AllAboutTRH EXCLUSIVE Interview: Lea Black Talks Miami’s Hottest Gala, RHOM Cast Mates, Plus, What Was In That Folder At The Reunion?
Before Bravo brought her to our homes via Real Housewives of Miami, Lea Black was working The Blacks Annual Gala benefitting the family’s The Consequences Charity & Foundation, an event that has grown into a large fundraiser attended by A-list entertainers, politicians, social figures from Miami and beyond. Lea is also quite busy running multiple businesses including her first business, an international skin care company, and expanding with her brand new handbag line!
Lea chatted with AllAboutTRH this week and talked to me about the gala and how it has grown into what we see on TV today. She talks about the career that keeps her very busy, and of course I had to ask about RHOM! Lea dishes on the situation with Ana and the infamous manila folder that was cut out of the reunion but was seen in some of the footage. I also asked if there was any truth to the rumors that her husband got involved and legally fought for Bravo to not air that portion.
Lea was a very fun gal to chat with! She takes life day by day and doesn’t engage in any negativity. She has a great sense of humor and has the ability to laugh at herself, so it was a very light hearted, pleasant, and fun-filled chat for me. Check out the interview below!
AllAboutTRH: Can you talk about the history of your gala, and who your foundation seeks to benefit?
Lea Black: I started doing this gala almost 19 years ago and it was for at-risk youth, children that wind up in either incarceration or juvenile detention, or trouble because they’re on the street when they should be in school but don’t have the guidance or don’t know any better or different. It started at a little art gallery the first year, then the next year it was at my house. We did it at my house for about 10 or so years until it deluged really really bad and about three hours before the event we had to move 500+ guests inside my house, and the food and auction items inside the house. We had to rental trucks and we stored my furniture outside and that’s when I realized I had outgrown my yard.
At that point we decided to move to the Coral Gables country club, then we outgrew that, so we moved over to the Ritz Carlton, and we outgrew their ballroom.
How long did it take for it to grow into the big, successful event it now is?
Every year it grows. It’s been a process for 19 years. The talent we’ve been able to get is mostly donating their time. Most of them don’t charge and some have been paid over the years, but a huge amount of them donate their time.
Last year we had Queen Latifah, Tony Bennett, Deborah Cox. The year before that we had Pharrell Williams, Pitbull, Dionne Warwick. The year before that we had Rick Ross, Natalie Cole and Paulina Rubio. I have had really some top talent over the last several years and this year we have Flo Rida and a big surprise that we’re working on right now which we will probably announce in the next few days.
Getting these performers to fly in and do this as a charity is one of the biggest tackles to tackle on the job.
You have so much A-list talent at your gala every year. Are there any who are loyal to attend every year?
The Estefan’s [Gloria and Emilio Estefan] try to come every year and if they’re in town they do. Alex Rodriguez tries to come if he’s in town and he usually does. Bernard Hopkins comes. Some of the Housewives have come the past couple of years.
We’ve had Governor Charlie Crist. We’ve been lucky in that we’ve been able to get enough celebrity push to make it a happening kind of event. We just push it every year. Every year it gets harder!
So how can regular folks get to attend the Blacks Gala?
Well, you can buy individual tickets and they’re available at www.theblacksannualgala.com. In addition to that, you can buy tables and if you’re lucky what you could do is get a group of your friends to buy a table and you can sit with them!
It’s open as long as there’s seating available but you have to get on it because we have had many years where it’s sold out. The seating is based on how much they pay per ticket and the date in which it comes in.
There was some controversy at the RHOM season two reunion regarding the gala. Ana had brought in a folder with some documents. Do you know what was in that folder and what it proved about the gala?
Nothing was in the folder! If there was, trust me she would’ve done something with it.
Our gala’s been around for almost 20 years. We have top people handling it and we’ve never had any complaints. Everyone’s happy to give the money to the charity. We work really hard to give as much as we can to the charity. We do have some expenses. There is one person who works for the charity and other than that, we have one part time person who works for very little, like $10 an hour. We try to get every single thing donated, and if not, we try to get the sponsors to pay for it, and if the sponsors can’t pay for it then it comes out of the proceeds. But for the most part we work really hard to give most of the money to charity.
Is there any truth to the rumors that Roy and his team fought for Bravo to not air any of that on the show?
No. We don’t have any editing rights on the show. If I did, I would have changed a lot of things!
That’s funny. We don’t work for Bravo. Sorry!
Viewers would like to know what you did for a living before you dedicated yourself to charity work and your current business ventures.
Well, I’ve always been in skin care. I’ve been in skin care since the mid 80′s. I’ve had a skin care line that I’ve distributed all over the world called Sudden Youth. I sold it in Singapore, Indonesia, Switzerland…I had an office in Switzerland and offices in Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo. We sold it all throughout he Caribbean and in the states. I had an office in Texas and I’ve had that line up until I got married, and then I didn’t want to travel hundreds and thousands of miles a year. So I turned it over to other people and sold parts of the company, then I didn’t do anything for a while.
Once my son started school and his activities I had more time and I started recreating my skin care business and I added to that a fabulous handbag collection and I’m just basically doing sales and marketing for both my Lea Black beauty line, my Sudden Youth line and my handbag collection that I have. Each one of those is a full time job!
I think you should add to that your own resort wear collection and design a line of turbans.
Oh my God! Isn’t that funny?! Well, I do have a YouTube channel and you can go on it and I’ll show everybody how I tied my scarves into turbans. It’s on my YouTube channel right now because I actually get a lot of questions about that. I would like to do that because it’s a great alternative to a bad hair day or a hat. It takes 30 seconds to wrap them up!
I know a third season hasn’t been announced, but if it were to come back, how would things be between you and Ana?
I haven’t given that any thought. I kind of live in the moment and I’m a little overwhelmed, so I guess if it came back and I decided to be on it, then I would decide how I would interact with every person on the cast.
Have you seen Ana or any of the girls since the reunion taping?
I hardly see any of the girls. I work all the time, so I’m pretty much in my office every day, and I have a son and a husband. So I spend most of my time either working on the charity or working on my business projects or writing for the Huffington Post, and I just finished my novel. So I’m busy all the time. I really don’t make a lot of time for socializing unless it’s one of those things that’s an obligation or a wedding, or an anniversary, or something important like that. But as far as actually socializing, if I have any time off I pretty much spend it with my husband and my son.
So have you kept in touch with any of your cast mates?
I saw Lisa once during Christmas because she had a legal issue getting in and out of the country and she didn’t have anyone to go to Christmas with because she was planning to go home but she ran into a little snafu with that. So I said come on over and I’ll cook for you, so I had her over because they didn’t have any family here. She is adorable.
I saw Joanna once or twice over the summer last year. The others? I ran into Adriana at a Super Bowl party and that’s pretty much it. If I run into them or there’s a reason to see them, of course I do, but I’m not the one making the phone calls because I’m so busy trying to keep up with my own stuff I don’t have much time!
Does Freda still work for you? Do you think she will ever leave your family?
No. She will never leave. Does she still work for me? Let me answer this way – she’s still at my house! She’s there. She helps with the dogs, she helps with RJ. We love her, but yeah, she’s still there. Freda’s been with me almost 20 years and my son is crazy about her. My dogs are crazy about her. She doesn’t really speak English so she doesn’t know what’s going on half the time, so it just kind of works out that way.
Both you and Lisa seem to really take your housekeepers into the family. Is that a Miami thing or is that just you two?
I do have a tendency to treat the people that work for me whether it’s at work or at home, I do treat them very well. I just think that’s how life should be. I consider that I work for them, just as much as they work for me and I don’t hold them to a lower standard.
If there’s something to wash we wash it together if I’m home. If I order out, I order for her. If we fly out, she flies first class with us. If we travel I put her in the same type of room I put myself or RJ in. I just think you have to treat people that way. It’s a responsibility and if you can afford to have a housekeeper you can afford to treat them well. If you can afford to have a staff, you can afford to treat them with respect and if you don’t then you shouldn’t be in business.
That’s a great outlook on how to treat staff!
It’s just the way it is. Everybody deserves an opportunity to make the most out of the time in their life. If they’re dependent on you, and you’re treating them horrible then how miserable is their life going to be? What’s the point?
Do you watch any of the other Real Housewives franchises at all?
I try to catch them when I can. I don’t watch every one of them religiously, but I catch them when I can if they’re TiVo’d or if it’s a rainy day I fast forward through them to catch up. I feel like it’s my homework to keep up with how the franchises are doing, what direction they’re going, what the audience likes, so I watch it in that context.
Are you friends with any of the ladies from the other cities?
I’ve met a few of them! My son plays with Brandi’s son in LA. I met her a couple of times. I knew Lisa long before she was a Housewife. We’re not close friends but we had communication for various reasons. Kim came down and did Tardy For The Party at the charity event when it was just coming out. I know her from that. I met Taylor at a gifting suite in LA last year.
I met Ramona. She’s close friends with friends of mine and there was a large dinner party we both attended. I know Kathy Wakile and I met them through one of my friends, and I’ve had dinner with them a few times.
Most people I met, I actually didn’t meet because they were Housewives. We just happened to be at the same event or I met them before they were even a Housewife. I met Tamra at Heather McDonald’s birthday party and Lisa was also there!
Do you have any regrets since signing up for the Real Housewives, or has it just been a blessing?
I don’t have any regrets. It’s been fun and I like the crew, and for the most part I like the girls. It’s been a learning experience I would say.
How do you handle any negativity or criticism that comes from being on TV? Do you get any hate-Tweets?
I never get any! I’ve only gotten maybe one or two, but there’s always people in the world who are out to make your life miserable, make you look bad or try to hurt you. I just don’t feed into their stories. If they’re that miserable and are looking for misery company they’re not going to find it with me because I just don’t have the time or interest in it.
I like to be the person who empowers people and helps bring them up to feel better about themselves. I’m not interested in bringing anybody down, so if anybody wants to bring me down they can spend all their time on it if they want to but I don’t have any time to rebut that kind of stuff. I’m too busy and I’m not interested in that.
Lea also has a book coming out later this year! It’s a scandalous mystery novel about Miami socialites with camouflaged characters. She also has a booklet on her philosophy about many things available on her web site! She doesn’t think she has any advice worth charging for unlike other Real Housewives who cash in on advice books. Keep up with Lea on TheWorldOfLeaBlack.com and on Twitter @LeaBlackMiami.
What do you think of what Lea had to say?