Kenya Moore nearly thought love had passed her by.
The Real Housewives of Atlanta star told PEOPLE that while she knew she was always worthy of finding love, as the years went on, not having met a partner in life was sometimes difficult.
“I’m strong but of course, I get lonely,” the 46-year-old former Miss USA tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “I’ve longed to have someone who steals my heart and who I can trust to be my best friend. I’ve heard the love stories. And after a certain amount of time you believe it will never happen for you. You lose hope.”
Luckily for Moore, she met a man worth the wait. On June 10, the brunette beauty walked down the aisle and married businessman Marc Daly, 47 in a romantic sunset ceremony on the beach in St. Lucia.
The two met through mutual friend (and fellow Bravolebrity) Chef Roblé Ali about a year ago, though didn’t start dating until December.
Their first date changed everything for Moore. “I’ve never experience a first date like this before,” she gushed. “You know when you meet people, and you like them or have good chemistry with them but you don’t feel like the world has changed? I felt like the earth moved after our first date.”
It was a stark contrast from dating experiences Moore had in the past. But then again, Moore tried a different tactic this time around.
“I was always the person who ran,” Moore admitted. “Any time I ever saw anything I didn’t like in someone, I just ran. And it was not working for me. I want people to stick with me and work it out if they care, so I can’t run. You have to communicate honestly with each other and never give up on each other.”
While the two wouldn’t say “I do” for another seven months, Moore was ready to early on. “I probably would have married him in 30 days, the feeling was that strong,” she said. “But we wanted to wait and get to know each other and make sure it wasn’t an infatuation. We needed to make sure it was actually real.”
Moore describes Daly as “extremely romantic” — bringing a lot of “calm, security and protection” to her. She also praised him for seeing her as she really is, rather than the heightened personality she’s often portrays on television. It’s part of the reason their first dance was to Jon B.’s 1997 R&B hit “They Don’t Know.”
“People think they know me from the glimpses they have of my life being a reality star,” Moore said. “And I don’t see myself as a reality star. I see myself as a person who allows you to see moments in time. You don’t really see all of me — it’s impossible, I’m not followed 24 hours a day. But [Marc] sees me for who I am …. He really knows my heart.”
But there is one thing that confused RHOA fans about Moore’s wedding when it was first announced, and that was her decision to initially keep Daly’s identity secret.
“He didn’t sign up for this world, I did,” Moore explained. “Every time someone has been associated with me, they attack that person – immediately going after them, trying to bring them down and saying crazy things. They tear people apart. And so for [Marc], he was like, ‘This is about me and you — it’s not about me or you.’ He just wanted it to be about our pure love and not about him.
“That’s why I fell in love with him,” Moore continued. “For him, it’s about being my protector and my best friend — not being someone that stands next to me, but someone who supports me and is okay with being behind me sometimes. He doesn’t want my money, he doesn’t want my fame, he doesn’t want my success — he just wants my heart, and he has it.”
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For those who question whether she rushed into something, Moore maintained that her love was the real deal.
“I always strongly believed I don’t want to get married just for the sake of getting married,’ Moore said. “I’ve never been that girl and I will never be that girl. Which is why, if it’s not what I feel in my heart and my soul, I will not do it. I will not do it for cameras, I will not do it for somebody else to feel good about who I am. I have to do it for myself.”
Daly has yet to move into Moore Manor, but Moore insists the pair won’t be wasting time before they start expanding their family. “We both want to start a family and soon — like, right away,” she said. “We both want a child.”
And as RHOA is concerned, Moore is expected to come back for season 10 — though casting decisions were not confirmed by either her or Bravo.
Does that mean Daly will be part of the show? “I think we have to make that decision together if the opportunity comes,” Moore said. “We just got married — we haven’t even talked about that stuff before. I’m sure we will make the right decision. But right now, I’m enjoying being a bride and a newlywed.”