Interviews

#Blacklove & The City: Tennesha Wood Finds Love in a Hopeless Place

Written by Kerri-Ann M. Smith

If you haven’t heard of the TV series #Blacklove on the FYI network yet, take our advice and grab some popcorn and a glass of something and prepare to be thoroughly moved by the experiences of positive Black women in search of love. This is not your average “reality” show. The premise is simple: There are five beautiful, successful women, two experts, and a series of workshops that help these women explore their quest of love in New York City. One of the five women is Jamaican-born Tennesha Wood, a Sales Manager, relationship blogger, and Army veteran. We had a heart-to-heart with Tennesha about her experience on the show, her love life, and her undying love for Jamaica.


 

Tell us about your affiliation with Jamaica. Who is Tennesha Wood and where are you from and how did you get to the USA?

I was born in Hanover and I spent time in Montego-bay but I left Jamaica when I was five and moved to Minnesota. Like many other Jamaican immigrants, my dad came first to go to school in Boston—some of his siblings were there, so that’s how he ended up choosing Boston. He got a job, and so we moved to Minnesota. I go back to Jamaica at least once or twice a year, though, because I have many family members there. My dad has ten siblings, my mom has eight, and my grandparents are there, so there’s always a reason to go back.

What was it like to be Jamaican in Minnesota?

Okay, so I’ve only lived in NY for 3 years and I have to say it took me a while to get used to being viewed as a “normal” person in a city that’s familiar with my culture. In Minnesota, there are little to no Jamaicans, so people were always fascinated when they learned that I was Jamaican. It was something “special” to them. I have to say it’s really nice being here (in NY) where I don’t have to explain much about my culture. When I say I want oxtail, people know where to direct me.

What made you choose to do a reality show/workshop?

I was sick of dating in NY. Before I lived in NY, I lived in San Francisco for three years. I originally came to NY because my boyfriend at the time and I decided to come here together. We moved to NY and within three months, the relationship was over. Interestingly enough, I wasn’t too upset because I kind of knew he wasn’t “the one.” So after the breakup, everybody was saying I have to date in NY, just to get the whole thrill of the experience but I got burnt out from that really quickly. I mean, you can only go on so many dates! I soon found myself getting cynical and right before each date, I started psyching myself out with negativity like, “oh he is gonna be a jerk” or “I don’t expect much from this.”  I was making judgments and not giving people the benefit of the doubt. So one day, I just stopped dating altogether. I knew a producer who worked with FYI who approached me with the idea of this show, #Blacklove, and thought, “well, why not?” As fate would have it, I met Errol a couple weeks before the show was scheduled to begin taping. I really liked him and I wasn’t 100% sure of what would become of us our my journey on the show, but I really wanted to continue to date him. It was on our second date that I told him about the show. See, Errol has a lot of friends who are actor/actress types so when I told him that I was going to do a show, he was kind of like, “yea, ok…sure.” So when we started filming, they asked if I wanted to date or if I wanted to be in a relationship with Errol on the show. I discussed it with him and we made our decision. It wasn’t an easy thing for him but in the end, it brought us together. It’s a big commitment up front— It’s television, so it will remain forever to be seen. We made that commitment early on before we knew where we were going to go. After each episode, I had to debrief with him to make sure he was okay. The show allowed for a lot of communication between us, which I think ultimately strengthened our budding relationship in the beginning.

On the show, you say that you keep a box with things your exes have given you. Has Errol gotten a place in the box yet?

Ha! Errol has his own box and it is filled with awesome thoughts and memories of our time together.

What’s in Errol’s box? She retrieves the box from its special place.

A mask (We went to Sleep No More—a mystery Shakespeare play at an old hotel). We went there for his birthday. We went to Costa Rica after the show, so I still have the boarding passes. The Alvin Ailey booklet is in here from a performance we saw. And here we have a picture of the two of us from my company’s Christmas party. Then there’s the wine cork from our third date (right before we started filming). That was a special date. We started off by going to see Basquiat at the Brooklyn Museum. After that, we went for food at a Thai place in Brooklyn. This is when he said he knew we would last for a while. You know how in Brooklyn, they have these stands on the side of the road? Well, we saw a stand with sugar cane and pineapples and he stopped to get some. So as we were driving and listening to music, I was sitting there chomping away at my sugar cane. He said “wow, I’m enjoying you because it’s so crazy that we are doing this together.” He explained with me that most women wouldn’t be so relatable so quickly. That was a big day for us. We ended up going to this wine bar and decided this Punt Road Shiraz was the best bottle of wine ever. The date lasted 12 hours, so we basically spent the entire day together.

What did your family think when they saw you on television?

My mom is so funny. Well, for the finale, Errol meets my parents and my mom keeps calling and asking what episode they’re on. My mom is really excited. It’s kind of a fulfillment of my dreams in a sense. I studied journalism and since there aren’t many entry-level journalism positions in NY that will pay you, I decided to continue working in sales. I would eventually love to transition into journalism and do something like work on The View. It’s my dream job! My mother has always wanted to see me on television, so for her, it’s an enjoyable experience. 

What advice do you have for women who are searching for love?

I would say “know who you are,” so it’s not about what a partner can bring to your life. You should already be complete. Figure out what you want and what you bring to the table and after that, find a partner. When we feel we have some kind of void, we try to date more heavily to fill it and that’s the worst time to date because his is when you’re most vulnerable, and your confidence can be compromised, and men can sense that. Men will take advantage of you during those times and do what they can get away with. Make yourself whole first.

 

Blacklove Cast

The Cast of #BlackLove. Photo courtesy of FYI,

What’s the greatest lesson you learned during the workshop?

I learned that it’s okay to be vulnerable. I’m not a person who asks for help; if I can get it done, I do it myself. I learned that it’s okay to let a man feel like he’s needed. I have self-diagnosed OCD. Things need to be a certain way and in their place at all times, so what used to keep happening is that I would ask for help (as you saw in episode two) and then I would just get frustrated and do it myself if the person isn’t doing it my way. Errol was pretty good about dealing with my control issues in that episode, but I’ve learned to pull back and let him handle things a little more.

How has being on television changed your life?

It hasn’t changed my life much except for the occasional recognition in the wrong places. It as so funny the other day, I was returning a rental. I put on some clothes really quickly because I didn’t want to get the car back late. I was on the G train at 8 o’clock in the morning—nobody is ever on there. So I’m sitting there, looking rough, minding my business and suddenly someone asks me if I’m on #Blacklove! I was really tempted to deny it, but I didn’t! I fessed up but that’s the only notable difference for me. The show was true to form and not a ton has changed.

How did you manage a full career and the show?

While we were filming, I didn’t have friends anymore. I had no time when we were filming. If I wasn’t at work, I was filming but after I wrapped the show, I told people at work. I hadn’t seen the show and I had no idea what would be out there, so I wanted to let people know ahead of time. I knew, however, that I was 100% true to who I am, so whatever they showed, whether I liked it or not, it was true to me and I wasn’t going to be able to do anything about it once the show aired. There were parts that I reconsidered (like walking out in lingerie at the lingerie shop in one episode) but I think it’s good. My coworkers are mostly older white men, and had it not been for me on the show, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have had a reason to tune in. Now, they watch the show and we talk about some of the issues and I’m more relatable to them. I hope that certain groups are watching and learning things that they wouldn’t have known otherwise. I think overall, it portrays Black women in a positive light and that’s the difference between a show like #Blacklove and others that are popular now. We are all very different individuals but we are all great women, trying to do greater things.

Credit: Errol Dunlap

How are things with Errol now? Wedding bells in the future?

Things are going really well. I feel differently about Errol than I’ve felt about any other guy. He gets me!  When he met my parents, as you saw in the last episode, they just clicked. It was easy. He fits in and a big part is that we have similar backgrounds. There are certain unspoken things that don’t have to be explained when two West Indians date. He’s the first Caribbean guy I’ve dated and before I get serious with a guy, I always have to struggle with the idea of his fitting into all of my spaces. Like, can I take you to my parents’ house, grandparents house in the country in Hanover, around my friends, and to a corporate soiree? I don’t have to think about all of those things with Errol.

So let’s talk about some yard “tings” that Tennesha Wood loves: Tell me about

A Jamaican you admire: Usain Bolt. Because he’s not apologetic about who he is. I like when people just do what they do with confidence and pride. And I like that he is proud about being Jamaican and I used to run track.

Your favorite Jamaican love song: It has to be a Movado song.  Yes, “Special!” I love that song.

Your favorite place in Jamaica: House Boat Grill and Pork Pit in Montego-bay.

What Jamaican dishes have you made for Errol? Curry chicken, curry shrimp, and ackee and saltfish

What’s on the horizon for Tennesha Wood?

I’m starting a podcast called DRL (dating, relationships, and love), where I’ll be talking honestly and intimately about dating topics and sharing stories and advice with the help of others. Just log on to www.tenneshawood.com/d-r-l and subscribe to my website and join me on my podcasts, where you can find new episodes every Wednesday! We’ll be having somewhat of an unofficial reunion on my podcast, so you’ll learn more about what has become of our lives after #Blacklove. Maybe FYI will give us a second season, but until then, catch me on the Internet @tenneshawood on social media.

Photo by Errol Dunlap

*Watch full episodes of #Blacklove On Demand or at http://www.fyi.tv/shows/blacklove

 

 

About the author

Kerri-Ann M. Smith

Dr. Kerri-Ann M. Smith is an author and educator. She is an Assistant Professor of Academic Literacy at Queensborough Community College, CUNY. She is a patois translator, a wife, and the mother of a gregarious little girl. She is a senior writer for jamaicans.com.