Arts & Entertainment | February 8, 2021 11:37 am

A Sugar Baby Says She Was Slut-Shamed on Jada Pinkett Smith’s “Red Table Talk”

Ava Louise says her episode was cut after the Smiths "decided they don’t want to be associated with sex work"

jada pinkett smith
Jada Pinkett Smith's "Red Table Talk" reportedly doesn't want to be associated with sex work.
Dominik Bindl/Getty Images

Since its 2018 premiere, Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk has become famous for its candid approach to controversial issues and high-profile Hollywood scandals (including one of her own). Hosted by the multi-generational trio of Pinkett Smith, her daughter Willow and mother Adrienne “Gammy” Banfield-Norris, the show promotes the titular red table as a safe space where its guests — often public figures who have found themselves on the “wrong side” of scandals, such as Lori Loughlin’s daughter Olivia Jade, one of the major stars of the college admissions drama, or Jordyn Woods, who was accused of cheating with Khloe Kardashian’s partner Tristan Thompson — can speak freely about complicated issues, sharing their side of the story without judgment.

One of the show’s guests, however, claims her experience at the red table was far from judgment free. Influencer Ava Louise told The Daily Beast she was asked to appear on the show in 2019 to discuss her experiences as a sugar baby, and found herself shamed and condescended to by the show’s hosts and other guests.

“They said this show is supposed to be a judgment-free zone, like a therapy session. We want you to speak your truth, talk about your life, your experiences, to be open. They asked me to be completely honest,” Ava Louise told The Daily Beast. But when the guest opened up about her experience as a sugar baby, explaining that she first learned about the side hustle at 14 and started sugar dating at 18 so she could afford lip fillers, the response was critical. “I remember the whole time, Gammy is silent, just a very mean, rude face,” said Ava Louise. “She was just very slut-shamey. She asked, ‘You don’t like yourself more than that?’”

Ava Louise said she wasn’t even spared judgement from the fellow sugar babies who appeared on the show, who she said were presented as older and wiser models intended to make her “look like the stupid blonde college student.”

“One had written a book on how to be a successful sugar baby and they’re forcing her book on me, being like, ‘Clearly you need to educate yourself because you’re not doing this right. There’s a better way to do it without whoring yourself out,’ was the kind of vibe I was getting,” said Ava Louise.

The episode ultimately never ran, a decision Ava Louise was told had to do with anti-sex-work attitudes on the Smiths’ part. After being “ghosted completely” by producers who had previously gushed over her, Ava Louise was eventually informed by a higher-up at Red Table Talk that one of the hosts found her “disgusting” and that “the Smith family doesn’t really want to be associated with sex work.”

The revelation that a show that markets itself as a progressive safe space secretly harbors anti-sex-work sentiment, while disappointing, is far from surprising. Last month, The Bachelor attempted to stoke scandal over rumors that one of this season’s contestants was involved in sugar dating or escorting, ultimately sparking backlash from sex workers and allies who slammed the show for shaming sex workers. As sex work continues to become more accessible in the age of OnlyFans, mainstream media is being forced to reckon with its internalized whorephobia. As the demand for sex worker representation grows, media — especially shows that pride themselves on providing “safe spaces” for progressive ideas — is going to have to figure out how to address sex worker narratives with respect.