Stirring up a wasp’s nest
Kristine Lloyd will be the first to admit that she probably won’t be welcomed back to her hometown anytime soon.
Lloyd recently published an article with Salon.com about the new reality show on Bravo, Jersey Belle, which takes place in Mountain Brook.
She has since relocated to Seattle where she is working on finishing her book, The Importance of Being Regular.
Lloyd took some time to talk with Weld about life growing up in Mountain Brook and why she felt compelled to shine a light on what she calls her “hometown’s poisonous history.”
Weld: What made you want to write this article about your hometown?
Kristine Lloyd: I’ve been working on a book — it’s a memoir — and I’ve written a little bit about growing up in Mountain Brook. My parents moved there when I was young, and since they were transplants they never quite fit in. I really wanted to fit in when I was growing up, but we never quite did. We certainly made friends there. Moving away from Mountain Brook, I have a lot of memories of what an odd place it is and how interesting it was growing up there. When I saw a friend post on Facebook that this show was coming out, I just thought, ‘Oh my God, that is crazy!’
I felt like it was a great opportunity to say something about where I grew up and what a bizarre experience it was. It’s not like I was waiting to tell the world what an awful place Mountain Brook is or anything like that. There are a lot of great things about Mountain Brook and the people that live there. But there are also some harsh realities.
Weld: Why do you say that you and your family didn’t fit in when you were growing up?
KL: I think some of it is what we like to call Old Mountain Brook. My mom talks about how she was never invited into the prestigious clubs and places like that. There were some parties and things like that you are only invited to if your part of those clubs and have been there for a long time. Looking back I think, Thank God, I want nothing to do with that, but when you’re growing up there, it can be challenging.
Weld: Are you surprised by the responses that you’ve gotten?
KL: I read a few comments from the AL.com stories and I just kind of stopped reading because they started to get a little crazy and frenetic and I didn’t want to get caught up in all of that. And frankly, I’m shocked by how much support I have received. I really thought I would be getting death threats. I’m just amazed at how many people who have written to me and have had a similar experiences. The people who live there now and are part of the club there are probably talking about me behind my back. But I don’t really care. The people whose opinions really matter to me, and the people I’ve kept around in my life, have been nothing but supportive.
Weld: You’ve certainly stirred up a wasp’s nest. Do you think that people have missed the point that you made in your article about Mountain Brook being highly segregated and almost exclusively white?
KL: I don’t know. … I guess that would come out more in the comments, and like I said, I haven’t really read much of that. But — and this isn’t exclusive to Mountain Brook — I don’t think anyone really wants to talk about race. It’s really scary and no one really knows what to say. It’s just a subject that people, for the most part, want to avoid.
I thought it was really interesting that when I was doing research for the article, there was a survey from 2009, and out of 20,000-plus residents in Mountain Brook, only seven of them were African-American. And I’m thinking, is that just one household? Or is that a union of live-in-employees?
Weld: In your opinion, do you think the show will succeed?
Weld: And why is that?
KL: Here’s the thing: I don’t watch much TV, so it’s hard for me to say that, but the reason I think it won’t succeed is because from what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen from other reality shows is that the ones that succeed are the ones that pull out all the stops and get down in the gutter. And Mountain Brook women just won’t go there. I think it’s really interesting that most of the women on the show are not from Mountain Brook, because I bet you they had a really hard time finding locals who wanted to be on the show, because no one who lives there wants to be talked about or be the center of that kind of attention.
Weld: Do you think you can ever go back to Mountain Brook without a mob with pitch forks and torches waiting for you?
KL: I don’t think they will let me even board the plane. I’m pretty sure my Mountain Brook card has been revoked. It’s hard to say when I will be back. Yes, I visit my parents once a year. They still live there and have been completely supportive of me. When I’m there I rarely ever run into people and I thank God for that. I usually make it a point to see the people I want to see. Again, I suspect if I ran into someone from high school they either wouldn’t talk to me, or they would be like, ‘Oh my God it’s so great to see you,’ then later they would say, ‘I saw that [expletive] Kristine Lloyd, can you believe that?’
Weld: As for the people who want to say that Mountain Brook is a perfect place, devoid of any kind of problems, what would you say to them?
KL: There is no Utopia. I think by pretending that there is, you’re really denying the core of human existence, which is fallibility. I don’t want to sound too highfalutin, but for me, growing up and watching my mother try and fit into a world that didn’t seem to want to accept us, it made me think that I needed to be perfect and I needed to try really hard to fit in. For the children growing up there I feel like it would be better to embrace diversity — and I’m not just talking about race, I’m talking about diversity of character. Because that is what makes people rich, not having money and being perfect.
For a counterpoint from a more recent Mountain Brook resident, click here.