February 25th, 2024

Reality series with Indigenous values looking for contestants


By Lethbridge Herald on January 4, 2024.

Submitted photo - Crew members watch content on a bank of screens during production of the first season of “The Sugar Mama.” Applications are currently being accepted for season two of the unscripted reality show.

Theodora MacLeod – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Alberta creatives are being given the chance of a lifetime thanks to an unidentified woman known as the Sugar Mama. 

Applications have opened for the opportunity to participate in the second season of an unscripted reality show titled “The Sugar Mama,” that puts 12 creatives together at a secluded retreat where they will participate in creative challenges and exercises designed to build character and promote personal growth.

 In the end, the Sugar Mama herself decides who will receive $100,000 to help launch their career in the arts.

Though the first season has yet to be released, executive producer and retreat facilitator, Lolly de Jonge says the show is about doing things differently and is rooted in Indigenous values.

“In Season One we brought a number of different ceremonies to the participants, and really, it’s about development and it’s about making the world a better place.” Adding, “it’s the kind of show that will make you laugh and make you cry.”

The unscripted reality show emphasizes authenticity. With challenges built on a foundation of Indigenous knowledge and cultural practices, participants are asked to express themselves through their chosen artistic specialty. 

The cast of Season One included visual artists, musicians, comedians, and a drag performer, but the show is open to applications from creatives of various mediums and practices. 

Unlike most reality competition series, The Sugar Mama doesn’t build its plot on underhanded ‘game moves’ or strategic cruelty.

 There is no head-to-head battle pitting players against each other for the chance to change their lives.

Instead The Sugar Mama focuses on character, and a collective self-discovery in the name of artistic pursuits. Of course, there’s that chance to be awarded $100,000 by the anonymous benefactor, but even the prize is awarded based on those merits.

“We wanted to give the participants a lived experience of working and living and being in a values driven environment that supported them being their greatest self,” de Jonge explains.

Little is known about the namesake of the series. de Jonge describes the Sugar Mama, whose only real identifier is that she is Métis, as “an older women, doesn’t have any children, has been supporting creatives for many years.” 

There’s a tongue-in-cheek nature to the title, which de Jonge calls “decidedly provocative,” acknowledging the social context of the term – often used to refer to an older woman who financially supports the leisure of her often much younger partner – and adding that the unrevealed woman also has a bit of a sweet tooth, playing into the title.

Described as “an intentional act of reconciliation,” the show places a strong emphasis on representing diversity and encourages creatives from the 2SLGBTQ+, BIPOC and/or disabled communities to apply.

“The things that we really look at is that we really want them to have exceptional talent, outstanding character, and a really meaningful story. We know that a lot of artists, why they’re called to that work is usually because it’s rooted in their story,” explains de Jonge, adding, “what we want to do is bring 12 people together from a variety of different disciplines and really work on giving them opportunities to let their talent shine, and then to develop as individuals as well.”

 A far cry from the likes of Big Brother, Survivor, and the various other competition shows, The Sugar Mama is the first of its kind to decolonize reality television and incorporate Indigenous values with the opportunity to win life-changing prize money.

Applications for season two of The Sugar Mama close Jan. 24. Participants must reside in Alberta and be 18 by the time of filming. For more information visit http://www.sugarmama.tv/casting

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