Nearly six years ago in Los Angeles, I sat in the back seat of a black Lincoln town car with Beyoncé and asked her point blank if she was dating the rapper Jay-Z. The internationally beloved chanteuse threw me her biggest pearly white smile, then a giggle, but didn't utter a word. After a moment of awkward silence, it became clear to me that America's musical sweetheart had absolutely no intention of talking about her relationship with Shawn Carter, a.k.a. Jay-Z, so I'd better move on quickly to the next question. I did.
As a reporter, I was pretty disappointed at not being able to get the scoop on B's love life, but as a woman I totally got where she was coming from. In matters of the heart, a woman in the public eye is better off keeping even the simplest details of her love life to herself.
Beyoncé's wall of relationship silence crossed my mind a few times in the last few weeks as I watched Academy Award nominees and future winners Mo'Nique and Sandra Bullock do interview after interview touting the joys of their respective marital relationships. Both women appeared to be in the midst of never-ending honeymoons as they swooned over the men in their lives. (Mo'Nique more than Bullock, for the record.) Touching and cute, right? Not exactly.
This week reports surfaced that Bullock's husband of five years, television personality Jesse James, had been having a raging affair with a tattooed stripper. All this came just two weeks after Bullock gave numerous interviews and acceptance speeches praising the unconditional love and support James had given her since they've been together. How devastatingly humiliating for America's movie sweetheart. But would it sound too harsh if I said I'm not surprised at all?
In truth, I can often be quite the cynic when it comes to relationships—particularly those lived in the public eye. I guess I've just seen more than my share of "fairy tale on the outside" but "very hot mess on the inside" celebrity romances. Can you say Tiger Woods, John Edwards, or, my personal winner for "hot mess'' of a lifetime, Star Jones?
Jones's on-air love fest with her then-beau and future husband, Al Reynolds, still makes me cringe even all these years after the couple's divorce. Just as with Bullock, I'd always liked Jones and admired what she'd accomplished as a woman, lawyer, and host of a popular talk show. I even admired how she appeared to be comfortable with her image and her weight issues. And just when she seemed to have it all, she met a man. And everything changed. Gone was the sensible, smart woman who so shrewdly commented on the first O.J. Simpson trial for Court TV. She hijacked conversations on The View to talk about her budding romance and not much else. The talk continued until she lost her job on The View (in part because of the incessant talk) and then, of course, lost her marriage too.
Could it all have been avoided? I think so. If only Jones, Bullock, and other high-profile women would take a lesson from B. (Jones even admitted that "I made an error in judgment by inviting the media into the most intimate area of my life").
True, Bullock's talk of James wasn't completely overboard. Unless of course you count her now-regrettable assertion during one acceptance speech that James was the first person to totally have her back. Even Barbara Walters challenged her on that notion during an interview afterward. Obviously, her husband was the true best actor in the household.
Of course, Bullock's not the first to fall into the share with "the world your joy'' mindset.' Early on in her career, even Oprah Winfrey gushed a bit too much about her relationship with longtime beau Stedman Graham. Thankfully, somewhere along the way Winfrey realized her strength and inspiration to others was in her own story and not her love life. She also understood that the only person you ever truly know is yourself.
Bullock, Mo'Nique, and possibly even Jennifer Aniston, who seems to stay in the relationship talk mode for some reason, could all benefit from learning the same lesson. These are women who all (initially) captured our attention for the work they produced and accomplishments they've achieved, not because of the men they love.
Yes, the media will poke and needle to find whatever they can during interviews, and there will be endless chances to tell all about the man in one's life. But there's a very simple way of sidestepping that minefield with ease: a smile, a giggle, and then complete silence.