Music Star Exes Are Cashing In on VH1

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VH1 shows starring music's exes featuring Tameka Raymond (Usher), Monyetta Shaw (Ney-Yo) & Christina Johnson (Cee Loo Green).

VH1 turns out to be the perfect home for former wives of hip-hop and R&B artists. What does race have to do with this brand of reality TV success? Everything, apparently.

Several divorcees of music men are finding independence on reality TV thanks to the trend of celebrity ex shows. VH1 has cornered this market, first featuring the world of sports spouses on Basketball Wives, then Hollywood Exes, a series following the former wives of actors, comedians and musicians. (In its third and most recent season, the exes of R. Kelly, Eddie Murphy, Prince and Travis Barker were featured.) Its common denominator: life in the shadow of a famous man. A spinoff, Atlanta Exes, premiered its debut season on Aug. 18 and drew 1.4 million viewers in the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demo and 2.3 million total viewers overall (according to VH1) with a cast that includes Usher’s infamous ex Tameka Raymond, 43; Ne-Yo’s ex-fiancee Monyetta Shaw, 32; and Christina Johnson, ex-wife of Cee Lo Green.

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Johnson has turned down offers to appear on several similar shows, but ended up on Atlanta Exes because the opportunity to foster a group of relatable, supportive women felt genuine. It’s also a chance for her to spread the word about the autoimmune disorder Graves’ Disease, from which she suffers. “It’s been beautiful because the response has been huge,” Johnson says. “That’s the biggest reward: By me being courageous enough to put my personal life out there, that people will be changed by it.”

Indeed, it seems VH1 has encroached on sister network BET’s territory -- its Monday night lineup, which includes Atlanta Exes, has an audience that’s 85 percent African-American. This is significant, as the National Association of Broadcasters projects African-American buying power rising 25 percent to $1.2 trillion between 2010 and 2015. At the same time, the exes themselves are drawing salaries (on average: $10,000 per episode, according to an insider) and boast of having seen a “halo effect” from the show. Kelly’s ex, Andrea Kelly, 40, is writing a book about her experiences, and Johnson will launch a makeup line this fall.

“It’s a cathartic opportunity for them to say, ‘Here’s my side of it,’ ” says VH1 senior vp production and development Jill Holmes of Atlanta Exes’ appeal. “Tameka gets a lot of bad press and this was her way of saying, ‘I’m not that crazy. I’ve had hard things happen to me and I’m going through them as best I can.’ ”

A version of this article first appeared in the Sept. 13th issue of Billboard.


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