Recently both Star Jones Reynolds and Desirée Rogers–women known for their own exits– were back in the news. Johnson Publishing Company announced it was hiring the former White House Social Secretary to consult on their prominent publications Ebony and Jet, Star’s camp announced she will be writing a novel called The Lunch Club to be released Spring 2011. The book dishes the behind-the-scene drama of a nationally televised talk show hosted by a group of women–shelved in the fiction section, of course. Pardon my tone, but as soon as I saw Star’s press release I thought, “Dang girl, you really need to let it go.”
Star’s exit from “The View” happened in 2006, after ABC chose not to renew her contract and essentially gave her the boot from the show. After being told she could make a formal statement on the show’s Friday airing, Star broke the news early, letting out the details on a Tuesday to People to the surprise of the other women at the table. At the time, I felt for her. It baffled me they would keep right wing, wrong brain Elisabeth and let go of Star. I didn’t agree with everything she said, but give me a choice between her and the monster that is Rosie O’Donnell, I’d pick her no question.
But this next step? Sorry, I can’t support it. Am I hating? Not even. Frankly, it made me concerned because she chose to do so despite the success she’s achieved since leaving “The View.” The novel isn’t a bad move because of how she left “The View,” or even just as a matter of tact, it’s a bad move because it shows she hasn’t mentally left the situation. While she is a smart woman (and smarter than most people give her credit for), Star is making the mistake strong women make and make often– not letting go.
Despite personal fluctuations, you have to respect Desirée and for being a strong woman in public eye. As women in the workplace–especially women of color– we get at maximum, one incident before being labeled “the angry chick” in the office. It’s an unfair label but once it’s applied, it is a lasting one.
Say what you want about her debacle with the state dinner party crashers, Desiree’s name is back in the papers despite many who claimed she was destined for professional blacklisting. Working in the Obama administration was definitely a great look, but once it was clear the situation was winding down, Desiree did what Star Jones never got to- she made a graceful exit.
I’m being sure to use graceful, not perfect because once you have Congressmen calling for your resignation– you’re not able to waltz out to a thank you parade. But a week after the incident, Desiree was making arrangements to leave, tying off loose ends and allowing the staff to have as smooth a transition as possible. Star may have gotten the word of her departure out first, but Barbara Walters had the last word when she made the announcement on the air alone.
Four years ago, I watched as Barbara talk to viewers about Star’s departure, saying she had hoped Star “would announce it on this program and leave with dignity, but Star made another choice.” I didn’t like when Barbara said it then, but this time, I have to agree- writing this book is another choice and it’s only to make the same mistake twice.
I’m not worried about how the book will fare or what will be revealed. I just think about the energy Star will be expending writing it and how many times as women we put energy into something better left alone. Desirée didn’t do a media post game on leaving Washington. She did the best thing she could– move on. Claiming the next phase of your life means walking away from what’s still pulling you behind.
As strong women, we are used to handling our business and standing up for ourselves. We’re built tough and meant to withstand the trials that come. But sometimes the hardest thing for a fighter to accept is that the battle in front of her is not worth fighting. As painful as the critics can be and as much pride as we women have, sometimes leaving the room is the better choice.
I’m a proponent of strong women and a proud member of the tribe. Women who know what they’re worth exude a silent self-assurance from the minute they walk through the door. We are women meant for great things and meant to shine. As girls we’re told, “there’s nothing better than a woman who lights up the room.” But looking at Star and Desirée, I’ve come to amend that phrase. Because the truth is that a better woman knows when to leave, how to let go and that she can keep her light shining wherever she goes next.
The graceful exit is one of the most valuable weapons a woman can possess. There are some women who do it with ease. I am not one of them. On the scale of ohm through zen, I’m solidly behind Gandhi, the Dali Lama and Phil Jackson. Settling into my twenties, I’m starting to get why it’s so important to press the mental pause button and put things in perspective.
I’m no yogi, but even I know that if you’re trying to keep your balance, the worst thing to do is look away from the mirror. Keeping yourself focused is the best way to stay standing. So eyes straight, girl. The critics can’t take anything from you that you don’t give them.