"Dallas girls are sugar and spice, but I'm still working on nice," D'Andra Simmons coos at the top of every episode of The Real Housewives of Dallas' fifth season. Well, she doesn't so much coo it as much as she huskily declares it, even surprising herself with the gravelly tone of her delivery.
"I don't know what happened," she admits to ET of the line read that made viewers rewind and listen again when the season 5 taglines first dropped. "I didn't even know my voice was that low, that register, so it was a shock to me, too. I had several reads of that line and that's the one they chose. It certainly surprised people!"
The unexpected timbre in D'Andra’s voice is in line with what the Hard Night, Good Morning founder says season 5 is all about for her: showing a side of herself the viewers never got to see in her three prior seasons. It seems to be working, as each week social media floods with comments like, "Am I liking D'Andra this season?!" and "Where has this D'Andra been?"
"It definitely freed me up," D'Andra admits of LeeAnne's exit. "People think I'm angry and severe, and that's really not who I am. … I get to talk about other things than, you know, LeeAnne and I not getting along, which is great and I think that’s exciting."
LeeAnne and D'Andra faced off on everything from being the group's "queen bee" to gossip about personal financial matters, infidelity and more over the course of seasons 2, 3 and 4. They engaged in screaming matches, social media warfare, ego-bruising pranks and even one near-physical altercation.
"I think the way I handled some of the situations with LeeAnne, if I look back ... I would've handled them differently," D'Andra adds. "I would've come [and said], 'You hurt my feelings when you talked away the situation with my finances, because I was trying to save my business…' instead of being so angry, but I was just in a state of shock back then. But you learn throughout this process how to be a better person and my goal was trying to be less reactionary."
Today, D'Andra says she has no relationship with her one-time bridesmaid; but she also harbors no ill will toward LeeAnne.
"I never negate the contributions that she made to the show," D'Andra says. "She was a very big part of the show, but we do not see eye to eye on several things and I think for me … the social media got so out of hand, that I just can’t go back to a friendship when things were said about me that were complete lies."
"It put me in a lot of pain for several years," she continues. "I was in a puddle of tears at times, 'cause I just couldn't believe the stuff I was reading. It's not who I was at all, and it hurt me so much, that it's hard to -- it's not that I can't forgive, because I have to forgive. But it's just, why go back and take a chance? You know, learn a lesson, and I wish her well. I'm so glad that she and [her husband Rich Emberlin] are happy and she's got other things she’s doing in her life, just happy for all of her endeavors."
In LeeAnne's "place," so to speak this season, is Dr. Tiffany Moon, D'Andra’s pal who joined the cast of RHOD as season 5's only new full-time Housewife. Within minutes of appearing on screen, Tiffany won over viewers… but the same can’t be said of the cast, who have taken issue with Tiffany's "bossy" style in her first few episodes.
"I really don’t know what the issue is," D’Andra says of the women not taking to Tiffany immediately (and now, some engaging in Twitter fights with their new co-star during episode airings).
"I think that she has had a huge splash, and I think that's a part of it," D'Andra surmises. "Whereas I look it, big win! People are paying attention to RHOD! This is amazing! No, it’s, like, great. We’ve got this new Housewife that’s bringing all this attention, people are really noticing our franchise and they're seeing what we can bring to the table, and for me I’m thinking this is the best thing ever. I keep calling, 'Oh my god, girl! You are winning! You are doing great! Thank you so much!' And you know, I can understand where people would think maybe there's a little jealousy or little bit, you know, 'Not what they expected,' I guess? I don’t know. Women are weird."
There's also always a learning curve for newbies on these shows. D'Andra experienced that herself stepping into season 2.
"We're talking four years, or five years of a franchise -- I've been on four -- that we have kinda cemented ourselves to a certain way that we are and we have a new person coming in, and they wanna do things a different way, shake it up, people don't like change," D'Andra notes. "That's the big lesson, I think people don’t like change."
If "the blogs," as the Housewives say, are to be believed, Tiffany wasn't supposed to be the only new star-holder in season 5. Jen Davis, who is credited as a "friend of" the cast this year, was reportedly brought on as a fulltime Housewife before having to take a step back for personal reasons. That change may have left some drama on the cutting room floor. Early hearsay about filming suggested the season kicked off with D'Andra and Jen in a major feud, but that footage seems to be MIA.
"If you didn't see it, it didn't happen! Let's put it that way," D'Andra offers when pressed on the subject. "If you didn’t see it, it wasn't there. Now, we're in a pretty good place, and I think Jen is a very unique person. She's fun. She’s funny, and she brings a lot, as well. She's got a lot of big issues that she’s dealing with in her personal life, so I think maybe that was why Tiffany sort of eclipsed her at the time, with regards to the show."
Even if her battle with Jen got cut, D'Andra still has plenty to deal with this season, especially when it comes to Kary Brittingham. Kary joined the show as D'Andra's friend in season 4, but something changed about their relationship during the hiatus ahead of season 5. Kary came into season 5 swinging, taking dig after dig at D'Andra, calling her a hypochondriac and selfish, among other things.
"I am still confused about that, to be honest," D'Andra confesses. "I didn't understand that Kary had such deep-seeded opinions and feelings about our friendship until I started watching the season. I mean, I knew we were fighting a lot on, you know, during filming, but I never, ever would've thought that she would've called me selfish or that I wasn't a good friend, or any of the things she’s saying about me, and it really hurt my feelings and I’ve really tried to get to the bottom of it with her, and you'll see that kinda unpack and unfold."
Kary and D'Andra spent a lot of the off-season together, traveling to trunk shows in Texas to sell their wares -- D'Andra has a skincare line and health supplement company, while Kary sells jewelry. All that time together, in close quarters (between carpooling and sharing hotel rooms) seemed to do a number of their friendship. Then, throw in the pandemic.
"Kary probably had a much more difficult time than I did during quarantine, because she's a very social person, whereas I am happy to be at home with my dogs and my husband and my books, and I can stay at home for months and not have a problem," D'Andra remarks. "Kary has to be out and has to be doing things and has to be going to dinners and she’s just, it’s not OK for her to be isolated."
To D'Andra, Kary was like a wind-up toy wound so tight from staying at home, that when cameras went up and group events started, she spun a bit out of control.
"There's a bee in her bonnet, as we like to say in the South, and I don't know what set it off!" D'Andra quips. She turned to her shaman, Darrin Davis, for guidance in healing her friendship with Kary, which will lead to an emotional exchange between the two women later this season. As teased in the trailer, D'Andra tells Kary, "I may not be the type of friend that you expect, but I’m doing the best I can."
"After hearing a lot about what she's going through and the different struggles she's had, I thought maybe I should be a little more compassionate or a little more understanding, and that’s really my journey this year, anyway," D'Andra explains. Her shaman is also helping D'Andra navigate her complicated feelings surrounding her strained relationship with her step-mother and half-brother, with whom she fell out over a disagreement over her late father's estate years ago. D'Andra says viewers will have to stay tuned to see how that journey goes, playing coy over whether her estranged family will appear on screen.
It's safe to assume Shaman Darrin will pop up again, though, especially after his first appearance in season 2 left many fans wondering, why is he sucking snot out of D'Andra’s nose?
"He was not sucking anything out of my nose!" D'Andra clarifies. "It is so funny that people think he was sucking. So, when you do rapé, you have this instrument, usually whoever administers it, and you put [the rapé] in the end of the instrument and then you blow. So, he was blowing, it's an Amazonian sacred tobacco, into my nose. And so, it gives you sort of a euphoric, light feeling. It makes you relaxed and calm down, and de-stress and it's a very nice, kinda, mmmm zen moment."
"Who would want to suck a booger?!" she then asks, noting that a sound-effect seemed to be added to the final clip of the tobacco exchange. "Ew! God, no! No, no, no, no, no! Uh uh! I wouldn’t even go to my ENT for that."
It's just another example of the "different D’Andra" viewers will continue to see this season, even if friendship drama takes over at some points.
"I'm fighting with everybody at different times," D'Andra teases, "but it's not so focused on this one friendship. Therefore, I can focus on other aspects of my life and I can share those aspects, and I think that’s a real refreshing and lighter version of me this year, but also you’re gonna see a more vulnerable, definitely more vulnerable side than you've ever seen before."