Are you watching Beverly’s Full House each Saturday night on OWN? Well, Black Twitter is. And boy, does it stir up a lot of interesting ideas about mother-daughter relationships, and more specifically, black ones. The reality show chronicles supermodel Beverly Sims’ attempts to mend her strained relationship with her only child, Anansa Sims, herself a plus size supermodel. Sims is newly married, with an infant daughter when she moves into Beverly’s spacious manse, already occupied by her house manager and friend, Robert. Beverly’s boyfriend, Brian, also makes frequent appearances.
When my mother and I found out Oprah planned to air a reality show on Beverly and Anansa, we knew we’d be giving it a shot. Beverly came to prominence as my mother was coming of age, in the psychedelic ‘70s when black supermodels were practically unheard of. My mom’s been a Beverly fan ever since she was 14 and saw her become the first black model to grace the cover of Vogue in 1974. Her daughter Anansa is around my age, and I’ve always admired how the pioneering strides she’s made for black women in the plus size market have paralleled her mother’s in the exclusive couture arena.
It’s a great premise: Beverly, having lost custody of her daughter for the first 11 years of her life, due to her high demand and frequent absence as a model, is trying to make amends for all the hurt Anansa carries. But Anansa’s not just upset about her mother’s absence during her childhood (Beverly regained custody of Anansa at the onset of adolescence); she’s also nursing a great deal of hurt feelings.
Apparently, Beverly can say and do some pretty insensitive things. In just the first few episodes, we’ve learned that Beverly called Anansa’s newborn “ugly” at the hospital; Beverly puffed air in her cheeks and made faces at her teen daughter as she walked out of a room, as a gesture that she was overweight; and Beverly told a young Anansa that no one would want to date her because of her size.
She’s also accused Anansa of calling her and her boyfriend “liars,” when Anansa has refuted Beverly’s side of a story. Therein lays the root of their issues: perception. One feels attacked whenever the other recalls an incident differently. For her part, Beverly has insinuated that Anansa is spoiled, unable to accept Beverly’s commitment to work, and unforgiving. She believes that the choices she made were in Anansa’s long-term best interest.
Here’s where Black Twitter comes in. Each week, as viewers live-tweet the show, a very clear line is drawn in the sand between Team Anansa and Team Beverly. Beverly supporters call Anansa whiny, uncooperative, and intent on finding fault with her mother’s gestures of good will. Tweeter @OneVeronique asked Beverly during last week’s show, “Has your daughter been praying? She MUST change that bad/negative attitude. This show has GOT to get better.” Anansa supporters think Anansa is just guarding her heart against her mother’s criticisms and insensitivity. Tweeter @atiyah9369 opined, “Beverly would have me walking on egg shells with her comments you don’t know how she is going to come at you.”
It’s interesting to see how, just like Beverly and Anansa, the audience can observe the same situations and walk away with such different readings. The obvious reason for this would be that we’re bringing our own baggage to bear. Though few can relate to the experience of having a supermodel for a mother, many can understand the frustrations on both sides of this mother-daughter relationship. Mothers make a ton of mistakes, but caring mothers also make a lot of sacrifices—for which their adult children spend a great deal of time taking them to task for both. Daughters feel particularly vulnerable to their mothers’ criticism and experience a deep and lifelong yearning for their approval. Neither side takes kindly to love with conditions attached.
Viewers certainly want to see Beverly and Anansa work things out. In fact, many have indicated that if they do, it will provide them hope for their own complicated mother-daughter relationships. Says tweeter @ElderElle, “#BFH is providing healing in my relationships with my mother & my daughter! I’m starting to see the full picture. We all have issues.” Viewer @BabyGurl2784 agrees, “Since I’ve been watching this show I’ve been thinking me &my mother need to talk to a life coach too.”
If nothing else, this show is filling a void for a chronically under-examined audience: black mothers and daughters. The conflicts and conversations feel uniquely familiar to us, and our investment in the outcome of Beverly and Anansa’s therapy sessions is high. Here’s to their success in strengthening their bond. And here’s to our own.