(The following article was originally published here.)
When Real Housewives of Miami failed to return for a fourth season, there was never an official “cancellation” announcement from Bravo. Some viewers speculated that the series was on hiatus and could magically return.
However, enough time has passed with enough Housewives (of other cities) to entertain, that most fans are not counting on it. Despite the absence of Miami on Bravo, the name of one of the cast members, Lea Black, has recently become synonymous with “gay icon” and “informed liberal” — though when I share the former with Lea herself, she tells me it’s the first she’s hearing of it.
This surprises me because she was known for introducing a famous Miami drag queen to her former cast mates and she has always seemed much beloved by gay members of her community.
Today Lea is only friendly with a few of the Housewives including Joanna Krupka, a stunning model who is connected to a mortifying and grotesque debacle that made for tabloid fodder and brought about a notorious lawsuit against another “Real Housewife” http://people.com/tv/joanna-krupa-sues-brandi-glanville-for-slander/.
“I advised Joanna to drop the lawsuit to make this (gossip and entire ordeal) go away,” Lea relates, “but you have to know Joanna, particularly when she is angry! This is something she needs to see through to justice and it doesn’t matter what anyone else says.”
With outspoken friends like comedians Julie Goldman, Brandy Howard and Ronnie Karam (who are all based in Los Angeles where Lea now also keeps a residence) as her unofficial cheerleaders, Lea – whose political leanings were already well-known in Miami where she held events to raise money for democratic politicians – has been able to share her convictions with a larger audience.
Although she refers to herself as a “centrist” in our conversation, she champions causes that resonate with liberals. She has always been a supporter of gay rights and shows a keen awareness and clear empathy for the average American who isn’t part of “the 1 percent.”
As Julie Goldman said on her podcast with Brandy Howard Dumb Gay Politics: “Lea is really rich, like really really really rich and she is an avid democrat, so suck it, they exist!”
Lea is witty but not at all condescending, quirky with a lilting Texan cadence and she lacks both self-consciousness and pretense. She is extremely well-read and knowledgeable (she’s also married to successful civil and criminal defense trial attorney Roy Black and familiarizes herself with the law) and is staunch in her political affirmations, while remaining respectful of those on the right. After all, despite purchasing a house in Los Angeles, she spends a large portion of her time in her red state residence in Florida.
“If you are against abortion, then don’t have an abortion!” she says logically when we discuss a population of those who voted for Donald Trump. She enforces the notion that women are responsible for their own bodies and single issue voting is not the way to go nor does it bode well: “One issue voting certainly didn’t make sense for this administration.”
She told Julie and Brandy in her interview on Dumb Gay Politics: “The rich may get richer while the poor get poorer, but everybody will be in the emergency room instead of having healthcare.” Lea reiterates this sentiment on the phone with me: “Quality of life is more important than the extra amount of money you have.”
On Twitter (@LeaBlackMiami), Lea frequently muses about this mess we’re in (AKA The Trump Presidency) and it’s clear that she’s not really spending her days watching Bravo as much as she is paying attention to Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell and Chris Hayes — although she did love the network’s drama Imposters starring Inbar Lavi.
I tell Lea that she sounds more liberal to me than she does “centrist,” her self-descriptor, and she explains her thinking as follows: “I feel that Hillary always governed from the center and so did Obama. He was always willing to work with and compromise with congress. Logically, I’m a centrist because I think the only way to get things done is through a certain balanced level of compromise. Personally in my heart, I’m more of a liberal democrat. I don’t mind having to pay more taxes so people can have better lives and be empowered. Before Donald Trump’s campaign, I thought he came from a place of having been a democrat – that’s certainly how he was once known.”
“I thought that perhaps things wouldn’t actually be so bad, but then he opened his mouth and horrific things came out. There was this condescension and arrogance and outrageousness like when he said he was going to fix ISIS in 30 days. That was propaganda and more followed. The bullying that he did was such a turn off and I can’t understand people who voted for him. Those who admit now that it was a mistake, that’s OK, but those who still support him…I can’t comprehend it when they clearly see he is not going to do what they thought he was going to do – their reasoning for voting for him – what he said he was going to do!”
Lea has so much more to share about politics and it pays to listen to her opine on Dumb Gay Politics, but I realize that there’s so much more I want to know about Lea today.
So I wrap up our political discussion with Andy Cohen-style questions from a fan: “Candyce from Scottsdale, Arizona asks: If you ran into Ramona Singer from Real Housewives of New York who appears to be a Trump supporter, what would you say to her? Also, were you surprised to see the Watch What Happens Live polls before Election Day that had Trump win the election?”
Lea responds that the polls were not shocking because she is aware that Bravo has a conservative viewership, that there are people who went with the negative talking points about Hillary and with the narrative that Trump was the better candidate to “make America great again.”
Lea says she cannot even get her head around the latter sentiment. She thinks that Obama did a great job in light of budgetary overhead from the prior administration, and that he made healthcare something that was finally affordable and available to so many who would have been denied coverage.
“As for Ramona,” she responds, “I do know her (personally) and like her. I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with her. If I ran into her now, I don’t see myself having this discussion because I don’t think she’s interested in having one. I just don’t see her as one of those people who follows the issues closely.”
I have to agree with Lea because Ramona does seem to be more focused on her social life and spending time with her adult daughter Avery. The day after Trump’s win, she was reportedly out shopping wearing a fur with a glass of wine in hand.
Lea’s non-political philanthropic endeavors include, but are not limited to, an annual Miami gala that raises millions for troubled teens http://www.theblacksannualgala.com/.
Currently, each Wednesday at 12 EST she opines on different sorts of funny things and modern issues in a Facebook Live segment titled Lunch with Lea.
“Lunch With Lea was something I started because I got so many Bravo viewers asking me about the show (RHOM) or what I’m up to and it just grew automatically,” she explains, “I love staying in touch with all the people that watched RHOM and enjoy the freedom of just being completely open and honest. Listeners seem to love the gossip and my unfiltered opinions. I plan to do it as long as people are tuning in. It’s laughs, giggles, fun and controversial.”
She cackles in her signature way while she says “As you can tell, I haven’t slowed down since the Miami show wasn’t renewed!” That is a literal understatement if I have ever heard one because just looking at her website (www.leablack.com) makes me wonder how many hours are in her day.
The site offers her handbags, jewelry, a skincare line and details about her writing. She is committed to publishing more novels since the success of her 2015 book Red Carpets & White Lies which just happens to be about a salacious tome about a Miami socialite…Bravo, if you are reading, this sounds like the makings of a scripted series.
As the girl who came from Texas in the 1980s and rose to become well-respected in Miami society for her moxie as well as her charity and political activism, Lea is admirably accessible to fans. She engages with them through social media and via her website. Lea sees herself first and foremost as mom to teenage son RJ with her husband Roy, and as someone who supports her friends and their endeavors, wanting them to get the recognition and visibility she feels they deserve.
She recently was spotted seated in the audience of Julie and Brandy’s live show. She attended it with Ronnie Karam, co-host of the popular podcast “Watch What Crappens.” It pays to note that Julie, Brandy and Ronnie all began as adoring fans of Lea’s when she starred on Real Housewives of Miami and she responded to them in a way that fans only dream about.
We often hear the phrase “don’t meet your idols, you’ll be disappointed,” but Lea proves time and again to be the exception to this rule, restoring faith about the humility and humanity of highly successful people.