Last week, we saw a messy cheating scandal unfold. Paparazzi caught Nicole Murphy kissing director Antoine Fuqua, husband to actress Lela Rochon, in Italy. We are thirsty in these Black gossip and Twitter streets so we immediately judged the kiss as romantic, and just as quickly as Nicole put out this statement: "Antoine and I are just family friends…I ran into him in Italy and we exchanged a friendly hello and that was it."
This was immediately debunked by actress Lisa Raye and her sister Da Brat, who claimed that Nicole has done this before.
Then Lisa told TMZ that “[Nicole] messed around with my husband...I dont know if she’s a home-wrecker or not …but I know what she’s doing to people’s homes is just wrecking it”. For reference, from 2006 to 2008, Lisa Raye was in a highly-publicized marriage to the then Premier of the Turks and Caicos Islands, Michael Misick, making her First Lady.
This did not prove Nicole was lying, but we know there is no standard of proof or benefit of the doubt extended to Black women. Even one as wealthy and conventionally beautiful as Nicole Murphy was assumed to be lying. But then it looked like she was actually lying when she released a second statement that went to the point of this man actually being married. With this one she inadvertently threw herself under the bus even more:
“Antoine and I [are] friends. We ran into each other while we both were in Europe. Without going into the entire situation, I want to apologize to my family, and to Lela and the Fuqua family for what transpired. It was not my intention to be in this situation. I do not condone women kissing or interacting in anyway [sic] inappropriately with a married man.”
By then we’d spent days indicting Nicole Murphy, who is unmarried. Which brings me to the truth (or what we can gather): Who is this married man?
Antoine and Lela have been married for 20 years and this story has fueled rumours (that help his character alone) that they are separated and that he plans on leaving Lela for Nicole. As this story was unfolding (and as Lela Rochan was deleting her Instagram), people then began to make a twisted assumption: he was being unfaithful because Lela had gained weight. Without prompting, the internet piled on to another Black woman. Gossip, as we often discuss here, is a lens into our larger culture, and a reflection of ourselves; we are so deeply self-absorbed when we talk about other people, especially ones we don’t know. Some women have been left by men when they gain weight, or have stayed with partners they are no longer attracted to, so this projection comes from somewhere, unhealed feelings applied to other situations.
This unconfirmed rumour got so much traction on Twitter, people began tweeting about marriage vows. And writing articles. It seems that even when there is evidence a man has done wrong, we feel we have to do the work to either excuse or praise him. Without giving him an opportunity to speak, he is great. If he stayed with Lela he is still great but potentially weak for giving in and cheating. Meanwhile, Antoine allegedly fathered two children outside of his 20 year marriage.
The problem I have with what Lisa Raye did (and how Da Brat used her platform for this story), is that they ultimately offered nothing. While I credit Lisa Raye for saying that she is not sure whether or not the rumour is true, she bolstered it by alluding that it’s Nicole’s character flaw to be going after married men. I think we all need a lesson in identity. Like women, married men are still men when they get married. It was Wendy Williams who pointed out that men often lie to us, and can lie about the status of their relationships, and if Nicole is claiming to think he was separated or divorced, he may have told her that. This seems like the most plausible truth in all of this, but it gets buried for the more salacious, shaming Nicole Murphy headline. Lisa Raye and Da Brat, despite being women (and Black women at that), are participating as agents of patriarchy. We don’t have to mind our business, but we should consider not putting men first in everything.