Leah McSweeney and Eboni K. Williams on Putting It All Out There for 'RHONY' Season 13 (Exclusive)

On becoming the first Black Housewife of NYC, being hazed by the OGs and more.

"What is one thing that you have always wanted to ask me?" Leah McSweeney, the reigning breakout star of Real Housewives of New York City, prompts her season 13 co-star, Eboni K. Williams.

ET enlisted Leah to interview the newest and history-making NYC Housewife -- Eboni is the franchise's first Black cast member -- but before wrapping their candid chat, she gives Eboni the chance to turn the tables. Yet, after an especially intimate season spent in the Bravo trenches together, there aren't many questions that have gone unanswered.

"I feel like we know a lot about each other," Eboni gives up at last. "I was going to be like, 'How many Black men have you slept with?' Which I already know the answer too."

"I wanted to ask, 'Have you ever had anal?'" Leah quips back. "Sorry, Entertainment Tonight!"

In a wide-ranging sit-down, the duo goes deep on Eboni's journey to becoming a Housewife (she's been a RHONY stan since season 1) and the pressures of representation, as well as why season 13 will be the show's most "polarizing" yet, making reality TV during a pandemic, being hazed by the OGs and more.

LEAH: Here we go. Make sure you answer honestly, every question.

EBONI: Scout's honor.

LEAH: What were your biggest fears about joining a reality show?

EBONI: The edit, quite frankly. [Laughs] Because I'm such a control freak. I am used to television but in the news space, where it's live and there is no real edit. It was just hard for me to give up that control in knowing that once you put it out there, that's it. But in a way it was also freeing, so it was pretty cool.

LEAH: Well, it's [your first season], and I feel, like, season one, you're going to get a good edit, no matter what. And also, I have found that I feel like it's pretty honest. How much of the show had you seen before joining the cast?

EBONI: I will proudly tell you I saw every episode -- and in real time. It wasn't like I started having this conversation about joining the women and then binged. No, no, no. I had been a RHONY stan since college.

LEAH: That's awesome. There are a couple seasons I missed that I do need to go back and watch

EBONI: I recommend it. I've rewatched 3, 6, and 7 during the quarantine after we wrapped. Very interesting.

LEAH: I think actually 6 and 7 are the ones I didn't see. Is that when they go to Cartagena? Because I did watch that one episode last year and I was like, "Holy sh*t, this is one of the best TV moments in the whole world--"

EBONI: Literally, holy sh*t.

LEAH: When they are on that boat and Carole's puking and Ramona and Sonja are crying. It was great! So, when the opportunity came to become a Real Housewife of New York City, was it an immediate yes? Or did it take some convincing?

EBONI: It did take some convincing, because--

LEAH: Because you're sane!

EBONI: A) I'm sane. B) You know, I did have a career before joining the show and I wanted to make sure I wasn't going to blow it all the way up. It remains to be seen.

LEAH: Pretty sure you're blowin' it up!

EBONI: But also, if I was going to do this show, I was going to do it all the way. Like, I wasn't somebody that was going to come on like, "I don't want to talk about this" and segment parts of my life. That just didn't feel like the right way to do something like this. I had to have a real commitment to myself, to [say],"Eboni, just put it all out there." And that is what I did. And that took some time to get to.

LEAH: Yeah, you did. You put it all out there. And I appreciate it, because I put it all out there, too.

EBONI: You, of course, brought me into this crazy group of women. What's the one piece of advice that you wish you would have given me in retrospect? You told me so much.

LEAH: I know. Did I tell you to just be yourself?

EBONI: You did and you told me to not have any preconceived notions of the women. You just said, "They're very different and just get to know them as yourself," which was good.

LEAH: Yeah, I don't think that there's anything that I wish I would have told you. Is there anything that you wish I had told you? Maybe how exhausting it is? Did I tell you that?

EBONI: No, you didn't. I wish that you would have told me that before cast trips, to get, like, three days' worth of sleep.

LEAH: Right, and maybe, like, an IV drip. Sorry about that!

Entertainment Tonight

LEAH: How did you feel about being the first Black Housewife to join Real Housewives of New York City? Did you feel a lot of pressure?

EBONI: You know, I really didn't. I felt excited. I felt like it was an honor and like a blessing, and the reality is, coming from the South, I've been first in a lot of spaces. I was the first Black female attorney at the first law firm I worked at. I was, famously, the first Miss Lafayette, 2007-- True story, don't laugh! [Laughs]

LEAH: But I don't know what that is! What is that?

EBONI: It's a country beauty pageant type whatever!

LEAH: That's still major!

EBONI: In all seriousness, though, this could have been any incredible Black woman in New York City to do this, and so the fact that they picked me, it's an honor. I was too excited to be nervous or feel pressure.

LEAH: OK, I'm gonna push back just a little bit on that, because how could you be the first Black Housewife and not feel some kind of pressure? I think you had to have felt some kind of pressure.

EBONI: Oh, shocker! Leah pushing back. Yes, you're right, I guess in retrospect, I knew the pressure was there. I don't represent just an individual woman. I'm not just Eboni on this show. I'm representing Black women for the first time on this show, so that is an enormous expectation from greater society and also, frankly, from the Black community to show up and represent us in a really important, positive way, especially in this moment of racial reckoning in America.

LEAH: Out of all time, now.

EBONI: So, I think maybe part of me subconsciously put that expectation to bed, because it's such an impossible thing. I can't represent all the incredible things about Black women. But I do work hard this season -- hopefully you'll agree -- to represent myself authentically and in a way that hopefully people can relate and have a better sense of humanity of the Black female experience.

LEAH: I mean, even towards the middle of the season, remember we kind of had a conversation and I was like, "You don't have to carry it all, it's too much. Like, it's not fair for you to take all of that on."

EBONI: I forgot that. You're right. At some point, I was trying to be the representative of, you know, the culture. And it was too much, and it was getting in the way of my connection to all the women.

LEAH: Right. This season is so deep.

EBONI: It's so rich! And you know how I love rich. [Laughs] No, I'm just kidding. If you could pick one word, how do you describe season 13?

LEAH: Polarizing. Like, I'm sorry to say, but I do think it is very polarizing. There's always a lot of opinions about the show and about the women and everything, but I really feel because of everything we covered this season--

EBONI: It's a lot.

LEAH: I think that it's going to really stir up a lot of emotions, opinions, feelings, and you know, people get very serious about their opinions.

EBONI: I think it's going to push people. I think it pushed us as we were going through it in big ways. I was pushed. I'm sure you guys felt pushed. But I think we pushed through a bunch of cool stuff.

EBONI: Obviously, you already have one season of RHONY under your belt, but this season you filmed during a pandemic. How is it different than filming the first season, pre-COVID?

LEAH: Well, I mean, it was so much more intense. We don't have all the outside distractions. We don't have big parties to go to with other people.

EBONI: With 60 friends? [Laughs]

LEAH: Right. Fifty of my best friends couldn't come to a party this season. But first of all, if you went through this pandemic this year and you didn't come out a different person in some way, shape or form, then you have no soul, OK. So, dealing with that and dealing with the collective suffering and emotions and everything that we were going through as a society and also having to film a show at the same time, it was a lot of work. It was a lot. Like, it was a lot more than season one. And it was so much more introspective, and we had to like be with each other more.

EBONI: Do you think we had to rely on each other more this season?

LEAH: Yes, we had to rely on each other more, absolutely. And we had to hold each other accountable more. Everything was just a heightened version of what it was the year before. And no booze to numb it.

EBONI: Speak for yourself, sister! You do start this season, along with our Luann, sober. And you also celebrated one year of sobriety. I'm so proud of you. The whole community is just so happy for you.

LEAH: Thanks, babe.

EBONI: How had that made this season different than last season?

LEAH: Well, I love not being hungover. That makes a huge difference. Look, I'm definitely very entertaining drunk. I got a kick out of myself, honestly. But behind the scenes, I was, like, struggling. Like, "OK, I know that alcohol doesn't agree with me. I also can't stop drinking right yet," you know what I mean? So, I'm just feeling very grateful that I was able to put it down. Some people, you hear horror stories that they are sober for a long time and then they go back out and they drink and then they can't get sober again. In terms of filming the season, I don't see being sober as a detriment. I see it as this, like, liberating, free thing where I can then live and be my best to my greatest expectation of myself, in a way. Because alcohol holds me back, because I'm so allergic to it.

EBONI: And that's so aware for you to even get to that point, Leah. And I want to say for the record you're very entertaining sober too -- bear witness -- and I'm proud of you that you weren't triggered, frankly, by filming again, because I could see where someone who had that had [would] correlate filming with that level of intoxication. You did do that, and I'm really proud of you.

LEAH: Thank you, honey. I appreciate that. And you were a huge support. Not only did you join the show as the newbie, you also joined during a pandemic. How much more challenging did that make it? Or did it make it easier to connect with the ladies since you were in your own show bubble?

EBONI: I think it made it easier to connect, because we weren't distracted. We're not at parties with a million people and a million guests and friends of. We're not out and about in the business and wonderfulness of New York City. We're forced to just sit and be with each other, and so I think in that way it forced a stronger, quicker connection.

LEAH: Yeah, well, I'm so sorry you didn't get to meet Ramona's 50 best friends.

EBONI: I thought you were gonna say, "I'm so sorry you didn't get to go on a glamorous cast trip."

LEAH: They're really special. Maybe next season, we'll see.

EBONI: Maybe next season I can put it on a Gucci bag.

LEAH: Going into this season, who did you expect to go head-to-head with? And were you right?

EBONI: Yes, I was right. I did expect to go head-to-head with Ramona Singer. I think the world expected that to happen. [Laughs] I think we're both very alpha women. We both say it like we mean it, and sometimes that can ruffle feathers. Of course, we know that that does happen through periods of the season. I think what's surprising is she wasn't the first woman in this group that I go head-to-head with. Were you shocked by that?

LEAH: I was. I was like, "Oh, wow, it's her? Damn, I thought it was gonna be Ramona first."

EBONI: Right, off to the races.

LEAH: "Races," no pun intended.

EBONI: Oh, oops! Oh my god, that was too much. [Laughs]

LEAH: Honestly, in the trailer -- because I get to see all these things I hadn't seen -- when you're like, "You're gaslighting me," and [Ramona's] like, "You're gaslighting me," I'm like, oh my god. It's the battle of who's gaslighting who. Ramona doesn't know what gaslighting means, for sure. She's just saying it because you said it to her. I died.

EBONI: "I know you are, but what am I?"

LEAH: Exactly. It was that kind of thing.

EBONI: So good. So, word on the street is that you got into a bit of a thing with Miss Heather Thomson.

LEAH: [Laughs] Oh god, are we going there? OK. You mean word on the she planted a story about it?

EBONI: Bloop! What can you tease without giving it all away about the heated exchange?

LEAH: Listen, when all I know about you is that you constantly put down every woman in the group on your podcast, then I just don't understand why you're coming to hang out with us. And I'm wondering if I'm gonna be the next person you talk about on your podcast. And I'm also thinking, what are the ulterior motives for you to come hang out with us when you've literally said the nastiest things about each person? You don't like Sonja's new face. You accuse Luann of doing some really bad stuff. I just don't understand what you're doing here.

EBONI: Do you think that she was just totally underestimating what the dynamic would be?

LEAH: I think she was. I think she really was, but I don't know why anyone would ever underestimate.

EBONI: Live and learn!

LEAH: Give us one word to describe your first impression of Ramona

EBONI: A lot. That's two words, sorry.

LEAH: Sonja?

EBONI: Effervescent. Like, full of life.

LEAH: Luann?

EBONI: Gorgeous.


EBONI: Endearing. You are a woman who presents as such a badass and such a tough girl and "I'm from New York prep school," and really, you're just the sweetest thing. You're so loving. And you're so empathetic to the world around you. And you don't necessarily have to be, and so I think that's really a value statement about you.

LEAH: I love you. I appreciate that.

EBONI: I love you, too. And you make me better, and I didn't know I could be. [Laughs] Just kidding! I'm kidding, but you do. I love our friendship.

LEAH: I really appreciate that. I love our friendship, too. I'm actually so excited for the viewers to see our friendship.

EBONI: I think it's needed, for a lot of different reasons in this moment. Just as women, as women from different cultural backgrounds, women at a particular age where I think, unfortunately, society pits women against each other professionally and romantically. And we just blow all that up and just ride for each other.

"I'm not going into the lower level, no matter what."

LEAH: Being the new girl, you always have to endure some hazing as part of your initiation. Did I properly prepare you for what you were stepping into? [Laughs] I don't even think I needed to prepare you.

EBONI: No, you did a terrible job, Leah, of preparing me for the hazing.

LEAH: B**ch, you did not even get hazed.

EBONI: And I wouldn't get hazed. That was the problem I refused. And I think your friends didn't like that too much.

LEAH: Yeah, I don't think so. You were like, "I'm not going into the lower level, no matter what." I was like, "Heather can go down there. It's fine."

EBONI: And that was good advice you did give me was to be confident in my request for a good room at Ramona's in the Hamptons. You gave me the whole lay of the land, and that was very effective, so thank you, Leah.

LEAH: I feel like I let them haze me too much last season.

EBONI: You did let them haze you, sweetheart. I think Tinsley failed you. I'm just kidding! [Laughs]

LEAH: Yes, in some ways, she did. Because Tinsley was getting hazed still! So, of course. But I felt, like, I'm in this woman's house. She's much older than I am. I'm trying to be a good guest. Forget that the cameras are around, like, I'm not there to pretend I'm some bossed-up badass.

EBONI: No, you were just being a polite, lovely young woman.

LEAH: Yes!

EBONI: I can be a b**ch. We're different. [Laughs]

LEAH: I know! You're the actual b**ch.

EBONI: I am.

LEAH: I just wanna be a b**ch. I'm a fraud. I'm a f**king fraud!

EBONI: The sweetest kind, though.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The Real Housewives of New York City season 13 premieres May 4 on Bravo.


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