CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - He's a first-time dad at 51, the star of a Charleston-based television reality show, and has an itch to get back into politics.
Former state treasurer Thomas Ravenel, who gained new fans and new critics for his appearance on the Bravo series, "Southern Charm," has a new daughter, Kensington Calhoun Ravenel, who made her television debut on the final episode of the series. Her mother, Kathryn Dennis, is a co-star on the show.
Ravenel, or "T-Rav," as he is called on the show, lives with his girlfriend and four-week-old daughter on the 60-acre Brookland Plantation on Edisto. The isolated plantation house dates back to around 1800. It is the only house Ravenel owns now, after selling his South of Broad Charleston home.
On the plantation, he, Dennis and the baby don't live in the big house. They have set up housekeeping in some rooms above the barn.
Despite the persona of being a partier, a bon vivant, a "Good Time Charlie" who likes Polo, women, dinner parties and adult beverages, Ravenel says there are a lot of facets the viewers of "Southern Charm" didn't see.
One of them, he says, is the board room real estate developer, a strength that made him a multi-millionaire.
But on the show, he says, things appear differently.
"They actually captured where I'm weakest," Ravenel said. "In my personal relationships and my personal life."
Does the show accurately depict the high life of well-heeled Charleston singles? Ravenel doesn't think so.
"I don't think reality TV is reality. It's not real," he says.
The newest reality for Ravenel is as a first-time father. He says he is a hands-on dad, changing diapers. He dotes on his daughter, who he says has changed his life.
"When I look into my baby's eyes and I see her smile or see an expression, it just brings a joy right into my inner heart that's just inexplicable, unless you've been there." Ravenel says. "Wow. Why did I wait so long to do this, you know?"
"It's his voice that calms her down," Dennis says of her boyfriend. "She just kind of looks at him and he'll sing to her and bounce her around and she loves that."
Dennis says the couple planned this baby: she was no accident. But they are not yet as intentional about tying the knot.
"I don't know if we're going to get married," she says. "I think right now we're just focusing on her and not really ourselves."
On Monday's episode of "Southern Charm," Ravenel's pastor warned him against marrying a woman almost 30 years his junior. Ravenel simply responds, "Stay tuned. You never know."
After a cocaine conviction, Ravenel was forced to resign as state treasurer. Despite that, he is trying to assemble 10,000 signatures on a petition, at which point he says he will run for US Senate as an independent against senior Senator Lindsay Graham.
While he quips that he doesn't think his past mistakes will help his chances of winning, he thinks "Southern Charm" may help his chances by revealing his openness and honesty.
"You know, we all fall down a thousand times, but we all get back up a thousand times," he says.
Ravenel describes himself as fiscally conservative and socially liberal. On the hot-button topic of same-sex marriage, he says government should not even be involved with marriage.
"But the government is involved, so if they are going to confer benefits on the heterosexual couple, they are going to have to do likewise to gays," he says.
In the meantime, he calls his baby girl and his girlfriend the most important things in his life. The baby, he says, has settled him down, grounded him.
"I don't feel the need to even go out or be seen at any of the clubs downtown in the restaurants, slash bars. I want to be here with my child spending quality time with her," he says.
Ravenel admits he felt "embarrassed sometimes" when he sees himself on TV.
"I'll be quite honest with you. Watching it week after week, I'll get through the show and by Wednesday, I'm back to normal. Then Monday, I'm like, 'Oh my God, I can't believe everyone's watching this! It's ridiculous! How did I let myself get talked into this?'"
There is no word, yet, on a second season of "Southern Charm," but Ravenel seems to think it will happen.