“R&B Divas” recap (Ep. 8): “I don’t care what people think”

But back to serious business. It’s time to do this thang. The divas show up at the venue for sound check, which turns into a bit of a drama fest. First, Nicci sees how the stage is set up, says, “Aw, hells no,” and starts changing shit around until a stage manager shows up and says, “That’s Aretha’s set up, y’all.” And if there’s one diva you don’t mess with, it’s Aretha. Ooooooops. Cue frantic putting things back in their place.

They do then get to run through their songs, but only once before the mics are taken from them and they’re ushered off the stage, even though there were a lot of problems with the sound. Faith is pissed. There is a lot of bleeping going on right now. The only reason I even mention this part is because Faith always seems so even-keeled that it’s sort of great to see her get angry, and defend herself and her divas.

But the show must go on, and when it’s time, I cannot even describe how drop dead gorgeous each of the divas looks. I feel so proud and happy for every single one of them. They are divine.

Monifah’s up first, and she is rocking the most sparkly ass dress I have ever seen, that includes a HOOD, which she rocks like a boss. How can I find myself a short sparkly dress with a hood?! I want it.

Even Nicci is really into it: excited, positive, killin’ it. She says something about how this whole experience made her feel like a singer again. Bless it.

The only mishap in the whole diva performance is that Nicci, caught up in her moment, leaves the stage without introducing Syleena as she was supposed to. Oooops, again. But Syleena introduces her own fine self, and carries on. And I think Syleena looks most beautiful of them all, to be honest. She looks regal, which is only appropriate as she’s singing a song worthy of royalty: Etta James’ “At Last.” Remember how Etta James is no longer with us, as well? Goddamn, this was a rough year for the soul sister.

And Faith Evans? Psh, girl, Faith Evans knows how to put on a show.

Lastly, Miss Nerves herself, Keke Wyatt takes the stage channeling Whitney Houston without even a nanosecond of hesitation or doubt in her voice. What a moment.

The ladies meet at a swanky restaurant the next night to celebrate their success. And sadly, things take a bit of a wobbly turn when Syleena brings up the idea of doing a tour. After such a great performance that clearly rejuvenated all of them, this seems like the next logical step, and it’s one that it appears Syleena, Faith, and Monifah have considered before. Nicci has reservations because it’s clear that she has some residual Brownstone issues and really, really does not want to be part of a “group” type of deal again. While the others reassure her that it won’t be like that and it never has been like that, Keke is slipping into a dark and lonely place. She’s never heard talk of a tour before, and she feels that she is constantly being left out. The other divas all seem positive that they never give her a reason to feel left out; she makes herself feel left out within her own mind. From what we’ve seen on the show, this seems true.

Keke also has to keep in mind that while the other divas seem at a better place to pursue their individual passions, she has a lot of other things going on in her life. She has somewhere around 37 children or something, and she’s also recently started therapy. It makes sense to perhaps not be as connected as the other divas to every piece of information, if that even is the case. She says some really ridiculous things, though, like this is why she “doesn’t do women”–but I thought men were the ones she didn’t trust? She yells at Monifah; she eventually slips quietly away from the table to cry in the bathroom for most of the meal until Syleena drags her out; she makes “jokes” about killing herself. It is a bad scene.

Mainly, it’s a bummer because they have all just had an experience that they should be really proud and celebratory about — including her. Regardless, they get it together enough to have a group toast at the end, raising their glasses to prosperity, good health, and truth.

I have no idea if there will be a season two of R&B Divas, or from the shaky ending of this episode, if all five of the divas would even return. But in my dream world, I would watch the shit out of an R&B Divas Season Two: On Tour. Just sayin’.

But even if these eight episodes are all there is, what a surprisingly fine eight episodes they were. This reality TV show showed women of color in a more real and more positive light than I have witnessed in a long, long time. It unflinchingly addressed complex issues every episode: sexuality, mental health, the ups and downs of family. It didn’t seem forced or awkward; the divas know how to work a camera, and they all always appeared remarkably genuine. Unlike other reality TV shows about people who used to be celebrities, it wasn’t about laughing at have-beens or personal trainwrecks. It was about rising up and supporting each other. It was a celebration of music but also of life. And it’s a shame more people weren’t aware of it. Thank you, TVOne. Thank you, Faith Evans. You done good.