LOS ANGELES — It's less than 1,000 miles between New Jersey and Alabama but as far as Jaime Primak Sullivan is concerned the two states are on different planets.
As soon as she crossed the Mason-Dixon line to live in Mountain Brook, Ala., the New Jersey native found a world that was completely different socially, politically, spiritually and historically.
The latest encounter between the North and South unfolds in the new Bravo series "Jersey Belle," which follows Sullivan — an entertainment publicist by trade, reality show star by choice — as her life has gone through a dramatic change since 2006 when she married a Southerner and moved to Alabama.
Before getting into the reality world, Sullivan founded a full-service public relations and strategic marketing agency that helped launch some of the West Coast's hottest bars and nightclubs. She expanded to event planning, brand launches, record releases, wrap parties and signature events.
Even before she could face the new world of grits, the Crimson Tide and cotton, everyone told her that her career was dead.
"They told me if I was not in L.A. or New York, the career would never happen. That's because when you are a publicist, our life is our clients," Sullivan says. "It's long hours sitting on sets, red carpets and all of that."
The one thing you don't tell a Jersey native is they can't do something. As soon as she moved to her new Southern world, Sullivan amped up her game and kept all her clients. When she started a family, Sullivan bounced between being a mom and doing her public relations work.
Along with this hectic lifestyle, Sullivan has had to deal with a group of Southern belle friends who launched the most aggressive assault since Snooki's last trip to an open bar in an effort to sculpt the Jersey girl and mother of three into one of their own.
Because of all those elements, everyone told her life was like a reality show.
"What is funny about my life is not what the average person would think — a Hollywood publicist living in Alabama," Sullivan says. "It's a component of what makes the situation so unique and bizarre in the most amazing way. But to me, really it was that I am seeing a world that so few people from the North get to see: this elite bubble, this cultural dichotomy of these people who still stand when their wife leaves the table and still opens car doors.
"People were expecting me to have my children saying 'yes sir' and no ma'am' when they were one. That's completely foreign to me."
The way Sullivan sees it is that any culture looks foreign when looking at it from the outside. Where it gets interesting is moving into the new culture and doing what must be done to fit in.
What she's discovered is that being Southern isn't something that's as easy as a petticoat to slip on. It takes years to adapt, made longer by a real determination by Sullivan not to leave her Northern roots on the Jersey shore.
There's one more element to the show that has to do with both New Jersey and Alabama. Both have been the host state for other reality shows that have portrayed the natives as drunks, morally corrupt, stupid and vapid. There are plenty such people in those states — and the other 48 — but Sullivan wants to make sure her series avoids all the stereotypes.
"You do that by taking someone from New Jersey who is not an idiot and putting her in a place where people are not idiots," Sullivan says. "If you took someone from New Jersey and sent them to live with Honey Boo Boo you are going to get the kind of show people are expecting. But, that's not who we are or what we do."
"Jersey Belle," 10 p.m tonight, Bravo