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ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Author and journalist ReShonda Tate Billingsley was born on September 7, 1969, in Kansas City, Missouri. Billingsley graduated from Madison High School in Houston, Texas in 1987, and attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned her B.A. degree in broadcast journalism in 1991.

Billingsley began her career in 1993 as an associate producer for KTRK-TV, an ABC-affiliate in Houston, Texas. After a year at KTRK, Billingsley moved to the NBC-affiliate KJAC-TV in Port Arthur, Texas, as an anchor, reporter and talk show host. In 1996, she accepted a position in Houston, Texas as a reporter for KPRC-TV, the NBC-affiliate. From 1997-2003, Billingsley was a reporter and anchor for the NBC-affiliated KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In 2003, she returned to Houston as a reporter for KRIV-TV, the Fox-affiliate, where she remained until 2007. Billingsley published her first book in 2001 My Brother’s Keeper, which was picked up by publishing company Simon & Schuster the following year. She became a National Bestselling Author of over forty fiction, non-fiction, and teen fiction books. Billingsley has also served as a reporter and editor for the Houston Defender since 1993. She served as a host and producer for KPFT’s From Cover to Cover literary talk show from 2009 to 2013, and KTSU’s The Sista Xchange from 2011 to 2014. She, and fellow Simon & Schuster author Victoria Christopher Murray, co-founded Brown Girl Books in 2014. Her books The Devil is a Lie and Let the Church Say Amen were adapted into television movies for TV One and BET.

Billingsley has also served as a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Jack & Jill of America, and the Durham Library board. Billingsley received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature in 2012 for her book, Say Amen, Again, and was nominated in 2013 for The Secret She Kept, which was adapted into a television movie for TV One. She was nominated for the award once again in 2015 for Mama’s Boy.

Billingsley and her husband, Dr. Miron Billingsley have three children; Mya, Morgan and Myles.

ReShonda Tate Billingsley was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 1, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.014

Sex

Female

Interview Date

02/1/2017

Last Name

Billingsley

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Tate

Occupation
Schools

James Madison High School

Petersen Elementary School

Retta Brown Elementary School

Audrey H. Lawson Middle School

University of Texas at Austin

First Name

ReShonda

Birth City, State, Country

Kansas City

HM ID

BIL05

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Turks and Caicos

Favorite Quote

Stop Talking About Doing It And Do It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Interview Description
Birth Date

9/7/1969

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Houston

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Seafood

Short Description

Author and journalist ReShonda Tate Billingsley (1969 - ) served as a reporter and news anchor in Texas and Oklahoma, and was a national bestselling author of over forty fiction, nonfiction and teen fiction books.

Employment

Simon and Schuster

Houston Defender

KRIV-TV

KFOR-TV

KPRC-TV

KJAC-TV

National Enquirer

Favorite Color

Pink, Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of ReShonda Tate Billingsley's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her mother's early years and education

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her father's storytelling

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her love of reading

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her father's supper club

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her father's carpentry skills

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her neighborhood in Smackover, Arkansas

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her parents' divorce and moving to Houston, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls her favorite middle school teacher

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley remembers her first published story

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley remembers her active imagination

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls her early experiences of religion

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her church involvements

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her early reputation as a writer

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls her early career aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley remembers her favorite teacher at James Madison High School in Houston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls enrolling at the University of Texas at Austin

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her activities at the University of Texas at Austin

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley remembers her favorite professor at the University of Texas at Austin

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls her early broadcasting experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley remembers graduating from the University of Texas at Austin

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls working for the National Enquirer

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley remembers working as a producer at KTRK-TV in Houston, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls her transition to anchoring for KJAC-TV in Beaumont-Port Arthur, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls worked as a reporter at KPRC-TV in Houston, Texas and KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her first book, 'My Brother's Keeper'

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley recalls self-publishing 'My Brother's Keeper'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her book, 'Let the Church Say Amen'

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about the controversy around 'Let the Church Say Amen'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes the themes of her books

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her writing career

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her books 'Help! I've Turned into My Mother' and 'I Know I've Been Changed'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley remembers her books that were published in 2007

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her teen fiction books

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her books, 'The Devil is a Lie' and 'Holy Rollers'

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her acting career

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her book, 'The Secret She Kept'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her parenting style

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her book, 'A Family Affair'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her current projects

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about the film adaptations of her books

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her screenwriting aspirations

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her awards and accolades

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley reflects upon her writing career

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her writing process

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her favorite writers and books

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about the growth of her writing career

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her family

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her publishing company, Brown Girls Books

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - ReShonda Tate Billingsley narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

2$7

DATitle
ReShonda Tate Billingsley remembers her active imagination
ReShonda Tate Billingsley talks about her book, 'Let the Church Say Amen'
Transcript
Now didn't your mother [Nancy Kilgore Blacknell] tell you at one time that making up a story is a lie unless you write it down and then it's a fiction (laughter)?$$Yes, then it's a story. If it comes out of our mouth (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Then it's a story, right, right.$$--it's a lie, if you write it down.$$If you write it down then it's a story?$$Yes, and so you know and that was one of the things because I would--I remember when my mother, my parents were still together. I would just out of the blue start acting out a story. I had written a story about a little girl that had passed out and we were in Smackover [Arkansas], we were going from Norphlet [Arkansas] to Smackover, and my sister [Tanisha Tate] told my parents, "ReShonda [HistoryMaker ReShonda Tate Billingsley] won't, won't wake up, she won't sit up." And so, my father [Bruce Tate] pulled over to the side of the road, the truck actually broke down, and I would not lift my head. I just--my whole body was limp because that's what I had written in my story and so my parents were freaking out. They ended up flagging down somebody passing by, they took us to the hospital in Smackover to--there was a small like clinic and the doctor, who my grandmother [Tate Billingsley's maternal grandmother, Pearley Hicks Kilgore] cleaned for he examined me. My mother was crying and I'm just, I'm still not lifting up. My eyes are rolled back in the back of my head and Dr. Warren [George W. Warren] was his name and he came in, he examined me and then he said--my mother was like, "What's wrong with her?" And he told me he said, "Sit up gal," and I just kind of sat there, he said, "I said sit up, gal," and I just kind of sat up, and so my parents freaked out. They said, "Why would you do all of that?" And I said, "That's what the little girl did in my story, so I was just trying to carry it out," and my mother ended up having to leave the room before she killed me. My dad was always the, the buffer, but he, and he explained to me, "You know you can't do stuff like that." But I said, "That's how when I wrote it and she did--she never woke up." And so, little stuff that made no sense in my mind and I think I was ten at that time, no, I might have been eight at that time and it made no sense in their minds, but it made perfect sense because that's, that was the story that I wrote.$$So, you had a very active imagination.$$I did.$$And internal life that was--yeah.$$I don't know where it came from, I mean I just out of the blue I would come, and the reason my--the whole--my mother said that it was a lie 'cause I had come in, I said my sister broke her arm outside playing at--we used to gather up the leaves to burn the leaves and so I came in and my mother said, "Well, where's your sister?" I said, "Oh, she's out there. She just broke her arm jumping in the leaves." So, of course my mother ran out there and my sister is just playing in the leaves, and so my mother said, "That's, you know, that's a lie coming out of your mouth." And I said, "Naw I was trying to work through a story in my head," and so it would get me in trouble a lot (laughter) and so, I, I have no idea why I used to--I would, I just don't know why I did stuff like that, but it was just that imagination always at work.$And your next book in 2004 was 'Let the Church Say Amen' [ReShonda Tate Billingsley] which is the foundation of a trilogy, basically?$$Yes.$$Let--it's about two families, right?$$It's about a, about a family and a pastor who gives his all to the church, so much so that he doesn't see how he's neglecting his family and what I wanted to do was show--even though this is a pastor, this could be any man in any job who works so hard for their job that they don't realize how their family needs them just as much, and so that's what I wanted to write about. What ended up happening was because the book had a church title, people started classifying it as Christian fiction, and I caught a lot of flak behind that because it, is not Christian fiction. I did, I had a couple of curse words in it. I have--and you know I don't write gratuitous, I don't write gratuitous sex, I don't write gratuitous cursing. Everything I write has a purpose, but when you pick up a book and you think you're about to read Christian fiction, so I caught a lot of flak, to the point that sometimes I would read the reviews and they would have me in tears, but for every bad review, I would get ten great reviews, but you know how we do, we focus on the bad. But that book is what ended up putting me on the map.$$What were the responses good and bad to your work, I mean what did people like about it?$$A lot of people liked the truth, I mean because what happens is many of us will go to the club Saturday night and then we get up and to the club--go to church on Sunday morning, and so those are the type of characters that I would write about, so people could relate. So, one of the, the biggest things that I got from people and one of the most positive things were, "Your characters are so relatable. This story is relatable." There were people that would say, "I'm struggling, my family is struggling just like the people in this book," so in terms of the positive side, I got that a lot. The negative was the people that said, "I picked this up because I thought it was a Christian fiction book, and you had this character say a bad word, so I'm mortified." There was--I got a couple of, "You're gonna rot in hell" emails, and those are the ones that sent me to, to tears because they would said, "Well, your character is homosexual and he didn't pray hard enough," you know. And you'd wanna reply, "Write your own book," (laughter), but you know you take, try to take the high road, but I would get a lot--I caught the biggest amount of flak because my character didn't pray the gay away, and I think at that time when that was released you saw that was big, a big, the whole DL thing was a big, down low thing was a big thing going around.$$Right, I remember that.$$And people kept saying, "He could just pray this away," and I don't have--I didn't have that in my book. I had this family really struggling with one of their son's dealing with that, and I, let the family deal with it and not say okay, now he's cured at the end of the book. So, I caught that. One lady said she, the book was garbage and she was gonna use it to hold up, her coffee table that had a bad leg. So, I would get that kind of thing all the time. There was one station in Virginia that was going--had me come in for a book signing and they ended up canceling it because they said they read the book after inviting me, and they called the book soft porn, and I was mortified because I don't have any, I don't have anything like that in there, but they said they ended up canceling it and the bookstore was a Christian bookstore started selling the book behind the counter like it was a Hustler magazine, and so the way I found out was a woman contacted me and said, "I don't know who you are, but bought your book because they didn't wanna sell it to the woman in front of me." And so, that kind of, the controversy ended up making more people go and read the book, and then when they read it, they were like okay, this isn't bad, but that's what me on the map.$$Was the controversy had, did it have more to do with having gay characters or, infidelity, or what was the major issue (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) The, the primary one was the gay character, the gay son and then the only, what they considered soft porn there was a line that said, "She lowered her head in his lap," and I moved on, I didn't say anything else, but they considered that soft porn, which was just crazy to me, but that, you know that was their prerogative, but the, the biggest thing was not, not having him pray that gay away, and people kept saying in the black church, "He's a father, but he's a minister, so how is he gonna just accept that his son is gay," and so you know I, I caught that a lot. It just, it was really shocking to me, but that's what created a lot of the controversy.