Hot Take: Lisa Rinna & Sutton Stracke Carried This Season of ‘RHOBH’

This season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills was basically sponsored by the tragic chronicles of Erika Jayne. From the embezzlement allegations against her (estranged) husband Tom Girardi to the scrutiny of her suspiciously well-timed divorce filing and everything in between (rolling cars, snowstorms, cheating, emergency surgeries, burglaries) there was no shortage of content to cover. In the words of Scheana Shay, it most literally was all happening to the untouchable ice queen Erika Jayne. 

But a scandal can’t stand on its own. As Meghan King so graciously set the precedent with CancerGate, and the Potomac ladies exercised with Michael Darby, you truly need someone to both recognize the potential of a Bravo God-gifted scenario, and to take a firm stance and ask the hard questions. And in this season of RHOBH, both Lisa Rinna and Sutton Stracke understood the assignment. 

Erika may have brought the tangential legal woes, surprise details about her and Tom’s pretty mess-y marriage, and more, but Rinna and Sutton were the vehicles who made that content a conversation about the cast’s stance on the matter(s), rather than a full-blown Erika pity party. 

Hear me out.

If it were up to Kyle or Dorit (sans PK), the season most definitely would have steadily chugged along. Shocking news about Erika would drop and they would run to comfort her. They’d patiently listen to her confusing explanations, partially because they didn’t want to cause waves and partially because they couldn’t be bothered to read a 4,000 word article in the LA Times

Which sure, would still be semi-interesting, because we’d see Erika’s response to the news in real time, and may have even gotten a shady comment or two from Dorit during a confessional. But overall, it’s safe to assume that even though the cast may have *gently* alluded to their suspicions behind closed doors, they likely would have never confronted Erika IRL. 

But what we got this season was so much more entertaining than the above. Sutton gave us ruthless investigative journalism, while Rinna presented us an unwavering, court-worthy defense of Erika. Despite their differing positions on the matter—actually, because of their differing positions on the matter—Sutton and Rinna’s strong opinions shifted the storyline beats away from just a regurgitation of the headlines, and made it about the cast’s dynamic in relation to how they felt about snow in Pasadena and rolling cars.

And that’s what makes a strong Housewife and memorable season. The glamorous houses and cute family moments are nice additions, but the real tea is hearing the ladies voice their stance on matters that the viewers and Bravo fandom sure as hell are tweeting about and taking sides on. 

Because Rinna and Sutton took the risk of sharing their perspectives, it paved the way for the others, including an initially timid Kyle and fence-sitting Dorit, to throw shade at Erika’s ever-changing stories, discuss what Erika knew/didn’t know, and even speculate about whether Tom was of sound mind. 

And because Sutton was on one end of the spectrum, Rinna’s 180-degree POV complimented the stance by showing another side. Even though Rinna is generally getting heat for her actions this season (and last…), we can’t forget that her over-the-top opinions and pot stirring nature are why she’s a good housewife—she’s an exaggerated character with strong opinions, and that gives the viewers something to talk about and the cast something to fight about. Without someone like Rinna (or Sutton) initiating conflict, we’d be watching a season where everyone’s hunky dory… yawn.

And bless Rinna for giving us a B-storyline between Garcelle and herself (ICYMI: Garcelle questioned why Rinna didn’t take that same gumption to defend Denise Richards the season before as she did with Erika). Rinna’s stance—which yes, is not the side most Bravo fans agree with taking—gave Erika a partner in crime blindly loyal friend, reminiscent of vintage Kyle & LVP. 

Rinna and Sutton aside, the closest we got to confrontation was Garcelle saying “that’s not what you said the other night” to Dorit, after Dorit said to Erika that she didn’t want to pry into the legal situation. I hardly can imagine Garcelle stepping up to initiate that dialogue without Sutton, just given Garcelle’s later commentary on how she felt she didn’t fit in. And need I remind you, SUTTON was the one who called the everyone-but-Erika is-my-reputation-affected meeting at Dorit’s house, that so nicely gave Garcelle a Dorit soundbite to reference.

So TYSM, Sutton and Rinna. Even though Erika brought the headlines, you arguably made this the best season of RHOBH since PantyGate. 

Overdone ‘Real Housewives’ Story Lines That Need To Stop

There’s nothing more painful than watching a Real Housewives trailer or mid-season teaser and realizing it’s packed with groan-inducing storylines. You know the ones—the vow renewals, drinking interventions that are totally cringy, straight-up boring, and so overdone that they’re more tired than me after attempting to run a mile. 

So here are some scenes where I wish someone yelled “Bravo, Bravo, f***ing Bravo!”, so that production would have trashed the footage rather than making us suffer through it. These are the Bravo storylines that need to stop. 

Their Kid’s Driving Test

Four words, 17 letters: Where’s the value add? 

There’s no reasonable explanation for why precious on-air time is used on a storyline that advances zero actual plot. If you really want to announce that your kid is practicing for their driving test, that can be done via a single tweet or Instagram story (that’s right, it doesn’t even deserve a static post). 

And besides, watching a 16-year-old learn to drive triggers the trauma I developed from taking my own test, while simultaneously making me jealous AF that they’re learning using their own Mercedes, and not a passed-down 2004 Honda. 

What makes it even more boring is that the story is always the same, no matter the franchise and no matter the season. The Housewife/Househusband is nervous for the kid to drive, the kid does something “cute” like hit the curb, the kid takes their test. End of story. 

And I’m not against seeing the kids on screen, but in order for me to care, it needs to be something ridiculous, like Luann and Ramona planning Victoria and Avery’s over-the-top sweet sixteens (I’m reminiscing about vintage RHONY, sue me). 

Vow Renewals

Ramona Singer vow renewal

A vow renewal is a glorified “look at me!” party that’s undeservingly given a multi-episode buildup. Like seriously, despite how much party planning they do, it somehow always ends up looking like a cookie-cutter ceremony inspired by a 2013 Pinterest board. 

So, Housewives, stop trying to make vow renewals work. Viewer entertainment (or lack thereof) aside, renewing vows during a season has a success rate of about 3% (my math sucks, but according to my calculations, it’s only worked for Whitney Rose… so far). 

And I get that the Housewives are trying to be respectful to the institution of love during the ceremonies… blah, blah, blah… BUT, I’d prefer a boozy party where the ladies feel open and free to be dramatic (versus at a buttoned-up ceremony). Think more Kyle’s White Party or Heather Dubrow’s Hoedown, and less Vicki/Don re-tie the knot. 

The Cast Doing Outdoor Athletic Activities

Real Housewives of Potomac Water Aerobics

A good Housewives scene either: is dramatic AF, includes new info, advances the plot, and/or shows the ladies doing something aspirational. 

Watching them do outdoor activities like bocce or an adventure course is none of the above. Let’s be honest,  if I wanted to watch someone zipline or hula hoop, I’d start viewing my friends’ Instagram stories. 

And I get that these outdoor activities are usually filler footage. But honey, there’s so many other options that would be so much more fascinating to watch… like the ladies shopping with the dollar amount spent flashing on the screen, or even ordering at a restaurant. That’s right, I want to sit in my thrift store college hoodie and judge how XXpen$ive it is to be them. 

The only exception to this is if it’s RHONY. Because let’s face it, no matter what they’re doing, Sonja and Luann find a way to flirt with the hot instructor—and as a single gal, that’s something I take notes on as I watch. 

Finding Long-Lost Family

I’m not saying cast members shouldn’t find their long lost family, I’m just saying I don’t want to see it on my screen. Not only is it an extremely isolating storyline because it pulls the cast member away from the group, it’s also overdone and never really results in anything positive. 

It’s the classic “expectation vs. reality” meme. Producers expect that this will pull on viewers’ heartstrings, but what really happens is that we end up watching boring one-on-one convos between the cast member and whatever family member/detective/family-finding-specialist they’re consulting for episodes on end. 

And I hate to make this comparison, but it’s like RHONY this season. You tell yourself to keep watching because maybe something good will happen this episode! but you’re disappointed every time. Mainly because it leads to a dead end (Melissa Gorga and her “sister”) or a situation where the long-lost family member clearly doesn’t want to be found (Ashley Darby and her dad). 

All which begs the point: what’s the purpose of this? 

Drinking Interventions

Sonja Morgan and Luann De Lesseps

The only thing more uncomfortable than accidentally watching an episode of Sex/Life with your parents is a Housewives drinking intervention. 

There’s something undeniably depressing and hypocritical about a group of drunk women confronting another drunk woman about how much she’s drinking, and speculating that she may have an issue (while being one sip away from slurring their words as they do so). 

Besides being extremely cringey, it usually results in the group inevitably feeding fuel to the tabloids to speculate about that person’s drinking/substance abuse habits, which is so not fair, especially if the cast member has kids and businesses that’ll be affected by the rumors. 

What happened to the days of lighthearted (but juicy!!) storylines like Adrienne Maloof’s chef Bernie versus Lisa Vanderpump? Bring back more of that, and stop trying to force these overdone plotlines down our throats.

Images: Heidi Gutman, Paul Morigi/Bravo; Myles Aronowitz/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

An Open Letter to The Real Housewives: Thank You for Ruining Brunch 

To My Dearest and Realest Housewives, 

Thank you for being there for me during this turbulent time in our country. Pre-pandemic, I used to love to get together with a large group of my girlfriends. Brunch, after-work drinks, dinners, you name it—I was there. But when the pandemic made hanging out with the girlies unsafe for my immunocompromised self, I turned to you, The Real Housewives, to fill the void of my missing girl squad, and you did not disappoint. Not only did you keep me entertained, but you satiated my need to socialize—quite possibly forever. Thank you for your service. 

Listen, before I discovered your life-changing franchise, I actually missed going to brunch with my gal pals, but now thanks to Ramona and LuAnn, I know that brunch is code for blackmail and should be avoided at all costs. The same goes for cocktail parties and all vacations. I never want to see my friends again. 

Watching you fight with each other incessantly didn’t make me feel less alone, but it did make me appreciate my loneliness. Sure, I might have been completely by myself, but at least no one was yelling at me or calling me a “prostitution whore” in front of Andy Cohen. Once I found you, I no longer cared that I couldn’t experience my own life in present day New York. Turns out, watching you wreak havoc in the before times was all I’d ever needed. I fell in love with you immediately, ya habibi. 

Unable to see my own friends because my rare immune disorder made even outdoor hangs risky for me, there was something so healing about watching your friendships unravel right in front of my eyes. After going months without seeing a single friend, there’s something very cathartic about watching Ramona Singer berate Bethenny Frankel on the Brooklyn Bridge in a moment that was so peak 2008 that I didn’t even have anxiety about them not wearing masks. Ditto for when Kelly Bensimon told Bethenny, “I am up here and you are down here” when they met for cocktails in Manhattan. So this is what I’m missing? This is what female friendship looks like?? Thank God I’m quarantined with my brother then! He would never scream “Jovani” at me during my cabaret (mostly because he doesn’t know what either of those things are, but still). I love being a guy’s girl, it’s so fun and interesting and I don’t miss my girlfriends at all! 

I used to think it was a red flag when a woman said “I’m not friends with other girls. They’re just way too much drama.” But now? I’ve seen the light. Girls really ARE too much drama. I mean, you throw a ravioli in someone’s face ONE TIME and suddenly you stop getting invited places? Grow up, drama queens. It wasn’t even my fault that I upstaged that charity event for a sick baby by bringing twenty Hell’s Angels as my plus-ones. I said I was sorry, what else do they want me to do? Actually donate to the cause?  Whatever, I guess it’s true what they say, money really can’t buy you class. 

So when my healthy, non-high-risk friends all got covid tests and safely rented a cabin in the Catskills together last summer, I was relieved not to be invited! I’ve seen season 6 of RHONY, okay? I saw how they treated Aviva, and I was not about to let my medical pump suffer the same fate as her prosthetic leg. Besides, I don’t even care that I wasn’t invited, I’m having way more fun watching my brother watch the Michael Jordan docuseries anyway! Have fun in the Bezerkshires, bitches! I don’t need your Scary Island energy in my life, I’ve got the back of my brother’s head to keep me company. 

Now that I’m fully vaxxed and the pandemic is seemingly coming to a close, I’ve transitioned into a different state of fear. No longer am I afraid of Covid, now I’m scared of something much more insidious…women. Go to dinner with my friends??? Why? So they can accuse me of having a drinking problem? I don’t think so. Support my best friend’s charity event? What, and get ambushed with questions about my husband’s financial problems?? I don’t care that I “don’t have a husband,” you bitches have had it out for me since I threw those tiki torches in the Hamptons. Get over it already! They were barely on fire and what Ramona did to the Fish Room is way worse. So what, I “ruined your engagement party” because I said your fiancé was cheating on you, are you really still mad about that?  And no, I do not want to attend your son’s christening, ok? It’s hard to have FOMO for a party that’s going to end in handcuffs.

Why would I ever choose to venture back out into a world of conflict when I could stay at home and finish bingeing RHONJ? Those ladies would never judge me for flipping a table and unlike some people in my life, they don’t mind a little hair pulling. Plus I’m pretty sure Joe is about to go to prison and I wouldn’t miss that for all the maskless parties in the world (that I’m totally invited to). Screw your brunches, I’d rather hang out with my real friends, The Housewives. 

With Love From Your Biggest Anti-Socialite Fan, 

Hope Carew 

Jen Shah Can’t Stop Digging Her Own Grave

If you’re a real Bravo fan, you’re likely already privy to the latest situation surrounding Real Housewives of Salt Lake City cast member Jen Shah, who was widely seen as the “villain” after the show’s debut season, following several unhinged outbursts and threats of violence against her fellow cast members. Even though she has literally been arrested (more on that in a minute), Shah can’t seem to stop digging her own grave—both professionally and personally. The latest? A new leaked audio message in which Shah seems to bash Mary Cosby and Heather Gay. (Among other things, she calls Mary “a motherf*cking b*tch”. She also seems to say about Heather, “bitch you ain’t an actress” and tells her, “fix your f*cking face.”) If you’ll recall, Heather was one of Shah’s most loyal friends until the end of the season, which is leading me to wonder: between the constant feuds and the legal troubles, is there any future for Jen Shah on Bravo? Honestly, let’s hope not.

In the universe of the Real Housewives franchises, legal drama is about as ubiquitous as tacky Chanel placements. Whether it’s an on-air eviction (Lynne Curtin, Orange County), tax evasion charges (too many to name), or messy divorce proceedings (likewise), courtroom sagas are par for the course. And look—we love it. But probably not nearly as much as Bravo editors do, who will not only beat a legal storyline like a dead horse, but also shove the remains down our throats until we wish to no longer hear about it ever again.

Shah, whose word-salad explanations about her “career” set off alarm bells immediately for me, personally, was arrested alongside her assistant on March 30 on multiple charges of fraud. She is accused of running a multi-year telemarketing scheme that, according to the Southern District of New York’s indictment, involved “building their opulent lifestyle at the expense of vulnerable, often elderly, working-class people.” 

The charges are damning and, as far as I’m concerned, should disqualify her from ever earning a Bravo paycheck again. (After the second season, that is, which began filming prior to Jen’s arrest, which—to the delight of viewers everywhere—means we get to witness her arrest, which apparently involved a SWAT team, firsthand.)

And before you say, “But, what about Teresa?!”—let me explain. 

Shah and her assistant, Stuart Smith—whose job on the show appeared to be simply chauffeuring his boss around in luxury cars—allegedly conspired to begin running a telemarketing scheme together in 2012, targeting primarily those over the age of 55. Shah and Smith allegedly convinced hundreds of victims to invest in nonexistent “business services” such as “website designing” in order to repeatedly defraud them, push them into debt, and sell their information to a wider telemarketing network who would further exploit them. The indictment reads, “At no point did the defendants intend that the victims would actually earn any of the promised return on their intended investment, nor did the victims actually earn any such returns.” Both Shah and Smith pled not guilty during a Zoom arraignment on April 2, and face decades in prison if convicted. 

When I read the details of the case, I immediately thought of my own grandfather, whom I love and cherish dearly. He’s suffered from memory loss and dementia for several years now, and I can’t count how many times I’ve watched him answer the phone, confused, convinced he needs whatever a rogue telemarketer with an agenda is selling him, before my grandmother gets him to hang up (or cleans up the mess after discovering he already got suckered in). I always think, The people on the other end of this phone have no soul. How could they possibly prey on an innocent grandfather like this? 

And with leaked audio that sounds conspicuously like Shah calling about repayment of student loans—although the caller identifies herself as “Annie”—many people, including myself, feel disgusted that she may have been involved in this type of predatory cold calling. 

In other trash behavior, prior to her arrest, other leaked footage appears to show Shah verbally abusing one of her employees. And, sure, trash behavior and courtroom sagas are to be expected with our Real Housewives stars—to an extent. 

Although you probably already know this story, here’s a quick refresher: Real Housewives of New Jersey OG cast member Teresa Giudice was arrested alongside her husband Joe for a number of fraud and tax charges in 2013, and has since made a full return to the show after serving her prison sentence and filing for divorce. It’s also worth mentioning that prior to her arrest, Teresa had already been a Housewives star for more than four years (with one of the most iconic Housewives moments in history under her belt), so her return to the show following her release from prison felt, well, somewhat inevitable. (The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Erika Jayne, rumored to have helped defraud innocent victims alongside her estranged husband Tom Girardi, hasn’t been officially charged yet.) 

On the other hand, Shah’s husband hasn’t been charged with any crime, and it’s unclear what he knew, if anything at all, about his wife’s alleged schemes. 

None of these crimes are excusable, but when you think about the fact that Shah hasn’t been a Housewives star long enough—and, in my opinion, successfully enough—to have the Bravo fan base’s sympathy, I don’t see her getting another Bravo paycheck after this, nor would I want her to. (And for all we know, that won’t even be an option, if she ultimately ends up getting convicted and sentenced to prison.) 

Of course, there’s still one huge question mark: Since Bravo cameras have been filming this saga in real time, how exactly will we see it play out on TV? The storyline will, undoubtedly, take over RHOSLC’s sophomore season—and after viewers recently spotted fan favorites Heather Gay and Whitney Rose playfully taking selfies with Shah on Instagram during filming, I can’t help but feel like even the Bravo world doesn’t fully grasp how serious these charges are. Gay and Rose could have a spectacular fall from grace if they decide to align with Shah, rather than hold her accountable and condemn her alleged crimes. 

The bottom line is: I love Housewives legal drama as much as the next person, but directly and purposefully scamming innocent elderly people is where I think we all should draw the line. While Teresa Giudice’s and Erika Jayne’s crimes shouldn’t be excused, there’s something about Jen Shah’s purported criminal “modus operandi” that feels chillingly personal. (Aka, calling vulnerable people on the phone to talk them out of their money.) 

What’s worse is that Shah herself has appeared to show little or no remorse since her arrest, continuing to post on Instagram as if she’s merely facing a parking violation. Showing off “Free Jen” T-shirts and glam squads probably isn’t a great look to the prosecutors building a case against you to send you to prison for decades, but what do I know? As recently as April 29, she was spotted filming with her castmates. Many Housewives fans expressed confusion at how disturbingly nonchalant she seems while potentially facing decades in prison. (“I got two parking tickets in a week and cried, Jen Shah is facing federal prison and is going on Instagram Live without a care in the world,” said one Twitter user.) 

In my opinion, good Bravo villains—of the Brandi Glanville, or Kristen Doute, or even Teresa Giudice variety—elicit sympathy despite their flaws. Then there are Bravo villains whose cunning actions make them impossible—and even immoral-feeling—to root for. Jen Shah is one of them. (And Erika Jayne, too, will likely be on the chopping block if current Bravo fan reactions are any indicator, especially if she’s charged.) 

As Bravo viewers, we have to reckon with the fact that we help make stupid people famous. The one thing we do have control over is which stupid-famous people we choose to support and enable—and when it comes to rewarding a possible criminal with further celebrity, I’d hope Bravo producers and Andy Cohen agree that that might just be a bridge too far. 

Image: Fred Hayes / Bravo

Frequently Asked Questions While Watching ‘Real Housewives’ With A Straight Man

Presented by SkinnyPop

When it comes to TV viewing habits, we all have our own routines, and it can be difficult when anything—or anyone—encroaches on your sacred (couch) space. But unless you live alone and don’t let anyone into your space (which like, respect), inevitably you’re going to have to watch TV with others at some point. And unfortunately, that even includes watching Real Housewives with the straight men in your life. Whether you live with a significant other, are staying with your parents for a while, or just happen to be in the vicinity of any non-Bravo-watching man, just know that you are so strong. Today, we’re bringing you a vital resource to make it through this trying time: ideal responses to some FAQs that your dad/husband/male friend will undoubtedly be asking over the course of a 43-minute episode. Godspeed. 

Who are these people?

When faced with a question like this, it’s easy to overshare and dive into the origin story of each Housewife, but that’s not what your dad/boyfriend/brother/pizza delivery guy who got too sucked in is asking. He probably doesn’t even know what city you’re watching, so start with broad strokes (are we watching New Jersey or Beverly Hills?), and get more specific (which woman is planning a vow renewal as a last-ditch attempt at saving her marriage?) if he signals interest. If one of the women has been arrested or married to an athlete, I recommend dropping that into the conversation at the first opportune moment.

Who’s the blonde one?

If your male viewing companion asks the name of a specific cast member, this is a fundamentally different question than a general “who are these people?” Whoever he’s asking about, he thinks she is HOT, and he’d like to look up her Instagram to see if she’s worth a thirst follow. I won’t tell you how to live your life, but if it’s your boyfriend/husband/significant other, shut that sh*t down and tell him he doesn’t need to know. If it’s your dad, just let him have this one.

Is she the one that sells alcohol?

This is a bit of a trick question. Based on the sheer volume of Bravolebrities with liquor brands, chances are whoever he’s asking about does sell alcohol. This could apply to women on nearly every show on Bravo, so it’s kind of like asking if a millennial in New York has a leopard print midi skirt. Like, probably! But he’s actually thinking of Bethenny Frankel, so unless you’re watching seasons 1-3 or 7-11 of RHONY, the answer is no.

What are they fighting about?

If he’s inquiring about the source of tension within the group, congratulations, you’ve gotten his attention. He might pretend not to care about what’s happening, but now he’s invested enough to want the backstory so he can form his own opinion about whether What’s-Her-Name was being shady to The Tall One. He’s no longer trying to grab the remote to change the channel to “check the score of the game” every five minutes, and if you do a good enough job selling him on the storylines, he might even tell you to play another episode when this one ends. Good work.

How do you watch this stuff?

As a dedicated Housewives viewer, it’s important to stand your ground, and not to let anyone disrespect the blood, sweat, and tears you’ve put into this journey. If a man in your life is spewing negativity, feel free to remind him of the many hours he’s spent watching Bitcoin YouTube videos, or random strangers play video games on Twitch, or *shudders* golf. We all have our different viewing habits, and trust me, there are way more embarrassing things to be obsessed with than Bravo.

Images: Steve Dietl/Bravo

We Need To Talk About The Racial Double Standards On ‘The Real Housewives’

Who doesn’t love The Real Housewives? Many focal points of pop culture have come from this incredible franchise, and the gift keeps on giving with every season and every new city. However, as a faithful viewer of this iconic reality TV phenomenon, I’ve noticed that there is a huge double standard in the handling of each franchise from the network. As a viewer of the shows for years, it’s become more apparent that the Black women on the network are being held to a higher standard than their white counterparts, and that has to change. 

Physical Altercations

Listen, let’s be real: We love a good confrontation. That’s why we indulge in reality TV, and The Real Housewives is no exception. The issue, however, is how fights on different franchises are framed and handled by the network. Let’s use The Real Housewives of New Jersey vs. The Real Housewives of Atlanta, for example. Teresa Guidice has built a brand for herself, mainly because she “flipped a table” (it was a push, by the way) at her fellow cast member Danielle Staub. This outburst is considered iconic and is remembered by many as a defining moment in pop culture. Teresa also pushed down reunion host and executive producer of The Real Housewives franchise, Andy Cohen, during the season two reunion, once again during an argument with Staub. 

But when you look at The Real Housewives of Atlanta and the physical altercations that have occurred, none of them are defined by media outlets as “iconic”. From Porsha pulling Kenya’s hair to Kenya and NeNe arguing, any time the women on RHOA show any passionate emotion, they get labeled as contributing to a stereotype. In this clip, uploaded by Bravo, Andy Cohen proudly asks the women, “Who is the most ratchet?”. The word ratchet, in this case, is to describe “ghetto” behavior. It’s culturally offensive, and it’s mind-boggling to me that the network would choose such rhetoric to describe the women who played a key role in putting The Real Housewives franchise on the map. RHONJ, meanwhile, has had several physical altercations between cast members, including hair-pulling and drink-throwing, and yet they are not labeled in such an egregious manner. The Black women on the network have to uphold this rule about not being violent, but the white women on the network do not, and instead are praised for the same behavior.  

Casting: Always Having To Bring It

It’s no secret that in order to be a Real Housewife, you have to be on your A-game. That means keeping up with the group by sometimes stirring the pot and having an impressive personal storyline. But, as any viewer knows, not every single Housewife has consistently brought it. I’ve wondered over the years why RHOA “friend” and fan-favorite Marlo Hampton has not been promoted to a main cast member (given a peach). Marlo brings the drama; she’s also hilarious and has an incredible personal story. Marlo was raised in foster care and is the legal guardian to her two nephews, who lovingly call her “Munty.” It’s been speculated that she does not have a peach because of past legal issues. I find this odd, because there have been plenty of women cast on Bravo shows with a less-than-spotless record. A few months before Kelly Dodd’s inaugural season as a Housewife, she was caught making racist remarks towards Black men outside of a restaurant. Tinsley Mortimer boasted about her arrest and mugshot that happened just months before she joined the RHONY cast, and I personally believe her arrest is what got her cast in the first place. RHONY newbie Leah McSweeney spoke openly about her arrest, and Luann de Lesseps’ assault on a police officer was a focal point of season 10. I do think that whether you like Marlo or not, it is clear as day that the network picks and chooses what is “acceptable behavior” to become a Real Housewife. 

It’s not just legal issues—there are also double standards in what the Housewives are expected to divulge about their personal lives. Porsha Williams, another RHOA star, was demoted in her seventh season, because according to Andy Cohen, she was not very open about her personal life. I find that ironic because, in the ninth season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, fans complained that some of the women were not open about the impending lawsuits against them. At the season 6 reunion for RHONY, Ramona Singer was adamant that she wouldn’t comment on her divorce, even though the split was already public information. Yet, none of those ladies were demoted for not sharing enough. It seems to me that the Black women on the network are held to a higher standard in terms of how much they share about themselves and how they’ve conducted themselves in the past.

The Perception Of Black Wealth

At the season 5 Real Housewives of Potomac reunion, Andy Cohen brought up the fact that the ladies had become more financially independent due to the show. I somewhat understood the segment’s intent until a very uncomfortable exchange between Cohen and former cast member Monique Samuels occurred. Cohen had insinuated that Monique’s husband, Chris Samuels, was not well-off after playing for the NFL so many years ago. I found myself scratching my head because Monique was very open on the show about the financial successes that she and her husband had acquired after his NFL career through investments. Viewers are also aware that Monique was very wealthy and was one of the only women on the show to live in Potomac, a very prestigious and expensive community. So why is it that Andy Cohen felt the need to try to contest that? There is a stereotype toward African Americans that we cannot manage our money and rarely make smart financial decisions. This stereotype ignores the economic disparities that Black people have faced as a result of our being. 

Andy’s conversation with the women of Potomac exemplifies a vast double standard, especially when the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills are involved in lawsuit, after lawsuit, after lawsuit, and are still seen as a franchise that promotes opulence and wealth. Whether Andy Cohen knew it or not, by questioning Monique on how she obtained her wealth, he was feeding into a stereotype. In my opinion, we should uplift and celebrate Black people that have acquired their own wealth, especially in an economy that white people dominate due to systemic racism.

I am not here looking to cancel anyone. I believe in accountability and progression. With social justice movements becoming amplified more than ever in the past year, I hope that Bravo changes its treatment of the Black women on its network. These women have given Bravo so much in terms of content and notoriety that it is only right for the network to go out of its way to ensure that this type of rhetoric and treatment stops. 

Images: Sophy Holland/Bravo

Why Salt Lake City Is The Future Of ‘Real Housewives’

In a television landscape where most shows never make it to a second season, the success of the Real Housewives franchise is nothing short of remarkable. What began 15 years ago as a sort of half-baked ploy to capitalize on the popularity of ABC’s Desperate Housewives has ballooned into a sprawling TV empire complete with thousands of episodes, numerous spin-offs, and more than a dozen international franchises. The women who have starred on the shows have used them as launchpads for countless business ventures ranging from tequila and shoes to pink dog food and a very elusive toaster oven. 

But while the Housewives franchise is an undeniable, genre-defining success, it’s hard not to wonder what the future will look like. With its five longstanding flagship properties—Orange County, New York City, Atlanta, New Jersey, and Beverly Hills—all past the 10-season mark, each facing varying degrees of growing pains in recent years, it’s become an unavoidable line of questioning: what’s next? Where do we go from here? Are we nearing the end of Real Housewives?

In a word, no, I don’t think so. Despite RHOC’s much-maligned recent 15th season, and a slew of major cast departures in the last two years, these shows are still generally consistent performers in the ratings, and the brand identity they’ve helped to build for Bravo is arguably even more valuable than actual viewer numbers. But there’s another key reason I see Housewives continuing to thrive when I look into my crystal ball for the new decade: Salt Lake City. 

When Andy Cohen first revealed the location of the newest Real Housewives installment at 2019’s BravoCon, the reaction was one of excitement tinged with confusion. To many people, the idea of Utah was synonymous with modesty and sobriety—two concepts that seemed fundamentally at odds with the time-honored Housewives traditions of getting drunk and starting fights. But from the moment the first teasers for The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City arrived last fall, we knew our fears were unwarranted. The women of RHOSLC—most of whom are not members of the LDS church—have no problem getting drunk and starting fights, and their 13-episode first season has been not only a rollercoaster of drama and shifting group dynamics, but a template for what housewives can be.

On any reality show, casting is key, and I could talk about the RHOSLC cast for days. First, and most importantly, these women actually know each other. Heather Gay and Whitney Rose are cousins. Heather and Lisa Barlow went to college together (though Lisa may not remember). Lisa and Meredith Marks go way back, with the throwback photos to prove it. The perfect Housewives cast shouldn’t be six best friends (we need drama, duh), but we can at least believe that this group of women might be at the same party, whether cameras showed up or not. We’ve seen plenty of drama onscreen, but there’s always the feeling that something deeper is simmering under the surface—is Jen Shah really that upset about Mary’s “hospital smell” comment, or is it a metaphor for something they don’t even want on camera? This tension raises the stakes for everyone involved, including the viewers.

 

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Besides seeking out complex interpersonal dynamics, another key element of casting is diversity, and not just in the box-ticking, “I guess it’s time” way that we’ve seen in recent seasons on other reality shows. RHOSLC is one of the most well-rounded, truly diverse casts we’ve seen on Bravo, with a variety of racial, cultural, and religious backgrounds represented. With Salt Lake City’s deep ties to Mormonism, the religious aspect is especially interesting. Religion has rarely been a major topic on Real Housewives, but with current Mormons, ex-Mormons, a Jew, a Muslim, and a Pentecostal First Lady in the cast, the RHOSLC producers have done an excellent job of exploring these dynamics, without derailing what we already love about these shows.

Whether or not you feel RHOSLC’s first season lived up to the considerable hype, there’s no denying that its success, and that of 2016’s The Real Housewives of Potomac, has opened up a new world of possibilities in the Real Housewives universe. It makes sense that big cities were the early focus, but these mid-size cities and suburban locales have just as much money and personality, with the added opportunity to bring the viewers something new. In the past year, Bravo has aired seven different shows centered in greater Los Angeles, but Salt Lake City is one of a kind, and that mountain air is FRESH.

Rumors abound that Bravo plans to revive its long-dormant Miami Housewives franchise this year, but beyond that, it feels like there are more choices than ever for where the empire could go next. As a St. Louis native, I’ve always seen the potential in my hometown, with its historic roots and a major old money vs. new money divide. Popular ideas online include Boston, Las Vegas, and Nashville, but RHOSLC has shown us that there can be diamonds (or snowflakes, rather) in the rough where you least expect them.

Andy Cohen, the godfather of the Real Housewives empire, was quick to deem RHOSLC a hit, and on the heels of its season finale, it was officially renewed for a second season. With a three-part reunion—a rarity for a first-season show—beginning this week, it’s clear that Bravo sees the value in the mountains of Utah, and hopefully this success story will fuel creativity and originality within the Real Housewives franchise in years to come.

Images: Fred Hayes/Bravo; bravobybetches / Instagram; Giphy

Is This The End Of Kelly Dodd?

They say all press is good press, and at this point, that’s got to be Kelly Dodd’s mantra. The RHOC star ends up in hot water so frequently these days that she basically lives in a hot tub. One would think her drama would be relegated to our TV screens, but Kelly seems determined to end up on our smaller screens, in the form of Apple News alerts and angry tweets. Kelly started off bad, jet-setting across the country when the pandemic was first in its deadliest throes, and has only gotten worse, mocking the BLM movement and repeatedly making light of COVID. Somehow, she’s managed to hold onto her RHOC spot (for now), but her general trash persona has cost her sponcon, friendships, and fans. But where will it end?

Losing Jobs

It all began back in April 2020 with Kelly’s insensitive AF comment about how “the coronavirus was God’s way of thinning the herd”. Although she issued an apology after the ordeal, it clearly meant nothing as she was posting videos of herself dining at Newport Beach with friends just last month. Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t realize the pandemic didn’t apply to celebrities. Kelly’s socials were littered with a mask-less crowd enjoying food and drinks at a local bar. Kelly tried to defend herself in a since-deleted probable lie, stating “everyone was vaccinated” therefore there is “nothing to spread” and the “sheeple are mad”. Sure, Jan. A source close to the Housewife says she was not, in fact, vaccinated—which tracks because I’m pretty sure the Venn diagram of people who say “sheeple” non-ironically and antivaxxers is a circle.

I guess tequila shots are the only shots Kelly’s interested in.

It’s no surprise that shortly after that incident, Kelly was let go from her venture with Positive Beverage, a sparkling water company that she invested in and promoted heavily on RHOC. I mean let’s be real, Kelly isn’t the poster child for positivity at this point. The company released a statement saying, “it has been clear over the past few months that Kelly’s controversial views and opinions have distracted from our primary objective”. Kelly seemingly brushed it off in a Twitter post stating her well wishes to the company and is excited for her next venture into the beauty space. Let’s hope whatever beauty products she comes up with work on the inside.

I’m glad I could help put Positive Beverage on the map and wish them well. I’m also really excited about my next venture in the beauty industry, which is my real passion. Stay tuned!

— Kelly Dodd (@RHOC_KellyDodd) January 31, 2021

To add fuel to the fire, Bravo is reportedly not impressed with her outrageous behavior on the show and social media. Rumors have been swirling that Kelly will be fired from RHOC, and even Kelly herself is embracing the potential outcome. Over the weekend, Kelly’s IG bio was updated to “Proud veteran cast member of #RHOC”. Moreover, a source told E! that Kelly is “expecting to be fired from the show”. Regardless, she stands by her opinions and “feels the show is favoring the other ladies whilst being pushed out”. 

Losing Friends

You would think that after her sponsors started dropping like flies, Kelly would at least try to make some friends in the industry. One friend she won’t have: Perez Hilton, who called her “so unlikeable” after she randomly attacked his appearance after he called her out on her B.S. The uncalled for comments are no surprise, as even her castmates couldn’t deal with Kelly’s toxicity. She was labeled as a racist and homophobe by Braunwyn Windham-Burke, and Tamra Judge also called for Kelly to be fired from RHOC after her racist remarks. Even Heather Dubrow stated she would only consider returning to RHOC if Dodd wasn’t part of the show. Without the support of many current and former RHOC ladies, Kelly has her work cut out for her if she wants to stay—which it seems like she doesn’t.

K*lly D*dd when someone else is having a nice moment on the reunion #RHOC pic.twitter.com/RFwrXwGQAA

— bravo by betches (@bravobybetches) January 28, 2021

To top it all off, Kelly started a feud with the one person you don’t want to piss off, at least if you’re a Bravolebrity: Andy Cohen. After mentioning he’s receiving copious amounts of messages about how she’s perceived as “uneducated, misinformed and behaving like a moron”, Kelly fired back, claiming Andy is viewed as “un-American” by the public because he doesn’t like Donald Trump. Uhm, last we checked, the majority of Americans didn’t like Trump, either. Besides, anyone who watches Bravo knows Andy Cohen is the boss, and you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

Losing Fans

After nine months of Kelly’s problematic behavior, and no public response from Bravo, to say fans are pissed is putting it lightly. They’ve labeled Kelly as “vile, narcissistic, and disgusting”, pressing the network to hold her accountable, and even boycotting RHOC’s recent season. And it doesn’t stop there. On top of boycotting the show, there have also been calls to boycott Uve Beauty in light of their new collaboration with the Bravo star. So far, the company hasn’t commented, but money talks, and maybe the brand will listen.

To sum this f*ckery all up, it’s been an almost unbelievably problematic year in the life of Kelly Dodd. While most Bravo stars are problematic in some regard, Kelly really goes above and beyond to be awful in just about every respect. And with no fans, no sponcon, no friends, and hopefully, no role on a national TV show, it seems like Kelly will fade into obscurity where she belongs.

Images: Tommy Garcia/Bravo; rhoc_kellydodd, bravobybetches / Twitter