Stacii Jae Johnson discusses life in front of the cameras on new docu-series ‘From the Bottom Up’
Stacii Jae Johnson has transitioned from a full-time radio personality with Black Girls Radio to starring in front of the camera on Centric’s new docu-series, “From the Bottom Up,” which is produced by Queen Latifah and Nicci Gilbert. The first episode aired Jan. 16, giving viewers a chance to see what’s in store for the anticipated first season. The show follows the lives of five women who seem to have it all, but in reality, they are struggling to pick up the pieces in both their personal lives and professional careers in the entertainment industry. The series stars Kimberly Smedley, Sara Stokes, Christine Beatty, Chrystale Wilson, and, of course, Johnson.
Rolling out had a chance to catch up with Johnson to hear her thoughts on having cameras following her around daily, why she feels this show is important for Black women and where she feels she fell off along her career path.
“I am a testament that you can truly use every part of your life to move you into your destiny. Who would have thought after my arrest on Aug.23 , [that] would have been the determining factor for me fitting into this amazing group of five women on this show produced by none other than Queen Latifah?” says Johnson
What are your thoughts on the show being filmed as a docu-series versus a reality show?
I think the show is more authentic this way. Every single one of us has something that speaks to a specific demographic of women. We all have our own separate audiences and I think that is what makes this cast so amazing. We are not competing for each other’s audiences because we are authentically being who we are. Now, whoever that grasps and whoever that person is we are OK with that. This is not a show focused on women trying to one-up each other or who has on latest red bottoms this week.
What was your initial reaction when they asked you to be on the show?
Initially I can tell you because it was Nicci Gilbert, I relaxed. I have known her for over 20 years and I know some of the struggles she had with R&B Divas. I knew that she was going to protect me. I can tell you that if it would have been another entity that called me asking me to join their reality show I would have been more concerned. When she told me it was Queen Latifah that she sold the show to I started running around in circles shouting, “OMG OMG OMG” and was super excited. I just couldn’t believe that I was going to be a part of this. I knew this was nobody but God. He is the only one who could bring me out [of] the horrible circumstance that basically led to me losing my job in politics, losing my home…basically everything I had worked so hard for to move me into an even better opportunity. I am going to tell the world there is nothing you can do to turn you away from your destiny. It starts with believing in you.
What was it like working with Queen Latifah?
I didn’t get to see her much because at that point she had her show along with everything else she was working on. We didn’t get to spend a lot of time together, but what I can say is when you work under that type of leadership her spirit is definitely in the room. We worked closely with her longtime manager, so her presence was there through the people she sent to gives us direction. I call them her soldiers. Flavor Unit is amazing. I have never been on a reality show and never thought I would be, but this experience has been the most incredible one yet.
What was it like having cameras follow your every move?
People would think this would be easy for me. It was harder to do than any other film I had ever done. As actors, we are paid to be someone else, so having to be yourself and be vulnerable was very difficult. I wanted to make sure I was portrayed exactly as who I am. It is challenging without having a script. Being this transparent is scary. I left after filming some days in disbelief that I shared that much of myself. You do go into the show wanting to protect the most sensitive parts of you, but because I trust Nicci, Yaneley and Shakim, it makes you go deeper into your story. This show will prove that we don’t have to throw wine glasses to have real interesting life drama, but the drama is definitely there because we are all very opinionated.
What aspects of your life will the series be focusing on?
The show focuses on Aug. 23, 2012. It takes you from that day up until now. It covers my journey of being single, my struggle of finding a job, my personal relationships and so much more. I went from being someone who was at the top of her game and excelled at it. I worked with the top players in the industry and then fell off. I raised a quarter of a million dollars for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, was one of the top fundraisers for the president [during] his reelection and then this one incident caused me to lose my job. This show is an opportunity to show people what I was going through. I just want to give women inspiration through my story.
How does it make you feel to have your first show air on the first television network for Black women?
You have to remember I am the girl who started Black Girls Radio. I am all over Black girl empowerment and I am so proud to be a Black girl. To have this show air on the first network for Black women gives me chills and the only thing I can do is give credit to God.