- Students use alternative art materials for one-night-only exhibition June 18
- Digital Media wins national prize for TEDxBirmingham video
- Trip to New York brings national attention to Birmingham renaissance
- Clothes that work for new grads hitting the market
- Hagel emphasizes leadership to Naval Academy graduates
- Birmingham Chosen To Host 2015 C-USA Basketball Championships
- On The Money: How new graduates can take on the job market
- Canvas unrolled for new school year
- Tornadoes Leave Trail of Devastation (Photos)
- Campus closes early Tuesday due to severe thunderstorm
- Alabama does a double take: ‘Urinetown: the Musical’ hits home twice
- A+ Performance by Legend
- UAB Women’s Softball defeat Charlotte 49ers (8-0)
- A Fun and Fluffy Study Break In Lister Hill
- UAB Earth Month Festival
Bravo Comes To Birmingham With ‘Jersey Belle': Interview With Star Jaime Primak Sullivan
Bravo TV, the hit makers behind The Real Housewives and Top Chef franchises, has come to Birmingham with their new comedy docu-series, Jersey Belle.
Jersey Belle follows Jaime Primak Sullivan, a publicist and producer who hails from Freehold, New Jersey, as she deals with being a fish out of water in the South while living with her husband Michael Sullivan and raising their three children in the Mountain Brook community. When she and Sullivan wed in 2006, they made their permanent home in Birmingham. Just like that, Primak became a “Jersey Belle.”
She is the founder and president of Bridge and Tunnel Entertainment, a full-service public relations and marketing agency, based in Mountain Brook, that also does product launches, album releases, wrap parties and other events. Since starting her company in 2005, she has launched numerous clubs and bars in Los Angeles and done special events like Jamie Foxx’s Grammy Party and Diddy’s White Party, to name a few. Some of her clients include Wayne Brady, Shanna Moakler and American Pie’s Chris Klein — who all make cameo appearances on the show.
Besides Jaime, the show also features her best friends, “belles,” including Luci Beavers, Scarlett Simmons, and Leigh Anne Oakley, who all live and work in Mountain Brook; Haley Young who owns Studio Fitness, Danielle Yancey who lives in Vestavia Hills and works at Gus Mayer, and Arden Upton who lives in Pelham and owns Arden Photography in Crestline.
Being an avid viewer of Bravo, I was excited and nervous to see the show after having seen the series first trailer in June. Although the show looked fun and highly entertaining, I was also skeptical about how Birmingham and the surrounding communities would be portrayed — as anyone would be. Would the show make fun of the South, or would it show an accurate depiction of what it’s like to live here? Anyone would be skeptical only having seen a two-minute trailer, but after seeing the first episode, I was happy to see that instead of ripping the South to shreds, the show actually celebrates the South.
Instead of making all the differences that the North and South have, a bad thing, Jaime shows that, although this world is different to her, it’s still a good place with good people. I became hooked on Jersey Belle. It was a refreshing break from the cattiness of the Housewives. Now I’m the first to admit that I love me some Real Housewives, but it was nice to see a show that could be funny without someone ripping someone else’s weave out.
After seeing that Jaime tweeted with viewers, I contacted her via Twitter to see if she would mind doing an interview with me about the show, and she graciously accepted.
On my way to her office to talk with her I was slightly nervous, it being my first sit-down interview with someone and all, but when she opened her office door and greeted me with a huge smile and her warm Jersey disposition, I knew it was going to be okay. When I walked in I was surprised to also see two of the other “belles” Luci Beavers and Scarlett Simmons. I knew that Scarlett and Jaime shared an office space, but I didn’t know she or Luci would be there that particular day, so it was a nice surprise to see them both. The three of them were so sweet and kind. I had just met them but for some reason I felt instantly comfortable around them. Having seen it first-hand I can assure you that what you see on TV is how they really are. Although I had assumed, and hoped, these friendships were truly authentic, after having seen so much reality TV, who was I to know? But as I stood there with the “belles” the small bit of skepticism I had left vanished. Before me were not reality stars, but friends that just happened to be on a reality show together.
Luci was on the way out, but before she left I got a picture of the three of them giving me their best “Charlie’s Angels” pose. Before taking the picture they were all running around looking for lip gloss and making sure they looked their best. Seeing this was a show on its own. They were hilarious fixing each others makeup and hair.
After Luci left and Scarlett went back to work in her office, Jaime and I got to our interview.
Taylor: First of all thank you very much for meeting with me and taking the time to speak with me. I really appreciate it!
Jaime: You’re welcome!
Taylor: So I’m just going to start at the very beginning: how did the show come about?
Jaime: I left Los Angeles and moved to Birmingham to get married, and a lot of people told me my career would end because being a publicist in LA or New York is already hard — doing it from Birmingham, they felt, would be nearly impossible. And when I moved here and was able to keep my business going, people would see me on red carpets in LA ,and they’re like “Didn’t you move to like Idaho?” And I’m like “Nope, actually Birmingham,” and they were just amazed that I was able to keep it going.
So they said “you should do a reality show about being a publicist in Birmingham because that is so funny! Being a Hollywood entertainment publicist from Birmingham, Alabama!” And I thought, well I know commercial content because I produce, so I know what’s commercial. That’s interesting, but it’s not commercial. What I thought was really interesting about the situation was that I was living in the most beautiful, elite part of the South as a Yankee!
Taylor: It’s a different world.
Jaime: Yes! I was truly a fish out of water. Not just me as a person, but my job and all of it. And I thought that could be a show because that’s actually really funny. We’ve seen parts of Jersey on television that are not so favorable or necessarily accurate; although there’s some truth to some of those Jersey shows, in the way that there are some truths to the Honey Boo Boo’s and Duck Dynasty’s.
There are those parts of the South, but that’s not my reality. My reality is not gym, tan, laundry. My reality is not flipping tables, although I have flipped tables before. My reality is not hunting ducks or, I dunno, throwing spaghetti on cabinets like they do in Honey Boo Boo. Those are not my realities, and I thought people are missing, what I feel, is a much better representation of not only Jersey, but the South! Because I married a Southern man and I’m raising Southern babies, so I want people to know that there is a world here that you are missing! And it is awesome…. but very different. Awesomely different, we could say?
Taylor: Awesomely different. I like awesomely different! That was one thing that I was drawn to about the show. Although the Housewives shows are entertaining, they are situations, and it’s not always a real representation.
Jaime: They’re not based in truth.
Taylor: Yes, and I like your approach of telling a truthful representation of you, your friends and a part of the South. That’s what I was really drawn to about the show.
Jaime: Well and I think it’s resonating with people all over the country because the support for the show, and the love for the show is so overwhelmingly positive. Jersey Belle is not a show to replace a successful franchise like Housewives; it’s just a sister to what already works. So, you can love the crazy, but you can also love a show that’s rooted in women supporting each other and friendship because that’s really exactly what Jersey Belle is. It’s what you see right here. You’ve been able to witness it first-hand. This is really who we are! Literally!
Taylor: I’m glad I was able to witness that!
Jaime: Yeah, you saw us! And you heard me, “Luci, I’m going to pick up the kids and come over after school.” “Alright, we’ll be home. See you then.” Scarlett and I had coffee this morning. We’re meeting Arden and Haley for lunch this afternoon. This is what we would be doing show or no show. And for any nay-sayers who take issue with what taxes I pay or where Ardens farm is, they’ve missed the mark. They’ve missed the point of a show that finally represents women and friendship. If your focus is on where I pay taxes then you are not our target audience.
Taylor: I feel that a lot of the people, around here, that have written things are honestly trying to find something to bash you about.
Jaime: I’ll tell you why. The voice of a nay-sayer will always be louder than the voice of a supporter. God said, “If you are going to pray, go and be not boastful.” So the lovers of this show love it, and they let us know. The nay-sayers feel like they need to tell the world, and that goes directly against what we live. We don’t live that. Unfortunately we live in a world where slander sells. There’s only one judge and believe me it starts with a “J” but it ain’t Jaime. I’m gonna put that on a t-shirt!
Taylor: So, overall for the show, what are you most excited for people to see?
Jaime: I want Jersey Belle to be the “Girlfriends Guide To…” The girlfriends guide to your thirties. The girlfriends guide to marriage. The girlfriends guide to divorce. The girlfriends guide to infertility. The girlfriends guide to loving without judgment. The girlfriends guide to lifting each other up when life wears you down. And you know what else I am so proud of? More women have messaged me, written me, tweeted me, texted me, called me and e-mailed me to say thank you for giving me a show on my favorite network that my husband will watch.
Men do not like to hear women screaming and fighting. They are not interested. The second a women starts screaming and fighting all they hear is “WAH WAH WAH WAH WAH.” Like barking seals. More women have said that their husbands actually join them in front of the TV to watch Bravo at 10 or 9 on Monday nights. The other thing that I love about Jersey Belle is it gives a voice to people who feel like they don’t fit in. We are all misfits. We are all flawed. Perfectly flawed in so many ways.
Everybody has walked into a room and felt like I’m not the skinniest, I’m not the prettiest, I’m not the richest, I’m not the straightest, I’m not the gayest, I’m not the blackest, I’m not the whitest, I don’t speak the best Spanish, my kids are not perfect, my marriage isn’t the strongest, my faith in God is tested — we’ve all had that. Well, I’m that person for everybody! Tune in for one hour and feel like you’re watching the one person who doesn’t fit in, and I make the best of it. In a world of hair-pulling and table-flipping, Jersey Belle is a breath of fresh air.
Taylor: I saw that you take your friends to visit Jersey.
Jaime: And I mean it’s only fair, right? Flip it around?
Taylor: Exactly! And I love that it’s like “Hahaha! You’re on my turf now!”
Jaime: Yes! Because I live in a world here where everybody is appropriate and very concerned with public opinion. In Jersey, nobody cares. They’re going to tell you exactly how they feel, assume that you can handle it, and keep it moving. So it was so fun to me to see some of the girls in Jersey and watch their reaction to how big we are as people. I mean, everything is heightened in New Jersey. When we talk, it’s louder; when we dance, it’s harder; when we fight, it’s bigger.
And you know looking at someone like Arden, who’s very well-traveled but has never really spent any real time in New Jersey, she was like “Oh my God, all these people are aggressively talking, everybody’s yelling, why is everybody yelling? Why does everybody eat so much?” Arden was like “you people eat all the time. Do you ever do anything but eat?” No. We don’t! People in Jersey love to eat! One of the things I love most about where I grew up is that Sunday dinners matter. You know, that’s the thing for us. It starts at 3-o’clock in the afternoon and doesn’t end until like the last dish is put up, and that can be 10-o’ clock. Sunday dinner starts at 3, in Jersey, and it’s big.
Taylor: Being in the South for a few years now, have you found anything that you just love about the South that’s not in Jersey?
Jaime: Besides Michael? (smiles) But yes, lets give a round of applause to fried okra and fried pickles, okay? I had never had that in my life. I didn’t even know it existed.
Taylor: You had never heard of fried okra?
Jaime: I had never even heard of fried okra until I moved here. It didn’t exist to me.
Taylor: Seriously? That’s fascinating to me.
Jaime: They didn’t know what a cannoli was. That’s fascinating to me! Okay, fried pickles? Seriously changed my life. Thank you for that. The other thing that I love about the South is that being in the Bible Belt, there is safety in God, and God is everywhere. That, for me, has helped me so much on this journey. It’s not to say that there isn’t faith or God in the North, because there is, but it is amazing to see God’s work in people. And He is everywhere here. I mean everywhere. Whether you’re Baptist, or Catholic, or Protestant, or Episcopalian or whatever. It’s just been amazing, I feel like, living in the Bible Belt.
Taylor: It’s almost like a new religious experience.
Jaime: Yes. And you know just seeing my children embrace prayer, the way they have, and how it’s a daily part of their routine has been so cool. And I’ve been invited to go do things like go mudding, which I don’t know what that is yet, but I totally think I’m gonna try it, because I think it sounds fun!
Taylor: You mentioned your kids, and you’re of course raising your kids as Southerners. I know you mention on the show how that’s a whole other thing in itself, but how do you keep your culture, your heritage, what connects you and Jersey, alive in your kids?
Jaime: Well it’s a struggle because they’re certainly immersed in Southern culture. I mean their father is Southern, their grandparents are Southern, their cousins are Southern, all my friends here are Southern, so their friends are all Southern, so it’s the little things for me. I make a pot of sauce on Sundays with homemade meatballs, and my kids love that. We listen to Bon Jovi every single day on the way to school. My kids know every single word to the Slippery When Wet album. They do make fun of my accent, the way I say words.
Taylor: Do they really?
Jaime: Oh yeah, they tell me all the time, “They’re not sneakers, they’re tennis shoes.” I’m like you don’t play tennis, and they’re not shoes — they’re sneakers. I try to tell them stories about where I grew up, I try to tell them about the school lunches my mother used to make. You know I grew up Jewish so my mother put everything on a bagel. Everything. Growing up I had a bagel for lunch every single day.
Taylor: Pizza Bagel! (anyone who’s seen the show will know that term)
Jaime: I’m a Pizza Bagel! I try to teach them about about pizza bagels. I make homemade pizza bagels because you know I haven’t found any here and Bagel Bites don’t count! But I do, I make pizza bagels, my kids love them. My mother mails me real bagels and I freeze them.
Taylor: Aw! That’s sweet!
Jaime: Yeah! It’s just the little things! On Sundays, sometimes, when I’m cooking I’ll put on Frank Sinatra. They don’t know who he is, but they know the sound and I want them to have those memories when I’m gone. You know, I lost my dad when I was 17 so I look back on music that he and my mom would dance to.
Taylor: Those are very fond memories and you want your kids to have those.
Jaime: Yes! And they do. They will remember me cooking in the kitchen listening to Frank Sinatra, letting them taste sauce from a wooden spoon, and I want them to remember that feel of a wooden spoon in their mouth because I grew up like that. So it’s little things like that.
Taylor: Since you know you are obviously usually behind the scenes, what has it been like to do a reality show?
Jaime: It was the most amazing, fun, brave thing that I have ever done, and I cannot tell you how blessed I feel to have been able to have that experience with the women I love most in this world. My two best friends from New Jersey were able to be on the show, my siblings were on the show, my mother, my 92 year old grandmother from Italy was on the show, our husbands, my children — it has been such a blessed experience and so fun.
The coolest part is my girlfriends were able to see a little bit of what I do for a living and that is awesome, because a lot of people don’t get that. They don’t understand what a publicist does. They don’t understand production. They don’t live in that world so to be able to show them and let them actually experience it has been awesome.
Taylor: What do some of your clients think of the show?
Jaime: Everybody has been so supportive. They love it. Every single person, every single client, brand, talent, agent. Anybody involved, who saw the trailer for Jersey Belle said “This is exactly what’s missing in reality television. You nailed it.” Everybody was so proud to make a cameo, to do whatever they can, to tweet, spread the word — whatever.
Taylor: Has doing the show brought you and your friends and family even closer together than you already were?
Jaime: Yes! Wouldn’t you say Scarlett?
Scarlett (from her office): Absolutely!
Jaime: Absolutely. Because you’re part of something that although people can love, they can’t necessarily understand.
Taylor: And only you have that bond.
Jaime: Right. It’s just been amazing.
Jaime and I had a fantastic conversation and she held nothing back and is such a genuine and loving person. I was also surprised to find out that Jaime actually took a few classes at UAB a while back and is thinking about coming back to take a few more. She enjoys taking writing classes and said that she loved the city/campus setting. How awesome that she has history with our school!
Though some of local reaction has been mixed, the show has a loyal fan base that continues to grow everyday. People are seeing the show the way it’s meant to be seen and they understand it. In all the years I have been watching Bravo, never have I seen such a positive reaction to a show from there. I have never seen a negative tweet, Facebook comment — anything. Tweeting during the episodes with the “belles” is so much fun, and it’s amazing to see so many people support the show. Like Jaime said, the ones that love it are telling them and that’s what matters.
Birmingham is a city rebuilding itself, and we need to be thankful that we have a show that shows our city and its surrounding communities in such a positive light. Not every town featured in reality shows have that. Those who have negative things to say need to just calm down and enjoy the series, because we are truly lucky to have it around.
Jersey Belle shows that friendship and love have no barriers — a Jersey Girl can fall in love with a Southern Gentlemen, and your loyalty to your friends is something that both Jersey and Alabama fiercely share. The show is so great, you need to be sure to watch it. You won’t regret it!
I want to thank Jaime Primak again for taking the time out of her busy schedule to talk with me. She was so incredibly kind and gracious, and I appreciate her for taking a chance on a young journalism student. Oh, and I’m waiting for my piece of your lasagna!
Be sure to catch Jersey Belle Mondays 10/9c on Bravo! You’ll be glad you did.
You can go to Bravotv.com for more info on the show and follow Jaime on Twitter @JaimePrimak.