Stop Frontin' and Get Real

UPDATE: It's 2014, and we are still having the get real conversation. While many still need to hear it, there are some who really do get it. Check out the video links below from intimate, exclusive interviews by Necole Bitchie with JHud and KMichelle. 

In 2002, eight-time Grammy Award winning artist Lauryn Hill released MTV Unplugged 2.0. The cd was very different from her freshman project The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.  The album featured only her voice, accompanied by acoustic guitar. She used lengthy interludes as an opportunity to explain to her fans the things she realized during her hiatus from the music industry, the most important being self-realization.  Many considered the album a flop and criticized Hill for being so candid. Others praised her forher passion, brillance and honesty, and according to Hill, there is something to be said for honesty. 

During Hill's 12-minute Interlude 5 (the first track on the second of the two-disk CD), she defends honesty and challenges her fans - and the world - to be be honest.  "We were in Florida this weekend. We took the kids to Disney World. They gave us a tour so they escorted us through the back. And when they escorted us through the back we got to see how there were all these people working all hard and it was real dirty back there. Of course in the front it was all immaculate and clean. And I said people need to see the reality. They need to see how these people slave to maintain this illusion….what’s the point. Oh, I just threw this together…. Slavin to act like I wake up like this. And none of us do….and reality is good. It means that everybody can exhale and let your belly out ….that is the blessing [to be able to] go around and say, 'oh you got one too.' And be free."


Fastforward five years and it seems that though many thought Hill was "confused," several artists in the industry are taking advice from the confused Lauryn Hill, proving that honesty is the best policy.

Mariah Carey is one such artist.  After two lackluster albums, a very emotional breakdown that delayed the filming of her movie and a bitter divorce many thought that Carey's career was over.  It was even rumored in 2001 that her record label, Virgin, was close to "severing ties" with Carey.  Carey and her team knew that she had to come strong on the next project.  She also had to deal with the real issues.  And she did.


On her latest project,The Emancipation of MiMi, Carey shares her personal side.  When discussing the title of the project, Mariah explained:  "the word "emancipation" referred to the freedom from her ex-husband, Tommy Mottola, which contrasted with the promotion for her three previous studio albums since her divorce, as she had never previously spoken in great detail about it (though a gag order had prevented her from talking about the marriage for a few years). Carey also explained that "Mimi" is a nickname previously used only by close friends and relatives, adding that she wanted the title of the album to be "representative of where I'm at as an artist.... This is the fun side, the real me, and not the image and the baggage that comes with the whole 'Mariah Carey' thing" (taken from Wikipedia).

Emanicpation debuted at number one with the highest first-week sales of Carey's career.  The album was certifed platinum six times and won the 2006 Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B album. 

One could argue that it was the quality of the music helped Carey regain her status as an R & B diva, but the strategy behind the persona was the real catalyst.  Carey's personal approach and honesty put her back on the map.


Rising star Keyshia Cole is also proving that reality and honest equals success.  Often criticized for her rough around the edges persona and hard to deal with personality, Keyshia Coles' public relations team made a strategic decision to allow BET to produce a weekly reality television show that "offers a look into the daily grind" of the songtress. The show, The Way It Is, provides viewers with a weekly dose of Keyshia's reality.  It gives an honest look into Coles' past and present, allowing them to understand the woman behind the golden voice. During the show Coles is honest, telling the painful details of her past and and explaining why she "has to handle her business like a man."  On the show she is caring and sincere, allowing viewers to see the things that make her vulnerable and human. The result? Each week fans fall deeper in love with Keyshia. Each week the haters become fans. Each week brings her closer to another platinum album.

Why are so many people choosing to put their life on display for the world?  Because as Lauryn pointed out years ago, "It's reality."  We are all going through the same thing.  The reality for public relations professionals is that people are tired of hearing made up success stories. They are tired of the created illusion; they want to see and hear from real people.

The lesson.  Public Relations 101 teaches us to be honest and open in crisis situations.  Real life is teaching us that honesty is always the best policy.  Don't be ashamed of your organization's or client's reality.  Don't be held captive by the urge to create an illusion.  Find the real  and stop frontin. Real situations inspire people and cause them to act.  Find the real situations in your projects and use them to achieve your goals.