Reality TV has received its fair share of criticism over the years, and rightly so, from a staggering lack of diversity to standardizing behavior. But it can also, on occasion, do good for the world.
Made in Chelsea‘s Olivia Bentley has openly discussed the impact her alopecia had on her self-esteem during last season’s race. Remember when Island of loveCamilla Thurlow explained to competitor Johnny Mitchell why feminism is still so vital? The missteps of the above are undeniable, but it would be remiss not to give credit where credit is due. And The best of Peckham, a new ITV2 reality series, has certainly caught our attention for all the right reasons.
The show revolves around a group of great personalities making waves in the south London district of Peckham and beyond.
“Everyone is really talented,” said DJ and presenter Mark-Ashley Dupé Digital spy. “Everyone is really humble but also has their own shit.”
Other cast members include Mojo, a saleswoman who has built a huge following on social media as a body-confidence coach, and Isla, a part-time student and model, who wants to switch from advertising to writing, among others.
“You’re going to have a little drama, you’re going to have a little romance, you’re going to have a little heartache and you’re going to have a lot of laughs,” Mark-Ashley added. “The only thing I’ve realized about this cast is that we’re all low key comedians. I expect we’ll all be at the Apollo soon enough. [laughs]. “
Not only have the producers assembled a group that can grab your attention without resorting to problematic stories and behavior, but they’ve also created a show in which the central actors are all black, which is revolutionary here in the UK.
“The first word that came to my mind [when the show was announced] was a relief, ”Mojo said. “Finally, we have it. We cried, begged, begged, asked, waited for a little diversity on TV and it finally happened. I’m just like a fucking king after all! ”
But as Isla is quick to note, it’s not just about exploring diversity in terms of race, but a number of other factors that are often overlooked.
“There is so much more to diversity, like where people come from and the LGBTQ + community,” she explained. “And different jobs. It’s just about representing all types of people and I think it’s going to be inspiring for people, just to be like, ‘If this person can do it, I can do it too.’ “
Mark-Ashley, who is gay, was keen to point out a narrative that is very rarely – if ever – included in popular culture, but which appears in the opening episode of The best of Peckham.
“I feel really blessed to have been able to involve my mother and show my relationship with her,” he beamed. “As a black gay man, you usually don’t hear these stories about black gay men and their mothers – and when you do, they’re usually negative.
“The fact that I can show this relationship that I have with my mother, which is so special to me – that, alone, is like… I’m really, really happy because I feel like it’s going to be able to. show it a lot of other young black gay men it’s okay. “
There is both a dynamism and an authenticity to Peckham’s Finest – two attributes that have become a rarity in the reality TV landscape. These key ingredients cannot be manufactured, but flow directly from the many faces of the show, which were shaped by the place itself.
The neighborhood has been at the center of gentrification wars for a number of years, with locals and those living further afield fighting to ensure that only Peckham remains. The big transformations – improved housing, an influx of bars, restaurants and other places and social spaces – along with a commitment to make it safer, everything looks appealing on the surface. But so often, these developments come at the expense of residents.
“There is nothing wrong with modernizing the area, but upgrading it for the people who are actually in the area,” Mark-Ashley said. “We needed it to be improved for years and years and years, but they needed middle class white business owners to move in and then modernize the area. And now we’ve all been billed. As Blacks, we also love beautiful things. We want good bars, nice houses, good cafes and good restaurants. But don’t do it in such a way that we feel excommunicated and then have to. leave the neighborhood.
“This is not an area where we say white people are not allowed. We welcome everyone. This is Peckham. Only fools and horses is Peckham. It’s all about balancing and making sure you take care of the locals because one thing about gentrification is that people move to areas because of the culture, but as soon as they get there. get there, they push everything and you lose the essence of what attracted them to the area. “
The best of Peckham is a delicious escape track that manages to distract us from an apocalyptic news cycle that shows no signs of slowing down, but it also has a greater sense of purpose than your average reality TV show. It is as good a campaign as any to show why stripping the heritage of the community would be a truly devastating loss, and it does so while harnessing the best of Peckham. Instead of wiggling his fingers or giving food for thought, he lets his people do the talking and with that, we’ll let Mojo do the rest.
“When I moved to Peckham I had the opportunity to leave and return to North Lincolnshire,” she said. “But actually having a Ghanaian family across the street, a Sierra Leonean family just down the road I could run to sometimes, and a Jamaican family who treated me so well here – that was an opportunity for me. to not just be Black, but other types and versions of being African and Caribbean and what that means.
“Peckham’s culture is what made me fall in love with her and I just don’t want to see that lost. You have to make Peckham safer, but that doesn’t mean make it whiter. We are the root tree. We are like a tree that you cannot get rid of. You can cut it, shave its sides, and get rid of all the leaves and the like. But that tree, that crop, will stay forever no matter what and around it you try to build. And the roots run deep. “
The best of Peckham airs Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on ITV2. Catching up on the ITV hub.
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