The Southern Charm family reaches well beyond South Carolina.
Reagan Charleston, who stars in the New Orleans spin-off of the Bravo reality show, says she’s gotten to know her extended cast mates in Charleston, including Naomie Olindo, Patricia Altschul and, of course, Whitney Sudler-Smith, who executive-produces both shows.
“I just started chatting with Kathryn Dennis, and she’s so sweet,” Charleston, 30, tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I just think she’s the nicest person in the entire world. Landon [Clements] reached out and had some good advice to offer. Everybody’s been really nice.”
For Charleston, having her life play out on the small screen has been a “surreal” experience — particularly because she says it shows “the most difficult time” in her life. A point of contention throughout this current season so far has been between Charleston and her husband Jeff, who is a former NFL player, as she told him that she wants to move into an apartment without him to focus on her studies and eponymous jewelry line.
“I didn’t expect that these things were going to happen right as we started filming,” she says. “We’d been working with the network and planning to film for quite a while and it just seemed that everything fell apart right as we started shooting. It hit the fan, let’s put it that way. I was in the middle of my second year of law school, which is arguably the most difficult. Jeff and I had tremendous problems with his family. It took a toll on us, and it was very difficult but I found that school had become sort of an outlet. Watching that, I can see that I don’t feel like myself and I can see in some moments that I was upset. So that’s been tough.”
Luckily, Charleston says that she and her husband were able to work past their problems and are in a “wonderful place” now.
“You have to reach a breaking point, especially when difficult things happen,” she says. “I wanted to just throw myself into work instead of addressing the issues that were between us. It was kind of cathartic to film and therapeutic in a sense that people were pushing us to open up about things that I otherwise probably wasn’t ever going to open up about. It’s interesting to look back and see how much things have changed.”
Charleston, who currently works as a law clerk for the Louisiana Solicitor General’s office, graduated from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law on Saturday and has her sights set on studying for the Bar Exam and opening up her own law firm.
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To celebrate the accomplishment, she says she hosted “a very intimate dinner with my best friends and plenty of champagne.”
Between studying for her finals and working on her jewelry line, Charleston says she gets about four hours of sleep a night.
“If I’m not working on the jewelry, I’m studying and dealing with clients and dealing with my artisans,” she says. “When I get up in the morning, I check my email. When I go to bed at night, I check my email.”
Charleston says her line was inspired by her family of artists. She grew up in her grandparents’ French Quarter art galleries and their studios as they were copper sculpture artists. For 33 years, her mom did the same. Plus, she says, there’s no shortage of inspiration in New Orleans.
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“The city has some of the most beautiful scenery and architecture and growing up in the French Quarter, you really learn to have an appreciation for architectural design,” she says. “I really love to travel and so every time I travel, it’s not just for enjoyment, but it’s a design expedition. Any city I go to, I will take notes, I’ll take sketches and I’ll take photographs. Every collection is not just a reflection of some moment in my life but it’s also a place.”
Whether she has plans to expand her family with Jeff in the future, Charleston says, “I don’t feel like I’m on anybody’s timeline but my own.”
“I feel like I’m just getting started professionally,” she continues. “I’ve had my company for five years now but I’m just finishing my law degree, I have to study for the Bar, and I would like to open my practice.”
Southern Charm: New Orleans airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on Bravo.