Phaedra Parks is not just a constant on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”, she is the original “Southern Belle”. While other legendary Atlanta ladies like Nene Leakes and Kim Zolciak have left the show, Ms. Parks has stuck around season after season to share her adorable family, her sassy southern etiquette, and sometimes, a much needed read to one of her cast mates (or non-cast mates). Phaedra took some time to chat with me about everything from her relationships with her cast mates to what it’s like raising two young boys in the heightened state our nation is in right now. Phaedra shows that behind the pomp and circumstance that IS Phaedra Parks, there is a socially conscious mother who is interested in making the world around her better for everyone.
You are now an anchor cast member for “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and arguably one of the most beloved Housewives throughout the franchise. What made you come back for another season with the ladies? You know, it’s always great to share your journey. I think my journey, my ups and downs, has inspired people. If I can help someone along the way on their own journey, what I am doing is not in vain. So many of these shows have women that are uneducated or aspire to do nothing but act foolish. I think to balance the playing field and let young women and young girls know that to be on television, you don’t have to be ratchet, or curse all the time, and act the fool. You can conduct yourself with some decorum and class; that is the message that I hope I am portraying. Smart is sexy; to go to school and get educated, having goals that are bigger than your Louboutin’s is amazing.
You spoke last season and now this season much more about the plight of black young men and of the Black Lives Matter movement. Seeing you use your platform for such an admirable mission is definitely inspiring and is missing from a number of the Housewives franchises. Do you think you feel a responsibility to bring these issues to people’s attention with the platform that you have? Most definitely. As a person of color, God could have allowed me to be anything. When I was born, I came out as a woman and as a black person. Part of my purpose is to serve women and people of color. If I was meant to be anything else, I would have been born differently. I know that one of the reasons I am here on this planet is to serve others and make sure that there is equality. Now while we are in a place with equality where there have been strides, we have many more miles to walk before there is true equality, not just for women, but all people of color; Latinos, Muslims, the LGBT community, anyone who finds themselves in a place that they are looked at differently than the majority.
Raising two little boys both in front of and behind the cameras, is it difficult to raise them as a single mother and letting them know that they could someday be looked at differently? Well ,my ex-husband (Apollo Nida) is biracial, so my former in-laws are essentially white. Unlike most African American boys, they have white in-laws and are probably around more white people than people of color, just based on where we live and the schools that they go to. The thing I have to do is make sure that they know that they are African American boys and while we may live in this wonderful area and town, and they go to prestigious schools, when they leave from my care and they leave these prestigious schools, they will be viewed differently. Right now they are viewed as very cute. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (representing Florida’s 24th District) and I talk about this all the time; when is the point that your cute and handsome little boy goes from being just that to being a predator or having people afraid of them because of their skin tone? That is a hard conversation that we have to have in the United States. While people want to sweep it under the rug, it is something that happens every day. If I go into a store and I am not dressed in a certain way and people don’t know who I am, I will be followed. I am a very affluent person; if i can happen to me, I can only imagine what happens to the young boy with the hoodie. The young boy that walks onto the wrong side of town innocently and is looked upon as doing something criminal or is a predator.
To counter balance the social issues that you are bringing forth on the show, you do have to deal with the drama that some of the ladies can bring. Now this season, it looks like Kandi’s mother Mama Joyce is getting in on the act. Is it sad for you to watch your formerly close friendship with cast mate Kandi Burress Tucker come unraveled? Yeah, it’s very...pathetic. You know, I am never surprised about anything. You never know who a person is until a person shows you, and when they do show you, you better believe them.
Conversely, I had a chat with Kenya Moore right as the season kicked off and she had wonderful things to say about you and the possibility of rekindling your friendship. Is it nice to see things start to change with someone who you have had such a rocky relationship with in the past? You know, we have had a tumultuous relationship in the past few years. When Kenya came on the show, we started off as friends. At the end of the day, both of our lives have changed and you can’t keep holding onto the past. I always tell people, “never forget that you have to forgive”. We have moved into a space of being cordial and moved to a space of peace. I took her with me to the camp I gave children in Flint, MI. That allowed us to be away from the pettiness in Atlanta and do something to help the community. That is her home state, and it was a great time for both of us. It allowed us to mend fences and come to a place where we say that we can have a truce and not continue to go back and forth; we can move forward.
While we are glad you have moved on into a better place with Kenya, we will miss your legendary reads. “Everybody knows” that no one can give a read like Phadera Parks! (laughs) well thank you honey! I am excited to hear that!
So many of the other franchises have had major shakeups with their cast, and while you have had some “friends” come in and leave, you have not had a major shake up to the cast. Do you want the cast to really be juggled around? If something is working , why change it? If it ain’t broke, you don’t fix it you know? It’s always great to have new blood, but I think because there has been so much evolution with the women, like me for example, I went through a hell storm with my personal life. Kandi got married and had a child, Porsha is in a new place, the stories are not all boring; why change it up if you don’t have to? You have seen some new people enter into the world ,but in particular in Atlanta, it’s tough to find people to hang with this group; we are all very opinionated. It’s a difficult circle sometimes.
If you could look back on the Phaedra that walked into the show and give that young Georgia Peach a piece of advice, what would you tell her? I think the best advice is to avoid social media, realize that not everyone is going to like you, and that you have to stand in your own truths. Most of all, if you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything. That is what I have tried to do on the show, I have tried to stand for something. I have remained consistent over the years. People know with me it’s God first, family second, fighting for people are voiceless is important to me, as is being kind.