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From track star to reality star

Sanya Richards-Ross takes on ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’

Published:Tuesday | May 3, 2022 | 12:08 AMJanet Silvera/Senior Gleaner Writer
Jamaica-born Olympian Sanya Richards-Ross, who is on Season 14 of ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta’.
Jamaica-born Olympian Sanya Richards-Ross, who is on Season 14 of ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta’.
Sanya Richards-Ross with other members of the cast of Season 14 of the hit reality series.
Sanya Richards-Ross with other members of the cast of Season 14 of the hit reality series.
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WESTERN BUREAU: Jamaica-born four-time Olympian Sanya Richards-Ross has moved her prowess from on the track to cameras of the popular cable network series, The Real Housewives of Atlanta. On Sunday, Richards-­Ross made her debut on Season 14 of the...

WESTERN BUREAU:

Jamaica-born four-time Olympian Sanya Richards-Ross has moved her prowess from on the track to cameras of the popular cable network series, The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

On Sunday, Richards-­Ross made her debut on Season 14 of the American reality show, which has a viewership of 1.2 million. Not only is she the first Jamaican to play a lead role on one of the most talked-about reality series in the United States, but also the first Olympian.

The series will be 17 to 20 weeks long, every Sunday night at 7 p.m. Jamaica time on Bravo TV.

The Gleaner caught up with the Kingstonian – who attended Vaz Preparatory before migrating to the United States at age 12 – shortly after she closed the curtain on the 126th University of Pennsylvania Penn Relays Carnival in Philadelphia last Saturday, commentating for ESPN.

Richards-Ross spent the last week promoting the show on network TV, including the Wendy Williams Show, but not before bringing the cast to Jamaica on a journey showcasing the rich cultural heritage that makes the island unparalleled.

“That was probably the biggest highlight for me and the highlight of the season. I got to bring the ladies to Jamaica, on our big cast trip, to Kingston, where I used to live, [and] to Montego Bay,” she told The Gleaner, adding that a lot of the island is showcased and expressing hope that Jamaicans all over the world will watch and support the show, which has given a platform to her family.

Giving The Glean er a sneak preview into what is to come, Richards-Ross said one of the first times she hangs out with the ladies is during a Jamaican cooking class with her mom, teaching them how to make curried chicken.

Her mom, dad, sisters and nephews, son and husband, Aaron Ross – two-time Super Bowl champ with the New York Giants – are all on the show, and, according to the Olympian, she brings not only black excellence and her rich culture, but a balance.

“I realise that, on the show, it’s very real. It’s not acting, and these are women who have big personalities and their own points of view.”

Married for 12 years to Ross, who she met in college, she disclosed that he plays a key role on the show. In fact, he is the calm and balance and she is the crazy one, Richards-Ross admits. Even for people who have been following them for a long time, she says, this will be a really intimate look into their relationship and their family life, which she describes as fantastic.

At the end of the day, all she wanted was to show up authentically as herself. And so, when the invitation to participate on the show came, she was excited.

“I had done reality TV once before and I always said I would leave the door open to do it again. I thought it was a good experience, but I never thought I would be on The Real Housewives of Atlanta. It’s the number one reality show on Bravo TV and I had barely moved to Atlanta. I was just going there to start doing a new TV show. And when they reached out, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! Is this something that I want to do and what would it entail?”

After getting more details, she thought it would be a great new opportunity.

“I like to do things where my heart is beating out [of] my chest, and things that stretch me. So I felt like it checked both of those boxes, so I was excited,” she said, the excitement evident in her voice.

Moreover, she likes being first and that box was also checked.

Richards-Ross says she wanted to show up and stand up for what she believes in, and she is convinced that this season of the show will be a very good blend of family, friendship, and then, of course, the drama.

The former athlete, who is currently a commentator on NBC, expects brand Jamaica to get a boost at the end of the day, having also received help from Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange.

Ideally, she wants to also use this platform to show people – especially young black girls – that the opportunities are endless.

“After you stop running, sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to do next or you’re on one career path and ask yourself, ‘How do I use those same skill sets to do something else?’

“And so, for me, being the first athlete and the first Jamaican on this show, it just opens up more doors for all of us. People can see that we can excel in any arena. And so, for me, it really is about showing up and, you know, making sure I made my name and ... making sure they put some respect on my name,” she quipped.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com