Uplifting Black Voices: An Interview with Ressie G.

A photo of Ressie G: He is a dark skinned black man with full lips, beautiful eyes, and a short black beard and goatee. He is wearing a dark turquoise turban on his head, a white button down shirt, and a necklace with a gold key at the end.

Many of you at this point probably know Dennis R. Upkins to be a regular guest writer for this blog. Denny originally contacted me proposing a new series called “Uplifting Black Voices” in March 2023. He said he wanted to interview exceptional people from the black community who were breaking barriers and fighting for change, and I was all for it. This interview with Ressie G is the first of the series. I’ll let Denny tell you the rest. 

Author’s Note: Before I begin with the interview, I wanted to share some important points. First and foremost I want to thank Ressie G for taking time out of his busy schedule and agreeing to this one on one. While the two of us run in some of the same circles, the truth is he doesn’t know me all that well and had no reason to trust me with his story. But he did so anyway and I can’t thank him enough. Secondly, I want to take this moment and thank our esteemed publisher and founder, Kella Hanna-Wayne, for not only having faith in myself and my work but also for continuing to cultivate a platform where Blacks and other People of Color are allowed to speak their truths unapologetically. Said spaces are few and far between. A sobering reality I’ve learned on more than a few occasions. This series is not only aimed to provide a spotlight on some of the amazing members of the African Diaspora but it is also intended to be a love letter to all things Black Excellence.

And now our feature presentation.

Watch us walk, watch us move, watch us overcome, listen to our voices, the sway. The resilience. The innovation. The raw, unfiltered and untouched soul we have can not be touched.

—Solange Knowles on why she’s proud to be Black

To be Black often feels like a blessing and a burden. We’re the only race to have our culture adopted and emulated by every other culture, all over the world. However, because antiblackness is a global epidemic, society often regards Blacks as the mules of the world.  In spite of weathering every unspeakable atrocity possible, our achievements are undeniable. The United States alone is a testament to this. Be it feminism, racial justice, queer rights, equality for disability, economic reform — there’s not one liberty that Blacks didn’t make a reality. We are divine, magical, blessed, gifted, beautiful, highly favored. 

All of this is especially true for Black LGBTQs. In spite of often being erased, whitewashed, Black LGBTQs continue to make certain our presence, impact, and legacy are undeniable. An example of this is the ever-growing Black LGBTQ web reality genre. Many cornerstone series include The Circle, The Come Up, On The Way Up Atlanta, While the quality of the web reality series runs the gamut, one thing most of them have in common is that they allow Black artists, entertainers and entrepreneurs a platform to showcase their craft and artistry. Instead of waiting for a seat at the table of the mainstream (read cisgender heterosexual and white), these content creators are putting themselves and others into positions to thrive. So much so that networks such as Zeus and MTV have blatantly columbussed these smaller web reality platforms with varying results. In any event, these series have been instrumental in shaping the entertainment and cultural landscape. 

A casual photo of Ressie G: A dark skinned black man with shoulder length locks, wearing a light blue basketball T-shirt, sitting at a table, a bowl of food and a pair of chopsticks at his left hand.

Which brings us to Ressie G; entrepreneur, former executive producer of Chasing Reality, social media personality, and founder of media and broadcasting company, ReVoyce.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say this individual has almost single-handedly changed the landscape of the LGBTQ web reality genre. The stories Ressie produces showcases Black LGBTQs as driven, flawed, brilliant, wounded, healing, messy, tough, sassy, endearing, relentless, courageous, unique, human. For many Black and Brown LGBTQ viewers who are trying to find their way, these stories are that more vital.

Today I sit down with Ressie G and we’ll discuss everything from his journey from Atlanta to Dallas, why diversity and representation are paramount, his new company ReVoyce and so much more.

Ressie G’s Origin Story

Upkins: Ressie G., thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. For the few who may be unfamiliar, please introduce yourself.

Ressie G.: Well my name is Ressie G. I’m originally from Atlanta, Ga. Born and raised. I have been in Dallas for about 7 years now and I think it was one of the best moves of my life. I would not change it for the world.

Upkins: You’re a native of Atlanta, GA, correct?

Ressie G.: I am but more specifically Scottdale, Ga which is a sector in Decatur, Ga. 

Upkins: One thing I’ve realized about many LGBTQs is that their childhoods are as defining as a comic book superhero’s (or comic book supervillains in some cases) origin stories. How was your childhood and how did it shape you into the accomplished individual I’m interviewing today?

Ressie G.: My childhood was extremely complex. My parents co-parented way before it was popular to do so. At the age of 14 I lost my father to cancer and which led me to the foster care system. Not for the usual reasons but for a more complex reason. That is most definitely for a whole different conversation. Over a glass of wine.

Upkins: Or four. Prior to you entering the web reality realm, you worked as a stylist?

Ressie G.: Before I became a producer and a web reality veteran I was what you would call a “wardrober” then turned Celebrity Fashion Stylist. For about 11 years I did campaigns and branded reality stars which was my bread and butter for the majority of my career. 

Upkins: Like many, I was introduced to you when you hosted the season one reunion of Chasing Atlanta. How exactly did that opportunity come about?

Ressie G.: When I got wind of this new show coming to Atlanta in the web space I was most pleasantly surprised. I reached out to them via Instagram and just lent them some encouraging words. Conversations later we arranged for me to come to Atlanta and host the Inaugural season of Chasing: Atlanta.

The cast of Chasing Dallas: Seven black people posed in striking all white outfits in a line in front of an all white back ground.

Upkins: When we next see you,  you’re residing in Dallas, TX. You’re show running and starring in Chasing Atlanta’s first spinoff, Chasing Dallas. If this isn’t a testament of someone who knows how to make their own opportunities, I don’t know what is. How did Chasing Dallas go from an idea to a hit web series?

Ressie G.: After the reunion I kept in touch with Kevon Burns and An’Darrio Abrams. They were the creative minds behind Chasing: Atlanta. After building a relationship with them they mentioned casually doing a Dallas franchise. When I agreed to do the show it changed the entire face of the business. The brand went from being Chasing: Atlanta to Chasing Reality.  

Upkins:  Did you have any prior training or experience in film, television, or media production?

Ressie G.: I had no training whatsoever. I never knew that I had an eye for production at all. I had worked with reality stars but never been one or produced one. Of course, with having clients on shows I was able to see how everything worked but from there, it really became a love for me.

Upkins: How challenging was your first season of Chasing Dallas? What were some of the major obstacles you had to overcome?

Ressie G.: The most challenging thing about season 1 had to be knowing the purpose. Season 1 I had every door closed on me from the gay community leaders here in Dallas. It took about 3 of them to say yes to helping and helping me stand in my vision of what I had for the show. To beat adversity and say to the community “I’m here, I have something new, and I’m just trying to help” gave me the respect I needed from those that matter. I may not be the current executive producer of the show, but I will always be the person who created the show and made a way for others.

Activism and Making Space for LGBTQ & PoC Communities

Upkins: Something you’ve repeatedly alluded to over the years in interviews and social media posts is that the long-term goal for your work is to empower Black and Brown LGBTQ communities. Could you elaborate on that?

Ressie G.: Being a Celebrity Fashion stylist taught me a lot. The biggest lesson that it taught me was to sew, stitch, and make your own coattails so you won’t have to ride on anyone else’s. Mainstream media has yet to give Black queer creators the money to depict us how we see us. By fully funding my projects I have that control to make a conscious effort to do so. The mass majority of queer people of color are not in the writers’ room or at the conference table. I intend to help change that.

Upkins: Activism and education. Are you consciously taking these factors into account when you produce content or does it organically manifest when you share these stories? 

Ressie G.: I believe that question is loaded. My activism is my work. I make it a point in all my projects to show how LGBT people of color are another subculture within a subculture. As an advocate, I believe I’m one of the few content creators that has a hold on how to properly give you drama, emotion, and substance. My goal which I have met time and time again is to evoke some kind of emotion and also teach you something you may not have paid attention to before. So to me, activism and education go hand in hand. We all have to be able to feel strongly about something so that we can help each other as the human race. In the same breath, we have to acknowledge the lack of advocacy for Black and Brown communities. The days of shaming our own race and community should be gone but they are still here.

A medium skinned queer black woman with short, blonde hair holds a rainbow pride flag above her head and the shines through it from behind her.

Upkins:  Season 2 of Chasing Dallas could be considered a game changer of sorts; not only for the Chasing Reality franchise but other web reality platforms that borrowed heavily from your template. First, was the introduction of life coach, drag queen, and auntie Imani Vanzant. In brief 3-5 minute segments during each episode of Chasing: Dallas, she would offer words of wisdom not only for the cast but for the viewers as well. What inspired you to bring Ms. Vanzant on board? What was your goal?

Ressie G.: Erik Dillard, a dear friend of mine and mastermind behind Imani, was and has always been a person to support me in and with all my crazy ideas. I honestly just wanted to add an element to the show and brand that I had not seen before. I had a goal in mind of giving the viewers something new to see and hope for and Imani was it. Some people would tune in just to watch her commentary. I will always be for the people and those that watch me and I will always have a goal of creating something people have not seen before.

Upkins: What was the reaction to the introduction to Ms. Vanzant?

Ressie G.: The initial reaction to Imani was “Who is this”, “What is this” mainly because this was someone new that our viewers were meeting. I made sure that the viewers understood what was going on and they grew to love her. Her departure from that brand was one that will forever be missed.

Upkins: You also introduced a trans cast member during the second season of Chasing Dallas. The phenom known as Barbie Bank Rose also known as Ariel O’Hara. To date, Barbie is one of the first out trans cast members of a web reality series. I remember you stating years back that you were always keen on representing our siblings of the trans experience but their stories needed to be handled with respect. 

Ressie G.: Being an ally to the trans community is a privilege that I have as a cis-homosexual man. I can use my voice, resources, and avenues to help my brother and sisters progress. My biggest reservation for casting a trans person was simply because of what we see now: Exploitation of trans women in the reality-based series industry. Producers have to handle all of their talent with care and when you have those that are marginalized you have to pay more attention to them in the hope of showing the world how they want to be seen. Transgender men and women want respect for who they are and who they present to the world. When I made the choice to show a trans character I had to make sure it was done right. During that time there were two cast members of the show that were not comfortable around trans people, but through me putting them in scenes together, one of them works close with that particular trans person today.

A banner ad for Kella's Etsy shop demonstrating LGBTQ themed products: A blue T-shirt with the phases of the moon in pansexual pride colors, a black cell phone case covered in DnD dice in the colors of the asexual flag, a laptop with eight different stickers demonstrating the many pride flag colors the moon phases design is available in, some with the text "Not Just a Phase."

Upkins: As cisgender creators, why is it paramount for us to make space and provide opportunities for our trans siblings?

Ressie G.: It is paramount for us to make space and secure that space for our trans siblings because they are under attack. Malcolm X said “The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” Which is true but what happens when that woman is trans, and a Black woman? We, as the creators of the content, have balance in our hands. As we get thousands of views we have the ability to educate and change a person’s perspective of a trans person for 30 to 60 minutes a week. If you go back and look at my work I NEVER highlight Ariel’s trans-ness but I did highlight her triumphs as a woman of trans experience. I will continue to do that as I move forward in my career.

Upkins: While filming a project with Ms. Rose, an incident happened where you had to take a stand, even if it meant at the cost of your freedom. If you feel comfortable discussing this or are able to do so, could you share what happened?

Ressie G.: While in Atlanta Barbie Bank Rose and her dancers were disrespected and with being the man I am, I did not stand for it. When you take a stance like all great activists have,  you end up in handcuffs. The police understood my act of courage and released me after being cuffed for about 30 minutes.

Upkins: As both showrunner and the star of Chasing Dallas, your life was put on public display and public scrutiny. Between the series, social media, and gossip blogs, that pressure had to have taken a toll on your physical and mental health. How did you persevere through all of that? 

Ressie G.: The perk of being in front of the camera, being a co-creator, and being the executive producer I was able to manage. I do feel at times some of the vloggers judged me personally versus what they saw on the show but that was all because of how transparent I was. The way I persevered was by knowing that I was myself and authentic throughout the process.

A promotional photo for the ReVoyce original series The Retreat: Six black men posed to look confident and attractive, standing in a V-shape, with a large wooden house behind them. Above, in a shiny handwritten font it says The Retreat with the letter R taking up a quarter of the picture.

Introducing The Retreat

Upkins:  In 2021 you released Chasing Dallas Presents The Retreat,  a 4 episode miniseries that serves as a bridge between seasons 2 and 3 of Chasing Dallas. This spinoff was drastically different than most of the web reality content out at the time. What was the inspiration behind The Retreat and what was the aim of the project?

Ressie G.: The inspiration behind Chasing: Dallas Presents The Retreat literally came from me wanting to show some of the web reality stars in a different light. I wanted to give an opportunity to humanize people past the idea of what they had already shown on their respective shows. I wanted to do an “all-stars” type of show but at the time I was not able to for the channel. So this gave way for people to get away and show another side. 

Upkins: Spiritualism, mental health, and self-help progression were prominent themes of The Retreat. In your estimation, how vital are these areas in the lives of Black LGBTQs? 

Ressie G.: For men of color in and out of the LGBT community mental health is just now becoming a thing. With Chasing Dallas Presents The Retreat with Chasing: Reality and now The Retreat with ReVoyce, I have been making it a point to make sure that self-help and mental health is made more public and not taboo.

Humility & Sacrifice

Upkins:  The late Maya Angelou once said, “The problem I have with haters is that they see my glory, but they don’t know my story.” I’ve found this to be especially true when it comes to artists and other creators. Many believe this life is glamorous and an easy one. Could you enlighten the readers on the sacrifices and struggles one must endure for their craft?

Ressie G.: With being in the public eye you have to be prepared for the good and the bad. With being in the public eye and having to address the obstacles that you put on any public platform. I understand now that if you are properly produced you can have a good experience. In the same breath, you have to be able to know how to address the negative. I’m glad that I had a solid support system in my mother, uncles, and my best friend. 

Upkins: Anyone who has seen you in action on Chasing Dallas, The Retreat, or follows you on social media knows that you’re a strong personality, outspoken, and when necessary, a force to be reckoned with. I don’t say this to cast aspersions but to provide context. One of your best qualities is that as opinionated and outspoken as you may be, you are just as humble, gracious, and the definition of a class act whenever you receive praise or constructive and respectful feedback from prominent YouTube reviewers and influencers such as YB Speaks, Ebbie Reviews, and ReallyBTV. Could you please explain for those who need to hear it (particularly a few of your peers) why a dose of humility can go a long way for a creator?

Ressie G.: I thank you for that, but I don’t feel that I’m humble in the literal term. But giving grace and saving some for yourself is always important. However, humility is a different dose of reality that people should consider. The only advice I can give is to be yourself and let a moment humble you to greatness.

Starting ReVoyce

Upkins: Fast forward a few years, you’ve parted ways with the Chasing Reality platform and chose to set out on your own. What is ReVoyce? What does it mean to you and what will it mean to the world at large?

Ressie G.: The decision to securely do ReVoyce came after my mother passed. I made a conscious decision to name my company ReVoyce as an homage to my parents. “Re” from my name Ressie, “V” from my dad’s middle name, and “oyce” from my mother’s first name Joyce. The importance of the brand is to make sure that I continue to amplify LGBT people of color and to also put out to the world that my greatness came from the greatest man I knew and the greatest woman I knew. With them both being my heavenly bodyguards I take my business even more serious to make them proud.

The cast of ReVoyce's reboot of The Retreat: Five black men dressed in fashionable blue, white and brown clothing, their arms around each other posing for a photo.

Upkins: For ReVoyce’s debut, you chose to do another installment of The Retreat.  What distinguishes this chapter from the previous iteration? What made the six prominent and handsome gentlemen involved the right selections for this project?

Ressie G.: Chasing: Dallas Presents The Retreat vs. The Retreat was a venture that initially was going to be for the previous brand I was a part of and I had some parameters. With the Reality Docu-Series on ReVoyce, I wanted to be able to show these men in a different way and pour the passion of the production in because of what I was going through at the time. Those men that were able to do the pre-production work were beautiful. Even though I may not work with several of them, again it was a great experience.

Upkins: One discussion that I did not expect to hit home in the manner that it did was in episode 2. The topic was high-performing overachieving golden boys (homecoming king, top student, star athlete) being penalized for being Black and/or gay. Everyone had a story. You even shared your experiences on the episode podcast. Typically when most people think of golden boys, alphas, overachievers, the default is typically cisgender heterosexual white males. We rarely envision Black, Brown, same-gender loving men. What comes to mind for you when you think back on that conversation?

Ressie G.: I was most surprised by how King Pain had been treated, but it’s not unusual. In the world we live in we have to be able to understand that Black and Brown people have to work twice as hard for half as much. The conversation reminded me that until a change happens in our society we will have to continue to strive to be great in all spaces.

Moving Forward

Upkins: Looking back on the past few years Was relocating to Dallas the right call?

Ressie G.: Moving to Dallas was a great move and I would not change it for the world. It has taught me how to survive. It has taught me how to be more patient and to deal with people. I know that being great is a tall drink but I have a straw for it. 

Upkins: What’s been the reception to The Retreat and ReVoyce thus far?

Ressie G.: The reception has been great and truly settling. 

Upkins: So what’s next for ReVoyce?

Ressie G.: ReVoyce is going to continue to grow. We have been consulting some of your favorite web series, editing for other companies, and are currently in production with two projects.

Upkins: And what is next for Ressie G.? 

Ressie G.: Next, I will be doing more advocacy and making more strides to my GLAAD award and my Emmy.

A picture of Dennis R. Upkins, a lean black man with long limbs wearing a well fitted navy and white pinstripe button up shirt, smiling at the camera. About the guest blogger/interviewer: 

Dennis R. Upkins is a speculative fiction author, a journalist, and an equal rights activist. His first two young adult novels, Hollowstone and West of Sunset, were released through Parker Publishing. Both Upkins and his previous work have been featured in Harvard Political Law, Bitch Media, MTV News, Mental Health Matters, The Nerds of Color, Black Girl Nerds, Geeks OUT, Black Power: The Superhero Anthology, Sniplits, The Connect Magazine, and 30Up. You can learn more about him at his website dennisupkins.wordpress.com.

Related Posts

At Yopp we're dedicated to providing educational material for social justice that emphasizes the individual experience of lived oppression and helps you understand the whole picture instead of memorizing do's & don'ts.

Buy Our Merch Become a Patron
Never Miss an Article
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments