The fractured friendship between Dr. Heavely and Dr. Contessa is at the center of the season and it’s all due to the channel. The issues impact the rest of the group, with split opinions on both sides. Luckily, resident chief Dr. Jackie Walters continues to offer her calm approach to conflict, serving as an example to her friends.
Dr. Jackie has had her own hardships on the show. From nearly splitting from her long-term husband Curtis and navigating the changing dynamic in her friendship with Dr. Simone, she’s been through it all. And she’s done it with grace. It’s the main reason she’s looked to as the mediator in the group.
While she handles strife in the friendship circle, she continues to be the baddest and best OB/GYN in heels and lipstick in Atlanta. While delivering babies, monitoring women’s reproductive health, and pushing forward with a new charitable initiative, she does so with the greatest fashion sense.
Shadow and Act Unscripted spoke with Dr. Jackie about the current season and her new initiative, “If We Are Dying More, We Should Be Doing More.” She also has a new skincare product to keep every woman looking as young and beautiful as she does.
S&A Unscripted: You guys are back, and as always, you're back with a bang. You remain a fan-favorite and one of the questions that I always see on social media when it comes to you is people want to know how you manage to be on a reality show and maintain such an astute professional reputation as you have with being on a show that has drama involved in it?
Dr: Jackie: I think reality TV shows depict who we really are and our personalities. And I just have to say, I’m typically a very calm personality. I process before I speak, and I just live my life with people in the same way.
Another fan sentiment that I see is that 'Dr. Jackie doesn't even need this show...why does she continue to do the show?' What has kept you on the show for so long?
Dr: Jackie: All of the ladies are friends, and even before the show, most of us have some type of connection. Obviously, Simone and I have been friends since the day I spotted her at the hospital where we worked and then somehow she knew this person, and this person knew this person– so the crazy thing about it, and I’m not sure about the audience is aware, but we hang out even when there is no show filming. These ladies are friends. I can’t imagine them doing the show without me or me doing the show without them. So what keeps me on the show is these ladies really are my friends.
This season, a lot of the drama has centered around Heavenly and Contessa, who have been close friends for a few seasons, but as a result of Heavenly’s YouTube channel, there are now issues. What is your opinion on Heavenly using her YouTube show to provide commentary on you guys in this series?
Dr: Jackie: I love Heavenly. However, I have told Heavenly too– I am going to wire her mouth shut so she cannot speak. She’s definitely very open and honest. We did a podcast at one point. So my opinion is, I think we’re going to use her own instrument to wire her mouth shut.
Contessa and Scott seem to be in a better place this season. As someone who has gone through things in their marriage and having it play out on television, what do you feel is the difference between how viewers and co-stars see you and Curtis's marriage versus Contessa and Scott?
Dr: Jackie: I think I’m not as vocal about what’s happening with my home as Contessa may have been or some of the other ladies. I just thought that that was something we needed to work out together. And I even shared with Contessa to see the counselor that she mentioned. That was my suggestion, like, ‘Girl, you need a good counselor to talk about it and get it out in that.’ Curtis and I realized that we wanted to stay together, and we just started working on it. The real difference is I didn’t get a choice in the matter as to what was happening. But Contessa talked about it all season 8, and very openly on the show.
What is your advice to Contessa as far as the way that she handles her marriage on the show?
Dr: Jackie: My advice was really the same as Heavenly’s, but my delivery was just different. If you are going to stay married to your husband, which has been my prayer for them, then quit talking about it with everybody. You just don’t need to share your business with everybody. And I stick by it. If you can’t keep your own business, why are you holding other people accountable for not telling you?
Another relationship that we love to see is the one between you and Simone. And it appears that you guys are on a better track this season, which we are so happy and relieved to see. But some people don't feel as if you're as solid as you've been in the past. Where do you guys stand today?
Dr: Jackie: The good news is we definitely realize that we missed each other and that we were important in each other’s lives. And they’re exactly right. We’re working on getting back to a place where we were before. But we definitely talk a lot. We see each other in the hospital. We hang out in the doctor’s room. We are in a good place. And it was just so uncomfortable. Like we couldn’t even be together in the same room and felt like it was hard to be in the room together with the energy. We were both sad and mad at the same time, but we are certainly not there. And we both learned not to let outside influences affect who we are to each other. And so we are growing. We got the ladies in between us with them here trying to govern that side and then I’m over here. We do have to work on making sure we don’t allow the outside relationships to affect us.
Since you and Simone are in a better place, how would you like to see Contessa and Heavelymove forward? It’s different when you have girlfriends who can get in the middle of your close friends. But it's a whole other story when a husband is involved, and your husband feels as if your friendship is detrimental to your marriage because of whatever may be going on.
Dr: Jackie: My one suggestion to Heavenly and Contessa is to talk about it. They have not talked about it. They have not had a conversation about where the breakdown actually took place. I don’t think they’ve had an opportunity to just sit face to face and have a conversation, maybe set boundaries. But they need to talk about it alone or with a mediator who is not a part of that friendship circle. I think I could get in the middle and help them out, but they have not had an open, transparent conversation with each other at all.
Outside of your interaction with the women on the show - we spoke a little bit about how you're so revered in your profession. Can you tell us about your new initiative?
Dr: Jackie: What we see, and we’ve seen it throughout the last couple of years, is health care disparity. And who is affected more than anybody else is Black women. And if you look at all of the statistics, especially with reproductive health, we get 41% more from breast cancer. If diagnosed with that, twice more from cervical cancer, we die more from ovarian cancer,and colon cancer. And now you see maternity mortality. I’ve actually put together a PSA that we’ll be releasing soon about that. If you know that if we’re dying more, we should be doing more. And what does that look like? It involves the patients, the provider, and the payers. And then we definitely have to talk about our government. Everybody will need to get involved to protect women’s health, especially African American women. I’m passionate about that. I think I’m going to go to my grave still trying to help women and doctors understand. I just said to my publicist, that we need to write all the insurance companies, and they need to use me to collaborate with them on what it really looks like. It feels like to be a black woman, because who could better tell you than a Black woman who has had breast cancer twice and is a provider and deals with patients all day?
As you mentioned, there are so many disparities across the board. You spoke a little bit about Black maternal mortality. That's a major conversation going on around right now in the country. What have you and your office been doing in regards to educating your patients?What are the conversations like being held between yourself and your patients that you're able to share?
Dr: Jackie: Whereas you saw on the show, I actually am one of 10 partners, and currently, nobody looks like me in the group but me. We do have some new doctors coming. However, we are teaching patients what it looks like to advocate for themselves, what questions to ask, when to raise a concern, and when to ask for the next level of support. I liken it to running a marathon – like I can train you to run all day, I can get up and run with you, but when it’s time to run, you’re the only person who can run, right? And so if you have a concern, it is about a delivery, how you ask the question, when you ask, who do you ask? I am teaching my patients to be a marathon runner for themselves and just teaching them to advocate for themselves.
Married to Medicine airs Sundays on Bravo.