Tanya Sams is the newest cast member on the Bravo TV series. Tanya is a Toronto transplant and local Atlanta business mogul. Tanya has captures our attention when she appeared on the show before while shopping at a boutique owned by a friend and “Real Housewives” member, Nene Leakes. Tanya’s fiancé, Dr. Paul Judge, is also quite successful himself in Atlanta’s tech industry as an entrepreneur and investor. When we had the chance to talk to the newest member to hold the peach, we took it.
Women are full of strength, beauty, intelligence, love, everything. All of those traits made it hard for me to watch most reality shows that didn’t showcase the amazing qualities of women. Instead, jealousy, bickering, drunken fights, pettiness, and catchphrases were placed at the forefront of our television screens and we ate it up.
However, I am seeing a show slowly changing the atmosphere. Housewives of Atlanta has become a discussion amongst men. “Why,” you ask? Well, it’s simple. We see our wives, fiances, girlfriends, sisters, cousins, aunts, mothers, and friends in the characters. They are showcasing more of their business minds, overcoming issues, and what being a black woman means amongst other black women. The husband and boyfriends are included to show how the dynamic of female friendships can play a part in their lives. Ultimately, the show has won us over.
SUAVV: From what I’m seeing as far as the housewives of Atlanta franchise, you’re coming in a little different than other people being that you are the business owner going into the show. Were you at any point afraid of how that would affect your business world, your business model, your brand, anything like that?
Tanya: Not really. When I decided to come on housewives, and really start building with the ladies, I was excited. It was a great opportunity. I will say you pretty much have to be crazy to be an entrepreneur because most times people will be like, “Well, I don’t know” “You might fail” “That might not work” and everybody gives you the “what ifs”. So I’m used to the “what ifs” and the naysayers. So I kind of was like, Yolo, let’s do it.
SUAVV: We are huge fans of the go-getter personality types. How did you get to the show?
Tanya: okay. How did I get to the show? So I have been living in Atlanta for seven years. My experience has been amazing and I’ve gotten to meet so many people. I will say the people in the south are so friendly. So, I popped in NeNe’s store and we became friends. She kind of put a little bug in my ear saying “Oh, you should meet my other friends.” Then there’s Eva, her husband and my fiance went to Morehouse together so they know each other and they work together. So it was just really easy and organic. That was really how I started hanging out with the ladies. And then, yeah, I was like, okay, let’s do that.
SUAVV: Yes, Atlanta natives are extremely nice and welcoming. Southern Hospitality is a very real thing. Just getting more into the mentality of going into reality TV, what was your biggest concern in going into the show?
Tanya: I think the biggest thing for me with how I was going to be able to balance my work life and filming life because you know, it’s a commitment. We film a lot. We film for several days. I think that was the biggest thing. I’m already like super busy. I’m kind of a “yeah” person, so a lot of things come along and I go, “yeah, I’ll do that.”
SUAVV: You’re engaged and for anyone watching the show, we see that husbands take a huge hit from the show as well, even though, they are more background. How did he feel about going into the show after seeing what other husbands, fiancee, boyfriends have gone through on the show, in the past?
Tanya: He would say, “Look, I’m solid”. We have worked together and you know, it’s really important that we get to live, work, laugh, and love together. We have built businesses, I’ve helped him build his cybersecurity companies, and that’s a hell of a ride. No, it is not without its own stress in and of itself. So, we look at it like this is just another company. So he’s like, “they want to do this…alright.” And then he asks what it is and what does it take? He’s incredible. He’s the type of person where he’ll make me spreadsheet on things to do for housewives work versus things to do for our businesses. I can’t imagine doing this without a supportive partner. You just couldn’t. This is about relationships and you have to commit together or else that’s how the stress kind of leak then.
SUAVV: You’re in the tech industry, which is something that a lot of black people in general just don’t see us in and we definitely don’t see women in. How did you arrive in technology? And ultimately, how important do you think that is to show your involvement to other people of color?
Tanya: So, I’ll start that answer by telling you a little bit more about me and my background. I come from a family of doctors and I received my first degree in genetics and cell biology. I thought, “oh, I’ll be a doctor like my dad and my sister.” My mom and one of my aunts were nurses as well. I ended up doing a second bachelor’s degree in nursing. I decided to specialize in oncology bone marrow transplant. I did that for a very long time. I made the leap to get into entrepreneurship first when I met my fiance, this was about seven years ago and he really inspired me to become an entrepreneur. I started a beverage company back when he was starting a new company and he just gave me the push I needed. I’m very grateful for that and he has been probably one of the most motivating and driving forces for me to get into tech.
SUAVV: Wait! We didn’t know you have a beverage company as well. You have to tell us about that. Then we will get back into technology.
Tanya: (laughing) Yeah. I was working in nursing and, I kept talking about this product idea that I had. I go to work every day. I work with super smart people, doctors, and nurses who have gone to school forever. And yet when we come into work, we are expected to use our brain to perform, right? An athlete has to rely on their body or physical activity. There’s all these performance enhancing beverages like Gatorade or Muscle Milk that helps them perform better. What helps smart people perform better? I’ve always circled around some type of beverage or dietary supplement that can help increase your brain function. So I launched the Smart Shot and it was a two ounce beverage that basically worked to create increased focus, attention and memory for people who needed to be thinking and being smart all day. I worked to formulate it, develop it, bottle it, put it out on the market and sold online. I worked on that company for three years with like all my blood and sweat and everything I had. And it was insane. It was great. I was very proud of myself.
SUAVV: As an entrepreneur, I always love to ask how embarking on our vision made you feel. It’s like that is our entrepreneurial bonding moment. (Laughing). How scary was that for you? Because again, as you said, you were in a job that was solid. So you were fine. But there was more that you wanted. What was that like for you to push yourself away from one area into another? And how long did that process take for you?
Tanya: Horrifying. Probably the scariest thing ever. I’ve never cried so much or had so much stress or anxiety, I promise you, that wrapped up pretty present of entrepreneurship, which oftentimes people are like, “I can’t wait to be an entrepreneur” or “I want to be a CEO of something”, I’m like, it is so loneliest and scariest job ever. Absolutely. Because you are absolutely responsible for every piece of it. Whether the trash is emptied to whether you have revenue for marketing…all of it. You know? I also think I came from a job, which was pretty high stress. I worked in oncology nursing, which is inherently life or death situations, but I found this to be more stressful.
SUAVV: I know the technology world is very male heavy. Did you find a lot of the same, um, barriers by being a female going into the tech world that women see in corporate America? And How about the diversity in technology?
Tanya: Were there obstacles that you know, normal people would see in corporate America? Yeah. There’s not a lot of, there’s not a lot of women in technology. There’s not a lot of women in color. I spoke on a panel at CES in Las Vegas, which is the biggest technology and innovation conference in the world. We were talking about artificial intelligence and gender and bias and there were four women on that panel and when we looked back, in the end, I think that’s the first time that’s ever happened at CES. There were two black women, an Indian woman, a white woman, sitting on a panel talking about AI. The conference debuts all of the latest technology coming out. It’s everything from commerce, it’s electronics, anything you could imagine. There were bread makers that spoke to you and mirrors that analyze your skin to give you product recommendations based on machine learning. There’s every little piece of everything. We are moving to like the Jetson-like society. However, I’d walk around there and look at people who are working in a booth talking about a product and inevitably it was very pale male. We’re trying to change the representation and show a different side of what people can look like. But it takes people that speak up and go to change that as well.
SUAVV: So, you know, people don’t apply for those jobs because they feel like they’re not experienced or qualified. But there’s marketing, operations, there’s development, it’s a little bit of everything. Is it challenging to find a mentor in technology that looks like you? And how did you overcome the boundaries that you encountered?
Tanya: I often tell women, you know, there’s not a lot of women, there’s not a lot of women of color in technology. So you have to find your mentors where you can. Sometimes it has to be a guy, unfortunately. So, you just have to learn the lessons you can. I look back at men, men are oftentimes a little bit more the risk taker. They’re the ones who, you know, it’s been said in an organization is some of way, “Hey, we’ve got this job.” A man will put up his hand before they even know what the job is and will say, “I can do that!” Whereas women were more likely to say, “tell me more”, “well, let me see”, or “maybe I’m not qualified”. I really started to jump into things more because of how that attitude has impacted on how they look at me, too.
I might not be the most technical person, but I was in a technology company and there’s a lot of different aspects you can get into. I just encourage people that if there’s something that you’re interested in, some passion, there’s some piece of technology that will touch it. So, don’t limit yourself to thinking, “Oh, I can’t code.” “I can’t get into tech.” There’s still companies like Facebook which has hundreds and hundreds of employees and everybody has different responsibilities. I’m all, “hey, you can work in technology too.” However, I will say, one of the things that really inspires me about being in technology and making that jump, is being able to broadcast that and show that to the viewership of RHOA.