There are multi-taskers and then there are what I like to call, mommy-taskers, and when it comes to the latter Jaime Primak Sullivan is a champ. The Jersey Belle star called me from her family vacation while riding bicycles with her three children; her daughter Olivia, needing the occasional “Heads up” to stay focused. I offered to send Jaime the remainder of the interview via email, but the New Jersey native would have none of that. “This is what being a working mom is,” she said as she continued to bravely lead her children around a Florida beach, while promising me they were merely dodging golf carts. As our conversation continued, as nervous as it made me, I realized this was just another day in the life of Jaime. Read on…
TBB: This is a huge deal to headline your own reality show. Your predecessors like Bethenny Frankel and Kim Zolciak had to first prove themselves in ensemble casts. Why do you think Bravo was willing to take a gamble on you?
JP: Oh, wow, it never occurred to me what you just said! So now I feel like I just did a Whippit! (laughs) To be grouped with people like Bethenny who I respect so much, it never occurred to me what you just said and you’re absolutely right! I think they saw my vision. It was extremely clear from day one; let’s do a show rooted in comedy and friendship. Bravo does everything in (the Reality) genre so well that if any network could pull off (this) show it is Bravo. I am outspoken and funny so I think all the ingredients that would work for a show like this were there. I knew Jersey Belle would be an hour of TV that (viewers) could get that voyeuristic element of watching other peoples’ lives, but feel good coming out of it, not like they needed to take a shower after.
TBB: I’ve read that in addition to public relations you are a producer. Did you produce Jersey Belle?
JP: I’m a consulting producer, and really that’s a nice way of them saying, ‘She’s been in this biz a long time’, because I produce film. I have three films sold that I have production credit on so I deserve that consulting producer credit.
TBB: How is Jersey Belle different from other Bravo shows?
JP: For one I came to them with the show, with the whole package. I found the production company and I said, “This is the show, this is the cast…” Usually networks think of a show and then find the company, cast it, and so on. So instead of working our way from the front we worked our away from the back.
Two, (Jersey Belle) shows, in my opinion, the best of both worlds. (I think) New Jersey gets a bad rap as a state and people in the South think they get a bad rap and we show both sides. I mean, there will always be naysayers, but I think I represent the state of New Jersey both well and accurately.
Three, it’s rooted in comedy and we wanted to not make fun, but show the cultural divide in the funniest way possible. (The show) is about women lifting each other up and loving each other despite our differences. It is not easy making friends when you are different, especially as an adult, but we show you can move for love or for work, you can get divorced, you can go through infertility… You can do all these things and have a group of women who are rooting for you!
TBB: There certainly are lots of laughs, but you also hit on some heavy topics like infertility as you just mentioned…
JP: Yes we do because women are heavy and emotional and we have real things going on. We’re all women trying so hard to live so (Jersey Belle) is more of a docu-series because it’s so real. When we prayed about this show together I said, “Nothing can be off limits or it won’t be authentic. If we are going to do this then we need to do it right.” There’s so much that women go through as creatures with real struggles. At the end of the day (I am) a working mother. This is it, I didn’t marry a millionaire, mama has to work! When America watches what Danielle (Yancey) goes through they are going to cry with her. I love my friends and I hope (the viewers) appreciate how brave they are to share these struggles.
TBB: Since they are so proper, was it hard convincing your friends to put it all out there on Reality television?
JP: No, the girls were excited, but the husbands needed convincing because they don’t watch Bravo so they didn’t understand. They thought Jersey Shore, like ‘Is (my wife) going to be fighting and fist pumping her way through Alabama?’ Once the husbands were able to see that I trusted my imagery and my network it took so much off their shoulders. I can’t speak for everything in Reality TV but my network, they believed in the vision that I had for this show from day one and never deviated from it.
TBB: The show centers around the culture shock of being a Jersey girl in the prim and proper Deep South. What about Southern culture frustrates you most?
JP: I don’t know if frustrates is the right word, as much as perplexes. I don’t feel frustrated because I work with people from so many different walks of life, so people don’t frustrate me. Sometimes I am perplexed by how stuck in their ways (Southerners) are. For example, bringing lasagna to a tea party would have been really cool in my opinion. I get Arden (Upton) had a very specific vision and lasagna didn’t fit, but then don’t ask me to bring anything. It just perplexes me, surely you can be open minded to other ways…
TBB: What do you think is the biggest misconception your Alabama friends have about people from the New Jersey/New York area?
JP: That we don’t have manners which is just ridiculous! We absolutely have manners! Maybe we don’t go to etiquette school and I don’t remember my mother teaching me to put a napkin on my lap. We don’t value etiquette like they do, but we have manners!
TBB: What was the biggest misconception you had about them?
JP: Probably that they were all prudes. I just assumed that being proper and being a prude went hand in hand. There’s a saying that, “Men want a lady in the street and a freak in the bed,” I think my best friends are proving that it’s the truth! I guess I’ve been doing it wrong, I’m a freak everywhere!
Another thing I have to emphasize is that I came into these women’s lives with no judgment whatsoever and they have never experienced that before. That’s my gift. I can’t cure cancer, I can’t play basketball, but I can love you without judging you in any capacity.
TBB: What do you want to say to viewers who feel that after 6 years in the South you should be better acclimated than you seem on the show?
JP: I would say if you’re Southern and feel that way then move to Jamaica Queens and let me know how you feel after 6 years, and if you are Northern move to Birmingham, Alabama. If you haven’t walked in another woman’s shoes, how can you understand the cross she has to bare? And I am better acclimated than I was. When I first got here I could not function! Thank God for the Belles, they gave me hope. You know the show Saved By the Bell? I was literally “Saved by the Belles!”
TBB: You work with many big name stars. The teasers show that Wayne Brady and Chris Klein…who I totally have a crush on by the way…will appear on Jersey Belle. Will there be any other celeb surprises?
JP: Yes, and episode two is full of friends and clients galore! I go to LA for work so people will get a glimpse into what it’s like to do the job I do from Birmingham. In my industry even being in LA or NY is hard so doing it from Alabama is really hard. I’m leaving three kids and getting on planes, and there are no direct flights. It’s not easy. I have to allow two days for travel and I’m sitting in airports all the time. When I’m in LA I miss a mandatory four days at home due to the travel. People will see what it’s like for me to go off to LA and what Michael has to do while I’m gone because we don’t have a nanny, though when I first moved here I had a gay manny with a mohawk. My friends didn’t get it; they had to get to know him to realize he was the best care for my children, especially when I was in the hospital for 33 days. These days Scarlett (Simmons) has to save me, and she has so many times.
TBB: You were in the hospital for 33 days?
JP: I had placenta previa. Some days it amazes me that Charlie is here. She was such a fighter, and still is tough!
TBB: So having gone through such a traumatic pregnancy with your third, you want another child, as indicated in the promos?
JP: I pray for it every day.
TBB: You have this fantastic career and a fantastic family. What’s your best advice to other mothers balancing work and home life?
JP: Don’t be scared to ask for help. If you need it, ask for it. It doesn’t make you weak, it makes you smart. They say it takes a village and it really, really does. If we just carve out a little time for ourselves and ask for the help we need we will all be better mothers, wives, daughters, friends, and sisters.
TBB: Thanks for talking to me today. Is there anything else you want the viewers to know?
JP: I love this show very much and I love the people who support the show. I want them to understand that I am so flawed, but despite all of it, if you give (the show) a chance you can find somebody you can relate to and enjoy supporting. It’s nice to be able to show support for another woman. And of course it’s really funny, these girls are really funny.