Glamorous in a red cocktail dress, local TV personality Tamica Lee introduced her fellow "Southern Charm New Orleans" cast members and producers at a premiere party Saturday for the new Bravo reality-TV show.

“The process has been amazing,” Lee said, microphone in one hand, glass of white wine in the other, to the stylish crowd gathered at the New Orleans Board of Trade on Magazine Street.

“Why do I have wine? I always have wine,” she mused, more to herself than to the audience.

The aside drew chuckles from the gathering of 75 Bravo executives, "Southern Charm New Orleans" cast members, their loved ones and local media personalities.

Lee went on to assert that the show is an honest depiction of her life, as well as those of fellow cast members Barry Smith, Jon Moody, Justin Reese, and Jeff and Reagan Charleston.

In their rarefied circles, set against a backdrop of Italianate architecture and Mardi Gras floats, booze is practically a seventh cast member.

At least that was case in the series kickoff, which aired at 8 p.m. Sunday. Alcohol-fueled drama powered many scenes in the 43-minute episode.

For example, over coffee cocktails, Lee and Reagan Charleston discussed Reagan’s plan to procure a pied-a-terre. “(My husband) Jeff thinks it’s us moving to the Quarter, but it’s just me,” Reagan revealed.

Later in the episode, Lee passed out in a Mardi Gras float after downing too many Jello shots. And over “Hurricane Tamicas” (hurricanes with Champagne) at her housewarming party, she divulged her marital difficulties.

“I don’t have a sex problem. I have a lack of sex problem,” she quipped.

Reese revealed his plan to move in with his parents, while Jeff Charleston is estranged from his mother and father.

Petty bickering looms large in the show, as do distinctly New Orleans sets of cameo roles (jazz singer Robin Barnes, chef Will Avelar of Meril) and problems (parade delays, haunted houses). But so does the underlying love among the cast members — some of whom have known each other for decades.

“Everyone involved is family to me,” Jeff Charleston said.

That’s one major point of difference between "Southern Charm New Orleans" and other reality-TV shows. The cast members’ off-camera success is another: The show counts a lawyer, a jewelry designer, an artist, a news anchor, a former NFL player and an entrepreneur among its ranks.

“We were looking for smart, intelligent people who had their own careers — that’s why (this show) is a little different,” said executive producer Tim Maloney. “The diversity and quality of our cast is special. America is going to find out that integrity, character and good people sell.”

"Southern Charm New Orleans" has been in the works for three years.

“New Orleans was ripe for a TV show,” said executive producer Whitney Sudler-Smith. “It’s such an interesting city with a diverse culture.”

Cast members treated Sudler-Smith to a taste of that culture at the premiere party when they presented him and other producers with gift baskets containing Café du Monde coffee, jewelry by Reagan Charleston, pralines and other items.

Cigar Factory New Orleans rolled custom smokes, white roses and magnolia leaves adorned the tables, and Barnes sat in for a song with R&R Music Group. The strobe-lit red carpet got more attention than the dance floor — but that might have been because of pre-show jitters.

“I’m nervous because I haven’t seen (the episode) yet,” said Nicelle Herrington, who served as a consultant for the show and appears in the premiere. “I’m excited to explore the fun, exciting landscape down here. … We did some things that are a true reflection of the South.”

Now it’s up to viewers to decide how accurate that vision is.

“I hope you guys love it,” Jeff Charleston said. “If not — whatever.”


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