inimitable It.
Feeling the way I do, it was easy to answer his question with an emphatic, “YES!” He mumbled something about other people saying Buddha or Onix was the hottest one on the show, but he felt that the distinction belonged to him. I usually find entitlement really distasteful, but this was one example of it being warranted. It’s entitled to his entitlement. Believe it.
“You know what sneakers I have on?” said It. I looked down and read “Prada” off the tongue. He seemed impressed with my answer.
“I need some forkin’ liquor, though,” he told me. So don’t blame the above exchanges on the a-ah-ah-a-ah-alcohol. “I’m like Clark Kent right now. All of the show, I’m Superman. New York 2? Superman. Everything I do: Superman. The reunion: Superman. French fries. I need my spinach like Popeye right now.” This is verbatim, by the way. I wouldn’t want to cheat you out of It’s exact speech pattern.
He told me a story about Saaphyri that I’d probably get in trouble for posting, but that led to the topic of sex and whether it complicates things when you’re attempting to strategize on reality TV. Said It: “I’m a smart dude, so I know how to not let that. If you want the $250,000, you can’t let that mess with you. I had Saaphyri’s emotions, but she didn’t have mine. She used to get jealous that I used to flirt with Myammee. That’s why she didn’t like Myammee.” Hm, there’s something I didn’t know. I take my insight where I can find it on these sets, even in kernel form.
At the end of my chat with it, I saw him kinda glancing at my arms and he said, “You go to the gym and s***?” I told him that I do and I thanked him for noticing. He responded with his usual, “Haaaah…” I love this guy.
Milf, too, was in excellent spirits, saying she was “extremely happy,” which was a direct contrast to the state we last saw her in on TV: crying and telling her son that she’d get him back. Well, as she told me in her Celebreality interview, she did just that and was happy to share her renewed joy. “It’s embarrassing to be perceived as that easy to break, because I’m not,” she said. But at least her on-screen pain hasn’t been for naught: “I love the women coming up to me and saying they relate, or have been through similar stuff. It’s taken me out of the whole sex thing and made me a real person.”
I asked her about her absence from Charm School with Ricki Lake, and she told me that she indeed was asked to be part of the cast, but she couldn’t participate: “I was asked at a time I was moving, and my life was complete chaos, so I couldn’t. I just absolutely couldn’t. Besides, I’m still looking for love, so it’s better to be in a house with some guys.”
I asked if I could take some more pictures of her, and she laughed and said, “Of course, that’s never anything I’ve been shy with.” “I’ve noticed,” I responded. So here she is smiling with her eyes:
T-Weed’s take on the show? “Bureaucracy prevailed.” He added: “I left on an integrity basis. From one perspective, that makes me even more of a champion, because that’s a champion mentality. Even if you read the Proverbs, it’s like, you can wear gold and silver, but what you learn and manifest can sometimes be greater.” I asked this champ about his champion hairstyle, wondering if it wasn’t a salute to the West Coast a la ’90s-era Snoop (since T-Weed lives in New York and was just visiting L.A. for the reunion). He told me he grew up in Chicago, and “this is how cats wear their hair in Chicago.” The things you learn on these sets!
“It’s good to be back, good to see everybody again,” said Bonez. His positiveness is indefatigable.
“I thought I was gonna last a lot longer,” Onix told me about his time on the show. “I thought I was going to be more like Tailor Made. I thought I was gonna come in and hang out in the background for a bit and let people eliminate themselves. Looking back, I’m kinda glad I didn’t last longer. It was so heated and stressful from Day 1, as soon as T-Weed took on Buddha. After two days, it was like, my god. If I have to do this for weeks, I’ll go insane.” But the biggest upside to his short stint? “I’m from D.C., so I got to experience the election. I’d be really upset if I had been in Mexico when Obama got elected.” Given the choice of history or reality TV, this man chooses history (never mind that the choice wasn’t really his). What a rare find!
During my brief talk with Ice, we discussed the fist-fighting that often happens during these reunions and how stupid it is. She made reference to Natasha’s recent beat-down of Kelsey on the Rock of Love Bus Reunion, which got me thinking that Ice had faced the exact type of gender-confusion ridicule that Natasha did. I never really put the two together before, so I asked her about how repeatedly being called a man affected her. Certainly, it never came to blows: “I don’t let that s*** bother me,” she said. “I got a deep voice, but I look sweet. I got cool hair and good makeup. I’m not really worried about it. Working at radio, people have always criticized my voice and then they meet me and they’re like, ‘Wow. You’re very cool. You’re very beautiful.’ You gotta let it slide. I’m not the type of person where I’m going to put someone in the hospital. Hell no. I’m not gonna be responsible for that.” No matter what you think of Ice and her genitalia, she is a lady.
Oh, but she did add re: Natasha, “She looked more like a man than I do.” I hope she locks her doors at night.
Ice also showed off her extremely complicated sunglasses, designed by her friend:
And then, there was Leilene, who, unlike just about every other female who’s ever appeared on VH1, allowed me to photograph her without makeup:
Also, unlike everyone I’d talked to that day (and almost everyone else I’d go on to talk to), Leilene told me, straight-up: “I don’t want to be here.” She said this in reference to a recent Twitter war between Frank and Becky (on one side) and her. In the baggage-toting way we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from Leilene, she elaborated: “The only reason I came was that a friend of mine died Tuesday. He died two hours after. I figured that life is too short to be mad at people. I love Becky to death. If she wants to be my friend, I’m totally cool. During the show, her and Saaphyri and now her and Frank…I’ll just let it out there: I’m jealous. When she’s with somebody, she’s a totally different person. Every time she gets caught up with somebody, I’m left in the dust. It’s like what the f***? I’m chopped liver? We spent Valentine’s together.” Since Leilene told me that men are her downfall, I wondered if she doesn’t do the same thing and invest all of her time in whatever man she’s with. She told me that she does. Well, it wasn’t hard getting to the bottom of that! Besides, camera is a beach.
And speaking of men Leilene has involved herself with, I brought up Heat. “If I lasted longer on the show Heat coulda coughed on me and I would have had babies with him. I get pregnant easily. I probably would have married that f***er or something.” I told her that in that case, her lasting three episodes was a good thing. “Why because I’m more marketable when I’m single?” she asked me. I don’t think Leilene realizes that when I look at her and her peers, I see people, not dollar signs (OK, at the most detached, I see interesting specimens). I told her it isn’t even about that and she responded with a hypothetical direction from the powers that be: “You’re single so you act like a hoe more.” “Oh, you’d act like a hoe either way, I’m sure,” I joked back. But don’t worry: she laughed back got that it was all in fun.
She told me she brought condoms to the reunion just in case. Apparently, she is that fertile. “I haven’t seen Heat since our appearance in Hawaii. I don’t want my panties to get all up in a bunch,” she said. “An excited or agitated bunch?” I wondered. She assured me it was the former. Leilene is also reading this:
Here’s her testimonial: “And it’s in comics! It’s for people who don’t really read! Like me! Limited intellect! Ha!”
In the end, Leilene says she’s done with reality TV: “I just want this chapter in my life closed and over with. I’m like, arrivederci, I wish you all success, I hope your careers work out, even though deep down in my heart, which is close to the bottom of my ass, I hope you all die and get hit by a f***in’ truck. I’m over it, you know?” Lest you think the days events were entirely positive.
Leilene, by the way, did end up getting her makeup on and I think the results were slammin’:
Speaking of slammin’:
I love Frenchie so. I can’t think of many things I love more than her except maybe clear heels.
…which she just happens to own! “Those are my dancer shoes, I wear them everyday,” she explained. You can take the girl out of the strip club, but you can’t unstrap her clear heels, apparently. Also, I love this shot below, because it’s Grey Gardens as flipped by a flamingo:
Tea for two, and two for lap dances! Frenchie told me that my interview was too easy, as though they’re ever hard. And on Tailor Made, she said, “He is very smart but is also a snake. But he’s a nice guy, and he’s smart but he’s a snake and he’s a nice person. You know what I’m trying to say? I don’t think he’s bad person at all.” Speaking of easy-to-understand!
20 Pack shared Leilene’s lack of enthusiasm for the day’s main event: “I think reunions are pointless, that’s just me. We can’t start trouble. I don’t start trouble, anyway. But I know people are going to come at me and I’m going to have to take it because I was wrong. Buckwild’s gonna come at me like a bat outta hell. I feel it. It’s in there. I told them that if she comes at me, I’m taking it out on Frank.”
Other than that, the show seems to have been an overwhelmingly positive experience for him: “It’s so nice to not be the a**hole. All the haters I have are the ones who don’t know me. I’ll have a conversation with a doorknob. I turn down nobody.” I think my hat rack just swooned.
Also, I took a picture with him and I’m posting it not to insert myself, per se…
…but just to give you some perspective on his size. I love this picture because he looks like the dummy to my ventriloquist.
Prancer and Cali like to say, “Like a cop car!” in reference to themselves, each other and their friendship. The line is from Lil’ Wayne’s “Mrs. Officer,” but I couldn’t really gather what it means beyond that. “It’s our thing,” said Cali. “It’s just what we say. It’s kind of like a period,” punctuated Prancer. OK then!
After seeing them fall out on the show, it was slightly surprising to see them wearing T-shirts with each other’s names on them. “What happened in Mexico stayed in Mexico,” said Prancer, exhibiting the healthiest attitude toward reality TV that I’ve ever witnessed. “Everything happened in the heat of the moment. When we weren’t friends, we’d walk by each other and start missing each other,” explained Cali. They chalked up their bond to the fact that they are “two awesome people” who found each other. Aw, destiny!
And now for something completely formal:
Most of my discussion with Tailor Made was documented in his Celebreality interview. He did mention his running for City Council with It, and how It’s campaign badge actually has the wrong year on it:
They’re running this year. I think by now Tailor’s filled It in on his political future. Or at least, I hope he has.
Myammee wasn’t yet made up yet when I stopped by her room, but she did show me some weave-stuff:
“And this is 30 inches,” she told me. “So beautiful. I can’t wait to put it in.” That’s my kinda endorsement.
After posing for a fake B.J. shot…
Frank and Becky talked at length about their relationship. (He had been staying with Buckwild at her place in Cali, for about a week prior to the reunion.) The unique rhythm banter is key, so here it is transcribed and placed in its own post.
But just FYI:
Frank rocks Drakkar.
“I wish Ashley were here,” Heat told me. He meant Rock of Love Bus Ashley. You know, Ashley Ashley. Oh, really? “We’re really cool. We get trashed together and we get crazy. I’m used to being an entertaining guy, and she entertains me. She says, ‘Dude, if you were not Spanish, I would not talk to you.’” Sounds like Ashley to me!
Heat started to tell me a story (or relate, uh…something to me) that started: “A lot of people do reality TV to get attention they never had or they wish they had. I already had attention prior to. I don’t have that much of a personal life now. The weirdest part to me is going out to eat, TGI Fridays, and I’m on a date…” I honestly don’t know where he was going with that, and I never found out because after doing, uh…something to the sign on her door…
…Frenchie came in and took a bunch of pictures with Heat. I never got to find out what happened with T.G.I. Fridays. You might even say I left my heart there.
Buddha was, by his report, “cool,” “chillin’” and fearless upon reentering an environment in which he had so many vocal detractors. “It’s not like I have anything to fear. They do. If they’re stupid. I don’t know who’d be so stupid as to try anything, but it’s not like I’m the one who has to be nervous.” Reflecting on his brief stint on the show, he said, “I wish things would have panned out differently. I wish I would have been able to play more. Participate more. I felt like I wasn’t in the game. I felt like the game was me: Beat Buddha instead of Get the Money. I just felt cheated.” But don’t cry for him, he’s still Fitnomenal. I think he’ll be just fine.
When I was done talking to Buddha, it was time for everyone to line up and take the stage.
Highlights of this portion included talent producer Lisa Lopez telling the group not to fist fight, that she, “Can’t. take. it. anymore!” following the Natasha/Kelsey carnage of the Rock of Love Bus reunion. Also, It grabbed Milf’s ass, but I only caught the reaction shot:
Then, everyone took the stage. You can see stills of this portion in the reunion gallery post. I’m trusting you don’t really need a curator for shots of people sitting around and looking into various cameras.
I did catch an exchange between Prancer and Leilene that went the way many do between girls with fake boobs (or so I’ve gathered watching VH1):
“You know, if you wanted to touch my boobs, the fact that we both have fake ones overrides that whole out-in-public thing. It’d be socially acceptable. Like a cop car.”
“You know something, I really don’t feel at all awkward after that.” Behold: the power of silicone.
Frenchie looks a little despondent in this shot:
But don’t worry, as this one that was taken just minutes later proves…
…looks can be c0nfusing.
When I said “everyone” took the stage, I meant “everyone” except those who weren’t there, like Tamara and Saaphyri, who’s got, you know, other obligations. I also meant everyone except for Myammee, who, as the show winner, could take her sweet time getting to the stage since she didn’t have to be out there till the last segment. I took advantage of her extra time for an impromptu photo shoot. What I enjoyed the most about this is that it’s a clear sign that Myammee has a sense of humor, which maybe wasn’t so detectable just via TV when she’s usually playing it cool and murmuring.
I mean, come on, you know?
She’s a fun girl.
Back with the group, it was nice to see that Milf held no resentment over It’s ass-grabbing…
And Leilene ate a banana:
Good thing she brought those condoms!
I also really, really, really love this picture, just cuz:
When the show was over, I caught Myammee and Hoopz hanging out by the entrance to the stage and I snapped a shot of them:
And it struck me that it’s pretty awesome that for two seasons in a row, black women have won this game on basis of nothing beyond the way they played it. It wasn’t because of quotas or plot lines or boobs, just physical and mental maneuvering. I don’t think that we can underestimate the value of that, especially given the way Myammee was dismissed on Flavor of Love 3, after “some guy” called her for his money. You could have retinitis pigmentosa and still read between the lines of what that implied. I always thought Myammee was done dirty and so for her to come back and take this thing felt like pure retribution.
So, in retrospect, of course this experience was positive. Given the reason we were gathered, how could it not be?