Phaedra Dishes on New Book, the Jersey 'Wives and More
The RHOA star also explains how her Southern roots inspired her guide to etiquette.
Phaedra Parks is a woman of many talents, from her legal career to her growing mortuary business. Now, the mother of two can add “author” to her already impressive resume. The Real Housewives of Atlanta star just released her debut book, Secrets of the Southern Belle, which will teach you all you need to know about attaining southern belle status. Phaedra sat down with the Dish to talk about the her literary inspirations, how she juggles her professional life with her family, and what she has in common with the Real Housewives of New Jersey.
What sparked your interest in writing this book? What was your inspiration?
I have wanted to write a modern-day book that addressed etiquette and all things lady like for some time. With social media and mean girls and bullying, I thought the time was ripe for a book such as this. So that was really my inspiration and I have just not had the time. So when I found out I was pregnant, I went full speed ahead to make sure that during my down time I would have the opportunity to write the book. As you well know, I am so busy, the only time I could possibly slow down is when I’m having a baby.
That's ironic. You’d think that you wouldn’t have as much time. So how did you balance being pregnant and raising your family and also finding time for the book?
One of my closest friends told me that everyone talks about balance, but there really is no balance whatsoever. The beauty of having so many things going on is being able to be in the moment and actually enjoy the moment. And even though I’m very much overwhelmed, I enjoy the opportunity to have so many opportunities. I think that there will be a point when I won’t have so many things to do, and I’ll enjoy those moments. But while I’m in the heat of multitasking like a crazy woman, I’m enjoying it.
Did you grow up reading etiquette books?
I definitely grew up reading etiquette books. Emily Post, of course! [She is] the mother of all etiquette and things fabulously wonderful and proper. I grew up trying to pattern my behavior after her. But I grew up in the south in a very, very stern, traditional Christian background, with certain standards that I don’t see people employing now. And it sort of makes me sad because there’s something to be said for conducting yourself in a respectable manner. And I think in the wake of reality TV and social media, where you can be behind a screen and talk and behave very poorly and no one can see you, or you just really don’t care—I think there’s something to be said for that. And so in my book I really wanted to discuss these things very openly and give young ladies, women of age, mothers, grandmothers, all women, some general rules and regulations that should be implemented when going through all these different stages of life.
If you had to choose one thing that you want to highlight from the book, which chapter would you select?
Everyone seems to love when I do the translations, because in the South, we don’t say exactly what we mean sometimes, but we try to be very nice. And sometimes you don’t need to say exactly what you’re thinking. It doesn’t hurt to be nice and give someone a compliment. People are so concerned with being mean and hurting people’s feelings. No one’s taking any time out to recognize people or give compliments, give gifts, be very personable with people, build a rapport with people, and have strong relationships with people, and that’s what this book sort of talks about: the advantages of being nice. Because there are a lot of advantages that come with it.
So do you take your own advice from your book? What advantages have you gained by being nice?
Well I see it every single day. I have a great staff and there’s hardly any turnover. Everyone that works for me has worked for me for—I think the shortest amount of time is three or four years. When you treat your staff good, you treat people that you work with well, they stay. You can only receive what you’re giving off.
Other Housewives, like Teresa Giudice and Melissa Gorga, to name a few, have also written books. Have you checked any of them out?
I know Teresa’s books all deal with cooking. I haven’t read Teresa’s books, but I do love to cook, so if she would send me one I’m sure I would enjoy it. But I try to support other women. Gretchen and I are very close. The Wakiles and I are extremely close and Kathy has her cannoli line—and I’ve definitely tried those canolis and they are magnificent. But I don’t have the kit, because I don’t know if it’s a very southern fare to have for dessert. Unfortunately down south we like everything with a pound of butter. We like cakes and pies. We don’t really do cannolis that much, so I probably wouldn’t get much use from the kit, but it’s a wonderful treat.
Who are your literary heroes or people that have inspired you?
John Grisham, being an attorney, he obviously writes from a legal perspective, and as a lawyer I definitely understand that type of writing. But Toni Morrison is also a wonderful author that I love. I grew up reading her works and I think she is just awesome. On another platform, I have most of Joel Osteen’s books. He’s so inspirational and I love to hear him preach, but I also love to read his books as well because they’re very inspiring. Living Your Best Live Ever (Osteen), The Bluest Eye (Morrison), Pelican Brief (Grisham), all of those are just wonderful books.
Do you have plans for another book?
I do! We can’t divulge any details as of yet, but I’m definitely going to. I have always wanted to be an author. From the third grade, I always said I’d be a journalist, but as I grew older and started researching journalism and all the things that come with it, I’ve always wanted to make an impact on the world, and I thought being a lawyer would be much more impactful for me because I love to talk. But now that I can talk, I want to start to write so that if you don’t want to actually hear me, you can read me!
Was this a hard book to write? You were pregnant, raising your family, dealing with your businesses. What was the process of writing this book like?
It was very easy to write. I had the wonderful staff over at Simon and Shuster that obviously directed me when they thought I was straying too far in one direction back to the middle ground. But it’s something I had been dealing with for some years so I just really had to sit down and focus. And when I got focused it was very easy. It took about six months. I just sat down and I wrote it and I wanted to put stories in it because I wanted people to feel like it wasn’t just a book that’s given out a lot of facts without stories, so throughout the book you’ll read stories from my own personal life, the vignettes about when I met a king in Africa, my faux pas, just stories of me growing up. I wanted to come from the voice of being very conversational but also being formal yet fun.
Have you picked up a copy of Phaedra's book? Let us know what you think in the comments.