It's hard acting like you have some sense when you're on a reality television series.
But for Phaedra Parks, her job as an attorney to some of entertainment's big names has prepared her for her latest career venture as one of two new cast members on Bravo's top-rated 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta.'
The Athens, Georgia native has represented Bobby Brown, Ludacris, Jermaine Dupri and Too Short with her boutique agency, The Parks Group, P.C., and served as a legal analyst for NBC and Fox News. Still, showcasing her personal life has been something that she wasn't fully prepared for.
BlackVoices.com gets some insight into how this self-proclaimed "Southern Belle" is dealing with it all.
Blackvoices.com: Why'd you join the third season of 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta?'
Phaedra Parks: It was a challenge. It was something very new and I had done production on other reality shows and I worked in some casting capacities and this was the opportunity for me to broaden my horizons and see how it was to be in front of the camera instead of behind the scenes. It was the perfect time I was on leave because I was pregnant because my workload was different because I was on maternity leave.
BV: What was your impression of the show and ladies before joining?
PP: I wasn't a huge fan of the show. I didn't watch the show faithfully and I was familiar with most of the people on the show just from being in Atlanta and frequenting some of the same shopping districts. So, I knew them all, but didn't have a close relationship with any of them besides Kandi [Burruss] who I hung out with and we travel in a lot of the same circles.
BV: Were you worried it would affect your reputation or practice?
PP: I knew the show wasn't going to be focused on my law practice per say and I have a boutique firm so the general public is not my clientele. I don't do any advertising so when people come for my service they have been referred or hear about me from another client so my reputation speaks for itself I never planned on doing anything that would discredit my name and at the end of the day my clients understand this is entertainment.
BV: Kandi Burruss, your cast mate, said she was really happy you joined the cast because half the women on the shows don't really have jobs.
PP: I feel the same way about Kandi. I think Atlanta is the new Motown we have the arts here and we made people that had dreams of being a performer. And Kandi has diversified herself not only as a performer, but as a businesswomen. She's sharp as a tact and I love being around her because she's just like me. We're about the grind. Doing the work and being on to the next opportunity. I saw this show as giving me the opportunity to show people someone who had a dream and is from a small town. Sometimes, I'm portrayed in a light that I don't always agree with, but at the end of the day, I want people to respect what I've done.
BV: Speaking of not always being portrayed in a positive light, how do you feel about your portrayal since the first few episodes of 'Housewives' have aired?
PP: I think because my background is different from some of the other ladies, you have to make a distinction and sometimes how they distinguish me is not really who I am. If you meet me , I'm probably the most humble down-to-earth person mentoring young girls and on the show you don't see that part of my character. I think I'm portrayed as a snob and I've never been a snob, but at the end of the day people have to realize you're only seeing 15 minutes of me on the screen and I've lived over 30 years. You can't sum up a person's character in a matter of 15 to 17 minutes one night a week.
BV: When you watch 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' many people complain that the women on the show are not reflective of most of the Southern women who live in Atlanta. Do you think the women give an accurate portrayal?
PP: I think women in Atlanta are definitely go-getters. We are very determined women and very successful and ambitious women and women in Atlanta definitely have a certain style and class about themselves. I received a lot of calls from businesswomen and colleagues that said, 'Phaedra you represent us well because the face of Atlanta is not just about people going to the mall and shopping and drinking wine –and not saying there's anything wrong with that because I like to go to the mall, too – but women in Atlanta are definitely trailblazers. I definitely consider myself to be a trailblazer. There's nowhere else I could be where I would be mid-30s and run a law firm and be accepted.
BV: One of the big topics on the show has been your relationship with your husband Apollo [Nida] and your thoughts on if you can get over his incarceration then everybody else should. Was Apollo at all worried about that coming out on television?
PP: It's public information. It's public information and it was already out there. You could've googled it years ago and saw it and I'm not ashamed of my husband and will never be ashamed of my husband. I love my husband. This is something we should have dialogue: how do people re-enter into society after they have been convicted of a felony? Do we condemn everyone who spends time in prison? Is there no redemption?
BV: Nene Leakes said he went to jail for stealing cars. Is that really a white collar crime?
PP: He didn't go to jail for stealing cars. He went to jail for racketeering. It's easy to say what he went to jail for when you aren't educating yourself and reading the case. And, I don't know if she's qualified to make a statement about anything unless she is a legally educated [person] and can read the case and cite to the actual case.
BV: But, you are ok with your husband's past and don't have any issues with it, your husband going to jail?
PP: No, it shouldn't be an issue for anybody else unless they have to sleep with him and deal with him every day. That's the choice I made. I can't try to condemn someone about who they love that's crazy. That's absurd. In the black community, black men going to prison is common. When we want to be on TV making jokes about it. We're really making jokes about ourselves because today it's my husband but tomorrow it could be your husband or your son, but it's gonna happen somewhere in the family if statistics are correct.
BV: How is the baby and parenting going?
PP: I never knew I could be so happy but I'm crazy about him. He's very, mild mannered and developing his personality. He's very independent and so I'm assuming he's taking after both of his parents. He is not a cry baby. He's real quiet.
BV: Have you had to do any adjusting with your lifestyle because you're a super career woman?
PP: My lifestyle has changed tremendously because the first time in my life I can't move effortlessly because when I wanna take him somewhere, it's the soccer bag, the car seat. So, every time I feel like I'm moving but I've got a wonderful nanny and my mother helps out so I couldn't ask for a better life as far as he's concerned. I've got people around who I've known for years.
BV: What's going on with the compromising with Apollo in terms of your parenting techniques?
PP: We are great parents and things changed once the baby was born and once the baby is here you see it's a huge responsibility. You've got this person you're responsible for he's a blessing, but you know I'm going to be accountable for his upbringing so it's very important for me to know I'm making a leader and this world is waiting for another Martin Luther King, Jr. or Obama and that's what I'm trying to instill in my child.
BV: But, have you all agreed on whether the child will be spanked or not? It seemed like you butted heads on that issue on 'Housewives.'
PP: Now, Apollo said he should get a spanking, but some people were offended by it. You don't get to see the whole scene. When I said I will whip my child, I wasn't talking about child abuse, but if you bring a child up properly in the beginning, hopefully you never have to spank him, but I'm saying, I'm not opposed to it and I'm not gonna be friends with my child. There has to be respect there I was raised old fashion and my mom didn't care about being my friend, but instilling basic principles in my to survive. If I don't discipline my child, he will be disciplined by a judge and in a court room.
BV: We heard a rumor that before Apollo, Too Short was one of your old boyfriends. Is that true?
PP: That is so wrong. That is my godbrother. He's a client, but that is so crazy. That's a crazy rumor and I don't know where that got started. I represent him and he was probably my second client. He has known me for forever and his family and my family are extremely close. There's nothing sexual at all. People just wanna just say something to display what you really are about, but that's definitely a lie.
BV: What's your relationship with Dwight Eubanks? Do you feel uncomfortable that you've been alienated as his BFF on the show?
PP: Dwight is wonderful. He's my friend and client and I've never met anyone with such a giving spirit and warm heart. I hate that he's having issues with the ladies this season because he's a great guy and when he does something he does something fabulously.
BV: What else will we see from you and Dwight this season?
PP: This week is the baby shower and Dwight was instrumental in that. He helped me plan my wedding, as well. It's very Dwight and Phaedra and a very elegant event.
BV: Didn't one of the ladies describe the event as 'boughetto?'
PP: Ha! (laughs) That was Kandi. I think she thought the rhinestones on my eyes was ghetto but the event was very elegant event at The Tavern at Piedmont Park and I had about 175 guests. Lots of judges and lawyers and dignitaries and it was a nice event. I like to invite people from all walks of life so I had a Hodgepodge of people there.
BV: So how has your law practice been since you've had the baby and started the show?
PP: I returned to work and I'm working pretty much like I worked before but I just take Mondays off so I can have a full day with my baby and do things to bond.I definitely wanna be a part of his life, because being a lawyer is stressful and time demanding but I've made a conscious decision to spend time with my son. But, the practice is going well. I'm back to filing lawsuits. I'm back in court. I've had two trials since I've been back so I'm back in the saddle.
BV: Do you still represent Bobby Brown?
PP: No, we're not working together anymore. I love Bobby, I mean he's a great guy that's so misunderstood and he's a real warm and kind guy and I think the world of Bobby -- and Whitney [Houston] too I just think sometimes the media has a way to paint you in a light that might not always be who you are, but I talk to him quite frequently, not as much as when we were working together, but I keep in touch with him and his new family.
BV: Where do u see yourself in five years?
PP: That's like a beauty pageant question. I haven't thought about that lately because this year has been such a whirlwind. In five years, I hope that I am being as productive as I am now and hopefully I've been able to make my mark on my community and I've helped people and I'm still helping people. I haven't sat down lately and given it a lot of thought because I am a new mom and wife. But, hopefully it will be as good as the past five years.
'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' airs on Bravo.
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