Dear Brian,

Eboni K. Williams
4 min readJul 2, 2021

I read your piece and I really want to unpack what you offered. I’m so sorry to hear that you were bored by such an acute address and amplification of Blackness. And, you know, I can understand why. Contrary to popular belief, I am in no way introducing race for the first time on The Real Housewives of New York. In fact, The Real Housewives of New York has always prominently featured race all seasons, every episode.

That race happened to be white.

And so my insistence to move the central focus away from whiteness and to have the audacity to center Blackness, feels boring or uncomfortable and even unwatchable for some?

Some Americans certainly are watching for certain elements they have been conditioned to expect from the franchise. They’re looking for drunken antics. They’re looking for tiki torches. They’re looking for grown middle-aged women falling into bushes. As a day one RHONY fan, I get it. And while I appreciate that point of enjoyment from the show, you do realize that in those examples, those women are now sober? So whether I lean into these teachings of Black excellence or not, you’re still not going to get those moments.

Brian, truly, genuine inquiry here: what would you have me do? Because even you acknowledge what I’m doing is very important. You mention John Oliver’s take and agree with him.

It may be that you think I am an “ordinary Black woman” whose Blackness is peripheral to her identity. And maybe there’s a blanket assumption by all stripes of viewership, Black, white, or other race, male, female, non-binary, and across the identity spectrum, that I am engaging in a kind of disproportionate undertaking, exerting lesson plans and teachings that are unnatural to me because of a projected expectation I believe the network and audience may have of me.

I just want to say directly to you, nothing could be further from the truth. I just so happen to be a woman whose Blackness is inextricably linked and beautifully imperative to my identity.

My Blackness is my absolute favorite thing about myself. I make no apologies for it, nor will I be shamed around it.

So trust and believe, that you are seeing a woman experiencing the highest level of joy and frankly, having the time of my life during scenes. I’m having an absolute blast during my Harlem Night party and at the Hampton’s Halloween Beauty Pageant where I proudly wear an afro wig and recite a spoken word to pay homage to the first Black woman permitted to participate in the Miss America Pageant (Cheryle Browne) — know that for me, while you might find it boring and you may assume it is labor-intensive, it is the opposite. It is the absolute joy of my life.

And, you know, Brian, you make one point that I tend to agree with, which is that perhaps viewers would care more about my insistence of Black excellence if they cared more about me.

I’d like to point out that throughout the eight episodes of my premiere season you have gotten to see that I am grieving the loss of my dying grandmother Katie, you’ve gotten to know that I’m starting a journey of a lifetime in trying to discover the identity of my father for the first time in my entire life. And you got to know the fact that I ended a long-term relationship and engagement in the middle of a global pandemic, and that I’m still on a quest to find love and family. You’ve also gotten to know quite a bit about my prolific career as an attorney and journalist. So to suggest that you know nothing else about me might suggest you’re simply not paying attention.

As for your point of agreement about shared values and your suggestion that I try to connect with Ramona about her faith, her daughter, or her business, I hear you and I have a simple response. Frankly, any connection or values Ramona and I might share around business, faith or family are moot and utterly irrelevant IF we don’t first establish the most basic shared value of shared humanity along the full racial spectrum. One must be clearly on board with the full liberation and humanity of Black (and all other races) for me to care enough to move forward. To be clear this essential and basic shared value is a baseline requirement that is not unique to Ramona, but one that I maintain for any and all of the most basic relationships in my life, including platonic, professional and romantic.

There is such a normalized expectation of people entering spaces, especially high-profile traditional spaces like veteran televisional series, to assimilate and codeswitch to the environment in which they are entering. I do not do that. I haven’t done it at any point throughout my life or career. And I’m simply not going to start now. To do so would be the ultimate disservice to the RHONY audience. I say that as a fan of the series who knows enough to know that nothing is more obvious than inauthenticity. Therefore, to honor this audience, I show up as my most full, authentic self who insists upon bringing all of who I am to everything I do, including being a Real Housewife of New York.

Brian, I do appreciate your feedback and perspective. I hope you can reciprocally appreciate my insistence on being completely real, being that is indeed a reality show. And I would hate to think I’m too real for The Real Housewives of New York.