Photo by Wilford Harewood/Bravo
We're half way through Season 3 of The Real Housewives of Atlanta and so far there's been a guest appearance by Ne-Yo, a photo shoot with a pickle, a Kentucky Derby-themed baby shower, and lots and lots of catfights. This season as the revolving door of cast members continues, Lisa Wu-Hartwell has been replaced by entertainment lawyer Phaedra Parks and fashion model Cynthia Bailey. Phaedra is on the verge of giving birth and Cynthia just got engaged to her club-owner boyfriend.
We had a chance to speak with Cynthia and Kandi Burruss (who joined the cast in Season 2) about what it's like being on the show, what was up with the pickle photo shoot, and the success of "Tardy for the Party."
Tune in to The Real Housewives of Atlanta on Bravo, now on Sundays at 10:00 pm.
Q: Cynthia, being the new girl on the show, who do you get along with the most?
CYNTHIA: Well, you know what, I get along with all of them pretty well. I didn’t really shoot with Kim a lot. I didn’t really shoot with Phaedra a lot. I shot the most with NeNe and we ended up connecting more so than with the other girls. I shot with Kandi a little bit as well and… if you can’t get along with Kandi, you can’t really get along with anyone. So...
KANDI: Oh, thanks, Cynthia.
CYNTHIA: No, it’s true. I had already, and just for the record, I had already secretly in my mind picked Kandi out to be my friend on the show, but I didn’t meet her in time. And then I connected with NeNe before I got to her, and then it just didn’t happen. But going into it, every time during the audition process they were like, “So, who do you think you’re going to get along with? Who do you think you’re going to like, or who do you think is going to like you?” I was like, “Oh, my God Kandi, we’re going to be such good friends,” until I met Kandi...
KANDI: That’s hilarious.
CYNTHIA: ...and she was like, “Oh, hi. How are you? I’m Kandi, whatever.” I was like, “Oh, my God.” Now, she’s my best friend...
KANDI: No, usually... it takes a minute to open up to new people, that’s all. But, after... we got to know each other, I loved you.
CYNTHIA: Yeah. That’s okay, Kandi, you’re my best friend in my head, it’s fine.
Q: Now that we’ve gotten a little glimpse into your life with the past few episodes, have you noticed things about yourself that you may want to change?
CYNTHIA: Yeah. Well, seeing myself on TV every week, and then if you watch Bravo all the time, it seems like every five minutes the show seems to be on, and… I get sucked into watching reruns, even though I saw it 35 times already. I notice every flaw that I have for sure and everything seems bigger than life. I was like looking at the last episode and I was like, “Oh, my God, I’m never going to wear my hair like that again,” and, “Oh, my God, all I see is my eyelash glitter right now.” It’s really funny how the first thing I always look at, and I don’t know if this is how I look, and if I look okay and then I worry about what I say or [what] someone said about me. So, it’s been really fun just looking at it from that way personally. And then also it’s really funny, we were in the drive-thru at McDonalds the other day and it was me and Peter and Noelle, and it was like the first time that we got recognized from being on the show. I get a little bit like, “Oh, you’re a model,” here and there, stuff like that, but literally the girl was like, “Is that - oh, my God. Is that you guys? Oh, my God.”
They freaked out, the whole McDonalds. By the time we paid and get to the window to pick up Noelle’s nuggets, everybody had their camera phones. I was like, “Oh, my God.” And I’ve only been in four episodes. I wasn’t even in Episode 1, so I was not really prepared for that. I was like, “Oh, my God. We have how many more episodes to go? What’s going to happen by the time this is almost over?"…It’s just mind blowing how many people watch the show.
Q: Kandi, now that you’ve been part of the cast for a full year, are you noticing the cast members "putting it on" for the cameras?
KANDI: Well, I would say as far as Kim is concerned, she’s not putting it on for the camera. She is the same way when you see her on TV, she’s like that every day, even when the cameras aren’t around. And I think it’s so funny. It’s hilarious to me. Her over-the-top personality, how she’s just, wowed and just say anything to everybody and cursing and smoking cigarettes… She is reality TV Gold because you are not going to find another Kim or another NeNe, or even another Sheree anywhere you go… Their personalities, that’s just who they are on a day-to-day, everyday basis.
And as far as Kim is concerned, me and Kim are friends. I think sometimes friends, we have definitely become friends since starting the show together. We even take family vacations together—all kinds of stuff… She’s not faking for anybody. She’s not putting on. That’s her lifestyle.
And business-wise, I don’t think we necessarily probably should do business together going in the future. I think we should just probably stay cool and hang out together… Going in to the future episodes you’ll see us trying to deal with this song that we’re going to be working together on, and I don’t want to give away anything… but it gets interesting. Let’s just say that.
Q: What surprised you both the most once you started filming the show?
CYNTHIA: You know what surprised me, was how hard it is. Like it looks easy when you’re sitting on your couch watching it on TV. When situations happen, I’m always like, “Oh, if that had happened, if I was on the show, I would have said this and I would checked her, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And sitting on… my couch thankfully away from them, it’s so easy to have such strong opinions about them and different situations. But, when you’re actually on the show it’s very emotionally draining and mentally draining because you’re dealing with six different strong women, six different personalities, and you never know what you’re going to get that day when you shoot. You don’t know what the situation’s going to be and sometimes you’re just not in the mood for certain things. So, I just thought it was like surprisingly harder than it looks on TV.
KANDI: As far as what would I think that surprised me? I just think it’s just the amount of time it takes for them to tape you… I also used to think, I guess I thought that they were going to be taping us 24/7, like you have cameras, secret cameras in your house and stuff... but I was glad to know that part wasn’t true.
Q: Kandi, you used the word bourghetto to describe to describe Phaedra’s eyelash bling, and it’s now blowing up everywhere. Did you ever think it would really catch on like that?
KANDI: No. I mean, honestly that word to me is old, and I didn’t know it was going to be as big of a deal as it is. Everywhere I have turned since that episode has played, everybody wants to talk about the word bourghetto. But, I think it’s the perfect description for people who are just being too much for no reason. They’re going all out their way to try to make it seem like they have this, this, and that going on, but it comes off all like just wrong.
Q: And talking about Phaedra, what did you think of her pickle photo shoot?
KANDI: That was hilarious to me. I was laughing. I even rewinded it back when I had watched it. And I was sitting there, I was cracking up, especially when her husband put one end in his mouth… And then, when the photographer was like, “Don’t suck, don’t chew,” or something. Oh, my God that was hilarious. I would have been so embarrassed… Sometimes you have these moments where things happen or you’re doing something, you’re in the moment of doing something, but it doesn’t occur to you when it’s happening how crazy it looks to other people until… you see it [on] TV.
CYNTHIA: I can add to that. As a model… I’m really used to doing photo shoots, so as soon as I saw Phaedra come out with a jar of pickles I knew that that was either going to be really cute or it was going to go really wrong. And I was like, “Oh, boy. I don’t know about this pickle shoot.” But… at the same time, I definitely wouldn’t have suggested that because that just looked crazy. It just looked crazy to see.
KANDI: I don’t remember whose... idea was it.
CYNTHIA: I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m going to say maybe Phaedra more so than Apollo. I can’t imagine that he really was like, “Hey, babe, let’s go get a big jar of dill pickles and do a photo shoot,” like I just can’t imagine that he would want to do that. But I can tell you this, it did make me want to go out and get a pickle. I haven’t had a pickle like that since I was like younger. I was like, “Oh, my God,” like it looked really good after a while.
KANDI: I’ve been actually wanting a pickle ever since I saw it… Hilarious.
Q: Cynthia, what do you think about Sheree’s new love interest, Tiy-E?
CYNTHIA: Well, I had an opportunity to meet him and he talks. He talks a lot. I thought he was kind of an interesting choice for Sheree. I don’t know Sheree that well, but if I was going to do a matchmaker night at my house I would never put those two together. I just wouldn’t think that he was really her type. But like she said, maybe she’s trying something different. My only thing that I suggest for him is I think he should like cut his hair. I think he should shave it because the receding hair thing in the middle is a little distracting. I think he would look a lot better… if he just shaved it off… That train track that goes down [the middle]… I don’t think that’s sexy. He’s not bad looking… He’s not Denzel, but he’s not horrible to look at…
KANDI: ...I mean personally, I don’t really think that he’s a real doctor, you know? I had heard some things about him… from his past or whatever, so when I had found out about him I was like, “Is the same dude that blah, blah, blah?” I don’t know… what all they’re going to show in the future, but I don’t know. I definitely knew he wasn’t the guy for Sheree and he’s doing way too much, trying to force the situation with the whole trying to make her lick cookie dough off his finger, and I don’t know. He’s not what I see Sheree dating.
Q: The Real Housewives of Atlanta is one of, if not the, most popular housewives show, yet it is the only Housewives show that has a predominantly African-American cast. Are you surprised by the lack of diversity on the other housewives shows?
KANDI: Atlanta is known as a city with a lot of African-Americans that are doing well for themselves. So to me, I think it’s a good thing that [they] chose Atlanta to be the city that does have… he most African-American women.
You got to understand that if you’re talking about people that actually hang out together, unfortunately, a lot of societies is still, people still, don’t mingle as much as they should interracially, and that’s my own personal opinion. I think people still separate theirselves (sic). So, if you pick somebody, pick a city and say, “Okay it’s a great group of mixed raced women hanging out together,” I don’t see it a lot. Not here in Atlanta, maybe if you’re in somewhere maybe like LA maybe, or New York, maybe. I don’t know.
But, if you’re basing off of people who actually really knew each other prior to being picked for the show… I was picked later on, but I know NeNe, she new Kim really for real. She knew Sheree. So it was like she actually picked people that she knew and hung out with personally. It wasn’t like they just actually just went around and just picked random people. It’s like it’s based off of people who actually hung out together.
CYNTHIA: Well, I think Kandi explained it pretty well. I think as the new addition to the show, Atlanta, [as] Kandi said.. it has a very high majority African-Americans that are doing things here. And me coming from New York City to Atlanta, one of the first things that I thought when I came to Atlanta it was like, “Wow, black people that are doing things.” There’s so many black colleges. I just think Atlanta really represents African-Americans really well, so I think it’s kind of cool that the Atlanta show is mostly black.
Q: Do either of you watch the other Housewives franchises? And if you do, which cast member do you most identify with?
KANDI: I used to watch Jersey on that first season. I followed them the whole season. I didn’t really catch as much their second season, but I really love Jacqueline, she’s really cool to me. And actually, I really like a lot of them on the Jersey cast. I met them in person and they’re all really cool and fun to be around, but before I actually met them and just watching them on TV, Jacqueline just seemed like she was real laid back, real nice, but you could tell if you pushed her button then she’ll flip, and that’s how I related to her a lot. I feel like I’m real laid back or whatever, but if you push me the wrong way you’ll get something that you don’t want to see. You know what I mean? So, I really liked her a lot.
And then also, I just started watching Beverly Hills and I like the whole fact that… they have that ridiculous money. They have money to just burn, so I thought that was cool to be able to see what all they have going on, especially the one who owns the basketball team. She seems like really... really cool. For all the money that she has, she doesn’t seem fazed by it. It’s just because she was born into money and she makes a lot of money, but it’s not like she’s fazed by it. She just has fun and [does] her thing, and I like that.
CYNTHIA: And I agree with Kandi on the Beverly Hills. I just started watching that one as well, and I love the fact that, these women have so much money that nothing that they do ever needs to be pointed out. Like if someone has a Birkin bag, nobody cares because they all probably have 25, so it’s not like, “Oh, Birkin bag in the house.”
You know what I mean? Everyone else has one, it’s like a big deal. But for them, you just expect it and… I love how they’re just so nonchalant about it. And I like that older lady. I don’t know her name. I’m so bad. But, I like her vibe… The one with the really cute dog?
KANDI: The English one, right? ...She’s really fun too. I think her and her husband they actually seem like they really do love each other and really have a great relationship, whereas some of them it seems like a business partnership.
CYNTHIA: Exactly. And I just feel like she really is just this rich housewife lady that lives in Beverly [Hills]. I was going to go to Beverly Hills and visit a rich housewife, it would be her. I would think they would look like her… She fits the bill so well.
And then also, myself just coming [from] New York City for the past 25 years, I watch the New York girls as well, because I just really got their humor and their whole just obnoxiousness and whatever.
And I really like Bethenny a lot just because I felt like, even when she took a dig at someone, she really tried to make it funny. And I think being on a show with six different women, for me I didn’t really join the show just to be mean to people and try to just hurt their feelings for no good reason. I just thought, “Okay, great, if you come for me, I’m going to come for you back.” But, I’m just going to try to have fun with it because I don’t believe fakes take it that personal. But, unfortunately, the name of the game with the show is, we can’t all sit around in a circle and sing Kumbaya. You know what I mean?
Q: Kandi, could talk about going on tour with Fantasia?
KANDI: Oh, I’m leaving tonight and I’m headed to Norfolk, Virginia.
Q: How many cities are on the tour?
KANDI: It’s like 30, no… I think it’s 26 cities. The tour’s going to last all the way through the first week of January. This weekend... we’re hitting Norfolk, we’re hitting Philly, and we’re going to Baltimore. Actually, we’re going to Willis’ city on Sunday, and I’m looking forward to this whole tour because Fantasia and I are actually friends. And so, we have so much fun when we’re together and I’m just excited that she even allowed me to be on the tour with her and opening up… She’s the headliner of course, and then Eric Benet is on the tour and El Debarge and Tank is going to join on the tour on some of the dates when we start in December, I believe, but I’m very excited about this. This is my first time going on tour since 2001. So, I’m nervous, but at the same time I’m excited.
Q: Kandi, why did you let Kim take all the royalties for "Tardy for the Party"?
KANDI: Well, basically what happened was prior to her putting the song up for sale on iTunes, the guy who did the track for me, Don Vito, I had him to have a conversation with her about the business of the song, how we were going to split the money, or whatever because we and… just started being friends and I thought it would… keep things cool between us for her to have the conversation with somebody else. So, the agreement was that we were supposed to split the royalty from the record three ways, right? And when she got the first check or whatever… she split it three ways; so it was understood. But then, I guess she had a meeting with her attorney, and he was like, “Well, no, you shouldn’t have to give them a third of the money you make off the song. You should just only have to give them their portion of the publishing, which is a writer’s royalty or whatever. But, the overall royalty from the song you should be able to keep that yourself.”
Now mind you, we didn’t put it in writing what our agreement was about just splitting the song three ways or whatever. You know what I’m saying? I mean, well we did do our writer’s split or whatever, but as far as the royalties for the whole song, we did not do any agreement for that. It was no type of producer’s agreement or anything. Like we didn’t put anything in place, it was just a verbal agreement.
So, when she came at me, she was just like, “I was just so upset. My lawyer said that I shouldn’t have to pay you this, this, and that.” And the way she came at me felt like she was trying to say I took advantage of her or something. You know what I mean? And so, it kind of pissed me off. And she asked me for her money back, and so I gave it back to her because I don’t want anybody to ever say that I took advantage of them, or I don’t want people to ever feel like, that I ever did them wrong in a situation. There’ll never be anybody that could come back and say I did bad business with them or anything like that. You know what I’m saying? I’m not with that. I don’t want people to say I try to take their money or anything like that.
Although, you know, there’s no way she could say it because first of all, I didn’t charge for anything up front. She used my studio, I was the one that found all the people to make the song happen. I did all the work. The only thing I didn’t do was, be her and sing it. You know what I mean?
So, at that point to just to keep things cool, and for us to just be cool, I just gave her her money back… I just was done with it. I was like, “Okay, well let her have it,” because… she never did it through a major, she just did it herself through iTunes and the money was coming directly to her. It wasn’t like I had anybody printing out statements for me on the record.
So, I just said I’ll just let her have it. It’s cool. Just going forward before I put another song up on iTunes or any type of site where she could sell the music or whatever, we would definitely have to have an agreement in writing of how either the royalties are going to be split, and how is she going to pay me up front or however we’re going to do it.
Q: Do you think that Kim truly has a shot at being a pop star?
KANDI: Well, this is my thing. I’ve seen a lot of artists over the years who weren’t necessarily the best singers in the world just have great music. To me, it’s all about having the right producer, the right songwriters, and the right promotion team behind you. And we already know Kim has a following just from people watching her on the show every day. So, if she has the right company behind her backing her and pushing her, she could sell the records if she had the right song. I mean "Tardy for the Party," it turned out to be a great record, people were playing it in the clubs, it even started getting radio air play and she didn’t even have a label promoting it. It was just her from the television show and from what she did on her own. So to me, if she did have a company or a major label behind her really pushing the music… she may not be the best singer in the world, but she could have had some really… hot songs. Just like there’s a lot of artists out there who have hot songs that are not necessarily great singers.
Q: When’s your album coming out?
KANDI: My album comes out December 14 and it’s called Kandi Coated.
Q: Can you both talk about what you like to wear these days, what designers?
KANDI: I’m not driven by name brands, as far as clothes and stuff. But of course with shoes… I think every woman loves Christian Louboutin and I love any hot shoe, so it doesn’t really have to be a particular name for me. I’m not a brand person. I have a store now, it’s called TAGS Boutique, so we do have all kind of hot, cute clothes, but it’s not necessarily a particular brand.
CYNTHIA: I kind of agree with Kandi with the whole I’m not a big label girl these days anymore either. I think just from being a model and just having so much access to fashion and just being a part of it for so many years that I feel like at this point like… I’ve walked the runways of Paris, London, and Milan, whatever. I just have my own kind of personal sense of style. I do what I do. I do, like Kandi said, I do like a nice shoe. I’m definitely looking for a nice boot. I can’t stop… I love UGGs… I just think a fresh pair of UGGs every year is just necessary because they’re just so ridiculously comfortable, so I’m definitely going to get myself a new pair of those. I also, the shoe designer, one of my favorites is Louboutin’s too, but I also love Giuseppe Zanotti… So I’m going to probably get myself a nice pair of his boots soon. I’m actually going to New York on Sunday, so I’m going to hit up his boutique and see what’s going on in there. But anyway… just in terms of the clothes… a good pair of jeans is good. I like Joe Brand jeans for myself. I like just kind of plain Hanes T-shirts and stuff. Just put a great pair of jeans on, a cute shoe or a flip-flop or whatever. I love head scarves. That’s my whole thing. I love hats and hat scarves. If you were going to see me anywhere, nine times out of ten I’m going to be rocking some kind of head scarf or a hat.
KANDI: Now, I can say I do love Wolford shirts and tank tops... It’s just the way they fit against your body. It makes your body look so good, you know? So Wolford, I definitely have to say I love those.
CYNTHIA: I like American Apparel t-shirts and tank tops, and I also love to do [an] H&M run, where I just go in and just get a couple pieces to throw with stuff that I have already. It’s all about mixing it up. You know what I mean? I’m not the kind of woman that would ever be head to toe in Gucci or Dolce. I just think that’s so uninteresting.
KANDI: Now, you’re seeing an example for bourghetto. No, I used that example for bourghetto the other day. I was like, somebody who was wearing Louis Vuitton hat, a Louis Vuitton scarf, a Louis Vuitton belt, then shoes...
CYNTHIA: That’s crazy.
KANDI: ...yeah, it was just like, come on.
CYNTHIA: Like who does that?
KANDI: There are people out there who do that.
CYNTHIA: I don’t think that’s fashion. I think that’s just going into Gucci or Louis Vuitton and just buying everything you can get, and then just putting it on. I don’t think you’re making any kind of fashion statement. I just think you look like you’re trying just a little too hard.