New Bravo Show Appears to Borrow Heavily from BlackGirlTravel.com’s Concept
‘To Rome for Love’ looks a lot like the life work of BlackGirltravel.com founder Fleacé Weaver
ROME—For BlackGirlTravel.com Founder Fleacé Weaver, all roads do indeed lead to the Eternal City. It’s why back in 2006 she launched BlackGirlTravel.com with Bella Italia, the travel club’s signature whirlwind tour to Italy for African-American female travellers. The primary goal of the tour was to encourage more Black women to consider the option of interracial dating by taking them to parts of the world where they are ”celebrated and not tolerated,” hoping they would return to the United States more open-minded about finding happiness by whatever means necessary. Her tours are about much more than just about travel.
For Weaver who many call The Dream Weaver and Ms Italy, its all about her belief in the power of global travel to radically reshape Black women’s lives, both while they’re on the road and when they return home.
“We were the first in 2006 to create international tours for African-American women,” says Weaver, who now lives in Rome. “There was not one group out there solely targeting African-American women. We were the first. As a matter of fact, most people told us it would be impossible for large groups of Black women to travel without any drama. Not only have we proved them wrong, but we have defined a new market segment that is currently exploding. Over the years, I’ve pitched a TV show about my mission to networks like OWN, BET, Discovery, and Bravo, in hopes of producing a positive show about Black women traveling to Italy and the world ”
So when Weaver heard about “To Rome for Love,” a new Bravo series debuting Jan. 7 where “wedding planner Diann Valentine takes five gorgeous American women who have struggled with romance in the United States on a journey to Italy in search of true love,” it sounded awfully similar to a TV show treatment and “sizzle reel” she shared with the cable entertainment network back in 2011 (click image below to view or click here).
After meeting with Bravo about creating a show based on empowering Black women by travelling to Italy, Weaver ended up walking away from the table.
“I needed post-production input and some type of control over my final product,” says Weaver about her discussions with the network known for shows like “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” “At the end of the day, it all comes down to editing. I didn’t want to take the risk of creating another negative show about African-American women. I wanted a show that was not so much about bringing black women to Italy find mates, even though women have met their now-husbands on our tours. For me, our tours have always been more about finding love of self. It is at the heart of every BlackGirlTravel.com tour.”
A message captured in her “CinderBella” video (below).
Weaver has seen the “To Rome for Love” preview. “This can turn out to be something very negative,” she says, fearing stereotypes about desperate Black women in search of the so-called might come into play. When filming a show like this, says the Rome-based travel guru, “One really should be sensitive to the Italian people and culture. I find using stereotypical phrases like “Italian stallion” very degrading.
A cultural ambassador, Weaver—already knew Rome well thanks to constant back-and-forth planning trips for her Italy tours. For the past five years, she has divided her time between Rome and Los Angeles to further develop professional relationships and enhance her already-strong credentials as an expert on Italian travel market and culture. This on-the-ground presence allows her to not only enrich her current Italian tours but to strategically expand the club’s offerings.
“My life in Italy positions me to be an even greater resource and expert on Italian travel for African-Americans”.
Other similarities behind “To Rome for Love” and Weaver’s 11-year-old enterprise exist. A portion of the BlackGirlTravel.com tagline “Go where you’re celebrated, not tolerated” even makes its way into the Bravo show’s preview.
“I want my life back,” says Weaver. “I just want the show to give credit to the proper place. Because many people have emailed me, thinking that I am somehow involved with the show, there is a real concern that any negativity on the show will lead people to think those things happen on our tours. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I’m flattered out.”
When asked why she isn’t pursuing legal action against Bravo, Weaver says:
“I’m really blessed to live a good life right now; I’m beyond fighting people. I wish the Black women involved with this project nothing but the best. From my perspective, to sue and win would still mean I am profiting off a negative image of African-American women. Profiling from the front or back door is totally against my values and life goals”.
Still, she wants to just put the facts out there, and let people decide on their own about any resemblances after viewing “To Rome for Love” and the BlackGirlTravel.com sizzle reel she shared with Bravo.
“What is for me will be for me,” says Weaver. “Someone will want to do a positive show about us. When that happens, we will be ready.” Until then, she’s seeking the support of those that believe in her cause, asking them to spread the word about BlackGirlTravel.com and use the tag #BlackGirlTravel.com on any social media conversations about “To Rome for Love.”
Through BlackGirlTravel.com experiences, Weaver has helped inspire a legion of Black women to love themselves through international travel. Many have found the courage to move overseas, including to Italy, in search of a better life. “This is what BlackGirlTravel is about,” says Weaver. “It has never been just about travel for me.”
Weaver created “A Black Girl in Italy,” a private and popular Facebook blog offering a for-women-only glimpse into her life and romantic adventures in Rome. In addition to the famed Bella Italia tour, BlackGirlTravel.com also will offer a wide range of 2018 excursions and tours in Italy and far beyond, including:
· Some Like It Hot, A Roman Holiday (January, March, April and July), Concierge and Shopping Tours featuring eight days in Rome and two in Barcelona.
· Divas & Daughters in Italy (various dates), for women travelling with girls 6 to 16.
· Bella BootCamp (March), an exercise in “cultural fitness” that combines the whirlwind pace of Bella Italia and a structured weight-loss program.
· Rome for the Holidays (December)
· Egypt (February), with a focus on the country’s Nubian roots.
· April in Paris (April), a small-group Concierge tour in the City of Light.
· French and Italian Riviera (May), which also includes stops in Pisa and Milan.
· OPA! Greece (May), a 10-day tour to this Mediterranean nation.
· Eat.Love.Play (June), a magical tour of the island of Bali.
· Dubai (September), a return visit to the United Arab Emirates.
· South Africa: Girls Gone Wild (December), the 6th annual BlackGirlTravel tour.
Additional Italy tours will be offered in 2018, including one focused on intercultural/international dating skills plus a training/assistance program for those seriously thinking about moving to Italy. Also in 2018, Weaver plans to launch the first full-service African-American-owned travel agency in Italy, which will offer a full range of travel planning, including weddings, honeymoons, and family travel for all types of travellers. The agency also will offer real estate consulting services for retirement property in Italy. She is seeking travel agents and suppliers that would like to be part of the magic.
BlackGirlTravel.com is an upscale travel club for fun-loving travellers, created by and for extraordinary Black women. Its goal is simple: to expose Black women to the beauty of the world and the world to the beauty of Black women. BlackGirlTravel.com creates unique, customized tours and meeting programs for groups and individuals. These global excursions are designed for young-at-heart, well-heeled urbanites interested in exploring new lands while indulging in international cuisine, “retail therapy,” and exciting nightlife. Everyone from seasoned globe-trotting travellers to international travel neophytes seeking the security of a group will feel at home on the road with BlackGirlTravel.com, whose website is a one-stop resource for travel-related information targeted to Black women. These are NOT your grandmother’s tours!