Leva Bonaparte is shaking up Southern Charm.
While the Charleston nightlife entrepreneur and bar owner has appeared on the hit Bravo series before, season seven marks her first time as a full-time cast member, making the Persian reality star Southern Charm's first-ever official cast member of color.
Leva says that because she's "been friends with these people for so many years," she didn't really think about diversifying the cast when she joined full time.
"It wasn't this sort of moment for me until I guess now that people are noticing like, 'Oh, this is a show with a cast and its formal person of color,'" she told E! News exclusively ahead of Thursday's premiere. "I'm used to being the 'other' in groups, so it wasn't anything different to me. But again, like I say to many people, I have so many diverse groups of friends, this was just a pocket of friendships that I have...I'm just now starting to digest that, I guess is the best way to put it. I think it's cool. I think it's great."
Race is one of the many difficult but important topics that will be tackled on the new season of Southern Charm. In addition to living through the coronavirus pandemic, the cast will address racism, white privilege and the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement.
"I mean, all these things have bled into friendships all over America, right? So this is just a pocket of people who were affected by the climate of America and to ignore that would be so incredibly tone-deaf," Leva said. "So of course all of that, all of the COVID, all of the Black Lives Matter, politics...all these things bled into our friendships and I'm sure you're going to see a synopsis, so to speak, of the many, many conversations that were head."
The trailer for season seven even shows Leva confronting co-star Kathryn Dennis about her "white privilege" (Dennis is a descendent of John C. Calhoun, a vice president who supported slavery).
"Awkward!" Leva laughed when asked about that particular moment, adding, "'Hey this thing you said was highly offensive. Like, are you aware?' For me that conversation, it just comes from some choices she had made in her communications with people, and I just in one sense was trying to allow her to come off of the anxiety of just burying her head in the sand and allowing her to understand why navigating through life without understanding the person that you're talking to's background can be dangerous and can be harmful and can be hateful even if it's not meant to be."
"So that was where that conversation was sort of coming from, where I was saying, 'Listen, your family history, who you are, you gotta break this bubble and see the pain around you and the history around you that you may not feel affected by, but being aloof to it can hurt people,'" she continued. "So that's sort of where that conversation was coming from, trying to sort of break that open and make her realize that even if she's not meaning harm, it's doing harm by just not giving a s--t."
Leva also confronts Kathryn about the controversy she stirred earlier this year when Kathryn sent a monkey emoji to a Black woman during a heated social media exchange (Kathryn later apologized after fans called her message racist).
"I think the world let her know that that was problematic behavior for sure when it happened in real-time," Leva shared. "I don't think she needed me to let her know that. I think really the conversation between her and I was because we have a friendship and because I think, A, she wanted me to know...I think she just knew, like, 'We're not gonna be able to continue the show unless I address this with Leva.' And that's what it boiled down to. And I was very clear but I also tried to be kind because I just think telling somebody they suck because they did something incredibly stupid and inexcusable is not the solution. I think to sit down and walk through it if you can—in that moment, I had the bandwidth to walk through it with her; to let her know how I felt; to let her know what I think she needs to do to reconcile and fix—you know what I mean—and learn and educate."
"I was trying to be a friend," Leva added. "Even though I was incredibly upset and incredibly hurt, I was still trying to be a friend and help her walk through this sort of horrible, tone-deaf remark."
Season seven of Southern Charm premieres this Thursday, Oct. 29 at 9 p.m. on Bravo. Scroll down to check out the season seven cast photos and for more info on what's to come this season!
Binge past seasons of Southern Charm on Peacock any time.
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