She is already being billed as the sassy, standout star of new hit show The Real Housewives of Potomac.
But Daily Mail Online can reveal that socialite Gizelle Bryant has already been at the center of a marital drama every bit as salacious and sensational as some of the more memorable episodes in Real Housewives’ history.
In the coming weeks viewers will watch as single mom Gizelle, 45, juggles a makeup business, charity work and a bustling social calendar as she raises three daughters in one of the country’s most exclusive suburbs.
But they probably won’t be privy to the full story of how her marriage to a prominent megachurch pastor crumbled around her amid lurid allegations of his extramarital affairs and illegitimate children.
Networker supreme Gizelle is one of six African American women who make up the cast of the latest Real Housewives installment, set in the wealthy Maryland enclave of Potomac, just outside Washington, D.C.
The glamorous former model is newly single and ‘ready to flaunt that independence and make a name for herself,’ according to a teaser on the Bravo website.
Sassy standout: Gizelle Bryant is one of the new ladies on Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Potomac
Fresh start: Gizelle is a divorced mom of three girls. She was married to televangelist Jamal Bryant (above) 44, the founder of the Empowerment Temple AME Church in Baltimore but the two divorced over his infidelity
Gizelle’s fresh start comes after her split from flash televangelist Jamal Bryant, 44, the founder of the Empowerment Temple AME Church in Baltimore, who last year briefly ran for Congress and delivered a eulogy at the funeral of Freddie Gray.
The pair enjoyed seven years of ‘marital bliss’ and have three children together – Grace, now aged 11, and twins Angel and Adore, both nine. But in an exclusive interview with Daily Mail Online, Gizelle says she had no hesitation in pulling the plug on her fairy tale marriage after it emerged her husband was cheating on her.
‘There was infidelity. I found out about it and he told me about it,’ she said. ‘I decided I was not going to continue to stay in a relationship in which there was not a major commitment.
‘I’m an old-fashioned girl and if you’re going to commit, commit. But at this point in time it’s so water under the bridge.’
‘It was absolutely the worst of times. It was lonely and isolating.’
Gizelle grew up in D.C. and her father Curtis Graves served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1967 to 1973 and was a high-ranking official at NASA for three decades.
One of three siblings, she graduated from prestigious Hampton University, a private historically black university located in Hampton, Virginia, in 1992 with a marketing degree before joining the NAACP as an events planner.
It was there that she met and began dating her future husband Jamal, a pastor’s son, motivational speaker and rising star on the evangelical circuit. The pair were wed in 2002.
The Bentley-driving preacher and his First Lady enjoyed an enviable lifestyle, most recently residing together in a $1.5 million waterfront condo in Baltimore’s upscale Canton neighborhood.
However their relationship began to falter after rumors of Rev. Bryant’s adultery began circulating among the church’s 10,000-strong congregation.
The Duke graduate already had two out-of-wedlock children from before his marriage including a daughter, Topaz, with an Atlanta woman named Crystal Madison.
Fun & games: Gizelle Bryant (center), Ashley Darby (bottom: second from left), Katie Rost (top left), Charrisse Jackson Jordan (top: second from right) and Karen Huger (bottom right) dress up in old time clothes during an episode of the new Housewives
He acknowledged a second daughter in 2007 after the girl’s mother, Michelle Wedderburn, took the sharp-suited pastor to court to argue that he wasn’t paying enough in child support.
Rev. Bryant openly denied a rumor printed in Ebony magazine as well as various online forums and gossip sites that was involved with a third woman, a 17-year-old female from his congregation who he had supposedly impregnated.
He would later insist it was ‘categorically and completely untrue’ in an open letter to Ebony magazine, who published the accusation in a March 2013 article on African-American scandals. Ebony later conceded that it was nothing more than an ‘outrageous rumor’.
Amid a swirl of negative speculation, both Gizelle and her husband filed for divorce in early 2008, with Gizelle stating that she was an unemployed mother while her husband earned more than $350,000 a year.
In a January 9 petition obtained by Daily Mail Online she accused him of committing adultery, saying she had ‘neither forgiven or condoned’ his behavior and demanded a share of their assets and property along with custody of their children.
The petition was later withdrawn but Gizelle insists the pair did finalize their divorce in 2009 and says she has never reconciled with her philandering husband despite the pair remaining on surprisingly good terms.
‘It was absolutely the worst of times,’ added Gizelle. ‘It was lonely and isolating, however I do have a strong support network of family and friends. I just leaned on them at that time.
‘I’m not one to dwell on anything because I feel like we only have one shot at this thing called life. Life is too short to just be in a bad or a bitter place.
Wonder woman: Gizelle Bryant is pegged as the ‘diva’ of the latest series of the Housewives. She and five other African-American women will let the cameras into their daily lives
Attention-grabbing: Reverend Jamal Bryant gave the eulogy at the funeral for Freddie Gray at New Shiloh Baptist Church on April 27, 2015 in Baltimore as Reverend Jesse Jackson looked on
Family: The single mom is raising her three daughters in a $1.6 million, five-bedroom home in Bethesda, which borders Potomac
‘So I moved on. He moved on. He’s been doing some great things professionally. We were best friends when we got married and he and I are back at that place.
‘We know that our kids are our number one priority and we make it work for them. We’re doing a great job of co-parenting.’
Since the divorce Gizelle and her daughters have moved into a $1.6 million, five-bedroom home in pricey Bethesda, which borders Potomac, where her lively social scene will play out on TV.
She is involved in multiple philanthropy projects, including a scheme to regenerate the city of Birmingham, Alabama and is working on a makeup line for women of color, set for launch later this year.
Her husband, meanwhile, has rebuilt his reputation as a leading social activist, acting as spiritual adviser to the parents of Trayvon Martin and establishing a children’s center in memory of alleged police brutality victim Freddie Gray.
The Rev. Bryant did not return a call from Daily Mail Online asking for comment but in a 2013 interview with journalist Roland Martin he was candid about his shortcomings as a husband.
New drama: Charrisse Jackson Jordan, Robyn Dixon, Karen Huger, Gizelle Bryant, Katie Rost and Ashley Darby are the stars of Bravo’s newest season – The Real Housewives of Potomac
The single mom of three girls lives in a $1.6 million, five-bedroom home
‘I was a national televangelist since I was 29, and the whole world had opened up for me in every stage,’ he recalled. ‘I’m preaching in arenas, convention centers, mass, mega churches. I was quickly becoming a household name.
‘So, nothing in my mind ever said; number one, I would ever get caught; number two, that my wife would ever leave; number three, that my church would tank out.
‘I stepped outside of my marriage and had an extramarital affair that ultimately ended in a divorce to an incredibly wonderful woman – not because anything was flawed in the marriage, or in her, but in my own immaturity for the level that I was getting ready to go into.’
Gizelle confirmed to Daily Mail Online that her former husband will have a cameo role on The Real Housewives of Potomac and their divorce will be mentioned on the show.
But she says she won’t be shedding a tear or seeking sympathy from the other cast members, all successful black socialites living in palatial homes in one of the country’s priciest communities.
‘It’s out there. If you Google me you find all sorts of articles,’ she told Daily Mail Online. ‘Will I talk about it? Absolutely. Will you see tears, no.
‘It’s hard to muster up tears for something that happened seven, eight years ago. I’m just not that girl. Once I’ve dealt with it, processed it and moved on I am done with it.
‘I am single, there has been no reconciliation. On this season you will see me dating – but FYI, you will see my ex-husband on there as well.
Proud papa: Gizelle’s father Curtis Graves served as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from 1967 to 1973 and was a high-ranking official at NASA for three decades. Gizelle studied marketing at Hampton University before joining the NAACP as an events planner
Black lives matter: Rev. Jamal Bryant with Gloria Darden (mother of Freddie Gray) attend the grand opening of the Freddie Gray Empowerment Center in Baltimore, Maryland on July 11, 2015
‘I’m extremely strong and driven, the best mom is the world to my three kids and this girl likes to have fun.’
Potomac residents have plenty of money to go along with their sprawling estates and average incomes there are a lofty $178,000 with a median home price of $870,000.
Named after the nearby Potomac River, it was designated the most affluent town in the US in 2013 by CNNMoney.com, based on median household income.
The ladies are joining a long list of famous residents that has included Sylvester Stallone, Sugar Ray Leonard, NBA legend Patrick Ewing and news anchor Wolf Blitzer.
‘Myself and the rest of cast, we weren’t living in LA wanting to be famous or wanting to be on the screen,’ added Gizelle.
‘We were literally living our lives, minding our business and then this opportunity came.
‘So the authenticity that you see with me and the rest of my castmates is just that, we are strong confident women. We are not hungry for fame – nothing about his show is manufactured.’