Notorious for its drunken vacations, cabaret showtunes, and, frankly, its whiteness, The Real Housewives of New York City is finally saying hello to its first ever Black housewife in Season 13. But despite her impressive résumé and the much-needed diversity she brings to Bravo’s second oldest Housewives franchise, attorney and journalist Eboni K. Williams, 37, told The Daily Beast that at the end of the day, she’s just a regular woman in New York City who’s accustomed to standing out.
“I always knew that I would be able to navigate spaces that were not necessarily used to people like me, and that I would be successful in it,” she told The Daily Beast. “It's so hard to be what you can't see, and I just want to be a part of representing Black excellence or what is possible for Black folks in this country.”
The author and podcast host said that she won’t let the pressure that comes with a reality TV platform change her from who she really is: a Southern-raised scholar passionate about the Black community who happened to land herself in the Big Apple a little over six years ago.
Unlike many of her castmates who share similar experiences of East Coast upbringings, Williams was raised by her single mother in the South and received a B.A. in Communications and African American Studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. With a juris doctorate degree from Loyola University College of Law in New Orleans, Williams later went on to represent clients in criminal cases involving drugs, rape, and murder.
“My mother, Gloria, didn't even go to school with white people until high school,” Williams said. “She grew up in rural Louisiana, in the segregated Jim Crow South and recognized the limitations of opportunities for people that look like her. Then she had me. She just really did not subscribe to limitations for my life and, to an extent, not even for her own life.”
Now, Williams co-hosts the hip-hop talk show State of the Culture on REVOLT TV, hosts and executive produces REVOLT Black News, and has just launched a new podcast called Holding Court with Eboni K. Williams where she uses her legal background to address issues like systemic racism in the court through a cultural lens.
This won’t be the first time that the old-money housewives of NYC receive a stark switch-up in the types of women featured within their circle.
Last season, newcomer Leah McSweeney was the center of many arguments among her more traditional-minded castmates. McSweeney was constantly criticized for her blunt sex-positive table talk and pearl-clutch-inducing tattoos, which really just turned out to be a Chanel tattoo and a pair of wings on her vagina (you read that right.)
Viewers will be interested to see how the outspoken Williams will interact with the girls who gave McSweeney grief for her “disgusting” behavior. Williams’ opinions about President Donald Trump, for one, are wildly different from some of her future castmates’, especially those with long-standing connections to the Trumps.
At the two-part Season 9 reunion Ramona Singer, along with castmates Sonja Morgan and Luanne De Lesseps, were accused of voting for Trump in the 2016 election by former castmate and journalist Carole Radziwill. Singer admitted that she knows the Trump family from their estate at Mar-a-Lago; Morgan said she’s gone to lunch with Ivanka Trump and her family on multiple occasions and knows Donald from business; and De Lesseps said that she’d been introduced to the president before.
When Bravo host Andy Cohen asked the ladies whom each of them voted for in the 2016 presidential election, Singer, De Lesseps and Morgan each pleaded the fifth, to which Radziwill asked: “Don’t you feel like the people that said, ‘I’m not going to say,’ voted for Trump?”
More recently, at the RHONY Season 12 reunion in September, castmate Dorinda Medley, who has voted Democrat in the past, accused Singer of attending an event hosted by Donald Trump Jr., thus violating social distancing guidelines at the time.
Williams, on the other hand, has been vocal in her criticism against Mr. 45 and said that she has no time for trying to be a “beacon of standard societal perfection.” The media personality said that she isn’t a fan of respectability politics, or the idea that Black people are rewarded with respect for behaving in a palatable manner to whiteness. When she thinks of the typical Housewife, Williams said that she’ll instead “just have a different type of energy.”
During her stint as a Fox News host in 2017, Williams condemned Trump’s Charlottesville remarks on-air, calling them “cowardly” and “dangerous.” “While you personally might not be a racist, President Trump, what you are is all too happy to reap the benefits of their support and you even tacitly encourage them with evasive, irresponsible statements,” she said at the time.
Williams received death threats from viewers and came to realize that she couldn’t have her desired impact at the conservative network anymore. She left Fox News in 2018, later telling the Breakfast Club radio show that the network’s “bigoted and racist” reputation is “all for very good reason.”
But despite her RHONY castmates’ differing outlooks, Williams said that she isn’t letting fear affect her upcoming season debut, and that she’s looking forward to getting to know the girls.
And there’s no better time to challenge the status quo than now, as Bravo is finally addressing some of its decade-long diversity issues and has booted racist offenders off some shows’ cast lists.
Williams said that she, for one, has no idea why Bravo’s diversity push took so long to materialize. She said that New York’s elite tend to live in “self-selected segregated social circles” that don’t reflect the city’s abundant diversity.
Still, Williams’ social circles are already “adjacent” to some of the ladies on the show this season. Williams said that she and McSweeney have plenty of mutual friends, like Breakfast Club co-hosts Charlamagne tha God and Angela Yee, and she’s hung out with Countess De Lesseps at charity events and fundraisers, too.
And though two cast members, Tinsley Mortimer and Medley, recently announced their departures from RHONY, Williams promises there are still plenty of surprises in store. (Viewers can hopefully expect a new season in the coming spring and an announcement from Bravo early in the new year, Williams said.)
“I am absolutely unlike anything that the franchise has ever seen in many ways,” Williams said. “Everybody’s got a super strong point of view and there’s a lot of new dynamics at play to push it to the next level.”