Mary Cosby entered The Real Housewives canon with a bang… well, a whiff. A whiff of "hospital smell." With an unexpected dig at co-star Jen Shah ("You smell like hospital"), the pastor with a passion for fashion cemented herself in the reality TV annals… but then, she slowly showed up less and less in each new episode of The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City's freshman run, leaving viewers perplexed, wanting to know, where is Mary?!
"I don't know that people want more Mary," Mary herself quips to ET over video chat from her Utah home. "However, I want more Mary."
There is speculation out there that Mary was only a "friend of" during filming of RHOSLC, turned into a full-time Housewife when it came time to edit the episodes. While Mary won't divulge whether that was the case, she does offer a hint.
"How can I say this without being blunt?" she ponders. "It just wasn't purposely done, but they kind of tried to fade Mary out and didn't know Mary was going to be more wanted."
Mary missed out on a group snowmobiling trek, a few dinners and, most surprising, the all-cast trip to Las Vegas, but she says she's not one to get FOMO. Most of Mary's appearances have been solo, at home with her husband, Robert, Sr., their son, Robert, Jr., her housekeeper/cousin Charlinda and copious amounts of clothing in almost every room; she seems to only interact with the other women over FaceTime -- and that's seemingly by design, on Mary's part. According to her, any opportunity she had to avoid on-screen foe Jen, she took.
"I feel like if I go in to do an event, or go to do something fun or enjoyable, dinner and vacation, that’s super touchy," she offers. "I'm gonna go with someone I enjoy, someone that enjoys me. That sounds fun. But to go with this group? Every escape was, like, literally an escape for me. I was like, ahhh! Especially when I didn't have to go to Vegas. I was so happy, I was so relieved, 'cause I didn't wanna be in trouble. I want to abide by the rules, but … no, I didn't feel left out and I was at peace, very happy."
Mary did have to face the ladies in-person at the season 1 reunion, taped in New York City earlier this month. Ahead of the shoot, Mary appeared on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen and let it slip she hadn't been keeping up with watching the episodes. She says she wound up binging the season after that in order to get up to speed for reunion day.
"I think what surprised me was when I wasn't on [the episodes]," Mary admits when asked what she learned by finally watching the show. "The spark that comes with me. Oh, is that bad? … Like, my absence? It's clearly there."
Mary says the 12-hour filming day warrants a three-part reunion, as the women worked through all the issues from their debut outing. She says there will be resolution to the drama she sparked for the rest of the cast after claiming Lisa Barlow and Meredith Marks are "afraid of Jen" ("Does Mary Cosby lie? No, she does not lie," she purrs, alluding to where things go), as well as a number of unexpected apologies. Mary says she both gave and received apologies, which might mean a truce for her and Jen. When Bravo released the cast photo from the shoot, Mary and Jen were side by side and smiling -- but Mary's lips are (mostly) sealed.
"It's safe to say that says something, it says progress," she teases, but also notes she does not regret the "you smell like hospital" comment in the least. She says the remark, which Mary made before filming started, was never directed at Jen, like Jen assumed (Jen had been looking after her sick aunt, who underwent a double amputation on her legs around this time). In fact, Mary is adamant that she said "it smells like hospital," speaking about the general atmosphere of the restaurant she was in with Jen and Meredith at the time, not Jen nor her aunt. Mary also claims she had no idea about Jen's aunt's condition, nor their close bond, until after the fact.
"No regrets," she declares. "I know my motive, I know where I was coming from. It can [seem like] a dig, and I see that, how it can come across as rude. What I do regret, probably, is the way I got so frustrated. I feel like I was being blamed for her [aunt's] legs and it was for all year, before we even aired. So, as soon as it aired I was like, I am not responsible."
Mary's distaste for the scent of medical buildings left viewers a little confused, though, seeing as a few episodes into the season, fans spotted Mary’s housekeeper, Charlinda, clad in scrubs and delivering Mary a meal on a tray, each item individually wrapped in cellophane as if it came from a hospital cafeteria. Mary says that's always how she's taken her food, a germ-free style of serving she learned from her late grandmother, Rosemary.
"It's how we were raised," she says, noting that when she was in the hospital herself to have "all [her] odor glands removed," her meals actually came on a cart and under cloche domes, like room service at a hotel.
As for Charlinda, Mary's cousin whom she claimed to not actually know all that well, despite being her employee for two decades? She's no longer in the picture.
"I don't know, she got the green eye and she turned on me and she left," Mary reveals. "She lived with me rent free for 20 years and then to turn on me it's, like, I really don’t know who she is."
While she still doesn't know Charlinda, Mary says she's never been more sure of who she (meaning Mary) is as a person. She says it's a relief for her story to be out in the world.
"This is Mary, and you accept Mary and her life or you don't," she says. "I don't have to hide. I don't have to steal. I don't have to cheat. I don't have to be someone I'm not -- and not only do I live by those morals every day, but now I can live it to the world."
Mary's home life became a hot topic as soon as her Bravo bio hit the internet, Housewives fans honing in on one, quick line about how Mary is married to her one-time step-grandfather. It was her grandmother's wish that Mary take over her life -- the church she pastored, the businesses she ran, the homes she owned and, yes, even her marriage -- upon her death. As Mary said when the revelation made its way to TV, "Don't think it wasn't weird, 'cause it was! But I did it because I trusted my grandmother, and I'm so glad I did it."
"Life's just going to take you where you're supposed to go," Mary says. "It's up to you to follow it. [Joining the show] felt good. It felt right. I’m like, people think I'm weird [already]. They say it behind my back, they talk behind my back, let me just tell them in their face: This is Mary and, yes, I am married to my grandmother's ex-husband. How about that?"
Ahead of the season, Mary joined The Real Housewives of New Jersey star Teresa Giudice for an Instagram Live, and proclaimed she had no skeletons in her closet. Then, allegations and accusations about Mary's life popped up online, with Reddit threads running rampant with rumors that Mary runs a cult, lives off of tithings given to the church by its parishioners, and only preached for the congregation when TV cameras showed up. She says it's all just nonsense.
"Clearly I’m not gonna get on national television, be a Housewife and be in a cult," Mary scoffs. "Like, come on. I believe in my church."
"They've been saying that since my grandmother started at the church," she says of the cult allegation. "There's no cult. ... My church members, they know those are false allegations. Those are ridiculous. It’s the people that are looking for fault."
Alleged audio of Mary demanding her congregation to give more offerings recently surfaced online, but Mary says she never takes funds from the church for personal use. The parish does believe in tithings, however, but that money stays at the church. It's not Mary's.
"That's so cruel," she says of the idea she would steal from the temple. "I feel like it's so judgmental, because I am African American and a woman and I do have an eye for finer things in life."
"I have intelligent church members and they know that was all to God," she adds. "I'm so not in it for the money. Oh my goodness, I believe in what I do, I believe in what I'm saying, and I love my church and I love what they are. … Money can't fulfill that, not for me."
Mary says she's happy to provide proof that she's preached at Faith Temple Church for more than 20 years, promising she would never have filmed one of her sermons for the show just as a performance. As for where her own money actually comes from, Mary says one, she's "blessed" by generational wealth passed down by her family and two, she and her husband own a number of businesses, including a successful printing company, which focuses on large-scale jobs, like billboards and mass production of shopping bags.
"But it's not like I just have money coming out of the walls," she cautions. "These [designer] things that I have are collector pieces."
Mary's "designer things" have also been much-talked about, as she shows up on the show in out-of-the-box fashions -- for the record, her favorite look is the one she wore to Park City Fashion Week, and she "hated" her makeup at the reunion, which is why she says she FaceTuned her posts from that day so much. On a recent episode, Mary revealed more than one room in her house doubles as a closet. Co-star Whitney Rose dubbed Mary a "high-end hoarder." While Mary threw out the idea of renting out a condo for a closet, she says she’s yet to pull the trigger, which would actually make for a fun season 2 story… that is, if she comes back for round two.
"I don't know if I'll do this again," she confesses. "That's a strong question, and I think I need a little harvesting. I think it's premature. I mean, would they want me back?"