In Praise of Marlo Hampton, The Real Housewives of Atlanta's Secret MVP

The Real Housewives of Atlanta's upcoming season 14 will be Marlo Hampton's first as an official full-time Housewife, but she's already more than made her mark. Here's the proof.

By Billy Nilles Apr 30, 2022 3:00 PMTags
Watch: NeNe Leakes & Marlo Hampton's Suite-Life at Super Bowl 53

You know that one friend who you always ran into at the group hang? Maybe you never spent that much time with them one-on-one, but just seeing their face in the crowd signaled to you that the night was bound to be a good one. We've all got someone in our lives like that.

And in the world of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, that someone is Marlo Hampton.

Always only a friend-of, Marlo's been a stable, yet peripheral presence on the Georgia-based installment of Bravo's hit franchise for nearly a decade—until now, that is. Come May 1, she'll finally be holding a peach as a full-time cast member on RHOA's 14th season. It's a well-deserved honor considering Marlo has been around longer than several members of the current cast, watching OGs come and go over the years. Hell, she's done the seemingly unthinkable and outlasted the Housewife who introduced her. (Pour one out for the one and blooping only NeNe Leakes.)

For whatever reason, that all-important peach eluded her for a while, but it's not hard to see why the powers-that-be finally wised up after keeping Marlo around in some capacity since her introduction all the way back in season four. And that's because, like that friend we all have, Marlo's a damn good time. Not only that, she makes damn good TV and just might be this season's secret MVP.

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It's hard to overstate just how impressive it is what Marlo's accomplished. While her introduction back in the fall of 2011 got her tenure off to a bit of a rocky start—there was immediate friction with most of the ladies and that unfortunate, abhorrent utterance of a gay slur during an otherwise legendary argument with Sheree Whitfield while on the group trip to South Africa—she's done something practically unheard of for a friend of the franchise: stick around.

All told, she's appeared in some capacity in eight of the last 10 seasons, only sitting out seasons five and seven. It's a feat unique to RHOA, as no other city in the franchise has ever kept a utility player around for nearly as long. You'd have to look to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills' Faye Resnick to find someone who's even come close, but Marlo's integration into the fabric of RHOA compared to Faye's on RHOBH is like comparing day to night. And the same can be said for Porsha Williams' pal Shamea Morton, whose maintained a lingering presence among the Atlanta ladies, but never one that's felt quite as indispensable.

Stephanie Eley/Bravo

Over the years, Marlo has proven to be game for just about anything. She's got a slick tongue that she's never held even once. She's been known to read a foe to filth, from her dressing down of Kim Zolciak at the season four reunion to her relentless critiques of Eva Marcille's fashion that ultimately led to season 11's unforgettable sprinter bus showdown in Tokyo. Last season alone, she showed up in a hazmat suit and took people's temperatures, making the most of the surreality we've all been stuck in since March 2020.

But beyond all that, we've also been able to watch as Marlo has softened and grown over the years. She's been afforded the opportunity to evolve out of that cutting character kept on the sidelines, unveiling the multitudes within during the process. When she returned for season 12, she'd become the guardian of her two young nephews, taking on the name "Munty Marlo." (That's "mom" and "aunty," if you couldn't tell.) As we watched her admirably step up and care for her family, we witnessed a maternal tenderness that had either been repressed or simply not yet cultivated. It was a beautiful thing to see.

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The Real Housewives of Atlanta Season 14 Cast Photos

And then there's her seasons-long war of the words with Kenya Moore, which has had the two locking horns through to this season, stuck in a dance that's seen one ruin the other's wig launch with a marching band invasion meant to promote her own hair care products, while the other can't seem to stop talking trash about her foe's body. And at this point, it hardly even matters which is which.

That's a sentiment Marlo's seemed to agree with in RHOA season 13. While on the group trip to South Carolina, where hostess Kenya gave Marlo the worst room in the house despite her ample seniority over many of the other ladies, Marlo seemed to have finally had enough. After hilariously turning the living room into her own suite (and farting and coughing on Kenya's bed for good measure), she tearfully confronted Kenya over their unrelenting feud, asking why she seemingly hated her so much. It was a moment that largely went unresolved, but one that reminded us of the humanity behind the hilarity.

Stephanie Eley/Bravo

While it remains to be seen whether Marlo will be able to hold onto her peach after season 14—Andy Cohen himself has previously admitted to Kandi Burruss that the decision-makers responsible for such distinctions "don't have a consensus among the group" when it comes to Marlo—there's no denying she's made her mark, cementing a legacy on the show that even some OG Housewives would envy.

The Real Housewives of Atlanta season 14 premieres Sunday, May 1 at 8 p.m. on Bravo.

(E! and Bravo are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

(Originally published Feb. 21, 2021 at 5 a.m. PT)

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