Phaedra Parks at the PAPER officeKim: So let's talk about your new funeral business, Phaedra Fantasy Funerals. What can you share with us about it?
It's no secret that here at PAPER we're big fans of many a reality TV show. While there are a slew of reality stars whose lives we obsess over and dissect at the kitchen table, perhaps no one is more beloved than Phaedra Parks, the amazing and larger-than-live breakout star from Real Housewives of Atlanta. Over the course of a lunch and a follow-up visit to our office, PAPER's Kim Hastreiter and Mr. Mickey sat down with Phaedra and talked about everything from her funeral business to being close friends with the Ghanian royal family. Here, we present the definitive Phaedra Parks interview.
Phaedra: I'm in school so I'm actively burying people and embalming them because you have to embalm so many bodies in order to get your complete certification to be licensed.
Kim: How'd you get into the funeral business?
Phaedra: [My] best friend was murdered in New Orleans on her birthday and I helped with her funeral. It was tragedies like that that put me in a position to get up close with funerals and bodies and see how they should be restored. I wanted my [deceased friends] to look like they did when they were alive and I wanted them to have a great funeral. So I took it upon myself to go to the funeral homes, talk to the morticians and really get involved in the planning of the service and through that I got really intrigued with the whole process of the burial and what you had to do to restore people to what they looked like prior. And so that's what brought me to where I am now.
Kim: What about the production? Because in a way it's like an event production.
Phaedra: It's definitely like an event. I really see myself as being the Vera Wang of funerals. I'm very creative and I'm always thinking outside the box. I want people to call me from Wisconsin and say, "Honey, so-and-so died. Can you come make us this huge, fabulous event?" I want to travel. I want to be the "master funeral planner." I want to be the life celebrant, giving them the concept, executing a beautiful service, sending them away with nice mementos of the service and making it special.
Kim: Sky-writing, fireworks...
Phaedra: Yeah, exactly. And I've looked into some [new] stuff. Now they have the eco-friendly burials at sea and ashes in diamonds.
Kim: Ashes in diamonds? What do you mean?
Phaedra: You can get ashes put inside a diamond. And I wanna put the "boom" in "tomb." I don't want to be routine. I want to be really cutting edge.
Kim: Have you actually produced any amazing funerals yet?
Phaedra: Oh god yeah.
Kim: What were they like?
Phaedra: Most of the funerals I do are usually in Atlanta and high-end stuff. I focus on those bells and whistles. I have people who want a specialty casket that looks like a car.
Kim: Where do you go to find that?
Phaedra: There are custom casket companies, so if they can pay for it, I can get it. I've also had people that want to be changed several times.
Kim: Outfit changes? During the wake?
Phaedra: I've had a three outfit changer.
Kim: Oh my god, that's so good! Was it a woman?
Phaedra: No, it was a guy. He wanted three outfits: one for the wake, one for the funeral and one for the burial. He had told his family [that]. And so we actually moved him three times. He wanted to be in three different places. So that was very interesting.
Phaedra: Yeah, so people have weird requests like that. And then some people want to look like they did when they were younger so they want a hairdo change. For instance, they might have been balding -- and these are usually guys -- so I've taken hair from the back and put it on top to make them look younger. Some people want a horse and carriage, and at the funeral home we've got five different types of buggies. And some people want a whole procession of people marching behind them on the street.
Kim: And what about your other businesses? Can you tell us about your exercise videos?
Phaedra: Donkey booty! It's a beautiful thing to have a beautiful bottom. My husband and I are both workout fanatics -- we work out six days a week. He's all into the insane stuff and I'm not quite that extreme. I'm big on cycling, yoga, pilates. I had a fabulous booty before I had my baby and when I had him, my butt just did this kind of smoosh thing. It tripped me out so I was like "God, I got to get back into the gym." So I really focused on my butt and my legs and a lot of women started saying "Well, how do you get that donkey booty?" My husband was like, "You know, we should help women do that." And I'm gonna introduce a line of padded panties, so if you can't work it out, you can work it out. I've been working with the guy who does shapewear, so I'm in the process of making some that incorporate a little padding in the butt for people that aren't sitting on a pillow.
Kim: Are there other business you're dying to break into?
Phaedra: Well I'm also developing a stun gun for ladies!
Kim: Whoa! Will it be pink?
Phaedra: God, you knew it! It will be pink. I just completed the prototype. I'm really excited for that because bullying has gone far enough, honey. [The stun gun] is a wristlet and it's pink so nobody knows what it is unless you have to use it. I've got safety features on it so you don't use it on yourself and no one can use it on you.
Mickey: Where did you meet Apollo?
Phaedra: I met Apollo on the highway.
Mickey: On the highway?
Phaedra: Yeah, on the highway [during] rush hour traffic. He was driving a white M3 BMW.
Kim: Ohhh! Shut up.
Phaedra: Yeah, and I was driving a little silver Infiniti, a G20. And he was so cute. I was like "Oh my God. The car is cute. He's cute." But my mom's like "Don't speak to him! He's a stranger!" and so I was like "Well, if he follows me..." So we were on the highway and he got off on my exit...
Kim: Did he keep pulling up next to you and looking?
Phaedra: Yeah! He kept saying "Gimme your number!"
Kim: Oh my God! Oh no!
Phaedra: I was like "No, no, no!" So he got off on my exit because the beauty salon he worked at was down the street from where I lived.
Kim: And what did he do at the beauty salon?
Phaedra: He was a barber. His family has always been in the barber and beauty school [industry]. So I said, "Come on! Follow me home." Crazy! He could've been a killer. So he follows me home, I take his number, and I never call it but he starts calling me, wanting to go on a date, and I didn't return his call because I was like, "Please. It's crazy." And then I was like, "Well, I'll go on a date with him." And I did and I thought he was so cute and he was the best kisser in the world.
Kim: And tell me about being an equestrian.
Phaedra: Well, I started riding when I was probably 8 or 9 years old. My parents were always keen on exposing us to things and I [went to] a very exclusive sleepaway camp for girls that was up in the mountains. They had an equestrian program there and that was my first introduction [to horseback riding] and I was the only little black girl at this camp...
Kim: Was it like a WASPy camp?
Phaedra: It was very WASPy. I remember the first time I washed my hair it was like this big poof and they would say, "Oh Phaedra. Your hair was in cute pigtails when you got here. What happened?" and I'd say, "Well, I don't know!"
Kim: So you had great parents, obviously.
Phaedra: I have really great parents. They're educators. My mom is a school teacher by trade and that's how I got my name because she was really big into Greek mythology. My name is Phaedra Creonta -- [Creonta is from] the King Creon from Antigone.
Kim: And how did this Housewives thing happen and what was your first thought as far as participating? Were you gung ho at first? Or were you hesitant?
Phaedra: When it was brought to my attention that they were possibly looking [for another cast member], I was like, "Ehhh, I don't know." But I had represented a person that was a part of the cast and I had known Shereé for numerous years and after I got married and they found out I was having a baby, they were like, "Wow! You shouldn't be an attorney! You should come join this show because you would be a great addition, blah blah."
Kim: And, speaking of the show, how was Africa when you guys went last season?
Phaedra: Oh, I loved Africa.
Kim: But you didn't go see your friend in Ghana.
Phaedra: Well, yeah, we couldn't get around to all that.
Kim: How do you know all those people in Ghana?
Phaedra: One of my closest friends in L.A. who I met years ago is from a family that's basically royalty over in Ghana. Her dad has a golden statue in the middle of the town and her cousin is the king. Long story short, her name is Mary and she's a great author and we started doing some writing together years ago. And I told her, "You know I really want to go to Africa" and she said, "Well, you know I'm from Africa." And I was like, "Oh really?" And so one day she called and said, "I'm going home. Would you like to come?" I said, "Well, when are you going?" She said, "Well I'm en route now." I said, "Well, I'll be there in two days." [It was] like Coming to America. She was so modest and we immediately got off [the plane] and there was this whole processional. That day we had tea with the poet laureate there, we went to the king's castle -- it was just amazing.
Kim: And where did you stay?
Phaedra: I stayed in this whole compound. And I had servants that came in and dressed me every morning.
Kim: Oh my god! Do they have the show in Ghana? I read that they do.
Phaedra: Well they can see it on the Internet but they're a season behind. So when we went to Africa everyone was like, "You're pregnant! Where is the baby?" And I said, "Uhh, the baby is born."
Kim: Are there any teasers you can give us from the upcoming Housewives season?
Phaedra: Well, I think there might be a few weddings this season. I smell a wedding.
Kim: Speaking of weddings, what was your wedding to Apollo like?
Phaedra: Absolutely fabulous.
Kim: I Imagine! What'd you wear?
Phaedra: Oh my gosh, I had a beautiful, beaded white gown. It was by Impression. It was gorgeous. I had the wedding at the Swan Coach House, which is on our national registry for historical landmarks in Atlanta. The venue was just magnificent.
Kim: What time of year?
Phaedra: All Saints Day. November 1st. The venue was a mansion with four floors and we had every floor with different themes and food, drinks, and bars. After the actual ceremony, we turned [the space] into a dance floor and we had heated lamps because it was a little chilly and so it was beautiful. [Since] I was in the social scene, all the dignitaries came and our supreme court was present...
Kim: Oh my god.