Since day one that Bravo TV announced the reality show Jersey Belle, potential viewers were fascinated with the concept of big city publicist Jaime Primak Sullivan taking on small town living. Born of Jaime’s own concept, Jersey Belle is one part Real Housewives, one part Family Hustle, following the spitfire New Jersey native’s day-to-day life in the suburbs of Alabama. An active mother, wife, creative producer, and celebrity public relations specialist, Jaime has more than a few challenges acclimating skeptical Southerners to her hilariously direct approach to just about everything.
While the reality show offers a mash-up of street-wise humor and moments of wide-eyed bumpkin-esque clarity, Jaime also deals with a lot of very personal situations openly. Whether she is running the household, debating parenting choices (namely adding a fourth child to the family) with her husband, or keeping up with her busy clients including the likes of Wayne Brady, Chris Klein, Shanna Moakler and MC Lyte in Los Angeles and New York, Jaime still finds time to bond with the bevy of unique lady friends in her life.
In a two-part interview, UrbLife.com spoke with Jaime first about her parenting style, and how personal experience plays into decisions on moderating television, the internet and celebrity influence. And don’t get it twisted, Jaime lets it be known that no matter where her career takes her, family always comes first. Read on as we spotlight some of Jaime’s motherly ethics in the Parent Trap.
How do you deal with your kids knowing that a reality show is being filmed, and watching it or hearing about it from their friends?
Jaime: My children did not know about the show until last week. People have to remember my kids are six, five, and three, so in my house the only shows my kids watch are cartoons. They don’t know that people are actors and audition for things. They don’t see any adult programming in any capacity.
My husband and I have always been very, “They’re children, let them be children” so they don’t even get to watch Nickelodeon. They watch Nick Jr., Disney Jr. and they only watch one in the morning if they’ve gotten dressed and had breakfast, and then they can watch one before bedtime after they’ve taken a shower. They watch one hour of cartoons a day, so they wouldn’t know what a television show was.
People say, “How did you have cameras in the house and they didn’t know?”. Well, first of all, think about what ignorance is. If you’re blind to something you don’t know. They know that mommy works in Hollywood with people. When we shopped the show they were only five, four, and two so my kids thought a lot of it was Charades. They know for example Wayne Brady is the voice of Clover on Sophia the First which is on Disney. So they understand that Mr. Wayne, Mommy’s friend, does the voice of Clover. They don’t really know what that means per say, but they know that mommy works something with that.
Last week we went to Whole Foods after school to get pizza and my son said out of nowhere, “Hey mom did you know I’m famous?” and I said, “What do you mean you’re famous?’ and he said, “Yeah these girls at school told me I’m on a show called Jersey Belle.” The Mama Bear in me wanted to get angry, wanted to know why are older kids talking to my five-year-old. Then I took a deep breath and thought, “You knew that this was going to happen. Feel blessed that you made it an entire production season and four weeks on air without your children hearing anything”.
And then I took my phone out and recorded [their reaction]so that their father could see the interaction, and I basically explained to them that there are adult shows on TV and mommy and daddy are on one of them and you guys are too sometimes. They were like, “Oh my God that’s the most amazing thing ever! What does that mean? How old do I have to be when I get my ears pierced?” I mean it was like, “Really?”. The whole thing was 30 seconds, and we moved right on to the next conversation, which shows me that they really don’t get it. So now people come up to me on the street and say, “Oh I love your show”, and my kids don’t flinch.
Watch Jaime discussing the show with her kids via her YouTube channel, TheJerseyBelle
How do you talk to your kids about the Internet and what they are allowed to do online?
Jaime: Well, we’re just starting. Olivia is in first grade, Max is in kindergarten and they take computer class at school. So they are learning what a mouse is and how to click and how to move some things around and they do some interactive things. My husband is conservative as a parent. He’s older, I’m 37, he’s 51 and he’s just more conservative overall, so there will be no laptops and things like that floating around this house. There will be one computer in a centrally located area where he and I can monitor, not police, but monitor what’s going on.
You have to remember that I wrote the rules to half the game out there. I have done everything that you can do. My grandmother had this saying, “You have to wake up pretty early in the morning to fool me”. My kids are gonna be hard pressed to pull anything over me. I’ve been there, done that, bought the T-shirt. I tell my kids even at this age, “Forgiveness is easy, trust is the hard thing”. We are transparent and we are honest – a lot more honest than some people are comfortable with.
My daughter asked me the other day after we saw this guy with a Mohawk – he was wearing mascara, had lipstick on and nail polish – and my daughter said to me, “That boy is wearing makeup”, and I said, “He sure is and that probably makes him feel beautiful”. She said, “Do boys wear makeup?” and I said, “That boy does and it makes him feel beautiful, and as long as he feels beautiful then we’re going to smile and keep it moving”. My kids know what ‘keep it moving’ means, and she said, “Okay were gonna keep it moving”.
I figure with the Internet it’s the same thing. There’s the good there’s the bad, were gonna stay away from the bad. Any parent knows the truth is, the bad is alluring in any situation, whether it be with kids, with drugs, with breaking the rules… There is something appealing about crossing the line right? So I’m very aware of that. I think if you give them a little freedom to make their own choices – as long as you set boundaries and say “Here’s my threshold, here’s what I will not tolerate, here’s my little grey area, here’s where they may have a little come to Jesus” – I feel like they will be fine.
My mother tried all of that with me, and I did whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. I don’t know what the right answer is, but I do know that’s what we’re gonna try.
You’ve been working in Entertainment for many years. How is it for you now working in an office that’s so remote from Hollywood or New York? You work in an office, parent your children at home, and take on celebrity clients all over the country… how do you keep your sanity?
Jaime: I learned I’m a Type A personality, I like to control everything, but I’ve learned that I can’t. For example, I had two Skype calls today for business. Guess what? My son woke up in the middle of the night with strep throat, so guess who was home all day with a five-year-old? This girl. So guess who was not Skyping? This girl. So for me, my children will always come first. It’s not the chicken or the egg. There no question for me. It’s a biological choice. It’s not a conscious decision I’m making like, “Do I choose my career or do I choose my kids?”
Anyone says that they are weighing that out is full of shit, because parenting is biological, it’s in you to choose your children. Managers, the clients, the journalists that I’m booking for clients, bookers from shows. These people have known me and loved me for 13 years. They know who I am, they supported a move from Los Angeles to Birmingham. They stuck with me. They know that at 5:30 when I’m making dinner…they’re gonna call me from L.A. at 3:30 their time and 5:30 my time that they are getting “mom” Jamie. They know that mom Jamie is making dinner and there’s gonna be kids in the background, and I have no shame in that game.
To try to pretend would only put stress on my family. You can’t expect silence at dinnertime. I said to the publicist from FX – because she’s calling about Wilfred for Chris Klein – “Hey Christie, I can take the call but I’m making dinner and you’re gonna hear the kids in the background” and she’ll say, “Girl, I’ve heard your kids so much I feel like I know them!” I feel that transparency and honesty with clients and people I interact with helps set expectations for performance.
Also I have to give props to the people I work with. The network, the agents, the because I’m not stressed, my kids aren’t stressed. And when my kids aren’t stressed, I can be efficient and my clients know that if I don’t answer the phone there is a good reason, and I will call them back when things settle down. Yvette Gonzalez is one of my clients on The Fresh Beat Band on Nick Jr. My kids adore her and she gets it better than anybody. She calls me, “Hey lady I’m with the kids”, she says, “ok call me in a couple of hours”.
Not working in L.A., not working in New York, that gets tricky, because I’m living in a remote place. I can’t get a direct flight anywhere. People who live in Atlanta and have to go to New York hop on a 10am flight, they are there by 12:30, and they can come home at night if they need to. I don’t have that luxury. I have to factor in two days of travel. If I have meeting on a Thursday in L.A., Friday’s a travel day, I have to leave Tuesday. That’s what makes it tricky.
Leaving my kids is as challenging to me as it is for any mom. Just because I work in entertainment doesn’t make it any easier, and I just try to do the best I can. Living in Birmingham, I’ll be honest, it gets a little lonely. Nobody gets what I really do here. I think they get it a little more because of Jersey Belle. Even my father-in-law called me after the second episode of Jersey Belle and said, “I have to tell you, I really didn’t understand what it was that you did. I thought I did, but I don’t really know what a publicist does and didn’t realize that you were scoping events, and running back and making sure people were on time, and getting journalists, and getting red carpet lists.” I think people think I sit around and drink coffee with Jennifer Aniston all day. As fun as that would be, that’s just not what I’m doing.
Being a parent, whether you are a stay at home mom or working mom, it’s all about preparation. You do the best that you can. We put so much guilt on each other but who are we gauging that by? I don’t know one mother who thinks she’s doing a good enough job, not one. Every mom I know, whether she’s stay at home or working, thinks she could be doing better. It’s the ultimate motivation for success right? Your children are the ultimate motivation for success.
Jersey Belle airs Mondays at 10:00pm on Bravo TV – CLICK HERE to find out more about Jersey Belle, and watch full episodes on BravoTV.com