‘Real Housewives Of Potomac’ Newbie Nneka Ihim On Coming Into A Cast Divided: “I Listened To Everybody”

It’s hard to be the new girl on the block, but Nneka Ihim makes it look so effortless. Joining the Real Housewives Of Potomac in its eighth season, Ihim is keeping the ladies on their toes with her Potomac zip code, her sharp wit, her taste for luxury and her (very) large real estate portfolio. She met her handsome husband, Dr. Ikenna (Ike) Ihim, on Instagram where they flirted in Igbo and began their love story.

As briefly mentioned on the show, Ihim is a successful attorney and licensed in 3 (!) states. While she works as a Fintech company, she doesn’t let work define her. “My educational background and my accomplishments are something I’ve done, but they are not really who I am,” said Ihim. The University Of Michigan graduate has many different passions, like her love for champagne. She recently started her own alcoholic beverage company called Bido. “I wanted to start my collection with something that was affordable for everyone, but with high quality taste,” explained Ihim. “I want people to be able to afford my wines whatever their budget.”

Like her cast mate, Dr. Wendy Osefo, Ihim is also a proud Nigeran. Both women share and talk about their culture proudly to Bravo audiences, but Ihim and Osefo are not in a good place because of the surprising allegations Ihim made concerning Osefo’s mother. Even though Ihim has screenshots that she sees as proof of her claims, Osefo and her family have denied them. “I live on facts,” said Ihim. “I don’t open my mouth unless I can prove what I’m alleging.” However, like a good housewife, Ihim is ready to move on from the situation. “My mind is not even mentally there anymore,” shrugged Ihim.

Ihim stopped by the DECIDER offices to talk about her background, her connection with RHOP OG Charrisse Jackson-Jordan, and her experience on show thus far.

DECIDER: As a first season housewife, I have to ask: what was your BravoCon experience like?

NNEKA IHIM: It was amazing. It was crazy. My husband, sister, and brother-in-law came with me. I had all my support there. I didn’t really know what to expect. My season hadn’t aired. I didn’t know like how I be received, but all the fans already knew who I was and knew everything about me. They probably could tell you my social security number [laughs]. They were ready to see what I was going to bring this season. It was amazing because I immediately felt part of the Bravo family. I got to see how much fans really do love this show.

Your tagline “Nigeria raised me, LA made me, and Potomac will remember me” is great. Why did you think that one made the final cut?

I’m really authentic. I was raised very traditionally Nigerian, and I’m proud of that. I feel very much attached to my culture. I travel to Nigeria all the time. I was just there two weeks ago. When people meet me, I never neglect my heritage. That’s one of the first things you’ll know about me. LA too. People say I talk like a valley girl, but this is just my regular voice. When I was a kid in Wisconsin, it was a big fish small pond situation. People would tell me I needed to LA. My tagline is the tale of my life essentially. I’m not a quiet person. I’m rattling the streets of Potomac already.

Unlike most of your other cast members, you have the Potomac zip code.

I love Potomac. I was really nervous because I am an LA girl. My husband grew up in Nigeria, but then his family relocated to Maryland so it wasn’t unfamiliar. I was little worried when we moved because I was like, “Oh, this is not like LA. In LA, I have so many things to do. I’m going to be a suburban wife, what’s going to happen to me?” But I really like Potomac. It’s a bit quiet. I have my little home, I have my little neighbors, and then I hit the streets with Charrisse. It’s really great.

You’re still getting to know Potomac, and Bravo fans are still getting to know you. Can you tell me more about your career?

Yeah, we haven’t gotten to that on the show yet. I’m a licensed attorney, licensed in three states, three jurisdictions. I work in employment law, and I work for a FinTech company. I actually am a busy person, and I’m a very intelligent person. But that’s not something I lead with, right? My educational background and my accomplishments are something I’ve done, but they are not really who I am.

My career does shape me in some ways, though. I feel like my training as an attorney has helped me mediate different disputes. You will see in the upcoming episodes that I try to help with the Robyn [Dixon] and Candiace [Dillard Bassett] situation. I am a busy lawyer, but I’m also a busy entrepreneur, and I’m always trying to think about things in ways to help the community. I have a foundation, and I’m trying to plan events. I hope fans will get to see what moves me and where my heart really is.

I know one of your passions is champagne. You mentioned starting your own label in a recent episode.

I love champagne. I love bubbles. They’re just refreshing and nice and crisp, especially when well crafted. In light of that, I’ve created my own beverage brand. We have sparkling wine, which is the same as champagne, but it’s not made in Champagne, France. I wanted to start my collection with something that was affordable for everyone, but with high quality taste. Champagne is like 50, 60 bucks upwards. I want people to be able to afford my wines whatever their budget. In the future, I do plan to have a champagne from Champagne, France added to the collection.

I love my collection, as does Charrisse. It’s called Bido, which in Nigeria’s language of Igbo, means “to start” or “begin.” It is really important to me. A lot of times people think they can’t go in a new direction and start over. With the way life is, you can start new ventures at the right time and everyone’s time is different. It’s never too late to start anything you want to do.

Ikenna Ihim and Nneka Ihim
Ikenna Ihim/Instagram

Remind me how you and your husband met.

We met on social media. He now knows the story, but he never knew before. I saw his page just floating around somewhere because he was tagged as the “hottie doctor of the week.” So I clicked it and was like, “oh, he is the hottie doctor of the week!” [laughs] He lived in Maryland so I sent a screenshot to my sister. I said, “Oh, do you know him? He’s a medical doctor also in the DMV area.” She’s like, “Oh, no. He’s cute, though, but we don’t know him.” I decided to watch his story, which I never do. It thought it was safe because we didn’t have any mutual connections. He saw that I had watched his story anyway and messaged me with one word, “kedu,” which means “Hi, how are you” in our native language. I responded in our native language, and that was the beginning of forever. It sounds so weird, but we’ve been together ever since.

As you said on the show, he’s a medical doctor by day, a scrubs model by afternoon, nightclub owner by night. How do you two make time for each other?

Honestly, it’s really hard [laughs]. He’s someone who’s incredibly motivated, organized, and determined. I’m all those things though too, but in a different sense. I’ll take an hour of break time to watch something, eat something, or distract myself from what I’m supposed to be doing. He doesn’t do that. He’s very structured and organized. He has a plan for our life and what he sees for us. He is interested in tackling things and crossing them off his list.

I have to force time with him. We were just able to go to Dubai for my friend’s wedding, and he had a great time. He thanked me for making him take time off and wants to do more trips this year now.

Are you two working on your house together? How is the renovation going?

Yes, the house is semi done. The furnishing is what I really need to focus on. My friends really lied to me [laughs]. They were like “oh, you don’t need to hire a decorator, you’re good.” So, I started thinking I am good, but realized I’m really not! I’m in the process of hiring an interior decorator. You know, it’s our first home together. We’re really in the space of enjoying our marriage and enjoying this project. Ultimately, we’re looking for a piece of land in Potomac to build our dream house.

We also got to meet your sister this past episode. You describe your relationship with your sister Njideka as like “sour patch kids.” When did the change from “sour” to “sweet” occur?

Maybe when we went to college or when she got married. We separated ourselves growing up, but when we went to school, we were more in communication because we weren’t in each other’s face. Her pregnancy also brought us closer together. I consider her babies to be my own babies. That really brought us closer. She’s a really important force in my life. She’s my biggest supporter. Now, I realize our issues and lack of compatibility in the past was just her protecting me and loving me and helping me grow.

Is she supportive of your own motherhood journey? Has she given you any advice?

Don’t drink so much champagne! I can show you a text that she sent me today telling me not to drink champagne. She’s just really supportive. She tells me constantly that she can’t wait to meet her niece or nephew. She calls me after doctor’s appointments to check in on me. I take her advice and words of encouragement to heart because she’s a phenomenal mother. I’m grateful for her support while I try to navigate this because it can be tough.

I do have to get into the Dr. Wendy of it all. Do think Ashley Darby starting off your relationship with that miscommunication doomed it from the start?

Not necessarily, but Ashley did not help a single thing. She added more fuel to the fire on Wendy’s end, right? The things that transpired had already taken place. You know, the first phone call I received was two weeks prior to Ashley telling Wendy whatever she misremembered. Dr. Wendy already had an issue with me and Ashley’s mix up didn’t help it. Ashley has taken accountability for it, and I appreciate that. She’s apologized on camera and off camera.

RHOP ladies at Pickleball

Your and Dr. Wendy’s confrontation at Karen Huger‘s pickleball event happened quickly. Are you surprised it blew up into such a big deal?

You know, my mind is not even there anymore. I’ve really moved on from the situation. It’s hard to try and take myself back there. It was an unfortunate situation. Again, there were a lot of things that led up to Karen’s event so everyone was already elevated. When the encounter that you guys saw took place, we were ready to go.

Thanks to the explosive RHOSLC finale, we are living in the era of “receipts, proof, timeline, screenshots.” You brought all of those things onto the show with you regarding the whole Dr. Wendy situation.

I’m an attorney. I live on facts, and I don’t open my mouth unless I know I’ve reviewed the evidence and can prove what I’m alleging.

Were you surprised Dr. Wendy and her mother didn’t come to Candiace’s Mother’s Day brunch?

Um, kind of. I know Candiace really loves Wendy and that they’re very close friends. I would want them to have that moment. I would want everyone that Candiace loves to attend. I guess I was shocked. I thought maybe she would come to support her friend.

You and Candiace really seemed to bond over lunch together without the group. What’s your friendship with her like?

Candiace is a very sweet person. I’ve had many, many positive moments with Candiace. As I’ve been going through my own fertility issues, Candiace has been a very supportive person. She’s been through IVF a couple of times. She’s shared advice and her own resources. The tension between Wendy and me does impact my friendship with Candiace because Candiace wants to be loyal to Wendy. Though, Candiace and I do have a connection. We have a lot of things in common right now.

Speaking of tension, there’s a lot of it in this group. What’s it like to come into a group of ladies whose relationships are so fraught at the moment?

I don’t really look at the issues with others because they are not issues with me. I became aware that Candiace and Gizelle were having a dispute. I knew that a lot of them weren’t getting along. I listened to everybody. While their arguments are in the back of my mind, I want to move forward with each of them based on our own separate interactions.

So, you didn’t feel like you had to come into the group and pick a side or anything?

Oh, my side is always the truth. I’m on that side every time. It doesn’t mean I dislike the dishonest person. It just means that they need to own up to the truth so we can all move on.

Charrisse Jackson-Jordan, Mia Thornton, Nneka Ihim

I’m really enjoying your connection with Charrisse. I shouldn’t have been surprised when it was revealed that you ran into her and Mia Thornton‘s former bestie, Jacqueline, while out in Potomac. Was it tough to tell Charisse what Jacqueline had to say about Mia when you were still getting to know her?

It’s a really a sensitive topic because know what Mia and Jacqueline went through was real. They had been friends for decades. What happened between them was hurtful to both parties. However, I didn’t know I was going to be meeting Jacqueline. I just ran into them. I just went to our local Potomac restaurant to grab a salad, and I grabbed the whole evening of something else [laughs]. I could tell she was operating from a place of hurt. Every single negative thing she said, I knew is because she was hurting and frustrated. I didn’t really take it to heart.

Coming into a cast divided, how did your expectations of being a Real Housewife compare to the actual experience?

I thought I would just stroll on in and be myself, which is what I did. I was received well, for the most part. I’m actually great with every single person, except one of them [laughs]. I wanted to just come in and be myself and talk about my fertility issues. I wanted to open up about my life and my new marriage. I wanted to share my husband’s and my struggles. We are working to get time together, build a home, have a family, all those things. The thing that happened that I wasn’t expecting was housewives creating their own narratives to hide from the truth from others.

Interesting. Well, one game the ladies of Potomac play well is the game of deflection.

Yeah, and that’s something I don’t do. At first, I was like “wait, what’s going on here?” Now, I’m hip to it [Laughs].