Reality TV legend Kandi Burruss is back on our screens this week, but for something entirely different than what we’re used to. This Friday on CBS, the Grammy Award-winning songwriter will be testing her skills at home improvement on the latest episode of Secret Celebrity Renovation.
We’ve seen her on The Real Housewives of Atlanta and Celebrity Big Brother, but now it is time to see what Burruss can do with a hammer, a power saw, and some interior design techniques. Learning all of these newfound skills is for one purpose: to surprise a beloved family member with a newly renovated home.
Family is extremely important to Kandi Burruss. Her widely acclaimed restaurant, the Old Lady Gang, is based on the southern cooking and love she experienced from her family as a child, and many of the dishes are named after Burruss’ own family members. Now, with the help of Secret Celebrity Renovation’s Rob Mariano, Sabrina Soto, and Nischelle Turner, she is ready to honor one of her family members with an incredible gift.
Pop Crave chatted with Kandi Burruss about starring on Secret Celebrity Renovation, what it was like to surprise one of her family members with their newly renovated home, and whether she’d ever consider appearing on a ‘Celebrity Survivor’ type show. Keep reading for the full interview!
Hi Kandi! I first have to preface that I’m such a huge fan of yours, so I’m kind of freaking out! With Secret Celebrity Renovation, what is it that you love about the show and what made you decide to be part of it?
Oh my gosh! Well first of all, my husband Todd and I, we always sit and watch renovation shows. That’s our thing. We love to see how it started versus how it ends. It’s exciting! The way that I was brought into it is that I’m actually friends with Nischelle, the host! She came by Old Lady Gang for something and was like, “Do you think you would ever do this? It would give you the opportunity to help somebody that’s close to you,” and I was like, “Oh, that sounds amazing!” Obviously we were at Old Lady Gang, so the thought of helping Aunt Bertha came up. It turned out amazing!
Speaking of Aunt Bertha, could you tell us a bit more about who you’re dedicating your episode to and what it is that you’re renovating for them?
It was a couple of people that I thought about, obviously, but the thing that really made it land on Aunt Bertha is Aunt Bertha’s house. It was originally my grandmother’s house. When I was just a little girl, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother before she passed when I was four. Some people think you wouldn’t remember those times, but I specifically remember moments with my grandmother that I loved in that house. My Aunt Bertha moved into the house afterwards, and it was always the family home. We always go there and have family dinners, play cards, cookouts! We have so many memories as a family in that house, and I just wanted to see it turn into the 2022 version of what the house can be [laughs]!
This show is so wholesome, and I’ve seen a few celebrities get pretty teary-eyed on it! How emotional was this experience for you, and overall, how rewarding did it feel to do this show?
It was so funny. I felt like my cousin – cousin Weenie, that’s Aunt Bertha’s daughter – she was the one who was tearing up! I was just shocked! I was in shock! Even though I was part of the process, I was just in total shock. Like, “How did we do this?!” It does not look like the same house at all. It’s so different. My Aunt Bertha, she was being Aunt Bertha. She was like, “I mean… I mean I like it, I like it…” [laughs]. I think she was kind of thrown off! Like, “Is this really my house?” That’s how it felt. Every day she still calls me to say, “I just wanna tell you, baby, I love my house! I just love it so much! Thank you so much, baby!” It’s really cool, you know? She’s got a dishwasher now, and she’s never had a dishwasher ever in her life. It’s the simple stuff – the little things!
Nischelle, Rob, and Sabrina all seem like such amazing people! How fun was it getting to work with the three of them on this project together?
Oh, it was amazing! Rob taught me some things that I didn’t know about building and things that you should know, especially dealing with an older home. I was impressed! I was totally impressed. I would have never envisioned what we came up with. I was like, “How?! How did they see this from what was here?” It was just amazing.
This show definitely puts you to work, and I saw you in the trailer with that hammer or mallet thingy! How difficult was the actual home renovation part of this show, and how much were you able to learn about renovating from this experience?
I definitely learned a lot that I had no clue of. I forgot what the saw’s called, but he taught me how to use that! In a lot of old homes, you have the popcorn-type ceilings. I never knew how you have to scrape it off before you smooth it. It was just a lot of things I didn’t know. My aunt smoked cigarettes, and so I didn’t know that when you scrape that stuff off, you can still see some of the smoke on the ceiling!
In your episode of Secret Celebrity Renovation, you get to take Nischelle on a trip with you to the Old Lady Gang! How was it getting to show Nischelle around the OLG while also getting to connect with some childhood friends?
Well I’m always at the Old Lady Gang [laughs], so it was kinda cool to introduce a lot of my childhood friends to the world and to the restaurant! I am one of those people who likes eating at my own place, meaning I can eat our fried chicken forever in a day! Anytime I can have a meeting there or have a friend come by, it’s the perfect excuse to go eat.
I know you are an extremely busy woman. For instance, you’ve just been doing a huge tour with Xscape! Because this show is so much about family and reconnecting, I wanted to ask if you have any advice for people who might be struggling to juggle their family lives with their work lives?
Oh my gosh, I’m not good at juggling! I’m terrible! That’s something that I’m consistently trying to fix myself. I’m trying to figure out how I find the right balance of work and family. The one thing that I hope people see when they see Secret Celebrity Renovation is how close I am to my family, how much I love them, and how much I care about them. No matter how much I’m working, my family means so much to me. The ones that live in the house and the extended family [laughs]!
Rob Mariano, otherwise known as Boston Rob, originally got his fame from Survivor before doing this show. Would you ever consider doing some kind of ‘Celebrity Survivor’ type show if asked?
NO! I can’t do it! I cannot do it! It was really, really hard for me to do Celebrity Big Brother. I’m a person who likes to win, okay, so I was definitely trying to be there until the end, but being away from your family for so long and not being able to communicate to the outside world… That is not easy. Honestly, when I came back home from that experience, I felt off for a few weeks. It was hard for me to jump right back into things. I had to have a moment to figure it out. It’s not just me, because when I talked to Cynthia [Bailey] about it – when she did the Celebrity Big Brother show – she felt the same way. It’s something about being taken away from your family, your home, not being able to use social media, and you don’t know what’s going on in the world. To be gone that long, it really throws you off. I made it to the very last day of the show, and it really throws you off to be away from home for like – what was it, five weeks or something? It was crazy!
I had to ask because I think you’re such a good player and strategist!
Thank you! I mean, that’s what I’m saying. Maybe if I wasn’t such a good player and got kicked off in the first week or two, maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal! To be able to make it to the end and I still don’t win? Oh my God, it’s devastating [laughs]!
Now… I have to hype you up. This is your time to brag. I mean, I feel like a lot of people use the phrase “triple threat” to describe celebrities, but in all honesty you’re like a quintuple threat! You can sing, songwrite, perform, host, you’re a reality TV superstar, and now you’re even a home renovator! How crazy is it, looking back at the beginning of your career, to see just how far you’ve come?
Aww, thank you! It’s super crazy. It’s super crazy because when I started, I was 16 when we first signed our record deal to Jermaine Dupri with So So Def Recordings. To go from that to 30 years later, and to still be in this industry and be doing things in a major way… I mean think about it, reality TV didn’t even exist when I first got into the entertainment business. I’m just thankful, and I feel blessed to have been able to constantly reinvent myself to have this type of longevity. The hardest thing, period, is to have longevity in this business! In any business, longevity is the hardest thing to do. To be able to accomplish still being in this game of entertainment and doing it big, it’s a major accomplishment. I’m shocked every day. I’m like, wow, I can’t believe I’m still able to do it!
Last question! Fans want to know… When Secret Celebrity Renovation airs, what can all the Kandi Burruss fans expect to see from the incredible journey?
Oh my gosh! Well first of all, they’re gonna get some good laughs! You know I’m silly, and so to be up in that house trying to figure out how to tear down walls and stuff, it’s gonna be hilarious. My Aunt Bertha is super funny too, so I think people are going to get a kick out of that. The amazing part of it is to see that transformation! Oh my God, people are gonna be like, “Woah! That is not the same place!” I think people are really gonna love this episode and really get a kick out of watching how it turns out.
Kandi Burruss’ episode of Secret Celebrity Renovation airs this Friday, September 2, on CBS from 8-9 p.m. EST/PST.