You may think you know the whole story behind the marriage of Real Housewives of Atlanta stars Cynthia Bailey and Peter Thomas, but there's an entire side that the world has yet to see. Luckily for fans, the couple's new memoir, Carry-On Baggage: Our Nonstop Flight, breaks down the good, the bad and the deliciously ugly drama as the couple redefines marriage after age 40.
"There's a whole lot of baggage that she's carrying and that I'm carrying, so it's still a work in progress," Thomas, a successful music executive and entrepreneur, tells BET.com about the couple's relationship. In the book, out in September, Thomas describes their romance as a "cat and mouse chase spanning 20 years" that began when they met in 1998 at the ultra-trendy Nell's Supper Club in New York City. After a few missed connections over the years, Bailey, who at the time was a top fashion model, finally gave in to Thomas' charm. And soon, the cameras started rolling.
Joining the cast of RHOA in season 3, the pair quickly found their relationship under scrutiny by bloggers and fans. "The first year they watched us crash and burn," Thomas says. "What the press saw was an angry, Black man in his late 40s that was losing his business and in a relationship with a beautiful supermodel. It was tough."
Thomas says the season finale capturing their wedding still hurts to watch, as the storyline focused on resistance from Bailey's family to accept their union. Worse yet, Bailey would be pegged as "timid" and even "weak" by critics in how she dealt with the increasing pressure. "She felt like she had to prove a point to the world, to let them know that she was not weak and meek and that she's a solid person and she does control her own destiny," Thomas says.
However, writing this book together gave them the opportunity to show their true selves without the input of TV producers or editing magic, he says. "You can shoot with Bravo for seven hours in the day and they will use the first and last. They'll use what works for their storyline, and sometimes what works for their storyline is the worst two minutes of those seven hours." And while recapping their entire history, which had a few painful moments, writing the book together brought them closer than ever, he says. "This book was so much therapy for both of us, it was incredible."
In revealing their own struggles, the book also shines a light on the ups and downs of bridging two lives, two families (Thomas, 50, has five children and Bailey, 45, has one from a previous relationship), their finances and very successful careers. Thomas says they are still learning how to manage their expectations of one another, mostly the "things that you will compromise on and things you won't compromise on because you have already lived the first half of your life."
The secret to a lasting marriage? Weathering the storm, he adds. "If you commit to get married to someone, analyze why you're getting married to them and make sure that the common denominator is that you're completely in love with them. If you're already in it, make sure you can weather the storm."
Though Thomas admits being the face of a popular television franchise comes with public scrutiny, they see themselves hanging in there for the long haul. "As long as this opportunity provides the platform for her [noting that the series gave his wife the means to help young, minority women break into the modeling world], I believe she is going to ride this bus until the wheels fall off,” he proclaims. “And I would ride to the end of the world with her."
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(Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)