'Real Housewives of Atlanta' stars Cynthia and Peter talk marriage
Since season 3 of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, viewers have loved (and loved to hate) the relationship between Cynthia Bailey and Peter Thomas. From raising a teenage daughter to making their marriage work, the couple have put it all on TV. Entertainment Weekly sat down with the controversial couple and talked about how they stay together and their new venture together, publishing the book Carry On Baggage: Our Nonstop Flight.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: On the last episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, it was great to see the interaction with you, Peter, and Arthur’s mom, but what was your first impression of Noelle’s friend?
CYNTHIA: I was quite relieved when I met him. I thought he was a very sweet little boy, and I immediately felt comfortable, especially after talking to his mother. What you guys didn’t get to see is that we went over ground rules. We talked to the kids about the kind of things they would like to do. We said if the grades started slipping then the divorce proceedings would happen immediately, because it was like again, some of the things you didn’t see, we asked Noelle and Arthur where the relationship was headed. Well they said, “We’re going to get married in eight years.”
PETER: Surely, Arthur said that when I wasn’t in the room.
CYNTHIA: I think at her age, 14, obviously Noelle isn’t “dating,” with parent supervision, but in this world that we live in, it’s very important to keep those lines of communication open to know what your child is doing. Even if she thinks she wants to date, I want to know, and not find out on Instagram.
What do you feel is the most challenging aspect of raising Noelle?
CYNTHIA: The challenging aspect for me is being not too protective, because she’s a young girl, but giving her enough room to go out and learn a little bit. It doesn’t work just one way or the other, there has to be a balance. I really try with Noelle to give her good, solid advice and support and encourage her to be an independent thinker and make smart choices. That type of parenting works for me. Now, I’m not saying what works for me would work for anybody else and their children, but it works for me. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The relationship between you two and Noelle works, but how do you two work as a married couple? There’s so much controversy about you two since season 3, especially Peter, how he’s mean and vicious.
PETER: I hear those words that you just uttered, and I completely ignore them, for the fact that I know that I am completely direct. A lot of people see my behavior as something negative. I like to be direct, and whatever I think, usually I’ll say. Sometimes I need to filter my words, but it doesn’t work for me.
CYNTHIA: I think Peter and I work because we want a lot of the same things, we just have a different process to go through to get them. There’s ups and downs, we don’t always agree on everything, but we do agree on where we’re going, just not how we’re going to get there, and that’s OK. We got together very grown, we are a certain age, and we don’t have a lot of time to just see if this is going to work. Either we’re going to be together or we’re not. We’re very clear on the big things. Now the little stuff in between, we definitely go back and forth, but those aren’t the deal-breakers.
Speaking of the big and little stuff, Peter, why didn’t you tell Cynthia beforehand about leasing a large space?
PETER: The reason why I didn’t tell her earlier is because my wife usually credits me for having vision. My quote is, “Everyone can see, but not everyone has vision.” I usually see things down the block, straight ahead, around the corner, over the hill, and I know exactly where I want to get to. So when that space was available, and I did the math, it made more sense for us to acquire that space. I didn’t tell her because she wouldn’t have understood what I saw in making that purchase.
CYNTHIA: I would have shut it down.
PETER: She would have shut it down.
Cynthia, what was your initial reaction?
CYNTHIA: Well first, as a couple, there are rules. Rules should apply to both parties. If I decide to do something whether I have vision or not, I would say to Peter, “Hey, I’m thinking of buying this building on Peachtree Street, thoughts, anything?” Surely if I did something like, “Hey honey, you see that building right there? I bought it. That’s mine. I got it six months ago,” he would be like, “What?!” That was my issue. Not the fact that he bought the space, but he didn’t tell me, and the fact is, he would have not been understanding had I done it. Peter has incredible vision, he definitely sees the bigger picture. I see what’s in front of me, I’m just a Pisces who watches everything in front of me and I always work with what I have. It worked out the best in the situation, but overall, it’s important to me and my marriage for us to talk about everything.
PETER: If I was purchasing the building, that would be a different conversation. Because it was a lease, one that I could get out of, because I made sure that clauses were in there that were in my favor. I knew I was taking the risk on my own, because if I went to her and told her about the space across from Bar One that no one wants that’s actually cheaper than the space you have, she wouldn’t have seen what I visualize. It was a risk that I took on my own [leasing the space] that would help us in the long run. Now, if I was purchasing the building, I couldn’t have gone forward without speaking to my wife, because we pay our taxes jointly.
CYNTHIA: Let’s be clear, we love the space. Peter, you should come to me, just like you expect me to come to you.
PETER: I agree to disagree on this one, but I agree with her.
CYNTHIA: Why do you agree to disagree?
PETER: Because I want it to be complicated.
CYNTHIA: It’s not complicated, you were dead wrong for not telling me, and if I did the same thing, leasing, purchasing, you would have had a problem with it, Peter.
PETER: She would rather me tell her, and we would have an uphill fight. … So I apologize for me not telling you about the space. It would never happen again.
You two obviously communicate; unfortunately for Porsha and Kordell Stewart, that wasn’t the case. Peter, do you still keep in contact with Kordell?
PETER: I have a business venture with Kordell. We’re opening a sports bar in Charlotte, North Carolina, in two months. So I speak to Kordell probably three times a week. I never had a relationship with his wife Porsha. I don’t really have a strong opinion in what they’re going through in their divorce. I could say if their foundation was solid, then they could have worked through what they were going through. However, it seems like they’ve had a lot of problems for a long time, from what she’s saying and he’s saying.
CYNTHIA: Peter has a relationship with Kordell, and of course I work with Porsha, so I definitely have a relationship. I’m not super close with Porsha, but I have to piggyback off what Peter says. When you come on this kind of platform, if your relationship is not solid, it’s very unlikely you’ll make it. All your personal business is out there the minute you become known and you have to figure out how you’re going to deal. We’ve had our ups and downs, but only the strong survive as a married couple on reality TV.
PETER: The line of communication has to be open.
CYNTHIA: Oh yeah!
PETER: Another thing is the cameras come around for content. If you’re not a solid person in who you are, you have to start looking for content. Cynthia Bailey is doing what she’s doing today, regardless if the cameras were there or not; so is Peter Thomas. We have content consistently and a solid foundation of who we are. Cynthia was a celebrity and a star before the cameras came around. I’ve been in the music industry too.
CYNTHIA: I was a very established model, babe, I’m not a celebrity.
PETER: Well, I’ve been with you several times in New York City where little girls would say, “Oh my God, that’s Cynthia Bailey!” You’ve been gracing the fashion pages for 20 years.
CYNTHIA: All right, I’ll take it. [Laughs] Again, Peter and I went into the marriage wanting the same things. At the beginning of Porsha and Kordell’s marriage, they had a plan, but somewhere down the line, things changed. When you stop wanting the same things, it’s difficult to make it work.
Speaking of making it work, Kandi’s mother sort of crossed the line with her fiancé, Todd. You two were involved in a similar situation in season 3 involving your mother, Cynthia. What’s your advice for Kandi and Todd?
CYNTHIA: My advice for Kandi is to command the respect for herself and her family that she gives to her mother. Kandi’s the only who can handle the situation. Todd, out of respect for Kandi’s mother, can’t be rude to Kandi’s mother, ever, it just can’t happen. Kandi’s the only person that can turn this around. I think it’s hard to watch them sit together and her mother talks to Todd the way that she does and Kandi not defend him. My situation with my mother in season 3, my mom never sat in those situations and made Peter feel like he was worthless. She was concerned about our financial situation, because I was actually going to her for money. Kandi is not going to her mom for money; Kandi takes care of her mom, and I think Ms. Joyce should just give Kandi her blessing.
In your new book, Carry On Baggage: Our Nonstop Flight, what do you guys cover?
PETER: It’s not a relationship advice book at all. It’s a story that Cynthia and I wanted to share with everyone that tunes into our lives on a weekly basis that only see two and a half minutes of tape probably three times in and out. Carry On Baggage talks about what we brought to the relationship and how we made it work. I have five kids, she has one, and Noelle’s father Leon’s involved. From day one, my wife put it all out there. She said, “If you’re going to be around me, you’re going to be around Leon, and I would love for you to meet him before you’re welcome in my home.” To me, immediately, when that came out of her mouth, I knew that I was making the right choice to be involved.
CYNTHIA: The key thing is to communicate with your significant other. It doesn’t work when you’re a year into the relationship and you have a conversation about things you could have addressed early on. I think when you put it out there, you have options to decide. We were very direct and very upfront. For me, Leon’s a deal-breaker for any man that I’m with, because that’s Noelle’s dad and he’s a part of her life. Leon’s always going to be a part. We were very honest.
What’s next for you two?
CYNTHIA: I have a Cynthia Bailey doll, the book, the Bailey Agency has just celebrated its three-year anniversary. Peter has Bar One, his venture with Kordell, Sports One, and another venture.
PETER: What we’re doing is trying to make it easier for our kids’ life, working really hard, so when we’re older, we can go on vacation. So we’re doing a lot of work right now.
The Real Housewives of Atlanta airs Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo.