Kenya Moore Is Done Being 'RHOA's Villain and Ready for 'Carefree' Season 14 (Exclusive)
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Kenya Moore is passing the villain baton -- err, scepter -- on The Real Housewives of Atlanta, reclaiming her "carefree, happy, funny" throne (or maybe just claiming it for the first time) as "everyone's friend" for season 14.
"I'm the Kenya that I was always meant to be this season," the longtime peach-holder tells ET. "It's so funny because I think that I got pegged into this villain role and now it's like, girl, just let someone else have that baton. Here, pass the scepter on. Honey, it's over for you! I just think I'm back to reclaiming who I was always meant to be on this show. Lighthearted, fun, sassy -- I will still tell a b***h off, but I do it with such dignity and grace."
Kenya joined RHOA in season 5, becoming an adversary for many from day one; fans will recall her infamous "Gone With the Wind Fabulous" rant from her first cast trip.
"I think that I was just pegged into that villain role really early, and I just was never able to get out of that," she notes. "I sort of, in my own way, leaned into it and then it was just like, 'OK, this is old, because now this really isn't who I am and I hate that I'm even perceived that way.'"
A few factors play into Kenya feeling free to be who she wants to be on TV, though one sticks out: her longtime frenemy Porsha Williams is no longer a part of the cast. Porsha opted out of filming season 14, instead focusing on a family-themed spinoff, which aired this past winter.
"It's a great season," Kenya gushes. "It's well produced, and it definitely got us to be back honest and not-- a lot of girls started self-producing and we've gotten away from that."
"And if you watch their show, you can see the show villain versus the real villain," she quips, though doesn't explicitly reference Porsha by name. While some viewers were sad to see Porsha step aside, others were excited to finally be free of this years-long back-and-forth between she and Kenya that had more than ran its course. Kenya agrees it felt like a weight was lifted.
"I feel that where we were, is where we were, not necessarily by my own doing -- especially in the last seasons," she shares. "I definitely made that offer for peace, extending that olive branch and it was not returned. I realized it wasn't me at that point and I was ready to move on. And yes, I'm free of that situation and happy for people to move on, too."
"When you do all that you can and people still reject your friendship, then let them go," she adds.
Another factor at play in bringing a lighter, brighter Kenya to screens is the fact that she sees the light at the end of the tunnel that is her divorce from husband Marc Daly. The two tied the knot in 2017; Kenya filed for divorce from the New York-based restauranteur in 2021 after a lengthy separation.
"The season was about me just coming into my own, reclaiming who I was before the divorce, all that. I'm just in a different place," she explains. "I think what I explore in my own life this season is just back to being who I always was. It's just fun, lighthearted, reclaiming my power. I think that I lost a lot of that during my divorce and my marriage. I feel like I had to just take inventory of myself and figure out where did I go wrong. Now that I've figured it out, it's just back to being me."
Kenya's co-stars jokingly referred to the woman she became around Marc as "Ken," but Kenya's reclaiming that nickname, too, and taking back her power. She says "Ken" has always been what her family calls her, the warmest version of herself.
"I think where I went wrong in my marriage is that I lost my voice, is that I thought that I had to be a different kind of person to make a marriage work," she says. "Someone that says 'yes' and doesn't speak up and just goes along to get along. And that is completely false."
Kenya admits to clinging to her broken relationship because it was the family she always wanted that she never had.
"I was afraid of failing at my marriage because I wanted it to work so badly," she says. "I waited 46 years to get married, and so I thought I found my prince. I thought I found everything and I didn't want to be divorced because of me."
"I held on as much as I could, and I just had to realize that being happy and being a strong person is exactly what my daughter needs," she adds. "Not someone to swallow herself or become lost in a marriage for the sake of being married."
That daughter is Brooklyn, who just turned 3. She's the silver lining that came out of marriage; Kenya calls Brooklyn "a little star" and her "mini-me." Brooklyn's also seemingly the person who's given her purpose amid the mess.
"I'm so excited for [the viewers] to see me move on," she says. "Not be sad, not be angry, not be hurt. I understand that my marriage didn't work out and I changed during my marriage. Now that I know that it's over and I filed for divorce -- and I'm still waiting, still don't have that stamp."
Kenya says she "wishes" she knew when her divorce would be finalized, but Marc has yet to sign the paperwork. "He refuses to talk to me about a settlement," she laments. "Child care and support and visitation, all of that's been settled already. So the only thing left is [money]."
"We still don't know what he wants because he hasn't said, because they're waiting for my financial documents, so why are you waiting on my financial documents? Because if you wanted to change child support or something, you can just say that," she rattles off. "But that's not what they're asking for, and I just think that when two people are civilized and they know that the relationship is over, you came into this marriage, two successful people, on your own. You don't need anything from one another and I think that you should just be able to say, 'Leave with what you came in with.'"
For now, Kenya's focusing on the positives. She's used her split as a great learning lesson, saying it's inspired her to "not take anybody's crap."
"I did that in my marriage and I think that when I draw the line, and when I put up that healthy boundary, there's no gray area," she says. "It's like, if you cross that line, I will cut your head off like a snake, like the snake you are."
When it comes to her castmates -- Kenya is joined by returning season 13 stars Kandi Burruss and Drew Sidora, as well as veteran Housewife Shereè Whitfield (who is back for this third round as a cast-member), promoted "friend of" Marlo Hampton and newbie Sanya Richards-Ross -- she seems to only consider one a "snake."
"Starts with an M, ends in an O," she offers. "Unfortunately, sometimes people are not who they seem to be and they have ulterior motives, and I think that if you're in a situation where you really have wanted something so badly for 20 years and you get it, you feel like you need to keep it. And so what do you do? You come after me."
Kenya and Marlo were working on a friendship in season 13, but Kenya says season 14 totally undoes whatever relationship they had.
"It's unfortunate because I really did get to a place of trusting her and being excited about what we could be together as a duo together," she confesses, "and it just turned its head and spun around."
Before season 13, the two never really got along, with Kenya repeatedly proclaiming Marlo -- a longtime supporting player -- "would never" get a peach, alluding to her past run-ins with the law. Kenya still doesn't seem to think Marlo deserves her spot in the ensemble.
"She did snatch a peach, because they had to become available or more... maybe four," she says, referencing the cast exits going into this season. Cynthia Bailey also departed the series, alongside Marlo's fellow "friend of" LaToya Ali. "Guests" Shamea Morton and Falynn Pina are also not back for this fresh batch of episodes.
"Listen, I think that's up to Bravo to say if she was deserving or not," she clarifies. "That's not for me to say."
Still, Kenya has some things to say when it comes to Marlo. As seen in the trailer for the season, she calls the L'Archive owner "a pitiful little ho."
"Well, I wasn't the only one that had some choice words for her. I think you'll hear a lot of people chime in on what they think she really is," she teases. Drew previously told ET this season goes "below the belt," and Kenya claims there's only one person to blame: Marlo.
"There's only one person that definitely brags about always hitting below the belt, and to me that's just not really cool and then expect to turn around the next day and issue a lightweight apology and think that that's OK," she professes. "That's just not my brand. It's just not who I am. I think that you have to be organic. I think, again, boundaries are needed, and I don't think that you can expect to be someone's friend after you try to destroy them, just not how it works."
While promoting her spinoff, Kandi and the Gang, the typically even-keeled Kandi revealed even she gets into it with Marlo this season.
"It was unexpected because Kandi is a friend to everyone," Kenya notes. "Kandi is not that girl who's ever a 'villain.' She's always everyone's friend. She's very supportive of all of the ladies and to watch someone attack her unprovoked, and say the most disgusting things to her, it was very hard to watch."
Kandi also claimed Kenya came for her during filming, but Kenya isn't a fan of describing their issues in that way.
"I didn't come for her... I don't think," she reflects. "I was just not happy with a certain situation that she placed me in, and I wanted to be honest about how I felt about it. So I don't think that's 'coming for her.' I never insulted her. I just told her how I felt about the situation and then we were able to move on, but you have to have honesty in a relationship."
When pressed, Kenya all but confirms their issues are related to one of the trailer's more head-scratching exchanges, in which Kenya nearly shouts, "Go have yo' husband buzzing my p***y all night!"
"Who said that?!" Kenya cracks, calling back to one of RHOA's most quotable lines ever. "I was like, the profanity in this trailer. I was shocked. Can we get a beep? I was shocked that that was left in the trailer. What is the rating on this trailer? Definitely rated R, right?"
The other "rated R" moment from the first look comes courtesy of Kandi, who asks the group, "Who think they know some tea on me about sucking dick in a locker room?" at Brooklyn's birthday party. Soon after, a mother in attendance walks by the RHOA cast's table and shouts, "This is a kids birthday party!"
"[That's] a friend of mine," Kenya says of the woman, who dragged her daughter out of the event after Kandi's NSFW moment. "Haven't heard from her in a while."
Kenya does have a new friend in the form of Shereè, though. While the duo famously feuded during Shereè's last run as a Housewife -- largely over their dueling home builds -- Kenya says they've totally formed a bond this time around.
"You know what? I really adore Shereé," Kenya says. "She's actually one of the closest people to me on the show."
"After the cameras stopped on her last season, I had visited her home, she came to Brooklyn's birthday party -- her second birthday party -- and we just got back to a different place," she continues. "I think that we understood each other. I think she's fabulous, by the way. Shereè is fabulous and she's a really kind person. I think she's misunderstood, so that kind of synergy is something that we have have in common; but we are also fighters. We're not going to take people's stuff and I think that's what kind of draws us together."
Kenya says she's "really excited" about her friendship with Shereè, as well as the "different Shereè" fans will see this season. It seems the "bone collector" is laying out her own skeletons this go-around, getting into her relationship with longtime boyfriend Tyrone Gilliams.
"She really surprised me," Kenya says. "She was just really open and vulnerable. She spoke about her situation more. She showed a lot more. And I think the viewers will really... I think they will really appreciate who she is now. And what she's showing. She's giving, honey! She's giving."
There's also been forward movement for Kenya and Drew. When the Step Up star joined the RHOA crew in season 13, she and Kenya butted heads, with Kenya comparing the actress to a stray animal. Now, there's a friendship between them.
"We started off and it turned and it changed, and now it's really in a good place," she says. The supertease hinted at as much, with Kenya stepping in to call out Drew's husband, Ralph Pittman, for painting Drew out to be "a liar."
"That was hard," Kenya recalls of the exchange. "There are a lot of similarities between Drew's husband and my soon-to-be ex-husband -- a lot -- and so, I think it just hit a nerve when I saw how he was speaking to her in a certain scene and I just had to speak up, and I think something just overtook me, overtook my body because I just let him have it."
"It was like I was speaking to my husband," she adds of the seemingly cathartic exchange. "I was channeling those feelings and just let them out."
Kenya also counts Sanya, an Olympic gold medalist, as a friend.
"She is fabulous!" she exclaims. "Sanya is a fabulous addition. She kind of reminds me of that Cynthia energy, where she just seems like a normal, grounded person. She has an amazing family. She's very accomplished. She's very attractive. She's got this rock hard body and this beautiful family. And she's kind of like a peacemaker. So I think that she fits right in very well."
"It definitely is very similar energy [to Cynthia]," she reiterates. "And it is hard for her to choose a side, so that fits!"
Cynthia was Kenya's ride or die for many years, but the two are currently in a rebuilding phase when it comes to their friendship. They hit a rough patch while filming the mash-up spinoff The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip and have yet to recover.
"I'm hopeful," Kenya says of their future. "We've had conversations and it seems like we definitely are on that path to understanding each other more and appreciating each other more for what we did have in our friendship and in our relationship, so I'm looking forward to what it could be. I think it could be even better."
Cynthia felt betrayed by Kenya on RHUGT, confronting her for not spending more time with her on the vacation. She got upset over Kenya wanting to hang out with other Housewives stars, including Melissa Gorga and Kyle Richards, on the girls getaway.
"Watching back the show, it definitely felt undeserved and I felt like it was a little out of place," Kenya says. "Maybe there was some projecting going on. But at the end of the day, I think that when you really care about someone and you have all this love for someone, you'll get back to that place."
That "projecting" might've had to do with the fact that Cynthia was likely making a decision about her future on Real Housewives around that same time. "No lies detected," Kenya says when asked as much. After announcing her exit from the franchise, Cynthia revealed she had been offered a "friend of" role on the show after a decade as a full-time 'Wife, and ultimately declined the demotion.
"I initially felt that because I didn't know where any of it was coming from," Kenya adds. "Cynthia's not the type of person that is going to be in a situation and everyone's gunning for her. I think that would be me. So if anyone needed support going in, I felt like Cynthia felt like I needed her support, but it turned out not to be that way. I just didn't understand, well, what support? Because you don't really get into it with anyone. You're not that girl. So it just was confusing from then on, why she felt like I wasn't really supportive of her."
Kenya points out how the energy on RHUGT was way more positive than she's ever experienced on RHOA.
"This show is not that show, you know what I mean?" she says. "This is a totally different group of people. As you can see, the Ultimate Girls Trip was really, for me, one of the best shows I've ever done because I got to really be myself and really just have genuine relationships where people didn't judge me from the other show. Well... they did initially."
On the first episode of RHUGT, Cynthia revealed that nearly everyone on the cast called her up to ask if they should be scared of Kenya. By the trip's end, lifetime friendships were formed between Kenya and those same women.
"That felt really good," she admits. 'It just felt liberating to be on Ultimate Girls Trip, and just be me and just be supported for who I am, the person that I really am."
Kenya filmed RHUGT before RHOA's new season, which likely contributed to her lighter, brighter approach to shooting the main show.
"It was just eye-opening," she says. "I'm not going to try to drum up drama with you or get into it with someone it's not making sense."
"This season is so different because I think we had fallen into this trap of being very methodical and predictable," she shares. "Now it's back to real relationships. Everything just feels really organic."
Kenya describes season 14 as "full of love and light and sisterhood."
"And yes, conflict, but it gets resolved," she adds. "You can just really see that this is a group of girls who really are friends. And I think that is what was missing from before. We had lost that friendship, and we lost being honest with one another and speaking up and people conspiring behind your back and things like that. We have a little bit of that but this season, for sure, is so different from the latest seasons."
Kenya hints the women are even going above and beyond on their own dime to promote the show and "claim our No. 1 spot." She says some recent behind-the-scenes clips of the ladies filming on a green screen will be released as a fun project they went in on together to drum up excitement for season 14.
"We're definitely going for a fresher, newer look and I think you'll get a lot of it," she teases. "It'll be exciting. Little TikTok style, a little young, a little fresh, it's fun."
The Real Housewives of Atlanta season 14 premieres Sunday, May 1, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo. Kenya's haircare line, Kenya Moore Hair Care, is now available nationwide at select retailers.
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