When Washingtonian.com last caught up with Stacie Turner, it was at the party sending her, and a group of young Washington women in foster care, off to South Africa as part of Turner's Extra-Ordinary Life charity, inspired by her own youthful experience in the city's foster care system. Since she got back, Turner's been caught up in the whirlwind of promotion for the Real Housewives of Washington, DC. But we talked on Wednesday about her Aunt Frances' now-famous hospitality, the tension between her and Cat Ommanney that's marked the first two episodes, and who Turner and her husband are backing in this year's hotly-contested District Mayoral race. This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
First off, I wanted to ask, how was the trip to South Africa?
It was phenomenal. It is just amazing how the girls just blossomed, from the time we got there to the time that we left. I think they had an amazing experience. And what I loved is that we really got a real experience. We got everything from the poorest of shantytowns, we really interacted with the people, and it just gave them a perspective that I think exceeded any of their expectations, I know it exceeded mine.
You’ve come back from that amazing trip and that amazing experience to the premiere of the show. How has it been seeing yourself on camera?
It has been bananas. The whole experience for me has been surreal, starting when we went on the publicity tour, and were out in LA, doing red-carpet events with all the NBC Universal shows, to going to New York and being on the Today Show and the View. These are all things I have watched as a viewer and thought were so cool, and it’s me, doing it. It’s been a lot of fun. The response to the show among fans in DC and even outside of the city has been tremendous. I’m excited about it.
One thing I’ve enjoyed about watching you on the show is you’ve been bringing the other women and the audience, by extension, into your personal Washington, your home. Was it scary at all to open that up for cameras and people you were getting to know? And what’s it like seeing those events on screen?
It was scary. Your home is your more personal place, and what if people don’t like it? I’m sensitive, too, and I’ve found you just have to develop a thick skin. I also wanted to protect some of the boundaries and the privacy of the people closest to me, because I made the decision to be on the show, and by default, they are involved as well. So far it has not been overwhelming, or overwhelmingly intrusive.
I want to talk more about Aunt Frances, because she is a born reality star. Did she get a huge kick out of that?
Aunt Frances is my godmother, and for my entire life, since I was a little girl, I have been going there after school, and especially on Sunday for Sunday dinner. What people love so much about Aunt Frances’ is there are no fancy pretenses there, everybody is welcome. You can really tell the pride and the satisfaction she gets from opening up her home. She has a reputation for good food and hospitality that stretches far and wide.
How did she react when you asked if you could bring the ladies and the camera crew by. Was that something she was into?
Aunt Frances was in her eighties, so when she told her friends that we were coming, and the cameras were coming, it was a big event in her life. She was insisting that the crews eat, and that everyone eat. It never matters how many people, who the people are, the more the merrier. It was fun for her.
One thing that’s been a theme for the first two episodes is it looks like you and Cat aren’t getting along that well. Do you feel like the two of you came out of it all right?
Cat just has a style that’s very different from mine. When you don’t know someone, than many times, their wit and their candor can be taken as rudeness and being impolite which was definitely how I felt in the first two episodes, particularly the second episode, when I know my family is opening their home out of love. I don’t care if the wine is vinegar, you just don’t say it. But you’ll see our relationship evolve throughout the season. Cat’s very nice. She’s often misunderstood. And now having gotten to know her, I find her candor very refreshing.
It also seems like she’s going through some difficult things in her life (Ommanney has since split from her husband), and I don’t know if that’s influenced how she was behaving.
She is the perfect example of how you never know what’s going on in someone’s private life, which might cause them to act in a particular way. I ahve learned that there were things that were going on behind the scenes in her storyline, since we taped separately, that give me just a little bit more understanding.
You’re the only African-American cast members on the show, you live in DC, a lot of women live in the suburbs. What was it like getting those women together?
I think that I was able to introduce the ladies to some experiences that are different than what they’re accustomed to. Definitely, Aunt Frances’ was different for everyone, but it seems like everyone enjoyed it, except for Cat. My brother-in-law is a big hip-hop artist in France, and Salahis went to Paris, so that introduced them to something new. We have a scene later on in the series where we have a party at Ben’s Chili Bowl, and a number of the ladies had never been to Ben’s Chili Bowl before.
And speaking of DC and politics, what do you guys think of the upcoming Mayor’s race?
Ooh, this race is tough! We have been supporters of Mayor Fenty since he was the councilperson for Ward 4, and so we think he’s done a really good job for the city. I definitely believe the city is better today than it was four years ago, and I’ve been particularly impressed by the development that’s happened with the recreation centers and the libraries in areas of the city that had not had any investment for several years. And because I have young children, all of the attention that’s being put on the public school system is important. I think he’s focused on the right things. I’ve admired Councilmember Gray over the years. I think he’s provided strong, solid leadership to the city council, and he definitely knows the city and has been involved for a number of years. So I think this race is going to be really tight.