Sanya Richards-Ross, the first Olympian ever on a “Real Housewives” franchise, survived one full season of the Atlanta version last year and was invited back for a second one.
Season 15 of the Bravo staple returned earlier this month and Richards-Ross hosted the first big party of the season, the 40th birthday shindig for her husband Aaron on which she spent $100,000, $60,000 more than budgeted. (She was not the nexus of controversy at said party. Kandi Burruss got angry with a young newcomer Courtney Rhodes who came in hot at Burruss with too much attitude.)
“This season is a lot of fun but very explosive,” Richards-Ross promised in a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Last season we were resetting a lot. There were changes in the cast. This season it feels like we have really settled in. I feel like I’m fitting into the group. And I have a lot going on with my family.”
Before she joined the show, she moved from Austin, Texas, with her parents and her sister and her family. They have all been domiciled under the same roof, which brings typical tensions. Plus, her husband Aaron Ross still spends part time in Austin running a chauffeur service and she is considering having a second child with him. The good news is her marriage seems to be going well and she expects her extended family to move out soon enough.
“I enjoy sharing my life and family with everyone,” she said.
As was the case for most women who join the show, season one was a major adjustment, Richards-Ross said.
“You have all these expectations in your head going in,” she said. “Then it ends up being completely different. I did have a lot of fun. But I feel so much better season two especially because I was really able to build real, meaningful relationships with the girls. I had real skin in the game. I am able to show more of my personality.”
She learned how “Real Housewives” forces a cast member to experience a possibly traumatizing event three times: first, in real time, then when it airs on Bravo months later while learning what the other ladies are saying about your actions behind your back, and third during the reunion shows when they are forced rehash it again with Andy Cohen and the other ladies in person.
Richards-Ross found this sometimes edifying. “You get to learn about yourself,” she said. “You see how you’re relating with other people and how other people see it. I like that part of the experience.”
She felt like season one, she tended to overthink things. “I’ve learned now to just say it,” she said. “I don’t have to sound perfect. I say how I feel a lot more this year. And it’s easier to express yourself when you know the people better.”
The most challenging cast member to get to know was Kenya Moore, Richards-Ross said. “She can be intimidating if you disagree with her,” she said. “She’s quite the wordsmith. Of all the girls, she will read you for real.”
But behind her bluster, Richards-Ross said Moore “deep down, has a great heart.”
She said she became especially close to Burruss, noting that off season, they took a vacation with their kids to Disney World together.
“Kandi is the G.O.A.T. when it comes to being smart and strategic,” Richards-Ross said. “Everything she does fits her brand. I try to do the same thing.”
Here is a quick summary of the other main cast members:
― Kandi Burruss is having some tensions with her husband Todd Tucker, who is focused on building their restaurants in town and producing his own movies while she works on her music and acting careers. The restaurants have faced some challenges including the pandemic and a shooting at Blaze Steak and Seafood, both of which are addressed in episode two this past Sunday.
― Drew Sidora opened season 15 out of town visiting her ailing father and didn’t appear until the second episode. She and Ralph Pittman were in a good place last fall when taping began and had released a music single in which she sang and her husband produced. But a few months later, they had filed for divorce. Presumably, the final fissures will be shown as the season goes on. Richards-Ross said she was as shocked as everyone else by the news. “I didn’t think they were anywhere near divorce,” she said.
― Sherée Whitfield had broken up with Tyrone Gilliams, who had gotten out of prison during season 14. Instead, she was dating Martell Holt, a member of “Love & Marriage: Huntsville.” It’s a long-distance relationship and we’ll see how that blossoms or withers.
― Marlo Hampton is still raising her two nephews as her own. The first two episodes really didn’t show much going on but that may change.
― Kenya Moore. As the season opens, she is still trying to finalize her divorce with Marc Daly and she has been dating. Otherwise, she uses the first two episodes to get in Sheree’s dating business because Sherée’s new squeeze had DMed her two years earlier. (That is a nothing burger even by “Real Housewives” standards.)
IF YOU WATCH
“The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” 8 p.m. Sundays on Bravo and next day on Peacock
Rodney Ho writes about entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution including TV, radio, film, comedy and all things in between. A native New Yorker, he has covered education at The Virginian-Pilot, small business for The Wall Street Journal and a host of beats at the AJC over 20-plus years. He loves tennis, pop culture & seeing live events.