Southern Charm star Leva Bonaparte’s got drive – from managing her restaurants to landing her very own spinoff, Southern Hospitality.
This week, we got a chance to sit and chat with the reality television star to learn about the debut season of her show, which revolves around the staff at her restaurant, Republic, which she owns with her husband.
“I’m nervous,” she says of the show’s debut. “I’m excited. I definitely think that the viewers are going to really enjoy it. It was a stressful year, to say the least, shooting [the show] and everything, but I’m really pumped for everyone to see this little piece of Charleston.”
I just feel like it’s a big mash up of a lot of different shows because it hits a lot of different things.
What sets ‘Southern Hospitality’ apart from ‘Vanderpump Rules’?
While the new series often draws comparisons to Vanderpump Rules, which follows Lisa Vanderpump and her staff at SUR, Bonaparte reveals that it’s actually the perfect mix of all of your favourite reality shows.
“Everyone’s like, ‘oh, Vanderpump Rules,’ just comparing it to a lot of things. But it’s definitely our own business,” she urges. “It’s a restaurant group. The kids work not only at Republic, but across the board. It’s very sales oriented. So if you compare it to other shows, like real estate shows, there’s some similarity there. But I think the chaos is very Below Deck because when we’re at 10 PM Friday, we’re on all hands on deck – like we’re at sea. Like there’s no backing up. It’s so chaotic, so different than a restaurant.”
Ultimately, what sets Southern Hospitality apart is the culture of Charleston and its younger crowd.
“It’s a southern town, so you’re going to see a little bit of that culture. It’s definitely very young, too. So I think that the viewer is going to enjoy going back to the young days when we all sort of made those silly mistakes and have those silly fights and stuff like that. I mean, to me they’re silly, but if you ask [the cast], they would be really offended that I said their fights are silly, you know what I mean? So I think it’s a fun show. I keep calling it a mash up. I just feel like it’s a big mash up of a lot of different shows because it hits a lot of different things.”
What can we expect from the Republic staff?
From the trailer alone, you can see that the staff is sure to be a handful. During a hilarious (and lengthy) speech, one staff member decided to raffle off a long list of excuses, citing the “Scorpio full moon, lunar eclipse, Friday the 13th” and more for being late.
I like to compare it to a racehorse: they are a lot of maintenance, it’s a lot of investment, but they bring back a lot of money. That’s what a lot of these kids are.
“At the end of the day, Grace, for example, who didn’t show up for one of our openings because it was like a red moon or something, got in trouble for showing up to a managers’ Zoom meeting in a bikini top. These things happen all the time, but at the end of the day, I didn’t hire her necessarily for anything except for that. The girl’s like magic at the door. I mean, she really is warm and creates an atmosphere. It’s just non-transferable. Some people have it and some don’t. And she’s definitely a beautiful girl, you know, she has her issues as well that we have to work on work-wise, but when it comes to selling, she can sell.”
For Bonaparte, being in the restaurant business is all about making compromises to increase sales.
“That’s what it boils down to. Sometimes I have to make these decisions. I like to compare it to a racehorse: they are a lot of maintenance, it’s a lot of investment, but they bring back a lot of money. That’s what a lot of these kids are. I mean, the relationship is just me seeing things in them – I know what I’m doing business-wise. I know why I pick them. They don’t always know why I pick them; other people don’t always know. But I just know that if my numbers make sense at the end of the night, the other crap is it’s worth it. Every business has its stuff, right?”
‘Southern Hospitality’ will be full of relationship drama
Southern Hospitality will frequently revolve around the makeups and breakups among the Republic Garden & Lounge staff. The cast already have long-standing relationships, as the trailer teases the innerworkings of a tightknit group.
I just don’t want to see [your relationship] at work or feel it at work. I don’t even want to know. Even if you’re married.
“At the end of the day, you have a bunch of young people who are probably not in their last relationship, so to speak, before marriage,” Bonaparte says of her staff, through a laugh. “They’re dating, they’re getting to know people. It’s a bunch of attractive people. If there’s any business where you’re going to meet people, it’s our business, so to say that it doesn’t happen all the time in our business would be a flat out lie.”
For the most part, Bonaparte is okay with relationships in the workplace – until there’s a power dynamic or patrons are affected. “My only big rule is that I have a problem if a manager is dating someone that’s working underneath them. Unless it’s like a married couple that I’ve hired in the past, you know, that works out.”
“But generally,” she continues, “if you’re going to date someone lower in the hierarchy, then it’s definitely going to be a problem. And I just don’t want to see it at work or feel it at work. I don’t even want to know. Even if you’re married, I just don’t even want to know. The more you’re able to navigate [your relationship] without, you know, like canoodling in a corner or quarrelling in a corner, then I’m all for relationships and business, as long as it’s handled properly. If the patron doesn’t have to feel the drama, then that’s fine.”
Listen, at the end of the day, the viewer is not going to see every bit and piece
Leva Bonaparte is taking what she learned from ‘Southern Charm’ and applying it to the world of ‘Southern Hospitality’
During her time on Southern Charm, Bonaparte learned a lot – the biggest thing being that no matter how you portray yourself during filming, not everything will make it on screen.
“I definitely think, at the end of the day, when you in real life you’re like, ‘OK, this is this is how things happened,’ right? But when you read the short notes of things, it’s just very different, especially if it’s referring to the short notes of a novel, like the details matter,” she explains.
“So I think the biggest thing with reality TV that I learnt in Southern Charm was just like – listen, at the end of the day, the viewer is not going to see every bit and piece, which I actually think in this day and age is kind of fun for the viewer because I think, especially the bloggers, like to piece it together. I actually enjoy it. I feel like the more they get to know the characters, the more they’re like, ‘Oh, I know this happened and we missed it because there’s only so much time.’ So that’s been a big thing that I have had to make a concession with, because when it boils down to your business, you want everyone to know that this is exactly how it happened.”
She’s tried to pass her knowledge of reality television on to her staff to prepare them for the show’s debut season.
“And then prepping the kiddos, they have no idea what’s to come. I’m like, ‘listen, know you’re not going to get that whole 45 minute monologue that you had about not coming to work.’ So, that’s probably the thing. That’s the control freak in me. It’s like ‘mention it all,’ you know.”
See also: How old is the cast of ‘Southern Charm?’
If I feel like people are not respecting those boundaries, I like to say ‘lower Leva’ shows up – like the one that’s been to therapy – and I want to put her away.
She’s also learned to reconcile with people’s mistakes – especially after the ‘Southern Charm’ season 8 finale
In the finale of Southern Charm season 8, Leva Bonaparte reached her breaking point with Craig Conover and many of the other cast members. After it aired, she even told Us Weekly that the episode “drastically changed [their] friendship.”
But now, Bonaparte and Conover are working on moving forward. In fact, she’s working on reconciling with most of her castmates.
“Craig and I, we’re working on getting past what it was. I mean, obviously we have like a 10-year friendship at this point, well maybe eight or something like that, but a really long friendship. He’s definitely been a little brother and I am big on boundaries, so if I feel like people are not respecting those boundaries, I like to say ‘lower Leva’ shows up – like the one that’s been to therapy – and I want to put her away.”
Bonaparte explains that it can be tough to implement boundaries on Southern Charm, since all the cast members are such close friends.
“But that’s why I like boundaries, which are pretty basic and simple, but if I feel like someone’s not respecting them and, I mean, sometimes the closest people to you can’t. That happens sometimes with Southern Charm, you know what I mean? Because we’re close, we’re friends, we push on each other’s boundaries. I definitely think I had some hurt feelings from the finale, but 99 per cent of us have moved forward, at least on my end. I feel like we’re in a much better place, but I definitely was hurt and needed apologies from everyone to be able to move forward, which I have received.”
I definitely think the chaos of our business will make you jaws-on-the-floor mortified
What can viewers expect from the first season of Southern Hospitality?
When I asked Bonaparte what viewers can expect from the upcoming episodes of Southern Hospitality, she let out a laugh. “In my day-to-day when I’m working, I just roll my eyes, but sometimes when I think about somebody else seeing [the show], I half cringe, half roll my eyes and then kind of step away from it and laugh,” she explains.
“I definitely think the chaos of our business will make you jaws-on-the-floor mortified and kind of giggling with your blanket because I watched the first episode and I had my blanket to my nose, like ‘oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.’ But there’s definitely some hot moments. There’s a moment where I really was ready to throw in the towel – whatever the saying is. And there’s a lot of funny stuff, like just awkward things I do not want to know about these kids that I do now, but I think even in the first episode you’ll get a chuckle out of it and feel invested and know why I do love them. They really are good kids. Republic DMG is really a family. This is a business run by people, you know?”
Although she grew up in Winnipeg, Bonaparte is mostly “looking forward to people seeing how fun” her new home, Charleston, is.
“Not a lot of people think of Charleston. They think of history and that it’s an old city and doing all these tours. All of that is amazing, but there’s such a nightlife and such a young, thriving, modern Southern culture that’s just living here that people don’t know about. So I’m really excited for people to see that side of Charleston because I like the side that speaks to me, despite the fact that I love so many other things about the history and the beauty and that it’s a historical, marked city. But I want people to see the nightlife and the fun and the challenges of the New South.”