Sunday’s Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion part 3 ended on an explosive accusation, when Porsha Williams claimed Phaedra Parks had been the one who told her that Kandi Burruss and husband Todd Tucker had planned on drugging Wiliams and their mutual friend Shamea Morton one night in order to take advantage of them sexually.
It was a moment that had everyone talking. And while the episode ended before Parks had a chance to respond, she spoke with PEOPLE via phone about the claims before the episode aired.
“It’s funny to think that I have any additional time to be caught up in gossip,” the 43-year-old reality star said. “I have several jobs, as we know, and I have two small children. But I think everyone always has to blame someone.”
“I’m sure the footage speaks for itself,” she continued. “My every scene is not talking about anyone on the show except for what’s going on in my personal life. Others can’t stop mentioning me. Their whole family mentions me. They’re whole staff mentions me. It’s just endless mentioning of me!”
Parks was clearly in the hot seat throughout much of the RHOA reunion’s first three parts (the fourth and final installment airs Sunday). A common criticism thrown her way? That she lives a dual life — as an honorable “Southern Belle” and “a freak hoe” who isn’t afraid to show some skin in a skimpy bathing suit here and there.
People are constantly talking about, ‘Oh you’re not this.’ And I’m like, ‘Wow — it’s so many people with this Christian handbook that I have not received,’ ” Parks said. “So I’ve been praying that whoever owns the Christian dress code and has the handbook, they just send me a copy. Because I don’t see anywhere in the Bible where it lays out these strict guidelines about laughing and having fun and wearing bathing suits. Where did they get this dress code for being Christian? I thought it was about your hearts.”
The insults that have come her way have very little to do with Parks’ actual character, she explained.
“Sometimes, if people don’t have anything concrete, they just attack your character,” Parks said. “But my character speaks for itself. Anyone who knows me knows I’m very gracious, I’m very helpful. And a lot of the things I do for people, you never see it on camera. Because that is not my intention to get praise for it. My intention is to be a vessel and be used for the purpose of empowering people.”
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Having made charity a part of her life since she was a young girl, Parks remains focused on giving back to her community — whether it be the advocacy work she continues to do in Washington, D.C., the academic scholarship she endows, or the fellowship and mentoring programs she participates in.
There also the Phaedra Foundation, her organization with a mission to “inspire hope and change through education, exposure and advocacy for social justice.”
Some of their work was documented this season, as they partnered with the YMCA of Greater Flint, Michigan, for a six-day summer camp for the youth affected by the local water crisis. It’s a camp Parks will repeat again this summer while launching a similar program in Atlanta (in partnership with the Andrew & Walter Young Family YMCA). She hopes to do the same next year in Chicago.
“I know as a child, I went to overnight camp and that exposed me to so many activities,” Parks said. “It helped me become independent, it helped me understand relationships, it helped me understand how to stand alone in difficult moments. I couldn’t leave the camp with my parents being 100 miles away. I had to figure it out.”
“I have a heart for children because being a single mother of two African American boys myself, I know how much support it takes just to feel like you aren’t different,” she continued. “Just to feel like you’re on equal footing with everyone else in the classroom … it’s so important.”
In addition to supporting the camp experiences, the Phaedra Foundation will be co-creating an Ambassador Circle of Influencers and supporting sustainable programming, such as women’s incentives, workforce development and social advocacy empowerment.
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Giving back matters for Parks. “To much is given, much is required,” she revealed. “If you really live in a state of gratitude, you’re planting seeds that will hopefully grow. You live to lift up others and you really strive to not only be your best self, but also to help someone else forge ahead. We are all here to serve.”
As for future insults coming Parks’ way from her fellow Atlanta Housewives, she’s ready. “These girls always have something to say. But I want to know what their philanthropic portfolio looks like.”
The Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion concludes Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on Bravo.