The death of Ashley A.J. Jewell, the ex-fiancé of Real Housewives of Atlanta’s Kandi Burruss, brings to light an interesting feature of reality T.V. -- it may be real, but it isn’t real time.
Police said Jewell died of head injuries suffered during a fight on Friday night outside the Body Tap Club on Marietta Boulevard. The father of six later died at Piedmont Hospital. Police are still investigating the cause of the fight. In a September interview with Essence.com, Burruss revealed that Jewell had recently bought into a strip club, but it was unclear if Body Tap is the same venue.
Burruss, 33, the newest cast member of the Atlanta Housewives, and Jewell were engaged in January, just a few weeks before the Bravo reality show about five Atlanta area women living fabulous lifestyles would begin filming season two in late February. Burruss had replaced cast member DeShawn Snow from season one.
The first of 13 episodes of the Real Housewives of Atlanta aired July 30 and filming was under way for a two-part reunion series slated to air on October 29 and Nov. 5. With three more episodes of the season remaining, Jewell, who has appeared on camera several times, will likely be seen again, even after viewers know he has died.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with Kandi and her family," said a spokesperson from Bravo this morning. It was unclear if Bravo would make any changes to the show schedule.
"The Real Housewives of Atlanta" has been Bravo's biggest hit of the year, averaging 2.9 million viewers through the first nine episodes, up from 1.3 million season one.
Locally, the show regularly draws 200,000 viewers. This season has been the most popular of the "Real Housewives" series so far.
Three other versions have aired using casts from New York, New Jersey and Orange County, Calif. Bravo is currently filming a fifth edition in Washington D.C.
Kim Zolciak, a fellow "Housewives" castmate, said in a phone interview from California Saturday morning how "disgusted" she was that someone could take a life like this. "My heart and prayers are with Kandi, A.J.'s children and family," she said. "I can't imagine the loss they're feeling. I'll be there for my dear friend Kandi."
Zolciak added that "I adored A.J. He will definitely be missed."
Zolciak said she's not sure how this is going to impact the reunion shows, which are set to tape Wednesday.
Lisa Wu Hartwell, another "Housewives" castmate, was the only person who knew Burruss personally before this season began taping.
"I'm still in shock," she wrote in an e-mail Saturday. Her husband "Ed used to talk to A.J. often and we've grown fond of him. I was deeply saddened to hear what happened to A.J. A.J. was a nice guy and he will be missed."
In September, show fans learned the couple had parted ways when Burruss confirmed in an interview with Essence.com, that she and Jewell were on “hiatus.” On the show, they still appeared as a couple, most recently dining al fresco as Burruss, a former member of the R&B singing group Xscape, expressed her reservations about an upcoming concert designed to jumpstart her career as a solo artist.
Burruss’ engagement to Jewell had been a point of contention between Burruss and her mother, who objected to her daughter marrying a man with six children from four different women. Jewell also drew on-camera criticism from other Housewives cast members for seeming less than engaged at a group gathering when he appeared to spend more time texting on his phone than interacting with other guests.
Viewers responded to Jewell and Burruss’ storyline in ways Burruss had not imagined. Even before police confirmed his death, Twitter posts popped up about the injuries and his subsequent death. On her Twitter page, Burruss, who is also mourning the death of her uncle, thanked everyone for their condolences and asked to be left alone.
In a recent interview with the AJC, Burruss said she was surprised that the public was so interested in her life with Jewell. Fans would approach her on the street to weigh in on their relationship, she said, telling her to either follow her heart with Jewell or to move on without him.
-- Rodney Ho contributed to this article.
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