Last night I got the surprising text “I just saw you and the kids on the local news!” Asking for more details and she said it was our clip from when we were guests on Steve Harvey show, and it was about his emails.
I’m generally am not up on celebrity news, a quick google search produced the shocking leaked email to his staff, basically telling them to leave him alone.
In fact, he goes on to say they will be “removed” if they approach him without him initiating it. Talk about job challenges, I’m not sure how you to produce a TV show without being allowed to talk to the boss. Yet, it all sort of came together for me … the bad taste left in my mouth over our experience with the show was there, for precisely the reason I thought. He doesn’t seem to value people.
Last July, in the heat of police brutality wave, my article went viral about the experience of being the white mom of adopted black teens. I cited that my kids experience benefits of being “white by proxy,” because their adoptive dad and I are white, and that I had experienced being “black by proxy” because as a now-single mother, people make certain assumptions that provoke certain behaviors when we are in public together. I also sharing having conversations with my kids about being stopped by police that my friends with white children never knew to have.
It was super exciting a few weeks later to get an email from one of the producers of the Steve Harvey show after reading my article. They explained they were doing a “town hall” special on police and BLM. They wanted to know if we would come to Chicago to be a part of the show. While we hammered out details of what part we would take in the show, we were excited to share our voice.
My friends can attest I was hesitant. Honestly, I hadn’t ever watched an episode of his show. As a dating coach, I disagreed with Steve Harvey’s dating advice people quoted during the Q and A at my seminars. As a writer, I am more comfortable being behind a keyboard. I even stayed awake a couple of nights wondering if there could possibly of violence during the taping because emotions would be running high.
I agreed to do it because it was an opportunity of a lifetime for my kids and I thought I may regret it if we said no. They flew us out to Chicago, put us in a hotel the night before taping. They had a car assigned to take us to the studio hours before the taping. We had our wardrobe approved or adjusted, hair and makeup done and got briefed on how everything would go.
They had so many guests for the town hall, they ran out of dressing rooms and put us in his board room. We were a mix of nerves and excitement. Then the senior producer came in to give us our “lines” and this is where I started feeling uncomfortable.
Before agreeing to be on the show, we were told that Coffey would be having my kids perform the technique he taught on his viral video about how to safely be stopped by police. We were also told we would be able to get photos with Steve after taping.
However, we were told that Coffey would be there, but the original idea got scrapped. Instead, handed a script to practice. Our segment was only a few minutes, but my “lines” contradicted what I already said in the article. I wasn’t being presented as a mom who understood and fights for the differences in social justice my kids experience, I was just some random white mom with black kids. The lines they had for me was to tell Steve how worried I was something would happen during a traffic stop and didn’t know what to tell them to do. I was then, after both of my teens shared their experiences, (one of which they exaggerated purely for their own purpose), supposed to ask Steve what he taught his own kids to get them home safely. It seemed they wanted me to look like a helpless mom incapable of seeing past her privilege. Steve responded to my lines by saying exactly what Coffey’s video taught, stealing his scene.
The taping took a couple of hours. During breaks, Steve was entertaining, funny, using language that surely offended church ladies in the audience. He talked about the Miss Universal foul-up and how he had police at his house 24/7 in case the Columbians came after him.
All through the taping I was rather bothered. Steve doesn’t know anything about anyone until he arrives on the set and reads it from the teleprompter. I was surprised he wouldn’t know the basic story of his guests so that he can connect with them during the taping. I realize most of his shows are more fluff than substance, but while my daughter cried listening to the widow of fallen officer, Brad Garafola tearfully talk, Steve never reached out to even put a hand on her shoulder. He stood far away from each guest during their segment, it certainly didn’t have the personal flavor you would expect, especially with such a difficult topic.
When the taping wrapped, we asked if we could get any pictures and were then told “Mr Harvey doesn’t do photos” even though this same person told us in email he did. We ended up getting a photo with a banner of him and pictures by the board room door, proving we had been there in case we ended up on the cutting room floor. It was something, at least.
We were told to collect our things, as they had cars waiting to take us to the airport. In the car, we reflected about the whole experience, but none of us felt positive about it. We felt like pawn…even though it was just for three minutes of TV and we got a free whirlwind trip.
Everyone back home was dying to know how Steve was in real life, I said funny but standoffish. I also said the whole experience felt dehumanizing, inauthentic and not likely to make a difference.
The thing is, I don’t care how funny you are, how famous you are, how successful you are, (despite your humble beginnings,) if you’ve forgotten how to have empathy or connect with people, you’ve missed the real essence of life. And after that experience and reading that hateful email, you are certainly no role model for MY kids.
My first thought when I read his words were, “well, that explains a whole lot.” Steve was even given the chance to publicly respond to the harsh memo and said he is not sorry, even though he admitted he ‘could have’ handled it differently, he did not apologize for the way he handled it. I’m all for boundary setting but you should never make others feel “less than” and strive to be beyond kind when giving a difficult message.
I thought of the faces of the employees we met and I felt awful for them. I hope as he moves this show to LA, that they find a new opportunity with a boss who will not care only about his own “enjoyment,” but will care about the people who make him look the way he did to the world (before we read that email, anyway.)
Maybe Ellen is hiring!