With all of the club fights, drink and shade throwing on television today, Gina Cheatham of the new Lifetime docu-series, “BAPS,” offers a fresh perspective on what prompted her to participate in the series and what the world has yet to see from African Americans on reality TV. “BAPS” follows a group of affluent AfricanAmerican friends from St. Louis who self-identify as BAPS, short for Black American Princesses-Princes.
Friend and fellow cast mate, Riccarda Lacey, approached Cheatham about being on the show after reading books like Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class and a satirical writing The BAP Handbook: The Official Guide to the Black American Princess. Lacey immediately thought her friends, who had a similar middle-to-upper middle class upbringing, would be perfect for the show.
Cheatham jumped at the chance to be a part of a cast who could shed light on this subculture in the African American community.
“[When considering joining the show] I said, we’ve got a black president and many people think of [President Barack Obama] as an anomaly and I’m not taking anything from him at all,” says Cheatham. “But the world needs to know that there is a whole group of folks doing wonderful, positive things — who are educated, well-spoken and all those good things.
“[I thought] let’s show some of the positive things that take place in African American culture. So that was the initial draw for me, anything positive. I’m all about it.”
Cheatham admits that those who are considered BAPS don’t usually identify themselves as such. Her own definition of African American affluence are those who consciously make an indelible impact on the community — just as she has done through her work with nonprofit organizations.
“People who know me and know my background, know that we don’t discuss [being a BAP],” says Cheatham.
She posits conclusions as questions. “Are you a good person? Are you a proponent of what’s good? Are you out here leaving a positive footpath in our community for the next generation? That is what affluence is about. African American affluence [is] the print that you leave in our community, the positive things that help and make it easier for the next generation.”
Throughout the season, Cheatham says viewers will see relationships blossom, friends work through serious issues and the dynamic she shares with her mother, who is an ever present advice giver as she navigates the dating scene.
“My mother is extremely funny, she is my best friend,” says Cheatham. “My mother is a cross between Oprah and Joan Rivers —and you’re going to see all of that. Something you’re really not seeing on reality TV right now, [is] a black mother-daughter relationship.”
Cheatham is working on developing her own businesses where she will be offering affordable luxury services and products to consumers. “It’s a way to make available things that are inherently Gina and to show others how to save money while keeping it fabulous.”
As for the customary reality TV drama, you won’t see that from Cheatham. Although there is a time when viewers will see Cheatham confront someone. “Always a lady, you don’t have to curse someone out, you don’t have to go to the lowest level to let a person know that you’re going too far with me and you need to stop,” says Cheatham.
“That’s the reason why we have this education, so we don’t have to use four letter or five letter words — that begin with ‘b’ — to get our point across.”
For Cheatham, it’s about living her best life, being positive and feeding that same positivity into the atmosphere, because she believes what you give life it gives back to you.
See more of Cheatham and her fellow cast mates on “BAPS,” which airs on Lifetime Wednesday nights at 10 p.m. / 9 p.m CST.