REALITY TV star Phaedra Parks says the catfighting, big-spending cast of The Real Housewives of Atlanta finally got “some damn culture” on a recent 10-day trip to South Africa.
But the reality TV stars sought their cultural roots by visiting Sandton’s Gucci and Louis Vuitton stores rather than going to Soweto. And they skipped Robben Island so they could lounge on luxury yachts and visit boutiques at Cape Town’s Waterfront.
In an exclusive interview in the US, Parks, an entertainment lawyer, said the trip was “life-changing”.
“After all the propaganda in the media about poverty, coups and violence, I hope our time in Africa will give American audiences a different view about this beautiful continent.
“There was a lot of opulence in South Africa – a lot of glamorous people there that you never hear about in the US. As an African-American woman, I felt a real connection,” she said.
Atlanta has outstripped the original Real Housewives of Orange County to become the highest rated of the franchise with up to four million viewers weekly, according to television network Bravo TV.
The African adventure marks a much-hyped return to their roots for the female cast of the show which premiered late last year on DStv.
Despite one raging catfight in Cape Town harbour and co-star NeNe Leakes’s crime fears, Parks said “we totally enjoyed ourselves” during a trip which included Port Elizabeth and a safari at the five-star Shamwari game reserve.
The Hollywood Reporter said the franchise was worth R4-billion – despite being so trashy that Oprah Winfrey, after watching an episode, said: “Literally, my mouth was open. I thought, ‘this is on television?'”
The Hollywood Reporter said : “Frequently foul-mouthed, often catfighting and always self-promoting, the [shows] dominate water-cooler discussions, both virtual and real, by showcasing at times the worst of female behaviour. Especially the kind of behaviour among a certain class that rhymes with bitch.”
Not all the socialites from the show made the trip, the basis for three episodes to be screened in the US from January 29. Only Kim Zolciak refused to go after a fall-out with Leakes.
This week’s trip-planning episode reveals Leakes threatening to refuse to go to South Africa because “I might have my passport taken and I’d be in jail over there”.
She was then ordered to “get some damn culture” by her four African-American co-stars.
A statement to the Sunday Times from Bravo TV about the January 29 show, titled “South Africa: Just Like Home”, says: “The ladies arrive in Cape Town for a 10-day adventure where it’s officially the ‘smalls’ [Parks, Sheree Whitfield and Kandi Burruss] versus the ‘talls’ [Leakes, Cynthia Bailey and Marlo Hampton].
“However, Africa works its magic on them. Even NeNe and Sheree put aside their differences for the first time in months.”
Parks said the group also visited a Port Elizabeth orphanage and the Steve Biko museum which she described as “very moving”.
Bravo TV says the show is about “the lives of sassy women from Atlanta’s social elite – juggling families, careers and a packed personal calendar”.
Entertainment blogs buzzed with worries that Africa should brace for the cultural assault of the bling housewives.
According to The Grio news site, “Phaedra made sure to use this episode to teach audiences a little about the continent by taking Kandi to an African dance class and Sheree to an African history museum.
“You’d think that these would be fine cultural outings, but … Phaedra was more concerned with peeking under the loincloth of the slave statue than actually paying attention to the tour guide.”