*Viewers looking for a gritty edge to their programming can find it with BET’s Original Series, American Gangster: Trap Queens Season 2. The reality-based mini-documentaries highlight women who have run criminal organizations, served time—or currently are—and have found their way to a redeeming second chance in life. The return season features the compelling evolutions of Dwen Curry, Brandi Davis, Perrion Roberts, Tiffani Rose Peak, and Shauntay Henderson. From trafficking drugs to grand larceny or sophisticated swindles – each story unfolds as told by those who lived it alongside family and friends, lawyers, police, and reporters who covered the crimes.
Executive producer, Judge Greg Mathis, who is renowned for his 22-season run of court TV, has always wanted to see young people make good choices. His desire to focus on women in the criminal system, as well as keep young girls from similar fates, led to this series.
“I wanted to shine a light on women who ran criminal organizations because their tragic stories are rarely reported. Many young girls today get in the life for nice bags and shoes and end up behind bars or dead. We have to make more noise and get their attention so they will wake up and stop heading down the wrong path before it’s too late. We also need to let these young girls know about the overly harsh and punitive sentences received by Black women. The series also assesses the lack of fair and competent legal representation they often receive, the terrible conditions they can face in prison, and instances of police prejudice and brutality,” states Mathis.
Each episode reveals the driving forces that steered the women featured down the wrong path. Without glorifying the crimes themselves, the stories shed light on the masterminding, fearlessness, and intellectual cunning each woman had to have to run some of the largest and most functional crime organizations in the US. Offering equal amounts of punishment and redemption, and rather than have each storyline stop with a prison sentence; in most cases, it is where the real journey begins.
For example, featured Trap Queen, Brandi Davis, has started a non-profit called Free Pretty Girls INC, which focuses on assisting young women in poverty-stricken and high crime areas, and those transitioning home after an extended time in prison. Davis explains, “People who haven’t been to prison don’t know how difficult the transitional process can be, especially without any family support. Yes, you’re happy to be free from prison, but some women don’t have a home to go to or a place to sleep at night… There aren’t too many programs out there that focus on our young ladies, so I’m really looking forward to working with the girls this fall.”
Dwen Curry’s captivating rise, fall, and redemption have led to a book about her life of crime and experience in jail, while she is also developing a project similar to what Davis is doing— only designated for transgender men and women starting anew after incarceration.
“Unlike many other people, when transgender people get out of prison, we still have nowhere to go. There aren’t a lot of people there to greet us or pick us up. Also, it’s sad to see that Black people don’t get afforded the same aid as other people when they get out of prison either,” says Curry.
Meanwhile, Perrion Roberts has used her experiences to spur changes to the system stating, “I am on a constant mission to bring as much awareness as possible to prison reform, and by doing interviews with amazing platforms such as this one, I’m able to work towards that goal. I am preparing to work with the Phoenix Program, which is a program designed to prevent adjudicated youth from facing lengthy criminal sentences. That program is provided through the local detention centers for youth… designed to prevent adjudicated youth from facing lengthy criminal sentences.” Roberts also created a workbook to be distributed to prison halfway houses that, in her words, will change “criminal thinking to responsible thinking…”
While the former Trap Queens are hardworking behind the scenes and using their platform to pay it forward, the production team has been dedicated to gathering in-depth details for episodes that leave viewers wanting even more. Showrunner and acclaimed documentarian, Jackson Nguyen, as Executive Producer of AGTQS2 explains, “The most challenging part of this series is to unpack the rise, fall, and redemption of these fascinating stories into just one episode. I like to let things breathe a little more than we have time to allow, but that’s a great problem to have.”
Dwen Curry’s words appear to sum up the underpinning message of the program as a whole, “I hope to show people that you can turn over a new leaf and leave your past behind.” What Judge Mathis wants to impart to young viewers is exactly what Brandi Davis would have said to her younger self—before all the trouble; “If I could talk to 14 or 15-year-old Brandi, I’d tell her to take her life seriously and focus on being independent and successful. I’d also tell her that poor decisions can be detrimental and potentially cause harm to not only to her but her family, too.”
The series does an excellent job of telling cautionary tales about bad choices. It also reveals as much about the flaws in society that create the cycles of poverty, as it does the crimes perpetrated to escape it, and the strong overcomers who prove that it’s possible. American Gangster: Trap Queens Season 2, a binge-worthy series is narrated by Hip Hop female pioneer, Lil Kim, is currently available on BET On-Demand and the BET app.
Story by: Athena Dynami