We’ve been tuned in to OWN’s “Family or Fiancé” for some time now so we had to speak to the source of the powerful relatioship reality series.
Season 3 of “Family or Fiancé” premiered this month and BOSSIP’s Sr. Content Director Janeé Bolden chatted with host Tracy McMillan about being able to quickly assess which couples are willing to put in the work and which are not. Tracy also spoke about learning through her own trauma and how women of a certain age who want children may or may not want to proceed without a partner. Tracy also discussed her upcoming Onyx Collective comedy series ‘Unprisoned,’ which stars Delroy Lindo and Kerry Washington, and is based on Tracy’s real-life experience with her biological father.
How do you get so much accomplished with these families in just three days?
Tracy McMillan: I feel like there’s two types of people who come on the show; people who are ready to deal with what they have going on in their families and their relationships, and people who aren’t quite. But I always say that the minute they cross the threshold of the house, there’s a process that happens. We’ve done 60 episodes of the show now. Once that process starts, it kind of doesn’t matter what the couple is trying to do or not do, it’s just going to happen to them. In almost every case my whole goal is to get to the highest place, whether that is staying together or breaking up or growing, or facing whatever issue they have to face in the relationship or in their family because sometimes it’s a family issue.
Most people’s relationship issues originate in their families. What we do on the show is, we kind of give a cause and the effect in the same house for three days and naturally, there is a coming together of the two things and there’s actually a lot of opportunity for growth and healing if people take the opportunity. Not everyone does.
You’ve been married three times, what do you take from your experience that helps you with the show?
Tracy McMillan: I have come through so much in the area of relationships. It all started for me when I became a mother. I started learning about attachment and family systems and I started to really educate myself. One of the things I tell the couples when they come in is that a good relationship is not really about folk wisdom. There’s a lot of relationship data and relationship science out there and if you do certain things you’ll get a certain outcome and if you do certain things you’ll get a rocky outcome. I am all about educating people about what the facts are around relationships and what that does is it gives people choices. Once you get choices you start to have a little more control around your destiny.
Until recently I hadn’t even lived with anybody in 17 years. I came from foster care. I had about as hardcore of a childhood in terms of attachment as you pretty much can have. It led me down a whole road of looking for, in relationships, what I really needed to develop in myself. When I finally reached the end of the road, which was around 2004, I understood that in order to have a new experience, I had to change the way I was going about every single possible thing in terms of the way I was going about forming relationships. In doing that work, I started teaching other people and it turns out a lot of people have the same issues that I do. Really it comes down to attachment. It’s not as complicated as it might seem. Basically, there are secure and insecure attachments. When people are functioning well in a secure attachment their relationships feel good. When they have insecure attachments, even if they look good on the outside, their relationships don’t really function well. I can tell within minutes of someone sitting down on the sofa on “Family or Fiancé” what system they’re operating within.
On this week’s upcoming episode the bride-to-be really wants to have a kid, while her fiancé does not. In a situation where a woman wants children but hasn’t gotten married, would you advise her to do that on her own?
Tracy McMillan: The more you get into your life journey you realize things are individual and you have to really know yourself and know what’s right for you. I really felt for Brandy. That was an incredible episode because she really was living out something that was so real and it’s not real until you get there. I always say the fastest moments of a woman’s life are 32-37. 32 is DGAF and 37 is OMFG. It’s not because there’s something wrong with you, it’s because there’s something right. We get standard operating equipment as a human being and one of them is wanting children, not every single person but like 90%. You have to trust the little voice that tells you what is right for you.
Congratulations on your new Onyx Collective show “Unprisoned.” Was it difficult creating a comedy show about your own experience?
Tracy McMillan: It’s about mass incarceration and how do we put the family back together? Both of my shows are about the same thing. They are about the Black family and what issues are we facing. How do we heal from the generational trauma from the systematic oppression? That is what the show is about. Both shows actually. It’s our work to do. No one can do it for us. Each individual has to deal with how they’re going to come to terms with the legacy of slavery and all the family separation, and incarceration and in my case foster care. We have to figure out how we’re going to do that so we don’t repeat it.
Do you get a lot of questions about your race?
Tracy McMillan: I’m often in contexts where they don’t expect a woman of color to be. I don’t think people expect a woman of color there’s something about being the authority in the room that makes people think like ‘Oh I didn’t think about that.’ As far as race is concerned, I was raised around all white people, by all white people, my black relative was in prison, but that doesn’t make me any less black. My story, my legacy, my understanding of the world is very much – There is a line in ‘Unprisoned’ where the character says defending your blackness is one of the blackest things there is. This is where I’ve been called. To this spot, Right here. So I just say okay so I’m just doing what I can do to make the world a better place.
“Family or Fiancé” airs Saturday nights at 9pm EST on OWN.