Once a featured face captured by famed photographers including Marc Baptiste and Annie Leibovitz for glossy pages in every magazine from UPTOWN to Vanity Fair, Cynthia Bailey is now a champion for the city she now calls home, Atlanta. In all of its Southern splendor, the mecca of black excellence has been the perfect platform for this superwoman’s reintroduction. Fresh off the rollercoaster that was season 9 of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, the newly single mother, entrepreneur and actress brings us up to speed on her new attitude, attack and how the city of Atlanta and its players influence her hustle.
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On their 2003 Grammy Award–winning album Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below, Atlanta’s own patron saints, Outkast, matter-of-factly rapped the simple yet poignant phrase, “I like the way you move.” Watching the video of this song before I begin to pen this story immediately makes me think of model-turned-mogul Cynthia Bailey. It could be because the featured lady in the offering is a tall, melanin-dipped beauty with enviable cheekbones like the Southern-bred stunner, or because I actually recall Bailey demanding the same type of attention in Heavy D’s “Nuttin’ But Love” video in the early ’90s—an era when high-fashion models trumped video vixens on the bookings board—but I digress.
The aforementioned declaration would be the perfect compliment for the almost-six-foot beauty because of the way she’s navigated the industry, and her life in general, since she’s touched down in Atlanta not a full decade ago. Who knew that walking runways in NYC, Paris and Milan would lead her to storming the dirty South, peach in tow, being acknowledged as a boss with lucrative businesses and brands? But then again, isn’t that the essence of Atlanta? Previously known for its pop-culture influence in music courtesy of the musical genius of those including Xscape, Monica, Usher, Jermaine Dupri, Dallas Austin and a bevy of others that would take me a solid hour to list, the City of Atlanta has now begun to eclipse the film and television industries as well. Films and TV shows were shot directly in or around the city thanks to its diverse locations, tax incentives, temperature and the fact that the world’s busiest airport, multiple soundstages and in-demand directors and producers (including Tyler Perry, Kenny Leon, Roger Bobb and Will Packer) all call Atlanta zip codes home. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, the Georgia film industry currently ranks third in the nation behind California and New York, with nearly 3,000 motion-picture and television-industry businesses, including 1,957 production-related companies.
With a direct spend of $2.02 billion, the economic impact was more than $7 billion in FY16—up from $244 million just nine years ago. Making her acting debut in the 1990 Sandra Bernhard film Without You I’m Nothing and appearing on multiple episodes of The Cosby Show, nobody appreciates this city’s entertainment glow more than Bailey. “It excites me to know that after creating so many lasting entertainment moments across the map, I can raise my daughter, keep my inner peace and weave between television and film in a city that’s previously been considered miles apart from New York or Los Angeles,” Bailey states. And who would know better than she? Bailey joined the cast of The Real Housewives of Atlanta in 2010 for its third season, and since then, her IMDb profile flaunts additional guest roles, engagements and opportunities that have solidified her power, growth and worth from an influencing standpoint. “It’s funny,” Bailey begins. “I always say, ‘I might need you to lead me to the water, but you don’t have to tell me how to drink,’ and as I truly think about how my career and life has evolved, I realize that Atlanta is a source of water for me, and I’m drinking it.
By the gallons,” she finishes. To truly understand Bailey’s hustle, you have to first make sure you’re well versed on the entrepreneurial juggling act that she’s currently performing. There’s RHOA, the Bailey Agency School of Fashion, Cynthia Bailey Eyewear, CARGO by Cynthia Bailey, the Be Better Foundation and a new partnership in Alor Hair with her sister Mal and a licensing deal with St. John, a division of the Steve Madden Company. And this was all just at the time of print, so for those who ever question her storyline on television, try that on for size! “I’m honestly loving life,” Bailey reports. “Granted, a few things have taken place that could be considered not so fabulous, but that’s the spice of life, and as I sit and look at the lake that anchors my new home and watch my beautiful daughter blossom into a phenomenal woman, I really can’t complain about it.” She pauses then continues. “As a matter of fact, the only thing that I will complain about is anybody disturbing my peace. I’m all about love, peace and positivity. And though that might sound cliché, I’m cool with it, because that’s my system of survival, and I’m not engaging with anybody or anything that doesn’t fall in line with that.” She ends it with her signature phrase—“Now what else is going on?”—Cynthia-speak for keeping it moving. Speaking of keeping it moving, my time with my friend and our cover girl is coming to an end. She has a booking, just as she has for more than three decades, but now the call could be for anything from ripping the runway to speaking on women’s health issues or motivating the masses to live their best lives. Bailey is one in a million, and she only gets better with time, having just celebrated her 50th birthday in August. “I’m living and loving it,” she says in conclusion, then adds, “Call me later so we can talk about some good stuff!” I laugh. You are good stuff, Cynthia, and I can talk about you all day! Cheers.