If there is one thing fans know about Garcelle Beauvais, it's that she's tough. But she also doesn’t want to be defined by just one thing.
The established actor, former model, author, recent reality star, current daytime television personality, mom of three and grandma to two (phew!) is a Hollywood celebrity of multitudes. Through all of them, she is able to maintain her no-holds-barred approach to life that is refreshing, real and above all else, tough.
“I just hope people come along (on) the ride of my life and see my journey and be open,” Beauvais told TODAY via Zoom, referring to what she hopes people learn about her through her work. “I don't like when people want to pigeonhole me into like, ‘Oh, I think she's this.’ It's like, ‘Well, I'm a lot of different things and I think that's what I would like people to take away.'”
Much of the narrative of the latest season of the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” which Beauvais joined in 2020, has focused on the tumultuous saga of Erika Jayne, who is currently in numerous legal battles involving the business dealings of her estranged husband, Tom Girardi.
“What surprised me most this season was two things: that Erika was so open to talk,” said Beauvais, 54, who spoke to TODAY on behalf of her partnership with HomeGoods. “And the other thing is how quickly the other girls rallied around her and didn't even question ... like they questioned Denise (Richards).”
Referring to the tenth season drama that involved Richards, Beauvais said she is still doesn't have an answer to that last surprise, but she promises to bring it up at the reunion when it tapes later this year.
“That's a question that I'll be bringing up at the reunion," she said. "I have no idea why that was the way it was, but I thought it was interesting.”
One other component of this season that surprised her as well as fans was “how funny Kathy Hilton is.”
“I've know her for a long time," Beauvais said. "In Beverly Hills, we're all in the same circles. I've been at dinners with her ... even intimate dinners, but I never really saw that side of her and so it's been really fun.”
This season began for Beauvais with a tense conversation with Hilton’s sister, Kyle Richards, who at last year’s reunion called Beauvais out when a promised donation to a live auction never materialized. Beauvais, who is the first Black cast member on “RHOBH,” contextualized the misunderstanding for Richards as further stigmatizing a pervasive stereotype about Black people.
“The importance of that conversation for me was I couldn't move forward without addressing it,” Beauvais said. “I didn't want to sweep it under the rug. I know, in the past, sometimes, if something's unresolved, either at the reunion or at the end of the show, that the next season starts anew and I didn't want that to be the case. I really wanted to have that conversation with her and I know the reason that we were able to move past it is because she was receptive. She didn't put up a defense. I know she didn't do it intentionally, but I just wanted her to understand the implication of that. But you know, she's great and we're having a good time.”
Beauvais also has lent her support to another new "Real Housewife," Eboni K. Williams, who is the first Black woman to ever be featured on “Real Housewives of New York City.”
“Eboni is doing her thing,” Beauvais said. “She is so strong in her convictions and what she believes in that I think she's doing exactly what she wants to do. I mean, we're not all alike, and I think she is coming out strong and some people are happy with it and some people aren't. But I think Eboni is always going to be Eboni.”
'It just felt right'
Outside of Beverly Hills and Bravo, Beauvais has partnered with HomeGoods on a collaboration where they reimagined the teachers’ lounge at one deserving school in the Miami area. Benjamin Franklin K-8 Center was the lucky recipient of the makeover, offering the school’s teachers a place of solace as they return to school this fall after lockdown.
“When HomeGoods came to me and wanted to partner with me, first of all, it was a no-brainer,” Beauvais said, adding that her go-to items at the retailer are candles and baskets. “I practically live at HomeGoods. I love that store so much."
When conceptualizing the space, the two things at the forefront of their design were color and comfort.
"We wanted to bring in color. We want it to feel like the moment they walked into the room, it was someplace vibrant and joyful,” she said. “We also wanted to make it comfortable, so they can actually take a moment and have their lunch. We just wanted it to be a place where they would feel inspired, get the energy to go back into the classroom and inspire and teach the kids.”
There’s also an exciting way that TODAY readers can get involved. Beauvais wants people to know that they can volunteer a teacher to have a chance to win $1,000 from HomeGoods to "revamp their home, their office, anywhere.”
Beauvais chose a school in Miami, her hometown. "Teachers have been in my family and it just felt right," she said, adding that most of the children in the school are Haitian, like her.
It's projects like these that help break down the misconception that she doesn't have a soft side. And while she puts on a tough front on "Real Housewives," Beauvais said that being on the Bravo show has actually helped her tap into her emotions.
“I think what I've learned is I put up a tough exterior, but I’m actually mush most of the time,” she revealed.
“I am learning that it's OK," Beauvais added. "I think a lot of it has to do with just being independent and being on my own for so long and taking care of me and my family. I think sometimes it's OK to show a little bit of vulnerability and let the the tough exterior go a bit. That's what I'm learning."
TODAY and Bravo are both owned by the same parent company, NBCUniversal.
CORRECTION (Aug. 5, 2021, 11:00 a.m.): An earlier version of this story misspelled Eboni K. Williams' name. It is Eboni, not Ebony.