UPDATE: The "realest" housewife of Atlanta flies above the drama with new EP; plans to call it quits after Season Three. (11/10/09).
UPDATE: Ashley "A.J." Jewell's murder stemmed from fight over respect.
UPDATE: Kandi Burruss' ex-fiancé 'hated' being on "Real Housewives of Atlanta," she reveals in her own blog post about AJ's murder.
Even before news reports confirmed that Ashley "A.J." Jewell, 34, had been killed late last night in front of the Marietta Blvd. strip joint Body Tap Club, "Real Housewives of Atlanta" cast member Kandi Burruss began receiving countless condolences from fans via Twitter.
Some were shocked, others outraged, and most everyone was saddened that Burruss' former fiance had died such a sudden, tragic death.
Burruss' own Twitter message posted in the wee hours of the morning before she prepared to attend an unrelated funeral service for a recently deceased uncle was just as heartfelt:
im just in one of those moods where i dont wanna talk, i dont wanna b held & told its gonna b ok. i just wanna cry myself 2 sleep, alone.
It's the kind of honest reaction fans of the show have come to expect from her. Sure to form, the newest "housewife" on the show has been the anomaly all season. As a former lead singer with the defunct Atlanta R&B group Xscape, she's the only one among the ladies of RHOA who was a bona fide celebrity long before being cast in the ongoing second season. Yet, Burruss has remained the most down-to-earth on a show where ratings are fueled by constant catfighting and diva-like drama. In a sense, the drama in her life has almost been too real for reality TV.
From the second season's outset on July 30, her relationship with Jewell was a focal point. Even though the two were already engaged, Burruss' mother vocally disapproved of Jewell because he had six children from four different women. But Burruss, who co-wrote the Grammy Award-winning 90s TLC hit "No Scrubs," continued to insist that Jewel was an upstanding, responsible father and a worthy catch.
In a scene from an early episode, set in her mother's kitchen, tears streamed down Burruss' face as she tried to convince her mother, along with several other family members gathered with them, that Jewel was deserving of her love. It became a defining scene, due in part to the emotional outpouring, but more so because of the comedic effect that resulted from her Aunt Bertha rattling off in her southern accent the down home names of Kandi's other aunts and uncles in a show of support: "Aunt No-ra, Un-cle Ralph, Aunt Ha-zel, Un-cle Be-bo, Un-cle Boo-ley..."
Suddenly the 33-year-old Atlanta native, Burruss who spent years at the top of the charts with the round-the-way girl group Xscape seemed more genuine than ever.
When the RHOA ladies decided to get all glammed up for an alter ego photo shoot by celebrity photographer Derek Blanks in another episode, Burruss approached it soberly, seizing the opportunity to highlight the dangers of drunk driving in her photo after a member of AJ's family had been seriously injured as a result of such an accident.
But last night, it was Jewell, himself, who fell victim to real life violence. According to the AJC, Jewell sustained massive head injuries in a one-on-one fight with suspect Fredrick Richardson that took place in the parking lot of Body Tap. Jewell died at Piedmont Hospital. He was part-owner of the strip club. The cause of the fight remains unknown, but Richardson has since been arrested by Atlanta police.
Jewell has appeared in several of this season's pre-recorded episodes and may appear in more. But since the show finished filming earlier this year, Burruss announced that she and Jewell are no longer engaged though they remained friends. The storyline surrounding their contentious relationship is part of the reason why the Bravo show is the biggest hit of the year. Viewership has doubled from season one to a total of 2.9 million, according to the AJC, and it regularly pulls in 200,000 viewers in Atlanta.
In interviews since the season began airing, Burruss has said that the drama that comes with the show will be worth it if it can positively impact her career. Besides working on her solo recording debut, the Grammy-winning songwriter wrote new lyrics and melody, and enlisted the help of Atlanta producer Don Vito to polish up cast member Kim Zolciak's annoyingly catchy tune, "Tardy for the Party."
If anything, the outpouring of sympathy shows fans have her best interest at heart. Off-camera, since the season began airing, Burruss has garnered unexpected reaction from fans regarding her relationship:
In a recent interview with the AJC, Burruss said she was surprised that the public was so interested in her life with Jewell. Fans would approach her on the street to weigh in on their relationship, she said, telling her to either follow her heart with Jewell or to move on without him.
Unfortunately, last night's tragedy has made that choice for her.
(Photo courtesy Prince Williams/ATLPICS.net)
ooooohhhh, I'm so excited!! I can't wait to see them together!
come on man you know you got a bromance. you probably still rock that OutKast…
Yes, 14 is the correct answer. I'll pass your info along to the group's manager,…
That was January of 2007, and they are 21 now, so I'm guessing 14?