Beginning as a child, Loni Love took notice of everything going on around her. She has used it through every aspect of her life. Those lessons are what Love is giving readers in her autobiography “I Tried To Change So You Don’t Have To.”
Love, the Emmy- and NAACP Award-winning co-host of talk show “The Real,” a weekly radio host on Café Mocha and a longtime comedian, grew up in Detroit’s Brewster-Douglass Housing Projects. It was a community of working-class Black folks who all knew and cared about each other.
Her book is a “let-me-tell-y’all,” not a “tell-all,” affair, in which she illustrates that the projects where she and her brother Bruce were raised did not have to lead down a path frequently told in the media.
“Everybody from Detroit has this great sense of humor,” said Love from her Los Angeles home. “When you live in a project environment, either you can make money the safe way or the illegal way.”
The Root of the Hustle
The foundation of Love’s hustle was her helping people in the neighborhood with errands or chores. In school, she got special attention by assisting one of her teachers.
Love also learned about family dynamics when an often-distant mother-daughter relationship resulted in Love being thrown out of the family apartment at age 18. Even though Love had a job at General Motors and paid for her own food, it seemed that action from her mother came for “no good reason,” but there were other things going with her mother. Her older brother Bruce had learning disabilities that slowed his ability to advance in school, but also led to a few hilarious family moments that surely contributed to Love’s comic timing.
“Not only is this a funny book, but it also takes you back to the ’80s, the crack era,” Love said. “How did this little Black girl navigate through all that?”
Building Strength, Getting Noticed
The really hard stuff began after high school with Love being homeless and living in her car while working at GM. Opportunities began to open for her. A Prairie View A&M State University alumnus who was an engineer at GM helped her get into that university. The hustle mentality helped Love to figure out how to cover college expenses beyond a partial scholarship.
“Black women need to tell our stories because they are filled with historical things that are not happening today,” Love said in a reflective moment.
Getting a good corporate job at Xerox, only to realize that it was not really happening for her, put Love in front of her biggest leap of faith. She started standup comedy. Her hustle paid off as she became a regular on the club and cable television circuit. The exposure gave Love an opportunity in 2008 to begin co-hosting “Café Mocha” created and produced by Sheila Eldridge under her company Miles Ahead Broadcasting.
“Loni did not know anything about Café Mocha, but she trusted the concept,” Eldridge said. “The show played to Loni’s desire to speak to Black women.”
The Gamble Pays Off
Then came “The Real,” which created a chance for two White House interviews first with President Obama then with first lady Michelle Obama.
“The history of the White House and being from the Brewster projects is a wonderful, lovely story,” Love said. “What’s even more important are the things that led up to that and the lessons. You never know what small opportunities may open up into bigger opportunities.”
Love has also found her true soulmate in James Welsh. After a few relationships that did not hit the right notes for Love, Welsh accepts her just as she is.
Each chapter in Love’s autobiography ends with what I call “food for thought” lists that are funny, but are real-life lessons. She is giving a gift to those who are open to receive.
“I wrote this not about me. I call myself the tortoise, you know from the story ‘The Tortoise and the Hare,’” Love said. “I have all of the hares around me, but I am always the tortoise going at my own pace. I am constantly amazed at what happens.”