The first ever episode of Love & Hip-Hop premiered on VH1 March 6, 2011. Several seasons and almost a decade later, it’s safe to say that it has been a long, but fantastic ride. What started in New York has expanded to include a total of four cities, with memorable personalities from Miami, Atlanta, and Hollywood now in the mix. As the series has grown so has its cast of characters. Beyond the many infamous brawls, we’ve seen marriages and divorces, alliances and falling outs, and even a few children being born.
The one thing no one saw coming was a global pandemic. COVID -19 turned the world on its head, which meant that some of our favorite TV shows had to pivot and figure out how to move forward. Enter VH1’s Love & Hip-Hop: Secrets Unlocked.
Sure, we’ve seen compilation shows from this franchise before, but none like this one. On Love & Hip-Hop: Secrets Unlocked, cast members from all four cities will come together virtually for the very first time. The four-part VH1 special will feature the cast answering diehard fans’ questions—as well each other’s queries—about some of the most memorable moments in Love & Hip-Hop history, plus never-seen-before footage from the archives.
In anticipation of tonight's January 4th premiere, we caught up with fan favorites, Yandy and Mendeecees Harris—or Yandeecees—to chat about what viewers can expect from the special and how both they and the series have grown.
When do you guys actually start to tape your season of Love & Hip-Hop and when did you realize things were going to be different because of the pandemic?
Yandy: We were shooting our season before the pandemic hit. Actually, when the shutdown happened, we were mid-season... Mendeecees came home right before that pandemic shutdown on March 13th. So we had all of that footage that we shot and then the second half [of the season] was pretty much him home—our family together. I hear that made it to this show that you guys are getting ready to see. So for us, it was crazy. Because like I said, we were mid-season, and we had so many things we wanted to share with the fans, and we stopped shooting. So with Secrets Unlocked, you'll get to see a lot of behind the scenes of what it was like going to get Mendeecees, what it was like when he came home, all of that.
And Yandy, you were very active in the protests this year, right?
Yandy: Absolutely, more than just this year, but this year, the show actually aired it. So it's been something that's been a part of my life for a very long time.
“If you've been watching 'Love & Hip-Hop' from the beginning, you’ve experienced growth and we’re no different,” —MENDEECEES
Mendeecees, how was that for you knowing that she was doing good but was possibly putting herself in harm's way?
Mendeecees: On one hand, I'm proud of her. On another hand, I understand that it’s a sacrifice. I see all the people that's affected by the injustice that she's protesting for. When she was protesting for the guys that were in the Brooklyn prison that had no heat, a lot of them eventually came to where I was and they just came up to me and said, “Listen, I want you to tell your wife thank you for me.” Even though I didn't get it at [first], now I see the bigger picture. But this woman is willing to sacrifice her own wellbeing just for people that she would probably never meet or don't know.
The franchise sometimes gets a bad rap for fights and drink throwing, but there’s obviously so much more that y’all do. Can you talk about the importance of fans seeing all sides of you.
Yandy: I think that 2020 was a year that we have been the most woke we've ever been. We have to hold ourselves responsible as well with where we are and what we contributed to. None of us are one dimensional, none of us are the same person that you see all day everyday on TV. We'll shoot a scene for three hours and you guys see two minutes of that. So I think that it's important to also show the other side of us that’s out here fighting for the things that we believe in.
That is so important... We put out a lot of mess for a lot of years. I'm not saying that the mess wasn't the truth and it wasn't a part of who we are. It was and it is. But now it's time to also show that we need to rebuild. We need to unify. We need to get out there and fight against police brutality. We need to get out there and fight against injustices. We need to get out there and fight for immigrants and fight for the voices of the voiceless. And those are things that I feel like it’s time for us to show on TV as well.
Love & Hip-Hop: Secrets Unlocked looks very different from Love & Hip-Hop the way we’re used to. What was it like filming this virtually with castmates from all the shows?
Yandy: It was a lot of fun. It's been over 10 years and we’ve never connected so many of the main casts together. So it was interesting being able to talk about everyone else's lives, getting into their business, not everybody just getting in my business or his business. But we were able to ask questions as fans as well. We watched these shows for years and we've had our own questions. We wanted to know, why did this happen? How did that happen? So being able to actually sit there and talk…. It was really, really good.
Being together as a family during this time has meant a lot of chaos for people trying to work from home with kids and pets interrupting. Will we get to see some of that on Love & Hip-Hop: Secrets Unlocked, especially since you guys had to set your own cameras up?
Yandy: You'll see a little bit of everything. You'll see babies popping in. You'll see cameras going down. Literally there were babies that popped in... It was all kind of craziness happening while we were shooting. It was real virtual life and virtual living. It was crazy.
After being away for a bit, Mendeecees, you must have enjoyed the extra time with family—especially during the holidays.
Mendeecees: Yeah, just spending time with each other for my first Christmas back; I'm just happy that we’re all together. I've got all my kids with me. We’ve given out toys to the kids that's unfortunate and just making [our kids] participate, and making them see that how they should be grateful that they have people that love them, and make sure they get everything that they need.
“None of us are one dimensional, none of us are the same person that you see all day everyday on TV,” —YANDY
After Secrets Unlocked fans can look forward to the return of Love & Hip-Hop. What, if anything, can you tell us about what to expect going into the new season?
Yandy: There's a lot of new content. I mean, the name might be the same, but the game has changed and that’s what you are going to see because the times are different. At the end of it all, we need to come together as a people and figure out what life is like beyond the drama. You'll see us really dealing with issues, but not on a surface level where it ends in a big fight and that's it. If we have a big fight, we're gonna figure out how to get through and fix it, because we’re family, and if we ain't family, at the end of the day, we’re all on this show together so I ain't going away, you ain't going away, so let's figure this thing out. I think that's very different from what you've seen in the past.
Mendeecees: Right, I think that y’all are going to see growth. It's been 10 years. A lot of people ain't the same person who they were 10 years ago. So you should see people have grown. Think about it: If you've been watching Love & Hip-Hop from the beginning, you’ve experienced growth and we’re no different. So that's what you should see. A lot of people are adults now, got children now, got businesses now... I'm trying to navigate and find my way through life and get reactivated back into society. Things change. Storylines change. Everything changes.
Yandy: I’ll just say stay tuned.
VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: Secrets Unlocked premieres tonight, Monday, January 4 at 8PM ET/PT.