I Have Issues With OWN’s ‘Ready to Love’ Dating Show … Again
The third season of Ready to Love, a dating series from Will Packer Media and Lighthearted Entertainment, premiered on OWN on Oct. 23rd with a casting special featuring host and dating mentor Thomas Miles and executive producer Will Packer. Miles and Packer gave viewers a glimpse at the season’s cast and revealed why they thought each of the 20 contestants was ready to love, but the season didn’t actually begin until the second episode that aired on Friday, Oct. 30th. Similarly to the previous seasons, though, the third season of Ready to Love is already fraught with issues ranging from body and hair texture exclusivity, an undercurrent of colorism, and perpetuating the idea that women have to compete with each other for a man’s affection.
The official premise of the series, according to Oprah.com, is: “Ready to Love … explores the real-life dating interactions of sexy, successful and grown [B]lack men and women in their 30s and 40s who are each looking for lasting love and an authentic relationship. A unique twist on a typical dating show, Ready to Love highlights the men's observations and experiences in the search for true love in Atlanta.” There have been a couple of changes to the series since this description was shared on the site. First, the singles are from Houston, not Atlanta, this season. Second, the contestants are secluded at a resort and they’re calling the show Ready to Love: Last Resort, but I will continue to refer to it as Ready to Love season three. It’s obvious the show had to move production to a resort as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Miles argues that allowing the singles to live every moment with each other will give them the opportunity to truly get to know each other without the rigors and stress of real life getting in the way. [Insert eye roll. And I’m getting old people’s Freaknik vibes, and I’m an old person.] Living through a perpetual honeymoon isn’t how anyone gets to truly know someone — that’s relationships 101.
Season after season, the aspect of casting on Ready to Love that’s most glaring is a lack of body and hair texture inclusivity. If a woman has an A-cup, slim hips, a little booty, thick waist, dreadlocks, or a TWA, she’s obviously not ready to commit to a relationship or isn’t desirable to Black men, according to Ready to Love. Even the women who are on the thicker side have small waists that give them an hourglass figure. There are no Olive Oyls or Lizzos. Similarly, most of the women cast on Ready to Love wear their hair straight and/or don wigs and hair extensions that most definitely do not represent their natural hair textures, whereas men with hairstyles and cuts ranging from dreadlocks to baldies to afros are cast. This is not to say these women looking for love should be penalized for how they choose to style their hair or their body type, but it does say quite a bit if this is solely what Black men are supposed to be attracted to in 2020.
The second episode of season three of Ready to Love featured a double elimination. Samuel and Raymond were on the chopping block on the men’s side, and Symone and Danielle were on the women’s. Samuel, the visual artist, had trouble connecting with any of the women, and I suspect he was a bit of a mama’s boy because he talked about his mother always calling him a prince, but now he thought at 36 it was time to develop into a king. Raymond was automatically dubbed a “whore” for being a 52-year-old musician with five children, but he actually connected with a few of the women, so Samuel was sent packing. Both Symone and Danielle made impressions on the guys but for different reasons. Symone, the attorney, seemingly interrogated each of the men she spoke with and her favorite question, which was presented in a montage in the episode, was whether they possessed a passport. During one conversation, one of the men said he was either planning a trip to the Dominican Republic or had just returned from one, and Symone asked more than once if the reason for the trip was to partake in prostitution. We all know what goes down in countries like DR where poor women have little to no opportunities besides selling their bodies, but to ask someone you’ve just met if they sleep with prostitutes is plainly and simply RUDE. Danielle made connections with some of the men, but they didn’t appreciate her friendliness or the immediate comfort they felt talking with her. One even dubbed her “the homie,” and she, instead of Symone, was eliminated on the first night.
On the surface, Danielle was penalized for making a friendly connection with the men before a romantic one on the first day of mingling, when another aspect of relationships 101 is that two people should be friends before they’re lovers. While I don’t know what each of the men and producers were thinking, I suspect there was a subconscious undercurrent of colorism at play when it came to eliminating Danielle. She made a favorable impression on the guys, even if they were too stupid to realize it, whereas Symone was a rude interrogator. One was deemed more attractive and worth getting to know even if the first impressions she made were bad, and the other was sent packing because she made connections. Just as there’s still a preference for long, straight hair in the Black community, there’s also sadly a preference for lighter complexions, even when we have been known better.
Lastly, Ready to Love is supposed to be a different type of dating show and different from how dating occurs in real life because it takes the guesswork out of what the potential mate is thinking and what s/he prefers. But somehow, there’s still that dynamic of women being pitted against each other in order to win the affections of a man. During the two previous seasons, the men most often set their sights on another woman if they learned that the woman they were initially interested in was feeling another man. Basically, they bowed out gracefully because they knew there were other options. However, the women were made to compete with each other if two or more of them were feeling the same man. They were not only competing for love, but also to save themselves the embarrassment of being eliminated on national television. Even though in recent seasons there’s an equal number of men to women on Ready to Love, there’s still the mental dynamic of men having all the power because the number of desirable men is supposedly finite. Ready to Love is exploiting this set up early this season, as the preview for the third episode highlights more the conflict between the women who are forced to watch the object of their affection date other women than it does the budding love connections.
Some may argue that Ready to Love should be taken as pure entertainment, but it doesn’t exist in a scripted bubble. There are real people bringing their real experiences, personalities, and issues into this social experiment, and viewers should be aware of the dynamics that are being presented, created, and perpetuated in order to make a successful series. When it comes to reality shows, it’s always important to remember that ratings come first and the impact the show has on the cast and society as a whole is secondary.