Memphis celebrity chef Gina Neely opens up about new ventures

Memphis celebrity chef Gina Neely opens up about new ventures
Updated: Dec. 1, 2017 at 5:56 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Memphis celebrity chef Gina Neely is taking on new titles these days: producer, show host, and reality star.

Neely sat down with WMC Action News 5's Kontji Anthony to dish about her new life.

"Life right now has really been amazing," Gina Neely said as she smiled into the camera in her Memphis home, decorated to holiday perfection.

Fans have long awaited her comeback to national television, and now, Neely has a new show on Magic Johnson's Aspire TV Network.

"It's called 'Chop it Up with Gina Neely.' It's cooking and conversations," she explained.

This time around, Gina's the producer and host.

"I love to cook, but you know I love to talk. I love to spill the tea, drink the tea, get the tea. I like all of that," she said while laughing with a glint in her eyes.

"We're passing on good cooking, good healthy food, good recipes, dirt," she said.

Guests range from singer Trina Braxton to actors Lamar Rucker and T.C. Carson.

"When you see that (show), I was staring into his eyes. I love his voice," she recalled with a sigh.

No topics are off-limits.  Even love, following her high-profile divorce from her husband and Food Network co-star.

"Trina and I talked about that because she's in her 50s and the game has changed. Tremendously," Gina said.  "Ain't nobody trying to swipe. I don't know about all that.  I need to see you face-to-face.  I'm old school with a little new school mixed in."

She says her new projects are more revealing.

"Nobody really knows this side of me (laughs). It's different. I was reeled in on the Food Network. Now it's like people can really get to see a little more of my personality. A little more me, in a more transparent way," she added.

After the 2014 breakup, Gina stepped out of the spotlight.

"When I was on TV, living my life out loud, doing two shows, appearances, New York Times bestseller, everybody pulling, pulling, pulling," she said.  "You just feel like, 'Oh my God, I can't breathe. Can I just get a little breath?'  So I needed to step back and assess things and look at my life as a whole and I didn't really like what I saw and took the courage to do that."

These days, she's found her individuality.

"You're a couple, of course, but there's an individual there and oftentimes, we as women try to satisfy and please and get along.  We just kind of pull back, and I found myself doing that so it was really a matter of rediscovering myself," she said.

Neely spent her time behind the camera connecting with others doing charity across the nation, like being keynote speaker in recent weeks for the Lowenstein House's 40th Anniversary in Memphis, to help shed light on mental health awareness.

"I shared my story about having that moment when you're in the light so much, but then a darkness comes on you, you kind of pull back.  I didn't really know what that looked like because I was so used to the light. So when it got a little dark, I didn't know what to do so I got the help of a therapist to navigate me through that and now I try to surround myself with people who can bring the good vibes to me," Neely explained.

She hopes other women can grow with her along this new journey.

"My hope is most women will realize you do not have to be everything for everybody. You can own this life without the guilt, without the shame," Neely said as she leaned in.  "Take some time for you and stop trying to control it because at the end of the day, God has it."

Neely is also starring in the new Bravo reality show about dating, "To Rome for Love."  She cannot disclose details about that yet, but that show premieres Sunday, Jan. 7.

The premiere date for "Chop It Up with Gina Neely" on Aspire TV has not been released, but show segments are being released throughout the week.

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