Kenya Moore Shares How Working On Herself Allowed Love to Enter Her Life at 46

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Kenya Moore is getting real. Not The Real Housewives of Atlanta "real," where the lines between scripted scenes and real-life feuds are often blurred and distorted for public consumption, but the kind of real that forces you to really dig deep within yourself, confront your flaws, analyze your decisions and make peace with your mistakes—the real that many are afraid to embrace.

As a staple cast member of one of reality TV's long-standing franchises, we've caught glimpses into the life of the former Miss USA pageant winner as she ducked and dished out her share of shade and arguments, as friendships and relationships were tested, and as meltdowns and breakups played out over the last few seasons in front of millions of viewers.

But the Kenya that we see an hour a week doesn't define the woman that she is or aspires to be.

Courtesy of Kenya Moore

Because when the camera stops rolling, she's most certainly still a woman—one who desires love, motherhood, and fulfillment that television alone cannot provide.

To get what she desired, though, Moore had to look in the mirror.

Her self-confrontation led her to the office of her therapist. It was there that she was able to break down the walls that the ghosts of her pasts and the spotlight of her present had caused her to build up, and it was there that she would repair the parts of herself that could both accept and give love in return. "I had to really take a look at my life and why I made bad choices in the past and try to do more work on myself before I was ready to get back into the world of even meeting someone serious," she says on our brief call. "I had to look at my previous behavior and go back to the mistakes I've made, and do an overhaul and be really honest with myself about my past, and not bring past mistakes into my future."

Her self-reflection led to the realization that some of those choices—many of which have played out on air—didn't always stem from a healthy place. "Sometimes women make choices because we don't want to be alone," she says. "I think that's the biggest mistake that women make is that 'Oh, I don't want to be the girl that they say can't get a man or can't keep a man,' and you kind of succumb to peer pressure or pressure from your family members or co-workers. I think that's the biggest mistake that women make, making choices for themselves based on other people's opinion of them."

"Sometimes women make choices because we don't want to be alone."

Discarding other people's presumptions has been a challenge for Moore as she fought to keep her marriage to businessman Marc Daly, whom she said she met through their mutual friend Chef Roblé a year prior to their exchange of vows, away from naysayers. Her fellow castmates and fans questioned the validity of her relationship due to her keeping tightlipped on her union, not realizing that when you treasure something, you go to whatever lengths necessary to protect it.

"I just didn't want any nonsense to interfere with how someone feels about me," says Moore. "I wanted to have an honest and genuine relationship where I could be 100% me and someone doesn't buy into what a blog says about me or radio host or talk show host— people that just have an opinion on the internet—say about me. I wanted him to know who I was without all of the distraction, so I would never change that for anything, because I think it allowed him to really see my heart and judge me for who I am, the woman that I am now and not the woman that people form opinions about based on a reality TV show."

Still, despite her attempts at shielding her new beau from public scrutiny, Moore shares in an interview with Bravo TV that their first couple of weeks as newlyweds was everything but peaceful. "We were targeted with so much hatred, negativity, and interference at that time, and I was overwhelmed and emotionally drained. The things that people did to try to hurt us were incredible to me. I was breaking down over the things people would say to him about me in hopes of tarnishing his image and love for me…As a wife, I've had to learn that what is between us is between us. We are in this together, and he is my heart. We fight battles as a team, and together we have to deal with what comes our way. We are one. We solve our problems together and privately."

"As a wife, I've had to learn that what is between us is between us."

She confesses that it was Daly's character qualities that attracted her to her husband, which arguably are the same characteristics that helped the couple weather the storm. He was very honest and caring in a way that she hadn't experienced before. He was protective in a way that she needed him to be, and supportive on a level that allowed her to evolve into the best woman he knew she could be.

To get the love, the marriage, and, one day, the family that she deserved, though, required Moore to change in every aspect of her life. No longer was she operating solo, now she had to consider how every action and reaction affected those that she loved.

"My character preservation and also my brand is more important to me now more than ever. It's important how my children see me, too, so I have to navigate how that will work for me and my family moving forward."

A part of her growth also meant accepting that sometimes those that we desire love from the most aren't always capable of giving the love that we deserve. Throughout the show we've watched Moore battle with abandonment from her mother at just three days old, to the extent where she attempted to confront her on camera without success in hopes of building a relationship with her estranged parent. She tells me that her own lack of relationship with her mom only motivates her more to be the best mother that she can be.

"Most people say that I'm very nurturing and I'm warm and I'm kind; I just want to be that same person to my children. I want my children to be better than me and make better choices. I think most people want that for their children, they want them to be better than them."

The Kenya that walked onto The Real Housewives of Atlanta six years ago is most certainly not the same one that walked down the aisle just six months prior. She's a little more humble and a little less naïve about the ways of the world, but also more forgiving, because as she will tell you, she's no more perfect than the next person. "I've worked so much on the areas that I think most of my closest friends would agree that I need to work on, but no one is perfect, so I just strive to continue to be a better person everyday and the best wife I can be. It's a new role for me and I make mistakes, but making choices for my family as a team is important to me."

The reality star recently announced some exciting news in the form of a pregnancy announcement. She and her husband Marc are expecting their first child. The big reveal happened on on The Real Housewives Of Atlanta's season 10 reunion special. "We will definitely be welcoming a boy or girl in late this year," Moore shared. "Oh my God, I said that! I don't want to talk about the details because I'm still very nervous about everything so I want to get past a safe place."

For the 47-year-old who thought that true love was just a fairytale and no longer an option, Moore has proven even to herself that to attract what you want you first have to become what you desire—and that means removing the masks, doing the work, and fearlessly embracing the better you.

For more Kenya Moore, follow her on social @thekenyamoore.

Featured image via Kenya Moore/Instagram

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You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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