Bursting onto the fashion scene in the early 1990s, Cynthia Bailey has given us two gorgeous ESSENCE magazine covers, a film and her life as a cast member on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta." Now as we prepare to see Mrs. Peter Thomas at the ESSENCE Empowerment Experience on July 6-8 in New Orleans, let's take a look back at Cynthia's career.
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Introducing Mrs. Cynthia Bailey
Leaving her Alabama hometown 20 years ago to begin a modeling career in New York City, Cynthia’s bold move was solidified when she garnered a five-year contract with Wilhelmina modeling agency.
With an amazing career of beauty under her belt, here is Cynthia at last year’s Essence Empowerment Experience in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage
Following a role in the 1990 Sandra Bernhard-led film “Without I’m Nothing” for which she beat out Naomi Campbell, Cynthia graced her first cover of ESSENCE magazine in June 1995. The supermodel was stunning in kohl-rimmed eyes and berry lipstick. This cover was personal validation that her move from her Southern hometown was a positive choice for her life and career as a thriving model.
Hitting the Scene
Following her first ESSENCE cover, Cynthia’s career continued to grow. She lived abroad in Paris and Milan, where she walked the runway for numerous designers before moving back to the Big Apple. Home in the states, Cynthia grabbed opportunities with large campaigns like Maybelline, Oil of Olay and Target along with magazine spreads in Vogue, Glamour, ELLE and Vanity Fair.
Naturally as a hot model in New York City, there’s always an event to attend. Here’s the svelte star with date and former basketball player Jason Williams at the Sports Ball benefit dinner in April 1996.
Photo by Evan Agostini/Liaison/Getty
Here’s Cynthia Bailey’s second ESSENCE cover in 1997, the age of neutral make-up and brown lipstick — word to Nina Moseley of “Love Jones.” According to her biography, Cynthia became one of former ESSENCEEIC Susan L. Taylor’s favorite models.
Me and My Boyfriend
In the early aughts Cynthia began dating actor Leon, of “The Five Heartbeats” and “Waiting To Exhale” fame. Although the pair did not stay together, they do have a daughter named Noelle, 11, of which they remain collaborative parents.
Here are the couple in New York City in 2002 at the premiere of the hip-hop rom-com, “Brown Sugar.”
Joining "The Real Housewives of Atlanta"
In 2010, Cynthia joined Bravo’s highly popular “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” reality show, chronicling her friendship with NeNe Leakes and relationship with Peter Thomas. She and Leakes have a tumultuous relationship and many viewers think that maybe Cynthia is too close to her co-star to allow her own personality to shine through, but Cynthia is unfazed.
Here she is with NeNe during the 2011 Soul Train Awards in Atlanta in November 2011.
Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images
The Infamous South Africa Trip
Back in January, Cynthia exhibited the behavior some fans complained about, she supported NeNe, even when she didn’t agree with her. What happened?
After taking care of a sick cast mate Marlo all morning, NeNe joined “the smalls” and Cynthia for lunch and to talk about Marlo. Kandi couldn’t understand Marlo’s over-the-top personality and NeNe jumped to her ailing friend’s defense. So did Cynthia, though she’d just finished complaining about her as well.
Here is the cast of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” on location in South Africa.
It Feels So Right
Although she had turned down the married life before, Cynthia decided that Peter was the right man to share the rest of her life with. She married Peter, following the epic marriage-certificate dust-up with her mother and sister, Mal, along with what seemed like Peter’s financial struggles, depicted on the reality series.
In the end, Cynthia made the decision she felt was right for her. Here are the couple exchanging vows in 2011.
And while she’s off-duty from filming the upcoming season of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” Cynthia is still tearing up the catwalk for fashion’s elite.
Here she is walking wearing Lawrence Pizzi during the Code Purple Touch the World benefit and fashion show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in February 2012.
“I believe in hard work, ambition, love, and positive affirmation," she says in her biography. “Everyone has a destiny. With faith in yourself, and faith in God you can accomplish anything.”
Photo by Jerritt Clark/WireImage
One Big Happy Family
After much back and forth, Cynthia, her husband Peter and her daughter Noelle are settling into life as a family, on and off camera. Although, according to Cynthia, there is still a rift between Peter and her sister Mal, everyone will just have to figure it out.
“My sister is always going to be my sister, but I’m married now. I just think there was a point with Mal where there’s sister love and then there’s just now you’re really crossing the line and now you’re being a problem,” Bailey told The Hollywood Reporter of sibling battles. “So once you are just wrong — sister, brother, cousin, niece or nephew — you’re just wrong. It just became a point where Mal just needed to back down a little bit. This is my life, this is my relationship, this is my marriage and I really don’t need anybody’s approval.”
Here are Noelle Robinson, Cynthia Bailey and Peter Thomas in Atlanta in June 2012.