Cynthia Bailey isn’t letting anyone rain on her parade. The Real Housewives Of Atlanta star and former supermodel not only has her hands in a bunch of different business ventures – she’s also gearing up to become Mrs. Hill.

Back in July, Bailey’s sportscaster beau got down on one knee in front of their closest family, friends, and castmates. Though the engagement wasn’t necessarily a surprise (Bailey jokingly embraces her ‘thirst’ on the season 12 premiere), their exciting new romance came together perfectly.

ESSENCE spoke exclusively to Cynthia about her upcoming wedding (which she’s open to filming for the show), blending families and where things stand with a particular RHOA frenemy.

ESSENCE: Congratulations on your engagement! Can you tell us how the wedding planning is going?

Cynthia: Thank you! Well, it’s a slow burn. I just got engaged a couple of months ago and I’ve been super busy filming season 12. I haven’t had a whole lot of time to focus on [the wedding], but I have started looking at some dresses. I have my date, and I know what state I’m going to be getting married in. I can’t say yet, but it will be in the United States.

You wore a very unique wedding dress [at your wedding to Peter Thomas]. Do you have a vision for what you want to look like on your wedding day?

The dress just has to speak to me. It just has to feel right, just like my fiance did [when we met.] Sometimes there’s just no rhyme or reason. I am open to doing a white dress this time around. My dress from my last marriage was a platinum-silver color. I am not a traditional person, and I will not be a traditional bride. So even if it’s white, it still may not be a traditional dress. I like what I like, and I want what I want.

In terms of settling down and blending families, have you and Mike decided if you’ll settle in Los Angeles where he lives, or Atlanta?

We’re all here now in Los Angeles, though I spend my time between Atlanta and L.A. as well. We have already started our family dynamic. Mike has two girls around the same age as [my daughter] Noelle. They’re all about one year apart. One of the reasons why I’m marrying Mike Hill is because he looks at Noelle like she’s his daughter. She has decided to spend more time in L.A. to pursue her acting career, and she [moved in with Mike] to see if this is what she wants to do. We have a great blended family relationship. He has a great relationship with Noelle’s dad. We all are a part of Noelle’s life, and we all have something to offer. I love it.

When starting my life over, I wondered if I would have to pick between the show and a man.

So Mike is used to being in front of the camera as sportscaster, but reality TV is a different beast. How is he adjusting to having the cameras film your personal lives together and to the other cast members?

Mike is supportive of me period. If I was working at Publix, he would come and support me at Publix. So how is he integrating himself into the show? One season at a time, doing the best that he can. I think he’s coming in with a good heart and a good spirit, and either people are going to gravitate to that or not. But I know him, I love him, and I’m just so happy that he’s even open to joining in this part of my life.

When starting my life over, I wondered if I would have to pick between the show and a man. I decided I’m not compromising myself for anyone. So I am so blessed and so grateful that I have a man that is willing to give himself to me completely instead of only focusing on his life and career. It’s just more confirmation that this is the man that I want to spend the rest of my life with.

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🧡 Me Some Him🐆 @itsmikehill #CHill

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Speaking of the show, there seems to be some friction with you and Nene. In the super trailer, she tells Marlo that you have a side to you folks don’t know about. What is your reaction to that?

One thing I’ve learned about my relationship with Nene is when she’s with you, she’s with you. When she’s against you, she’s against you. That’s her personality, and I know that because I know her. Did it surprise me [to hear]? Absolutely not. Do I think there’s any validity to it? No. I know who I am. She knows who I am. The fans know who I am. I think one of the great things about my spirit is it actually comes through the TV. Nobody’s going to really buy that Cynthia Bailey is a villain.

Do I make mistakes? Absolutely. In the end, I own my truth. I still try to walk with grace, and I’m actually having the best time of my life. I’m 52 years old, and every year of my life counts to me. I want to be happy. If you’re not a part of that happy, you can’t be a part of my life. That goes for relationships, friendships, family and all of the above. Either we’re going to be good, or we’re just going to be okay. That’s what it is.

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