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Why do black women still support Tyrese?

  • Written by Demetria L. Lucas/The Root

tyresebookcoverimage-500I have a friend who looks similar to Tyrese. He has the same complexion and chiseled features, and a fondness for wearing plaid shirts, which Ty wore in a pivotal scene as Jody in John Singleton's "Baby Boy."

Last year, that friend and I were standing backstage at a music festival when a group of "mature" black women approached us to ask my friend for an autograph. He laughed, explained that he was not Tyrese and apologized for the confusion. One woman responded, "We should have known it wasn't him as soon as you were polite. Tyrese is an a--hole."

I wondered, "So why did you want his autograph, then?" But I didn't say that, of course, because who in their younger right mind talks slick to a "mature" black woman?

I've thought about that incident several times, and I can't find a logical reason that audiences continually flock to entertainers – not just Tyrese – who are repeatedly rude and disrespectful to them, whether in person or via their public persona.

Tyrese recently engaged in another one of his infamous foot-in-mouth rants when asked by AllHipHop.com about his responsibility as an entertainer to inspire fans to live healthier lifestyles. It was an odd question, considering that the singer-actor-best-selling author isn't a weight-loss guru, but Tyrese's hateful response was even stranger (and inarticulate):

"If you are fat and nasty and you don't like the way you look, do something about it," he said. "It's simple. When you take a shower and you put your fat, nasty body in the shower and by the time you get out, the mirrors are all steamed up, so you don't look at what you did to yourself. That may sound offensive or insensitive, but ultimately, you are big as hell because you have earned that s--t. You worked your ass off to eat everything in sight to get big as hell."

"Fat and nasty?" "Big as hell?" "Did to yourself?" Well, dang. Tell us how you really feel about some of your fans, Ty. It's as if he's never been to one of his own concerts or book signings, where the audience is populated mostly with black women (and their dates), and seen that many of them, including the guys, fall into the fluffy-and-fabulous realm.

Weight, of course, is an issue that many Americans need to address. More than one-third of U.S. adults are obese, and non-Hispanic blacks, Tyrese's core audience, have "the highest age-adjusted rates of obesity" in comparison with other groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But Tyrese is part of the problem, not the solution. Shaming fat folks as "nasty" and "big as hell" isn't exactly providing anyone with inspiration – what the interviewer asked about – to head to the nearest gym.

I don't wish to seem as if I'm unfairly harping on Tyrese. Plenty of entertainers make rude or offensive remarks. And if this were Tyrese's first offense, he'd be a footnote to make a larger point about celebrities like Terrence Howard or Taye Diggs who don't know when to give a politically correct or PR-trained answer or just shut up. But this is at least Tyrese's third.

Prior to this most recent gaffe, he was doing his damnedest to explain (for dummies) why his video for "I Gotta Chick" was mostly devoid of black women. "I don't do favors," he tweeted in response to the backlash from his fans. "Doesn't matter the race!! I'm black as (s—t)!! Love my sisters!! You do auditions and go for the BEST! Not race!! Love u!"

I didn't make too much fuss over that one because the last thing the world needs is more objectified black women wiggling around half naked in a video. But still, I find it unbelievable that there was a call for models to be featured in a Tyrese video and only homely black women showed up for the audition.

In the unlikely and far-fetched chance that this actually happened, then yes, he should have done another audition to "do a favor" for the women who look like the majority of the ones showing up at his venues – who watch his shows and films and put his book on the New York Times best-seller list.

Oh, but he wasn't done yet. Months later, when the flak for that gaffe had finally died down, he was back at it – this time taking shots "in particular" at "independent" black women (and gay men) in an interview for Necole Bitchie.

"Then some women are so on this independent kick, they end up alone," Tyrese said. "You're going to 'independent' your way into loneliness. You go off and buy all the little poodles you want."

Independence is a problem ... except when women use their disposable income to buy his books, or purchase tickets to his concerts and summer blockbusters, right? Maybe his independent fans can curl up with their pups as they watch reruns of "Baby Boy" on BET.

Never have I seen an artist who is so ungrateful or disrespectful to his fan base but who feels all too comfortable pitching them products like his latest project, a self-directed and narrated documentary, "A Black Rose That Grew Through Concrete." It's a chronicle of his life, from his humble beginnings to becoming a singer-author-actor.

More Tyrese? Maybe for you, but I'm good. I've already heard enough.

(Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root and the author of "A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life." Follow her on Twitter.)

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