Last season, Bravo viewers were introduced to a group of young Iranian-Americans -- or Persians -- in Los Angeles, men and women, Muslim and Jewish, straight and gay. On Sunday, Dec. 2, "Shahs of Sunset" is back for Season 2.
At a recent lunch at the W Hotel in Hollywood, cast members Golnesa "GG" Gharachedaghi and Mike Shouhed sat down to talk about what's in store. Also returning to the show are gay real estate agent Reza Farahan; singer/artist Asa Soltan Rahmati, 36; and thirtysomething luxury real estate agent Mercedes "MJ" Javid, who's still dealing with her overbearing mother, Vida. Joining the group is Lilly Ghalichi, a Texan who has a law degree but has chosen instead to move to Los Angeles and start a line of provocative bikinis based on lingerie. At the same time, she has a longtime on-and-off boyfriend, Ali, who lives back in Houston.
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"Shahs of Sunset"Returns 9 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, on Bravo
Raised in Palos Verdes, an upscale community south of Los Angeles, Gharachedaghi, 29, has always relied on her father for financial support. But this season, she's augmenting her charity work and taking on the working world for the first time.
"I started a business," she says, "GG's Hair Extensions. This is my first time working, so being the owner is something that's completely foreign, having to do things, having the responsibility. It's a lot, but I like it."
Shouhed, 34, who made and lost a fortune in Las Vegas real estate, has formed a business partnership with gay pal and fellow cast member Farahan, 38, also a real estate agent.
"Me and Reza teamed up to start the Shahs Realty Group," he says. "I did real estate in Las Vegas. It was a good run. I did pretty well, but it was a huge bust. I got caught with my pants down. I took some people down with me, because I invested their money, but I made a lot of people very wealthy. Reza knows a lot of my Persian clients, so when I came back, they welcomed me. They said, 'You made a ton of money for us in Las Vegas; let's start the same thing here.'
"The transition was a little difficult, lot of competition. We're in a big pond; we're not a big fish. You'll see me play with the big fish and connect with them. Me and Reza decided that we're going to team up, move from the commercial into the residential."
There are also some developments on the romantic side. "This season," Shouhed says, "you're going to see a lot of new relationships coming about, some relationships ending."
"Let me hide the ring!" exclaims Gharachedaghi, "Hold on!"
"This one," says Shouhed, looking over at Gharachedaghi, "is very passionate in loving and very passionate in hating. You can see that in this season."
Of course, having your face on television every week can have an effect on your social life. "My experience is," Shouhed says, "the people who watch reality TV, they don't want to date you. They want to sleep with you. That's the reality of it. I wouldn't compare myself to a pro athlete, but I get my share of indecent proposals, which is pretty awesome."
Gharachedaghi manages to keep her admirers at bay. "People see my face," she says, "and they don't like to come close. I let them know."
"This one has a strong following," Shouhed says. "Her fans are die-hard."
Along with the adulation, though, the two cast members have to deal with the inevitable Internet criticism. They both try to have a balanced attitude.
"I think it's really flattering," Gharachedaghi says, "even the mean comments. It's so awesome that they take the time to write something good or write something bad to me. Thank you. I feel special."
"People go to the 'Shahs of Sunset' Facebook page," says Shouhed, "press 'Like,' go through the pictures, and literally sit there and curse at you, call you every dark, disgusting name in the book. I bet you those are the same people who won't miss a Sunday afternoon to watch the show.
"As they say, your haters are your motivators, so I appreciate it."
And there'll be plenty more for the fans to chew on in the new season.
"You'll see Asa getting out and doing a bit with her music," says Shouhed, "her (Gharachedaghi) in a relationship; me in a relationship that may or may not work out, because she's not Persian, she's not Jewish; the business; Reza uses a word he's never used, ever; MJ is fighting some things in her life.
"It's going to be insane. People are going to love it."