Note: Educational buildings are still shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, but class is in session when The Real Housewives of Potomac which kicked off its new season on Aug. 2. That’s because John Hopkins University professor and political commentator Dr. Wendy Osefo is the show’s newly minted Housewife, and judging from the previews she won’t be the slightest bit afraid to school her fellow cast members when need be.
We caught up with the professor to get her hot take on joining the series, how she jived with the other women, and which of her three event planners she’s using at the moment. Read on for all of her thoughts on real-life politics versus Housewives politics, how she’s hoping to change the conversation about what a stereotypical professor looks like, and how the Black Lives Matter movement could be reflected back from the show (which filmed last year), when the ladies return.
Why did you decide Real Housewives was a fit?
So I knew some of the women in social circles and I sit on a board with a few of them. And so I knew them in that way. But as far as joining the show, I was approached to join. And I thought to myself, ‘You only live once.’ I asked my family their thoughts, and they were all gung-ho for it. I live my life in a way that I think is very authentic, what you see is what you get. So I said to myself, ‘What are you really scared of? Because who you are, you are. You don’t put up any pretence about yourself.’ I didn’t want to be 90-years-old sitting in my rocking chair and saying, ‘What if?’ So I said, ‘You know what? I’ll give it a shot.’
And did it live up to expectations or was it a different experience than you thought it would be?
It’s definitely different. It’s different from my wheelhouse, right? I do political commentary. I’m a professor. So it was different than what I thought it was going to be. But it was a great experience.
Given that you are a public figure, and that you’ve worked so hard to establish this professional life for yourself, did you have any qualms about potential students seeing you in a different light? Or maybe some of your viewers seeing you in a different way?
I believe that at the end of the day, we have these assumptions of people, because we have what we consider to be a narrative of what a professor should be like, or what a commentator should be like. But the truth of the matter is, at the end of the day all of those people go home too, and we’re all normal people. I think that’s important, for women to see themselves in every facet and to see themselves in other people. I’m not your typical, stereotypical professor. And it’s important for a woman to see that because I don’t want people to think just because you don’t fall into the mold that society has created for you, that you too can’t achieve that. Yeah, I’m a professor and I curse like a sailor. That’s who I am. It is what it is.
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Today, my students were suppose to walk across the stage and receive their doctoral degree. While commencement will be held virtually, that in no way mitigates your accomplishments. I am so proud of each and everyone one of you and honored to have been your professor!! Congrats to my students and the entire class of 2020 🎊🎓.
A post shared by Dr. Wendy Osefo, PhD (@wendyosefo) on May 20, 2020 at 9:00am PDT
You went into this as a third-time new mom, was that nice in a way, to be able to include your family in your work life?
Yeah, it’s always good to be able to include my family because that’s always the juggle, of being a mom and then being you know, professional. We have to keep those two parts of our lives separate. And this was an opportunity I got to bring it together and it really was interesting. My kids, I thought that they were going to be like, ‘Ah, cameras are here.’ But they are showman. I’ll tell you what, they turned into whole other characters when the camera was here. And that made me as a mom feel comfortable because I would never want them to do something they don’t want to do. But totally. They’re like, ‘Are the camera people coming?’ I’m like, ‘No. Season’s over.’ So it was a good time.
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A post shared by Dr. Wendy Osefo, PhD (@wendyosefo) on Apr 17, 2020 at 10:26am PDT
Aw, so they kind of made friends with some of the guys behind the scenes.
Oh my gosh. They know all their names. They ask about them. The camera people have read my kids bedtime stories a few times. So it just kind of turned into an extension of my family.
Can you tell me a little bit more about your upbringing and what we are going to learn about you on the show?
You’re going to learn that I wear many hats. And oftentimes when people see me all they know is that I wear many hats, but they don’t know what goes into wearing many hats. So you’re going to see some of that background information. And you’re also going to get a chance to see what makes me who I am. And so I get to open up and talk about my culture. And how being Nigerian has really impacted me. How being an immigrant has really impacted me. And how my mom and her love and the way she raised me has impacted me. You will see throughout the season how I grapple with that.
The season previews are definitely dramatic, but we all know previews aren’t the whole story so what kind of dynamics did you have with the other women?
So I think all of the women were overall welcoming, but some were a lot more welcoming than others. And that’s to be expected. I got along great with some people whereas with others it just took some time for us to get to know each other.
What would you say is more dramatic: real-life politics or Real Housewives politics?
Oh, my God, real-life politics. Real-life politics is more dramatic, because there’s a lot more to lose, right? And I think with Housewives it’s super dramatic — it’s almost like, ‘Get me out of here!’ But at the end of the day, it’s not millions of people depending on policy decisions.
In the politics of the show, did you have any specific allies? Or were you closer with any of the women in particular?
I wouldn’t say allies because I came into it as new and just wanting to get to know everyone on a deeper level and in an authentic way. Again, some people I gravitated to more naturally than others. And I think after the season, I can better answer that question because there’s a lot of people who smile in your face but once you see those confessionals that’s when the truth comes out. I’m looking forward to seeing what they have to say in the confessionals!
How will you watch the premiere, will you do some sort of a watch party?
Yeah, I think I’m going to have a watch party. I’m so last-minute. My third baby, yesterday was her first birthday. So I’ve been in Mommy mode. I planned her birthday party and of course it was over the top. And so now I’m like, ‘Oh crap, the premiere is days away.’ So I think I’m going to get together with my event planner, and we’re going to do something that is COVID-friendly that allows me to still celebrate the moment.
Who is your event planner?
So I have two or three. (I know, I’m so weird!) Right now I’m using Edwina from Everything Luxe Décor.
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A post shared by Dr. Wendy Osefo, PhD (@wendyosefo) on Jul 23, 2020 at 8:11am PDT
Can you tell us about your tagline, ‘The professor has arrived and class is officially in session?’
It’s funny, because I feel like it has two meanings. I’m a professor. So the professor has arrived, I am the first professor in Housewives history. And class is officially in session. So when I come to this new group of women, there will be some times where I will school them, and class will be in session. And I think that on the opposite side, if you look at it, like flip a coin, there is double meaning in the word ‘class.’ What does it mean to teach a class and to educate people, yes, but also what does it mean to bring class to a group of people?
When you guys filmed this, the world was obviously a lot different. The world has changed so much this year, so what is it even like for you to go back and think about doing this now and then compare it to what’s going on in the world today?
It’s definitely a different time and how the world is today I think it’s changed everything. I think this is one of those watershed moments in our nation and our world. It’s going to be pre-COVID and post-COVID—I think that’s how we’re going to look at things. And so a lot of times in Housewives franchises you see us going out to eat or just doing things, and I don’t know how that’s going to look now. You know, I don’t know how we’re going to be eating at a restaurant, right? Like, are these restaurants even going to be open? And so I just think it not only puts the world on notice, I think it puts all of TV and production on notice. We have to reimagine the way we do things.
What about the reignited Black Lives Matter movement and the protests and calls for social change that are rightfully starting to happen? Is it unfortunate that those conversations are happening post-filming because maybe you didn’t get a chance to address it on the Housewives platform?
It’s interesting because I feel like Black Lives Matter, I’ve been a part of that movement since it started. I remember marching because of the death of Trayvon Martin. And that was what ignited the phrase to be coined ‘Black Lives Matter.’ And I was a part of that. So for me, I do wish the cameras were there to see it. But this is work that I’ve done my entire life and it did not take the killing of George Floyd for me to be aware or to be a part of the movement. I’ve marched. I’ve always been very vocal in my voice. I’ve always been very vocal with my platform. And you guys do get to see a little bit of that, but not as a direct reaction, of course, to the trauma of George Floyd. It’s more, what is important? So voting. What is the importance of Black women coming together and doing things that make a difference? So I’m excited for the viewers to hopefully see that.
You mentioned earlier that people have preconceived notions about, say what a political commentator does when she goes home. So on the home front do you have any hobbies or pastimes that maybe people might be surprised by?
Absolutely. So I am the biggest goofball. That’s probably what keeps me sane having three kids, because I’m a big kid myself. So I’m always kidding around. I also love decorating. That is something that I have always had a passion for. And now that this pandemic has really grounded everything, it’s given me time to help some of our friends redesign their homes. I’m able to redecorate different rooms and give them advice on different pieces. So that’s a passion of mine, is interior design and home essentials. And another thing that I love to do is I love to inspire and motivate women. So whether that’s through Zoom or just virtual meetings, the question I always get asked is how do you manage it all? And there’s giving words of wisdom on how I got to where I am and what has helped me throughout my years.
Why do you think that is a question that women get asked so often, ‘How do you manage it all?’ Is it because we’re all just so overwhelmed? Or is that because it’s impossible? It feels like that’s a question that always comes up.
Yeah, and I think that is a question that is honestly rooted in a level of sexism. Because my husband, he has the same three kids that I do. No one in his life has asked him, ‘Can men have it all?’ You never hear that. I think that women get asked that because oftentimes we think—or society has made us think—that it’s either or. You’re either a career woman, or you are all about your family. And that’s not true. I am 100 per cent into my career, and I’m 100 per cent into being a wife and I’m 100 per cent into being a mom. But the truth of the matter is, I’m not 100 per cent at each of those things at the same time. And that’s the trick. I think that we run ourselves to the ground, trying to be the best mom, the best wife, and then be a bomb ass professional all at the same time. Some days I’m not going to be able to turn in a project on time, because that’s the day that my son has a recital and he needs Mommy there and I’m going to be 100 per cent for him. But let’s say on Wednesday, Mommy has a big meeting. I’m going to be 100 per cent for that meeting and today, I may not necessarily be there right now, but Mommy still loves you. So it’s all about juggling. I think that’s what’s really important.
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A post shared by Dr. Wendy Osefo, PhD (@wendyosefo) on Mar 18, 2020 at 9:12am PDT
In your official Housewives bio it says that you’re on a journey to obtain the American dream. But what even is the American dream anymore, what does that mean to you?
I think the American dream in a sense is trying to have it all… like you have 2.5 kids, including the dog at the house. You have the career. You have the retirement plan. You have all that stuff. That’s what I think people consider to be the American dream, traditionally. For me, that’s not what I consider the American dream to be. The American dream to me is yes, you have a career and yes, you have a family, but you’re also giving yourself self-care because mental illness has been an issue that has been cropping up in society. And I think it’s because people are so worried about everyone else, but they don’t take care of themselves. So I just want to make sure that I’m achieving for others but also making sure I’m getting Mommy time. I also want to make sure that I’m loving on myself as well as loving on other people. So it’s about everything, including yourself.