There's no question that the pandemic has undeniably impacted our mental health. In fact, surveys show that Americans have become more depressed and anxious as a result, and in many ways, we've been dealing with two health crises: the virus and a mental health crisis. The severe psychic distress along with the dreaded loneliness that's accompanied the past year and a half has made many of us seek out therapy but also community and connection. It's for this reason programs like Facebook Watch's Red Table Talk series hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith; her daughter, Willow Smith; and her mother, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, have resonated with so many of us. The show's spinoff Red Table Talk: The Estefans, hosted by Grammy-winning singer Gloria Estefan; her daughter, Emily Estefan; and her niece and Daytime Emmy Award-winning TV host, Lili Estefan, has especially resonated with Latinx communities. It brings three generations of Latina women together to not just share things that have happened in their own lives but also to discuss topics often considered taboo or still not talked about enough in our communities. If you thought they got real on season one, wait until you see what they've got brewing for the new season, beginning on Thursday, Sept. 30, at 9 a.m. PT/12 p.m. ET. No topic is off limits!
I'll never forget the first time I watched Red Table Talk with Jada. I was instantly taken by not just the genius of the show but also by how surprisingly therapeutic it felt. I felt that twofold when the Estefans' series launched in 2020 because so much of what they talk about on the show are things that are still hard to talk about with many Latinx families. And what really makes this show special is how the trio contribute three generations of perspectives to each topic. As the coronavirus rages on along with all the anxieties and mental burdens it comes with, I find comfort in being able to curl up at the corner of my couch and watch a program that I know will bring me some degree of healing. In fact, healing is exactly what Gloria wants viewers to experience from the show.
"I studied to be a psychologist, so for me, therapy is definitely my goal, because when I lost my mother four years ago, it was the first time that I actually felt like I needed therapy. I've been a strong cookie my whole life. I've always been very stoic, and oh my god, I cried more in those episodes than in my whole life," Gloria said in a recent exclusive interview with POPSUGAR. "We can also say, let the Red Table Talk be your therapy because that's what we're trying to do, and we got a lot of messages from a lot of people, especially after Emily's coming-out episode, that said our table had been therapy for them and that they sat down with their parents or that their parents opened up more to the kids. I think there's something to say when you realize you're not alone and these celebrities that you think have this charmed life are experiencing the same challenges that you are in life, so sharing those challenges have really been wonderful for us . . . people have written and said you helped me through this, you made this better, you got us talking about it and we moved forward from there. And that's what we hope to be to a certain degree."
"And so, as Latina women, we are also white women in the sense that we experience white privilege. We don't go through the world like a lot of our Latino brothers and sisters do, so it was really important for us [to discuss this]."
Gloria was referring to episode two of the first season of Red Table Talk: The Estefans, where Emily shares her painful coming-out story. In the episode, Emily openly shares why it was so hard for her to come out as gay to her family, and the dialogue with her mom got really candid. They don't sugarcoat a thing. In season one, they touched on topics like coming out, mental health issues, loss, Lili's public and painful divorce scandal, domestic abuse, and more. The trio plan on continuing to tackle topics like this in the upcoming season. In fact, one of the things they plan on discussing is colorism in the Latinx community, a subject that's still often ignored in Latinx families.
"We have a show in these next episodes centered around colorism within the Latino community," Emily said. "And here's the beauty of it: My mom got a comment, which was we don't all look like Gloria Estefan. And so, as Latina women, we are also white women in the sense that we experience white privilege. We don't go through the world like a lot of our Latino brothers and sisters do, so it was really important for us [to discuss this]. We have Amara La Negra at the table. She's awesome, she's passionate, has been open about her experience, and represents the Afro-Latino [community] . . . the time is now to bring these conversations forward."
While colorism is something that's been discussed a lot more in mainstream media in recent years, it's usually tackled and brought to the surface by younger generations. What makes this conversation unique is that it's essentially three generations of Latina women weighing in on it.
"How many Latino families have that and don't talk about it? It's within so many families, and it's not necessarily racism, it's really colorism. And it affects members [of one's family], and yet no one ever talks about it," Lili chimed in.
The Estefans have been utilizing Red Table Talk to have candid discussions that push back against cultural stigmas and break generational cycles that still exist within Latinx communities. They are also hoping the show encourages this generation of young Latinxs to live their most authentic and joyful lives. What sets this show apart from other celebrity reality-like shows is that the hosts aren't inviting guests on to share chisme or to spill the tea. They curate a safe space where guests feel comfortable sharing their stories with the Estefans and with viewers. It's an energy thing, and that's why the show very much feels like a group therapy session with the Estefans.
In a country where Black and Latinx communities have limited access to healthcare and not everyone can afford to get a therapist, the trio want to normalize more conversations around mental health for Latinx families, while also supporting folks who may not have the resources or the access to get therapy and encouraging people to ask for help and seek community during difficult times.
Emily, who openly shared on the show about her own struggles with anxiety and feeling suicidal, is the first to admit that it took her a while to tell her family what she was experiencing.
"Anxiety and depression are lonely. A lot of the time, it feels terrifying. Like you're not going to survive taking that first step, especially in Latino families when you have extended family, who oftentimes, fortunately not in my case, saying, 'Oh that's crazy — you don't need therapy. You just need to forget about it,'" she said. "That even invalidates you. So a lot of times, validation of mental health in the Latino world is super important. Validating that it's a real disease, also validating that the time that they grew up in is different from us. We have the internet. We have social media. We have these pressures." Emily emphasized that the words and the language we grew up hearing around mental health, mental disorders, and therapy also need to change. "How we throw around these words is super important. Calling your children or your parents crazy, erratic, or emotional, we need to be kinder to one another," she added.
For Lili, who grew up in a generation that was told you don't air out your dirty laundry, finally opening up about her very hard and public divorce brought her tremendous healing. Leaning into the community during that difficult time was exactly what she needed to keep herself together.
"Divorce as it is is a hard thing to go through. Now going through a public divorce like what happened to me really topped it off," she said. "It was a scandal, not just a public divorce. And I think I was different from Emily in that I would reach out. I would call and do therapy with my friends. I would say the same things over and over, and that was my therapy and it really helped me."
As difficult as coming out was for Emily, she also acknowledged that not everyone has the support system she does. For many members of the LGBTQ+ community, coming out to their Latinx family can be an excruciating and traumatic experience, which is why the trio also touch on the importance of setting boundaries, even with loved ones.
"Boundaries are so important, and I think they can actually bring you closer together. But also some people, unfortunately, are just not good for you."
"Boundaries are so important, and I think they can actually bring you closer together. But also some people, unfortunately, are just not good for you," Emily said. "If you draw a boundary and they keep crossing it, that's bad for you. If you know that, then you have to take space away. You can love people from afar. The bad thing is being in turmoil and close to them."
Gloria also acknowledged how a lot of Latinx parents from her generation don't recognize that when they don't accept their children for who they are, they actually do them more harm than good. Family is supposed to feel safe, but when the messages you're receiving from family are you're going to hell or you're bad because of who you choose to love, that can fuel thoughts of self-hatred that can lead to depression and even suicidal behavior.
"As a society and especially Latinos, we are so concerned about what other people are going to think about our family and how we're going to be judged, and the bottom line is this: our only job is to love our children, accept them, and guide them," Gloria said. "We cannot be concerned about what people are going to think or say, because that means nothing. This person just because they happen to love someone that you may not want them to love is still the person that you love. Their sexuality is just a small part of who they are, and do we really want our kids to spend the rest of their lives in an unhappy situation just to please society or just to please us?"
"As a society and especially Latinos, we are so concerned about what other people are going to think about our family and how we're going to be judged, and the bottom line is this: our only job is to love our children, accept them, and guide them."
This is exactly how the Estefans talk on Red Table Talk, and it's refreshing to hear in general but especially from Gloria and Lili, who come from generations that aren't always as open and evolved when it comes to these kinds of dialogues. In a time when things are still so uncertain, and many of us are dealing with mental health struggles while desperately trying to maintain social connection, it's comforting to know that there are shows like this that are talking about real things that impact the community but in a way that actually offers relief, healing, and hope for the future.