I’ve spoken to many people who know “Real Housewives of Atlanta” cast member Phaedra Parks in her professional life and are flummoxed by the way she acted and talked on the show in her first season.
In episode three, she said her husband Apollo, having grown up in a white household, prefers canned goods. At one point, she referred to NeNe as a “heffer.” Later, she expressed her love for strippers. (See my favorite Phaedra quotes below.)
In an interview this week to promote the fourth season of the show, the entertainment attorney said she’s playing a character. Sure, there are aspects of her personality that are silly and Southern belle-esque, but the producers prefer to highlight that side of her over her more serious side.
So she is well aware that she can say 80 intelligent, insightful things and one dopey or catty thing and guess what? The producers air the dopey or catty quote.
“I try to live without regrets,” Parks said. “At the end of the day, I hope when people watch the show, they realize it’s for entertainment. If you don’t have editing rights, you can say a lot of different things and once it’s on the editing table, it might look like something else. That’s part of reality TV. Everything on reality TV isn’t as real as you think it is.”
Does all the scrutiny make her more careful the second time around about what she says? “It doesn’t matter how careful you are. Whatever your character is is what they make it to be. It’s not who I am but who the producers think I am. For people who know me, they understand that. We each have distinct characters on the show. No one is one dimensional. Characters have to be consistent to the part they’re playing.”
Ultimately, Parks said the show hasn’t changed her. “I still have the same friends. I am still doing the same things I was doing prior to ‘Housewives.’ ”
Does this impact her reputation in legal circles? “I’ve been practicing law since 1999,” Parks said. “My reputation was solid prior to the show. I’ve been president of the Minority Bar Association [specially called the Gate City Bar Association.]. I’ve sat on big boards in Atlanta. My reputation speaks for itself. The TV show hasn’t changed people’s thoughts about me. It makes me more recognizable. My business was never based on the general public or advertising. It’s always been a boutique firm working off referrals. We still get all the referrals we need and more. My principle has never been to serve everyone. I’m a very specific type of attorney dealing with a very specific type of clientele.”
In the first episode this Sunday, Parks shows interest in the funeral-home business. She has done a lot of work dealing with legal issues of family members who have passed away. “For the past five to six years, I’ve been involved in a lot of funerals. I like the creative aspects of planning funerals and doing funeral programs. This year, I’m really delving into a little more, learning all aspects of the business.” She has even entered a part-time program to learn about the mortuary business, while juggling a new baby, her husband, the show and her legal practice.
Her closest friend on the show is Kandi Burruss, the musician. “We speak quite a bit,” she said. “I knew her prior to the show but this has afforded us more time to hang out with each other. I consider her part of my close circle of friends.”