Venita Aspen Celebrated for Changing Southern Charm

When Venita Aspen joined the Southern Charm cast as a “friend of” in Season 7, many assumed that she was a “diversity hire.” Actually, she’s been in the background of the show since Season 2. Though not a main cast member, she’s actually been part of the group for a long time.

“Bravo noticed and recognized that she was essential,” said Thomas Kelly, Executive Producer and Showrunner of Southern Charm. “This person needs to be a main cast member.”

Venita’s approach is one that battles the stereotype. “She’s not going to be silent. She’s not scared to stand up for what is right. [But] she does not fall into the sassy Black woman stereotype,” said Kaya Wilson, co-host of the Bravo! We’re Black podcast.

Venita’s not your “Black sidekick”

“As a Black woman in The South, you kind of already know that you will be the last resort for a lot of people,” Venita said early on. “You won’t be the first person they call and that’s just the sad reality.”

When Venita joined Southern Charm, she stepped into a predominantly white cast that often glorifies and romanticizes the Old South. Her debut season featured a storyline about former cast member Kathryn Dennis sending a monkey emoji to a Black female radio host on social media.

According to Essence, the show never highlighted the fashion influencer’s trip to New York Fashion Week, her relationship with her (very handsome) boyfriend Manny Houston, or any behind-the-scenes footage about her collection with Dillard’s, which launched in Spring 2023. She was presented simply as a childhood friend of Naomie Olindo and a close friend of Madison LeCroy. Sadly, without more background, viewers were left wondering why Venita was even there.

Venita’s a star

Photo: Clifton Prescod/Bravo

Since her debut on the show, Venita has endured racially charged comments on social media and sometimes harsh treatment from her white counterparts. There was speculation that she had a crush on Chleb Ravenell (Kathryn’s then-boyfriend), the series’ only other Black cast member at the time.

Before filming Season 9, Thomas Kelly met with Venita. He wanted to create an environment where she felt comfortable to be herself.

“I wanted her to be in a safe space where she could tell her story and open up more because Venita is a star,” he said. “Having her feel like a respected, admired, and valued cast member this season helped give her more confidence and comfort in the show.”

Viewers saw a lot of growth in Venita this season. “She’s arrived,” said Thomas Kelly. “She spoke up against Shep. She was there for Olivia, and she spoke up against Taylor … Her voice is heard. It’s clear. She has a very strong perspective, and it’s needed. She’s really found her footing in this group.”

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