Way Back When: ‘90s Talk Show Hosts

For those of us who can remember when Oprah first gained massive popularity in the ‘90s, it was also the time of a great influx of ‘90s talk show hosts. EVERYONE had a show, and I mean EVERYONE (even Robin Givens and Tempestt Bledsoe, aka Vanessa Huxtable).

If you were a black woman, had vocal cords and a neck that swiveled, you got a talk show. And shoulder pads, because you couldn’t be a ‘90s talk show host without shoulder pads.

Now that Oprah has left network TV to helm her OWN (pun intended) network, there are a new crop of talk show hosts itching to take her place.

We now have Bethenny (who did a partial swivel on “The Real Housewives of New York”), Wendy (whose neck and wigs both swivel), several “The View” knockoffs (including one that rhymes with the aforementioned title), a dude from Jerry Springer and a few British guys who I’m not actually sure why they have shows (British white guys are genetically incapable of swiveling their heads). Even Ricki Lake, the younger, New Yorkier version of Oprah, is making a comeback.

While we welcome (sort of) the new crop of folks, we do want to pay homage to the talk show sistas whose heads swiveled a path for the talk show hosts of the future.

Remember Them?

90s Talk Show Hosts

The Tempestt Bledsoe Show

Host: Tempestt Bledsoe, aka Vanessa Huxtable

Dates Aired: 1995

Signature Show: “I’m a Black Queen, I Deserve A Black King”

Swivel Factor (on scale of 1-10): 2 (and that is only because she had that dope, ahead-of-it’s-time natural hairstyle back in the ‘90s).

Qualifications: Numerous hours advising Rudy not to put shampoo in her hair.

What is She Doing Now: Reality shows, of course, with Dwayne Wayne’s bestie (and her real-life partner) Darryl Bell. Here’s a weird twist: Dwayne Wayne actually went out on a date with Vanessa Huxtable on the show.

The Bertice Berry Show

Host: Bertice Berry, a comedian/lecturer/sociologist

Dates Aired: 1993-1994

Signature Show: “Charles Manson as a Role Model”

Swivel Factor (on scale of 1-10): 6

Qualifications: Dr. Berry is perhaps the only person out of all the ‘90s talk show hosts who could actually give advice (she has a Ph.D. in sociology from Kent State).

What is She Doing Now: College lecture circuit

The Jenny Jones Show

Host: Jenny Jones, a Canadian comedienne and breast cancer survivor (yes, Jenny’s not a black lady, but she accumulated several “ghetto passes” over the 12-year span of her talk show).

Dates Aired: 1991-2003

Signature Show: “Same Sex Secret Crushes,” the show in which a gay man revealed a crush on a friend. The friend later killed the confessor

Swivel Factor (on scale of 1-10): 7 (with 2 points removed because she’s Canadian)

What is She Doing Now: Hanging out with Rude Jude?

Rolanda

Host: Rolanda Watts, a veteran television reporter

Dates Aired: 1994-1997

Signature Show: Several. Rolanda committed the ultimate talk show sin…she actually got real celebrities (James Brown, Aretha Franklin, the cast of “Moesha”) to be on her show.

Swivel Factor (on scale of 1-10): 4

Qualifications: She was a TV reporter in the ‘90s, so she had a lot of ‘90s business suits
that needed to be worn

What is She Doing Now: The announcer for Judge Joe Brown (dang, not even Judge Mathis?!)

Iyanla

Host: Iyanla Vanzant, a spiritual guru and the only person to ever diss Oprah AND Barbara Walters and live to tell about it

Dates Aired: 2001-2002

Signature Show: Actually, her best show wasn’t her show…at least in name. It was her two-episode chatfest with Oprah. Talk about great television…

Swivel Factor (on scale of 1-10): 45. We sistas love Iyanla. I personally have four of her books. I’ve never read them, but that’s besides the point.

Qualifications: She’s got the neck swivel down pat. Plus she out-“spiritualized” Oprah…on her own show.

What is She Doing Now: Pissing off Oprah? Just kidding. Her painful-to-watch groveling to Oprah during the last season of the Queen of Chat’s show landed her an upcoming show on the struggling OWN.

Mother Love’s Forgive or Forget

Host: Mother Love, an actress, spokesperson and radio personality

Dates Aired: 1998-1999

Signature Show: Anything to do with husbands who want to come out to their wives… on national TV.

Swivel Factor (on scale of 1-10): 11, because she reminds me of my grandma who could spend hours talking about her diabetes.

What is She Doing Now: Making bank as a spokesperson for a slew of products that deal with diabetes (RIP Nana)

Robin Givens’ Forgive or Forget

Host: Robin Givens, an actress, super-smart person (she got into Harvard) and professional bitter woman

Dates Aired: 1999-2000 (they fired Mother Love and hired Givens)

Signature Show: Every show was about cheaters, so take your pick

Swivel Factor (on scale of 1-10): -20. Robin Givens DOES NOT swivel her neck…EVER.

What is She Doing Now: Still kinda bitter?

The Queen Latifah Show

Host: Queen Latifah–Cover Girl, singer, rapper, actress, and plus-size fashion icon

Dates Aired: 1999-2001

Signature Show: Anyone with someone singing (‘cause they were almost always really bad)

Swivel Factor (on scale of 1-10): 1000 before “Bringing Down the House,” 8 after.

Qualifications: U.N.I.T.Y.

What is She Doing Now: Making millions and causing speculation about her sexual orientation (do we really care?)

The Whoopi Goldberg Show

Host: Whoopi Goldberg, one of the few EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winners

Dates Aired: 1992-1993

Signature Show: Whoopi did one-on-one interviews with top celebrities (like Sean Connery) for the entire hour

Swivel Factor (on scale of 1-10): 1. Let’s be real, Whoopi totally phoned it in.

What is She Doing Now: Hosting “The View” on ABC and polishing her Emmys, Grammys, Oscars and Tonys.

The Ricki Lake Show

Host: Ricki Lake, the formerly plus-size star of John Waters’ films. Yes, Ricki is also not a black lady, but she’s banked a few “ghetto passes”.

Dates Aired: 1993-2004

Signature Show: The one with Reverend Fred Phelps and his scary thoughts about HIV/AIDS and gay men.

Swivel Factor (on scale of 1-10): 3, because she was pretty hip

What is She Doing Now: She’s making a comeback with an all new “Ricki Lake Show” debuting September 2012

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Catherine Brock

Catherine Brock is a writer, editor and marketer who's been sharing wisdom online since 2002. She's been featured on DrLaura.com, Wellness.com and ABC7 Chicago, FOX2News St. Louis and KCAL9 Los Angeles. Connect with Catherine on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter. Learn more about Catherine.
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