This season of Southern Charm has done a lot of things right. Their depiction of the pandemic was not only accurate and effective, but the Bravo series has also remained light and humorous throughout, especially when appropriate. They fairly covered the Black Lives Matter movement in Charleston over the summer and beyond, as Kathryn Dennis is called to take accountability for unfortunate messages. John Pringle and Leva Bonaparte have been fun and important additions to the cast, but it is the presence of Leva’s friend Venita Aspen that has been the most necessary voice of the season.
It’s been incredibly refreshing to see Venita remain a part of the friend group for the majority of the season, and while she’s not an official cast member, hopefully that will change in the future. She is precisely the reason so many have called for this show and many others to include diversity in their cast lineups. In the specific example of Southern Charm, Venita brings a perspective to the group that no one else can. Leva has sure tried her hardest to pry open the eyes of the privileged white folks around her, and even Madison Simon has been a welcome face to the friend group. But it is Venita that has made the biggest mark on this group — and she’s not done yet.
Intentionally or otherwise, Venita has been put in a position where she is speaking on behalf of an entire group of people — and doing a damn good job of it at that. There has not been another consistent presence from a Black person in this group in the show’s seven seasons which, at the very least, is not so cool, especially considering this is Charleston. Black people live there.
Venita’s presence early on could have looked suspicious, the same way Kathryn’s Black boyfriend Chleb Ravenell has raised a few eyebrows considering the timing. Did the producers specifically want Leva to bring…particular friends around while she was championing the work done during BLM? When I spoke to her last month she got rightly irritated at the notion that anyone in her life would ever be considered a “token,” saying: “That’s ridiculous. There’s no such thing as token. I have always gravitated towards everything. I love diversity in my friendships, and I think that Southern Charm did it right. I’m authentically friends with this group, and I’m authentically friends with Venita and Megan and 100 other people that we haven’t met. I think it was important that they specifically were key people, key friends that not only are close to my heart, but they’re women. But those particular women are Southern, are born and raised here a generation. These are people who care about these things and these are people I’m talking about these issues with. There’s really not one bit of inauthenticity to that, and I find it offensive when people say that. They’re not fucking tokens. That is offensive in itself. I adore every single one of my friends, and not one of them is positioned there for any type of reason, except for that I adore their heart. And Venita has always had a strong voice. She’s incredible, she breaks barriers.”
Leva went on to give the advice, “Make some friends that are different. They can be a different religion or a different lifestyle. Just make some different friends.” Luckily, it appears as though Southern Charm has taken this advice to heart.
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Perhaps the most significant contribution from Venita occurred in the most recent episode, the first of a two-part finale, when she simply stated that Kathryn “hasn’t apologized yet.” Stating clearly what she needed and expected from Kathryn seemed to get through to guys like Craig and Pringle as they engaged with the discussion, even if they weren’t 100% clear on what it was all about. Leva, for all the wonderful, important, and likely frustrating work she has done to try and make this group aware of how other non-white people may be feeling, has perhaps had her message diluted when she gets worked up while trying to emphasize the importance of accountability. Venita has remained calm throughout, impressively so. Hell, she was even the one that went over to calm Leva down on that miserable, loud boat ride back from Caper’s Island in the last episode when Leva launched a few “shut the f**k up”s in Austen’s direction.
Venita, the person who has every right to be offended by Kathryn’s recent remarks, gives off the vibe that she’s not automatically judging, that she’s not raising her voice, and that she’s simply trying to help people understand where she’s coming from (despite it not being her responsibility to do so in the first place!). It feels as though, and maybe it’s because she’s seen it her whole life, that she understands yelling will get you nowhere with these types of people, who will only get defensive and further from understanding, learning, or changing their behaviors. Actually…how the hell has she stayed this chill around this group at all?!
But it’s not just because Venita is a Black woman. Her non-judgemental approach even came in handy when she called Madison out on back-to-back statements: that she didn’t want to talk about relationships, but that she did want to make Austen jealous by walking into a party wearing cute wedges. By simply repeating those statements back to her friend, and a slight eyebrow raise, Venita made her point and made Madison laugh at herself in the process.
In that same scene, it was fun to watch Venita do her makeup, just as the other women had. It’s always something to look forward to when she arrives because she has incredible fashion. She’s often wearing a mask! It’s refreshing that Venita continues to be a good listener, a girl’s girl, not someone who is shamelessly (and shamefully) flirting with the guys of the group, or getting wildly drunk and causing a scene. While she’s not often the center of attention (and thankfully never demanding it), Venita has made a unique impression on the show as someone who is not antagonizing but is instead gracious, easy to get along with, and an incredibly natural, presence in the show — and one that this show desperately needed.
Southern Charm has gone through many cast changes, especially throughout the last few seasons, many of which felt as though they would be irreparable to the chemistry and flow of this show. All have proven to not really matter that much and the spirit of the series has remained intact. But the show has an opportunity right in front of its face to capitalize on something really great. Venita appears to be the type of woman that can keep this show grounded and honest and yes, stylish as all hell. Her perspective is necessary, and so far the show has honored that without overly patting themselves on the back for it. Let us hear more of it! But also, let us into her life. Venita, are you dating? What’s your job? What are your hobbies? Who are your other friends or family? What’s your story? You already know what I’m saying: make her a full-time cast member moving forward. It’s not only that she’s already more than earned it, but we as viewers have as well. At this point, we know what Shep or Craig or even Danni’s point of view might be on something. We’ve spent seven seasons with them. But get more Ventia in the mix, show us how she livens up this friend group by keeping them truthful, aware, engaged, and of course, goofy.
Part 2 of the Southern Charm season finale airs Thursday at 9 pm ET/PT on Bravo.
‘Southern Charm’ Needed Venita Aspen More Than It Even Knows The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Decider.