In 2007, at the age of 22, the Brooklyn-born Tanisha Thomas appeared as a cast member on season two of Oxygen's rambunctious reality show Bad Girls Club. The premise of the show is loose, but addictive: Seven aggressive women are picked to live in a house and try not to get kicked out for fighting or other "bad girl" behavior. While most of her castmates subsequently vanished into the unknown realm of the former reality TV show star, Thomas has created a lasting entertainment career from her time on the show.
During her season, Thomas's no-nonsense attitude and antagonistic pots-and-pans wakeup song, "I did not get no sleep cause of y'all / Ya'll not gonna get no sleep cause of me" were wildly popular—she instantly became a reality TV icon. She has since become the face of Bad Girls Club, hosting each season's reunion show as well as the series spinoff, Love Games, and a new talk show, Crazy Talk, that premiered last year. Her new memoir, Diary of a F.A.T. (Fed Up and Tired) Girl, was recently published by Simon and Schuster.
We spoke with Thomas about her new book, why she decided to audition for Bad Girls Club, and how she's had to sacrifice her relationships for her lucrative career.
BROADLY: Can you tell me about your new book?
Tanisha Thomas: When I was approached to do a book, I told the publishing company I really wanted to create a series that resonates with women everywhere. There's all these things on TV, but no one [is] constantly telling us how important it is to love ourselves while also talking about daily struggles of being a woman and being in a relationship and struggling with your weight. This is not to discredit anyone, but I wanted to see something real that I can identity with, and I want girls to see something real they can identify with—not this usual dolled-up, cinched waist, hair-in-place type of girl. I love the Kimmy K's of the world, but as an African American woman growing up in Brooklyn, let's be completely honest: How much can I really relate to Kim Kardashian? Apart from our love of beauty and our love of Kanye West—because I do love his crazy ass—what else do we have in common?
Diary of a F.A.T. (Fed Up and Tired) Girl is my first memoir, and initially I started writing this as a novel. I wanted my book to be about beautiful dreamers trying to get out of the 'hood. When I presented it to the publishers, they said they wanted me to present elements of my personal life in the book. I was like, "What? How am I going to do that?" Then I started thinking about the show Curb Your Enthusiasm—that inspired me. [Diary] is part fictional and part based on actual events, but it is my story and I absolutely love it.
Why did you decide to go on Bad Girls Club?
I mean, obviously I was a bad girl. I knew I was bad, I knew I repped Brooklyn, and I knew I repped New York City. I was just like, "Why not have the opportunity to be in the house with seven different women from seven different walks of life?" I thought that would be a great experience, so I signed up. The rest is history.
Were you nervous?
Yes. I never really got along with females for the majority of my life. I've always had a few friends here and there, but the closest people to me have always been men—no pun intended. I was like, "Okay, this is gonna be a house full of women, and honey, where the women are, the drama is never too far behind, okay?" I was really nervous, but I was excited about the experience, and I was excited they had chosen me, and I was excited to embark on something new.
There is a sense that going on reality TV can ruin your professional life, but you turned your appearance on Bad Girls Club into a super lucrative career. What set you apart?
This is going to sound crazy, but I believe it was divine intervention. I would love to sit here and take all the credit, but the truth of the matter is I think it was all a part of God's plan for me to be exactly where I was and doing exactly what I was doing. I mean, it is such a testimony to where I started, what I've been through, what I've overcome, and where I am today as a grown woman.
Aside from that, it's the work I've put in. While I laugh and I play all day—and I do turn up on Instagram and clap back at some of the comments—this is work. We are on set sometimes for 12, 13, 14, 15 hours a day, and I make a lot of sacrifices. I have to leave at the drop of a dime. It's really hard to foster relationships when your career is taking off, and I think that's one of the reasons that my marriage started to deteriorate. Every time we got closer, I got a call for work, and I had to take it.
Do you see yourself staying in reality TV for the long haul?
I'm 30 now, and I've been doing this for ten years, and I still love what I do. I kind of fell into the whole long-term gig when I was asked to guest host the Bad Girls Club spinoff show, Love Games. At the time I was filming Celebrity Fit Club for VH1, but I jumped onboard. I had no idea I was being tested to see if I would be a good host for the next season. Cut to me getting a phone call a few weeks later with executives telling me they'd like to make me an offer to host the next season of Love Games.
I was like, "Whaaaaat? I am not a host. I didn't go to school for that."
And they're like, "Okay, but it pays this much."
And I was like, "Well, you should have said that first. I will learn. I will be there at what time? 7 AM? 7 AM sharp!"
I was really nervous at first because I'd never had any formal training. I'd always been this off-the-cuff kind of girl. But I jumped in and it was magic. Something happens to me when I'm hosting, and I'm able to see things kind of outside the box. I try not to take things too personally, and I'm able to deliver the truth with a little bit of light and laughter.
One of the interesting things to see as a viewer is that all the women on the show, who are very quick to fight with each other, seem to respect you.
I love that. I have to tell you that every time I get a call to host a reunion I'm like, "Oh my God." It's not because I don't love the girls, because they're like my little sisters from different misters. I love them because I was there at one time. Sure, there are the haters, but we can't do anything about the haters; we let them be our motivators, honey.
It's really hard to get up in front of the world and say, "This is who I am, flaws and all. I accept me, and I'm going to live out loud." I respect that they went through the process. I respect that they portrayed themselves honestly, whether they were a hot mess or a beautiful young lady. Whatever it was, it's their story, and they had to go through it, and they saw it through. You've gotta give them respect for that.
Do you feel like the show has changed directions since you were on it?
Yeah, the show has changed. I know that the network was trying to do something a little more positive, and they added the life coach element.
The girls come in thinking they really have to live up to the show's name. They think they have to fight and throw each other's beds in the water. But the truth is that the Bad Girls Club is a sisterhood, and it's a place for women who aren't afraid to be themselves and who slay every single day to meet with other women who also slay every single day.
I think somewhere along the line, the girls kind of miss that point. But I will give credit where credit is due: Some of the girls come in, and even if that wasn't their mindset in the beginning, towards the end after they went to hell and back together they're like, "Yo, this was all worth it. I needed this and I needed you guys. I'm coming out better and stronger." It's really awesome.