The Untold Truth Of Southern Charm

In 2014, Bravo took its unique and specific brand of Housewives-based reality television out of the metropolises and the fancy suburbs and into one of the most historic places in the American South and one of the most beautiful and moneyed cities in the world: Charleston, S.C. It's the setting of Southern Charm, an easy, light, and breezy show about the lives of a handful of the young, middle-aged, and older/wiser members of prominent families. 

In no particular order, there's aging playboy and political scion Thomas, his charmingly sharp-tongued ex Kathryn, likable laze-about-turned restaurateur Shep, real estate mogul Cameran, seasoned socialite Patricia, her enigmatic son Whitney, lovelorn knitter Craig, and all of their various romantic partners and pals that pop in and out of the show.

Over five seasons of Southern Charm, these cast members have fought, made up, partied, fought some more, partied harder, given us examples of #squadgoals and #friendshipgoals, and made us all want to move to Charleston and kick it for a few months. Until then, here's the untold truth and other stuff you probably didn't know about the Southern charmers of Southern Charm.

With Thomas, everything is politics

Thomas Ravenel is noticeably older than the rest of the main Southern Charm cast, and we're not just talking about his ex, Kathryn Dennis, and whatever twenty-something he's dating. He sticks out from the rest of the young, easygoing cast in other ways, too, particularly because he looks like Josh Brolin ... if Josh Brolin was a creep. 

Ravenel has a past and a reputation that supports that callous remark. He once had a successful political career, serving as the state treasurer of South Carolina until he had to resign the post in 2007, after he was indicted on a federal charge of possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute. (So take all those scenes where he sternly orders his ex-wife to get tested for substance abuse with a large grain of salt.) 

But no politician ever just goes away. In 2014, Ravenel ran for a U.S. Senate seat in South Carolina. Campaigning as an independent candidate after failing to secure the official Republican nomination, Ravenel was trounced in the general election by popular incumbent Lindsey Graham. Ravenel took just 3.9 percent of the vote, which he told WCSC-TV was due to starting his campaign late and "some of my personal problems." (In other words, the stuff people saw him do on Southern Charm.)

Kathryn's relatives ran the country in the 1800s

On Southern Charm, Thomas loves to paint himself as an old-moneyed Southern gentleman from a powerful family, so much so that it makes Kathryn Dennis, his ex and the mother of his children, seem not as well-bred by comparison. While most scenes of her in later seasons consist of Kathryn hanging out in her small apartment (as opposed to the huge mansions featured elsewhere on Southern Charm) and talking about the heartbreak of shared child custody and submitting to alcohol testing, she actually comes from just as storied of a family as anybody else on the show ... if not more so. 

Kathryn's full name is Kathryn Calhoun Dennis, and that middle name alludes to how she's a direct descendant of John C. Calhoun, who in the 1800s, served as a secretary of state, as a senator representing South Carolina, and as vice president of the United States under both Presidents John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. And that's just on her mother's side! On the paternal part of the family tree, Kathryn's grandfather, Rembert C. Dennis, served in the South Carolina state senate from 1943 to 1998, notably chairing the finance committee. 

Kathryn has kept the family names going: Daughter Kensington's middle name is Calhoun, and son St. Julien's middle name is Rembert.

The truth about Cameran's husband

Cameran Eubanks is the de facto den mother or low-key leader of the Southern Charm crew, generally tasked with keeping the peace and commenting on the proceedings with an above-it-all air. She's also routinely tasked with doling out advice to her co-stars on how to best improve their fractured personal lives. 

With the exception of her being pregnant on the show and then delivering a baby girl, her personal life is almost never the full-on subject of a Southern Charm episode, which juxtaposes weirdly with how she's often the only non-paired up person in big, full-cast shots. It's not that Eubanks is unlucky in love. Quite the contrary. In fact, she's got her love life figured out and just doesn't want him to be on the show. 

In 2014, she married a Charleston doctor named Jason WImberly, whom she told Bravo has "zero desire to be on TV." She also told WetPaint (via Bravo) in 2015, that she's "very careful to not have [her] personal life be included" on Southern Charm. "I've purposefully chosen to keep that out of the picture because I think people who put their personal life on TV are kind of nuts," she said. That's solid advice from a seemingly stable adult — and just a little bit of shade-throwing at her castmates.

Cameran gone wild

Sure, Cameran Eubanks presents herself as the one person on Southern Charm (okay, besides Patricia Altschul) who actually embodies the classic Southern moral code of grace and dignity. Maybe that comes with maturity, because Eubanks is also the only member of the Southern Charm cast with a background in softcore pornography. 

Eubanks appeared in a 2006 installment of the Girls Gone Wild series called Girls Gone Wild: Wild World. Now, before you ask your ex-brother-in-law to dig out his old DVDs from college, just know that Eubanks didn't strip, as is the GGW custom — she was an on-screen "host." On a Southern Charm reunion show, Eubanks said that when she made the project she "really didn't know what I was doing and I ended up crying to the girls and begging them to stop taking off their clothes."

Southern Charm is not Eubanks' first foray into the world of reality TV. In 2004, she was a cast member on what we could call the first major nonfiction series — the one from which shows like Southern Charm are all derived – The Real World. She appeared on the San Diego-set season of that reality institution, as well as its Wild and Crazy Kids-esque spin-off, The Challenge. 

Eubanks isn't ashamed of her early reality TV resumé. "I have no idea why people bring it up like it was a bad thing," she tweeted in 2016. "The worst thing I did was get drunk."

A bridge to a family's past

The Ravenels are very prominent in South Carolina and have been for a long time. Why can Thomas speak such good French? It's in his blood — he's a ninth-generation descendant of French Huguenots who settled in the Charlestown area way back in 1686.

Thomas Ravenel got into politics in part because it was the family business. His father, who occasionally graces Southern Charm with an enthusiastic visit or phone call regarding his grandchildren, is Arthur Ravenel Jr., a local politician so beloved in the Charleston area that his nickname is the affectionate "Cousin Arthur." After serving in the state house from 1953 to 1963, he lost a series of state and local elections, only to be elected to sit in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1987 to 1995. He lost his bid in the 1994 gubernatorial primary, but was elected to the South Carolina Senate, where he served from 1996 to 2005. 

That year, what will probably be the elder Ravenel's greatest and most visible legacy came to fruition: The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge opened to traffic. The cable-stayed span bridge (if that means anything to you) has a 1,500-foot-span and is built to last 100 years. (The Ravenels remain the only reality star folks to have a bridge named after their family, at least until one of the bridges connecting New York to New Jersey is ever renamed "The JWoww and Snooki Interstate Connector.")

Shep is related to a dog

Okay, so Thomas Ravenel's family has a major bridge named in its honor, and Kathryn Eubanks' family includes legendary politicians, but big deal. Isn't it objectively much cooler to have your family history tied to the history and naming of a breed of dog? 

In this regard, Shep Rose is like the Jack Russell of Southern Charm, or at least, his relatives are. The man born William Shepard Rose III is the nephew of B. Boykin Rose, former director of the South Carolina Department of Public Safety, and he got that middle name from his mother's prominent family, the Boykins, a family so wrapped up in South Carolina history that there's a town called Boykin, S.C., and the state's state dog is the Boykin spaniel

The breed was reportedly developed by Shep's family in the early 1900s. Whit Boykin was an avid duck and turkey hunter and needed a dog with retrieving abilities that could handle hot weather and traverse land, sea, and swamp. This cute, shaggy brown dog was the result.

Cranky Whitney has a creative side

Whitney Sudler-Smith is the resident disaffected and reluctant participant of Southern Charm, enduring his mother Patricia's eccentric behavior with a smirk, but generally hanging around the outskirts of the show as a keen and wry observer. That attitude reflects Sutler-Smith's artistic mind and chosen profession: He's a filmmaker of both narrative movies and documentaries. 

After his 1998 debut, a Texas-shot indie called Bubba and Ike (tagline: "Beef, Beer, and Broads,") writing for a short-lived horror anthology series called Dark Realm, and a failed pilot for a show called Torture TV, Sutler-Smith moved on to more serious fare. He directed, wrote, and produced Ultrasuede, a 2010 documentary about the life, work, and legacy of the legendary fashion designer Halston. 

More recently, he's gotten involved with the documentary's more populist, if lowbrow cousin: reality TV. Not only does he appear on Southern Charm and serve as an executive producer, he created the whole thing.

Patricia's life is as glamorous and colorful as you'd hope

According to Architectural Digest, Patricia Altschul is the "madcap grande dame" of Southern Charm, as well as exactly the kind of person we should all be so lucky to become. She just seems to relax in her impeccably decorated mansion all day, drinking expensive booze, hanging out with her awesome dogs, and making pithy comments about her castmates' poor manners and bad decisions, interrupting it all occasionally to throw a party that will be spoken of in rarefied circles for decades. (She's Southern charm — and Southern Charm — in a nutshell.) Accordingly, Altschul has led a life that Margaret Mitchell, William Faulkner, and Danielle Steele might all say is a bit much.

Altschul earned a master's degree in art history and archaeology from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where she stayed on as a professor of art appreciation while simultaneously running a high-end art dealership called Arcadia. She's been married three times (so far): to banker L. Hayes Smith (Whitney's father); to Psychiatric Institutes of America founder Edward Stitt Fleming; and to Arthur G. Altschul, a Goldman Sachs partner and major art collector who sat on the board of many of the East Coast's most prominent museums. 

Patricia moved to Charleston in 2008, a few years after the death of her then-husband, Arthur. She dropped a few bucks on an 1850s mansion known as the Isaac Jenkins Mikell House and led its renovation, earning her a special award from the Preservation Society of Charleston.

Does the word 'babadoo...' mean anything to you?

The addition of Southern Charm to the Bravo canon of the reality TV sub-genre "rich people behaving badly" was a breath of fresh air because right off the bat, viewers can tell that this series is not just another rehash of the Real Housewives formula. That's because instead of an opening sequence set to that same synthesizer noodling in which the stars introduce themselves with a sassy catchphrase, Southern Charm employs a good old fashioned theme song. 

That bouncy, flirty, chirpy tune that sets the mood for the genteel Southern goodness to come is called "It's Easy." Written and performed by a singer-songwriter and voiceover actress (from North Carolina, not South) named Mia Sable, "It's Easy" was a track on The Portrait Collection, Sable's independently-released 2012 EP. 

Sable has carved out a unique but successful niche for herself as a provider of musical accompaniment for reality television. Her work can be heard on docu-series stalwarts such as What Not to Wear, Say Yes to the Dress, Dance Moms, Toddlers and Tiaras, and Mob Wives.