PR power team Monique Jackson and Kita Williams of ‘The T.O Show’ are On the Couch! Did you know that they are actually co-creators and executive producers of the show? I missed that memo. And that in and of itself warranted an interview! I caught up with them in D.C. and they dished on everything from their ‘beef’ with Evelyn Lozado of ‘Basketball Wives’ to tips on pocketing fear in order to accomplish your goals… oh, and of course their hair stories! It’s a long one y’all… turned into a gabfest… felt like I was chatting it up with my besties. Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy!
CN: Let’s start with Kita. You get tons of compliments on your hair. What’s your story?
Kita: I’m going to take you all the way back to a little brown girl from Kentucky. Louisville that is. My father and mother were young parents—my mother was a homemaker and my father didn’t have the best job. As a young lady, when I came out of those ponytails, I wanted to rock a style. I wanted a relaxer, but we couldn’t afford the upkeep. So my grandmother pressed my hair. She pressed my hair until I went to college. I never had a relaxer, a Just For Me, a Just For Her, a Kinky Curl… I never had any of that in my hair. When I got to college, I had to learn to press and curl my hair myself. It’s called the ‘greasy press’, because that’s the only way I knew. I went to the University of Kentucky and I would press my hair on the weekends when my roommate would go home. And this not like 1985, this is like 1998. [Laughter] This wasn’t way back when. I’m not trying to date myself, but it’s when people were rocking the perms and stuff, and I was not.
So here I was in college, with a greasy press, always pulled back in a ponytail. I had to figure out a way to achieve and maintain a professional look outside of ‘the snatch back’. So I modified my pressing routine. I would press my hair at night and if I had something important to do, I’d tie my hair with a wrap to absorb the oil. So two days later, my hair would be less greasy and I could at least wear it down in a style.
When I came to LA, I thought, okay, I can afford a perm. Unbeknownst to me, LA is the land of the press. And that’s where the story lives. My hair is virgin… the only part of me that is virgin! [Laughter] It’s down my back and thriving, but because we shoot the show, both Monique and I opt for weaves.
I actually met Monique when I was working at Def Jam. We were there with the Ashantis and the hair goddesses, where weaves were everyday wear. I was on the road so much that I got my first extensions- 3 extensions in the back. So that’s where I was introduced to the wonderful world of weave. And it’s like this, I’m in a place that I will wear my own hair when necessary, but when we shoot the show, in order to protect my hair, I will wear extensions. In some scenes my hair is out and then there are days that I have them put it up entirely. But yes, underneath the tracks I have virgin natural hair.
CN: How would you describe your texture?
Kita: Girl. One side… do you remember Michael Jackson’s singing ‘she’s black, she’s white…’ when I turn to one side, I’m like ‘oh, this is a great look for me, I could do the whole big wavy hair thing’, but on the other side… that side looks like it’s throwing a tantrum. It needs a can of get right. It really does. On the right side, we easy breezy, little wavy wonders, I can lay my little baby hairs down, but on the left side there is no baby hair. It’s like night and day, but I’ve learned how to maintain it. I put more conditioner on the left side if I’m wearing it out because it requires that. A little bit more TLC if you will. I guess you can say my hair is heat trained. It’s amazing in that it’ll stay straight for a week or more… where some people can sweat a press out, I can’t. But as soon as you wet and condition it, it’ll curl right up.
My hair itself isn’t a tighter coil, it’s more of an African American wave. You put the right stuff in it and it’ll do whatever you want it to.
One thing I deal with is fine edges. I realized that if your parents made it a habit of snatching your hair up in barrettes and balls and ponytails, then what you’re probably left with now is thin edges. For so long, I was snatching my hair back pulling it back, and it’s been so much stress on the sides that my hair is thick all over except the sides. To combat this, I condition my hair a lot and I use our 8 essential oils from the Define Your Pretty Collection, paying extra special attention to my edges.
CN: What are your must have products?
Kita: Right now we’re in DC, it’s raining and it’s windy and the hair has been ‘wetted’. I know that’s not a word, but still, it’s been wetted. And what we pack is what we call our survival kit. It includes my flat iron and lets not forget, I have my hot plate and pressing comb! I know it’s old school but you just never know… it’s so dependable. I always carry my pressing comb with me no matter where I go. I can go to Cambodia, I can go to Italy… it gets my edges a little bit straighter than the electrical appliances. So yeah, that and my Diva wrap. I don’t call it a head wrap, I don’t call it a scarf… that just sounds tacky. Every woman is a diva, and we have to wrap our hair up so we can be divalicious in the morning. I also keep the Slick Stick close. It doesn’t matter whether your hair is out or in, in extensions, if you want to lay your edges down… it will stand the test of time through humidity through rain, through putting a hat on, a night of wild sleeping… you don’t even have to go through the whole tooth brush thing. I also use our Define Shine for that high gloss you see on the show.
CN: Where can we find these products?
Kita: Go to Defineyourpretty.com. Starting today, we’re hosting a contest that will allow a winner to come out and meet us and get a makeover. On the site, we have everything available from our flatirons, to our extensions, to our beauty products. Part of the proceeds go to our Define Your Pretty Foundation as well. Define your pretty is the pretty that you define yourself to be. The defining part of you, pretty smart, pretty talented, pretty fearless, pretty creative, pretty talkative like me, pretty bossy like Mo! Pretty confident is what we are as women once you have the definition of who you are. So when you define your own pretty from the inside out then you can work on the outside.
People should take a page out of the Kardashian playbook. And we’re doing just that. We’re being strategic in how we define our brand. We’re not the kind of chicks that are going to go around throwing water and wine to get attention. Our thing is, if it takes us longer to spread a message that’s positive, then we’re going to do that. Which is why we’re here in DC with the United Negro College Fund, for free, to speak to college students about defining their pretty, about empowering eachother, and about doing what it takes to get to the next step. To show them that it doesn’t matter if you’re dating a ball player or not, what matters is what you do to create your own pathway of success.
CN: Let’s back it up. Rewind! You mentioned that y’all aren’t the type of women to throw wine and engage in the tomfoolery to garner attention. And I totally get that from watching the show. I recently read an article on TheYBF about some beef that y’all have with Evelyn of Basketball Wives. Long story short, correct me if I ‘m wrong, there was an interview where y’all said some things, then she snapped back on Twitter, and Kita, you responded in a very positive way, taking the high road. And now Evelyn is allegedly off of Twitter and Reality TV. What the hell?
Kita: Long story short, we were on the red carpet for Forbes Magazine, not a whodiditandwhat.com, not for a drop it like it’s hot extravaganza, and not for a ball player’s charity event. We were on the red carpet, invited to a Forbes event… we were there with the Kardashians, the Tyreses of the world and it was very classy. Bettheney Frankel of Real Housewives of Bravo was being honored. Monique and I were invited because we are the creators and executive producers of the T.O. Show. We’re the first African American women to create a sports reality TV show, not Shaunie. We were there with women of all colors, celebrating our achievements. An interviewer asked the question-
So you guys are a positive reality show and you deal with real life issues. You don’t just go to lunch and talk about eachother. You might bicker, but it’s about real life. How do you feel about the image that is being portrayed for women of color? Because whether you like it or not, you’re lumped into it.
Y’all didn’t hear the question. You only heard a part of our response. I spoke first and they completely edited me out and went straight to Mo’s sound bite. And she is much harsher than me. Meaning that Mo speaks her mind.
Mo– Kita actually took the higher road on the red carpet too, but since it wasn’t something the public would get all excited about, it was edited out. They completely edited her out so it just looked like she was on the side line when she actually spoke first. And then there were a couple of times when she actually interrupted me, but the way they cut the tape, it looked like I was just going on and on and on.
Kita– So if you look at the tape, it just looks like Monique was hating. But there are threads of truth through it. I don’t necessarily agree with everything Monique said, but I agree with why she said them. I agree with the fact that we have to take more responsibility with the images that we’re showing our young girls. Evelyn’s a mother of a young daughter, of dating age, and her daughter looks up to her. What example is she setting for her? If she wants to be a positive role model for the girls that are watching the show, then you can’t sleep with a man on the first date. Even if they edited it, that’s what it looks like. And yes, I called her irrelevant. Tammy had every right to be angry. Evelyn slept with another woman’s husband… whether you knew it or not, you now know, and you still were defensive when she brought it up. She should have taken the high road, but instead she calls her a non mother f’in factor? No! You’re the one that’s irrelevant. That’s what Monique was saying. And I chimed in just to say that it’s not cool to sleep with another woman’s man. It’s all gossip… we’ve all been in the company of the same people. T.O. is our client and we worked with Chad before Evelyn started screwing him. We worked with Chad in 2005, long before he was Ocho Cinco.
Mo-What people don’t understand is that Chad had a crush on Jennifer…
Kita: [Laughter] Mo, stop. Evelyn didn’t like what Monique said but guess what, Evelyn said a lot of nasty things about women on her show and she expects people to be okay with that. And that’s not okay. I’m not on a TV show because of who I’m with or dating, I’m on this show because Monique and I took 6 years to create this platform. It took 6 years to sell it to any network and VH1 took the opportunity and said, I believe in what you guys are doing. Lets do it.
CN: So in all reality, The T.O. Show, paved the way for Basketball Wives and the like.
Kita: Yes. And I took the high road because I felt like it was important for girls to see that you don’t entertain negativity. I don’t have a problem with her. The bottom line is this—negativity breeds gossip and gossip breeds some type of monster that’s called celebrity. No one can tell me what Kim Kardashian is known for, but she’s a celebrity. No one can tell me what Evelyn is known for, but we still talk about her. I don’t have a problem with Evelyn Lozado at all. I really don’t. What I have a problem with, is how certain women portray themselves on Television, and people believe that it’s real. And whether it’s real or not, it doesn’t matter because that’s what people perceive it to be.
CN: So this is why you responded positively to her re-tweet–
Kita: I felt as though her reweeting it with a comment meant that she wanted people to read the negative comment. She could’ve just replied to the person and the whole world wouldn’t have seen it on her twitterverse. But when she retweeted it with a comment, I felt that it was an intentional blow at me and anyone else who wears weave, or any other woman out there that may feel some kind of way about themselves, and now think they have to be validated because ‘I’m not approved’ through whomever. So I tweeted it with positivity because my mother always told me that you kill people with kindness.
Evelyn clearly has Team Evelyn people. A lot of her followers are women who support her… they want to wear the non mothaf*ckin factor shirts, and that’s good, but don’t bash other people if you’re supporting her.
Don’t trash another woman and call her weave synthetic. Why? Evelyn wears extensions. You can talk about my hair all you want to, but all of my followers love my hair. So pow. People think weave wearing is a derogatory term. Why is it derogatory? A billionaire, Oprah, wears extensions and she ain’t hood to me. And guess what, so does Diane Sawyer… she wears her little extra clip-ons.
And, ‘Thirsty’ for what? She needs to turn the mirror on herself. When we’re not on the show, we have other job descriptions. But it is true, a lot of people don’t know that. They don’t read credits. They don’t see ‘created by’… ‘co-exective producers’. What we’re doing is positive… putting a positive image out there for girls. You won’t ever see me call Mo a bitch or vice versa, ’cause that’s not even in my vernacular. It’s a level of respect that you just don’t see often, especially not on TV.
We often get comments like,‘why are y’all trailing behind Terrell’, or ‘y’all need to get your own lives’, etc. Do y’all understand that this show is what pays his checks?! This is the show that we created for him. He is not our only client. It’s called the T.O. Show, its not called the Mo and Kita show. We don’t have our company business on the show. We take that. But not any more. We want the world to understand that we are professional business women. We have a track record of working with people that are on a certain level, even outside of sports.
CN: How long have you worked with Terrell?
Kita: We’ve known Turtle for 12 years and not just for work. We’ve known him as a friend, a family member, and now, a business partner. We’ve done a lot of things for him to put money in his pocket.
CN: I saw in the Huff Po yesterday about his money woes and such.
Kita: The show keeps him relevant and makes him visible to people and brands.
CN: It humanizes him. They have the clip of him in tears. And I’m sure there are a ton of NFL players that would’ve never shown that side of themselves.
Mo: That’s where our friendship comes into play. Since we did create the show, and since we are all in this together, then you forget that the cameras are really rolling in that moment. And you’re in a comfortable zone. We really are friends, really going through these life lessons and really learning off of each other. Terrell is really much an introvert. He’s closed and doesn’t like to talk, but with us, we can pull that out of him. Our crew, who has been with us for 3 years now, knows when to pull back. So they give us enough space to do what we would naturally do as friends. And those are the things that we talk about. So I commend him all the time. Coming out and speaking out on a lot of subject matters. The first season it was about his father, the second season it was about him trying to become a better father and becoming a life partner with someone, and now it is about his financial situations and his future, and where football stands. It’s all because it really starts with our friendship and family based relationship that we have.
CN: How do you juggle business and the friendship?
Mo: It’s all kinda gray. Well, we can call it a rainbow because it can be a bit colorful with the three of us. A lot of people think that Terrell’s our only client because Terrell thinks that he’s our only client. How do you charge someone for the work you’re doing on the clock 9-5, but when 5:15 hits, he’s still with you at the office talking about work stuff, personal stuff, vacationing stuff. If he’s in town and needs a place to crash, he has two options besides hotels. When we come into town for games or business, we dare not stay at a hotel! We have our own rooms in his house… how do you balance that?
Kita- Mo has actually placed boundaries since she had her kids. Mo has a family and she has to find that balance now, and Terrell had a hard time dealing with that. He felt almost as if Monique was leaving him, because she couldn’t take off… she stopped taking calls after 8:30. She’s wrestling with 3 kids outside of working and I understood it, but it took him a while to get it.
We don’t always do a good job of balancing it, but we try. That’s why Define Your Pretty has been our main focus because the past two years it’s been T.O. T.O. T.O. We were constantly fielding hair product questions and hair styling questions and we were sending them everywhere but back to us. We’ve done it for our clients, and it was time to begin to develop our own brand.
CN: So with that, what advice do you have for those of us with the entrepreneurial spirit?
Mo: I always say, get a blue print! Find someone that has already paved the way and get on his or her shoulders. Study what they’ve done, their mistakes, because their mistakes will help you become more successful. Get mentors. It doesn’t have to be someone down the street or at church… you don’t even have to physically touch or know the person. They don’t even have to know they’re mentoring you. Research them… get books, get online and pull from them what you need. Kita loves to tell people to intern. She says all the time that that’s her claim to fame.
Kita: An internship doesn’t mean you have to be in college. You can do an internship at 30 because you’re changing careers and wanting an inside look at what you’ll be doing. The next thing you know, the person you’re interning for may need extra help! An internship is your gateway inside of what it is you’re trying to do. And if you can’t find an internship, at least shadow someone. If you know someone that knows someone that knows a person that is doing what you want to do, then ask them if you can follow them for a day. And that will at least give you a realistic feel. My advice for most entrepreneurial-esses is to put fear in your pocket and get rid of it. Fear is going to do one of two things– either paralyze you or push you forward.
I’m a pretty confident person but at times, I can be unsure in certain areas of my life… areas that I havent’ laid the ground work. Or in areas where I’m trailblazing a path no one has gone before me. I get nervous and fearful… Niecey Nash asked me, ‘How do you know you have courage if you’ve never used it on your fears?’
Isn’t that powerful?
So for me, I look back and there were so many things in my life I was afraid of or fearful of and I overcame them. And I realized, well dang, I guess I really did have courage. It’s important for people who are trying to do something they’ve never done before, or doing something that no one has ever done before to not be afraid. You might mess up, but get back up and keep moving forward. Because success doesn’t come through just having a wonderful testimony. Success comes from having a test, that’s how you have a testimony.
CN: What’s next for Kita and Mo?
Kita: Define Your Pretty is our current project. We will not only have hair products, we will have a limited edition of hair extensions. We’re teaming up with the person that does our hair and we’re actually selling the hair that we use! Whether it’s the straight hair, the wavy hair, the Kita hair… we call it the Kita and Mo collection. We are also in the middle of writing a book. We’ve gathered celebrity testimonies about their own pretty and their own journey in life so that it can be an inspiration for young women who may think, ‘oh she had it easy’, or ‘oh, she had already had this and that’, but when you read the back story, you realize that it wasn’t as easy as you imagined. Outside of that we will continue to speak with the United Negro Fund. We are headlining the tour. Check the site for the tour dates because we’ll be coming to an HBCU near you to speak on a panel to give advice and tips to move young people in the right direction professionally.
CN: Before I let y’all go, Mo, what’s your hair story?
Mo: [Laughter] It’s quite different from Kita’s. I was born and raised in LA. So a lot of my older cousin’s had perms and so on the low, I convinced my grandmother when I was about 12 years old to give me a perm without my mother knowing. My mother wasn’t a hair maintenance person. It was nothing fancy or over the top from her… she’d wash it, condition it, and pull it up in some ponytails. For holidays, she’d send me to my aunt’s house. I would sit in her kitchen to get my hair pressed and my hair would pop sizzle and crack every time that damn comb would come near my edges. She’d use that blue or green grease…
Kita: Blue Magic!
Mo: Yes, Blue Magic! So I convinced my grandmother to give me a no-lye perm. We didn’t lie to my mom, we just didn’t tell her. I didn’t know how to keep it up and my hair would break off terribly as the new growth came in.
Long story short, my mother found out what happened and cut all my hair off… all the damaged ends and then she let my aunt put a curl in it! Girl, when I tell you I was pissed… I felt like I was in… you know the movie Inkwell, with Larenz Tate and Jada Pinkett? I felt like Larenz Tate, just all kinda out of place with a freaking Jheri curl. I almost cursed… I can still smell it! My mother was happy because she wasn’t a hair maintenance person and could just spray it, cap it and go.
Another aunt told me that you could blow it out to reverse the curl, so I would go to her house every weekend on the low, again, to have her help me. My mother, unaware of my aunt’s doings, was wondering why my curls were getting looser and looser. Thank God for my aunty. She stood up for me in the court of law, my mother, and told her that she’d do my hair every weekend and help it grow back out. And by the time it grew out, I was in junior high and it was cool.
Then came the weave wearing Mo. I knew how to put two tracks in the back. Growing up in LA, I was in the know… Black girls, White girls, mixed girls… folks were wearing hair all the way back in the ’80s. I knew where to go get the hair and I had an allowance so I would save my money. I would take the hair and put in the two little back tracks and I thought I was rocking wonders.
Then I went to highschool and got The Cut. Toney Braxton and TLC were all wearing THE hair cut. I thought I was cute as pie but my boyfriend didn’t like the transformation. That shattered me ‘cause I was in love with this dude. Hair equates to beautiful… my hair was longer, past my shoulders and then I got The Cut, and he was like, ‘why did you cut your hair?’ I was like, ‘okay, he doesn’t like me any more, I’m not cute’. Because 18, 19 years old… you’re confused anyway.
Over the next few years, I bounced back and forth. I’d cut it all off, let it grow back for a couple of years, then cut it back off. Then I had kids and now it’s just too much to maintain. Trying to keep it cut and pressed and weaved and styled. I’m not a hair person. Right now I have my real hair out and it’s a mess. I sweat just going to pee and I’ve got a ton of hair… it’s down to my butt. So it will be braided up and weaved up as soon as we get back home. I’m completely natural and find that weaves are an excellent protective style, especially for people like me.
CN: Do you ever wear your hair out and curly?
Mo: I’ll tell you the honest to God truth. When I was taking my last weave down, I called Kim Coles and asked her who does her hair… who she goes to because I’ve really been tempted. I wanted to get some of it cut off, cut to a decent length and wear it curly in order to get in touch with me and things of that nature. I want to let go of the weave for a minute… to see if I can do it for even just a month. So I’ve got some people’s numbers and I’m really going to do it. I also think the contrast between Kita and I will be good especially since we’re venturing into hair care… one being natural and curly and one being the weave diva. She’s just better at that. Like right now, she has the pressing comb and all that greatness and I’m going to be in her room later on tonight to get my hair right before we have to work in front of cameras tomorrow. If you left it up to me, it’d be back in this ponytail.