There's a new city on the scene!
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City finally premieres tonight on Bravo and new Housewife Jen Shah is spilling all the scoop on the new series.
"Salt Lake City is the perfect city for The Real Housewives because No. 1 it's absolutely gorgeous. Everyone who comes here is in awe of the beauty of Salt Lake City," Shah told E! News exclusively. "But I think it's perfect because it is so unexpected. I think people are going to be shocked when they see that we are bringing the fashion of Beverly Hills, the drama of New York, we can read people just like Atlanta and Potomac. I think they are going to be shocked because they're not expecting that. And then we are also adding another layer that I don't think is really been brought to the forefront in other franchises, not only diversity but diversity within religion as well."
The businesswoman and mother said she "immediately" said yes when asked to be a part of the show, adding, "But personally too, I felt like because the show is based out of Salt Lake City that it would be important for me to be part of the show to represent some diversity and to make sure they know it's not just all blond-haired, blue-eyed girls out here in Utah, that we've got some flavor."
Shah, who is Tongan and Hawaiian, and husband Sharrieff are parents to two biracial Black sons.
"Salt Lake City now, today in 2020, we are getting more diverse, much more than 40 years ago," Shah explained. "People joke around where they're like, ‘Are there any Black people here in Salt Lake City?' and I'm like, ‘Yeah, all six of them are in my family basically.' Because it's not the norm here, especially not for Black people. There's a lot of Polynesians here, we're getting a lot of different ethnic groups, but it's definitely a culture shock I think for some people."
Shahs says growing up in Salt Lake City, people would often times mistakenly assume what race she is.
"It was difficult just because I was different and a lot of people thought I was Black growing up because they didn't know. They just knew if you're not white, you're Black, and so that's just what they thought," she said. "Now people are obviously a little bit more educated because we do have a large Pacific Islander, Tongan population here. But yeah, a lot of times people think I'm Black and obviously my family is, so that's just usually what they think. I had to work 20 times harder than my male counterparts here, not only because of me being a minority but the religion too. That was hard. It's like if somebody could choose every single way to be different than where they're at, that's basically what I did."
Shah grew up Mormon like most people in Salt Lake City, but converted to Islam years ago because of ideological differences.
"When I was about five years into my marriage, we had our first son and it was time to start thinking about how we are going to raise him under one religion. It was important to me that we had consistency, I didn't want my son to be confused with what mommy is practicing and what dad is practicing," Shah revealed. "So I told my husband, I just assumed he would convert to Mormonism and that's when he was like, ‘Well, no because they didn't accept Black people into the Mormon church until like the late 1970s.' I initially didn't believe him because I had never heard that and I grew up in the church. So I went to do some research and asked for guidance and the questions to be answered from my bishop, my mom and nobody could really give me an answer other than, ‘That's just how it was.' And so at that time I just didn't feel comfortable. I didn't feel that I could continue subscribing to a religion that didn't accept my husband and my kids. I didn't know how to explain to them why that was the reason."
Shah says she has been on the receiving end of racism. She's also had to have difficult conversations about race with people who are more conservative and close-minded in Salt Lake City.
"Here in Utah there's a saying, ‘They're the nicest racists you'll ever meet here in Utah,' and the reason why people say that is because it's not like Alabama or down South where they will just tell you to your face, where my kids have been called the N-word to their face, where it's just right in your face like in the South," she said. "Racism is prevalent but I feel like they take it in a much more ignorant fashion where it's like, 'Oh wait, I didn't know that me saying this would be so offensive.' It's like they say it to your face but with a smile type thing. So there's been a lot of conversations. I was that mom that was running to the principal's office because I didn't appreciate someone calling my son 'chocolate boy' on the playground or just things like that where other parents didn't see the real issue with it or they thought it was harmless and it's like, 'No, it's not. It's offensive.'"
As for drama the show, Shah says her "direct" style of speaking will definitely get her into hot water with her RHOSLC co-stars this season.
"On the show I think because of my personality and I am so direct, it creates drama…I'm pretty sure I had drama with every single person on the show," she laughed. "It's a strange thing here in Utah where a lot of the girls, there's no confrontation and they will have an issue with people but they're like, 'Oh my gosh, hi! How are you? You look so cute.' And then behind your back they're like, 'Oh my gosh, I hate her. I can't believe she did this.' And I am like the opposite personality.
The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on Bravo! Scroll down to meet the rest of the RHOSLC cast.
Binge past seasons of the Real Housewives on Peacock now!
(E! and Bravo are both part of the NBCUniversal family)
(E! and Bravo are both part of the NBCUniversal family)