Meet 'BAPs' Cast, the Real People Behind Lifetime's Offensively Titled Series
Shows based around race are tricky business, doubly so when it's a reality show, since audiences are expected to take whatever is happening onscreen as real. Lifetime's new unscripted series BAPs is already under fire for its title and what it might have to say about its subjects. Considering the also controversial Princesses: Long Island merely hinted at the pejorative phrase "JAP" without using it, it's safe to say that TV purveyors are aware that the phrase is demeaning. While one can argue the Real Housewives are just as shallow, they're still identified by a signifier other than race. Each Housewives franchise is about a particular lifestyle based on location, not a segregated grouping.
If handled poorly, the show could potentially perpetuate the worst stereotypes of black women on reality television, notably: shallow, unintelligent, and above all "angry". Think every shouting Flavor of Love contestant or girl who had to "tell it like it is" on Bad Girls Club or Charm School. But, what's in a name, afterall? A title is just a title, and one chosen without consultation from the cast. Further, a New York Times piece posits that, when done right, wealthy black characters on screen can showcase the humanity of black women, by freeing narratives from disadvantaged economic focus, and instead showing them as power players.
Perhaps the best approach to BAPs is to take a closer look at its cast as individuals, rather than focusing on the title that has been given to them by Lifetime. They are real people first and foremost, (though Lifetime's sparse cast pages are not helping with that notion.) Get to know some of them below, and see the people behind the "princesses."
References to debutante balls and prep schools litter 36-year-old PR and Marketing pro Anisha's speech. She's listed as the owner of firm Kingmaker LLC and her Linkedin profile reveals she's held numerous community leadership positions and has professional work fluency in French. She's also the resident drama master, referencing her complicated relationship with old friend Kristen both in the video above and on twitter, so if you're looking for good old reality show shit-stirring, watch out for Anisha's plotlines.
Gina's cast bio touts her as the "well-mannered" one, but outside of the hoity-toity, she has a penchant for the inspirational, sharing reminders to remember the light and beauty on the inside. Her intro clip has her rolling with her mom, so I imagine Gina's going to be a source of positivity on the show, with her blog confirming her tendency to be diplomatic. A typical Gina quote: "we have to keep in mind that we all have our own personalities and our own way of dealing with certain situations." She does reference her singledom in the clip, though, so I imagine beneath that air of positivity, she's looking to get to a point where her mom is not her date to an event, no matter how close they are.
Jason K. Wilson
Jason is going to be the character to watch out for. He's the founder of two businesses for caffeine hounds: Northwest Coffee Roasting and Chronicle Coffee. Because he's a self-made businessman, Lifetime touts him as the "voice of reason" and a representative of internal discrimination within ethnic communities. If all that is true, he really is going to grow into the most riveting character on the series.
Kendrick's first-person bio boasts a penchant for realness, which means you know he's going to be Anisha's partner-in-crime on the drama front, which is perfect because he is also her beau. Lifetime's description of the show identifies Kendrick as un-BAP, so I'm guessing he's there to disturb the pot a little bit and add . Anisha's first blog for the show, however, doesn't mention Kendrick at all, instead talking about co-parenting with her ex, so I'm sure we can also expect some domestic drama on the horizon.
Kristen Gipson Jones
Aside from sporting some killer head jewelry for her cast photo, Kristen manages the operations for her family's McDonald's franchise, and is also the aforementioned BFF Anisha throws shade at in her intro. Kristen is now married with kids, with her new baby taking first steps just this week. Given that one of Anisha's beefs with Kristen is her not being experienced in married and mommy life, it'll be interesting to see how their relationship develops over the course of the show.
Kendrick's niece Rai-Rai is the other "non-BAP" cast member. The youngest of the lot, she says in her bio "even though I am not a BAP, I am still a successful," so here's hoping the University of Missouri biology major is a breath of fresh air in the face of all the princess-dom. Although, I'm pretty sure they are going to try to Princess Diaries her and mold her into something more glamorous. Though the page and video are no longer live, a cached version of the BAPS site reveals the existence of a clip called 'Refining Rai Rai' with a description that hints towards Anisha and the ladies trying to give Rai a makeover, with Kendrick trying to convince them to let her be who she is.
Riccarda works behind the scenes in television development at Asylum Entertainment, (surprise, one of the shows they produce is BAPs). Her homecoming and mock crowning reintroduces her to the BAP family on the show, but she later blogs that it was a total bust due to Kristen and Anisha's feud.
Hopefully as the season goes on, BAPs will allow its cast to break through the stereotype it has assigned them and show the people instead of the princesses.