In January 2014, Bravo debuted a new show called Blood, Sweat, and Heels. It was two and a half years after I’d secured my initial magazine role in New York City, and roughly two decades after Khadijah James (Living Single) had given me a glimpse of what my life as a magazine journalist could be. The short-lived series was the first time I could remember seeing my life embodied by Black women on reality TV. They were in my city, living my dream, and it was invigorating.
I’ve longed for similar portrayals of young Black professionals, but few have emerged in the six years since BSH ended its run. Enter Sweet Life: Los Angeles.
When Issa Rae unapologetically told the world in 2017 she was “rooting for everybody Black,” she meant it. Just consider Sweet Life, premiering August 19 on HBO Max, a manifestation of that decree. Following the lives of 20-somethings as they navigate Los Angeles, the reality drama, executive-produced by Rae, brings a serving of Black excellence the television genre so desperately needs.
Sweet Life’s episodic arc has been done many times over. But more than a decade after MTV and BET successfully elevated this brand of “unscripted” television with the former’s Laguna Beach and The Hills, and the latter’s Baldwin Hills, it’s refreshing to see a familiar storyline with new, relatively unknown faces. Watching creative agency founder Tylynn Burns make strides along with friends Amanda Scott, Briana Jones, Cheryl des Vignes, Jerrold Smith II, Jordan Bentley, and P’Jae Compton, feels reminiscent of the time we devoured episodes featuring the teens of the “Black Beverly Hills.” Though the setting might be the same, the adult drama is different. This series stands on its own, bringing its unique set of trials and tribulations, build-ups and letdowns, and, of course, messy love triangles.
For anybody who’s ever dared to make it in a big city like New York or Los Angeles, Sweet Life will take you on a trip down memory lane. While most of its cast originates from Los Angeles, their individual stories prove there’s more to success than being in the right place. With the perfect location locked down, it is perseverance and passion driving them toward success. And though some in the group’s desires are clearer than others, it’s beautiful to see each of the friends lifting the others as they climb.
It’s been stated many times that representation matters. And as a millennial Black woman, I believe that the real lives of movers and shakers in young, Black professional circles aren’t shown enough. The sixsome in Sweet Life, along with a few noteworthy “friends of,” exemplify a segment of America we typically only see in scripted shows. Sweet Life makes the point, whether deliberately or not, that in real life we can maintain genuine friendships, that we aspire for a life greater than the one we live, and that we work tremendously hard to make things happen. These entrepreneurs are stepping out of the box society may try to put them in, while simultaneously filling a void in American television.
Sweet Life: Los Angeles is now streaming on HBO Max.
Tanya Christian is a writer and editor based in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @tanyaachristian.