Drew Sidora's sophomore season on 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' isn't a slump, it's a serve! The actress spills all on season 14.
"I felt like last year I was pretty much hazed, to no return," the actress admits to ET over video chat. "I didn't have a chance. I came in, and I was defending myself. So I was like, all right, I'm the Cinderella. Call me Drewella, that's what it is. And this season, I felt like I was able to really connect with the ladies and give them an opportunity to really get to know me, really, truly, and know what I'm about."
Season 13 of RHOA began with Drew in a medical boot (for an Achilles tendon injury) at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. The ladies (in particular newcomer LaToya Howard and Kenya Moore) read her for the superficial, making cracks about her wigs looking like stray animals rescued from the pound.
"I was in a boot, I had just had surgery. This is how vulnerable I chose to be," Drew reflects. "You've seen me in various roles. I always have wardrobe, I always have makeup. I always appear looking good, but I just felt like, this is my real life, and right now I'm dealing with an injury. So yeah, you met me in a boot, you met my COVID wig, you met my COVID fashions. This season, I'm reaching for the good stuff, because I'm outside now."
"Get to know people, and get to know me for who I am, and then judge based on that," she explains of the mentality she noticed among the women. "We're not coming from wigs. I helped Marlo [Hampton] get edges this season. We're being so vulnerable. That's what I'm talking about, because that's who I am just naturally, I'm an open book."
"I had edge surgery, the whole cosmetic, follicle surgery, and Marlo needed some edges," she continues. "That's my girl, so let's get into it. We're not going to down anybody because of that. That's something we all deal with. So, that's what I felt good about. Let's be real, let's really connect on some real stuff, and when we fight, we're going to fight because we really believe in this friendship. We're fighting for this friendship."
With that said, though, Drew might walk away from season 14 without a couple friendships. As sneak peeks heavily hint, she and returning 'Wife Shereé Whitfield don't exactly mesh, thanks in large part to Drew employing an assistant, Anthony, who claims Shereé never paid him when he worked for her.
"I mean, the fact of the matter is if you owe somebody, you need to pay them," Drew deadpans. "I pay all of my assistants very well. That's just part of being a good business woman, and so I really felt like Anthony could contribute to our team and he was getting paid to do a job. Now I can't help if he was your former intern or friend that you had running errands, I can't help that. It's a small industry and so it just kind of spiraled out of control."
"I just feel like Shereé wanted to be mad about something," she adds, "and so, because it came out that she didn't pay him, it was like, you done triggered something, Miss Shereé now. But we all know it! It's no secret that Shereé does not pay her people, and this was just someone that was here to validate that."
Drew's issues with Shereé seem to snowball over the course of the season, leading to a standout moment from the trailer: Drew barking at Shereé and a yet-to-be-revealed "lap dog" over some drama with the Step Up star.
"It was Shereé, but then there was another spirit lurking us that was going on, too," she notes. "Sometimes I was just like, what is happening? Am I in the Twilight Zone here? I was so excited to meet Shereé and I am just like, I'm trying to understand where she's coming from, where she's going, and so you definitely have to watch. Because like I said, I draw healthy boundaries this season. I'm not going to let anyone disrespect me or my family. And the way I express myself is how I express myself."
"I'm an actress, I'm an artist," she says. "I express myself artistically. So if you come from me, you're going to get all that comes with that, and I think that was what I did this season to let people know don't, don't do it. Don't do it."
A little process of elimination and attention to context clues points viewers in the direction of newcomer Sanya Richards-Ross as the woman Drew calls "Shereé's lap dog." It's a bit of a surprise coming out of the premiere episode, in which Drew and Sanya seem almost attached at the hip as fast friends.
"Oh, I thought Sanya was going to be that girl," Drew laments. "I thought she's a wife, she's a mother, she's new to Atlanta, she's young, we can turn up, it's going to be fun and she just wasn't that girl."
"I felt like did what she needed to do to fit in, you know what I mean?" she goes on to tease. "People that try to just fit in and that was disturbing because I just feel like you can be friends with everybody, but you don't got to turn on me in order to try to get in with others. And I felt she used me as an easy target, like Drew's my friend so she won't come from me so I can just go for her. And that's not cool. I just felt like she wasn't who I thought she was."
Drew cracks that Sanya ultimately "chose the wrong team" when siding with Shereé.
"But I don't think in a girlfriend group, it should be about team," she specifies. "I felt everyone can hold their own. So I never really understood why Sanya wasn't being that friend back that I was being to her, because I really was. I showed up for Sanya time and time again, she came to my mom's 77th birthday -- and that's something that was just... family? Really? So I really, I think jumped into this friendship before really knowing who she was and I definitely didn't expect for our friendship to get so off track. So I was disappointed. I really was."
Drew's waiting to see how the season plays out before deciding whether there's a future for her and the Olympian as friends.
"I'm still trying to get to know what Sanya does outside of running," she quips. "I know she's a good runner, but outside of that, she didn't really show up to be a friend and show who she really was as a woman, as a person. There were things that she did that were a little questionable. So I'm still just trying to get to know who Sanya -- or Saaaan-ya -- is?"
"Even at the end of the season, I was like, 'Well, I know she can run, anyone else knows anything else?'" she sneers. "I was still waiting."
On the flipside, Drew found herself surprised -- in the best way -- by Kenya, her season 13 frenemy. After an apology at reunion, Drew says the former Miss USA made good on her promise to show up as a friend, though she is curious to see the context behind a much-teased moment in which Kenya tells Shereé there's "some mess that goes on in [Drew's] house."
"I saw it when you saw it and I was like, hold on," she reveals. "So I got to watch with everyone else to see what that was about. However, I'll say this to you: it's Atlanta and it's a very close-knit circle, it's a very small world and we all have assistants. We have businesses and we need help, and I ended hiring an assistant that used to be around Shereé, so that, I guess they took as messy. It was a misunderstanding, but I would-- and all of it was trying to do the right thing, but yeah, Kenya, to find out that Kenya ran that back? I got to tune in!"
That moment aside, Drew says Kenya "completely validated through her actions this season" the friend she promised to be to Drew.
"I felt like we were on better terms and really building something genuine," she shares. "I know that last season was tough for everybody, just COVID, but this season, she was doing Dancing With the Stars, she seemed in a new space, so I just felt like it was good vibes, good energy, so why not?"
Kenya, however, doesn't have the same luck with Marlo Hampton, the longtime "friend of" the crew who finally snagged a full-time spot on the show after more than a decade of appearances. Kenya's described Marlo as "the villain" of the season, while Marlo's claimed to be "the hero."
"Of course!" Drew laughs. "Between Marlo and Kenya, I just try to stay [out of it]."
"I don't know what happened," she says. "I thought they were definitely going to be friends this whole entire time, something went awry. It almost came to blows. I never even know even to today, literally, day to day it changes! We're on a group chat and some days we're all happy and then some days we're going at each other. So I really don't know what their friendship issues are. We constantly are trying to get to the bottom of it. I want to see Marlo and Kenya in a good place. Because when they're in a good place, they are both so fun. When they are at odds, it is so tense in the group. We all are affected by that."
And Drew's dealing with enough tension at home. Season 14 kicked off with a bit of déjà vu for Drew and her husband, Ralph Pittman, as Drew once again questioned his fidelity. In season 13, he ran off to Tampa unannounced and was essentially MIA. This year, Drew's dealing with inappropriate text messages exchanged between Ralph and this then-assistant.
"During the summer, I had packed up the kids and we went to Chicago for a while because of this assistant, and it was just not cool," Drew reveals. "He did show up in Chicago weeks later to get his family back. So I feel like that's what marriage is about, is when someone wakes up and decides to commit to their marriage. We got immediately into counseling, and we're still in counseling. That's really who we are, we're in a marriage, and we're not pretending that everything's great when it's not. We're showing what that up and down, and that journey looks like."
Ralph fired the assistant, but Kandi Burruss uncovered social media posts from the woman that suggested she was still in contact with Ralph.
"It was like her name kept popping up, and it just made me feel uncomfortable," Drew notes. "She never came to this house, and I know that he was still trying to work with her because he has a book that he is writing, that she was helping facilitate. So I think he was trying just to close those things out, that's how it was presented to me. But again, those issues are always going to be present when you aren't able to get to some real resolve on a root issue."
"I think what we're doing now in counseling is really getting to those deeper issues," she continues, "because as long as you're both dealing with triggers and trauma, this kind of stuff is going to keep happening. It's going to be Tampa or it's going to be an assistant, and I'm not dealing with that anymore. I want to get past it and get to some really good, happier times, and I believe we're on the journey. It's not perfect, but we're on the journey to getting there."
Drew knows the audience will question why she chooses to stay with Ralph, and she has a quick answer: "We all have baggage. ... So, as long as I have baggage, how can I say he can't have baggage?"
"He is dealing with the fact that I was a single mom, and we're dealing with [my son] Josiah's biological father, and Ralph being a stepparent," she rattles off. "And that's something that counseling has helped me to realize is, no, you guys both are on a journey to grow. And so you have to carry forgiveness, and as long as you guys want to stay married, then you guys are both willing to do the work to get through it. And I think that's the beauty of marriage and relationships. It's the up and downs."
At the end of the day, Drew knows lines were blurred but not crossed with this assistant. "Trust me, if he would've done that, we wouldn't be having this conversation!" she cracks.
While Drew knows the work has been put in, she now has to watch pre-work times back with the viewers. A romantic dinner for the couple goes awry in episode 2 as Drew attempts to broach the subject of the assistant and boundaries. It's another all-too-familiar scene, seeing as in season 13 an at-home date ended in disaster over a discussion about Ralph's Tampa trip.
"It was just one of those things in communication, you say one wrong word and you trigger and then it blows up and I hated it," she confesses. "When I tell you that night was one of the worst nights we've had in our marriage? Yeah..."
Oddly enough, though, Drew is thankful to relive those tough times because it gives her perspective on the situation.
"I feel I'm like, 'Thank you, Bravo!'" she whispers. "Honestly, it holds you accountable because you look back and you watch it and you have to admit to certain things -- even me! I've had to look back and say, I'm not going to ever let anyone take me out of character again."
Drew says she and Ralph have both grown from being exposed to cameras, realizing behaviors and triggers they weren't aware of about themselves. Drew's also been putting in work on her physical person, signing up as the face of a healthy living challenge called Drop It With Drew. Kandi and Sanya, however, called the new business venture into question when Drew claimed to have lost 25 pounds in just three weeks on the program.
"I lost 25 pounds total," she clarifies. "I know that now, I know my math was a little off. ... I think my math just wasn't mathing because I don't know... maybe I was confused, but I was really excited to get Sanya and Kandi on board. I think I just oversold. I think I oversold."
In a confessional, Kandi called out Drew's "mommy makeover" as the real source of her transformation, but Drew says that's only part of the story. The lift and tuck she underwent came after a surprise hysterectomy for the now-37-year-old.
"It was kind of crazy, because I have three kids and then I got a diagnosis of adenomyosis, I had never even heard of that, but it was a form of endometriosis where the tissue grows outside the uterus and so I was dealing with these terrible cramps and pains and I was just medicating trying to get through even last season," she shares. "You guys don't even know I was dealing with that last season, and on the finale I was late to Cynthia [Bailey's party] because I was waiting on my prescription. I was waiting for my assistant to bring my prescription. Because I was like, 'I can't move.' And so going through that and I think even the body shaming got me to open up to talk about why I was in that place with my weight."
Drew says Married to Medicine star Dr. Jackie Walters stepped in to help and carried out the procedure. Now, they're working on fertilizing eggs to potentially expand Drew and Ralph's family one day, via a surrogate.
"I'm not saying we're going to have another baby," she notes. "We got to get our marriage on solid ground, but you never know five, 10 years from now. I am preparing for those what-ifs later on down the line."
For now, Drew's focused on the present and "bracing for every episode" of season 14 as it airs in the coming weeks.
"But I feel good about it, I do," she reflects. "I know what happened, and so for that reason, I feel really, really good. I showed up and I really was able to let people know who I am and what I'm about and just pushing through, pushing through with Drew. So, that's what we're doing."
The Real Housewives of Atlanta airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.