The secrets of Oprah Winfrey’s Alabama reality TV show
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The cast of "Love & Marriage: Huntsville." Melody Holt is third from left. (Courtesy OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network)

“Honestly, after about five minutes you forget the cameras are there,” says Melody Holt.

Since last year, Holt’s personal life has been on display on “Love & Marriage: Huntsville,” a new reality TV show on OWN, cable’s Oprah Winfrey Network. Season one chronicled three successful African-American couples looking to revitalize North Huntsville via their joint real estate venture, called the Comeback Group. The show revolves around three power-couples - Melody and Martell Holt, Marsau and LaTisha Scott and Maurice and Kimmi Scott - balancing marriage, business and friendships.

“When you guys see us super happy or having an argument, those are real emotions,” Holt says. “The producers pretty much back up and let you have whatever conversations you need to have. Whatever you need to let off your chest. That’s what you guys end up seeing. And I end up regretting it later, like, I wish I hadn’t said that or handled that differently.”

“Love & Marriage: Huntsville” connected with viewers in a big way. The show ranked number one in its time slot across all broadcast and cable with African-American women and total viewers. The show also became OWN’s highest-rated freshman unscripted series in four years in the network’s key demographic of women ages 25 to 54.

Melody Holt became the show’s breakout personality. He’s witty, stylish, talented and sassy. She’s easy to like and easy to watch. For those who haven’t caught “Love & Marriage: Huntsville” season one yet, we’ll avoid spoilers - let’s just say drama in Melody’s life is the straw that stirs the show’s drink.

Season two of “Love & Marriage: Huntsville” premiers 7 p.m. central July 11 on OWN. This season finds the show’s stars attempting to get past issues from season one. The frenemy quotient increases. On a recent afternoon, Melody checked in for a phone interview, calling from home as she was getting hair done. Edited excerpts are below.

Melody and Martell Holt, from "Love & Marriage: Huntsville." (Courtesy OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network)

Melody, what's the biggest way season one of "Love & Marriage: Huntsville" changed your life?

We became recognizable. I’ve been to New York, L.A., Texas and no matter where. there’s someone that’s like, “Hey, wait a minute. You’re that girl from that show, that Huntsville show.” To the point where everywhere you go somebody recognizes you. But that’s not a bad thing, that’s a good thing.

That means people are watching.

That's right!

You have a cool sense of style. What are some of the inspirations for that? Where does that come from?

I have a few people I admire when it comes to their style. Cynthia Bailey (actress, model and reality TV star) is one. I love her style and the way she dresses. I also enjoy the Marilyn Monroe back-in-the day, kind of classic elegant. Kind of mixing trendy with classic but still fashion forward. For me, I just try to find things that fit well and are statement pieces.

Obviously, you wouldn't be doing reality TV without a certain level of comfort with your life being documented that way. But for season two was there anything that was more difficult, even though you'd done it for a whole season already, about putting your life out there?

For me the difference in this season and you guys will see, we were blessed to be the first baby special on the Oprah Winfrey Network. [Laughs] So you guys will actually get to see me through that process of carrying my daughter, the last couple weeks of that and then actually having her. So that was another piece of my life I let you guys into. I’m not sure what all you’ll see when it airs because we see it when you guys see it, just know it was bare all! [Laughs]

'Love & Marriage: Huntsville'
"Love & Marriage: Huntsville" star Melody Holt and the OWN reality show's executive producer Carlos King. (Courtesy Neville Simpson)

Last year before season one, I interviewed Carlos King (reality TV super-producer behind “Love & Marriage: Huntsville,” “Real Housewives of Atlanta” and “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta” and other hits). He told me the first time he saw you he knew you were a star. Carlos told me you and Martell traveled to Atlanta to pitch him the idea for your show. What was that process like, of putting together a pitch like that?

Everything begins with an idea and a vision and when you recognize you have something different. Whenever we started putting together the idea for a show to be based out of Huntsville, Alabama, we’ve seen all the reality shows that are based out of Atlanta and L.A. and New York and all these bigger cities. One big difference automatically was, let’s bring some attention to The South, to Alabama specifically. And so that in itself was a difference niche. Then we started putting together episode ideas and what we thought the development of the series could look like.

So we went to Atlanta and met with Carlos and believe it or not as soon as we walked in, he was like, "Oh my gosh I can see you guys being on 'Real Housewives of Atlanta.'" We went into our idea and shared with him how Huntsville is very much so a city moving forward quickly and a city that is different from how most people see and think of Alabama. Very progressive.

And from there, it took about three years until we got to the point of actually doing a contract. But in that three year timeframe we were constantly sending him pictures, news articles and information about Huntsville. Different events that were happening in the city, as well as things Martell and I were doing as husband and wife and business owners in the city.

You have to be persistent and you have to be consistent. And you can’t allow the fact something doesn’t happen immediately to cause you to think it’s not going to happen, and so we continued to communicate with him. And now here we are with a show based out Huntsville, Alabama on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

I've got to ask: Have you ever got the chance yet to meet Oprah or get a message or call from her?

We have not had the pleasure yet of meeting Oprah Winfrey but trust me whenever we do, we will all be on a total high for that day, just know that. See how I just told you about patience? [Laughs] We are patiently waiting and we know eventually that day will come and will be something we remember for the rest of our lives., when we get to meet her for the first time.

What the genius of Carlos King? What makes him so great with reality TV?

I would say his ability to take nothing and make it something and not just make it something but make it great. The way he does it effortlessly. He puts pieces together that you wouldn’t think would even be in the same puzzle box. His desire and his push to make sure we’re giving reality and standing firm on that word when it comes to reality TV, I think that’s what make him a genius. He’s not called The King of Reality TV for nothing. And not only that, he has a good heart. He wants to see everyone win.

What does it mean to you, with all the awful racial unrest going on, with the Black Lives Matter movement, to have a hit show based on successful African-Americans?

I’m glad you asked this question. I think we all can agree that the time is now when it comes to us fighting certain injustices that have occurred for a long period of time. For me more than anything, when I think about young people and our youth, I think it is imperative for them to see and be able to relate to successful American-Americans. What that is and that it is possible. Because unfortunately so many instances you have, well if you have nice cars or nice homes did you get it the right way or did you not? So I think to be able to see African-Americans working in business, starting things, pushing business forward, that’s great and goes with the entire movement. Because the movement is fighting social and racial injustices. But it’s also showing that we as a people desire and have what it takes to be successful, despite everything we’ve experienced in history.

It’s part of why we came up with the Comeback Group concept. And the idea, we sat down at a table the six of us and it was really a concept about We’re going to go back to North Huntsville, move there, live there and we’re going to show what success looks like in the African-American community, by people who look like how you look. Now thankfully now having this national platform we can show that it doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter what neighborhood you grew up in or born into, you can still be successful, still have a win and still make a difference.

Speaking of Comeback Group, a lot of development in Huntsville is downtown and West Huntsville. It seems like more should be done for North Huntsville. What does North Huntsville need most in terms of development, what to bring to that part of the city, which has a strong African-American community and legacy?

I would like to see some mixed-use communities with new homes, for sure. North Huntsville, once you hit a certain layer of the Parkway there’s not one community with a clubhouse, a pool, a playground. To be honest, I’ve a ton of people who’ve said, “Yes, I’m graduating, I want to live in North Huntsville but there are no new homes in North Huntsville.”

The more people you have in an area, the more that new pieces grow, because there becomes a demand for more grocery stores, more demand for places for entertainment, because there are more people there. So the question is how do we get more people or keep the people in North Huntsville? One thing for sure that people aren’t going to settle on is their living conditions. Not low-quality housing, but high-quality housing that you can be proud, that’s definitely one thing we need and we need quickly. That will cause other things to spark.

I lot of people like to watch you on TV. What do you like to watch on TV or stream or whatnot?

Thank you for this question. So, I like to watch “Greenleaf” and “Ambitions.” Those are like my two faves, and both are on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Also, I did enjoy, and I hope they’re going to do more episodes, “Little Fires Everywhere.” That was really good. And of course, I love to try to watch some of my reality sisters, “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” I have a few cast members on there that I talk to regularly, so I try to support them and watch them too. But other than that, I don’t get a whole lot of time to because your girl stays busy.

Is there going to be a season three of "Love & Marriage: Huntsville"?

I would say "Love & Marriage: Huntsville" will be forever! [Laughs] Kind of like "Housewives."

Something you haven’t done yet professionally you’d like to do?

I’m actually working on a single right now that I’ll be dropping this fall. I grew up singing, performing and acting and things like that. I’ve been going in the studio and working and I’m super excited - that’s something I always wanted to do.

What style of music is your single?

R&B.

A key part of many reality TV shows is the frenemy dynamic and “Love & Marriage: Huntsville” has some of that. As far as frenemies go, is it 50 perfect friend and 50 percent enemy? Or 60 perfect enemy and 40 percent friend? What is that mix?

Depends which Scott you're talking about. [Laughs] If you're talking about Kimmi and Maurice, I'd say it's about 80 percent friend, 20 percent enemy. If you're talking about Marsau and LaTisha, it's more 80 percent enemy and 20 percent friend. [Laughs]

If you have some out of town friends visiting Huntsville, where do you take them? In terms of restaurants, lounges, coffeeshops, places to shop?

Definitely Bridge Street. They have a combination of great food - Connors Steak & Seafood, that’s my favorite restaurant - and then you’ve got places to get nice drinks. Bridge Street encompasses it all and everyone I’ve taken there from out of town, they’re like, “Wow this is really nice.”

Another place I’ve taken people who come to visit is the Space & Rocket Center, so they can get a sense of the history and why we’re called the Rocket City. And when I do have visitors, I love to take them to my community, The Ledges, because it’s beautiful, you can pretty much look down and see the city, especially at night.

You and Martell have been through a bit of life together …

Woo, yes.

What's something that keeps you together going through all that?

One thing that kept us together throughout everything we experienced the past three years is the foundation of our relationship. Meaning we’ve been together 14 years, married almost 12. For us we didn’t start experience problems in our marriage until year seven. We already had a strong foundation that had been built. So it wasn’t, “Oh we’ve hit a rough spot so we’re just going to run away totally.” We had a strong foundation that continuously brought us back. But I will say when it comes to marriage, relationships sometimes you do have to sit back and ask yourself, “Is this still working? Is the foundation enough?” Martell and I we got married young - I was 22, he was 25, 26 - and sometimes people grow apart. That’s a part of life. You have to love one another enough to be OK with that and accept that.

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