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"I always had the juice, but now? I got the peach!" So coos Marlo Hampton in the opening credits of The Real Housewives of Atlantaseason 14, her first time delivering a tagline as a full-time, peach-holding 'Wife after a decade of appearing on the show as a "guest" or "friend of" the cast.
"You know what? It's my season," Marlo proclaims to ET over video chat ahead of her official debut as a Housewife. "I don't know why. I guess the greater being was like, 'Hey!' God's like, 'Hey, this is your time!' But it's here and I'm ready for it. I'm happy. And it's my time to shine. I've been shining, but I'm a little polished, shined a little brighter."
For the longest time, Marlo was told there "wasn't a consensus in the room" of decision makers about her status on the show, despite fan outcries to promote her to full-fledged Housewife. Whatever changed, the 46-year-old isn't asking questions. She's just accepting the blessing, and soaking in the experience moment by moment. Filming her intro shots and gripping the peach for the first time "was epic."
"That was real," she beams. "I'm like, 'I'm really holding the peach on hand!' That was amazing. That was a great feeling. Like I said, I'm excited."
Marlo claims she received congratulations on the step-up from all her castmates. Well, except for one: Kenya Moore.
"It's sad," Marlo says, "because I just have realized, I'm like, 'Kenya has a bad case of can't take.' She can't take Marlo! It's like, I don't even know what medicine I can give her to cure it, but she just has a bad case of she can't take me. And it's just sad, because I thought she would be really supportive of me. Out that decade, doing my thing. I deserve this seat at the table. Don't be negative in saying 'I'm ghetto. I don't deserve it.' Come on, girl. Support me. Please support me, sis. Support me."
After years of existing in frenemy territory, Marlo and Kenya were working their way toward a friendship in season 13, but all that seemingly came undone as soon as Marlo snagged a full-time spot on the show. Kenya historically has been against Marlo holding a peach, saying in interviews (including with ET) over the years that the Le'Archive owner doesn't fit "the brand."
"I tried," Marlo says of maintaining a friendship with the former Miss USA. "I came right into this season being an amazing friend: 10 toes down, being a friend, that's supportive, going above and beyond. And what I've realized, Kenya is not here for me. She's just not. She does not know how to reciprocate that, how to be supportive of me, how to celebrate me, how to encourage me, how to uplift me. She's just not here for it. And what's really disappointing is, we're both Aquarius. We're both strong women. We both come from the same background with mom and parent issues and our upbringing. Why can't we come together? But guess what? We just can't. God is like, 'I'm keeping you away from that girl over there, Marlo. She has some issues. Leave her over there, on her own little planet.' And I'm OK with that."
"I can love her, we're cordial," she continues. "We're cordial. We're on group texts with each other. We've unblocked each other. So that's good. But that's a good thing. And we're just going to stay there."
When Kenya sat down with ET earlier this month, she claimed that she handed in her "villain scepter" and Marlo picked it up, but Marlo doesn't see it that way.
"So she came in lighter, brighter, and I picked up the scepter for the villain? More like, I came in here as the hero and I'm keeping everyone's peaches juicy and sweeter!" Marlo cracks. "I think Kenya's a little delusional. Seriously, I've come to that conclusion. Because you will see yourself -- I'm not even going to the bad mouth her -- as this season reveals, you're going to see the true Kenya."
"One thing Granny always said, 'You can't hide your authentic self,' the real Kenya is going to shy bright, like a diamond," she explains. "The same way she poured that drink on Ramona, the same way she back-stabbed Cynthia, who's so sweet and has rode for Kenya for years? For her to betray Cynthia, I know you're not the friend for me. That part."
The season 14 trailer hinted at friction for the pair, with Marlo telling Kenya she's "full of s**t" in one heated exchange.
"She pretends to love you," Marlo teases of what leads to that moment. "She's never supportive. She's never uplifting. She needs all the attention. It's like, 'Look at me! Look! Look! I need some attention today. Look, I'm here!' And it's so sad, because she can never uplift anyone else, celebrate anyone else. It has to be all about her."
It seems Kenya was the exception to the group, though, as Marlo felt welcomed by the rest of the women.
"They were supportive, and I think they were happy for me, but I wanted a party," she quips. "I felt the girls should've threw me a peach party. I wanted the Atlanta girls to go over there, to [Kandi Burruss' restaurant] Old Lady Gang, and turn the room peach and just be like, 'We're happy for you!' Those are the things I would do. So everyone's not me."
Somewhat surprisingly, Marlo says she hasn't heard anything from her longtime friend and former Housewife, NeNe Leakes, about getting the gig. NeNe is currently suing Bravo and its parent company, Housewives executive producer Andy Cohen and the production company behind RHOA, claiming they fostered a racist work environment.
"It's OK," Marlo says of losing touch with NeNe. "I'm going to support me. My immediate circle of people, who really are genuinely happy for me, are support me. So that's all that matters."
That circle includes Marlo's nephews, Michael and William, whom she gained custody of three years ago. For the first time, viewers will see Marlo in full "Munty mode," aka mom-aunty. Season 14 documents Marlo building a new home for her and the boys, whom she says took to filming pretty naturally.
"I think I was more worried because I'm like, 'Oh, school and I don't want people bothering them...' and they're just adjusting to living with me, but they really did good," she shares. "I told them, I'm like, 'Hey, be yourself.' They embarrassed me, called me out on things, I'm sure. So they were just being themselves. So that's the good thing about it."
That also includes sharing some of the tougher parts of their unconventional family story, including the boys' relationship with their mom, Marlo's sister, who struggles with mental health.
"You're going to see moments where we talk about their mom," Marlo notes. "She's going through some things right now, and I'm just trying to pray and hope that she just gets herself together. But meanwhile, Michael and William, I'm going to hold them down. I'm going to make sure they're smiling as much as they can, and that they're happy. But right now, mom just has to take out some time for mom. She needs to just work on her right now. I got the boys. I'm going to hold it down, until she comes back strong."
Viewers will also get a chance to see where Marlo comes from when her mom comes for a visit. The on-camera reunion was the first time they'd seen each other in years.
"We hadn't seen each other in a while and it was time," she reflects. "It was time for us to see each other. And the boys, they needed to see their grandmother, since their mom isn't there and she just she's... you'll see, I don't want to give it away, but you'll see. Granny, Granny. Mom/Grandma showed up ... [and] it was definitely some emotional moments."
Of course, there's group drama, too, which kicks off on Sunday's premiere as the women bring up questions that have haunted Marlo since she joined the show: Where does the money come from? Marlo's simple answer is, she's been on TV for a decade and isn't doing it for free.
"I don't even think I'm going to ever discuss it again, it's embarrassing," Marlo says of inquisitions into her finances. "If they don't know where I make my money from, if they don't know when I walk in the room, I'm getting paid, if they don't know when I post, I'm getting paid on the platform I'm on, that's OK. I don't live above my means. I live in a townhome that's paid for. So it's like, come on. What do you mean? What do you think, I'm just broke? Like, I wasn't smart enough to have investments or properties and different streams of income? It's insulting."
Before joining the show, Marlo owned a boutique, which has since spun into her clothing rental business. However, the women seem to believe Marlo has a sugar daddy relationship (or maybe more than one), with Kenya going so far as to suggest Marlo exchanges "her company" for money.
"It's really sad to where she's worried about where my money come from and seeing where she thinks it comes from," Marlo fires back. "Kenya can never get money from anyone. Kenya is rusty, dried up and tired, and a has-been, and I want her to stop worrying about where my money comes from. She needs to worry about making her some money, 'cause I want to know, what money does she even have? She keeps talking about Kenya Hair Care. Where's your money? What's your history? I don't even know. How have you made money? You just came out with the hair line, a couple years ago!
And as Marlo points out, after a decade of living in the public eye, someone would've come forward by now to prove the point.
"I want to know who these men are, because the only men you guys ever have heard about is the billionaire I dated," she rattles off. "So I just want all these men, 'cause it would be nice to have all these men with all this money! I don't want a broke man, but I just want to meet all these men. Where are they? No pictures, no receipts. It's been a decade. Where are your receipts?!"
That billionaire's identity remains under wraps (though Marlo has clarified it is not Ted Turner), but his presence looms over her life in certain ways. On the premiere, Kandi questions if/how Marlo's been able to stretch out the man's money for so long.
"What's truth is that when the billionaire and I split, I wasn't broke," Marlo says. "I didn't leave broke. I still live in a townhome, that's paid for. So my expenses are what? Utility bills? Come on. But definitely, he taught me how to invest. Definitely. But guess what? I still need other sources of income, 'cause I do have, now, two dependents, so I got to get a little Kandi Burruss [style empire] over here now, OK? It's like, wait, Michael, William. You be taking all my money now! Wait a minute. It's going a little too fast now."
On the note of Kandi, she's been teasing a heated, below-the-belt altercation with Marlo throughout her press cycle for her spinoff, Kandi & the Gang, and now RHOA. Marlo seemingly takes full responsibility for the spat.
"I do go below the belt," Marlo says. "I'm not happy to say that, but you know I'm not the best at a classy read. I'm just, I'm not that girl. It's like, leave me alone, 'cause you know, I'm going to go for the gut. I'm going right for your jugular. Leave me be, and when you come for me, when you send for me, you know, I'm coming. I'm coming, five-inch heels and all. I'm coming!"
"I said some awful things," she says, speaking to the season as a whole. "I already told God I was sorry. I told God to forgive me. I'm not apologizing to the person. No, I apologize to God and to my supporters. I apologize to them."
An added layer to the Kandi drama, Marlo points out, is their history. Their relationship predates Housewives.
"I've known each other longer than any of the girls in the group, I dated her godbrother," Marlo explains. "So Kandi, I just see that's my sister. So if I have an issue with you, I don't care if you're a fan-favorite. I don't care how many followers you have, how many businesses, I'm going to tell you, if I feel I don't agree with something. So with Kandi, we had a little disagreement and it was bad. But guess what? I got us some chicken wings from KFC and she was all right. We made up."
"Kandi and I are good," she adds. "So we're in a great place and I'm happy we're able to make up. ... But it was bad and I do regret it, and that's why I'm like, 'Oh, we got to make up. I love you.'"
Marlo cites the group's ability to move on from drama this season as a return to form for the franchise.
"It's like the old days," she gushes. "It's authentic friendship. It's like, 'Oh girl, I'm over at your house.' We're doing this. We're actually on the phone. We're going places together. We're supporting each other. So it's friendships. It's like, 'Hey, come over, bring the boys. My husband want to help them with this or...' It's authentic friendships, and that's the good thing about it, besides you know who."
Part of that shift might be the cast shakeup that occurred ahead of season 14. Cynthia and Porsha Williams departed the series, while Shereè Whitfield returned for her third stint as a Housewife.
"Just somewhere down the line, I don't know if people just got too big for their britches, I don't know if people got too comfortable, but it's like the friendship just disappeared," she reflects. "I love Real Housewives of Atlanta because of that. It's like, 'Hey, we're all authentic friendships.' I don't know what happened, but I know it's back."
Marlo's excited for viewers to see a new side to Shereè, as well as get to know newcomer Sanya Richards-Ross, the Olympic track star whom she calls the "secret sauce" of the season.
"At first, I wasn't here for her," Marlo admits. "I'm going to be honest. I was not checking for. I'm like, 'Oh, her and this little fake accent.' Like, girl, are you American? Are you Jamaican? What are you? But she came and she took to Drew [Sidora] so much, to where she didn't get to know everyone. So I was like, 'You're just coming on, getting on the bandwagon.' But once I got to know her, good lordy! She's amazing. She tries to keep us all together. She's a major part of our glue. She really is. To be new, that little thing comes in, fiery and spicy, and 'Come on, girl, we're doing this. Let's do a TikTok. Let's go cook. Let's...' She's definitely a bundle of joy."