Bravo TV, Reality TV

#SouthernCharmSavannah: Catching Up with Ashley Borders

A lot has changed for Ashley Borders, the former full time cast member on Southern Charm Savannah. This season (the show’s second), Borders makes only a few cameo appearances, with a caption that reads “Daniel’s friend.” Many viewers, with varying opinions on her from last season, feel this is an injustice because they were left hanging when it came to her “story.” A prevalent opinion is that she was the ONE character who actually made an otherwise “boring” and lackluster show something to tune in to.

In addition, she received some unsolicited advice from the more stodgy and more conservative viewers – who took to social media to opine – about making herself over, essentially to conform more to be like the others. To give you a mere metaphorical example: replacing her scoop neck tanks and cutoff shorts with Lily Pulitzer numbers that would make an Orthodox Rabbi proud (Odd reference from me, I admit, as only Daniel Eichholz of the SCS cast is Jewish).

Last season, Ashley was called out by her cast mates for excitedly discussing her styling business, but neglecting to gush about a side gig with Delta airlines which required a few scant hours per month. Viewers also snobbishly snarked about this airline opportunity and discussed how it might be “off brand” with the theme of wealth and privilege attached to the overall Southern Charm franchise.

Others deemed Ashley’s cast mates elitist. They contended that all the complaints inadvertently undermined the jobs of many Americans who do something similar to working baggage claims at airports.

Of course, on camera we saw Ashley’s cast mates insist that their gripes were about “honesty” which became a heavy storyline talking point that drove those rooting for this Southern sweetheart with the liberal views bananas.

Ashley comes from a prominent family of means, but you wouldn’t know it. She’s more focused on friendship, a new romantic relationship after recovering from divorce, her teenage son, her parents and siblings, spirituality and travel- lots of travel.

Raised in Savannah, she is the daughter of a pediatric surgeon noted as much for his skill as his charitable medical volunteer work in underdeveloped countries. Her mother’s work involves offering free clinics to people who cannot afford healthcare, and is also involved with home visits to the elderly. In addition, she helped start the first breast cancer center in the Middle East.

From the examples set by both of her parents, Ashley is committed to numerous philanthropic endeavors and focused on giving back, though she stays somewhat private about it.

In terms of the much-discussed Delta dealio and the more snooty smack she incurred from cast members last season and fans, Ashley tells me: “I have a friend who happens to be a millionaire and he did the Delta thing with me! He loved it too. It’s incredible because it gives you the opportunity to travel. He doesn’t feel that any work is above or below him. I have that same mindset. I think it’s important to work hard, not to rely on a trust fund or some sort of ‘cushioning’ when it’s wisest to save that for something important.” College tuition may be one “important” consideration for Ashley when she speaks lovingly of her son who is now in high school.

As far as the question of: Why wasn’t she forthcoming about this side hustle last season? Ashley has other, much closer friends who she talks to a ton, and we just didn’t get to see them and those conversations play out on TV. Mainly, however, she was very focused on her styling work, considering it her passion.

“I didn’t intentionally withhold things from my cast mates. Delta was great, but my great love truly was styling! I really wanted to be able to showcase it more on TV. You did get to see (in an early Season 1 episode) a shoot I worked on for a magazine – where I was in charge of the styling. I do so many things in general. I immediately felt ganged up on as I realized they wanted to make a huge deal out of Delta in a really surprising way.”

“For instance, I sell my old clothing on eBay and other cast members might do that too, but I wouldn’t lay into them for not bringing it up! Like selling clothes on eBay, the work at Delta was something I did only a few hours each month. Because I was so focused on styling, I didn’t feel defined by something I did on the side. I really wasn’t prepared for that to blow up in the way that it did…That caught me completely off guard and was disconcerting.”

Ashley no longer has the Delta side gig, but she discovered a harsh reality after appearing on Southern Charm Savannah last year. After facing some slut-shaming comments from Savannians and audience members, as well as intense critique about her struggling marriage and the Delta debacle, people in the neighborhood treated her differently.

“It became much harder to get local clients” for her styling business.

Co-parenting a teen with her ex husband Dennis, she is able to travel and work on styling projects overseas to make up for local losses. She’s also scored some acting work in the U.S. as well as some enviable projects in set design. Later this month she will appear alongside Gabriel Byrne and Kiersey Clemons in the Hollywood feature film “An L.A. Minute”.

In her first brief appearance of the season, in this past Monday’s episode, Ashley has agreed to meet with Daniel who remains a buddy of hers. You see her wearing a gold band on her left finger despite being divorced. She said that she wears a ring on that finger to avoid being hit on since she’s in a relationship with a man she is wildly passionate about.

He is someone she knew long ago: “He married someone else. I married someone else. We both got divorced and we ended up finding our way back to one another.”

There is a whole intriguing romance and a great story behind their history and reunion. I hope Ashley gets to share that one day with viewers. Meaning, I hope that if there is a Season 3 of Southern Charm Savannah, Ashley returns as a full time cast member with her beau.

In the scene that just aired with Daniel, I personally surmised that he looked uncomfortable confronting Ashley, who he has referred to as a “sweet person”, about honesty and authenticity. It is that harped-upon theme that makes some viewers’ eyes roll when they consider just how much Ashley actually did share last season. In particular, she was extremely candid about her dying marriage and lack of sex life with Dennis.

The conversation that just aired between Daniel and Ashley was incredibly brief, but she says it was longer than what we witnessed (which is always the case with reality television) and somewhat emotionally taxing.

She adds that she adores Daniel and understands why – particularly as he’s a close friend of Hannah’s – he felt the need to ask certain questions. Things were rough between Hannah and Ashley last season and Ashley conveys to me that she wishes they had patched things up then. We’ll have to stay tuned to see if they were able to fix their relationship or not.

As for her status as “friend of” this season. Ashley says: “I really want this season of Southern Charm Savannah to go well and it’s my sincere hope that more viewers tune in. After filming last season, Happy (a character who clashed with Ashley at one point on camera) has been lovely! And Happy’s mother is also incredible and very supportive! I remain close with Nelson (who didn’t return for Season 2) which is unique since we are SOOO different (she’s a liberal, he’s a staunch conservative). I disagree with him often, but we always agree to disagree and do so respectfully! I’ll tell him how I object to something, and he’s always listened and taken it in. I like Hagood, the new cast member this season, who I’ve known somewhat from around town. Daniel is a good friend and I consider his dad to be a friend of mine too – it’s kind of hilarious! He’s a great guy and I’m hoping you get to see more of their father-son interactions.”

Ashley adds that she had a real ally  in Brandon, in spite of some snide remark he made about her that viewers noted from the previews.

Ashley has received plenty of positive messages from fans, but also her fair share of hateful tweets. “I don’t understand this #HiAshley thing that’s going on, or what exactly happened to make people so passionate on social media,” she says, flummoxed at how having the name Ashley has brought on more haters, viewers glued to the original Southern Charm with a different Ashley.

Ashley Borders can cop to the fact that she too was polarizing onscreen last season, but she’s hoping people will get to see that she’s someone that cares deeply about others and feels passionately about bringing more diversity to the franchise.

“It’s frequently pointed out to me that the show has an all white cast and I’m happy that you may…I’m not positive, but maybe?…get to see my best friend, Shena, who is African American.”

Ashley Borders may have been the most misunderstood reality TV character on the most underwhelming reality show during Season 1. It is my hope that this show gains more traction as we see more scenes that capture her uniqueness, open-mindedness and authenticity.

(Pictured: Ashley Borders chatting on set with actor Gabriel Byrne)

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