Kathryn Dennis has learned a few lessons this past year.
The Southern Charm star faced controversy and backlash throughout season seven, which ended last night, after she sent a monkey emoji to a Black woman during a heated social media exchange (Kathryn later apologized after fans called her message racist).
During last night's final reunion episode of the season, Dennis was in the hot seat while answering for her actions. "This whole experience has really affected me," she said on the Feb. 4 episode. "I'm so embarrassed that I've done this to myself, I will absolutely take that responsibility. I mean I'm ashamed and disappointed that people are even questioning whether or not I am racist."
Now, the Bravo star is opening up to E! News about the controversy, what she's learned since the incident and how her boyfriend Chleb Ravenell (who is Black) supported her through tough times and helped her open her eyes to issues pertaining to race and white privilege.
Read on for E! News' exclusive Q&A with Kathryn Dennis.
E! NEWS: How would you describe this past season?
KD: I think this whole season was a journey for everyone. And it was a journey to a much bigger lesson and a much bigger meaning than anything we've ever experienced before. So I would say that it was kind of like a rebirth of the show and myself and the world.
E!: What have you learned and how have you grown this past year?
KD: I learned a lot from the controversy this season and honestly I learned that I was wrong. I think there's really no class to take on this matter it's just experience. Being around Chleb and his family and friends that are mostly Black, I learned the way they do things and move and the conversations they have amongst each other and sometimes the struggle. I get it and it simplifies it for me actually being around more diversity. I've been trying to educate myself on a lot of things I really didn't know about and that's been a huge help. And also like reading and giving myself a history lesson again.
E!: How did Chleb support you during the backlash?
KD: Chleb is just like a really real guy. He knows I'm not the person that sent that text. He plays everything pretty cool and helped me get my confidence back to come back to the public eye and be able to apologize and face it head on. And he's going through a lot too with all of this. But we've been getting through it together.
E!: As a Black person, has Chleb helped open your eyes to things you might not have been aware of before?
KD: There's really no class to take on any of this, I think it's just experience really. And being around them…I talk to his mom a lot. She talks to me a lots of different things. I'd say that his mother has been really helpful in all of this too. It's mostly just talking about real life. Talking about real life and just learning the way they feel and the way they talk about it, you know?
E!: This past year has been transformative for America. Are things changing in Charleston?
KD: Definitely. I think this is a huge wakeup call for especially Charleston with such a history and culture of white privilege. I think it was definitely a wakeup call and I think it's been great to see everyone in the community kind of consciously…when you are out and about at grocery stores of something like that [you see people] kind of helping out each other more. Does that make sense? Becoming more friendly I would say. Sometimes it can be kind of cold in Charleston…but you can almost feel it in the air more than anything. You can feel a sense of kind of renewed-ness.
E!: You and co-star Leva Bonaparte got into it last night, how are you two today?
KD: We actually talked, we talked today just about how we could maybe come together and give back in ways this coming year. Exploring ideas. But yeah I think at the reunion it kind of got tense with the yelling and stuff. I had a moment, but I checked myself. Leva and I were full a lot of personal emotions attached to all of this and I think that once we realized that we just decided like, "Let's hug and let's move on."
E!: Leva is Southern Charm's first cast member of color, do you see the cast getting more diverse in future seasons?
KD: Yeah, I mean I hope so. I mean one of my best friends is from Bangkok, Thailand…I do see the cast getting more diverse.
E!: Will Chleb be on the show with you next season?
KD: I hope so, we'll see. I was afraid to ask that question about if there was another season would you want to be involved at all if I did it. I mean he's open to it because he really does handle stress and adversity well. I think he might be open to it. We'll see. He's definitely going to be in my life.
E!: What are your hopes for 2021?
KD: I don't know what my hope are but I'm excited for all of the things that I'm realizing I have to learn to be honest to you. It's kind of exciting to realize like, "Oh wow, there's so much more I have to learn about." So just going in the right direction, a positive direction and feeling what it feels like to be a real adult.
The Southern Charm Secrets Revealed special featuring never-before-seen footage from season seven airs Thursday, Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. on Bravo.
Catch up on past seasons of Southern Charm on Peacock any time.
(E!, Bravo and Peacock are all part of the NBCUniversal family)