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Reality show changes women's lives

by Salatha Helton,Women's Life Editor

“Let me go! Stop! Let me go please. I can’t stay here! He’s waiting for me outside, and I have to go,” said Josie, crying loudly.

“ No Josie, you can’t leave. Look at yourself in the mirror, Josie, look at yourself.”


“She doesn’t even love herself, Lord,” said Rain pleading with Josie.

Rain and Josie were two of the housemates who appeared in the first season of Starting Over, the daytime reality show on NBC that follows the lives of women dealing with death, divorce, low self-esteem, abuse, rape, and other traumatic issues.

In one episode, Rain pleads with Josie, who is eight months pregnant, with three potential fathers of her child, to stay in the house until after she gives birth. She and the other housemates are furious when Josie decides to go back to one of her boyfriends, despite the fact that he is verbally abusive.
Starting Over debuted in the fall 2003 but wasn’t an immediate success with female television viewers. Since 2004, the show has gained its adult female audience, becoming a success because it opened its doors to women as a safehaven where they are taught how to love themselves and succeed on their own.

Women who watch the television show find it beneficial for females and believe that it will continue being a success. “I think that the show is great for women because everyone seems to experience similar issues, and they can be there for each other,” said Leila Brown, a sophomore majoring in communications at Marymount Manhattan, located in New York.

In season one, the show was set in Chicago and had two qualified life coaches, Rhonda Britten and Rana Walker, who guided the women in the process of change. For season two, the show moved to Los Angeles and added a consulting psychologist. Iyanla Vanzant replaced Walker as a life coach. Vanzant an inspirational speaker and best-selling author of In the Meantime, is best recognized for her appearances on Oprah Show. Josie, from season one, returned for the new season, in which six ethnically diverse women live together for six to 12 weeks in a Spanish-style $6 million home.

The consulting psychologist for the show is Dr. Stan J. Katz. At first producers were hesitant about a male working closely with the women since the show is about women helping women. However Katz, who has more than 25 years of experience with clinical and forensic psychology and has written several books, provides the women the male point of view and offers his clinical expertise on the issues that they face.

The only requirement; the women must be U.S. citizens. The show follows their daily lives as they make life-altering decisions to improve themselves.

Viewers watch the women set goals for themselves and work at achieving them. To help them, the life coaches give the women various tasks and written assignments to complete. The women finish at their own speed. Once a woman successfully completes assignments and achieves her goals, she graduates from the house.

The goals that are set vary for each woman in the Starting Over house. For example, Josie, has been in the house the longest of any housemate, but she made it to season two with the same goals: to cleanup her life by asking the potential fathers of her child to take paternity tests, go back to college, and gain an identity of her own.

If a woman fails to complete her goals, she’s not allowed to graduate, but may be asked to leave the Starting Over house. As each woman leaves the house, a new woman replaces her.

The life coaches set up weekly meetings involving all of the women in the house, and the coaches rate each woman’s performance by a letter grade. If a woman receives a C, it’s a warning that she needs to work harder, and if she receives a C at the second meeting, she is asked to leave the house.
Josie, who was given a C- the first season, was given an A in the second season and was able to graduate Nov. 19, 2004. She had a clear knowledge of herself, knew the paternity of her child, and had completed a class in animal care in her pursuit of a career with animals.

Nine of 10 women have graduated from the Starting Over house. The series is the first reality show that focuses on the lives of women, and it is expected to change television, as did The Real World.

The most important thing that women can learn by watching the show is that many experience the same issues, and that women can learn from each other. “I think it opens up avenues for many women,” said Amanda Line, a Hawai‘i college student. “They become more confident.”

“ I have to admit, when I first saw the show I didn’t like it at all,” said Line. “But then, after watching the second season, I started getting into it. I love how the life coaches are there for the women, and the women can open up,” Line added.

Starting Over is helping to change women’s lives as well as women’s television because it offers support and helps women to have a better self-image and clearer outlook on life.


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