The latest entry in the “rich women practice conspicuous consumption” subgenre of reality shows, Southern Belles, premieres tonight on SoapNet. The series chronicles the lives of five alleged friends living in Louisville. They include nouveau riche socialite Shea, divorcee Kellie, wanna-be journalist Emily, aging model Julie and slacker Hadley. With a narrator who speaks in a drawl, constant talk of charity functions, and footage of stately homes, the show purports to portray a distinctly Southern lifestyle. Based on the premiere episode, this is a standard issue cable reality show, with much talk of clothing and jewelry and plenty of scenes that seem less than 100% real. Shea and Kellie talked with Fancast about what separates their show from the rest of the reality pack.
Why did you decide to expose yourselves to public scrutiny by appearing on a reality show?
Shea: It was a great opportunity that presented itself. I was approached about the show. I liked the concept of it. I don't feel like I have a whole lot to hide.
Have you seen the show yet?
Shea: No. We have to watch the first episode with everyone else.
Kellie: We're a little nervous. We're going to blog about it afterward on soapnet.com so you'll get our responses to the episodes as they come out.
I have seen the first episode. Shea, you are portrayed as being obsessed with getting a diamond engagement ring. Are you worried that you're going to come across as shallow and materialistic?
Shea: I figured the first episode would be a real superficial glimpse of each of us. But I think if you get to know me you'll realize I'm nothing like that.
Kellie: That's the thing that's interesting about our show. You'll see us go through changes. We'll evolve as women. We break down a lot of stereotypes.
In the premiere, you hold a charity fundraiser that only raised $3200. What went wrong?
Kellie: In Louisville you need to do an event like that with a good six months notice. You need to send "save the dates." You need to send the proper invites. When you don't do that, you're not going to get a great response. People in Louisville plan what they do. We had a week. Unfortunately we didn't have the turnout that we wanted.
How well did you know each other before the show began?
Shea: We met at a ball years ago. Kellie's ex-husband and my ex-boyfriend had taken us. Those guys are out of our lives but we're still spending time together.
Were you friends with the other women as well?
Kellie: I had never met Hadley or Emily. But I did know Julie, more of on an acquaintance level.
Shea: I knew everyone socially, but mostly Hadley, Kellie and Julie.
How much of the first episode was truly candid footage of your lives and how much was staged?
Kellie: They tried to take a slice of our life. It's not the sort of show where they have cameras in our home all the time. We had to set certain scenarios, like we would plan our lunches. You have to go to a camera friendly environment.
Kellie, how does your ex-husband feel about you doing this show?
Kellie: We maintain a very positive relationship throughout our divorce. He did know about the show. The closer I got, he got a little nervous. At the end of the day, I'm sure he'll be fine.
What opportunities do you hope will arise from being on the show. Do either of you have showbiz aspirations?
Shea: I’m in real estate and I wish to stay in real estate.
Kellie: My education is in the health and fitness industry. I recently started a new business. We'll see where that takes me. The show has been a great experience. If something came out of it, who knows. It's just another part of life. If not, I'm happy where I am now.
Shea, that's interesting that you have a career. The first episode makes you look like a full time socialite.
Shea: I got the feeling during taping that there wasn't going to be a whole lot of real estate shown. I do have a job. I went to college. I've worked very hard to get the things that I have. Unfortunately I'm not a trust find baby like some people want to think. I have to get out there and pound the pavement to enjoy the pleasures of life.
Kellie: But you had a nice way growing up.
Shea: I like the way I grew up.
Kellie: I bet my first car and her first car were quite different.
Shea: I got taken off the payroll a long time ago.
Kellie: So did I when I got a divorce.
When you were in production, did you know the show would air on SoapNet? How do you feel about your lives airing on the soap opera channel?
Shea: When we filmed the pilot I don't even think we even knew it was going to be on TV. Our lives are soap operas, to be honest.
Shea, the first episode focused on your quest to become engaged to your boyfruend Jeff. Are you engaged now?
Shea: You'll have to watch to find out. I do love diamonds. A girl can't buy her own diamonds.
Shea: Well, I've bought plenty of diamonds for myself. But the kind of diamond that I want has to come from a guy because there's a real meaning behind it. The meaning behind the ring is so much more important than the ring. It could be a silver band and I'd be happy with it. I'm looking for that next level of commitment.
Kellie do you find romance over the course of the season?
Kellie: I have been dating someone. Maybe we'll get a little more serious. Maybe we won't make it.
How do you think your show is different from all of the other reality shows?
Shea: At the end of the day we're truly friends. Since taping, Kellie and I still soend about the same amount of time together.
Kellie: It’s a sisterhood. We’re all very close.
Shea: There's conflict, but there's also true friendship. There's a level of compassion with us because we really do care about one another.
Southern Belles premieres tonight at 10 PM EST on SoapNet.