On Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” Kenya Moore is the reality TV queen viewers love to hate.
A former Miss USA, Moore made her debut by getting into a shouting match at a charity event after a cast mate mistakenly called her a former Miss America, which she took as an insult. She later shamelessly flirted with cast mate Phaedra Parks’ husband, Apollo, and ripped off their idea for a line of butt-enhancing workout DVDs. Yes, the show is over the top, and usually the antics are good, campy fun.
But on Sunday’s episode, things got scary.
After smashing her windows in a previous episode and reportedly kicking in a door during an argument in a hotel, Kenya’s ex-lover, personal trainer Matt Jordan, sent her a barrage of threatening text messages.
“Do anything to manipulate any situation from this point on and I promise you on every fiber of my being, you’ll regret every move you’ll make. Call the police, I promise you’ll regret it. Flirt with another guy, I promise you’ll regret it,” he allegedly texted.
As if this isn’t terrifying enough, Matt later drove three hours to crash Kenya’s gig hosting a nightclub opening in Charlotte. As the cameras rolled and Kenya screamed, he violently confronted her in the parking lot, eventually reaching into her car and hitting her driver.
It felt like “a Lifetime movie,” Kenya’s friend, supermodel Cynthia Bailey, said. But even though this is all happening in front of cameras, it isn’t a movie. Kenya Moore is a real person who is clearly the victim of escalating violent behavior at the hands of an erratic ex-lover. Was Bravo okay with keeping the cameras rolling until she got hurt — or worse — before getting her some help?
Last season, when a group of men were invited to party at the gang’s beach house in Miami, Wizards player Glen Rice Jr. tried to attack Kenya after she asked him to leave. The altercation resulted in another woman on the show, Rice’s aunt, being hospitalized.
On the reunion when the cast mates rehashed the incident, several of them blamed Kenya’s penchant for dramatic behavior for the altercation. “You kept pushing him until you got a reaction,” cast mate Porsha chided. It was singer Kandi Burruss who came to Kenya’s defense, reminding the rest of the cast, “there is no way they should be supporting that type of aggression towards women.”
Kenya Moore is certainly dramatic and over the top, but that doesn’t excuse Matt’s violent, abusive, and scary behavior. The framing of Kenya as a drama queen who is always having conflicts only makes it easier to dismiss Matt’s unacceptable behavior toward his former lover and further push the harmful narrative that victims of domestic violence are to blame for their own abuse.
It’s irresponsible of Bravo to play intimate partner violence as fodder for ratings or reality television “tea” for viewers when someone is clearly being victimized by a former partner. Abuse isn’t TV drama; it’s a crime with real consequences.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline .