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Detroit's own Geneva S. Thomas makes it big on 'Heels'

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Once again, Detroiters have a reason to be proud of one of their own.

Geneva S. Thomas, born and raised in Detroit, will return as a star cast member of Bravo's hot reality TV series "Blood, Sweat & Heels," when season two premieres Sunday.

Last season viewers got a close look at the lives of five ambitious, hard-working young New Yorkers who are making it on their own as they climb the ladder of success in show-stopping heels. Thomas is an internationally known style and pop culture journalist and managing director of the 1530 Agency, a New York City-based digital marketing startup. She says fans can expect even more excitement and drama this season, which includes the addition of two new cast members.

"The stakes are higher on a personal and professional level. What I love is that we're all here to make it and dream bigger," says Thomas, who has lived in New York since 2007. "You'll see the stakes become higher. I'm working for myself. I'm no longer working 9-5. I'm on my own 100 percent, even though I freelance for others, but every day I have to go out and kill my own meat. I'm trying to build my own company."

Thomas, speaking by phone from her trendy studio apartment in downtown New York, adds, "It's going to be a very wild and explosive season. There's a lot of people going through different changes and challenges. It's New York at its best, worse and sexiest. It's seven women strong enough to share their journey with the world, and what it's like to be here in New York and get to the next level."

Thomas, 31, is the daughter of Metro Detroit residents Shirley Thomas Calhoun and Douglas Calhoun. She grew up on the city's east side, and after graduating from Martin Luther King High, attended Michigan State University, where she studied history and English with an emphasis on black studies. She later studied and worked in Paris, London, Scotland and South Africa, in addition to earning a master's in journalism and fashion history from NYU. A former editor at "Ebony" and "Clutch" magazines, she's also written for Vibe, AOL, the Huffington Post, BET and BBC America. Known among peers as the "style scholar," Thomas currently shares her global fashion and style perspective as a writer for "Vogue Italia."

Thomas says she was approached to be part of "Blood, Sweat & Heels" in November 2013.

"They were looking for women in New York who were up and coming in media and fashion. They reached out and the rest is kind of history," she says. "Obviously, I was very shocked that they would reach out to me. I wasn't a celebrity. They told me the concept of the show. I was very impressed and curious because I thought it was genius to have a show about young women up and coming here in New York. It's not easy to make it here."

Living in New York has been nothing short of inspirational for Thomas.

"New York is such a global city," she enthuses. "There are so many different cultures, and different people from different walks of life. It's the center of the universe. It's where culture happens. For someone interested in pop culture, and what's next, this is the place to be, but you have to have your fins sharp. There's never a boring moment. You're in a community of go-getters."

Despite suddenly finding herself the focus of public attention, Thomas, who's also appeared on Bravo's "Watch What Happens Live" with host Andy Cohen, manages to stay grounded. On being in the limelight, she says, "It's something that you have to conceptualize. There are some real celebrities here. In other parts of the country, it would probably be different. There are artists and celebrities who are actors, singers and performers. I go to Harlem to get my nails done and hair braided, and I run into people who are fans of the show. I'm always extremely humbled and in awe of that."

Living in the Big Apple hasn't lessened her love for the Motor City.

"I love being from Detroit. I think Detroit has so much heart — a part that the rest of the world doesn't get to see," she says. "People from Detroit are real and hard working. It's me being from Detroit that's made me what I am. I love when I can come home and see my family and friends."

'Blood, Sweat & Heels'

9 p.m. Sunday