Boss Lady, Page 1Omar Tyree
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What to Do with Jason?
Let’s Make It Happen!
The Game Plan
The Quiet Before the Storm
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Back to Hollywood
About Omar Tyree
to all the old and new flyy girls
who can relate
and to those
who only dream about it
Black America, 2003
It’s high stakes now when she rolls
the highway tolls have been taxed by Jones’s inflation
a proud Black Nation no longer exists
and although the boot straps of evidence still persists
the honest effort is no longer relevant
only eight figures pay the new cost of rent
forcing fast, luxurious cars to keep pace in haste and ignore the dents
until the green, silver, platinum, and gold is all spent
causing superstar Negroes to holla, “Damn!
Where all my money went?”
while in need of cool-headed, financial consultation
and less heated, overemotional stimulation.
Copyright © 2002 Tracy Ellison Grant
Hi. My name is Vanessa Tracy Smith. I’m Tracy Ellison’s oldest second cousin on her mother’s side. Many of you first read of me in Tracy’s sequel book, For the Love of Money. But some of you are a little confused now. That’s okay. I’ll explain everything.
My big cousin Tracy became famous ten years ago after publishing the story of her life in a book called Flyy Girl, as told to author Omar Tyree. She finished undergraduate school at Hampton University in Virginia, and continued school to receive a master’s degree in English. Mission accomplished, she moved back home to Philadelphia, passed all of her teaching certificate exams, and found a job as a junior high school English teacher. However, my cousin could never be satisfied as a schoolteacher. Not the flyy girl. So after thinking it over, she decided to quit her job as a schoolteacher and move to Hollywood, California, to chase her dreams as a poet and screenwriter. She had already written two volumes of unpublished poetry.
Out in Hollywood, Tracy took a few courses in screenwriting at UCLA, made friends in the television industry, and worked herself from an assistant writer position for a science fiction show on cable, into a proven staff writer and a freelancer for some of the major networks. But my cousin didn’t stop there. In perfect flyy girl mode, she attempted to create her own sitcom, Georgia Peaches, about a southern girl trying to break into the music and entertainment industry. Failing at that, she penned her first feature-length screenplay entitled Led Astray, about an African-American woman who exacts revenge on several Hollywood players who betray her.
While continuing to make new friends in high places, my cousin not only found a producer and a studio to develop and green-light her first film, but she walked away with the starring role and an associate producer credit.
Led Astray went on to triple its budget in ticket sales at the box office, my cousin became an instant star, and she was able to sign on the dotted line for a lucrative, three-film deal worth millions of dollars.
Pretty unbelievable, isn’t it? I would say. But that’s when I come in.
I had been told about my big cousin Tracy ever since I was a toddler. But what I heard of her was rarely a good thing. My mother would beat me over the head with negatives about my cousin as if it was a punishment.
“Girl, you think you’re so damn cute. You act just like your cousin Tracy. The world don’t revolve around you!”
Granted, I barely even knew who Tracy was at the time. It wasn’t as if she visited me, my mother, and my sisters while we relocated like nomads to different run-down apartments and houses in North Philadelphia, with my mother chasing her crazy ideas of love. All I knew was that Tracy was my mother’s first cousin, and that she was raised in a stable home in the better parts of Germantown. However, I had seen pictures of her, and if my mother believed that naming me Tracy and berating me with how similar I was to my namesake would somehow stop me from trying to emulate my cousin, she was wrong.
All of my mother’s name-dropping only made me think of Tracy night and day, whether she visited us in North Philly or not. My cousin soon became the focus point of my constant daydreams of a better life. Then her first book came out.
You would think my mother would have known about the book as much as she seemed to despise Tracy. But my mother was never much of a reader. So she didn’t know about the book that had her name, my aunt Marie, my grandmother Marsha, and my great aunts Patti, Joy, and Tanya in it until I had first started to read Flyy Girl at age eleven. It had been out for a few years by this time, and it had not been published nationally yet. It was still kind of underground.
I hid the book from my mother and read it day and night for three days straight until she finally caught me with it in my room. I was all the way at the end and had gotten a little careless with it.
She asked me, “What’s that you readin’?”
I didn’t even notice my mother when she walked into my room. I was just so into that book. It had me hypnotized. It was that good. But I got so nervous from being busted that I fumbled the book out of my hands and dropped it on the floor.
I mumbled, “Ummm . . .”
I was terrified and didn’t know what to say. My mother could read the surprise all over my face. I was sure she knew about the book. I tried to pick it up and hide it from her, like a fool.
“Gimme the damn book, girl,” she told me.
“Mom, it’s just a book,” I whined.
“Vanessa, if you don’t give me that damn book, I will break your damn hands!”
I was still hesitant until my mother reached out and snatched it from me.
“Gimme this damn book, girl!”
My little sisters looked at me as if I was nuts.
“All that over a book.”
They didn’t get books like I did. I had a lot more to dream about, I guess.
Anyway, my mother read the title out loud.
“ ‘Flyy Girl. Inside the big city there’s a mad obsession for gold, sex, and money.’ ” She looked at me and asked, “What are you doin’ readin’ this? And who gave this to you? Is this some kind of X-rated sex book?”
My two younger sisters began to eye me in alarm with hushed silence and wide eyes.
I was confused as I don’t know what. Didn’t my mother know about Tracy’s book? I had given her the benefit of the doubt, but maybe she didn’t know. Then she studied the artwork on the cover, with the gold earrings that read Tracy in script, and she just froze.
“What in the world . . .”
My mother was as shocked as I was. I was shocked that she didn’t know about it, and she was shocked that she was just finding out.
Then I got slick and tried to downplay it.
“It’s just a book abou
t some girl growing up in Philly, Mom.”
My mother ignored me and began to flip through the pages after reading the back cover summaries.
“Where did you get this book?”
I didn’t want to tell. Tracy’s book was quite mature for an eleven-year-old girl to read. It was detailed with graphic sex and hard language. So my friends had all been hiding it from their mothers. We all realized that it was hard-boiled and secretive material.
“You better tell me, girl,” my mother warned me.
“Friends,” I answered.
“Just friends, Mom.”
She was headed for the third degree, and it was beginning to look like a very long night.
“I want names, girl.”
By that time, my sisters were no longer silent.
“Shut up!” I screamed at them.
I was irritated by the whole thing.
My mother said, “No, you shut up, Vanessa. And you tell me what I wanna know. Right now! I want names!”
To make a long story short, my mother got me to tell on my circle of friends, who had all realized before she did that the book was about our cousin.
So my mother got to calling around to all of our family members, and they all confirmed it, which gave me an even lower level of respect for her. I mean, how could she not know?
Anyway, that drove an even bigger wedge between my cousin Tracy and I ever meeting and getting to know each other. My mother was convinced that I would run around and try to be flyy in the same fast ways that Tracy had. But I was already my own person. I could see where letting guys have their way with a girl had led my mother into having three girls from three different daddies. So I was in no way ready to allow a book to influence me to do something that real life had already shown me an ugly reflection of. My girls and I all knew better than to live how Tracy had; we all read the book as a tale of what we shouldn’t do, as opposed to how many of our parents felt about it. They were not giving us much credit for our intelligence.
A few years later, Flyy Girl was picked up by a major publisher, and it was in bookstores everywhere. My mother had given up on trying to keep me away from it, along with thousands of other teenaged girls’ mothers. And a powerful thing was beginning to happen; girls who wouldn’t be caught dead reading a book were all of a sudden swearing by my cousin’s book. I was so proud of her that I didn’t know what to do with myself.
I realized that Tracy had attended Hampton University, and I wanted to go to a black college, too. Tracy wrote poetry, and I wanted to write poetry, too. Tracy had lived her life the way she wanted to, and I wanted to live and learn from her mistakes and not make them. And when I finally got a chance to hang out with my cousin after years of dreaming about her, I wanted to make sure I kept my cool. I didn’t want to come off as a geek or anything. I had read what she thought about Girls High and Central being “nerd schools,” and my high school, Engineering & Science, was in the same vein as those. But I was also certain that Tracy would feel differently about education as an adult, and she would be proud that I attended E&S and had maintained good grades. Even her brother Jason had graduated from E&S. I just wanted to make sure that my cousin would be nothing but proud of me when I finally met her.
We finally met and hung out in the spring of my sophomore year, and Tracy was very open with me about everything. She complained about how much her life had changed since breaking into Hollywood, but at my school, we were still sweating her for her book. I don’t think she understood how much of an impact her book had had on urban American girls. Tracy was more concerned about her present and future, like most go-getters are. They don’t live in the yesterday, they live in the now and the tomorrow. So I accepted my cousin’s complaints and allowed her to say her piece about fame and fortune, and the ups and downs of wealth and popularity. She even had a frank discussion with me about boys, just when I had one who could have broken me. Talk about your perfect timing.
Nevertheless, my mother wasn’t having it. She bitched about me hanging out with Tracy as if the world was coming to an end. She gave my cousin no respect at all, as if she was still a teenager looking for a hot boyfriend. Tracy deserved much more respect than that. She worked damned hard for hers, and no man had gotten in her way.
So when my wildest dream was realized—Tracy asking me if I wanted to spend a summer in California with her—I was blown away. I mean, like, wow! I had waited my whole life for that. Not that I would have died if it didn’t happen, but I surely wasn’t going to turn it down once it did. That’s when the shit hit the fan. My mother went into overdrive and started nagging me about everything. She was getting on my last damn nerve!
Honestly, I saw nothing left that I could gain from my mother. She couldn’t pay my way to college. She couldn’t help me with my ideas and aspirations. And she didn’t have anything left to teach me. I could even get better jobs than she could once I finished high school, because my mother never applied herself enough to master anything. But there she was trying to deny me the opportunity of a lifetime instead of supporting me. It wasn’t as if I would just up and leave the family. It was only for a summer.
Tracy’s invitation to Hollywood was the end of the end for my mother and me. The beginning of our problems had started a long time ago, and we were both ready to explode. So when I started reading up on Hollywood to prepare myself for Tracy’s world, my mother went right ahead and pressed my last button.
She snatched my Entertainment Weekly magazine right out of my hands and shouted, “Do your fucking homework!”
I mean, that wasn’t even called for. I was just sitting on the living room sofa, minding my own business, when she walked in from work and said that to me. It was nearly nine o’clock at night, and my homework had been finished before seven. My mother knew that. I always completed my schoolwork early. She was just trying to pick a fight with me, like a jealous hater. She wouldn’t even allow me to work after school. My job was to look after my younger sisters every day. And I was just tired of it; tired of everything.
I stood up and said, “Mom, I’ve already finished my homework. Now can I have my magazine back, please?”
I knew she wasn’t going to give it to me. I was already preparing myself to fight her. I had backed down from my mother before because I had nowhere else to go. But once Tracy offered me somewhere else to go . . . Well, that was it for my mother’s bullshit.
She responded to my request by smacking me upside the head with the magazine and shouting, “You’re not going to any damn California. So you don’t even need to be reading this shit.”
Isn’t that pitiful of a grown woman? I couldn’t believe she was acting like that. So I grabbed the magazine to stop her from hitting me with it, only for her to smack me in the face with her free hand. I used to cry when my mother treated me like that before, but not anymore. I mean, how much can a daughter take just because someone’s your mother? It’s not as if I was running the streets and getting into trouble like Tracy had done. I was an obedient, intelligent, and dutiful virgin like Tracy’s girlfriend, Raheema, and I was being ignored and disrespected in the same way that she had been.
I had no more tears left to cry over my mother. She was wrong. So I backed away from her and let her have it with a straight right hand to her mouth. My mother’s head popped back like a rag doll and it shocked both of us. I felt for sure that my life was going to end right there, but when my mother tried to attack me, I held her away from me with both hands and was actually stronger than she was. I couldn’t believe it! I’m not a strong girl at all, or at least not physically, but it was just in me at that moment to fight her for my life and for my own dreams.
I’m not telling every girl to do what I did, but that’s just how it went down for me. And if someone wants to blame my cousin Tracy for that . . . Well, I can’t stop them. But I look at it as if it was fate. As crazy as it may sound, it was like my whole life had bee
n preparing me for a meeting with my cousin, and my mother had started it all when I was a kid. It was like she knew all along that I would leave her for Tracy, and my mother was already preparing herself to hate my cousin for it.
So after my mother threw my high yellow behind out, I ended up at my great-aunt Patti’s house in Germantown, where she called Tracy in California. Tracy was back out in Hollywood to shoot her next film, a thriller called Road Kill. I explained to her what happened with my mom, she listened to me, and the next thing I knew, arrangements were being made for me to join her for the summer in California. But since Tracy didn’t really have time to spare while she finished filming her new movie, she planned to fly her brother Jason out to California for the summer as well, just to keep an eye out on me.
What to Do with Jason?
I was prepared to fly out to California on Monday, June 19, 2000, with my cousin Jason, who was supposed to watch over me while Tracy finished filming her movie, Road Kill. Or at least that was the plan. But I could tell immediately that it wouldn’t work out that way. And it wasn’t that I was against Jason looking after me. It was no big deal to me. I was just happy I was getting a chance to go to California and expand my horizons. My cousin Jason felt the same way. He was really into expanding his horizons—or I should say, his opportunities. He was feeling himself a little too strongly on our plane ride from Philly.
Jason sat next to me wearing Cool Water cologne, with a fresh haircut, Rocawear clothes, and brown leather Timberland shoes.
He said, “I can’t wait to get out to L.A. I hear it’s a whole different world out there.”
My cousin had bright stars shining in his eyes already. I just smiled at him. I was trying to keep my cool and stay focused. I had never been on an airplane before.
He asked me, “Aren’t you excited?”
I looked into my cousin’s eager face and imagined what he was thinking about. Girls! His breath even smelled good. He had a pocket full of peppermint chewing gum just for talking that talk.