Of the four ladies on OWN’s freshman docu-series, “Love in the City,” Chenoa Maxwell is without a doubt the most free-spirited. Some may attribute it to her artistic background.
She’s an actress, having starred in “Hav Plenty,” “G” and “Cold Feet” and on the popular TV show “Girlfriends.” And she’s also an accomplished photographer who’s shot subjects across the globe, including famed photographer Annie Leibovitz.
But it’s her philosophies about life, love and relationships that are more unique, at least compared to her three friends and castmates. Peep what she tells them about solving the infertility challenges she and her husband are experiencing.
“I don’t want a baby but maybe I can have another woman give you your baby and she can be the caretaker for you. I mean that would be awesome,” the 45-year-old explains to the visibly surprised women. “I could totally do that.” Wow!
Based in New York City, “Love in the City” follows the lives of Maxwell and her three friends: celebrity hairstylist Kiyah Wright, life coach Bershan Shaw and philanthropist Tiffany Jones, who also works as the general manager at Alberta Ferretti boutique. This season will have seven episodes.
With the Pandora’s box that appearing on a reality TV show can open, why would these four accomplished friends (yes, they’re really friends) take this chance?
“Well, when Oprah handpicks you and says she’s behind a show about your life, you kind of get excited and say OK,” Maxwell says. “You kind of don’t have a choice.”
Maxwell spoke candidly with XFINITY about the cast’s friendships, her sexual preferences and why she suggested her husband get a second wife.
Earlier on there were some comparisons between “Love in the City” and “Blood, Sweat & Heels” on Bravo. Did you watch that show?
I did see that. They were originally trying to compare it to that. I think the show is though very different from that show. I think that “Blood, Sweat & Heels” is a fantastic show with a diversity of great friendships, who are fashionable and beautiful. With our show, the history of the friendships creates a different type of bond and a different kind of truth. I also feel like the issues that we’re dealing with in this collection of friends are real women issues. We’re really vulnerable and we expose them in a really authentic way because we kind of trust each other and we trust the network.
As a viewer, I appreciate the vulnerability and the relationships that you all have. I think others feel the same way, too.
We’ve really known each other for close to 15 years. Kiyah Wright, she and I have been so tight. She did my makeup at my wedding and I’ve been married 12 years. These relationships go back. We talk everyday on the phone. It’s very rare where Kiyah, Bershan and myself don’t talk everyday on the phone. And Tiffany is coming in and we’re experiencing her new because we’ve known her for over 10 years but she and Kiyah have a closer bond. So this is like an entrée to friendship in a different way with Tiffany. But yeah, it’s very close.
We get a look inside your relationship with your husband, Carlyle, in terms of your struggle to conceive and the strain it’s had on your marriage. You all have separated and you live on your own now. What’s the relationship’s current status?
You have to tune in for that.
You even suggested that your husband get a second wife so she could have a baby because you’re unable to do so.
I’m such an open-minded person and I 100 percent believe in monogamy. But what I really believe in is trying to widen your perspective in every moment and trying to find another way to grow your capacity because that’s really what love is about especially love unconditional.
At the time, I had tried everything. I went through surgery, fertility shots, we tried surrogacy and nothing was working. And I really couldn’t see my life without my soul mate, my partner, the man that I married. I’m an open-minded person and that’s why I suggested it. I feel like people love each other through spirits and souls so if there’s a possibility for another person to come in and give you what you want, and I can find a way to love her, let me try to do it. I don’t know if it’s possible but at the time I was really like trying to open myself.
That’s a different outlook than most people seem to have.
What I recognize in life, especially as I get older, people have these relationships with people and they’re in third-party relationships anyway. Half the people you know are in third-party relationships whether you want to admit it to yourself or not, you kind of live with it every day. At some point when you own and discover the power of being truthful and growing in capacity you really do become limitless. And that’s my philosophy: Find ways to live limitlessly. You have one life. It might be a good thing, it might be a terrible thing. You never know.
A lot of couples may present one face in the community put privately one or both of them may have other lovers yet choose to remain married. And this is nothing new.
It’s time for relationships, especially marriage, to be redefined. We have to understand what love is. Love is unconditional. Love grows. And love is about commitment. It doesn’t necessarily mean monogamy—for some people it does—but it doesn’t necessarily mean that and it’s all about what you can accept as long as it’s truthful. I’m not condoning cheating. I’m really not. I’m a very monogamous person but what happens when you’re cheated on? You’re going to leave the person you love? Come on, that’s just immature thinking. You don’t ruin your whole life for one episode.
Black women’s relationships have been under a microscope for the past few years. And it seems that for many of them, they’re very concerned with the appearance of “doing it right” and will frown upon, at least publicly, relationships that aren’t considered the norm.
Well fear makes you closed-minded and fear makes you defensive. I think the problem with women is that we have learned how to protect ourselves and how to throw guards up instead of really understanding the true power of love and how amazing it is and how expansive it is. And once you do things with love and lead with love and you’re open to love and you can accept love in whatever its form is and still continue to build on it, you won’t have a problem attracting anybody and anything. And you’re OK with the ebbs and flows of how it looks. And when it’s over, you’re OK with it, too. We’ve got one life. You’re just going to keep putting barriers on your one life?
In the upcoming episode we see you taking your friends to a lesbian club. Can you give us a hint of what we can expect?
The club was so much fun, I’ve got to tell you. To bring all of your girlfriends in that space and environment where some people are comfortable and some people are really uncomfortable and to see what unfolds is hysterical. I’m the one who brings them there but once you watch the episode you may get a different understanding as to who may be open to what.
Have you ever dated a woman before?
Women are beautiful. I’ve had my experience before. I’m very comfortable with my sexuality as a woman. I feel like it’s another way of expressing ourselves and again I feel like the more that you get to know who you are the more you’re open to different experiences and situations. You don’t have to feel closed into labeling yourself one thing or another. You’re just like, “Hey, I had this experience and it was an amazing one.” So, yeah, I’ve had it and I enjoyed it and I’m open to enjoying more—but I’m married now.
That’s why you wanted the second wife?
I thought a second wife would be great. She could have a baby with you. She could be very domesticated and I could go out and be fashionable and we could be a happy little family. It’s the new family.
Preview the upcoming episode of “Love in the City”