'RHOP': Wendy Osefo on Why No One Should Be Team Candiace or Team Monique and That Mr. Chocolate Slip!
By Brice Sander
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Dr. Wendy Osefo didn't really know what she signed up for when she signed onto The Real Housewives of Potomac. "Can I be honest?" the RHOP rookie asks under her breath on video chat with ET. "I watched Potomac once I was cast on the show! So, OK, what happened? Let me get up to speed! Who are these people?"
Wendy says her mom, Susan, became her go-to resource for learning about the group of women she now found herself surrounded by, getting insight into the complicated dynamics of Karen Huger and company by way of the loyal viewer.
"When I don't get things, my mom is always like, 'Well, let me tell you the backstory of how we got here…'" Wendy admits. "I'm like, 'OK, Mom. What happened?' She's my Cliff's Notes."
"She is so opinionated," she adds. "Susan was like, 'Listen, you know, I like Candiace [Dillard Bassett]. Don't treat me how she treats her mama.' I said, OK, Mom!"
Wendy joined the group through Candiace, who ended season 4 alleging her mother smacked her with a purse (her mom calls it a "tap") and started season 5 on a rocky note with a number of her co-stars. This week, fans will see as Gizelle Bryant discovers that Candiace called her a "monster" while giving Wendy a rundown of the women. It was a moment in Housewives education for Wendy -- who's actually a professor at Johns Hopkins University -- as she realized something relatively innocent could be twisted into drama.
"I didn't know Candiace to be [messy] and I don't know if it's necessarily trash [talking], I think she just stated her opinion about each of the women," Wendy says. "She also stated to me very clear, 'These are my feelings. I want you to go in there and I want you to make your own decisions.' That's it. 'I'm not telling you what to do. I'm not telling you who to be friends with. This is just what I have experienced knowing them for these amount of years,’ and that's really what the conversation was."
"She even said that with people who her relationships were not so good with, like someone like Ashley [Darby]," Wendy notes. "She said, 'This is how I feel but I want you to meet her and make up your own mind.'"
Wendy says she really did want to form her own opinions of the women -- and did, quickly. Most notably, Karen. The self-proclaimed "Grande Dame" of the group wasn't exactly welcoming to Wendy, according to Wendy; it's not a huge surprise to viewers, as Karen admitted she was "not impressed" with Wendy within seconds of Wendy appearing onscreen for the first time. In another episode, Karen turned away from Wendy mid-conversation to start a chat with someone else at a party. Then, Karen went on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen and pulled a Mariah Carey, saying, "I don't know her."
Wendy clapped back on social media, declaring, "This self-professed 'Queen' keeps coming for me."
"I have nothing for [or against] Karen," Wendy notes. "Let her continue to say she doesn't know me, that's fine. Because if she knew me, she would know not to mess with me. So, you're right, you don’t know me. Let's keep it like that."
"I'm not a fan of people who go out of their way to be mean to other people," she continues. "That's just not my speed. I'm not a mean girl. I don't like that, and so it's interesting because how I define a queen is someone who not only oversees their kingdom, but builds their kingdom. And the only way you can build your kingdom is for you to love the people around you, and I just don't see that happening."
Wendy says of all her new friends, Karen surprised her the most: "She portrays herself as this Mother Goose, as this motherly person, that's not what I got from her. Karen is older than my mom, and so I didn't even expect her to concern herself with me, you know? For me, I look at people who I could be their mom almost like a mentor-mentee relationship. So to go out of your way to bully someone who you could be their mother? It's just like… what?!"
Runner-up for biggest surprise was Ashley. Wendy was expecting nothing but drama from RHOP's youngest star, especially after getting the lowdown for Candiace, who famously pulled a butter knife on Ashley last season. Instead, Wendy found a "super zen" woman she could bond with over babies. Both Ashley and Wendy welcomed new children just before season 5 started shooting.
Fans may be surprised to hear that Wendy connected with Ashley, as the women are seen having two separate tense moments in the season 5 trailer, including one where Wendy tells Ashley to "address me correctly" as "Dr. Wendy."
"How can I say this without spoiling it? That's just two moms going back and forth over being new moms and what we sacrifice," Wendy teases of her tension with Ashley. Apparently the two fights, if they can even be called that, are related and not about anything too deep… but they're still "very dramatic," she says.
The whole season seems to be leading up to RHOP’s most dramatic moment ever: a physical altercation between Candiace and Monique Samuels. The fight made headlines in the fall when it happened, but few details about what went down have been revealed.
"I would say it was heartbreaking," Wendy shares. "It was really something that I wish had never happened. If I had a magic wand, I would make it go away."
"That's the watershed moment," she adds. "That is the watershed moment of Potomac. And I say that, even though I'm coming in the fifth season, I believe that's the moment and has been the moment that's changed the dynamic of all the relationships. And it's changed it to the extent that some people have said, there’s no turning back. I am hopeful that they will change their minds. I am hopeful that we can come back together as a group, but whatever happens from this point, that moment is going to be what defines it."
Candiace claimed in a recent interview on the Reality Life With Kate Casey podcast that she would refuse to film another season with Monique. She made that statement after accusing Monique of misrepresenting what happened in various interviews. For her part, Monique has said (to ET) she really hasn’t shared any details of the event, so she’s not sure why Candiace feels like she’s lying about it. Both women filed assault charges against the other after the altercation, which were all eventually dropped.
What viewers do know is that Wendy finds herself in the middle of the action. The trailer shows her attempting to get in between Candiace and Monique to stop the situation from escalating.
"I like both Candiace and Monique and when I saw it escalating, I said, I don’t know where this is gonna go. I have a feeling where this is gonna go, but as long as I'm around, I don’t want it to go there," she recalls. "Unfortunately, I'm only but one person and if they're gonna go at it, they're gonna make their decisions to go at it."
“But you know, I'm that girlfriend -- I'm that girlfriend that, if something happens, I'm gonna be right there to make sure I got your back, and I'm gonna be right there to protect both people," she adds. "I won't run away. Like some people did… or one person did."
In classic reality TV fashion, there's a Team Candiace vs. Team Monique debate between the RHOP fandom playing out online, with some of the cast weighing in and appearing to choose sides. Wendy says, that's foolish.
"I am not Team Candiace nor Team Monique. I'm Team Right or Wrong," she proclaims, "and that's where people are getting messed up, because people are looking at the individuals, and people are failing to look at the actions."
"Anyone who tries to frame this as Team Candiace or Team Monique, they're playing their hand because it's not about that," she says. "It's right or wrong, simple."
The ladies of RHOP have said both that no one was right and that one person was right, the other was wrong in the Candiace vs. Monique moment. Wendy says that decision really lies with the audience to decide.
"It's all about gradations, right?" she offers. "This is what I will say: You have to understand, if I kick you and then you retaliate by throwing a grenade at me, you have to decide is it two rights, two wrongs, or was one person more wrong or one person more right? And that's what we're dealing with here."
"I have my own opinions on it, but for me I just think it's about at the end of the day -- whatever happens -- accepting what happened and then saying, 'I will be accountable for my own actions and what I did in this and I'm apologizing if you feel like an apology is needed,' and then moving forth."
Wendy is all about finding ways to move forward and grow. It's part of the reason why she signed herself up for Housewives. On paper, people would probably question why a woman with four degrees (including a PhD) would want to do reality TV.
"At my heart, at my core, I am a daredevil," she confesses. "I like to do things that just get my adrenaline rushing. … I am big on YOLO. Like, you only live once. Do it. Plus the fact that I am big on social justice and what better platform to have to make sure I get people out to vote, to let people know the importance of their voice? So, I want to use the platform in that way."
Wendy's day job is multifaceted, split between teaching and offering political commentary on cable news. While she appears on all the major cable networks, it's Wendy’s talking head moments on conservative-leaning Fox News that raise the most eyebrows with her new crop of Bravo fans.
"Whether you like it or not, they are the highest-rated cable news network. We may not watch it, but someone is watching it," Wendy says to the critics. "So, if you had that news network that is putting forth this information and no one is there to counter it, you have millions of Americans who are taking everything they're watching and considering it to be facts. I go on Fox News because I am the counter. I am the person that says, 'No, actually look at it from this lens.' I am the person who gives the progressive take, the liberal take. I come in there and I wear all of my color, so to speak. I'm a woman. I'm an immigrant. I'm a minority. I’m Black. I'm a mom. I come in there and I speak from those lenses and it's really important for people, whether they want to hear it or not, to hear the news from someone like me."
Wendy says she's realized there is some common ground between politics and Housewives. "If I can hold the man who resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. accountable, then I can hold you accountable," she quips. "That's the kind of friend I am. Take it or leave it."
Those same descriptors Wendy dropped -- woman, immigrant, minority, Black, mom -- are also what she brings to RHOP. On the most recent episode, fans got to meet Wendy's family, including her Nigerian-born mom, Susan, three kids -- sons Karter, 7, and Kruz, 5, and daughter Kamrynn, 1 -- and husband of nine years, Eddie.
"He is the finest man I know, he is just, chile!" Wendy said of her hubby a confessional on the show. "A piece of chocolate-- I was about to call him Mr. Chocolate. Chile, let me not do that!"
Housewives superfans were quick to pick up on that "Mr. Chocolate" slip, as that name has floated around the Bravo-sphere since season 9 of The Real Housewives of Atlanta when it was alleged that Phaedra Parks was carrying on an affair with a mysterious, dark-skinned man dubbed "Chocolate." The rumor mill would go on to claim that Phaedra's "Mr. Chocolate" was actually Gizelle's ex-husband (and now boyfriend), pastor Jamal Bryant. Jamal has denied the allegation, but fans still thought Wendy was throwing a little subtle shade by dropping the nickname on air.
"You know what’s so funny? I did not know what I-- this is what I knew: I knew I had heard it, but I didn't know the context of it," she says. "So when I said it -- not when I said it, but when I said he’s a fine piece of chocolate, 'cause I always say that -- and I said, I was about to call him Mr. Chocolate, I was like, wait a minute. I don’t know. Uh uh! I don’t know. Because I don't remember what it was connected to, and now it's blowing up like wildfire and I'm like, oh. Is that what happened?"
Wendy promises she was not trying to be messy. In fact, she didn't even think the comment would make it to TV, because it felt like an outtake in the moment. The mom of three says she's learning as she goes about how Housewives episodes come together. She had no idea her facial expressions would become memes (of which there are already many, despite being just three episodes into the season) and she's realized she should only drink through a straw while on camera.
One trick of the trade Wendy picked up while filming, though, was to always order two meals when the group goes out to eat. See, because Housewives dinners typically turn into battle zones for arguments (with the kind of head-turning back and forth typically reserved for tennis match spectators), the women don't always get to enjoy their food. So, Wendy liked to go home afterward and actually dig into her entrees. She orders dessert to-go, too.
"I always order dessert with my meal, because they always love to say, 'OK, we have to wrap up,'" she reveals. "Oh no, baby. We're going to get this dessert first. So, they did that to me too many times, so I order dessert first."
It's personality quirks like those that have turned Wendy into a fan-favorite newbie, and she's excited for the viewers to get to know her more in the coming months. She loves that she gets to share her Nigerian heritage (and native language, Igbo) with the world and show women that it's more than OK to exist in different worlds simultaneously.
"I am really excited for the viewers to get a glimpse of my inner life," Wendy teases. "You'll actually be surprised how I feel about my career, and so I'm really interested for the viewers to hear, you know, me and some of my struggles."
"These are all elements of who Wendy is, so I'm so glad that the viewers get to see everything that makes Wendy, Wendy," she adds. "It's not just the glitz and the glam. It's also reading and the books and making sure everyone is aware of what's going on in the world, so I love it."
"Since they are aware of what's going on in the world, I have to let them know the cause," she notes. "They are seeing the effect and so we are starting to talk about the cause. We're talking about, historically, what does racism look like, how did it develop in this country? And it's really important for us to have that conversation, because I want them to be aware, but I never want them to feel inferior. Because when you tell a child as small as seven and five that racism is people discriminating against you because of the color of their skin, they're gonna feel like the color of their skin makes them bad, or the color of their skin is not good. So it's making sure that my husband and I talk about information around what's going on in this country, but building them up as the kings they are. Like, your skin is beautiful. You're amazing. Everything about you is amazing."
"I'd rather have me and my husband talk about that than learn about it out in the world and they come home crying one day," she adds. Wendy hopes that by being open about her experiences and her family's experiences, she'll be able to convince more people to exercise their right to vote this fall.
"I just want to make sure everyone goes out and votes, and if you're registered to vote, make sure your loved ones are also registered to vote. It’s so important," she pleads. "The 2020 election is going to be one of the most consequential elections of our lifetime."
"I'm not just talking about the presidential election, I'm also talking about who are your state reps? I'm talking about state senates, I'm talking about your district attorney," she continues. "2020 has been a big cluster, and we all need to get out of this cluster by making sure we appoint the right people to implement change."