In this season on 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta,' Alabama-born model Cynthia Bailey has her share of ups and downs. Much of the storyline for this former Essence magazine cover girl and single mother revolves around her nuptials to entrepreneur Peter Thomas. Bailey opened up about her dwindling finances in the midst of planning her lavish wedding, and things got really ugly when the couple discussed their money problems with actor and New York Times best-selling author Hill Harper.
BlackVoices.com chatted up the 43-year-old statuesque beauty to discuss all the hype surrounding her marriage, and we got the lowdown on just how "real" she is.
BlackVoices.com: It seems like the perfect time to talk about your role on 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta.' You've definitely had a transition on the show this season.
Cynthia Bailey: I was really happy with how they rolled me out. They rolled me out really slow. We do end with the wedding, and from this point on you see a lot of me and maybe more than you want to. For my first time doing it, it was good to have a slow transition.
BV: There are so many questions people have regarding your relationship with Peter. We see you two fighting about money and things get heated. How does that make you feel watching it back?
CB: Those are not my favorite things to watch because there is so much emotion there. We have a great relationship, but we're going through a crazy financial crisis while shooting the show and having the wedding. We lost the restaurant and everything was happening at the same time. We both deal with things differently. I feel like I'm a worrier. I don't know anybody who wasn't affected by the recession. We didn't have to be forthcoming, but I didn't want to sign up for the show and try to hide that. It would've taken way too much energy. Some people on the show don't always say, "My money isn't right," or "I can't afford this. I can't afford this car."
BV: Some people are buying Aston Martins, right?
CB: Right, exactly! I feel like I've had an amazing life, and I never thought I would not have money, but going through this with my partner was difficult, but very humbling. I don't think he dealt with it in a good way. He was a complete a**hole a lot of days. It would have been easier for us to act nicely, but we just kept it real. I would walk away like, "Why did you have to act like that?" I know it looks crazy. There are things that I watch and I say, "What the hell?" but you have to realize you saw 10 minutes of a three-hour shoot. I don't have any control of editing. But in this house with Peter Thomas it's a 50-50 venture, and he isn't controlling anything more than that.
BV: Your relationship is definitely different from Nene and Gregg's. What are your thoughts on that?
CB: I do try to let Peter be dominant -- not saying Nene doesn't, but I think Nene comes across more dominant in that relationship, and I don't know if that is actually the case. She comes across more dominant in terms of the show.
BV: Let's keep it real. You have the only real strong-willed husband on the show. Phaedra's husband, Apollo, follows suit with what she says, too.
CB: I think Phaedra has a lot of control in that relationship. It comes across like that on the show. I'm not trying to be negative with my cast mates, but the dynamics of those three marriages are very different. I think with mine and Peter's, he is the man in the relationship. I give him that respect. I think he is a complete jackass sometimes, but he wants to handle things well and to be able to pay for things and not stress me out about anything, but that just wasn't our situation. I wish we could've been balling out the whole season, but it didn't happen that way.
BV: Another thing that some people love about you, Cynthia, is how you've showed this whole phenomenon in which women give their men money to build their careers and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't. Do you regret giving Peter money for the restaurant?
CB: I support Peter's vision and who he is. I supported his decision. I didn't say I was going to partner with him. I said, "Oh you need this? I am going to give you that." It was a business transaction. That was his thing, and I was doing my thing. I thought no matter how much I was in love, I need to get my money back and they didn't have anything to do with each other. I may be 60 and say, "Are you going to give me that money back from Uptown from 30 years ago?" When you say I need to borrow it, it's a loan. A loan is a loan. Nothing changed we just got married. I still want it back.
BV: Wait. You still asked him whether he was going to give you the money back?
CB: Yes! I just asked him yesterday. I don't know when I am getting that money back, but he's going to have to give me something.
BV: A lot of people think you should work out your financial challenges before tying the knot. Many people believe a relationship can't last with something so major causing disagreements before a wedding.
CB: When we started the process, our wedding wasn't so expensive that we couldn't do it. The more involved in the planning I was the more I wanted it. Who wants to go through tastings and menus and then go to the courthouse? I've never been married before. I just wanted it. It's mine to want. We just had problems in the end.
BV: Did you cringe watching the episodes as they aired?
CB: Last week, I got so much response from people. I got hit up by lots of broke people in the world. A lot of people think I am strong for putting this out there and you can't please everyone. Do I want to watch that episode from last week again? Hell no! I'm like fast-forward every time it is on. This wasn't a movie. This is really my life and it was not fun. It was very stressful and we were really trying to figure out how we were going to pull this off.
BV: Besides Gregg and Nene's relationship, this has been one of the realest moments this season. There's been so much phony stuff in the 'Housewives' franchise. Do you think it is hard for many of the ladies to keep it real?
CB: All of us have our story. It does a really good job of showing who we really are. At the same time, I just think that for me I never wanted to put out anything that wasn't me. I was careful with how I put myself out there. The wedding was supposed to be a fun thing and not the most stressful four months of my life. I didn't want to do the show without being real, and I wanted to do me. Peter wasn't supposed to be a big part of my storyline.
BV: People first thought you were crazy with Nene and the friend contract. Is this something you give your friends on a regular? Have you done this before?
CB: No, but all of my other friends have said, "I've known you for 25 years and you haven't given me a friend contract." So, the friend contract has taken on a life of its own. I will say that people deal with drama and stress in different ways. I am not confrontational, but I felt like Nene is my friend on the show and off the show. We are friends for real. She is my girl although she threw me under the bus with the friend contract and Kim. I was genuinely upset and thought this was going to make her laugh. It didn't happen that way. People said I was a stalker and in love with her and watching that was just as hard as watching me and Peter.
BV: Nene and Kim have now fallen out and have Twitter beef. Do you think they have taken it too far?
CB: I can't call it with Kim and Nene. I know Nene better than I know Kim. I don't know what the whole basis is for that friendship, but if it wasn't a real friendship I see how easily something like that could come apart. I think they really have a love-hate relationship, and it wouldn't surprise me if they don't speak again or if they speak again next week. You have to wait to see what happens next weekend. I really can't call it. I think Kim and Kandi are really friends outside of the show.
BV: You all just filmed the reunion. Have a lot of things changed since the season aired?
CB: You never get to see interviews where the girls are talking to the camera, so I can do a scene and they could be perfectly sweet to me the whole time and in the interview run me over with an 18-wheeler. I've seen the whole season, and I was blown away by some things people said. As far as the reunion show, I couldn't get there fast enough because I had a lot of things I wanted to address, and I knew that this is the time for me to sit down and really talk about what I was feeling or not checking for.
BV: Well, we know you had your wedding and some of the girls were talking s**t about you at your wedding? So that had to come up at the reunion, right?
CB: I felt like this, and this comes up in the reunion, as a new housewife on the show, picking on people in a fun way is fine and when you decide to go in and talk about someone in a mean way about their financial situation and you don't know what tomorrow holds for your own financial situation, that's not what the show is about. I feel like I can sleep well at night knowing I didn't say anything on the show that I couldn't say to someone to their face. I feel great with what I put out there. It's a choice. I took that personally. They knew I was going through a hard time financially and just wanted to have my little wedding. Some of the things were hurtful.
BV: Generally speaking, though, you're happy with how the wedding turned out, right?
CB: I loved the way the wedding turned out except maybe I would not have invited some people hating on me who could've stayed at home. I don't think anyone wants to walk down the aisle with a bunch of haters.
BV: Do you think after the reunion you can be friends with some of those ladies again? Or is that not possible?
CB: I have good relationships with some of the ladies on the show. The only person on the show that I have a friendship with and I go to her house is Nene. Matter of fact, I was at her house at Christmas. Noelle and Peter were out of town and I was home Christmas Day, so I actually spent Christmas with Gregg and Bryson and Bryce. Nene came and got me even though it was snowing. Nene is the only one I really got to know and who I can call a friend. I look forward to getting to know some of the other ladies next season. A lot of them don't know me and I don't know them.
BV: You've shared your wedding pictures with Essence magazine and are gracing the cover of Uptown Magazine. How does it feel to share your wedding with these African American publications?
CB: A lot of people are excited about the TV wedding. I think we give a great TV wedding and did our thing. It's something that I am proud of. It's on a TV show. I am excited and Peter is excited. We had a lot of interest in our pictures, and Essence was a no-brainer because they have been completely supportive of my whole modeling career. My first booking in New York when I was getting off the plane from Alabama was for Essence magazine. So in giving the exclusive, Essence was family and has always been supportive so I will support anything that they do.
BV: Would you do spin-off show with Peter?
CB: I am open. I don't think this reality TV thing is going anywhere. I think something about us and not five other women would be great for me. I know we are an interesting couple. We are an odd couple and that's a show within itself. I am open to it and I get it, especially with the Kardashians and their show about their family being successful, I'm in it now. The thing about becoming famous is you can't become un-famous. It just happens overnight.
BV: Are you still modeling and do you think you would open up another business with Peter?
CB: Yes and yes. I am still modeling. I'm supposed to shoot a Macy's commercial in New York and my modeling career is going great. I gave it a backseat while I was shooting because my schedule was more demanding than I thought it was going to be, but as soon as we wrapped, I was back in New York and that's going strong. Peter is opening up a smaller bar/lounge. It's tiny and not far from the house. He's been doing this his whole life, and it's very different from Uptown. He's hoping to have it open by March.
BV: How are you going to do things different with the restaurant?
CB: Uptown was huge and could hold 500 people. This place can maybe hold 100 people. It's a smaller undertaking and less expensive. It's a tapas kind of place. We're not taking on this big thing. This is a baby thing he could do in his sleep and now everyone wants to go to Uptown since they saw it on the show, but hopefully we will get them to the new bar/lounge.
The season finale of 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' airs Jan. 30 at 10 p.m. EST on Bravo.