If you want to make it in Miami, you need to know The Real Housewives of Miami's Lea Black. As we saw during three seasons of RHOM, Lea not only rubbed elbows with the who's who of Miami, but she was also a major part of its elite social circle as the wife of high-profile attorney Roy Black, organizer of the star-studded Blacks' Annual Gala, and an entrepreneur in her own right.
But just because Lea is no longer filming RHOM doesn't mean she's taking it easy. "I'm always busy, you know that. I'm always busy," Lea said when The Daily Dish caught up with her via phone earlier this month. "I can't seem to slow down no matter how many times I tell myself I'm going to."
Lea has mostly been preoccupied with building her fashion and beauty empire and revamping her website to make it "much more fabulous" as it showcases her skincare line, jewelry, and handbags. "The handbags and the jewelry really enhance the skincare because it makes it a beauty brand," she said.
Lea has also become a published author since RHOM ended, releasing her debut novel Red Carpets & White Lies in 2015, which has a fan in her good friend Jeff Lewis of Flipping Out. She still travels around the country doing book tours and meet-and-greets for the book. "I don't take it too seriously, but it did really well, much better than expected," she said. "And my reviews were just so phenomenal that I was shocked because it was really kind of just a guilty pleasure, and it just turned out to be a good book, so I was thrilled about that."
But Lea isn't just writing about socialites these days. She is still very much one in her own right, even if the famous Blacks' Annual Gala, which has been featured on RHOM, didn't yet have a set date for this year when Lea spoke to The Daily Dish because they're waiting to confirm the headliner and his or her availability. Past performers have included the likes of Aretha Franklin (who Lea said she still texts with), Tony Bennett, Queen Latifah, Pharrell Williams, and Pitbull. "I've had so many top-tier talent that it's getting harder and harder to get the talent. So the bar is so high. I've called in all my favors to all my friends," Lea said. "I may have to put a wig on and just get up and sing and dance and pretend I'm Cher."
Perhaps Lea will get to know some more fabulous people on the West Coast now that she purchased a new home in Los Angeles this summer. Lea said she initially intended to expand the home she already had in L.A. by about 1,000-square feet, but after her architect was uncertain about the city's approval of her plans and with the encouragement of Jeff Lewis to go and look at some new houses, Lea bought a new home, which she said is about 5,000-square feet.
Lea spent the summer packing up what will become her former L.A. residence and planning the design of her new abode. "It's completely opposite of this house. My house in L.A. right now is modern/contemporary. My house here is Old World charm, Mediterranean, European, very grand. So it's a completely different house. So I'll probably use as much stuff as I can from my current house and then I'll fill in the rest," she explained. "But it'll just be lean and modern and not a lot of stuff because I like lean and modern. My house here is like running the Ritz Carlton. I have probably 17 or 18 or 19 people working here all the time. It's too much. I don't want to do that anymore."
As Lea says hello to one crib, she'll also be saying goodbye to her luxe Star Island home in Miami, which she and Roy have put on the market after deciding that tearing it down and building a new property wasn't an option since their son RJ Black will be heading off to college in three years. "I'm not even here that much. I'm in L.A. half the time," Lea said. "So my kid, let's say he goes to school in L.A., I'll be there more than half the time. Let's say he goes to New York. Between New York and L.A. and here, how much time am I gonna be here? What would be the point of me building that house? What, do I need a 20,000-square foot house on the water just so I can say that I live on Star Island? I mean, it just didn't make sense anymore. So I decided, you know what, let's sell it."
And yes, the fact that RJ, who is now 15 years old, is quickly growing up, has definitely hit Lea. "He is a gentleman. He's just got great manners. He's very smart. He's interested and curious about things and people. Reads a lot," Lea gushed. "He's a really good kid."
Lea said that Roy is also as busy as ever with his clients. "You know, I always tell him, 'Slow down. Why are you working so much?' He loves it," she said. "He's good at what he does. He's a good sport, he's a great dad, he's a great husband, and I got really lucky with him."
Though Roy was mostly supportive of Lea appearing on RHOM, there were some parts of it he didn't completely enjoy. "Well, initially, Roy was all on board. He didn't care," she said. "I think when it got a little bit nasty, he kind of stepped back from it a little... But he never once complained about it or said don't do it. He was just very easy about it."
Lea said RJ was also game to appear on the show with his mom. "My son was nonchalant about it, too. He doesn't care," Lea explained. "He didn't care to be on it, he didn't care to watch it, but if I said, 'Come on, we're gonna go do this, go do that,' he'd go and do it. He's very easy, go with the flow. I'm lucky that way."
In fact, RHOM is still a major part of Lea's life. She said she still gets sweet messages from fans on social media, as well as in person when she gets recognized on the street. She's also mostly in touch with castmates Karent Sierra and Joanna Krupa, but she also keeps in contact with Lisa Hochstein, Larsa Pippen, and Cristy Rice. "And the others, not so much," Lea said.
If you ever happen to run into Lea on the street yourself, you'll see that she's still the same person she was when we first met her on RHOM. "I don't think I've changed. I think I was myself on the show, and I think I'm still myself," she said. "I think I've been the same person, honestly, since I was six years old. I open my big mouth, sarcastic, love to laugh and cut up, don't take things that aren't too serious too seriously, and very honest with people, and very straightforward with people. I treat people the way I would want to be treated, and then I'm as good a friend to them as they'll let me be. And if they won't let me be a good friend, then I don't waste my energy with them."
Lea said she was committed to showing her true self on RHOM since the moment she signed onto the show. "I don't like someone that changes every time the camera comes on. I've never done that. You see me in hair rollers, without makeup, yelling and screaming, telling someone off, hugging and kissing them. That's just kind of who I am," she said. "I just think if you sign on for a reality show, that should be your code of ethic and your code of conduct. That's part of the deal. That's expected of you. That's your ethical and business responsibility. And so I do that. That's just how I would run my business, how I would run my charity, it's how I live my life."
And we love Lea for that.
Relive Lea keeping it real on RHOM, below.