oya Bush-Harris didn't set out to be a reality-TV villain. But now, as one of the stars of Bravo's "Married to Medicine," that's exactly what has happened. It all started with a rumor in the fourth episode, titled "A Black Eye Event."
After Bush-Harris revealed co-star Mariah Huq's daughter was not her husband's biological child-a fact specifically told to Bush-Harris in confidence-Huq felt Bush-Harris was trying to belittle her. Tensions boiled over into an all-out brawl.
Hair pulling, pushing and punching resulted in broken lamps and bruised egos as the normally elegant women embarrassed themselves in front of their families, friends and 1.9 million viewers.
Bush-Harris, who's married to emergency room Dr. Eugene Harris, says she regrets the altercation and hopes viewers don't shun her or the show because of it. Yes, "catfights" happen all the time on reality TV, but the Southfield-Lathrup High School graduate, who grew up on Detroit's west side, also wants everyone to know she is a 37-year-old wife and mother of two. And she does not use her fists to solve her problems.
B.L.A.C. Detroit caught up with Bush-Harris to chat about the incident, how she met her husband and what the future holds. "Married to Medicine" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. locally on Bravo.
What made you want to do the show?
You know, (my husband) has a good job. A good career. I had a good career. I don't know. We had children, and girl, we started looking at private schools. OK, it's like $15,000 per kid-$30,000 a year. So we were like, "OK, how can we make some extra money? How can we do it and do something we might actually enjoy?" And, weirdly enough, my husband loves to do (reality) television. You would never think it. I'm a little camera shy. But he loves it. So we were like, "Come on. Let's do it and see what happens."
The best moments on the show are the interactions that you two have.
We've been married going on five years now this July. We practice communication on a regular basis. We are a real couple with real issues. And you know, and we're different. My husband was raised in D.C.; I was raised in Detroit. And when we came together we had a lot of similarities, but we also had a very different dynamic. His parents were together until his father passed away. My parents divorced and my mother remarried. So we try to make sure we hear each other before we speak.
Where did you go to college?
I originally started at Tennessee State, and then I saw how much those loans were starting to rack up and came home and got a job. I got a job at the University of Phoenix as an enrollment counselor. With that job came free tuition, and I got my bachelor's.
Where did you and your husband meet?
We actually met when he did his residency at Detroit Receiving (Hospital). And I went to a function for the Ron Rice Foundation. You remember when Ron Rice played for the Detroit Lions? They had a speed-dating event. At the time, I was a pharmaceutical rep, and my good friend and I were hanging out with some doctors. She's a nurse and she brought them over, and that's how we met.
So you're not a pharmaceutical rep now?
Nope. I stopped being a pharmaceutical rep about four or five months after I had my firstborn. I was sleep deprived. I was exhausted. It was like no joke. I was breast feeding and I did it for a year. And it was extremely exhausting getting up every two hours with an infant, and then I'd turn around and go to work that next morning. And I was literally pumping, working and driving with a hands-free pump. It was serious. It just got to a point where I was like, "Honey, I'm tired." So we decided, because we were going to have our kids back-to-back anyway, that I'd take off a couple of years and raise the kids.
Will you go back as a pharmaceutical rep?
I liked pharmaceutical sales, actually. I've always said it's one of those jobs where you didn't have to work hard if you worked smart. … You were really just building relationships, and I'm really good at that. I liked what I did. They gave me a free car. Free gas. Open schedule. You can't beat that. It would be difficult (to go back) now.
Right. You could become a celebrity.
If this becomes a hit show. What I would really like to do is get my nursery book going. I wrote a nursery book, and I'm in the process of interviewing some people to do the art. Here in Atlanta, they have an art school called SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). I was thinking about doing a little scholarship or an internship for one of the students. It will be fun. It's a nice way to give back and give someone recognition.
What does your family think of this show?
My mother has never watched reality TV. Ever. My stepfather has not. My father, he didn't even know what the Bravo station was. So, yeah, this is all new to them. They're seeing the show on TV. And you know your parents have a perception of you that is higher than anybody else. They know your good, they know your bad, but they don't ever want to see their child in a negative light.
So when my mom watches it, sometimes it's very hard for her, because she doesn't get reality TV sometimes. She's definitely getting used to it, and she actually did a scene. Her, my stepfather and family came down, and I could see her shaking. It's definitely something she's embracing. It's growing on her.
Were you nervous about your mom seeing the episode where you fight with Mariah?
I was. I'm not used to the world drawing such a strong opinion based on not knowing a situation. And you only see the fourth episode, so you don't know at the end of the season something could've totally twisted it. And with that fourth episode, I've got to take all the heat. It's really difficult. Don't dismiss me yet. Just wait. It's like, "You do know people lie, right? You can't possibly be that jaded." But I don't know. It's 50/50 I guess.
You're set up to look like the villain?
People will say, "OK, she doesn't seem like that." Then they watch the show and they think, "I guess it's a possibility." For some people, that TV show is their reality. When I watch soap operas, I like to see my villain. I guess now this is their modern-day soap opera, and they're going to take it at face value. And for me, it's like, "Wow. OK. Get to know me." They haven't put me out there enough for people to get to know me, but it's coming. It's definitely coming.
It's unfortunate: In episode three, you're shown with Eugene getting a house built, and the next episode is all screaming.
I know. I was very distraught. My husband just got through yelling at me. He was like, "This is not the Toya that I know. This defeatist attitude? Get rid of it." In my eyes, it was hurtful for me because that's the last thing I would want people to look at me as-a person who is a troublemaker or a person who fights. I have a one and a half year-old and a three year-old. I'm very responsible. I volunteer within my community. I'm a mentor for God's sake to three young adults. Even for them to see that is too much. Granted, they're like, "Oh, Miss Bush, you were holding your own." But no, no, no. Of course, that's not the first reaction you should take in any situation.
But it's very difficult when someone backed you up against the wall and put their hands on you and you end up having to defend yourself. And it's crazy because when, at the age of 35-plus, do we start attacking each other? It's crazy. All I can say is tune into episodes five, six and seven.
There are some women doctors on the show. But some of the criticism is that there should be more. What do you think?
You don't want a make-believe cast. You want people that really have relationships. Dr. Jackie (Walters) was my OB/GYN for my firstborn. And Dr. Simone (Whitmore) was Mariah's OB/GYN for her firstborn. So we all have known each other. Now that we've done the show together, we all talk regularly. It's organic. The more they show Jackie, the more you're going to love her.
The breast cancer episode was a really nice tribute to Dr. Jackie Walters.
When you've been through cancer twice, you really don't involve yourself in those petty issues. I understood that when I first met Jackie, and that's why, throughout the season, she and I got really close. And Simone and I got close, too. Simone is like that sister you want to hang with, and Jackie is the one you call when you say, "Girl, I need you to pray with me."
Are you and Kari Wells friends?
Yes. Kari is good people. We've developed an even stronger relationship through the show. We're very similar. She helps her husband with his business and I help mine with his. And we both have two kids. Hers are a little older than mine and they can't do play dates. But honestly, getting to know her, I really felt like she was a good person. … And you know Detroit people; we support each other especially in a situation where it looks like someone is the underdog.
It seems like you and Kari are close; then Mariah and Quad and Jackie and Simone.
There's definitely some division, but keep watching. We all come together. Maybe not all but … four out of six is better than two.
There are 10 episodes. Any word on a second season? Will you come back?
No word yet on season two. But I think that I would have to because, after the first season, you don't want to leave anything in question or leave a negative impression. You come back because you've learned from the first season what not to do. So, yeah, I would definitely come back.
If a friend asked you if they should do a reality TV show, what would you say?
(Laughs) You know when you're pregnant, people always say, "Get your sleep now." But you didn't know what that meant until you had your baby. … I would tell them that if your skin is thick enough, then you can do anything. Just know that when the lights come on, so do other people's personalities.