Here I was, close to thirty years old, losing my entire mind over a fake group from a made-for-TV movie.
Days ago, I watched the cast from BET’s New Edition Story perform song after song by New Edition, who was honored at the 2017 BET Awards. I screamed when my favorite star from the cast, Luke James, who played Johnny Gill, performed “My, My, My”. The final performance, all 10 members of the New Edition cast, young and old, alongside the original group, was incredible. I found myself trying to find every picture, every video and every Instagram video of the cast I could find. I’ve watched the performance multiple times since.
I felt like I was 15 years-old all over again.
It made me think back to my days as a B2K fan. They were the group I loved, the group that got every last one of my parents’ money. The group that, to this day, I often miss. And the group that reminds me that I am forever subject to losing my cool.
B2K was the brain child of manager Chris Stokes, who wanted to put together a “boy band for the new millennium”. The group consisted of four members: Omarion (Omari), J-Boog aka Boog (Jarell), Raz-B aka Raz (Demario) and Lil’ Fizz aka Fizz (Dreux). Omari sang lead, Fizz rapped and Boog and Raz were great to look at.
While Boog was my favorite member, the most popular of the group was Fizz. He fit that racially-ambiguous pretty boy thug look very well.
While we had Backstreet Boys and N’Sync, there were no prominent Black boy bands of that time. The last? New Edition. Space existed for a teen group to infiltrate the music scene and a fan base waited for them.
B2K came out in 2001 and completely took over the hearts and minds of girls everywhere. I was going into my freshmen year of high school, where boys meant everything to me. Even today, I can remember every crush I had (and had no chance in Hell of being with…) and every piece of drama that came my way.
B2K fit into that. They looked like boys I’d see at malls and at football games. In theory, at least. Their faces were anomalies at the time, their bodies were one in a million. So desired, so wanted.
They played with our emotions, our hormones. Never did a group simulate sex on stage as much as they did. They toyed with the idea that we wanted them to be our firsts. That sex didn’t exist unless they were a part of it. I can’t even tell you how deafening the screams were when Omarion came out on stage gyrating on top of a king size bed.
We wanted them and they knew it. And they used us. And knew just how to make it all work.
What makes a boy band work has everything to do with the three A’s: accessibility, availability and attainability.
Accessibility means that they were never out of our reach.
Mind you, this was the pre-social media. Boog wasn’t a tweet away. We couldn’t see what Raz or Fizz were doing on Instagram. Omarion wasn’t updating a Tumblr or lacing his face with a Snapchat filter. But we could turn on the TV whenever we wanted to see them.
In B2K’s time, that meant visiting 106 & Park — BET’s daily video request show — every chance they could, showing up on MTV on a random Saturday night or gracing every cover of Black Beat and Word Up magazines imaginable. You could see them every time you entered your bedroom, posters taped on every wall. Their faces became unforgettable because you were fed so much content that you couldn’t forget them.
There were constant rumors that members were lurking through message boards or had secret email addresses. Fake BlackPlanet pages littered the internet. No, Omari did not have a MiGente or Hi5 page either. B2K ended before the rise of MySpace and Facebook but even in those websites’ early stages, there were fake pages and profiles. We wanted to send a message to our favorite and just hope that he would read it and want us as much as we wanted him.
Which leads to availability. B2K was forever single. In the four years of B2K’s fame, supposedly they never had girlfriends (which deep down, we knew was a lie and a half.) Here’s the thing: the last thing you want to happen is someone get turned off at the idea that she can’t have what she wants. This is how boy drama started in high school: if she can’t have him, no one can. Even if you have to fight her for it.
I saw girls break into fights at B2K concerts over a man that neither of them met, dated, touched, felt. Because even in fantasy, if he belonged to you …
B2K had to be very careful not to even look in the direction, be in the same radius of space, with another girl to ensure that we, the fans, didn’t want to hate them and subsequently cut her face.
But they were dating.
Omarion was rumored to have dated Beyonce’s sister, Solange Knowles (this was confirmed by Knowles through her Instagram a few years back). Boog supposedly dated One on One actress Kyla Pratt; she appeared in one of B2K’s last videos, “What A Girl Wants”. Word on the street is that B2K’s management decided to parade singer Jhene Aiko around as Fizz’s cousin to cover up the fact that were actually dating (she would later have a child with Omarion’s younger brother, O’Ryan). Omarion and Fizz allegedly dated My Wife & Kids actress Jennifer Freeman, even coming to blows about it. Message boards were littered with photos of girlfriends and trysts alike.
We weren’t naive. Dammit, it paid to be.
Which leads to being attainable.
You had to believe that B2K wanted you. As you. Not as a pretty teenage TV actress. Not as the sister of an R&B superstar. Not as a label-mate.
As socially-awkward, lonely, devoid-of-any-confidence-imaginable you.
Boog would date you because your personality was “all that matters.” Doesn’t matter if no one in high school would date you; Boog would date you. They would reaffirm your supposed blandness by highlighting the things that don’t even matter to most horny 16-year-old boys. To him: ambitions, goals > fat ass.
So when you factor all of that in (including the pretty faces and lack of shirts), B2K was meant to work. And it did. Some would even argue that they were the last popular Black boy band we’ve had.
I remember when they suddenly no longer existed.
January 2004. I was in the living room, taking down the Christmas decorations when it came raining down from the stereo: it’s been announced that B2K has broken up.
I remember hearing wails through the speakers. Girls were crying, parents were upset. It was the first time I could ever remember feeling shock, the physical embodiment of shock.
I was angry, confused. I ran to my email and sent SOS messages to every B2K fan I knew. It hit so close to home because my best friend went to their final concert as a group. She got to see them for the last time and I didn’t. Even though they were in my city.
To this day, I think about it. I never felt like anything important to me was destroyed until that point in my life. I was 16 going on 17, about to apply to college, about to live my life, and this hurt more than anything you could throw at me. It was like a part of my happiness was snatched from me.
The pain kept hitting because B2K break-up was super messy. While it was explained as a mutual decision by all of the guys, behind the scenes it was a different story. Three of the members left due to conflicts with management. Omarion, who stayed with management, was paraded around as the villain. All four members would go on TV and radio to bash each other. One member would allege that he was sexually abused by their manager. While Omarion would continue on to have a career as a solo artist, he still had the shadow of his former group follow him everywhere he’d go.
I still carry my B2K fanfiction around with me. I can’t ever let it go. It was so much a part of my adolescence that to get rid of it would feel like ridding a part of me.
The thing about that fanfiction was that it allowed for me to escape the inconsequential life — to teenage me, at least — that I had.
Fanfiction is, at its core, fictional stories written by fans of a particular artist, movie, book, etc. You always got two types of B2K fanfiction: B2K would be B2K, the music group, or B2K would play regular teens; Omari, Dreux, Jarell and Demario. I always wrote the latter.
I wrote four stories in total. I always had myself playing the love interest because everything in my life felt — and was — devoid of love.
The ‘Ciara’ in my stories was the complete opposite of who I was at the time. In fiction, she was carefree, creative, popular. Boys fought over her, men jumped over moons to talk to her. She wasn’t restricted by “overprotective” parents. Boys never crossed her, boys couldn’t wait to touch her. She was in control.
She also faced a lot of abuse. She was hit often by boys that cared about her. In one story, she was sexually assaulted. One of my loyal readers always asked me, “Why does Ciara get hit in all of her stories?”. I’d “LOL” it off.
The boys she dated never knew consent. Her heart was broken often. Sex meant relationship, not the other way around. If a man wanted to have sex with her, that meant he liked her. She was super naive.
In those dark spaces is where fictional Ciara and real deal me met in agreeance.
I often read those stories and wonder why and how I could think this way, how I could believe that all of these things were right. It’s crazy to think it took me until my mid-20s to break all those chains.
But I realize that B2K were the perfect vessels for that.
These boys were my fantasy. They were the boys I wanted but I could never attain. Too fine for me, too popular for me. Even though I wanted to believe that one of them would actually want me, I always knew that reality — and the truth — would set in: that they wouldn’t even know that I existed.
They never did.
But those emotions, those thoughts, never went away. Even as an adult, as they manifest themselves in other people. I found myself smitten with men in that same way that I did when I was younger. And I was at peace with that. Dreams don’t hurt.
When you’re 15 or 30.
This is part of my attempt to write every day in July. You can follow the series here.