Sunday, February 21, 2010

The "Different World" Effect

Last month TV-One started airing "A Different World" and I was ecstatic. I remember when this show first started, I was 7 years old and (somewhat) convinced that I was going to become a hair dresser when I got older. I had quite a few barbies and Cabbage patch dolls whose hair I would "fix" every Saturday. I would wash their hair, put in sponge rollers and mouse, and put them beside the "dryer" (which was really the heater in my bedroom behind my bed). All of my dolls had curly styles, I liked big curly hair!

When the show first started I was somewhat amazed. Black people in college? I mean, I wasn't stupid but come on. "Where dey do that?" I was not a fan of "Cosby show" because I didn't know any one like the Cosbys and they seemed like uppity negros to me. My favorite show as "Good Times" and mainly because they were poor and I was poor and it just seemed right. Despite not like Cosby and hating Rudy for having all that hair, I watched A Different World. Yes, I decided this. I have to admit, I didn't know what was going on. I just knew there was a lot of black people in college. Later I found out they went to a black school...a black school? AN HBCU! What? Hold on, you mean to tell me that black people founded their own colleges and universities?

I didn't truly get into the show until a few seasons later when I could fully comprehend what was going on, but I knew that I loved Whitley from the beginning. We had so much in common...she was who I wanted to be. She was lightskinned, with long pretty hair, fierce clothes and the best part...she was from Richmond (like me!!!). She was my hero. While all the other girls at school talked about Denise and Julissa, and hated on Whitley, I was secretly in love with her. So I decided then that I had to go to college and I was going to be just like Whitley.

In my room I'd put a towel on my head and I talked "extra" southern. I pretended to have a side kick like Millie, and swore that I'd have no man in "boudoir". I was going to have to learn French. Whitley spoke French and I love her. That bought me a little closer to my goal. And Whitley was mean...she is the OG of snark. She went in on everyone. I watched the show until the end. By then, I was 13 and I wanted to "help people". The original goal was to go to a black college and become a doctor. Oh how time changes things...

My life was a roller coaster from 1994-1998. The year I graduated from high school, I was no longer concerned with college, and sometimes I wish I had stayed in those cosmetology classes.  My counselor convinced me to apply to a few schools, so I applied to 3. Two of those schools were HBCUs. I got accepted to all 3. Offered partial scholarships to 2 of them. It was okay tho, I had been saving money for college since I was 14.  I found  out a few weeks later that all of the money I had saved was gone (long story...) and I cried all night. I didn't have any money in the bank and no way to pay for college. I just KNEW it was too good to be true.

A few days later, I got a call from Morgan State. They wanted to give me a full scholarship: room, board, books and meals. I wouldn't have to pay for anything. My hands were shaking and I accepted. I got off the phone and cried again. This was a blessing. God is good.

I can't begin to describe what it was like for me at Morgan. It was truly "A Different World" and I was glad to be a part of it. It wasn't like the show, but it was close enough. I met some of my best friends there, I fell in love with a man there, I fought in the middle of a club there, and I got drunk at a Kappa party there. I didn't want to be Whitley anymore...I was happy being Stephanie. My life was it's own show.

And I was glad I was the star.


  1. It's amazing how TV shaped the paths of many of us, which makes it all the more disheartening to see we have less positive representation than we did during that era. The NAACP is giving out Image Awards for Monique's role in Precious... like, really?

  2. Okay- kudos for loving Good Times. I really like this post because it relates to me so well. I loved Whitley too and by the time Jada Pinkett came on the show, I just had to watch. *sigh*... good post.