When many were first introduced to Lesa “Milan” Hall, she was a college student and beauty queen on BET’s College Hill series during the late aughts. More than 10 years, a marriage, and three children later, she’s not the same South Beach-living, tell-it-like-it-s collegiate fans of the show remember from that series. The things she saw for her future then, the entrepreneur and family woman is living now.
“It’s law of attraction. I was basically manifesting my life because I’m that type of person,” she tells ESSENCE. “If there’s something I want, I say it out loud.”
She’s managed to make her dreams come true and get back on reality television. She’s one of the stars of Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Dubai, which concludes its first season with the finale of the two-part reunion airing on September 7.
“It’s been absolutely amazing getting back on screen. I think for me, at first I was hesitant because I know what comes with reality TV. I know the pros, I know the cons. But I think it’s been amazing because people have seen my growth from College Hill. I’m not the same Milan from College Hill. I’m a wife, I’m a mom, I’m an entrepreneur. It’s amazing. I think people get to see my journey, my growth and that’s been a positive, positive experience.”
Getting back on the silver screen, as mentioned, wasn’t the easiest decision for the beauty to make, but she saw the benefit it could be to her maternity clothing line, Mina Roe, as well as to represent for women like herself.
“You can run a successful business, be a great mom, be a great wife. You can ultimately have it all,” she says. “I wanted that message to come across because so often we don’t see that on reality television.”
She adds, “I was very conscious about everything I did on the show because I know it’s not just for me, it’s for women who look like me and little girls who are going to come up in this industry. You don’t have to go left all the time. You can keep it classy.”
So it’s been a great experience for Milan, who not only shows a different side of herself, but also shows people a different side of Dubai — specifically what it’s like for Black women living there. She has been in the UAE for nine years and love, for her husband Richard Hall, brought her to the luxurious destination from Miami. The comfort and family feel of Dubai is what has motivated her to stay.
“As a boy mom and an afro-Caribbean woman, the peace of mind and the safety here is really what I love most,” she says. “I don’t have to worry about people discriminating against my kids because of their skin. We don’t really have police brutality here, so the safety of it all keeps me here.”
But it’s known as the city of gold for a reason, which she can appreciate. The luxury of places like the Burj Al Arab hotel as well as the fun of simple spots like LEGOLAND for her boys, adds spice to her life.
“This city was built around families and something I really love is they cater to children a lot. I love going to LEGOLAND a lot. My kids don’t run out of things to do,” she says. “There’s always something new for us to try. Even the restaurants, you know a lot of places kids are not allowed. In Dubai, even the finest of restaurants, Michelin-star, kids are allowed. It’s amazing.”
The city experience is almost as amazing as she says being on the first season of RHODubai has been, though she admits some clashes with the cast (she and good friend Chanel Ayan are favorites, and thus, targets) have been disappointing. It’s been especially sad, she says, when some try to downplay and disrespect her career success.
“There’s this negative connotation that people have when Black women are successful or we have a nice bag or we’re living a luxurious life that we basically had to sell our souls to get it. That’s one thing that came up in the reunion and I didn’t like that,” she says. “I worked really hard to be where I am. And to put me in that box was very, very hurtful and damaging.”
But no worries, the self-proclaimed “yaardy” can still fend for herself. Milan may be on a new show and in a new place in her life, but she says, as you will see in part two of the reunion, that she set her cast mates straight while managing to keep it cute and classy.
“It’s going to be an entertaining show for sure. Going to read them here and there, but most importantly, I just want women to come together instead of fighting all the time,” says Milan. “We’ve moved past that. People want to see different things. They want to see things that are aspirational, just as much as they want to see the drama.”
Check out the full interview above! The second part of the Real Housewives of Dubai reunion airs Wednesday, September 7 at 9 p.m. EST on Bravo.