What Really Goes on Behind the Scenes at 'The Tyra Banks Show'

Shame on "The Tyra Banks Show" for Ambushing Single Mothers

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Emilia Rak at Williams Square in Los Colinas, Texas
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Emilia Rak at Williams Square in Los Colinas, Texas

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I had been a guest on "The Ricky Lake Show" twice in 1996. Both time times were positive experiences. My first appearance was because I had been chosen to get a "new mommy make-over" where I also surprised my then-husband with the news that I was carrying our fourth child. My second appearance was also related to parenting issues. Every aspect relating to both tapings and airings was extremely positive. Transportation to and from the show was first class, the make-over was dynamite and my three little girls and I were given gifts from "The Ricky Lake Show." Our family and friends enjoyed seeing both airings.

In January 2007 my current husband Dale and I were chosen to appear on Dr Kieth Ablow's show about Internet dating. We met on an unconventional internet dating site and married on our third date so the show's producers were eager to share our story with their audience. The show did not air until the spring but producers told us the first airing was so popular that it was saved and aired again during sweeps week. Our experience was also positive both on camera as it was behind the scenes. As with "The Ricky Lake Show" everyone was pleasant and exactly whom they appeared to be, not only to us but to all the other guests as well. We were not coached or led or misled. It was flattering to have strangers recognize us and make comments like, "Weren't you two on "The Dr Keith Ablow Show?" and "Great show!"

So I was shocked at the experience I had on "The Tyra Banks Show." It was taped in October 2009 and aired on February 19, 2010. It was not clear what the exact show topic would be; not to us, nor apparently to the other guests until the cameras started rolling. We knew the show's producers were interested in the fact that I did not love my husband when I consented to marry him and that I would not have married him had I any doubts regarding his ability to provide comfort. I feel no shame in stating these facts; not then, not ever. However, we were quite forcefully coached by the producers to focus on that singular aspect of what initially drew me to him. I explained that I chose to date men who were self-made successes but that this was merely the first, not only criteria regarding how I chose whom I would date. They simply said, "Don't worry about that. We'll tape a second segment and you can tell the rest then." Which they did tape... but never aired. Miss Banks tried her level best to dissect my point of view but by the end of the segment she conceded that "it was perfectly ok for a wealthy man to walk into a Duane Reed and sweep the young beautiful girl behind the counter off of her feet." Yet she couldn't tell me why it was not equally acceptable for a woman to conversely first assess what is between a man's ears and heart (strength of character) completely negating his physical appearance. Interestingly enough, to this day, no one can.

We later learned the show title was "Should You Marry for Love or Money?" Instead of encouraging a thoughtful debate "The Tyra Banks Show" was seeking ratings by demonizing any woman who held men to the standard of assessing the sort of comfort that man could provide. They then praised a woman who chose a mate based strictly on this faulty chemical notion that we call "love" just because her marriage happened to work out. The irony of it all was in how they accomplished this. They lured uneducated, impoverished single mothers to participate in a "social experiment" with their daughters, some as young as 6. In a playroom setting the show's shrink then asked the children questions pertaining to the type of man they would want to marry. They aired the little girls' answers on the show while their unwitting mothers watched crying, vilified as the live audience looked on. These mothers were then verbally attacked by the shrink (as well as by youtube viewers online) because she knew they were completely incapable of defending themselves. These mothers were young, uneducated and "in love" when they had children with men who were incapable of financially or emotionally supporting them or their children. The irony here is crystal clear. I thought it was amusing that the same shrink had nothing to say to the mother whose daughter admitted that her mother told her father, "I won't marry a teacher. So my dad became a lawyer." It's obvious that this woman, her husband and her daughter were well-educated (though equally materialistic). The only difference is that they could intelligently articulate a defense about their choices. Not to mention that this girl was in her early teens, her mother was a lawyer who was married to her father (also a lawyer) who lived very comfortably. She was not the 6 year old daughter of a struggling inarticulate single mother who was fighting to keep food on the table.

Previously, I've respected what "The Tyra Banks Show" had done to raise self-esteem and educate her targeted young female audience. I have zero issue with the fact that "The Tyra Banks Show" might have thought they could ambush us on national TV. Both my husband Dale and I are intelligent, positive and articulate individuals. But what Tyra Banks and her show's producers did to those young single mothers in this particular instance has caused me to rethink the positive opinion I'd once had, especially in light of all my previous experience with TV talk shows.

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