At the start of the show’s fifth season, Porsha Williams waltzed onto The Real Housewives of Atlanta with two left feet. In the midst of a contentious marriage, she struggled to find her voice among the other women, and Williams herself thought she was going to be a one-season-and-done cast member. However, after avoiding the chopping block and thriving over more than eight years on the show, she became an undeniable fan favorite, most notably in her final season when she followed in the footsteps of her late grandfather, civil rights activist Hosea Williams, and put herself on the front lines of the Black Lives Matter movement.
That’s why in September, when she announced her exit from the franchise, it left viewers both surprised and befuddled. But it didn’t take long for Williams to set a new course, and in classic reality-star fashion, it’s one that hasn’t been without controversy. On the new Porsha’s Family Matters, airing Sundays on Bravo, the spotlight shines solely on Williams and her family, which includes fiancé Simon Guobadia, who was previously married to Williams’s Housewives co-star Falynn.
As she branches out on her own, Williams aims to tell her side of the story, however messy. She spoke with Vulture about her new path, her choice to leave Housewives, the legal drama surrounding Erika Jayne and Jen Shah, and that “Amazing Grace” performance at the season-five RHOA reunion.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Can you pinpoint exactly when you made the decision to leave Real Housewives?
Within the past three to four years, I made it a part of my plan to semi-retire at 40. This year just seemed like the right year to do it, to pull the plug. At some point during the reunion, or right after the reunion, I really thought about it. It was just a personal choice. It was time to get Porsha off of those cameras for a little while.
Were you at all disappointed in the way anything played out on the show, particularly the Bolo stuff last season, and did that help make your choice easier?
I mean, if anybody has followed my career on Housewives, I have had plenty of crazy seasons. There were some that could have ended with me saying, “This is a bit too much!” So no, not necessarily. I had been on the show since I was 30 years old. I was very young. Now I’m 40. Coming to this point in my life, I just wanted to be able to be Porsha and see what life is like outside of the cameras.
Was any part of your decision based on not having to defend your current relationship to your fellow cast members and how the relationship would be discussed on the show?
It really would have been no different. I’m built with thick skin when it comes to most of the women on the show, anyway. No, that didn’t play a part in the decision to leave. The decision was made prior to even meeting [Simon] in that way.
Speaking of those cast members, you’ve been a topic of discussion recently on Real Housewives: Ultimate Girls Trip and on Watch What Happens Live, despite not being on the show. How does it feel to seemingly live rent-free in some of their heads, particularly Kenya?
It’s flattering. I think it speaks to the impact that I had on the show. Listen, I don’t expect to have had relationships with these women for ten years and for me to disappear from their minds, or for them to disappear from mine. I’m probably still going to be a topic of discussion for a while. That’s how it is when you’ve had relationships with people for so long.
In your new book, The Pursuit of Porsha, you say you’ve been forced to only date men who will agree to appear on-camera. Did you ever consider just leaving reality television behind to cast a larger dating net?
Well, to be clear, I never felt forced by anyone from the network. It’s just that when you live your life on-camera, you want to be with someone who is also okay with living their life on-camera. At some point, you can hit these walls with men who don’t want to be on TV. There never became a point where I wanted to change what I was doing for a living, because I had always lived my life for someone else. I had always made decisions for myself in somebody else’s plan. If someone wanted to be with me, unfortunately, that was something they’d have to agree to.
With Porsha’s Family Matters, was there ever any concern about airing so much familial dirty laundry on-camera?
Being on TV for ten years, my family knows this is my world. When we filmed one of the first scenes [on Housewives], I could tell that they felt like they were in my world and there were things that they couldn’t say, couldn’t address, or couldn’t be open with. Now, I want everybody to be completely honest. Let’s talk about where we are right now in terms of blending our family. I really gave them the nod to be themselves. What we ended up with is probably one of the realest family shows you have ever seen on television.
I want to ask you about one of my favorite Housewives moments of all time, which you write about a bit in the book, when Andy Cohen forced you to sing “Amazing Grace” at your first reunion. Did he tell you he was going to do that?
Lord! No, he didn’t, actually! If I’m remembering correctly, I came into that reunion with no support. It was my first reunion; I had filmed the whole season with my husband, and he wouldn’t come to the reunion. I was like, Oh my God, you’re sending me to the wolves on my own! I went in there and at that time, with the type of wife that I was, everything depended on my husband. So, standing on my own at that moment both physically and emotionally, it was a first for me on national television. There I was, all alone, speaking for myself and speaking for my actions. I just felt led! I literally just felt led to sing “Amazing Grace”! I actually thought I was going to be fired after that reunion.
It’s hard to describe why I love that moment so much, but there’s just this look in your eyes like, Well, I guess we’re doing this!
We’re doing it! I had my mom in the back of my mind. My mom always said, “If you are a singer or a performer, when someone asks you to sing, you get up and do it.” So when he called me to action, I did it! I sang from the bottom of my heart, and that’s what you heard.
Recently on Housewives, we’ve seen people like Erika Jayne and Jen Shah get into trouble for the way they earn their money and flaunt their wealth. Have their stories made you reconsider how you show your life on television?
No, it just makes me thankful that I have a great team and that I pay my taxes. Listen, we’re all on television because everybody wants to see the fabulous life. They want to see the businesses, the kids, the family, they want to see all of that. That’s what embodies a Housewife. I would not suggest anybody not to show it. I would just suggest making sure you have everything in order. At least those women are dealing with their consequences.
Watching your journey to becoming an activist has been inspiring. I know it’s been a heavy couple of weeks in the aftermath of the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. How have you been feeling about the verdict?
It’s been a scary realization that the system absolutely did what it’s set up to do, which is fully let us know our place. It’s very scary. It actually put more fear in my heart because I realized the danger that we were in when we were in the streets. The fact that you can have a civilian come and harm someone without facing any punishment whatsoever? It was a hard truth to have to face. It really was. Very, very disappointing.
If people take away one thing from the book, even fans who think they might know about every single aspect of your life already, what would you like that to be?
I want them to recognize that I’m still standing. I have had to have faith to pull me through a lot of dark situations. There have been lots of highs and lows, but I regret nothing. Every single thing that has happened to me has made me greater. I am greater because of those tougher moments. The purpose of the book is to give my testimony and help somebody else to recognize earlier on that they love themselves no matter what.