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Leva Bonaparte Gets Real About Being the First Woman of Color on ‘Southern Charm,’ Talking to Kathryn Dennis About Race (Exclusive)

The tide is changing in Charleston — and Leva Bonaparte is here to hold her new costars accountable.

Related: Southern Charm's Biggest Scandals and Controversies

“We live in the South and a lot of these affluent families, their histories, as you know, it would be really, really insensitive to deny that they are entangled with a lot of atrocities that were committed [in America],” the Southern Charm newcomer exclusively told Us Weekly. “Sometimes my bandwidth snaps, you know, where I’m just like, ‘Don’t talk like that.’ I wish that I could communicate in a calmer manner, but I think because sometimes I’m just like, ‘How is nobody mentioning this?’”

Leva Bonaparte Gets Real About Being the First Woman of Color on Southern Charm and Talking to Kathryn Dennis About Race
Leva Bonaparte and Kathryn Dennis John Valkos/Bravo; Tommy Garcia/Bravo

Kathryn Dennis, for example, made headlines in May after local radio host Tamika Gadsden shared their private messages, in which the Bravo star called her a “weenie” and told her to “grow a pair” before using a monkey emoji. In the trailer for the season, fans see Leva confront Kathryn about the situation.

Related: 'Southern Charm'; Season 7: What We Know

“It was the world changing. It was relevant. It’s not as though I just sat down and was like, we need to address this. I think it bled into a lot of things that there were a lot of things that happened with Kathryn and other people in decisions she made,” she explained. “I’m a pretty direct person to a fault.”

Leva added that Kathryn struggled in the beginning when the conversations about race came up on-camera.

“In the beginning, Kathryn was really wanting to sort of like bury her head in the sand, I think. And don’t get me wrong. It’s Southern culture to not really address tough stuff,” she told Us. “It’s like, ‘Everything is fine and bless your heart and pass the gravy.’ … I think it’s not culturally embedded. I think that’s No 1. I also think that Kathryn had to have some adult conversations … she couldn’t be the victim. I would like to think I was the friend she needed … but it took some pulling. I just think dialogue is so much more effective.”

Leva joins Kathryn, Shep Rose, Craig Conover, Austen Kroll, Madison LeCroy and fellow newbie John Pringle as full-time cast members for season 7. Friends of the group — Danni Baird, Whitney Sudler-Smith and Patricia Altschul — will also make appearances. Leva, who is “very close” with former stars Cameran Eubanks, Chelsea Messier and Naomie Olindo, makes history as the first person of color on the Bravo series.

Related: Every Bravo Star Who Quit or Was Fired in 2020

“At the end of the day, when I look at these shows, they’re not documentaries, right? They’re just pockets of friends,” she told Us about adding diversity to the show. “We hope that that pockets of friends are more diverse. And I think that I just happened to be there and I’m a little bit different and I think my world is drastically more diverse than the rest of the cast. … Charleston is diverse and there’s so much rich history in color and all that good stuff. So yeah, I’m happy about it. I’m excited.”

Southern Charm returns to Bravo Thursday, October 29, at 9 p.m. ET.

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