Disney Dreamers Aacademy (DDA) 2023 kicked off on March 23, and five-time Olympic champion turned The Real Housewives of Atlanta staple Sanya Richards-Ross was on hand to mentor 100 of the country’s most ambitious high school students. The annual event gives students an immersive career-inspiring weekend designed to broaden career awareness and create exclusive enrichment opportunities for high school students from diverse communities nationwide.
Disney Dreamers are introduced to new opportunities throughout the four-day event, including career sessions that teach valuable life tools, leadership skills, effective communication techniques, and networking strategies. Students also partake in in-depth workshops that align with their specific disciplines in dreams throughout the fields of business, entertainment, and sciences, and even career opportunities within The Walt Disney Company.
The Bravo star first teamed up with The Walt Disney Company for their November 2022 runDisney 5k. It was the first time she ran such a long race. The event’s purpose was to continue bringing awareness to fitness as running enthusiasm is on the rise in the Black community. After such a great experience, it was a no-brainer for Richards-Ross to return for DDA.
PopCulture.com was one of a handful of media outlets present for the weekend. We caught up with Richards-Ross about her transition from runDisney to DDA. Of course, she dished on the forthcoming season of RHOA, her relationships with her co-stars, and more.
PC: So the last time we spoke was at runDisney in November. How has your partnership with the company grown since then?
SRR: Oh, man. It’s just been amazing. So that was my first time even doing a 5K, and it changed my life. It was just so inspiring to run with this incredible community through the park. Like they say, Disney’s magical. Even with the lights off early in the morning, you can feel the magic. So it’s been a great partnership, and my hope and my goal is to just inspire, especially Black women, to go out and to run and to be healthy. I think a lot of times, we shy away from running, but Black women are running our households. We’re running businesses. We need to be physically out there running for our wellness and our health. So it’s been exciting. I hope to continue to do a lot of events, whether it’s as an ambassador or just for myself, because that’s how much I really enjoy it.
PC: As someone who has been active in sports throughout their entire life, starting as a child, you can really identify with the Dreamers here. What words of wisdom have you given to them as far as just young people in general who are focusing on our dreams, because they’re so much negative that we can focus on, and there are 100 dreamers here who are doing nothing but positive.
SRR: Yeah, it’s just been incredible to see so many of the young people here who know what they want to do, and they are just pushing toward it. I got to be honest, I feel like they’ve been more inspirational to me. Being here, it’s just a reminder that we should all be dreaming. You don’t have to stop dreaming because you’re no longer a kid. It’s just important that all of us chase our dreams. So for the few that I’ve been able to interact with and talk to personally, I’ve just told them to just keep forging forward, to understand that they’re going to come against challenges and obstacles, but it doesn’t mean that their dream isn’t going to be realized. Just keep pushing forward, because they’re gold medal moment is around the corner too.
PC: So we’ve seen you in the parks since arriving here. What has been your favorite moment of Disney thus far?
SRR: Oh, man. So I think that what makes Disney so special is when you… I’m here with my son. It’s like we’ve been here before, but every time he comes it’s like it’s new to him. Every ride is so special, and every toy and every character. I think just the joy that he has just being here makes me happy. We went on the same ride two or three times today and I’m just like, ‘Whatever you want, son.’ I think especially the way the world is right now, I just want him to be a kid for as long as possible and have fun and not worry about anything. That’s what we get to do when we’re here.
PC: So we’re going to stop talking about Disney. We have to talk about Housewives, obviously. So you guys just wrapped season 15? Well, you had to go back after some drama happened and do some added confessionals.
SRR: Oh, is that right?
PC: Yes, that is right. So this is your second full season as a housewife. What can viewers expect from your storyline this time around?
SRR: Oh, man. Well, first of all, I feel like season 15 felt like we did two seasons in one. Not just because we came back up twice, but because it was that good. I think that season 14 felt like a rebuild, especially for me coming on for the first time. So this season, I felt like I really got to know the ladies. I feel like I’m in the thick of it and I got to show up, I feel like, even more authentically as myself, getting to really build friendships. So I’m excited for the audience to see that.
As far as my personal story, it gets a little bit like unpredictable. There’s some stuff I can’t share, because it happens toward the end of the season. My husband and I are really open and really just want to show our love and our family, and just all the things we’re doing. So you’re going to get to see some good stuff and also some challenging stuff with me and my husband this season.
PC: So you spoke about your relationship with the girls. Obviously, your relationship with Drew Sidora ended on a standstill. Are things better between you guys and season 15 or is it still a rollercoaster?
SRR: Y’all going to have to wait and see. It is Drew Sidora, honey. It’s going to be a ride, so we’ll see.
PC: Well, what are your thoughts about her and Ralph’s `divorce filing?
SRR: Oh, that came as a huge shock to me. Huge shock. I actually was at Ralph’s 40th birthday party two weeks prior to the news breaking out. So I was really, really sad for them because they have children, and I think that’s the toughest part. I know that they’ve had some issues in their marriage, but it was my hope that they would figure it out for their kids. So it’s still a lot unfolding, but I think all of us, we were really… Well, I will speak for myself. I was shocked. I speak for myself. I was shocked.
PC: So, what were your thoughts on Sheree’s new man?
SRR: So I honestly didn’t really watch Love & Marriage: Huntsville.
PC: Do you watch it now?
SRR: I have recently caught up since. So before, I was happy for her, and I still want to give Martell the benefit of the doubt. When I’m with them, I love them together. They seem really into each other. So I’m just kind of sitting back, but Sheree sure knows how to pick them.
PC: So what are viewers going to be surprised by, as far as the whole season? We saw a lot of stuff with Marlo last season, with her and Kandi. There was some stuff with Kenya. Give us a little bit of what we can expect.
SRR: What can I say safely? So, to be honest, I’m really excited that a lot of stuff didn’t leak this season, so I’m not going to be the leak. I just really think that you see genuine friendships being built.
There’s some new blood on the show that I think will really liven things up. The drama’s there. It’s there, but it’s authentic, and I think that’s the most important thing.