2020 is the year Porsha Williams came into her own as an activist. When the call for racial justice surged this spring after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of law enforcement, the granddaughter of civil rights icon Hosea Williams sprung into action. That journey is at the heart of The Real Housewives of Atlanta's new season, which follows Porsha as she attends protests and demonstrations in honor of the Black lives taken too soon.
"No. 1, I'm holding the reason right here: my daughter Pilar," Porsha tells ET's Rachel Smith over video chat of why she felt compelled to act. Her 20-month-old daughter, who also goes by the nickname "PJ," joined her mom for the chat.
"She's a beautiful Black girl and, you know, I went down to Kentucky fighting for a beautiful Black woman who had lost her life," she says, referencing Breonna, a 26-year-old EMT who was killed in her Louisville, Kentucky, home by Louisville Metro Police in March. She and her boyfriend were in their home when police made a late-night raid on the wrong address. Taylor was shot eight times. Though one officer was fired after Breonna's death, none of the officers involved had been arrested or charged until September.
"What made matters worse is the fact that her family had not seen any justice and so I just felt like, if I were to just sit at home and act like it's not happening, then it could happen over and over and over again and we could see plenty more Breonna Taylors," Porsha remarks. "I took her story very personal, and I just could not -- there was a burning in my bones. I just had to get up and be active. I had posted enough. I had emailed enough. I was one of the ones calling when the phone wouldn't pick up anymore at their county's office, and I felt helpless to a certain extent."
No officers were charged in Breonna's death, but one officer at the scene, Brett Hankison, was fired and charged with wanton endangerment for shooting at an apartment next door.
"It really hit home as a mother, that this young lady was raised by her mother to be an adult who was successful, looking forward to her future -- she had a ... boyfriend who was going to propose -- she just had so much life to live, and for it to have been taken from her by the law, who is supposed to protect and serve, I just found that completely heartbreaking," she says.
Porsha was arrested twice, at two different demonstrations held in Breonna’s memory, one outside of Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's home.
"I don't regret any of it," she proclaims. "I don't regret one hour in jail, because our whole thing was to make sure that Breonna Taylor's name stayed in the forefront, and that people understood what was happening in Kentucky, and what their [Attorney General] wasn't doing and how the system had failed her family."
Porsha says she doesn’t know how she’ll feel watching back the still-fresh moments play out on RHOA, but she's proud of the show and of its network, Bravo, for shining a light on the movement. Bravo has also aired a series of one-off specials focused on Black lives and race in the months since Breonna's death.
"I feel like it really would've been an injustice not to show that part of my life," Porsha says. "I feel like we're always so open, and we show a lot of our other business. Well, they should show that as well."
"It's gonna be a very powerful piece of my story that I'm glad that they added in, because you need to see what we're going through," she adds. "I mean, we're going through [the coronavirus] pandemic, but we're also going through another pandemic where we're being killed in the street. And that's something that's very real and it was very much the forefront, that was -- and still is -- the forefront of my life and what I'm focused on, and what I want to come to an end."
Porsha name checks her RHOA co-stars, Cynthia Bailey, Kandi Burruss and Marlo Hampton, as being incredible champions and allies in the fight. She also mentions PJ's father, Dennis McKinley, who was by her side for many of the demonstrations and helped Porsha in donating to bail funds for protestors who were arrested in Atlanta. Dennis and Porsha's current relationship status is somewhat unknown, at least publicly. It would appear they're estranged, or at the very least called off their engagement, but fans will have to watch season 13 to get the answer.
"All of that is spelled out," Porsha promises. The season will seemingly be full of revelations. In late September, murmurs hit "the blogs," as Housewives say, that some freaky business went down between cast members (Porsha's name was tossed around) and a stripper at Cynthia's bachelorette party. When the RHOA trailer dropped in October, it was confirmed that something went down, though the details remain a mystery. "Stripper-gate" will be a major plot point this year.
"I have fun at the bachelorette party," Porsha teases. "To me, it was a good time. It was what it was, I don't really understand why it had to turn so negative. I wish it didn't, because there was a lot of kiki moments about that night, and it is nothing funner than after the party to get with your girls and be like, ‘Do you remember when you did this? Do you remember when you did that?’ Like, we are missing that moment, because it has turned into something crazy. So, I don't know. Hopefully we can -- maybe we will kiki about it at the reunion, I am still ready to have fun."
While fans will have to watch and see what unfolds, Porsha does offer this: "It's a reality show and things can go up, they can go left, they can go right. You just gotta stand in your truth and deal with it, and if it's not true, it's not true."
Porsha says RHOA might be the best-equipped cast to navigate on-camera scandals, because they're all very comfortable with any and everyone being in their business.
"We're fun, we're fabulous. We go through ups, we go through downs, but we're very loving, and warm -- and we're shady," Porsha explains.
"Our show has a lot of vets, one new girl, but the rest of us? We've been doing this, we're not new to this," she then notes. "Like, me in particular, I've actually become family with the cameras. Like, they used to make me nervous, I used to say all kinds of crazy stuff, because the cameras were there. But now? I welcome it. It is what it is. That's what I'm here for is to show you Porsha and let you be in my life, so it is what it is."
That "new girl" Porsha references is actress Drew Sidora, season 13’s new peach holder.
"She is so fun, she is really fun," Porsha says. "She is one of those people who I feel like has come on the show as her true self, and I really feel like I have gotten to know her -- not someone who is doing anything for the cameras. I feel like she really, genuinely came to the show to get to know people in a real way and I like her."
"She shakes it up and she asks a lot of questions," she adds. "So, whatever she wants to know, honey, she will get to the bottom of it, OK?"
Porsha reveals she didn’t actually meet Drew until halfway through filming, as pandemic protocols called for the women to film much more on their own, or in small groups, rather than all together. Porsha says each cast member has her own "team," dedicated producers, camera and audio people, in order to minimize COVID-19 exposure risk. The show did have a COVID scare in its last few days of filming, recently shutting down for two weeks out of an abundance of caution. Now, cameras are back up to capture what will be the season’s final few episodes.
"I'm glad the season is coming to an end because I hate to be cold and now we gotta sit outside in the cold, so it's good that we'll be wrapping up pretty soon which is a good thing," Porsha jokes.
While she may not embrace the cold, Porsha is all in on Christmas, partnering with Balsam Hill to turn her Atlanta-area abode into a winter wonderland.
"I absolutely love Christmas, I am like the second Mariah Carey," Porsha muses. "I am always in the mood to be ready for Christmas."
This will be the first Christmas where Pilar (who Porsha says is her "mini-me") fully understands what’s happening, and Porsha plans to make it a holiday to remember, with matching pajamas and some new family traditions. Because of the ongoing pandemic, Porsha won't be throwing a big Christmas party -- but if she were able to, there'd be one cast member left off the invite list.
"Kenya [Moore] would not get an invite to my holiday party," she admits. "We just don't have a relationship and I think that if you’re having a holiday party, it should be someone who has a warm heart and I don't want any cold spirits around."