I’ve spoken to many people who know “Real Housewives of Atlanta” cast member Phaedra Parks in her professional life and are flummoxed by the way she acted and talked on the show in her first season.
In episode three, she said her husband Apollo, having grown up in a white household, prefers canned goods. At one point, she referred to NeNe as a “heffer.” Later, she expressed her love for strippers. (See my favorite Phaedra quotes below.)
In an interview this week to promote the fourth season of the show, the entertainment attorney said she’s playing a character. Sure, there are aspects of her personality that are silly and Southern belle-esque, but the producers prefer to highlight that side of her over her more serious side.
So she is well aware that she can say 80 intelligent, insightful things and one dopey or catty thing and guess what? The producers air the dopey or catty quote.
“I try to live without regrets,” Parks said. “At the end of the day, I hope when people watch the show, they realize it’s for entertainment. If you don’t have editing rights, you can say a lot of different things and once it’s on the editing table, it might look like something else. That’s part of reality TV. Everything on reality TV isn’t as real as you think it is.”
Does all the scrutiny make her more careful the second time around about what she says? “It doesn’t matter how careful you are. Whatever your character is is what they make it to be. It’s not who I am but who the producers think I am. For people who know me, they understand that. We each have distinct characters on the show. No one is one dimensional. Characters have to be consistent to the part they’re playing.”
Ultimately, Parks said the show hasn’t changed her. “I still have the same friends. I am still doing the same things I was doing prior to ‘Housewives.’ ”
Does this impact her reputation in legal circles? “I’ve been practicing law since 1999,” Parks said. “My reputation was solid prior to the show. I’ve been president of the Minority Bar Association [specially called the Gate City Bar Association.]. I’ve sat on big boards in Atlanta. My reputation speaks for itself. The TV show hasn’t changed people’s thoughts about me. It makes me more recognizable. My business was never based on the general public or advertising. It’s always been a boutique firm working off referrals. We still get all the referrals we need and more. My principle has never been to serve everyone. I’m a very specific type of attorney dealing with a very specific type of clientele.”
In the first episode this Sunday, Parks shows interest in the funeral-home business. She has done a lot of work dealing with legal issues of family members who have passed away. “For the past five to six years, I’ve been involved in a lot of funerals. I like the creative aspects of planning funerals and doing funeral programs. This year, I’m really delving into a little more, learning all aspects of the business.” She has even entered a part-time program to learn about the mortuary business, while juggling a new baby, her husband, the show and her legal practice.
Her closest friend on the show is Kandi Burruss, the musician. “We speak quite a bit,” she said. “I knew her prior to the show but this has afforded us more time to hang out with each other. I consider her part of my close circle of friends.”
A teaser on the show also reveals she represented Sheree Whitfield in her child support case against her husband Bob. “I did it with Bobby Brown,” she said. “Family law is emotionally exhausting. You’re dealing with people’s emotions. You’re talking about something very near and dear to them. Sheree and I have become close friends as well. Any time a friend comes for legal advice, I’ll do anything I can.”
Asked about NeNe Leakes, she got cagey. “Obviously, we take a very long trip to Africa,” she said.
And why was she not on the pre-season “Before they were stars” episode that aired this past Sunday? “My aunt was sick in the hospital. I was helping my family out. After my aunt passed, my grandmother had a stroke. I couldn’t tape during that time.” She said if there’s a future episode like this, she’ll hopefully be able to participate.
She is also enjoying life with a 15-month infant Ayden. “I know why moms spoil their kids and take up for them when they shouldn’t,” she said. “It’s a crazy bond.” And she said her husband Apollo has become the disciplinarian. “I’m the marshmallow,” she said.
She confirmed that Bravo upped the episode number for season four to 18 from 16 season three, not counting the reunion shows. And since the show is debuting a month later than it did in 2010, the season won’t conclude until April.
You can’t blame Bravo. Of all the “Housewives” shows, this one is the most popular.
Notable Phaedra quotes from season three:
- “If they aren’t talking about you, you aren’t relevant” – Phaedra episode one
“I kept thinking that Dwight might be jumped by those heffers” – Phaedra, referencing NeNe & Co. at Uptown Lounge & Restaurant when NeNe confronted him over some money issue, episode 2
“If you act the fool in public, you’ll act the fool anywhere.” – Phaedra, epitomizing the “Real Housewives” aesthetic, episode 2
“Apollo does not like very elaborate dishes. I am a connoisseur of finer foods. Growing up in white households, he’s not used to all this fancy stuff. He likes canned food and packed meats. He doesn’t care. It’s important to feed people the way I like to be fed which is best of the best.” – Phaedra, in episode three. She later said she said all that “in jest.”
“Be a lawyer: get your money honey!” - Phaedra, providing advice to a child who wants to be a model, episode 5
“This is like an estate sale in the parking lot of a burger joint” – Phaedra, about Kim’s sale of her stuff, episode 6
I’m only going to have this baby one time so I’m going to do it with style” – Phaedra, packing for the hospital with fancy gowns and panties, episode 7
“This is a twin-size bed. Don’t they come bigger than that?” – Phaedra, as she is placed on a bed at a hospital ready to get induced, episode 8
“I’ve never been this up close and personal with poop.” – Phaedra, after Ayden poops on her during the photo shoot, episode 10
“If Kim is a nurse, she must have one of those mail-order degrees, one of those you get for $59.” - Phaedra, after hearing from Dwight that Kim claim nursing credentials, episode 11
“Just because you strip in a nurse’s outfit doesn’t mean you’re a nurse.” - Phaedra again going after Kim. (Kim actually did have a practical nurse’s certificate but wasn’t a registered nurse.) episode 11
“Cynthia doesn’t have a brain of her own, poor thing.” -Phaedra, being catty after hearing Dwight Eubanks pass on false information about Cynthia, episode 11
“She’s like Jessica Rabbit gone bad.” – Phaedra, on Kim in an over-tight black dress, episode 13
“I think people who see me in the courtroom being the little Johnny Cochran will be surprised that I’m Martha Stewart on the inside all day!” - Phaedra, being Phaedra, episode 14
“We’re attractive, we’re doing well and unfortunately, people are not happy for other people’s success in Atlanta. Haterville!” – Phaedra, being Phaedra, episode 14
“I do enjoy delighting in the pleasure of good stripping.” – Phaedra, episode 16
“She’s looking like a pretzel dipped in cottage cheese.” – Phaedra, on Cynthia’s walkway appearance, episode 16
“The Real Housewives of Atlanta” 9 p.m. Bravo, Sundays, starting November 6
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk