BE EXCLUSIVE: Phaedra Parks Talks Reality Television And Her Illustrious Career
Reality TV star, serial entrepreneur, and successful attorney, Phaedra Parks is peeling back the peach that gave her a start and showing the world her growth.
Reality TV star, serial entrepreneur, and successful attorney Phaedra Parks is peeling back the layers of her start in the industry, her growth, and the most important parts of her journey.
We first met Parks as a member of the iconic assembled cast of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, but there is another side to the southern belle.
Since deciding to return to reality TV, Parks’ appearance on this season’s “Married To Medicine has only sparked debate about her return to Bravo and mounted curiosity about what she’s been up to after leaving her previous series permanently.
Black Enterprise spoke with Phaedra about her long-standing career as an attorney, Her nonprofit and other charitable work, and her return to Bravo.
What made you want to become an attorney, and what about the profession stood out to you?
I initially wanted to become an attorney so that I would have credibility to become a politician. I’m from a very political family. And so my aunt was the first woman to ever be elected to citywide politics in Georgia. And so she’s the only one that has a nationally funded federal park in her honor, you know, for the whole, I think, for the whole southeast, if not the world. So that’s just something that’s in my blood.
My godfather is a huge politician. I’ve been around politics all my life, between politics and the church. That has been my upbringing. My parents are educators. My dad owns an insurance company. So I have literally been just in that life all my life. So, when I went to law school, I went with the sole purpose of getting a degree and becoming the insurance commissioner because I was already licensed in maybe 23 states when I went to college.
Working during the summers, Geico put me through undergrad and law school. I worked in the DC office. I worked in their Georgia office, and I worked in the Atlanta office.
So, I was so knowledgeable about insurance. I was just like, this is a no-brainer; I’ll be the insurance commissioner. But, of course, things obviously did not go that way. I became an entertainment attorney… I have a boutique firm, and we’ve been in business now 20 years.
Do you have a personal connection to your passion for social justice? If so, what is it?
To whom much is given, much is required. So I was at the forefront of, you know, marching [and] advocacy [work] before it became the popular thing to do. Ben Crump and I had worked together for years in the medical malpractice space. And you know, as you said, Trayvon Martin, when that first murder happened, of Mike, in St. Louis, I was, I think, the first person on the scene with CNN to really advocate for justice and, as a Black woman with two brothers and a father.
I would see, and even in law school, I would see how African American men were treated very differently from African American women and from the majority, and for me, it really means something to level the playing field. And that’s the reason I really created [a scholarship].
I have a scholarship at the University of Georgia, where I serve as the law school president for the Alumni Association, and it’s specifically created for minorities, who are first-generation lawyers, to pay their entire way through school. This year, I created another scholarship to bridge the gap for people who had homes, you know, [or] faced homelessness because they couldn’t afford housing.
You said, “If you’re not making money in your sleep, you will work until you die,” From your experience, why do you think people fail at business?
I think it’s, you can start a business. But financial literacy is the core of any business person who’s going to be successful because you can make all the money in the world. But if you’re not savvy with investments, learning how to turn that money into non-taxable money, passive income, you will work the rest of your life.
And for us people of color, we have not had, you know, we a lot of us haven’t had the opportunity to make, you know, enough money to say, Hey, I’m going to get an annuity, or I’m going to invest in a whole life policy that will pay me back, and you can shelter the income in that insurance policy.
There’s no such thing as a microwave millionaire. It takes work, it takes savviness, it takes knowing the right people to handle your money, knowing how to invest that money, and knowing how to shelter income in different ways…I’ve just been blessed to have like very smart people in my circle, but I’ve been blessed to be around many millionaires. I have watched them. Because if your circle, that if you don’t have in your circle people who are smarter than you, more wealthy than you, you’re in the wrong circle.
What made you want to come back to reality TV?
Well, a lot of people were asking me to come back to the housewives. When I left Bravo, I went over to WE-TV and did a lot of shows over there. Of course, Andy Cohen and I are very close friends. I knew him before Housewives was even a thing. And so we always kept in touch because I had lunch with him and was pretty instrumental in getting “Being Bobby Brown” on Bravo, which was their breakout show that opened the network up to a whole new audience. And that relationship we’ve always kept in touch.
He’s always been a very good friend to me. So he was like, we gotta get you back. You know, the fans love you, they miss you, but I was of the mindset that it had to be the right fit for my family… so I was dating a cardiologist, and you know, Dr. Jackie, who is a friend of mine outside the show, she’s like, “I need to set you up with a doctor.”
[I told her] I’m already dating one. From that statement, [she said], Oh, you gotta come to marriage medicine. [Initially] I was like, Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know. She was like, “No, just come, just come. You know, different show different, you know, vibe, different ladies. We’re professionals, and we understand you as a professional”. So I said, Okay, well, you know, I’ll try it. So it’s been a match made in heaven.
What would you say to the fans who say, “We want to see the old Phaedra or, in better terms, the Phaedra that they grew to love on your previous show?
Well, [my response] would be that life is about evolving and reinvention. So I’m not with the same people. So obviously, this is my first season [on Married to Medicine]. And, you know, some people come in too hot. They already had, you know, of course, people have reservations because, oh, you know, you’re the shade queen. But as you will know, I don’t shade people unless it’s obviously very necessary.
But, you know, I wanted to come in, get to know everybody, enjoy myself, not, you know, be too overbearing, or, you know, too aggressive. And you know, you’ll see more, but this show is very different than they are very different. There, their focus is not the constant drama. I can appreciate that these are definitely more conservative women, they’re older women, they’re professionals. And so, you know, I respect that. And they respect me as a professional. So it’s a different show.
Now, I think I’ve added a little spice to it, but it’s definitely a different show. So it’s not the housewives, you know, housewives a different vibe, totally. But I’m enjoying it, so they will see it. But of course, I’m on the traitors. So, if you want to see more of the “pop-off” Phaedra, well, go to The Traitors.
Tune in to Married to Medicine, which airs on Sundays at 9 pm ET/PT on Bravo and the next day on Peacock.
Want more of Phaedra? You can watch her on season 2 of The Traitors every week, with all-new episodes dropping every Thursday at 6 pm PT/9 pm ET only on Peacock.