Haley Young, an Albany native, stands with members of the cast of "Jersey Belle," from left, Danielle Yancey, Jaime Primak Sullivan, Leigh Anne Oakley and Scarlett Coggin Simmons. (Photo: Skip Bolen/Bravo)
ALBANY —No doubt the folks back home Monday night will be saying, “Bravo, Haley.”
That’ll be for Haley Young, a former Albany resident and owner of a fitness facility in Birmingham, Ala., who will be making her television debut at 10 p.m. Monday on the Bravo cable television network. She’s one of four women from the Mountain Brook suburb of Birmingham who will be starring with former New Jersey resident Jaime Primak Sullivan in a new reality show titled, “Jersey Belle.”
In a phone interview Friday, Young, a graduate of Deerfield-Windsor School, said she and her castmates were excited about their Monday premiere.
“It’s about five girls in Birmingham and one of the girls is originally from New Jersey,” Young said. “It kind of shows how the South is different from Jersey and how her friends try to make her fit in.”
According to Bravo materials about “Jersey Belle,” Sullivan, described as “an unapologetic woman who speaks her mind,” is founder and president of Bridge and Tunnel Entertainment, which she started in 2005. The public relations and strategic marketing agency, which launched “some of the West Coast’s hottest bars and nightspots,” has expanded to services such as event planning, brand launching, record releases, wrap parties and signature events.
In 2006, she married Michael Sullivan and relocated to Birmingham, where the couple have three children under the age of 6. Recently, Bridge and Tunnel expanded again and is involved in entertainment production, developing a horror film with Relativity media and a comedy with Thunder Road Pictures. Jaime Sullivan also is a producer of her “Jersey Belle” series.
Young said “Jersey Belle” will be a different take on the idea of a reality series.
“It’s a new spin on reality TV,” she said. “I’m sure there’ll be some drama in there at some point, but it’s not all ‘Housewives.’ It’s more of a light-hearted show and I think a lot of people will relate to it.
“I was really hesitant at first because you hear that reality TV is scripted. I will tell you this — I was never told what to say. It was just us being ourselves.”
The members of the cast were friends to some degree before the filming started. Sullivan, for instance, is one of Young’s clients at her gym, Studio Fitness. Each fills a niche on the show. Young is a young, single businesswoman and “workout queen.” The others include Arden Ward Upton, the most traditional of the group and a businesswoman about to enter her third marriage; Danielle Yancey, the town “starlet” who has appeared in runway shows and magazines; Luci Beavers, who is newly divorced, and Scarlett Coggin Simmons, a “country girl,” according to Bravo’s press materials.
“It’s just showing how she’s pretty much a fish out of water in Birmingham,” Young said. “It shows how she (Sullivan) manages all of it and also life in the South. We have Southern dinner parties, Southern weddings …”
The timing couldn’t be better for Young. After bucking the recession and opening her successful gym in 2008, she’s moving into the area of workout videos.
“I’m launching some workout videos and they filmed me doing all that,” she said. “We’ll see where that goes.”
When Young, who has a major in exercise science and a minor in business administration from Auburn University, announced her plans to open the business, it raised a few eyebrows. But, she said, she had always been told to do what you know, and she had loved exercise and activity since her days of participating in sports at Deerfield.
“It was definitely a jump right in,” she said. “Several people and my dad said, ‘What do you want to do?’ I said, yes. I had all these great ladies calling me and all this great support.”
In addition to having the business education that helped her make a go of it, Young’s business model likely was more recession-proof than most. She caters to women who are trying to get pregnant, who are pregnant and who have recently had a baby.
“That’s a good five- or six-year relationship,” she noted. “What I’m known for in Birmingham is working ladies out when they’re pregnant and then getting them in shape after they’re pregnant.”
Still, television can be demanding, especially in terms of a “second” career. Young had to spend time away from her gym, which meant she had to do some schedule juggling.
“It was difficult,” she said. “It definitely took up a lot of hours. Then as far as scheduling people, you want to make sure they still get their workouts in. I’ve got five girls who work for me. They all stepped in and helped.”
Monday night, she’ll begin to find out whether it was worth it. The inaugural season of “Jersey Belle” is eight one-hour episodes. The filming wrapped up in December, but the cast is committed to up to four seasons. Whether a sophomore season is in the cards won’t be known for at least a month.
“We won’t know until the middle of the season,” Young said, which is when show and network officials are expected to look at the numbers and decide. “I guess we would start filming again like in October (if the series is picked up for a second year).”
Regardless of the future, Young said she has enjoyed it. At first, she said, it was “weird” that cameras were on her when she was eating and doing other routine things. After a while, however, the strangeness wore off.
“After we got used to it and got to know they crew, we just started being ourselves,” she said. “We did a lot of stuff that brought me back to Albany, in a way. We went out to a farm. Went out to a plantation.
“I think you lose touch with that Southern feel when you’re hustling around. Nobody sits down for dinner anymore. So that was kind of refreshing.”
Her love for “back home” was a factor in her settling down in Birmingham, she said.
“I loved the city (of Birmingham),” she said. “It’s a big city but it still has that small-town feel. Growing up in Albany … that was one of my big things. I can still drive 15 minutes and be on a farm.”
And while the thrust of the show is Sullivan adjusting to a Southern lifestyle, Young said Sullivan also has had influence on her.
“I guess from her I’ve kind of learned to be yourself,” she said. “In the South, you have this image of trying to please everybody. She definitely tells it how it is. I learned a lot from Jaime. She’s very talented and I think a lot of her for doing all she does and still raising a family. She’s a great mom.”