Women with local ties seek romance on new reality show ‘To Rome for Love’

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Nakita McGraw meets a gentleman on “To Rome for Love.” | Bravo

Over the years, professional love expert/relationship counselor Diann Valentine has discovered many Italian men are attracted to African-American women — of whom the U.S. Census Bureau reports 48 percent have never been married.

This led Bravo to team up with Valentine to launch “To Rome for Love,” debuting at 8 p.m. Sunday on the cable network.

The “docu-series” (which also includes celebrity chef and recently divorced TV personality Gina Neely) brings six black women to Italy in search of a mate. Among them are Chicago native Shay Atkins and Naperville resident Nakita McGraw.

For McGraw, divorced after 12 years and the mother of four, “getting back out into the dating scene has been quite difficult.” Working with Valentine and being part of the show “has taught me that I’ve been going on dates but treating boyfriends like husbands — not a good approach!” Plus she noted the Naperville dating scene is “much more geared to 25- to 35-year-olds. I’m knocking on 40, so it’s hard to find someone in my category.”

It was the entrepreneur’s first trip to Europe, a “true culture shock.” Speaking of shock, McGraw laughingly shared the reaction of couple of her kids to the trailer for the series, showing her reveal she hadn’t had relations in seven months: “That freaked them out!”

Shay Atkins on “To Rome With Love.” | Bravo

Shay Atkins on “To Rome With Love.” | Bravo

McGraw, a Lupus survivor, also has launched Lanique Virtual Solutions. “It’s for mothers and other women suffering from chronic illnesses, like Lupus — allowing them to answer customer service calls for Fortune 500 companies. I created it as a solution for a problem I was having, knowing I wasn’t the only person in that situation.”

Chicagoan, executive chef and restaurant consultant Atkins, who now lives in Houston, is a never-married mother of a 21-year-old daughter. As for Roman men, Atkins admitted, “I’ve always been a sucker for an accent!”

While finding a number of the men she met in Italy to be “very charming and romantic, I found that men are men. Some are great, some not so much. It all depends on how they are raised,” she adding. “But I did find a lot of the guys over there are really into their Italian culture, and want to do things their way — period!”


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