Introducing a new significant other to your friends and family can be awkward and nerve-wracking. But if you’re wondering what it’s like introducing them to the world, well Southern Charm’s Austen Kroll and Naomie Olindo are facing that right now. In last night’s Season 6 premiere, viewers got to meet Kroll’s girlfriend of about a year, Madison LeCroy, a hair and makeup artist (one of her most notable clients and friends is Patricia Altschul). We also got a look, at least those that haven’t been obsessively chronicling their relationship via Instagram, at Olindo’s new man, Metul Shah. Though the way we met both of these new romantic interests…differed a bit. Olindo and Shah are seeing working out at the gym, doing stretches and pull-ups and motivating each other (“He looked so serious,” she laughed). Kroll and LeCroy announced their relationship to the audience with…a scandalous YouTube video from last summer where she allegedly caught him cheating, and having a threesome, no less.

“It’s embarrassing,” he groaned when I met Kroll and Olindo at Uptown Social on King Street in Charleston ahead of the premiere. After complaining about the amount the video was shown throughout the episode, Kroll declared, “Whatever, I’m so, so over it. I might as well just sit down and be like, ‘Mom, dad, let’s watch this.’”

“Have your parents seen it?” Olindo wondered.

“Yes, last summer when it came out,” Kroll confirmed. Though she tried to console him by saying, “They don’t care, it’s old news,” Kroll knew better than that. “Right, but it’s not old news to a million people that are gonna watch it and then it’s gonna open up all this old bullshit, which you and I have already talked about. We just have to turn a blind eye to it because trolls are gonna go to an Instagram picture of Madison and I from six months ago and be like, ‘Cheater, you loser,’ and it’s like, oh my god.”

But if there’s anyone who understands what it’s like to have people on social media comment on their relationship, it’s Olindo. After bickering back and forth with ex Craig Conover on TV, she’s picked up a lesson or two along the way and is happy to enlighten her friends — who’re going to need the wisdom this season. “The way you have to face that stuff is, if you’re not gonna care about the negative comments, which you shouldn’t, you also shouldn’t take the positive comments to heart,” Olindo explains. “Don’t listen to any of it, only listen to your friends and your family.”

She also shared with Kroll how to filter out words on Instagram so that any comments containing unfavorable words and phrases are automatically blocked from appearing in the comments. “I filter out words all the time. There’s this one account that would always comment the most racist things about [Shah] all the time and I would leave them up because I don’t give a shit and people would destroy them. It was actually really entertaining what people would say. But Metul was like, ‘You don’t want that negative stuff on your social media.’ So I filtered out ‘terrorist’ and now it’s fine.”

Kroll listened to that advice and confirmed, “I filtered out ‘YouTube’, ‘threesome’, ‘cheating’, ‘cheated’, ‘cheater’, And then I was like, okay, I’ll filter out ‘douchebag’.”

It’s a bit of a role reversal for these two this time around. “On year one, I was looking at a lot of comments because everything was positive about me all the time,” Kroll said.

“Oh my god, I can’t even imagine what that’s like,” Olindo told him.

“I was like a golden boy Season 1, like the sweetest boy ever. And then it started to change,” Kroll noted.

Not so much in Olindo’s eyes, who told Kroll, “I’m so proud of you because you just are very personable.”

Naomie Olindo and Austen Kroll of Southern Charm 2019 interview
PHOTO: PaulCheney.com

Kroll claims both his girlfriend as well as pal Shep Rose believes he still reads all that the internet has to offer but he promises that is not the case. And as if on cue, as we’re discuss viewers and their reactions to the show, a man in his twenties, also at this bar at 11am on a Thursday, shouts from down the bar, “Yo, Austen, do you care if I take a picture with you? Sorry man, gotta shoot my shot.” Kroll happily obliges, which was the case the previous night when I tagged along with Kroll, LeCroy, and Conover as they bar hopped along King Street. Kroll is especially good at greeting people with a warm “Hey man,” the kind where you can’t quite tell if he does or does not recognize or actually know this person, but it’s effective. The recipient feels good about it.

How they’ll feel about this season of Southern Charm remains to be seen, but could be similar to the reaction the show garnered in 2018, when it proved to be more popular than ever. “I think everyone went into [this season] thinking nothing crazier than last year could happen, so this is probably going to be a quiet year,” Olindo offered. “But it turned out, it was not a quiet year.”

For her, it could be a bit quieter than before. We can look forward to seeing her family on the show again this season, especially her dad, who Olindo says she filmed with, “As much as I could really because I want those memories with him.” But she also seems to be truly content and happy in her relationship, dropping comments like, “He makes me want to do better,” and, “He’s an amazing dancer, I have probably hundreds of videos of him dancing,” as we discuss Shah. “Metul, he’s really helped me [see] I don’t need to go out all the time and people also shouldn’t be pressuring you to do it. I definitely go out less and am home a lot more but I’m so much happier that way,” she said, her clear blue eyes sparkling.

It’s unlikely her relationship will be quite as tested as Kroll’s as the season goes on, as Shah’s appearances on Southern Charm will prove to be much more sporadic than LeCroy’s. Really, convincing him to appear on the show at all sounds like one of their relationship’s biggest hurdles. “It took a long, long time,” Olindo admitted. “He wanted nothing to do with it. But he did it for me which is really nice. I know he didn’t want to. But he handled it like a champ.”

Shah will likely join Olindo on the couch to watch the episodes each week in the manner she’s held up for years. “I’ve watched every episode one time and I never watch them again. I’m not kidding, I never watch them more than one time, I can’t stomach it. I’m like, ‘Is that the way that I breathe?’ ‘Is that the way that I talk?’”

Naomie Olindo and Austen Kroll of Southern Charm interview
PHOTO: PaulCheney.com

For Kroll, it’s a different story. He speculates that LeCroy’s “first instinct is to call Patricia and they dissect the episode together,” and it’s likely the pair will have some long phone calls in their future.

“I’m interested. I’m very interested to see,” he says of the new season, with a detectable amount of nervousness in his voice.

I’m interested!” Olindo exclaimed.

Kroll seems trepidatious and hopeful at the same time as his relationship is about to slide under the lens of a microscope, peered at by his friends, family, and millions of strangers every Wednesday night. “I just hope that we can take everyone’s advice, and [understand] you can’t relive it,” he said. “You can’t look at something that happens and see what she filmed with [someone else] or what I filmed or what was said about each other. But I didn’t have poor things to say about Madison because I have always cared about her. But then you realize your friends are also talking about you or your relationship, so to hear it you’re like, you fuckers.”

Luckily, Kroll has a nice professional distraction to turn to, and it’s at this point that we crack open the last four cans of Trop Hop available at Uptown Social. And I can confirm: it’s very good. The grapefruit and passionfruit flavors mix really nicely so that even non-beer drinkers can enjoy the taste — and the effects. “The alcohol content is higher so it’s up there with an IPA,” Kroll explains, noting that even though what we’re drinking is from an old batch, “It pleases me that it held up.”

“Yo, you have your beer here?” the picture requester shouts from down the bar.

“I don’t man, I don’t,” Kroll responds regretfully, as we sip on the last cans available. That won’t be the case for long as Kroll’s got some good news to share. “I officially got approved to sell beer in the state of South Carolina,” he says proudly. So after jumping through the hoops of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, he is now “officially licensed to distribute beer.” He also recently signed the contract with a distributor, which means cans of Trop Hop will soon be available at bars in the state, even for patrons thirsty for it at 11am on a Thursday.

“I would literally chug that right now if I didn’t have to go back to work,” Olindo says. She’ll soon head back to the offices of L’ABEYE, which she says is going “Awesome, and keeping me super busy. We’re just very grateful that people buy stuff, I still can’t really believe it.” Part of that has to do with the fact that she’s now modeling the clothes she sells, and that makes a difference. “I hate doing that,” she says with a sigh after I compliment her on the Instagram stories showing off the pieces. “It took me over a year [to start], but we sell so much more, so a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.”

Naomie Olindo and Austen Kroll of Southern Charm 2019
PHOTO: PaulCheney.com

This was precisely her motto last season when she explained to her girlfriends how to track the location of your significant other’s phone, a revelation that had viewers shocked and intrigued, to the point where she admits people do still ask her about it a lot. She gets messages on Instagram, “at least a couple a day,” in which total strangers tell her they think their partner is cheating, asking how to put a tracker on their phone. “I’m like, girl, it’s so easy,” and Olindo offers her step-by-step explanation of how it’s done. Now, which is perhaps a great testament to her new relationship, she and Shah willfully and knowingly share locations with each other, as do Kroll and LeCroy.

Olindo confidently states she has “nothing to hide” at this point in her life, but that was clear throughout last season when she seemed to lead the charge on calling BS when she saw it — specifically from the men in her friend group. “We definitely weren’t trying to be like, ‘Yeah, girl power, hear us roar!’” she explains. “It was just something that happened when standing up to assholes. People like Thomas and J.D. who really are not good people that have been getting away for the same thing for years and years. It was about saying how we felt about things and then pointing out things that were wrong and weren’t okay. It probably translates into this season a little bit too, we just didn’t want it to seem like we hated men because that’s not the case at all.”

When I ask if she’s spoken to Elizabeth Madison, who has chosen to stand by her husband’s side through reports of infidelity and other legal issues, Olindo reveals, “I accidentally butt dialed Liz. I don’t even know how it clicked on her, I looked at my phone and I saw that it was calling her so I just hung up real quick. She texted me this huge long thing that was like, ‘Please leave me and my family alone,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah I didn’t mean to call you, I’m just drunk, sorry.”

Olindo also has a policy to not be extremely intoxicated in public settings, but Kroll isn’t quite so worried about making an impression on the crowd around him. “It’s not a way to live, in fear of someone being like, ‘Oh look Austen just took a shot.’ Yeah, and I’m gonna take another one here in two minutes so keep your phone out,” he said.

Just as it will on the show this season, the conversation turns back to LeCroy, as I ask Kroll about a recent Instagram post where he says she was called a “heathen” by a family friend. “It was in jest, but yeah,” he laughed. As his family suggested going to church for Easter, Kroll joked that LeCroy would “Erupt into flames because she hasn’t been baptized” which lead to the family friend asking, “Oh, she’s a heathen?” Kroll responded by saying, “I guess in the biblical sense, sure,” and assured me that “the whole table was dying laughing,” at the joke.

Kroll said that his family gets along well with his girlfriend, that she texts with his mom and would be doing his sister’s hair for an upcoming wedding. “They think that she’s adorable, as everyone who meets Madison does, which is frustrating as hell sometimes,” he says, and that frustration was clear in his voice. “Everyone thinks that she’s super sweet and oh my god she’s so personable, and I’m like, ‘Little do you know.’”

‘I would not fuck with Madison, I truly would not,” Olindo says in a tone that only reinforces her statement. “You see what happens when people try to test her. If she doesn’t like somebody or if she has something to say she’s going to say it.” This is clearly illustrated later this season when Altschul, instead of throwing a dinner party for the guys, throws one for the ladies of the show, and where LeCroy and Danni Baird have a bit of a confrontation. “I was in between them and I was no nervous,” Olindo confessed. “I drank myself to death at that dinner, I was like, ‘Can I have some more tequila?’ Because I felt so awkward. I was absolutely hammered by the time I left that dinner.”

And while we don’t hear from the bar patron interested in taking pictures or trying Trop Hop again this morning, Kroll does have a piece of advice for him and other viewers this season. “Just watch this season with a grain of salt and remember the person that you’re meeting here now and today when you watch this and I do something that might not be picture perfect.”

It’s a reminder that even Olindo takes in, explaining, “When I watch other shows I am not really that objective and I don’t take it with a grain of salt. I’m like, ‘She sucks!’”

“Madison has just made me start watching Vanderpump Rules and I’m like, okay, we’re normal,” Kroll says.

But it’s Olindo that leaves him, and all of us, really, with one last warning. “Just buckle up, that’s all I’ll tell you.”

Stay tuned to Decider for all things Southern Charm.

Photos by Paul Cheney.

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