It’s that time. After debuting the show in an extended episode several months ago, BET’s Being Mary Jane premieres tonight at 10 p.m. (The hour-and-a-half pilot airs first at 8 p.m.) Created by Girlfriends and The Game creator Mara Brock Akil, it gets the benefit of the unintended publicity that star Gabrielle Union brought now that she is engaged and dealing with a public cheating scandal at the same time. Her fiancée, Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade has admitted to fathering a child outside their relationship on a “break,” though TMZ.com did their research and claims the supposed break is a front.
What that means to the often-photographed couple in real life, we don’t know. Wade has publicly admitted to fathering a son, Xavier, born in December with Aja Netoyer, who also has two daughters with Damon Wayans, Jr. Via her Twitter feed, Union has responded by telling followers, essentially that it’s life and choice how she handles it. But what does it mean for Union’s reel life?
On Being Mary Jane, she plays Mary Jane Paul, a TV show hostess negotiating relationships, her dysfunctional family, a tough career, and her friendships. In other words, Paul sounds like a lot of us. Although the fictional Paul juggles it all from a ridiculously fly house while driving a Porsche Panamera, the show proves that even a financially thriving Black woman still deals with her fair share of issues.
In Paul’s case, her demanding mother is in an empty marriage and suffering from lupus (and loneliness, we suspect) her unmarried niece is pregnant for the second time, her brothers are dealing with familiar Black man problems and even her doctor girlfriend is self-medicating her depression. Then there are the men of Being Mary Jane – her ex-boyfriend who cheated is back, but so is a married man that despite her better judgement, she can’t leave alone. His wife is also part of the picture as the two women have met and talked.
Complicated? Yes. And like most of us, Mary Jane has made life choices she regrets and dealt with situations that could have broken her. And also like many of us, Mary Jane is doing a lot for others but the support she is getting from her family and friends for her own problems is negligible. Up until the news broke about Wade’s indiscretion, Union looked like she had an enviable life, posing on Instagram and Twitter with other Miami Heat wives and girlfriends in smiling photos in cute outfits.
But like the fictional character she plays on TV, Union, too, has a full plate. She is helping Wade raise his two sons after Wade’s ex, Siobvaughn Funches lost custody of them. Funches has been a contentious ex, alleging Wade gave her an STD, hiring multiple lawyers, accusing Union of being overly sexual in front of her children, and most recently camping out outside a Chicago courtroom in protest of what she said was an unfair gag order and Wade’s continuing financial obligations as part of their divorce. (It has since been settled and Funches has had nothing to say about the recent revelations.) Union is also now going to have to deal with Netoyer as Wade has made it clear that he will be a present father to all his children.
Union, who was the victim of rape years ago while working at a shoe store, also has her own family and career obligations. Last year, Union admitted to an Essence magazine awards luncheon audience that she was a reformed mean girl who had had to learn that she was blocking her blessings by hating on other people. Being Mary Jane may be a fictional show but Union’s real life has proven that nothing is perfect. Facebook pages, Instagram feeds and Twitter accounts only show you a side of people that they want you to know.
If Being Mary Jane becomes a hit – and it seems to be on its way given its focus on the universal problems women deal with – it’s because of its understanding that we are all dealing with something, no matter how good things might look on the outside. Whether it’s Union’s real life or reel life, they both have their ups and downs and ultimately that’s the takeaway from Being Mary Jane.