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April 1, 2012

A Conversation with MJ of Shahs of Sunset

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/a_conversation_with_mj_of_shahs_of_sunset_20120401/

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Mercedes “MJ” Javid

I have interviewed a lot of reality personalities.  Some have been around for a long time, and some are new to the spotlight.  I have liked most and loved a couple, but never have I spoken with one who truly changed me.  Not in star struck way, but in an authentic and heartfelt way.  Until now.  Mercedes “MJ” Javid has touched my heart in a truly profound way.

MJ is a very sweet woman and in speaking with her I saw my own life, and that of my child, in a way that has forced me to look at my life as a divorced single parent, and my son as an only child.  I entered into our conversation thinking MJ was a fun yet sloppy drunk who was perfect for reality television, and I ended the conversation wanting to spend time with her.

MJ was born in the United States to two Persian parents.  She is proud to be Persian and hopes Shahs of Sunset will give people a glimpse into her community that teaches and enlightens, but also provides a few laughs.  She is excited about the show, loyal to the cast, has authentic friendships with them all, and a special and close relationship with both Reza and Sammy.

Sidebar: This girl can drink and watching her in Vegas was hilarious. I told her it was funny when she started to take off her clothes in the club.  I figured she was going to strip but MJ explained she was worried if she got sick she would ruin her dress, so it was coming off.  Even when hammered she was going to save the dress! This is a sloppy and adorable drunk.

MJ works full time and is trying to stay focused on her work and still enjoy the success of the show.  She is a very successful real estate agent and has worked hard to establish herself.  She has an insane amount of confidence and that comes because of her dad, and in spite of her mother.  MJ loves her parents and her talking about them is powerful.

It is unusual for Persians to get divorced.  It is culturally taboo and so if your marriage is not satisfying, you suck it up and live your life as a family. MJ’s parents divorced when she was young.  Her parents moved into the same complex so she could easily go back and forth between both homes. She is very close with her dad and loves her mom, even though she’s tough.

We’ve met her mom on the show and she is sweet, although a little harsh. Her parents have been divorced for 25 years and neither one remarried which is interesting.  Her dad made a decision to not remarry because he did not want his little girl, his only child, to ever feel threatened by another woman.  She was his focus and did not want her to ever feel otherwise.

MJ’s childhood has not left her against marriage as much as afraid of divorce.  She would like to get married and have a family, but she will not settle for anything less than fabulous because she does not want the same fate as her parents.  She has been in serious relationships, but it never led to marriage.  It’s going to take someone special to win her over.

MJ feels a tremendous responsibility to her parents.  It’s cultural on a lot of levels, but I think her need to take care of them now is more about her being decent than it is about being Persian.  As an only child they are all she has, and that is a lot of pressure.  I often think about the pressures of being a single parent, but don’t often reflect on being only child.

I am one of four kids in my family and so there has always been back up.  When my dad got cancer we banded together to support him and each other. When he died, my siblings and I could call each other to reminisce and remind each other of wonderful things about him.  It was comfortable and safe.  As my mother ages, we are united in being there for her.

MJ is young and vibrant, yet she is tied to her parents, and as an only child it is all up to her.  She has built a life for herself that is independent, but also requires her to devote a lot of energy on her parents.  She wants to keep her parents company and be there for them, but as they get older it becomes more obvious that the burden is hers and hers alone.

The word burden is an unfortunate one and MJ was quick to point out that it is not a burden, but rather an obligation and even then it is her pleasure to help her parents.  She speaks of them with love but one can tell she is tired. Not exhausted from the work, but rather from the pressure.  Pressure she puts on herself in addition to the pressure from her parents.

I made a conscious decision to not have another baby after my divorce because I never wanted my son to feel he needed to share me with anyone. I never got serious with anyone until he was old enough to understand he was my top priority.  I feel a bond with MJ’s dad as my choices have been very much like his.  I always thought those choices were brilliant.

It turns out that maybe they weren’t.  My son and I are very close, but I don’t want him to ever think of me as a burden or an obligation.  It’s been him and me for so long that I know he worries about me and feels the need to care for me.  It is a wonderful thing that he loves me like this, but at the same time he needs to live his life and that means letting me go.

MJ explained that culturally the family is one unit.  Parents raise children, then children welcome in their parents.  Her parents will live with her before they ever go to a retirement community or nursing home, which is lovely. Perhaps the lesson here is that my son should find a nice Persian Jewish girl so I am guaranteed to not be shipped off to an old folks home.

MJ is smart, funny, kind, soft spoken, articulate, and not what I was expecting.  She is good reality television to be sure, but I view her differently now.  This is not a wild child who goes to Vegas, gets hammered, and takes her clothes off for fun.  This is a working woman who goes to Vegas to have a break from her busy and grown up life.

I asked MJ to tell me three words she would use to describe herself and she chose independent, strong and self-confident.  My words for MJ would be loving, beautiful and inspiring.  She is an amazing woman and Shahs of Sunset does not even begin to show us all that she is.  This is a woman who is building a life, while watching over her parent’s lives, and balancing it all.

I hope the show will reveal how remarkable this woman is.  I hope we will get to meet her dad and understand her mom.  I hope she meets a wonderful man who is smart enough to see how great she is, and strong enough to win her over.  I am going to try to find that man for her.  Mercedes Javid is a new kind of reality star, in that her reality makes her a star.

I love Shahs of Sunset.  It is funny and interesting.  I have now spoken with both MJ and Sammy, with additional conversations to come, and I am quickly learning that these are good people.  They are sweet, charming and kind.  We are seeing a part of their lives on the show, but in the end their real lives are equally, if not more interesting and entertaining.

Ryan Seacrest has a hit on his hands.  We are watching and loving it, so I hope he uses the second season, and there will be a second season, to give a little less TV with a little more reality because the reality of these people makes good television.  If you have not watched this show, check it out. To my darling MJ Joon, you are good, and I respect how you keep it real.

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