If new Real Housewives of Atlanta cast member Phaedra Parks is disappointed with how she's been portrayed thus far — her limo ride with Cynthia, her baby shower, not to mention those pickles are nothing if not a study in awkward — she's not letting on. Watching all the trash-talking going on behind her back doesn't bother her either. "It's not difficult because I know what it is; it's television," Parks says. "Everyone has a role to play and that's what makes it good TV. Everyone's got a job to do."
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Parks spoke with TVGuide.com about why a successful entertainment lawyer would decide to do a reality show, what happened to the photos from the pickle shoot, and how she felt when she greeted her newborn baby Ayden with, "Oh, gross."
TVGuide.com: If everyone's playing a role on the show, what do you think yours has been?
Parks: [Pause.] I don't know quite yet. I'm not the producer. I've given myself over to someone else, so... I'm just watching it like you guys.
TVGuide.com: Well, how do you feel about what they have chosen to show? Between the photo shoots and your pregnancy, which all the women seem to have an opinion about...
Parks: I enjoyed it. I had a good time. I really don't live my life for the opinions of others, to be very honest with you. I'm a very strong woman. I can own whatever I do.
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TVGuide.com: You're a very successful attorney. Why did you join Housewives? Were you a fan?
Parks: I wasn't. I had seen it maybe once or twice, but I wasn't a fan. I think the opportunity presented itself at a very interesting time in my life. I was pregnant, and I didn't think it was a bad idea to have that documented. My baby, unlike most children, will be able to say, "Hey, I can watch my mom's pregnancy and I can actually watch myself being born on television!"
TVGuide.com: No hesitancy to show the pregnancy or the birth on TV?
Parks: I thought it was a great idea to show the pregnancy. I wish they had detailed more of the things that went on, some of the problems. I'm well over 30, so it was a high-risk pregnancy, and I'm a professional woman, which made it even more high-risk because of the stress level and responsibilities I had. I think that a lot of women would've identified... but they didn't choose to show that.
Also, I think any time you show stability as far as family matters, I think it's a great thing. I don't think there's anything wrong with showing men who commit to women and have children inside of wedlock. It's very positive. I think so much has strayed away from that. I think it's a great thing to show man-woman-marriage-child. Those are my thoughts, it doesn't work for everyone, but in my household that's how it works.
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TVGuide.com: How did Cynthia's Mother's Day brunch turn into straight-up sex talk?
Parks: I am a very traditional Southern woman, as they have told you numerous times on the show -- "I'm a Southern Belle, I'm a Southern Belle, I'm a Southern Belle..." [Laughs] — so I don't know, really. That's not the conversation I'd usually have at my dinner table.
TVGuide.com But you felt open enough with them to dish, and on camera, right? I was surprised to hear about the many uses of sugar...
Parks: Well, we're all women. I don't think it's anything crazy, but I probably wouldn't have that conversation in the privacy of my home. I mean, I'm going to be engaging when I'm having a conversation, I'm going to participate, but that's not the type of thing I discuss.
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TVGuide.com: OK. You've done a couple of photo shoots on the show: the pickles and the one in which Ayden had an accident on your hand. How did the actual photos turn out?
Parks: The ones with the pickles? Those we did not purchase. We do have pregnancy photos from that same shoot — but you didn't get to see it on the show — and they're hanging in our bedroom. We've known that photographer for years, and she has great ideas. The pickles were her idea -- and that is what people associate with pregnancy! I really didn't understand where some of the viewer comments were coming from, but I guess people have sort of become oversexed. Everything turns into something with a sexual connotation. I thought they were nice pictures; we just went with other ones.
TVGuide.com: Are you surprised by how big a story line your pregnancy has been in terms of the other women gossiping about it?
Parks: I know that reality shows are about building story lines. Some of these women semi-knew me from around the city, some of them didn't know me at all, so I get that to make it interesting they had to bring out some aspect of, "Ooooh, what's going on?" Of course, I was sort of surprised that they made such a big deal of it, but at the end of the day, these are busybodies. And TV is supposed to be entertaining.
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TVGuide.com: It probably wasn't so entertaining when they were questioning you.
Parks: It didn't bother me because my family and friends were very aware what was going on with me. You don't tell the bag guys at the grocery store your business, and I wouldn't tell a group of strange women who I don't know very well my business either. But with this group of women, nothing surprises me. The nature of our relationships? It's exactly what it's meant to be: entertaining... My baby is not a surprise baby. I wanted to be a mom, me and my husband wanted to have children. You know, unless it's on CNN you can't count everything you see as the truth.
TVGuide.com: What was going through your head when you first saw Ayden?
Parks: Let me tell you: I was in labor for three days. Once you enter the hospital, you can no longer have solid foods, you can only have ice chips. So for three days I was unable to eat. Then I started having back labor, where you have lots of pain in the spinal area, so I had an epidural but they had to give me morphine too so I could tolerate all the pain. The morphine was so strong, honey, I have to tell you, there were points I wasn't sure I was going to make it. It was scary. A lot of things, I don't remember. When I saw it on TV, I was like, "Wow." ... My mom said I was saying, "I need to go jogging, I need to go exercise" — I mean, just crazy stuff. I honestly don't remember much!