"I was walking across a mall parking lot and someone yelled, 'Class not a--.' Then I was in the mall, and people were coming up and saying, 'Man, I love you. I love you. You don't take any crap. You're on top of things,'" he tells TVGuide.com. "That's when it really started picking up."
That persona is something that has served the Atlanta millionaire and father of five well, both on and off camera in the nearly two months since Chrisley Knows Best (Tuesdays, 10/9c) premiered on USA. On the cable network, long home to the slogan "Characters Welcome," it's Chrisley's outspoken and candid demeanor that has helped the show break through as one of USA's first unscripted docu-series. Thanks to memorable catchphrases such as "class not a--" — in reference to his daughter trying on formal dresses — and brash action — like the time he put a boot on his son's car for going out against orders, the Chrisleys have been thrust into the reality TV spotlight, following in the footsteps of famous families like the Osbournes and the Kardashians. Chrisley Knows Best, which wraps its freshman run on Tuesday, was also just renewed for a 12-episode second season.
"We feel very blessed," Chrisley says of the renewal. "I know that will not always be the case, but at the moment, we're basking in that moment of people being very respectful and kind."
Watch a clip from the season finale:
Unfortunately, Chrisley speaks from experience. Because of the show's success, fame has not only brought his family fans and admirers, but also detractors and gossip, such as speculation about his eldest son Kyle's time in rehab and the mother of Kyle's 1-year-old daughter, Chloe. "There have been things that have been written that are not true. And you take one ounce of something that has some merit to it and then you create your story around that — that's not cool. But it's something that we're having to learn to deal with," he says. "There will always be someone who tries to turn that good into something negative, and the lesson that I've learned from that is they only are allowed to do that if you give it credence. So I don't read the blogs anymore."
Chrisley also has little patience when it comes to social media and its very vocal but less than kind viewers. "Do I get upset when I see something that's negative? I don't get upset," he says. "It's hurtful that people look to inflict hurt upon another human being so I look at that, and think that person must really be in a lot of pain. So I don't respond to it."
Although Chrisley turns his head the other way when it comes to unsubstantiated stories, he's honest and direct when it comes to the negative stories that are true, such as the $45 million bankruptcy case exposed by People the week of the show's premiere. "We did exactly what our counsel told us to do and again that was 2012, we're 2014," he says. "I've moved past that. My kids have always been a part of everything that goes on in our life. We embrace the responsibility of what we do. I should have had better management running my company, and maybe some of that would not have occurred, but at the end of the day, I'm the one who placed the management in the company so I'm responsible."
Chrisley takes the same attitude for several things he and his family have gotten heat for on the show, most glaringly repeatedly texting and driving. "Certainly, we are more seasoned with the second season. We will not be texting and driving," he says with a laugh. "What's worked for us is that we are very good at identifying when we're wrong and we're even better in accepting it because at the end of the day, I can't move on till tomorrow if I'm still hanging on to the denial that was yesterday."
It's situations like this, Chrisley says, that demonstrate how his family has — dare we say — benefitted from starring on a reality series. "I do think that it causes you to take a longer, more harsh glance at who you are," he says. "I can sit and tell my children all day, 'That doesn't sound good. That doesn't look good. That's not a kind thing to say.' But until they see themselves doing it, to me, that's the best medicine."
Although Chrisley says he wants his family "to set a good example" for viewers, he draws the line at calling him and his family role models. "I'm not doing it to look good to other families. I'm doing it to look good to my own," he says. "If you can learn from the mistakes that we have made, and it makes your family become better, then it's a blessing."
Chrisley Knows Best's season finale airs Tuesday at 10/9c on USA.