Exhale: Magic Johnson’s Aspire Network Launches New Talk Show Series

Black female actresses, journalists, and comedians come together for witty banter that is sure to inspire. A new talk show on Magic Johnson's Aspire Network.

The hosts of Magic Johnson’s new talk show, Exhale. From left to right: Angela Burt-Murray, Erin Jackson, Issa Rae, Rene Syler and Malinda Williams. (Photo courtesy of Jacqueline Holness).

Just a few years ago Rene Syler was at a crossroads in her life. She had lost her lucrative position as an anchor for CBS’ “The Early Show,” which is now defunct. She had a preventive mastectomy as the daughter of two breast cancer survivors. And she lost her hair after a bad relaxer. (Talk about black girl blues!) However, she turned a corner in her journey when she wrote “Good Enough Mother: The Perfectly Imperfect Book of Parenting” in March 2007 and created her website www.goodenoughmother.com from the book. From there, she nurtured her online presence through blogging and social media. Eventually Magic Johnson’s new network ASPiRE, launched a year ago today, took notice and asked her and four other African-American women (Journalist Angela Burt-Murray, Actress Malinda Williams, Comedian Erin Jackson and Writer/Actress Issa Rae) to be the hosts of its first original weekly talk show series “Exhale.” The eight-episode show debuted last night at 8 p.m. EDT. After the premiere, new episodes will begin July 10 in its regularly scheduled time slot on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. EDT.

I spoke with Rene at the Atlanta premiere for the groundbreaking television show. “I think the biggest lesson I learned is that I took an untenable situation and made something of it,” Rene said. “I realized I had to save myself and have a career rebirth. I’m excited, energized and looking forward to the next chapter in my reinvention.”

I, along with other media professionals, bloggers and members of the entertainment community in Atlanta where the new network is based, were invited to watch the first episode which featured guests Judge Lynn Toler, host of “Divorce Court,” actress Tichina Arnold who starred in the hilarious “Everybody Hates Chris,” Celebrity Matchmaker Jasmine Diaz and Dr. Nicole LaBeach, a life coach.

From this first episode, which focused on relationships (a topic always guaranteed to get women talking like no other), I learned that each woman brought a unique and interesting perspective to the talk show. Actress Malinda Williams, who I adored in “The Wood,” interviewed Judge Toler about divorce as Malinda revealed she is a two-time divorcée. During the interview, Judge Toler talked about how her television. program prevented her own marriage from ending. I spoke with Malinda as well. “I’m an actress, mother, sister and friend and so I bring those points of view and perspective. People may see me as a celebrity, but I’m just like everyone else.”

Also during the first show Issa Rae, the witty and sharp creator of her awesome web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” lamented about her belief that black women and Asian men are the bottom of the dating totem pole to the laughter of the audience. As the lone member of the cast under 30 years old, she is able to offer the 20-something angle. “Since I am from a different generation, I have a different viewpoint. I’m here to learn.”

As a journalist, I am familiar with Angela Burt-Murray, a former editor-in-chief of ESSENCE magazine and now creator of CocoaFab.com, which features celebrity interviews and urban pop culture stories. Although Angela said she is typically guarded about her personal life, she disclosed during the first episode that she and her husband have been to therapy for marital issues. “For 15 years, I have been telling the stories of African-American women and now I have a different platform to tell their stories.”

Comedian Erin Jackson was also tapped to be a co-host on “Exhale.” Interracial dating was a topic of discussion during the first episode. Erin said that she dated a Hispanic man, NOT a white man (as many typically assume that an interracial couple is a black person and a white person). “Since I’m a stand-up comedian, I bring a lot of sarcasm and my ‘mom eyes’ although I’m not a mother,” Erin said with a laugh as she widened her eyes for me to see.

Aside from relationships, the women will also discuss other issues that elicit and warrant in-depth conversation. From HIV/AIDS in the black community to the objectification of black women, the show promises to deliver a diverse amount of content. In the faith and religion episode, they will speak with DeVon Franklin, Columbia Pictures executive and “Produced By Faith” author, R&B artist Kelly Price, Pastor Beverly Crawford and Dr. Sikivu Hutchinson, atheist and author of “Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics and The Value Wars.” Controversies such as homosexuality in the black church and the increasing number of black atheists will be conversation topics.

As a talk show connoisseur who cut her teeth on the long-running “The Phil Donahue Show,” “The Jenny Jones Show” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the show and the mix of personalities hosting “Exhale.” When I first heard of the show, I wondered if the show would be a “’The View’- esque” type of show, but other than multiple women hosting the show, the show is markedly different. This talk show offers FIVE BLACK but varied vantage points.

“Exhale” Executive Producer Lynne Robinson said, “’Exhale’ is a show that features five amazing hosts, who will open up and talk about everything that is on the minds of women today. In each episode, they share intimate, spirited and honest dialogue to make you laugh and sometimes make you cry. We are thrilled to bring these provocative, enlightening conversations with these dynamic women in a compelling new series to life on ASPiRE.”

About the author, Jacqueline J. Holness

Jacqueline J. Holness is a preacher’s kid, a preacher’s grandkid, and a preacher’s niece who blogs at afterthealtarcall.com. She is also the author of After the Altar Call: The Sisters’ Guide to Developing a Personal Relationship With God.
  1. Ladies and Guest on Ex hail’ if you would study the Holy Word of God as He command us to in 11Timothy 2 verses 1, and many other areas of the Holy Bible’ you would not be so uninformed.
    No one learns anything unless they spend time to be knowledgeable in that area or and topic of discussion… Yourselves among many individuals say the same thing about church going and why… You must develop a deeper relationship with God Most in /through Christ Jesus our Lord /Savior. But in doing this, researching you may be pulled on by the Holy Spirit of God to be used in a way that would pull you away from a life of the way the world opporates. And that presents a problem for individuals that are just not ready to give up so much secular living in their lives…
    I’m watching your show Ex hail on Wednesday-July 31, 2013. The female that condems God and His Holy Trinity is just what she said : and you all knew this. Her conversation/words proved she’s smart but crazy too.. So what was your purpose and what were you trying to display? Really’ seriously, her being a guest on your show didn’t complete your format; but actually made it looked
    and /sound as though you have a lot of uncertainty concerning God/Jesus. I’m not judging: but you must be very carefull what you entertain. This walk of Christianity s not as hard as you or and the woman / atheist that display much delusion”… Many Pastors,etc.. have written books that became best sellers and invested well… But as usual” too many of these men, in Pulpits are actually just as your discussion stated’ tore up and need to be sat down… If you knew what I know you .. I want you to know that you are not judgment mental , you just don’t understand so much… There are many Jewish people that believe the Old and New Testaments! See” if you would read and study your Holy Bible , you would understand that before our Lord Jesus returns, this will happen… Ladies you have to do more research, studying, gather different information in order to tell the whole truth… At it’s best your show only informed me about where you may or may not be.
    And that wasn’t bad: its just that you don’t have enough good information to portray the bad worst of what’s going on in church houses.. There is No such thing as Homophobia in God’s Holy Word..
    Everything in and on this earth is a creation of God Most High” but every human being is not a child
    of God…. read/study gather other Holy Bibles that you can understand; also you must purchase a very good Concordance.. So that you won’t get confused.. Remember this is the Almighty Holy Word Of God the creator of all things… no matter what… You also have been very misinformed about some things… When you don’t have a complete understanding its better that you just ask questions, connections with Scholars of our Salvation and Religion…. See you didn’t know that two different entities of this Awesome Gospel of our Lord King Jesus Christ…