Exclusive

How Eboni K. Williams Stayed True to Herself on The Real Housewives of New York City

RHONY's first Black Housewife Eboni K. Williams reflects on her first season, including those tough conversations about race, in an exclusive Q&A with E! News.

By Brett Malec Jul 22, 2021 9:43 PMTags

Putting the real in Real Housewife.

Eboni K. Williams certainly made a splash on The Real Housewives of New York City when season 13 premiered back in May.

As RHONY's first Black Housewife, the former political commentator hasn't shied away from initiating complex and important conversations about race and white privilege with the other ladies (all of whom are white, besides "friend of" Bershan Shaw). And Bravo couldn't be happier.

"Bravo invited Eboni K. Williams as the first Black woman to join the cast of The Real Housewives of New York to be her authentic self, which has brought a new perspective to the show," the network tells E! News in a statement. "We support Eboni in expressing her views, and we are proud that the show is addressing these important and relevant issues."

Now, Eboni is reflecting on the first half of her debut season and how she's stayed true to herself throughout the process, plus, what's still ahead on season 13. Read on for our exclusive Q&A with Eboni.

E! NEWS: What's it been like watching yourself on RHONY?
EKW: Although I've been in television for almost 10 years now in a news anchor-host capacity, I've never seen my lived experience day to day this way. It's been eye opening, it's been at times really difficult. And then there's been times like [this week's] episode when I was communicating with my grandmother at that very beautiful scene at the séance which was extremely beautiful and I wouldn't trade for the world.

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E! NEWS: The conversations you're having about race are so important. What's your message to people who might be put off by the seriousness of the topics?
EKW: I guess my response to that is I can only be my authentic self, right? I decided long ago when I was invited to join this cast and presented with this incredible opportunity to be a part of this legendary franchise, that I would only do it on the term of honoring my own authenticity, and my authenticity is I am a Black woman with significant consciousness of my space in this world and society. And in addition to me being very aware of that, this network was well aware of that. We had a very dynamic and robust casting process that let them see me from a professional lens, from a personal lens, from a vulnerable lens, and all of those lenses were consistent with who I am, the nature of my life's work which is the broader humanity of Americans through race and social justice. None of those were secrets. 

Sophy Holland/Bravo

Certainly everyone is entitled to their preference of what kind of television viewing they want to experience. What they are seeing by way of me introducing conversations that highlight Black excellence, that call out—when required—hostility towards Black American experiences, microaggressions and fragility of whiteness, all of that is just a part of my entirety. There is something that I do, which is bring all of myself to everything that I am, so it would be a disservice and a show of inauthenticity, to limit all that consciousness when it comes to Real Housewives of New York, when there's no other space in my life where I deal with that limitation.

So any accusation of preachy-teachy, I don't know what to tell you. I am blessed with great passion and enthusiasm and knowledge of the Black American experience and that is my greatest joy to share that with others, including my RHONY cast mates and the viewing audience.

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E! NEWS: How does it feel to have Bravo supporting you and the dialogue you've introduced on the show?
EKW: It makes me feel really good to know that the network has taken the affirmative step to vocalize that support. I can tell you internally it's been there the whole time, but I think the network sees and I see the vitriol that's out there from various spaces and I appreciate, deeply appreciate, them using the power of their platform and their voice to articulate that support in a way for viewers to kind of take some of that narrative that might have been out there around my attempt to hijack the show for personal agenda or some of the other crazy things I've heard and seen on social media, to just dispel all that, nip all of that in the bud.

The network had its choice of a litany of incredible women, including incredible women of color and including incredible Black women. I am still grateful to God that they saw fit to invite me as the first Black woman on this network and in doing so, give me the space and the permission—not that I necessarily needed the permission, but they did give it—to bring all of who I am, my authentic experience and lens to this show and to have them vocalize that support means the world to me.

E! NEWS: I'm sure you've gotten message from people thanking you for shedding light on these issues, right?
EKW: Every day I get messages. I got one incredible one that I'll never forget from a white woman in Kansas or Missouri, and she was a woman that deals with autism. She's autistic. And she said, "As an autistic woman in this country, I also feel similarly to some Black Americans: marginalized and silent and shut down. Through your example of advocating for yourself and your community, I feel so empowered to take up more space and do more educating of people about what it's like to be autistic in this moment in society, and I thank you for your example." That brought me to tears.

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RHONY Season 13 Taglines

To me, that shows what I'm really most deeply committed to, which is not only Black people—although I unapologetically am committed to my culture—but really all of us as humans, as Americans, to see each other with greater expanded humanity. And I think when I have these conversations on the show...it's an invitation to expand their humanity and my own. It's not a condemnation, I don't believe in cancel culture, it's not a call-out. It's simply an invitation to say the things that many of us go our whole lives and don't consider because we don't have to.

I don't have to sit around and think how dangerous it must be to be a trans woman in America. I don't have to think about that. I'm not a trans woman in America. What difference does it make to me? The difference is, my humanity is inextricably linked to that of the trans community. My humanity is inextricably linked to the Jewish communities, and I know that. So that's really the message I am trying to invite people to consider is that this is not a moment of tribalism and a moment of separatism. This is a moment of educating and really just sitting with the emotion of considering one another's pain and joy as we all attempt a higher level of American humanity.

Heidi Gutman/Bravo

E! NEWS: What is still to come this season?
EKW: I have a personal, real emotional back half of this season which I am thrilled to death that the world gets to see and go on this journey with me—and of course I'm talking about finding my father. But I'm also really anxious about what emotions are going to stir up for me when I'm able to revisit that part of my life, so I'm just really working on staying present and grounded this rest of the season.

E! NEWS: And I can't wait for Luann de Lesseps' impression of you.
EKW: I mean, spoiler alert: She killed it! She really did. The Countess killed it.

The Real Housewives of New York City airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. on Bravo. Binge past episodes on Peacock.

(E!, Bravo and Peacock are all part of the NBCUniversal family)

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