Kandi Burruss is a favorite of fans on Real Housewives of Atlanta and, notably, a Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter, but it’s her wickedly entertaining Welcome to the Dungeon tour hitting the road this May that has folks talking lately. The adults-only fantasy world, where partygoers dress like extras in a Cardi B video, was inspired by Kandi’s mega-popular show Kandi Koated Nights and award-winning adult line, Bedroom Kandi.
The 42-year-old star caught up with BET before the tour kicks off to spill the tea on her dungeon parties, like how a RHOA-related tiff with Porsha Williams sparked the idea, and how her teen daughter is following her business sense with the release of her own fun project.
BET: Where did the concept of “Welcome to the Dungeon” come from?
Kandi Burruss: If anybody ever watched the Real Housewives of Atlanta, two years ago [there] was, like, this whole big ordeal because Porsha [Williams] basically told people I was going to try to drug her and take her to a dungeon, which was absolutely crazy to me and insane when she said it. Obviously, it turned out not to be true. One of the other girls had lied to her. I was really angry about it at first, but then I after I started thinking about, I was like, "This shit is actually kind of funny. You know what, what if I actually made it a dungeon but made it a super, over-the-top crazy party?" Like some wild burlesque party venture. It was a mixture of ideas.
After I did Chicago on Broadway—they have all the elements of women with the little burlesque vibe on stage—I was like, I could make this thing crazy and over-the-top that people wouldn’t even be expecting it. It would be fun and take the negativity out of it. The problem is when people put stuff like that out there about you, it will forever linger. People can be like, "Oh, it’s old and over with," but what they don’t understand is that people binge watch our show later. They won’t see it when it happened, but years later. People around the world are just now watching seasons that we aired a long time ago. So if those people go and Google, they’re like, "Did she really do that?" I want them to Google and see it was a fun-ass party, a good time. They’re going to see pictures of people dressed up. It’s going to take that negativity away from it and change the narrative that somebody else tried to put on me and turn it into a money bag! [laughs]
B: Wow, you really flipped that into a whole business opportunity…
KB: You have to. When you’re in a situation where somebody puts something on you that you don’t even know how to defend because it’s not true… how do you defend that? It’s just like, "You know what? I’m going to take what you said about me, flip it, and make it lucrative." That’s what I did.
B: So what is “proper” dungeon-party attire?
KB: For me, I want it to be super sexy. I want people to show up in fishnets. Maybe a whole fishnet bodysuit and a G-string underneath and some nipple covers. I would love for somebody to wear something that wild. We have done this party before in Atlanta, and when I tell you some people wear almost nothing… like I saw a girl come in with nipple covers and a mink coat on [with] a little thong. Was she hot? Yes, she was hot!
Some guys came in with that Hugh Hefner vibe with the pajamas and cigar jacket, and that was still sexy. You don’t have to be totally naked if that’s not what you’re comfortable with. Now, some people feel like they couldn’t be themselves, so they put a mask on and wore something see-through but you didn’t know it was them. Cool thing about the dungeon is we get this company that gives you these pouches that everybody has to put their phone in so they can’t go around taking pictures of nobody… so there’s not a lot of pictures and videos unless I posted them. If they took their pictures before they got there, that’s cool. But no pictures during the event.
B: What does your 16-year-old daughter think about your dungeon parties?
KB: First of all, Riley [Burruss] knows that her mom is crazy. Riley knows that it’s a show. It’s a performance. She’s not allowed to come. She’s not invited. Only 21 and up. The thing about it is, I have an adult product line, so I have full conversations with my daughter about my business. I explain everything to her. Yeah, she knows it’s a very risque show, but she’s not sitting around judging her mom like, "Oh my God, I can’t believe you did this." She’s like, "Mom, that’s crazy."
She knows it’s a business. We think about everything business-wise. It’s like, "OK, so the dungeon party does this and makes this much money." That’s how she thinks. She’s not really looking at it as "Oh my God, my mom has people walking around almost naked." She’s thinking, "She’s working."
B: Will Riley be following your business sense… maybe something fitness-related?
KB: I’m telling her everyday people really respect her fitness journey. Everybody knows that it's tough. It’s not something where she lost weight and that’s it. It’s something that Riley’s always going to have to work on, because she’s naturally thick. She has her moments where she backslides. She’s always going to have to deal with this. Right now, I have her working on a plan, [and] by her birthday she’s going to launch something.
It’s going to be to help children [and] adults because they all follow her journey. It’s about her fitness, helping people get motivated and help her stay motivated. It’s not just about her but everybody joining together with her to make a community of people who are trying to keep their bodies right and tight. Her birthday is August 22, so we’re going to launch her thing around then, and it’s right before Childhood Obesity Month, which is September.
B: Amazing! So you’re basically a serial entrepreneur—investing in everything from music to restaurants—but which of your businesses are you most passionate about? Why?
KB: Bedroom Kandi is a favorite. It’s something that people told me not to do, and I did it anyway and it worked out great. And then I have Bedroom Kandi consultants across the country. When I hear their stories of how Bedroom Kandi has helped them financially provide for their families and take their careers to the next level, it makes me feel good because it’s an entire network. And it’s not just women, because we have guys as well. We have thousands of consultants right now, and that’s a major feeling to have something just happen in your mind like, "Oh, that’d be a good idea" to now it’s a real thing. It’s not just a thing for me, but one that helps so many people make money.
Bedroom Kandi is all about being your own boss, because it’s a real partnership. Consultants start off making 40 percent of everything that they sell. Now, we have so many products, not just adult products anymore. It’s a lifestyle brand because we have bath and body products [and my] Kandi Koated makeup line. Think about it, you’re not having to go and make these products. They’re just given to you to sell and you get to keep 40 percent starting out, and if you do well with your business, you’re keeping 60 percent of everything you sell.
I think that’s why it’s one of my favorites, because [Bedroom Kandi] has grown bigger than me. The other thing that I have to say I love is Old Lady Gang restaurants. We just had our two-year anniversary. Now we have three restaurants, [and] we’re going to have a fourth restaurant this year. We’re building it out now. It’s about my family, and I love the fact that I’m able to help my family with it, [and] we’re providing jobs in our community. All of that is important to me. I was born and raised in Atlanta, so you know I’m all about bringing quality things back to our community. That’s something I’m very proud of.
(Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)