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    ‘Love & Hip Hop’ Cast Reflects on the ‘Lineage to Legacy’ Journey

    Where do you come from? It’s a question fan favorites from Love & Hip Hop explored on a deeper level as part of VH1‘s two-part Lineage to Legacy special. Host Dometi Pongo of MTV News takes Remy Ma, Papoose, Yandy Smith-Harris, Rich Dollaz, Tokyo Vanity, Paris Phillips, Karlie Redd, and Momma Dee on an ancestral journey they’ll never forget.

    It starts with a naming ceremony of Lady Calabash. The group will also hear the sounds of Nomcebo Zikode and Busiswa Gqulu, taste popular cuisine made by Chef Chauncy Yarngo and receive a tattoo from the Black Ink Crew. Moshoodat styles them in traditional garb for stunning photos.

    Capping it off is a meeting with Dr. Gina Paige, cofounder of AfricanAncestry.com. She reveals what DNA test results say about their African ethnic group and country of origin. Timed to Black History Month, this powerful program delves into the history of slavery and eye-opening cultural misconceptions in the process.

    Here, Smith-Harris, Phillips, Redd, and Dollaz open up about their takeaways and why the special will resonate.

    Do you feel you’re closer having gone through this experience together?

    Yandy Smith-Harris: Although we may go through our stuff, Love & Hip Hop is a close-knit family when we get together. To be bonded and united, something totally different and out of the norm from what we are used to was an amazing experience. I was able to find out three of the four people here are from the same place I’m from. We’re all from Cameroon. I definitely felt even more connected to Paris and Rich because there are so many similarities in who we are. Karlie and I got really close because we took a trip to Africa together. It was an experience like no other. This show really brought us closer together.

    What was the most powerful part of the process for you?

    Rich Dollaz: Understanding where you’re from and who you are. We’re all American. Then you break it down further. The more you do, the closer you get and realize we’re a lot closer than we thought we were. That was very important in creating the bond—the bond that we have as Africans. Karlie making reference to being Trinidadian. Now she understands before Trinidadian, there was African. The most powerful thing is realizing we had this major thing in common. That was our African ancestry. No matter what anyone says or does, that can’t be taken away from you.

    Paris Phillips: For me, it was when Dr. Gina showed how we were captured—seeing how our people even got over here. We went to the museum and [they] showed us really how it happened.

    Karlie Redd: Like Rich said, I’m from Trinidad—or I thought I was from Trinidad. I found out I was from Nigeria. I would have never thought that in a million years. That was important. I’ve been to Nigeria so many times. Now when I go back it will be a different vibe.

    Smith-Harris: I’ve been taught and heard in my household to make sure you eat all that food—you don’t want to be like the hungry children in Africa. I remember always seeing these images of destitution when you thought of Africa. People sitting in the dirt with flies. That was what was constantly put in my head about Africa. Being able to dispel all of that and see the true essence and learn about the culture and my people. For so long here, we were taught a pure lie. I learned from this and visiting Africa that Africa is the land of abundance. It’s the land of the most natural resources. The land of the diamonds. The land of the gold. I met the richest people I’ve ever met in Africa. That was one of the most powerful pieces of this experience for me.

    Love & Hip Hop 2

    VH1

    One of the really standout moments for me is when you all were transformed. You were styled in traditional dress. There are the photo reveals where you look at each other amazed at what you’re seeing.

    Phillips: I was royalty. I felt like the queen of Cameroon. I loved it. It was breathtaking. I was like, “Look at me.” I acted like I was part of Coming to America for real.

    Redd: This is the picture right here [points to portrait in background]. This is what a Nigerian woman looks like. I have this picture in my living room because every time I look at it, I’m royalty. I’m from somewhere. I’m from Nigeria. I feel wealth. I feel good about myself. Ever since we did this Lineage to Legacy, that picture has been in my living room. I’m not taking it down. I love looking at it every day.

    Rich, you and the others found similarities in personality and life to your ancestral people. How did that hit you?

    Dollaz: You’re funny. I’m a firm believer that knowledge is power. I guess what you’re referring to is that the Bamiléké tribe in Cameroon had multiple wives [much like Rich’s numerous high-profile relationships]. They’ve been known to sow their royal oats. To look at hundreds and hundreds of years later and see that similarity in yourself where it originates is amazing. People should take this into consideration when they do research on their ancestry. Knowing the truth about who you are will provide you with a different place of proudness.

    Karlie from Love & Hip Hop

    VH1

    What kind of impact do you think this special will have?

    Phillips: Viewers are going to be shocked. I feel like a lot of people are going to get their ancestry checked after this. I think it will hit in a positive way. It is Black History Month. They are expecting ratchet and all this. But they are going to get something else. People tuning in will enjoy it.

    Smith-Harris: Reality shows have gotten such a bad rap. I think that this experience is going to open up so many eyes. It was a beautiful experience. Every aspect of this made Africa look as it exactly is. The entrepreneur that I am, my mind has been running. I want to plan this whole trip because I know after this show everyone will want to go. I’m already figuring out how to bring people over there. I think that is what it was intended to do.

    I can see the spinoff now: Love & Hip Hop: Africa.

    Smith-Harris: The Voyage to Africa. There you go!

    Love & Hip Hop: Lineage to Legacy, Feb. 7 and 14, 9/8c, VH1

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