At the age of 18, supermodel, actress, businesswoman, and The Real Housewives of Atlanta star Cynthia Bailey caught the eye of a Wilhelmina Models scout, leading to a big move to NYC and an impressive modeling career that has spanned more than two decades.
The RHOA veteran is currently focused on growing her entrepreneurial empire, which includes Bailey Wine Cellar and event space The Bailey Room, her Seagram’s Escapes Peach Bellini, and The Bailey Agency School of Fashion – and reveling in that newlywed bliss. Late last year, Bailey tied the knot to FOX Sports host Mike Hill in a magical celebration that will be featured on this season of the Bravo hit.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Bailey about this exciting next chapter of her life, The Real Housewives of Atlanta, what we can expect from season 13, and much more.
You’ve been on The Real Housewives of Atlanta for more than a decade now. What’s the best aspect of being a Real Housewives – or best thing to come from being a part of the Bravo show?
CB: Oh, the platform. Without question. The platform is amazing. We have so many fans that follow us and support us. As an entrepreneur, it’s just a win-win situation for me, because I’m always opening new businesses anyways, so I have a platform to promote what I’m doing as a entrepreneur.
Do you watch the show when it airs?
CB: I do watch it when it airs. But I have to be honest, I watch the episode the night of the episode, one time, and then I can’t watch it again. Honestly, I love the show, but you film the show, be on the show, promote the show, the show comes on, there’s the social media. It’s a lot. So for me, what works for me is to focus when I have to focus and disconnect when I have to disconnect – just for balance. But I watch it one time the night of the show, Tweet about it, post about it, and I move on.
What have been some of the highlights for you?
CB: There’s been a lot of great highlights. Recently, I just got married, that was amazing. Although they weren’t able to film it, we still had our videographer filming and I was still able to share it with you guys on the show. That was important to me, just because you guys have seen all my ups and downs, my peaks and valleys on the show. When I first came on the show, I was not in a good space. My marriage was not in a good place. My finances were not in a good place. Basically, I was a hot mess. And you guys basically rolled with me, like you guys saw me kind of get through all that and become the successful, happy, healthy businesswoman that I am now – and I’ve found love again. What was important to me, I gave you guys the bad stuff, so I want to share the good stuff, the good times right now. So I wanted to share that.
And congrats on your recent nuptials. When did you know that Mike was the one?
CB: I knew that Mike was the one when he actually came to Atlanta. There’s just something very comfortable about him being here. I can’t explain it. It’s just one of those things. We did most of our dating in LA, because I was in LA a lot, that’s where we met. When he came to Atlanta, he just felt right. It’s one of those things with love, I can’t put my finger on it, it’s a feeling you get. I just knew that I wanted this man in my life. I didn’t know we would get married, but I knew I wanted to be in a serious relationship.
What else can we look forward to from season 13 of The Real Housewives of Atlanta?
CB: Oh, well, we are getting ready to go on another girls trip. And you guys saw how exciting the girls trip to the Carolinas was. So… It didn’t disappoint, to say the least. New Orleans is going to be a different girls trip. But there’s going to be a lot going on as well. Definitely a lot of drama that does not include Bolo.
After modeling for more than two decades, you’re utilizing your expertise to help others get their big break through The Bailey Agency School of Fashion. What advice would you offer those looking to get into the modeling world?
CB: My best advice that I would give is to do your research. We have so much access to so much information now. And just make sure it’s something that you seriously want to do. The modeling industry is a very competitive industry, it’s pretty much based on aesthetics, which is just one of those things that you either have it or you don’t. But the good news is, if you can’t make it as a model, there’s so many other jobs that you can have in the entertainment industry. One of the things that I do have the ability to do at The Bailey Agency School of Fashion, because I always wanted to encourage my students, regardless of whether or not they actually had what it took to be a model, was to maybe go into acting as well, because aesthetics don’t matter as much in the acting world. And as long as they continue to work towards a purpose, I think that’s been the important thing. But modeling is just one of those things a bit has changed a lot over the years. And I don’t think it’s at the same standard that it used to be, because there’s all kinds of different types of modeling, like Instagram modeling. But at the end of the day, if it’s something you love, go for it. I would never discourage anyone from going for it.
When I started in the industry, I heard a million no’s before I heard a yes, before I got a job, before I got a booking. And everyone’s not build for that. What I love about my school is whether you can model or not, even just going through that training, it really boosts and builds confidence, self-esteem, and regardless of what you decide to do with your life, that’s something you need in any job. You just need to feel good about yourself. People like to be around people that feel good about themselves.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve received?
CB: The best piece of advice I received was to save my money – because it wasn’t gonna last forever. Although I have had a very lengthy career, and mine almost did last forever, for probably about 25 years, which is crazy. I thought I’d model like a year and then go on to something else, but I really made a career out of it. So, save my money because usually it doesn’t last forever, not as long as my mine did.
The other advice was to treat it like a business, because it is a business. People a lot of times think we’re just out here taking pictures and it’s not an actual business. But it’s a whole industry. And it’s been very helpful to me actually coming from the modeling industry transitioning to the reality TV space, because at that point, I was already used to photo shoots. I could do my own hair and makeup, if I needed to. I was used to the traveling, the work ethic, the professionalism of being on time. It’s definitely been a plus. Traveling the world, I already had my passport. It’s been a blessing.
You also own The Bailey Wine Cellar and The Bailey Room. Why were those industries ones you wanted to explore?
CB: Well, I just recently celebrated a birthday. I just turned 54. I am proudly a woman of a certain age. I own it. Anything that I decide to do, in terms of business as an entrepreneur at this point, it’s something that really resonates with me. It’s something that’s organic. Wine, to me, is very grown up. It’s all about culture and history. Wine is sexy. It’s just one of those things that I thought that would be great for me – not only to just open, but to actually learn about the industry. And I love wine. So why not?
You’ve partnered with Seagram’s Escapes for an initiative that supports Black-owned businesses. Could you speak to that?
CB: Absolutely! My partnership with Seagram’s Escapes has been amazing. My Peach Bellini is one of their top sellers, if not the top seller. What I love about working with them is they are very pro women empowerment; we were doing all these women empowerment tours, all these things before COVID happened. Now obviously everything has gone digital. But it was really exciting to be able to go to different cities, hear from these different women who wanted to start businesses, and give them some inspiration. With this, I was really glad that Seagram’s started the Black-owned business initiative, because I am a Black woman and I own several businesses that definitely suffered during the pandemic. I was fortunate enough to ride it out, but a lot of businesses did not make it, and a lot of them are still struggling. So I thought this would be an excellent opportunity for me, along with Seagram’s, to promote and support other Black owned businesses. I love the fact that we were able to give these amazing business owners $10,000 grants each towards their business, and they were all women. I love supporting women, as well. I think it’s important that the more you give, the more you can help other people. This whole 2020 pandemic, Black Lives Matter, that year was such a challenging year for so many different reasons. I think it’s just important to know that we’re all in this together, everyone’s trying to stay afloat, everyone’s trying to make it, everyone’s trying to find peace. Everyone wants love, we all want a lot of the same things. So I was excited to be a part of a platform that could that I could use my inspiration for good.
Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
CB: I am working on some projects at the moment, but I can’t really talk about them yet. They haven’t been announced officially. But there’s season 13. I’ve been on Atlanta for over a decade, this is one of my favorite seasons. And just grateful that Bravo was actually able to figure out a way for us to safely and effectively actually do a show. Pretty excited for you guys to watch this season. So I’m good. Married, happy – almost five months into our marriage, and I feel great. Looking forward to even better things ahead.
I saw that you attended Jill Zarin’s Hamptons luncheon a few years ago.
CB: I love the Hamptons. I’ve been going to the Hamptons forever. I lived in New York before I moved to Atlanta for my modeling career. I was living in New York about 18 years ago. So I love the Hamptons and Jill is a great friend of mine. I love her event, because it’s one of those women empowerment, women promoting other women’s businesses events. It’s just always good to get with other women that are doing things, other business people that are doing things. I love networking, and her event is amazing.
Do you have any favorite spots in the Hamptons?
CB: I like Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor. I think the last time I was in the Hamptons, I was actually hanging out with Jill and Luann [de Lesseps]. I think we went to 1OAK. I actually met Rihanna there. That was pretty cool. I love the nightlife, the food, and really just being able to relax and chill.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
CB: Follow me on Instagram @CynthiaBailey.