Bobby Brown/Whitney Houston and Keith Sweat Reality Show Creators Wanda Shelley and Tracey Baker-Simmons Share Their Success
When Tracey Baker-Simmons and Wendy Shelley, the creators of “Keith Sweat’s Platinum House,” produced the wildly popular “Being Bobby Brown, featuring Whitney Houston,” in 2005, they could not have fathomed it would initiate a veritable craze for black celebrity reality shows. That singular seed has yielded a creative harvest for the versatile visionaries. The founders of Atlanta-based Simmons-Shelley Entertainment are now inundated with project offers from the likes of MTV, VH-1, BET and Turner Broadcasting. Additionally, Simmons-Shelley is producing a children’s educational show, “Mac and Me,” for PBS and are developing the indie feature film, Strange Fruit.
Baker-Simmons completed her degree in marketing and finance at the University of Memphis before relocating to Los Angeles to get into showbiz. The Chattanooga, Tenn., native later moved back to the South where she met the Atlanta-born Shelley who had recently earned a degree from Georgia State in marketing and chemistry, and who also needed to satiate her creative cravings. Both were bemused by the media’s rabid lust for anything Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston [now divorced]. They decided the controversial yet charismatic Brown would be a great foray into black reality TV.
“It was just a no-brainer that they should be doing their own show as opposed to be[ing] fun fare for the local news. They were definitely entertaining [and] a blessing to work with,” said Simmons. “It wasn’t difficult for Bobby. He likes media, he likes his fans [and] he likes the camera.”
In Peachtree TV’s “Platinum House,” Keith Sweat finds out if superstars from the ‘80s and ‘90s can recapture their magic, as in the case of Dru Hill. Simmons-Shelley Entertainment again found an avid viewership, to the tune of about three million people. And although the ratings led to negotiations with a national cable company Baker-Simmons and Shelley still have time to produce a children’s show and a feature film. “We certainly honed our skills on the reality TV programs. We are both avid readers and love storytelling, so I think it’s the next step for Simmons-Shelley Entertainment,” says Shelley. –terry shropshire