Tamera Mowry and Jeannie Mai have a very tense exchange on 'The Real'

Tamera Mowry and Jeannie Mai hit off the fifth season of “The Real” with a heated-up discussion over two famous television puppets and their possible, or not, sexuality. A few days later, Jeannie opens up about a childhood trauma.

The “Sister, Sister” actress and her co-host Jeannie Mai kept it real for their audience on the first episode of season 5 of the daytime talk show. The women had to agree to disagree on a topic that has been making the rounds on the internet for a few weeks now: whether Bert and Ernie, two of the most beloved character on “Sesame Street,” are gay or no.


One of the writers of the children’s show, Mark Saltzman, who is an openly gay man, recently interviewed with the LGBTQ lifestyle website Queerty, and in the controversial interview, he revealed that he always thought of Bert and Ernie like a loving couple. He told the publication:

“I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert and Ernie, they were [gay].”

His declaration caused a stir on the internet, with many people loving the idea of the characters being gay as it would bring representation for the LGBTQ community on a kids’ show, and others rejecting the possibility and stating Bert and Ernie were only the best of friends.

Tamera and Jeannie were caught in the discussion too, with Jeannie being in the first group and Mowry on the second one.


Even though “The Real” didn’t release a proper video of the heated exchange, someone got to record a piece of it to post all over social media. According to Madame Noire, the whole exchange went down like this:

Tamera and Jeannie were arguing over whether the sexuality of the puppets mattered on a children’s show. In Tamera’s point of view, she didn’t think about the puppets’ sexuality while watching them as a kid herself and her only concern today as a mother is what the show is teaching her children.

“I know that when I was watching “Sesame Street” as a kid, it was one of my favorite shows. I wasn’t really thinking about the genitalia and what they were doing sexually as a kid. They’re puppets.”

“But as a parent, I’m like, what are you teaching my child? Are you teaching my children how to love one another?” she continued. “Are you teaching my children how to be friendly and create amazing friendships? That’s what really matters. I don’t care if they’re brown, yellow, orange — whatever. What is the message?”


After that, Mai cut Tamera off and disagreed with her.

“I hear what you’re saying, but I disagree because they do care. And your kids are learning.”

However, before Jeannie could finish her statement, Tamera interjected once again saying: “At five years old and at three years old, my daughter isn’t thinking … ” but Jeannie cut her off mid-sentence again asking that she let her finish.

Tamera was visibly annoyed, whole Mai stated:

“Let me finish. Let me finish really quick.  All I’m saying is, I was that girl. I learned how to speak English …”

But Mowry couldn’t contain herself as she had to have the last word saying:

“I’m speaking for my kids and my experience, so you can speak from yours.”


To prove her point further, Jeannie explained,

“I’m just saying, Tam. For me, I had to learn from them, too. I learned watching “Sesame Street” how to speak English, and Bert and Ernie were my best friends. I believed in them, and I learned from them, how to have a healthy and happy relationship. I learned how that relationship works. So when “Sesame Street,” says they’re not gay, it says to me that being gay is not OK. That’s the problem. That’s the problem with this situation.”

Mai, who is divorced and doesn’t have or wants to have kids, added that it's important to have different types of families represented on television:

“There are kids out there that have two moms and have two dads, and they need to see that love takes shape in all forms. When Bert and Ernie are together, they have the potential to break down barriers.”


While viewers were left worried about the status of Tamera and Jeannie’s relationship after the discussion, the women took to their respective Instagram account to share the same picture hugging it out and assuring fans they are ok.

Tamera wrote “We’re cool” in her caption while Jeannie wrote “I don’t know what I’d do without her” in hers.


Despite Saltzman declarations, Sesame Workshop, the non-profit behind the show, released a statement denying his claims.

“As we have always said, Bert and Ernie are best friends. They were created to teach preschoolers that people can be good friends with those who are very different from themselves. Even though they are identified as male characters and possess many human traits and characteristics (as most Sesame Street Muppets do), they remain puppets, and do not have a sexual orientation.”

On the other hand, Frank Oz, one of the co-creators of Bert and Ernie, first denied the claims made by Saltzman, disappointing many fans with his words and utter negative to the puppets possibly being gay. A few days later, he took to Twitter to try and find a balance that would keep everyone happy, as he wrote:

“A last thought: If Jim [Henson] and I had created B & E as gay characters they would be inauthentic coming from two straight men. However, I have now learned that many view them as representative of a loving gay relationship. And that’s pretty wonderful. Thanks for helping me understand.”


Just a few days after the discussion on representation and how “Sesame Street” helped Mai to learn English and set an example on family values for her, the host opened up for the first time about being abused in her childhood by a family member.

In the midst of the controversy surrounding Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who has been accused of assaulting several women, Jeannie decided to join the conversation by sharing her story for the first time in years.

Jeannie was abused for three years, starting when she was 9, but she never got the courage to tell on her abuser, as she explained:

“As a person who was sexually assaulted at a young age by somebody very close to me, I remember the trifecta that I would continuously process which is: fear, anger shame, fear, anger shame. Fear: What’s going to happen to our family if I say something and out this person? Anger: Why did you just sit there? Why did you let this go on for four years? What’s wrong with you?”

While she didn’t expose her abuser, she accepted it was a family member that she loved and trusted, which made the situation difficult for her because even if she wanted to report it, she was afraid of what could happen to her family.

“And there’s a little bit of a Stockholm Syndrome in there too because if somebody who’s a stranger did it to me, oh I know what to do. I know how to wile out, I got that down,” she said. “But when it’s somebody you trust, somebody you know that you actually are supposed to love or believe in, you just freeze.”

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