In the world of reality television, there’s a new drama series on the block that has ears burning and tongues wagging. Bravo’s latest edition to the Sunday night prime-time line-up is “Invite Only Cabo,” which rolls into its fifth episode this week. The show stars Chicago native and celebrity hairstylist Larry Sims, who invites six of his closest friends on an exclusive vacation in the luxury resort town of Los Cabos, Mexico.
Midway into the season, we immediately connect with Sims’ friends and cast members—Kamani Alana, Bianca Banks, Agu Ukaogo, Emily Moses, Malaku Quisada and long-time friend and fellow Chicagoan Jermane Britton.
A former dancer for some of the biggest recording artists in the business, Sims has grown to become one of the most sought-after hairstylists in the entertainment business. His client roster is impressive, styling Queen Latifah, Tracee Ellis Ross, Lupita Nyong’o, Kerry Washington, Mary J. Blige and Gabrielle Union.
His crazy schedule has kept the Los Angeles transplant grinding non-stop for his high-profile clients and devoid of a real vacation in over five years. Invite Only Cabo gives the viewers a peek into the jet setter stylist’s private life. His friends come along for the experience—each with booming personalities and outspoken opinions, which can sometimes crash and burn within the tight-knit but luxurious mansion.
“The reality of my life was responsive. People have so many opinions. People are arguing that I’m gay, saying it was fake and scripted, but the world doesn’t know I don’t do anything that is fake. I don’t have to, I’m comfortable in my skin. I’m not hiding anything about who I am. It’s interesting to see the dynamic of conversation that is being had throughout the show. When people do podcasts and reviews that means that people are talking about it. I’m happy that they’re talking,” Sims says.
Fellow cast member Jermane Britton agrees with Sims. The two have been friends for over two decades having met while Sims danced for notable House music singer Dajae and Britton worked for the singer’s record label Cajual Records in the 1990’s.
“Larry kind of discovered me in a sense. I always knew I wanted to be in this world of business. Our friendship lit a fire in my career. I knew then, after watching him and being friends, that this is what I wanted to do,” Britton said. Similar to Sims, he moved away from Chicago. Britton relocated to New York City, working for dance music DJ and producer Roger Sanchez for a while—later taking a job as a personal assistant for then-married couple Nas and singer Kelis.
Britton says, “I get to see how Larry is with somebody else with me currently being in the situation–now when I look at it, I’m inside of it. It’s really amazing to see …”
“At the beginning, when I was approached about the opportunity from the production company and Bravo—I thought to myself, ‘not only do I want to bring interesting, cool and dynamic people together, I want to infuse people who have good platforms’,” Sims said.
“Bravo TV is the ‘best of the best’ in terms of networks. We have eight weeks on a primetime slot. I remember Gabrielle [Union] went to lunch with me and a few of the guys prior to the show coming on. She said, ‘Whatever you do, be prepared. Don’t allow this opportunity to come and go and you’re not ready. Set up your website, have a publicist, have a business plan if you’re selling or promoting things. Make sure you’re ready.’”
Conflicts and Arguments
With Sims at the center of the mixed feelings shared between him and friend, Bianca Banks, things get awkward. Bringing everyone together brought out various emotions.
“It was an incredibly strange balance to be on a vacation with people who I’ve never gone on a vacation with. As long as I’ve known Jermane, we’ve never gone on a trip where it was just fun. We’ve never stayed with each other under one roof extensively and to re-introduce myself to my friendships with things I hadn’t done before,” he explains. “As far as things that were controversial or honest or things I didn’t understand—I was the peacemaker. I tried to diffuse a lot of things. With grown folks under one roof, everyone is really ‘alpha’ and had their own opinions. I tried to make everyone see both sides of the coin.”
The two haven’t always had it easy, both starting in Chicago—a market that is third in the nation but falls behind when trying to make it successfully in the entertainment world. They both come home for the holidays to visit family and friends. And the two understand that with success comes the responsibility of doing their best without regrets.
Moving Beyond Chicago
“Growing up in Chicago, I used to think it was so big and we did everything. Once I went to Japan or London and saw how other people were living doing business—I thought there’s so much more to the business than what I saw, heard and received,” said Britton.
Having moved to Los Angeles in 1998—Sims went on tour with artists such as Missy Elliott—eventually becoming a personal assistant to the platinum singer and songwriter. He returned home a few years later to attend Pivot Point, earning his certification in cosmetology. Without looking back—he relocated back to L.A. to work with his friends in the business—as a hairstylist. Nearly 14 years later, he knows this was the best decision that created life-altering opportunities.
“It’s difficult because when you’re in Chicago—it has a way of pulling you in. I grew up with people who have never left the West Side—they barely go downtown. For me, being able to see the world through the eyes of performing allowed me to dream bigger than what my circumstances were.
“Unfortunately, some people don’t have that. People become products of their environment. We become our parents, we become our grandparents, we become our siblings and cousins who are okay with having the regular job. They have families and kids to support,” Sims said. “You have to dream. You have to look at people who have made it—people like Jermane and I can inspire people to show them, ‘We’re from where you’re from and look at what we’ve accomplished in our lives.’”
With the complexities of the series, Sims and Britton admit it is one of the few Bravo shows with a predominately African-American cast with an extended LGBTQ following. They are both comfortable with representing both communities when approached by fans.
Britton reflects on advice Sims gave him prior to filming. “He said, ‘Don’t go on television and be something you’re not. Be who you are.’ The storm is starting to rain a little bit harder. I’m okay with it because I don’t believe God gives you something you can’t handle.”
A free spirit with an electric personality, Sims’ easy-going nature attracts an abundance of friends and associates. “I’ll be 41 this year and I’m unapolegetic about who I am. I’m really proud of the things that I’ve accomplished in my life. I’m living my truth out loud. As you watch the season unfold, you’ll see my truth come out, louder and louder.”
Catch up with the cast of “Invite Only Cabo” Sunday nights at 8pm CT/9pm ET on Bravo. Check your cable network for channel listings.