Bravo is known for dishing out drama on their long list of reality shows but its latest offering, Southern Charm: New Orleans, is a bit off-script for the network that brought us Real Housewives of Atlanta.
If you have ever tuned in to its other Southern Charm shows, you know there isn’t a speck of melanin in any members of the casts from Charleston or Savannah. This time around, Bravo has assembled a diverse crew of friends to star in this version of the franchise that is set in the Big Easy.
TheGrio caught up with two of the show’s stars to find out what we can expect from the series and learn a little more about their marriage and the shade they get from other Black folks in the city.
Tamica Lee and Barry Smith have been married for ten years and they are about to show the world how bougie black couples live and thrive in the south.
Smith is an entrepreneur and fitness guru who is known for training the who’s who of NOLA while his wife, Tamica, is an entertainment reporter who is well-known in the city thanks to her famous family. She is the daughter of the late New Orleans Saints superstar, Bivian Lee II, and her brother has been celebrated for founding the Son of a Saint organization in his honor. She also carried on her family’s legacy as a professional cheerleader for The Saints before becoming a prominent entertainment reporter.
According to Lee, the diverse make up of the show’s cast may surprise viewers, but it’s nothing out of the ordinary.
“The south is still more racially tense than the rest of the country. I think it may be rare to see a blended group for some people but this is how I live my life. There are 20 different experiences in New Orleans. You have totally different areas all next to each other within blocks of each other and so we can’t say we represent all of New Orleans. I don’t represent the ghetto or the blue bloods,” she explains. “I feel like I am the new movement of what NOLA is which is made up of diverse, movers and shakers, socialites of the city. That’s who we are. It’s the most popular and happening part of town that we live in. My group is my group. We don’t deal with race too much in our group of friends. We do talk about it, but it’s not a big issue for the most part when it comes to our friendships.”
In fact both Smith and Lee contend that they have experienced way more shade from fellow Black folks than from their white neighbors.
“We’re not everybody’s flavor who is black. Where we live, its a more affluent area of town. Most black people who live here are affiliated with the NFL. You don’t feel a ton of racial tension and we haven’t had people say anything crazy to us when we are out together. There’s more racial tension coming from black people toward us because of where we are from and how we live,” says Smith. “People are just so stuck into this stereotypical idea of a Black families as if Black people can’t have money or be successful. They buy into the notion that we are supposed to be living paycheck to paycheck or struggling financially and that’s not the reality for everyone just because they’re Black.”
Lee shared a similar sentiment and noted that she’s not bothered by haters in her hood.
“Barry and I are a team and we do what we do for our family because everybody hates on us and throws shade and its really more from Black people than white people. I get it a lot just for being a Black woman who is doing what I am doing. I don’t care,” she says. “If you hate me and you’re still watching me then you’re still a fan so it’s great. I have a husband whom I love and children who can adapt to any situation and are making straight A’s and I’m so proud of them and that’s what I choose to focus on. In my mind, I’m succeeding at life. I have job I love and I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I eat healthy, I take care of myself, I look good. I’m happy so that’s all that matters.”
If you caught the first episode on Sunday, you may have cackled when one of Lee’s white girlfriends had never heard of the iconic film, The Wiz. “We laugh about that stuff. If we go on vacation, they may not understand why I sleep with a scarf on my head,” says Lee. “I’m like, ’I’m trying to keep my edges down, what are you doing?’”
Aside form the occasional need to “blax-plain” her beauty habits, Lee insists there aren’t many racial issues plaguing her group of upwardly mobile comrades and Smith agrees that racism isn’t as prevalent as people from other parts of the country may presume.
“I think people from Los Angeles and other big cities assume Black folks still have to sneak in the back door of restaurants down here and that’s not the case,” he says. ““What I want people to understand is that there are Black couples who are successful and love each other and take care of business. I hate the stereotype of Black men that says they run when they have a kid. There are a lot of good, strong Black fathers out there and strong Black marriages and I’m hoping people see that. I can’t represent all Black men but I’m glad to be a positive representation.”
While Smith is intent on showing the public a positive example of a black man, Lee is more interested in lifting the veil on what a “perfect marriage” is.
“I’m always trying to find balance and trying to be the best wife, mom, and best version of myself. Barry and I as a couple—we fight, we don’t like each other, there are times we don’t have sex, there are times we are all over each other, but that’s what real marriage looks like,” she says. “That’s normal life and I think what people may take away from this is identifying with how real it is. We are a modern-day family. We’re gonna be married forever and I want to be buried next to him when we die.”
Check out the teaser:
Southern Charm: New Orleans airs Sundays at 9/8c on Bravo.