For D’Andra Simmons, Season 5 of The Real Housewives of Dallas was a game-changer. Not only were there some casting changes that truly shifted the group, but the global pandemic hit just as cameras were going up for the show’s fifth season. The ladies filmed safely, and Simmons hints that we will see a much more personal side of her this season, and that the social issues surrounding our country are a big part of why. I sat down with D’Andra for an extended chat where we discussed the changes that have come to the show and how they have changed the cast for the best, and why both a recent COVID-19 diagnosis and the Black Lives Matter protests have made this Dallas bombshell stop and smell the (yellow) roses.
Michael Cook: You recently battled COVID-19 and were hospitalized; how are you feeling?
D’Andra Simmons: I am a little bit better, I am a lot better compared to a couple of weeks ago actually. It is kind of interesting, because every day it is a different journey. One day you will have a lot of energy and feel like you are back to yourself, and then the next day you don’t feel that great. My husband Jeremy had it and I told everyone that “he didn’t feel well for a few days and then played video games and he was fine” (laughs). He said “I did not do that D’Andra! I apologized because for three weeks he quarantined himself because he was afraid I would get it, but you do feel the lingering affects for three weeks to a month. With the flu, ten days after having it you are fine; not with this. There are the unknowns, and I am feeling better every day.
I had ankle surgery at the same time, so I had a double whammy. Every day though, I am optimistic and excited that I am going to feel better and better and am going to get well. I am grateful to be out of the hospital. I had so many wonderful people that took care of me, from the doctors to the nurses to the techs and the researchers. I am just grateful to be alive and home with my hot husband and my two little dogs!
MC: This season on The Real Housewives of Dallas it is very clear that COVID-19 precautions were paramount when it came to filming.
DS: We had masks and shields on until we could get into a scene. When we would start talking, you had to see emotion so we could take them off. To have a three and a half month filming schedule and for not one person to get it, is amazing. I give a big shout out to both Bravo and Goodbye Pictures for taking care of us and taking it very seriously and making sure that we were following all of the guidelines. I am very thankful that we go to finish out show because a lot of other Housewives shows have not been able to finish.
MC: This season has a very different vibe and pandemic aside, not having LeeAnne Locken as part of the cast seems to have freed up some of the “oxygen in the room” so to speak. Other cities have lost some of their “OG” Housewives in years past, and it does seem to let some of the remaining cast truly shine on their own. Is that fair to say?
DS: You couldn’t have said it any better. LeeAnn was a huge part of the show for many years and she was there from the beginning. She helped build the franchise and I am also very grateful to her. At the same time, when a Housewife leaves and another Housewife comes on, with her she was such a big personality. I think people were afraid to shine and to say their opinions and come out of their shell; they were afraid of the repercussions. I of course was not, and I got the repercussions (laughs). I was the only one that wasn’t afraid to go toe to toe with her and the other girls were. Now you will see that Stephanie is really coming into her own, people are talking about things that they may not have been talking about before, people are emboldened and brazen which is what a Housewife should be; all of us should be that way, not just one person.
We have had this oppressive fog has been lifted from the show; I will never ever say that she didn’t make a mark on the franchise. I always say, that there is a Housewife expiration date; and when mine comes I will move on and let someone else come in that can do a better job. That is what it means to be a good Real Housewife.
MC: Your way of looking at being a Real Housewife is much more pragmatic than many others, and that could be in part to your background as an accomplished businesswoman. This year however, we are seeing a more “namaste” D’Andra…
DS: I really felt that the past few years, I couldn’t deep dive into my other personal issues and my vulnerabilities because there were other issues between LeeAnne and myself and other cast members that were happening that had to be focused on. Now though, the chains are off and I am free; I am allowed to show you. People always say “D’Anger” and think I am angry; I am not an angry person. I am a bit of a tough love person, but look at my mother (laughs); of course I am going to be that way. At the same time, I wanted to show the softer, compassionate and vulnerable side.
Now, do I make mistakes?-hell yes I make a lot of mistakes this season. You will see me fall on my face, go back into my old habits and then realize “hey, how can I make this better?” I am not tryin to change the trajectory and I also want people to see the layers and the depth and the other parts that I have to offer. That is what my husband sees, he sees that soft and that tender and that funny compassionate side at home, but you never got to see it so this year you get to see it and I get to share it; it was hard, but I am glad to get to do it.
MC: Personal issues were dragged out about your family in years past that you did not initiate, but this time you are bringing up family issues, specifically with the other side of your family, on your own terms. Did you have to speak to Mama Dee prior to the airing and let her know that this was coming up?
DS: You know, before my stepfather passed away in 2013, he came to me the day before he passed away. We were in the garage and he kissed me goodbye, it was a very strange goodbye, it was like someone saying goodbye for the last time. I drove away thinking “hmm that was interesting”. He said to me “no matter what happens in your life, I think you would be very disappointed in yourself if you didn’t reach out to your brother and your stepmother and try to repair that relationship.” He said “I know you, you are a tender person. You want to fix that because you don’t want to go to your grave not trying.” He’s right; I did it and I did it this year because it happened to fall into my lap week one of filming and I just leaned in. That is what you learn during this process if you just lean in and let it happen, that is when the best story unfolds.
MC: So exposing this side of yourself this season is something you were happy you got to do it seems like…
DS: It was a great lesson for me, because I am one of those people that always try to control the narrative. Not controlling the narrative was a huge blessing for me. I would never be like that before, my mother is very controlling, and I am very controlling, but this year I let go a little bit. Youll see what happened and I think it is very refreshing what happens, just like the rest of the show is. It is a big moment for me personally and I am excited to share it. it is probably going to be very hard for me to watch it, but I am excited for other people that may have gone through the same issues with their family that is estranged. They think “should I do this or should I not do that”; you don’t want to go through your life regretting should I have done this and have that check in your heart; I know that I did the right thing and I am a better person for it.
MC: Kary Brittingham has come into her second season as a Real Housewife being very vocal about her feelings with the other ladies, to say the least.
DS: I think that Kary had a hard time being cooped up during quarantine, She is a party girl, she likes to go out, she likes to be with her friends, she likes to dance and have a good time. We couldn’t go anywhere, so I am sure she was wound up in her house because of it. We fight like sisters; we have a different dynamic, Kary is very opinionated, I am very opinionated, and once you tell me not to do something, I’m going to double down and do it harder. I am the type of person that when you poke and prod and pick at me, I am eventually going to chew your head off, no matter how much compassionate mediation I am doing (laughs).
MC: This year, you really confront social issues like racism that you might not have planned on discussing, especially after what happened with LeeAnne and Kary last year. As someone in a conservative state and as a person of faith, what is it like having to suddenly confront these polarizing social issues?
DS: Honestly, I think it was the greatest thing to ever happen in my life besides having to talk about my vulnerability and family issues. I think too often, especially Southern women, put their head in the sand and don’t talk about the hard topics because it is not “appropriate conversation”. We don’t talk about politics, we don’t talk about sex, we don’t talk about religon, or what is happening in the world. I was so proud of us; Brandi had a really hard year having to face the video that she made, and then Tiffany coming onto the show as an Asian woman and having to talk about that, it was difficult.
MC: You actually had some pretty intense conversations on Instagram during this time as well.
DS: Absolutely. When Black Lives Matter was happening, I sat down in my living room on Instagram and had some conversations with people I grew up with since we were kids. My best friend Didi who is African American, my friend Michael and my friend Diana and they all gave their perspective and we talked; it was an education for me. Having to talk about it this year has been the greatest gift. Normally would we have talked about it? Probably not, we would’ve just walked around maybe not in denial, but not wanting to face the tough issues and we have had to do that. I have had some great conversations and those friends have been my friends forever, but we never talked about those things. I am glad that we are doing it because people need to be aware. I didn’t understand systemic racism, and now I understand it better. I didn’t understand growing up and not having access to the kind of things that I had access to. Didi and I never talked about that, even though we were best friends. Now, it is thrown into our face and we have to have those discussions and I have had them. For me, it has been a great year of personal growth and I want to keep having those conversations and I want to keep learning. It is about learning for me and how to make the dialogue and conversation happen. I think that is very, very important.
MC: Dr. Tiffany Moon is an amazing addition to the show this year and is a close friend of yours, right?
DS: I knew Tiffany would be great, if she would do it. I talked to her for a few years and I knew that she would be fantastic if she would actually do it. She didn’t want to do it for a few years for professional reasons. She has accomplished so much as a professional, as an anesthesiologist and she is the most published physician at her academic medical center. I knew that it would be a conflict for her, but she likes to do her Tik Tok videos, talk about the funny things in her life, show off her handbags, and her funny and amazing lifestyle. She fell into it and I think she is great. She is stirring the pot which I think we needed, with other people departing it is great to have someone come in to stir the pot where it isn’t scary, it’s funny and hilarious. I told Kameron this morning that we have to laugh; “look at what she brings to the show, it’s amazing”. It is just what we needed.
MC: As a businsess owner and as a wife and friend, how have you managed to stay creatively infused and inspired during this crazy time in our world?
DS: I think for me, it gave me time to go back to the genesis of my company. I went back into studying my products, the ingredients, and the research I did to make those products. Then I went onto FB Live and Instagram Live and talked about why I was doing this and why I was passionate. It recreated and reigned a passion for Hard Night Good Morning and a passion for Ultimate Living that I might have lost for a few years fighting with my mother about the companies. I stayed at home and cooked a lot of recipes. We ate well, and I love the kitchen. My husband and I stayed outside by the pool and enjoyed each other’s company and I fell more in love with my husband than I ever have been; except when he didn’t change the light bulbs or change the vents. (laughs)! I realized how important it is to have a companion in a husband and not just a lover, but somebody who is your friend that will support you no matter what, that will be there for you in good times and bad, in lockdown and in freedom.
My husband is my biggest blessing in my life, and my mother and I got to spend quality time talking and really slowing down and evaluating our relationship and you will see that good and bad. It was great for my personal relationships and really working on myself. Darren my shaman and I worked together on finding out who I was underneath who everybody else thinks I am and what I show to the world. I learned a lot about myself this year and about other people. I learned about what is really happening in our society, that was really eye opening for me. At fifty one, I wish I would’ve learned it in school at seventeen; its a late lesson learned but at least it is a lesson learned. I am very excited for this year!
‘The Real Housewives of Dallas’ airs on Tuesday nights on Bravo at 9pm ET/PT
Follow D’Andra Simmons on Instagram