The cast of Southern Charm is an entertainingly eccentric bunch, no doubt, but no one seems to capture the essence of the Holy City like K. Cooper Ray. The fashion designer, writer, and etiquette enthusiast thrives on the city’s history and protocol, and he has an eye for the smallest details that make the biggest impressions.
After last week’s showdown between Thomas Ravenel and Jennifer Snowden, and being on the receiving end of Patricia Altschul’s cold shoulder, Cooper was gracious enough to sit down with me for an inside scoop as viewers head deeper into the third season of the Bravo hit. After a brief tour of his latest endeavor (more on that in a bit) at The Hidden Countship, a stunning Italian boutique downtown, we chatted for over an hour. I swear, I could listen to this man’s stories for days…he’s had such a fascinating life and has a no nonsense approach to work, friends, and reality stardom. Just as one would expect, Cooper’s anecdotes are peppered with humor, gentility, and subtle shade.
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Cooper reveals that he was approached for the show’s freshman season, but he was wary about putting his life on display in such a public fashion. He shares, “I held out until season 2, and season 2 was a very strange experience for me. I was on guard as a Bravo fanatic. In the beginning, when I was filming, Cameran Eubanks gave me the best advice. She said, ‘Cooper, they can’t make you say anything you didn’t say, and they can’t make you do anything you didn’t do, edit or not. The trick is to remember that when you’re mic-ed, you’re mic-ed, so you have to keep that in mind when you finish filming a scene.”
After learning the ropes and feeling more at ease ignoring the cameras, Cooper was looking forward to this season. He tells me, “I went into Season 3 with just a sense of excitement. I had a great time filming Season 3. Of course, as it went along, personalities clashed,” adding, “I definitely got a lot closer to Kathryn Dennis in the off-season. I developed a real, big brotherly affection for her. She needed a friend. It took her a while to trust me, too, because it’s a very difficult situation to be in, especially for someone her age.” With all of the drama that followed Kathryn after the first season, Cooper was hesitant when producers suggested the pair forge more of a friendship in the second season. He admits, “I apologized to her. I said, ‘I really regret not engaging more with you in Season 2 because I feel like I could have helped.’ I felt very bad about it.”
Practicing that aforementioned subtle shade, Cooper continues with a devilish twinkle in his eye, “We went into the filming of Season 3 prepared to be friends, when the–what’s the best word to use?—the decree came down from, well, I won’t call her the Queen of the South, but some people may think so. You saw on the flamingo party episode that I was told not to be friends with Kathryn. The decree came, I declined, and you’ll see this season I have been sort of banished from their group because of it. So much happened in that episode, at that party. Respectfully, I am going to be friends with whomever I want to be friends with, and I’ve never had a reason not to be friends with Kathryn. She’s been nothing but lovely to me and we’ve had many heart-felt talks.”
He gives a background on his relationship with Patricia, citing, “We have very similar social circles in New York, and we had wonderful talks, on camera and off. After filming Season 2, we had weekly talks and weekly drinks. It was a nice, comfortable friendship. We have a very unique relationship. With me being in fashion and her being a couture client, I was always fascinated by her trips to St. Laurent shows. That’s the Southern Charm she wanted, this high society, Downton Abby-esque show, and I told her, ‘That’s not Bravo.’ I think she blames Kathryn for it. However, I don’t know if we would have gotten past Season 1 if the drama hadn’t occurred with Kathryn and Thomas. Right is right with me. One of the things that I always try to do, both on the show and in real life, is be completely honest. Recognizing his conversation with Patricia at the flamingo party was the next stage in his freeze out, Cooper does laugh at being called ‘the poor man’s Truman Capote.’”
Of the roller coaster that is T-Rav and Kathryn, Cooper asserts, “It’s real. It is very real. Now that we’re in this season, and you’re beginning to see Kathryn’s shuns and Thomas making attempts to save his family. I want to see things resolved between them.” Also, alluding to the blow-up that is brewing between Kathryn and Landon Clements, Cooper believes Landon has found her groove and is becoming the villain that viewers are going to love to hate, which, according to Bethenny Frankel’s reality rules equals relevant.
Now that the season has wrapped (except for some voice dubbing and the reunion) Cooper continues to build the brand he’s cultivated for years with Social Primer. His initial bow tie launch party in Beverly Hills was written up in the Wall Street Journal and praised by Vanity Fair, and it was followed by similar pop-up shops in New York and a three year collaboration with Brooks Brothers. While in residence at The Hidden Countship, Cooper has no shortage of creativity to cultivate. “I’m sewing bow ties, curating an amazing collection of art, but I want to use the space to do what I really love–and what I really love is throwing parties, hosting events, networking, and introducing people. I’m launching a concierge service called The Charleston Way where the grace of old Charleston meets the energy of new Charleston.”
The concept? He wants to share why history matters, why Charleston matters, why traditions matter. Cooper desires to give his clients the quintessential Charleston experience. Whether it’s a day at the hunt club for a bachelor party, a white-glove luncheon, or debutante tea, no detail will be overlooked as he partners with local businesses to create elaborate and memorable occasions. Cooper explains, “I’m giving you the keys to a world you may not have been born into should you choose to want to be a part of it. Don’t be excluded because you don’t know the rules that those who judge use to exclude you. Beat them at their own game. My motto is ‘You don’t have to be rich to live the good life.’ Learn the signals. People will complain, ‘That’s social climbing.’ Of course it is! This is America, climb away. We weren’t born into it. Neither was Patricia. Well, Thomas was.”
Spoken like a true gentleman. As always, Reality Tea will be recapping tonight’s episode of Southern Charm, and Cooper promises more shade, shade, shade!
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[Photo Credit: Instagram]