'Southern Charm' Star Kathryn Dennis Says Season 2 Will Be Different — She Won't Be Whitney's Punching Bag Any Longer

She's the woman no one could stop talking about throughout Southern Charm Season 1, but now Kathryn Dennis is a full-time cast member and she's ready to stand up for herself in a cast full of folks with plenty to say about her personal life. Of course, that doesn't mean Whitney and Co. are ready to play nice — the Southern Charm Season 2 premiere opens with Kathryn getting a pretty heavy dose of peanut gallery chatter right off the bat from Whitney and his ever acerbic mother. The difference is that this season, Kathryn's just as much a part of the cast as the man who dreamt up this crazy little experiment: She's now one of the talking heads too. And based on the conversation I had with Kathryn leading into the premiere, she may be letting her maternal side shine with baby Kensington, but when it comes to haters, she's not holding back this season.

"I can finally speak my mind and this season you’ll be hearing that and you’ll be hearing everything I have to say about these people," says Kathryn. "I speak so honest and raw this season and it’s almost scary to think of, but I don’t regret it because I finally got to stand up to Whitney — especially Whitney — and I’m very proud of that. I’m proud that my truth is out there for people because I don’t think people fully understood me last year."

And it's easy to see why she'd say that. Despite being arguably the most prominent lightning rod on the series — and the focus of everyone's attention for roughly 90 percent of filming — Kathryn wasn't a full-cast member in Season 1, so she wasn't able to deliver the little witticisms that folks like Whitney would sling at her in their talking head interviews. Take whoever's side you want, but you have to admit that the woman deserves a say in all of this. Especially after you see how vicious folks are right out of the gate — I won't spoil the premiere for you, but let me just say, the insults are flying damn near immediately.

"It’s like literally [Whitney & I] hate each other, but when we see each other he’s like, 'Hey darling' and he gives me a hug ... and then he goes and talks completely disgustingly about me — he and his mother," says Kathryn. "The things they say it’s like they went and looked it up in the dictionary to to figure out the worst thing they could say or they googled it — like they googled 'really mean things to say in seven words' and are crafting this terrible statement to say about me."

That can't be easy to deal with, but luckily, Kathryn says she's got other things to place her focus on — namely that adorable little bundle of joy we met briefly at the end of last season. While we've already seen that Kathryn & Thomas no longer cohabitate (though they do at the start of the season when they're still together), Kathryn says she's found her happy place with her youngin.

"Having a child changed the way I look at things in a big way — I look at things in the big picture now, not the here, now, immediate emotional way," she says, adding that she still manages to forgive even the meanest of her castmates. "I mean we’re all still friends, but I still prioritize the realness of the friendship over what is happening on screen. There’s a lot of pressure when we’re on screen and a lot of times that makes people do things that hurt other people ... we all make mistakes and I realize that I’m not here to judge people."

And whether or not you're on board with what Kathryn's saying, it seems that young women are thrilled with the 23-year-old's return in Season 2: The new mother says many female fans of the show have thanked her for challenging the status quo in Charleston. "I’ve had a lot of women come up to me and say 'I respect you, thank you.' Because I stood up to the double standard about women and dating and sex, really," she says.

Her storyline certainly brought out some of the worst in her fellow castmates, and Patricia's mother Whitney continues the shaming process in Season 2 — we've already seen her throw out the word "strumpet" in the preview reel. But Kathryn says she's more concerned with bigger picture things, like the body images issues she struggles with rather openly at the start of the season, after having her child.

"I had to eat and I had to stay healthy for my child so that never got me down," she says. "The best thing I can say is never worry what other people are saying. I lost the weight because I wanted to not because I wanted to do it for anybody else." Despite some of the rather nasty commentary being thrown at her when she gained baby weight, Kathryn seems to have come out with an almost more positive outlook. "Nobody is physically perfect and I was taught to love myself big and love myself small and now I just want everyone to love themselves," she says.

Of course all this self-awareness isn't going to make Season 2 any easier for her. From what we've all seen of the show, things escalate pretty quickly and some erratic behavior rears its head. Kathryn says she hopes people can at least see things from her perspective, at least a little.

"I want people to just give me a chance. I think I’ll surprise a lot of people, I think I truly will," she says. "Everyone that knows me says it’s crazy that people say these things about me, but they all know it’s not who I am and I’m really a good person with a huge heart. And I act out — I may do some crazy things, but it’s because I feel everything very deeply and I’m very passionate."

Fans will have to decide for themselves when the season premiere of Southern Charm airs at 10 PM ET on Bravo, but at least this time, Kathryn will get to speak her piece before the slings and arrows are flung.

Image: Mathieu Young, Brianna Stello/Bravo (2)