“Welcome to Charm School, baby!”
Released in the middle of the Celebreality craze on VH1, Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School was an attempt to recycle the colorful personalities from the first two seasons of Flavor of Love. Suffice it to say that, largely thanks to its host, it became so much more.
If you don’t remember what Flavor of Love was – meaning you lived under a rock in the mid-Aughts – it was the Bachelor-style series where women competed to become Flavor Flav’s girlfriend. Why would any woman subject themselves to this? No idea! As you can see in the video above from an early episode fight, these women were clearly in need of some serious help.
Enter Mo’Nique, the comedienne at the time best known for her stand-up comedy and not shaving her legs. (Since then, she has become known for her earth-shatteringly great performance in Precious that won her an Oscar. However, she also raised eyebrows when she talked about her open marriage. That’s just how Mo’Nique rolls.)
Mo’Nique’s Charm School took 12 of the worst Flavor of Love girls and put them through challenges that ranged from camping to build teamwork (a good idea in theory, but a little too harsh) to giving clothes to charity (one of the best episodes of the series, and a real tearjerker). Through these challenges, the women were supposed to learn more about themselves and change their naughty behavior. It worked, to an extent, but really only on the final four girls, who did make massive changes. (I won’t spoil who they are.)
As I mentioned, some of the challenges were more effective than others, but Mo’Nique was a constant highlight. It’s a shame she didn’t return for the next two Charm School seasons, because they really suffered without her. You could tell that Mo’Nique truly cared about each of the women, investing not just her time but her emotional energy into making things better for them.
One of the most affecting moments of the series was watching Mo’Nique have a heart-to-heart with one of the girls in the reunion show. The show actually ended with them still talking, and you got the feeling that you were watching real progress being made with one of the most difficult girls in the cast. That’s not something you’ll see in every show.
Another great moment was in the aforementioned charity episode, where the girls gave the clothes off their backs. In order to give the most amount of money possible, one cast member gave up her mother’s engagement ring. After the elimination ceremony at the end of the episode, Mo’Nique called that cast member over and told her – well, it’s just too great not to transcribe:
“You were so generous that you said, ‘If it’s gonna make a difference for somebody else, I’m gonna give it away.’ I am standing in front of a woman who is so strong right now, and so giving, and I am honored to be in your presence. And I would be honored to give you back your mother’s rings.”
And then she gives the rings back as the cast member cries tears of joy. It’s a killer moment of raw emotion, the kind you wish would come along on reality television more often.
Those kinds of emotions are what make Charm School stand out among its trashy Celebreality ilk like Rock of Love, I Love New York and I Love Money. The contestants came for the money and fame, but ultimately, even the runners-up in the final episode seem simply happy to have participated.
Ultimately, the Celebreality chain of programming was cut down considerably and all Flavor of Love derivatives cancelled when Rock of Love spinoff Megan Wants a Millionaire contestant Ryan Jenkins was discovered to have murdered a woman and committed suicide – hardly the kind of press a network wants.
As much as I want her to continue with her film career, I would really like to see Mo’Nique do another show like this, for the express purpose of mitigating the kind of crap that creates situations like the “Megan Wants a Millionaire” murderer. Reality television is in a massive low point, where even the best competition shows (Project Runway, Top Chef, RuPaul’s Drag Race) are mired in spin-off projects and all-star seasons. The whole system is losing it’s appeal – it could use more Charm.
Every episode of Charm School is available on Hulu Plus, hidden under the Flavor of Love subcategory. It’s definitely worth a marathon, particularly if you haven’t seen it – there are only 10 episodes, and the emotional payoff is more than worth the investment.