Kenya Moore returned to Real Housewives of Atlanta for this year’s season 12, after taking season 11 off – and much like Kenya’s seven year tenure on the show, there has not been a shortage of drama. Unfortunately, we have gotten to the point in the season that covers Kenya’s crumbling marriage. For those who follow her, we knew it happened last fall and that RHOA cameras were rolling. Even still, it appears worse than expected. In what seems like a terrible decision, Kenya’s estranged husband, anti-social restaurateur Marc Daly, showed up on camera during season 12, a dramatic change from his disdain and refusal to film back in season 10 when he and Kenya were newlyweds.
Marc has been patronizing, mean, disrespectful, and dismissive of Kenya in every scene he has appeared in, while doting on their adorable infant daughter Brooklyn. Somehow, things got worse in episode 16, when he had a full meltdown, embarrassed Kenya, and stormed off, proclaiming that he will never be seen on camera again. On September 19, 2019, the day after the filming of this ordeal, both Marc and Kenya announced their separation.
First of all, for a man who constantly claims to hate drama, Marc’s behaviour says otherwise. He is incredibly passive aggressive on camera, so perhaps he’s just terrible at self-reflection. Fellow housewife and friend of Kenya, Cynthia Bailey, has pointed out in interviews that Marc can be mean to Kenya in real life. But since Kenya has been cast as a villain on the show (or in my view, layered and fascinating), fans have been dragging her and her marriage for months. This intensified during and after episode 16 that aired on March 1st. The episode centred around Marc’s management of a charity event in Atlanta that focused on empowering Black men. Kenya saw this as a coming out for the couple on the Atlanta scene, helped him plan it, and allowed RHOA cameras to capture it. Marc proceeded to complain about the outfit Kenya picked for him, appear irritated and angry throughout the event, failed to thank his wife when he spoke, cursed out RHOA production and stormed off. This seemed extra weird because everyone else seemed to be having a good time, which Kenya pointed out. Somehow, Marc had time to praise one of Kenya’s long-time adversaries, Marlo, a habit he has spent the season doing with Kenya’s arch-nemesis and RHOA co-star Nene Leakes. The worst part was him being caught telling someone that he hates being married and “everyone knows I hate it”. It was a mess.
During the RHOA Aftershow, all of the housewives commented on Marc’s terrible behaviour and Kenya revealed more about how that night led to the divorce announcement the next day. Staying consistent, four days before the doomed episode aired, Marc apologized to the organization, The Black Man Lab, for letting his personal life get in the way of the cause, but failed to apologize to Kenya.
The online dragging of Kenya and Marc’s marriage has been pretty consistent in the past few months, and fans have not held back. Many have voiced the opinion that Kenya somehow deserves this poor treatment due to her behaviour on the show. What stood out after the March 1st episode was Nene leading this claim, calling Kenya’s marital issues karma, telling PEOPLE:
“What goes around, comes around, and Kenya had this coming. She has interfered with other girls on this show’s relationships. Years ago, when [Phaedra Parks] was married to [Apollo Nida], Kenya was playing around with the whole situation. And then this year, she brings another women in front of [Tanya Sam], saying that Tanya’s man [Paul Judge] cheated, trying to do something to their relationship. Plus, she had discussed me and my relationship in the past. So now that your relationship has crumbled? Good. You deserved it.”
Like most controversial statements Nene makes, this one is not without context. While Nene and Kenya’s relationship has always had tension, and their clashing has remained a core storyline in the show since season 5, this season they appear to not be on speaking terms. Nene and Kenya’s arguments on the show are some of the most epic moments in RHOA history. These include Nene blaming Kenya for starting a brawl during her pillow talk event (the fight was actually instigated by Apollo Nida, Phaedra Park’s ex-husband), Nene throwing a fit when Kenya hosted a charity event in her honour without telling her (this led to a years long fight and a ridiculous bet between the two to pledge $20,000 to charity), Nene inviting Kenya’s ex Walter to her wedding, and a recent fight during a cast trip to Toronto. Both have stood out consistently during the annual reunion specials, both unafraid to confront each other (with the exception of the season 10 reunion where they came together against the evil forces of Kim Zolciak).
Kenya has always claimed that Nene is threatened by her position on the show, and she has usurped her as the HBIC - of course Nene refutes this accusation. They have always spoken about each other to the press, and this season is no exception. Last fall, both women spoke to Wendy Williams unfavourably about the other. And fans have been teased all season about an upcoming moment on the cast trip to Greece where Nene attempts to spit at Kenya, which Nene has already attempted to justify. This recent iteration of the pair’s feud seems to stem from the end of season 11. Kenya had left RHOA that season but Cynthia Bailey invited her to a party, without informing Nene. The sight of a pregnant Kenya sent Nene into hysterics, and led to her most recent fallout with Cynthia, carrying this issue into the reunion and season 12.
What I think is undeniable is how wrong Nene is to label Marc’s treatment of Kenya karma. No one deserves to be humiliated by their husband on television, especially if it’s not clear how much worse the treatment is off camera. Like many of her fans, Nene seems to enjoy any situation that disempowers Kenya, but her opinion on this Marc Daly situation seems especially insufferable. Her statement to PEOPLE names other couples that Kenya has interfered with on the show, but I doubt Nene really cares about those relationships. I certainly don’t. And the Apollo Nida example is wrong- Apollo himself admitted to lying to the cast and audience about Kenya coming on to him for years before copping to it in season 7. Nene’s response was a claim that Apollo was lying about lying.
Kenya is really the only consistently formidable rival that Nene (season 1 veteran and self-proclaimed Queen of RHOA) has ever had; they are equals in that sense. My opinion is that Nene doesn’t play fair, but my Kenya bias runs deep. What remains clear is these women know how to make great television together, they just happen to often do it as adversaries. And without one, would the other be as entertaining?