How I dodged the ‘Sorority Sisters’ bullet

Screen shot from Episode 1 of VH-1's controversial new reality series, "Sorority Sisters."

LOS ANGELES, December 17, 2014 – In June, I got a phone call from an Atlanta number.

Since I don’t pick up numbers that I don’t know, I let it go to voicemail. Plus, it was a little after 5 p.m., and I had one foot out the door of my office at my new job.

But a little voice told me to check the voicemail that popped up soon thereafter. Since only the Buzz Killington known as Sallie Mae (now Navient) leaves me voicemails from strange numbers, my eyebrows went up a few notches when I found myself listening to a message left by a man from a certain unnamed production company instead. He wanted me to give him a call back as soon as possible.

I paused for a bit.

Not too long ago, I’d had some small writing and acting jobs in Atlanta. But I couldn’t place my finger on this particular production company.

Out of curiosity, I called the number back and the same guy who had left the message answered the phone.

We exchanged pleasantries and made small talk until he mentioned that the production crew of “Sorority Sisters” was going in a different direction and was interested in me for recasting the show.


While working on a few of those small (and I do mean small) writing/acting projects in Atlanta, I got wind of this particular show—a new VH1 reality series purportedly portraying black Greek sorority life—and submitted a head shot and some basic information, just as I had done about a thousand times with other potential gigs.

However, initial information about this particular show made no mention of Mona Scott-Young or VH1, so ratchet reality show didn’t necessarily cross my mind.

Instead, the series was spun as a positive and inspiring show based on the realities young women were facing post-grad. The sorority thing only served as a backdrop that tied in the lives of various young women striving to attain their career goals while navigating this thing called life.

Based on that, I was all-in.

Time came and went. I heard nothing back, and forgot all about it. That is, until I got a call from Los Angeles, California. I’m from LA, so I figured someone from back home was trying to get in touch with me. (Not Sallie Mae).

Instead, it was a callback. The female I spoke with wanted me to send a few more photos, so I did just that.

Again, I heard nothing back. I called the number back to follow up, left a message, and never heard anything further.

That was the summer of 2013.

Imagine my surprise when almost a year later, the godmother of ratchet reality TV, Mona Scott-Young, was identified as the brains behind “Sorority Sisters,” the same show that I was told would be both positive and uplifting.

I still to this day have not seen that first trailer for the new show, being that it was snatched rather quickly from the Internet.

Calamity ensued, petitions were signed, stories and op-eds were written, and then it got quiet again.

That is, until I got the call.

Fast-forward to June 2014, and those sweet nothings I am hearing from my male caller about the new direction the show has taken.

I politely cut him off, and let him know that not only was I not too pleased with the combination of sororities and ratchet TV, but I had already signed the petition to get the show dropped.

This show was not the concept I had signed up for a year ago, and I couldn’t get jiggy with craziness and drama for coin. But the guy on the other end of the line tried to convince me otherwise.

“Let me ask you a question,” he said.

“Sure,” I said.

“Is your life about craziness and drama?”

“Well, no”

“Then it won’t be about craziness and drama.”

He was good. Real good.

He then went on to ask me about life in my sorority, why I chose the sorority I chose, my life-post grad, my love life, and if I would be willing to relocate to Atlanta to film.

Hmmm…I thought. Why would I need to relocate to a city I don’t live in to film a life I don’t have?

My life, the life that he was supposedly so interested in, was not in Atlanta. It was in Alabama where I earned my fellowship for graduate school at the University of Alabama, where I was active in my graduate chapter and in my community, and where I was just now starting my new job as a city official.

None of that was in Atlanta, so what was there to film?

I can’t lie, he was a good salesman. But that burning question still lingered.

As I fumbled with my keys, I politely let him know that I was leaving work and needed to get off the phone.

He asked if he could call me back the next day.

I said sure.

I mulled it over with some of my sister greeks that night, and the next day when he called, I didn’t answer. He left a voicemail. I didn’t return it. In fact, I deleted the voicemails and missed calls so that I wouldn’t be tempted to call him back.

And that was it.

I can’t lie. I had regrets. I thought:

What if I could have brought something really positive to ratchet reality TV?

What if, like my male caller said, this show really could have been different?

What if I missed out on the chance of a lifetime to be a positive attribute to women of color on a national, and maybe even international, platform?

To put it lightly, I was filled with regret.

That is, until I saw the extended trailer for the new and improved “Sorority Sisters” reality TV show. Honestly, I felt bad for these women.

I wondered if these same women were sold the same dream as me, but that feeling quickly dissipated after watching the first episode Monday evening while clutching my pearls.

It was almost like watching the punch line of a bad joke unfold right before my own eyes. And I wasn’t alone.

According to Abby Phillip on the Washington Post’s Style Blog,

The premiere of VH1′s controversial new reality show “Sorority Sisters” was met with an overwhelmingly negative reaction on Twitter. Now, after pressure from the show’s critics, who say it portrays black Greek life in a negative light, some advertisers are reconsidering airing ads on the network.

Although I do feel like I dodged a major bullet, there are no winners in this mess.

Not even by a long shot.

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Aziza Jackson is a native Californian born in Los Angeles and raised in Los Angeles and Oakland. Equipped with her AP Stylebook, Aziza has braved the tough wilderness of rural Alabama, saving lives, and kissing babies all while writing about, advocating for, and connecting with east Alabama residents through the wonderful world of public relations and community outreach. She has served as a compelling storyteller, austere copy editor, social media guru, rigid gatekeeper, creative project manager, marketing whiz, and human encyclopedia in some special cases. She also writes for The Oakland Tribune, and in her spare time likes to write her bios in third person. Don't judge her, it's her journey. "Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light." --Joseph Pulitzer
  • Adrienne

    great funny insight. Enjoyed your piece. Keep them coming we need your voice and humor.

  • Yoli

    This sounds like sour grapes to me. Sorry. Something is not right in the water. I have friends who shot on the sizzle reel. Mona Scott Young had been on this project since 2012. Greeks are in an uproar and behaving just as bad “ratched” as these Vh1 SS, only on social media. Pure bullies I tell you! If only everyone who auditioned could be exposed… People would be shocked! #sourgrapesshouldnotbeinyourdiet

  • Adrienne

    Please sour grapes continue to be sour in your corner try a new meal because judging by this article they begged for Aziza to be part of their bs and she saw what kind of garbage they were trying to pull. Sizzle reels are contingent on multiple factors do you make the audience sizzle are they ratchet perhaps your friends were too ratchet even for vh1. So please take heed to what she was saying there is no sourness but truly an appreciation for a clearer mind that your friends seem to be jealous of. @yoli

    • KL

      I agree Adrienne, I didn’t get the impression that Aziza regretted being on SS. The title of her article makes that very clear. Her article also addressed the nasty tactics of the entertainment industry. Rachet TV is a serious problem that needs to be addressed. As far as SS, petitions were circulated, letters were written, and VH1 continued to produce degrading programs. After exhausting those resources, individuals (greek and non-greek) decided to to protest via social media. It;s really a matter of personal experiences and unbiased perspective. I truly hope she reconsiders her stance. If she has an issue with a group of people, perhaps it would be best to actively address these issues in a constructive manner instead of judging.

  • KL

    Thanks for sharing a different perspective. I pray that these women step back and openly admit that they made a tremendous mistake. Unfortunately, it appears that they are justifying their actions.