'Real Housewives of D.C.' star Turner keeps it real, founding program to aid girls

D.C.'s first serious experiment with reality TV: How ''real'' was it?
By Henri E. Cauvin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 10, 2010; 8:55 PM

There's the "Real Housewives of D.C.," and then there's real life.

When it comes to real life, "Housewives" star Stacie Turner knows that her good fortune began long before she was picked to appear in the popular reality show's D.C. incarnation.

Put up for adoption as an infant, Turner was taken in before she was a year old and never had to endure the hardship and uncertainty that confronts many young people who languish in foster care for years.

So amid the life of a busy mom, intrepid businesswoman and TV personality, Turner has been trying to help young women in the District's foster-care system through an organization she created last year.

Over the summer, after raising tens of thousands of dollars, Turner's Extra-Ordinary Life took eight teenagers on the trip of a lifetime, flying to South Africa for an 11-day excursion captured on film for a new BET documentary being shown on the channel's international arm.

For many of the teens, it was their first trip abroad. For all of them, it was an eye-opening journey into the joys and hardships of girls living halfway around the globe in a country of deep economic inequality.

"It made me grateful for what I have," said Zefer Tesfamariyam, 18, "because there are people that don't have what I have."

From a visit to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg to a safari in KwaZulu-Natal to a festive dinner with girls in South Africa's child-welfare system, the D.C. teens saw a world open up to them.

Sitting in BET's studios in Northeast Washington as the documentary's final interviews and touches were being completed, Kristin Woodland smiled easily as she explained the bond that she forged with "Ms. Stacie," who had told the teens that she also had been in the child-welfare system.

"It made me feel good, because she wanted to help us and to show us the world," said Woodland, 18.

For all of the attention she has drawn for "Real Housewives," which wrapped up its regular season last week and has a reunion show to come, Turner seems almost embarrassed at her celebrity turn, which she calls "just a surreal experience."

Talking about Woodland and the other teen travelers comes more easily. "This is what I love to do," she said.

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