By Tina Hayes and Indigo Silva
Etiquette – The rules and conventions governing correct or polite behavior in our society as acceptable.
Decorum – Dignity, good taste in behavior, speech or dress. The way you go about doing something.
What would you call a woman who is nice, hardworking, pretty, fun and who never seems to have an off moment? Ms. Perfect? A jewel? A dream come true?
Phaedra Parks calls her a Southern Belle.
You may you’ve seen her on Bravo’s popular show, “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” or is familiar with her law firms’ celebrity client roster. Either way, whenever Parks’ name is brought into conversation you get a dash of Southern flavor.
Parks’ new book, “Secrets of the Southern Belle,” relates to Southern decorum and reveals tips, advice and proper decorum for being “belle.” Parks’ description has many parts. A belle is mysterious, she is polite, she has self-respect and makes sure people treat her with respect and her presentation is always perfect. A Southern Belle never has an off day, let alone an off moment.
“Although you aspire to never have an off moment, there will be times where you will have conflict,” Parks says, “The key is how you handle those moments. It’s about how you deal with conflict and handle people.”
Throughout the book, Parks shares how to do things like throw the perfect party, why you don’t take leftovers and why you should never take your own groceries to the car. The book is divided into four major sections: Be Nice, Work Hard, Look Pretty and Have Fun. Each section is broken down to discuss important topics for every an aspiring or current Southern Belle needs to know while following her everyday life as an example. But the book is not all about advice; Parks also shares fashion tips, grooming, raising children and recipes.
In a fun and lively personal interview, she recalls when her Southern Belle “training” began. From about the age of 4 or 5, she participated in beauty pageants; the pageants were the best training, always allowing Parks to showcase her beauty, manners and how to be a socialite. As a young lady, Parks was an AKA debutante. She is a graduated from Wesleyan College for women in which she joked that all of the thestudents graduated with a minor in Etiquette.
“I was always in classes that gave you tips on how to do your hair, how to do your make-up, how to walk,” says Parks. She also credits her “training” to her mother, her Aunt Frances and father who taught her to always be photo ready.
A combination of all of the lessons and activities gave her the foundation to become a Southern Belle and eventually write this book.
“In today’s society of social media, social networking, reality shows, just general bad behavior 24/7, I think we have moved so far away from the simple niceties: ‘no ma’am,’ ‘yes ma’am,’ a smile. Just the courtesies most of us were bought up to indulge in,” Parks says. Her goal was to create a light-hearted handbook with basic Southern etiquette for a lady to follow.
In the book, Parks points out that only 20 percent of the women we see in the South are Southern Belles. Being a Southern Belle is a way of life and a woman doesn’t have to be from the South to indulge in it. If you are fashionable and present yourself in a respectful manner, you have what it takes to be a Southern Belle.
“It’s never a time where you shouldn’t be nice or have an off moment because it’s just so easy to be your best,” Parks says. When asked what’s the youngest age to recommend her book to, she comments girls ages 8 or 9. “I don’t think you’re ever too young to start learning how to be your best,” she says.
Throughout the book, readers will find seven “Pearls of Wisdom.” The pearls are little words of wisdom you should never forget. Parks' favorite pearl has to do with table manners. When applied, it can prevent the most common faux pas at a banquet table.
“Here’s a little tip to help you when you set the table. Make an ‘ok’ sign with your left hand; your fingers make a lowercase ‘b,’ which indicates the side for the bread plate. Now make an ‘ok’ sign with your right hand; your fingers make a lowercase ‘d’ which indicates the side for the drink.”
“Secrets of the Southern Belle,” also provides a woman with advice on how to do it all. From hosting a perfect party and nailing an interview to a crash course on how to be helpless and how to dress your man without him knowing it.
Being a mom, lawyer, actress, student and wife is a lot for her. She points out she is a member of #TeamNoSleep. Yet despite her busy schedule, she still maintains her Southern Belle personality at all times.
Aside from all that she does in a day, Parks still enjoys scrapbooking, entertaining, being crafty, but the most relaxing thing to do is gardening. “I love when I plant a bulb and then in the spring I have tulips, it’s nothing more rewarding than, ‘Oh my gosh I did that’,” she says.
The future is bright for Parks. She is working on her new television show, “Rich People Problems,” that will show how she handles the oddly interesting and extravagant cases of very rich people. “It’s like Oprah meets Judge Judy,” Parks adds.
“Secrets of The Southern Belle” will be available in stores and on Amazon.com November 12 and is easy to read, will make you laugh and rethink the way you go about your daily life as a lady. From an etiquette perspective, I highly recommend this book to females, both young and old.
Season 6 of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” premieres Sunday, November 3 at 8 pm EST.