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.
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).
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
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?
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
There’s nothing that brings the internet together like a good old fashioned scandal. Whether that’s Hilaria “how you say cucumber in English” Baldwin, the O.J. trials, or Tom and Erika Girardi vs. everyone they’ve (allegedly) f*cked over.
As of late 2020, Erika Jayne/Girardi officially transcended the reality TV world into mainstream news and pop culture after she filed for divorce from Tom and the couple was sued for allegedly leveraging their breakup to embezzle money. And even though the Housewives franchises are no stranger to legal scandals (Teresa Guidice, Lynne Curtin, Jen Shah, etc.), Tom’s reputation and the sheer gravitas of the situation has catapulted the story into major news outlets like the LA Times and CNN — but most importantly, it’s being featured on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Up until this season, Erika Jayne was the Kourtney Kardashian of RHOBH: boring AF (Kim said it, not me). And sure, unlike Kourtney, Erika has been interesting to look at, but beyond that she’s been cold, reserved, and truly an enigma wrapped in a riddle and (allegedly stolen) cash.
IMO, getting to feature the divorce/lawsuit this season is the best thing to happen to RHOBH in a looooong time. Over the past few years the franchise has been littered with trivial storylines like PuppyGate that drag out for 10 episodes longer than they should, so bringing in an actual scandal to basically be the eighth cast member this season is bringing much-needed dimension and depth to the show. Otherwise, you just know the entire season was going to be ViolateGate (Sutton vs. Crystal). Yawn.
And I commend Erika on what she’s given us so far in season 11. She’s basically the Faye Resnick we never got — divulging her perspective on the lawsuit, commenting on Tom’s declining health, and sharing her real feelings about her and Tom’s relationship now that she doesn’t have to protect him. Her storyline this season has seriously resurrected the franchise from the brink of irrelevance, lacing it with a hint of true crime-ish elements combined with a more open and off-the-cuff Erika who’s actually pulling her weight within the cast.
And that leads me to my hot take: let’s keep The Pretty Mess on RHOBH as long as she’s still being… well, pretty messy.
If I’m getting too far ahead, there are CliffsNotes below to get you up to speed. But if you already have your PhD in the Erika/Tom scandal like me, feel free to skip the summary and get straight into my open letter to Bravo on why they should keep Erika around for season 12.
Erika’s Involvement in the Lawsuit(s)
About a month after Erika filed for divorce, Edelson PC filed a class action lawsuit against Erika and Tom, alleging that the couple embezzled settlement funds meant for victims who lost family in the 2018 Boeing plane crash. The lawsuit also claimed that the “‘divorce’ is simply a sham attempt to fraudulently protect Tom’s and Erika’s money…”.
On the heels of that, Tom’s former business partners filed a separate suit against him, claiming that Tom kept funds over $315,000 that he owed them for his own gain.
And although all this shadiness was allegedly orchestrated by Tom, the scandal is being framed in a way that implies Erika is guilty by association — and not just because of the allegedly opportunistic divorce, but also because her company EJ Global received over $20 million in loans from Tom’s law firm.
That $20 million was probably spent on her glam squad’s room and board during cast trips alone (kidding) (not really), which makes it all the more sad to know it could have been used to pay victim settlements — and all the more infuriating considering it did not belong to Erika in the first place. And that’s a sentiment the judge agrees with, after ruling that specific victims can go after Erika for up to $11 million to replace the amount Tom never paid them.
Why This Sh*t Is Interesting
What punches up the entire storyline is the juxtaposition between the way the media/lawsuits are framing Erika, and how she’s portraying herself on RHOBH.
While the lawsuits suggest that Erika had some part in/knowledge of Tom’s shady dealings, the RHOBH version of Erika is acting as if nothing illegal happened. In fact, she’s enraged that people dare speculate that the divorce timing was suspect, saying during the latest episode, “What’s being said is just, I mean, it’s insane. That my divorce is a sham, but nobody cares about the facts.” She also explicitly said the divorce wasn’t a ploy to hide assets while FaceTiming Kyle and Lisa. THE TEAAAA.
I’m the first to admit that she’s in a sh*tty position, mostly thanks to Tom. But we can’t forget that Erika is a performer by trade with an alter ego that even Danielle Staub couldn’t pull off. We’ve seen her transform from the world’s best poker player to a puss-patting, bodysuit-wearing, loud and bright singer/dancer. All this to say, her time on the stage and those two episodes in The Young and the Restless prove that she has the chops to act the part that her PR recommends.
And as much as I love to analyze what’s strategy and what’s not, at the end of the day I just want good TV. So Erica sharing those tidbits about the lawsuit hit hard, as did the comments about her and Tom’s pre-divorce relationship. For the past five seasons, we’ve heard nothing but glowing reviews of Tom “styrofoam cup” Girardi. Not a peep of indiscretion or disagreement, and not even Kim Richards piped in threatening that she had dirt. But Erika has finally, finally expressed several iotas of emotion and raw stories about their relationship this season, and whether those are her true feelings or a narrative suggested by her PR team (or Mikey), it makes you wonder, what other dirt is she going to spill, now that she’s not protecting Tom?
And we’re going in the right direction. So far this season, Erika has detailed his heartless goodbye, admitted she was pissed he didn’t come see her on Broadway, and even expressed her fear about her public perception post-divorce in the last episode when she said, “I don’t want his actions to absolutely kill what I have created.”
And there are logical reasons why Erika is being more real. For one, she needs that Bravo paycheck more than ever, especially after detailing her fears about the attorney fees in the latest episode. Now that she literally needs this job, it’s in her best interest to involve herself in the storyline and bring some actual juiciness — whether that’s Tom related, post-divorce dating stories, etc.
Another reason to keep her on the show is that despite the accusations, Erika’s still proving it’s expensive to be heeeer-er-er-er by boarding a PJ and sporting a $189k ring. That’s some major BDE when you’re in the middle of an embezzlement lawsuit, and some very Jen Shah-esque energy that makes for ridiculously entertaining TV.
And while Erika’s attorneys briefly dropped her and then took her back (for reasons we can only speculate), her castmates have continued to show their support and allegiance to Erika, both on the show and on social media. From Kyle and Lisa dancing to “XXPEN$IVE” and most of the ladies wishing her a happy birthday publicly, they clearly don’t feel a need to distance themselves at all. Truly women supporting women, in the words of Ramona Singer.
Thanks to Tom, Erika’s part of a truly impactful scandal that I’m 100% sure will be turned into a Hollywood blockbuster. With that being said, capturing Erika’s perspective on the RHOBH is a fresh, deep, real storyline that’s captivating AF. And because court cases take forever and Erika can only say so much right now, Bravo can easily milk this content well into next season as well. Not to mention, Erika will definitely be opening up with some new storylines about post-Tom life in an effort to stay relevant (and liquid… with those big lawyer bills).
As a dedicated Bravo fan, I can’t help but feel that over the past few years, Bravo’s decisions have become as questionable as Scheana Shay’s (previous) choices in men, and its content as boring as Teddi Mellencamp on screen. It’s no secret that the network’s come under fire for multiple problematic cast members and its lack of diverse representation… also, after confusing viewers’ requests for juicy content with Lucy Lucy Apple Juice content. And what has this resulted in? Low ratings for even the network cornerstones like RHONY and RHOBH. No bueno, Bravo. But I’m not here to sh*t on the network. After all, Bravo’s given me endless laughs over Sonja’s shenanigans, defined “real friendship” for me via the Witches of WeHo, scared me sh*tless into never committing a crime thanks to Teresa/Jen/Erika, and has taught me everything I know about fashion through Dorit’s confessional looks. So instead of jumping on the boycott Bravo wagon, I’m here instead to use my PhD in reality TV to offer guidance and recommendations on how to reinvent the network and bring in a bigger, better, more engaged audience.
Promote The Hidden Gems
As a die-hard Bravo fan who chooses to watch TV over having a social life, reading books, or generally bettering myself, I don’t sleep on any content. And because of that, I know Bravo has hidden gems that the average viewer is completely oblivious to, like Shahs of Sunset, Family Karma, and Married to Medicine. These shows bring it all: diversity in race, religion, and sexuality; messy drama; and heroes and villains that you both want to be and love to hate. But I can’t blame the viewers for not knowing what they don’t know. So my recommendation for Bravo is to promote the sh*t out of this content. Viewers are begging you for diversity, reckless casts, and something fresh to pass the time with. It’s not like you have to start from scratch to build this… literally, all you have to do is reallocate your advertising budget.
Pick A Star and Build Around Them
In the early days of Bravo, the network would often pick a star and build a show around their personality, friend group, and/or vocation. Exhibit A: The Millionaire Matchmaker with Patti Stanger. Exhibit B: Vanderpump Rules with Lisa Vanderpump. Exhibit C: The Rachel Zoe Project with Rachel Zoe. This formula completely put Bravo on the map in the ’00s—by finding someone who had either the glam, aspiration, knack for confrontation, or chaotic family/workplace dynamic, the network was able to build an empire around stars like the Manzos and Bethenny Frankel. Now, don’t get me wrong: as a dedicated Housewives fan, I’d never be able to live without my ensemble casts that bring together a bunch of messy, middle-aged women who take lavish trips, get dressed up for game night, and live by the motto “everyone is jealous of me.” But my suggestion to bring back this old formula, pick a star and build around them, would be a fun alternative to punch up the current ensemble staples.
Copy The ‘VPR’ Formula
Vanderpump Rules was the sh*t in its early days. The concept of filming a broke, IRL friend group that had zero expectations for the show created the perfect hurricane of messy AF drama that you seriously couldn’t dream up. Need I remind you about Jax sleeping with Kristen, Laura Leigh (no elaboration required), and “suck a d*ck Diana”? Using early VPR as a case study, my expert recommendation is this: find an unknown group of friends who happen to work at the same establishment and who have less than 1,000 Instagram followers each. Let them be their petty, scrappy, desperate, and jealous selves and the show will write itself. Make note that this cast doesn’t have to work at a bar/restaurant (although the element of late nights and alcohol definitely helps fuel the fire). Whether they’re at a retail location like Very Cavallari or a real estate firm like Selling Sunset, the most important thing is to cast the right people—the location/industry is simply a backdrop to the drama. So what’s next? Bravo has announced a show featuring Kandi Burruss’ Old Lady Gang restaurant is in the works, but why stop there? How about building a show around Southern Charm star Leva Bonaparte’s new restaurant/bar… I mean, the crossover opportunity is built in.
Stop Leaking Sh*t To The Press
You used to be able to expect the unexpected when it came to storylines and conflict. Think Kim Richards v. Lisa Rinna in Amsterdam, Scary Island, Brooks faking cancer, or Manzo v. Manzo v. Manzo. There was a sense of intrigue and anticipation for a new season or episode to premiere, because besides the season trailer, you literally had no idea what madness was about to ensue. But now, thanks to social media, leaked news stories, and cast members spilling tea on podcasts, the element of intrigue that made (nay, forced) you to tune in in real time to watch an episode has been minimized. For example, before RHOA premiered, we already knew that someone allegedly hooked up with a stripper on a cast trip. And, before last year’s RHOP, we already knew the main conflict was going to be Monique and Candiace’s fight, and that it ended in police reports and the group being ripped apart. Sure, having some idea of the conflict can get viewers excited, but it also dulls the element of surprise. So this leads me to my next recommendation: lock down the content. And I know this seems like an impossible task in today’s current media landscape, but hear me out. There’s stuff that fans generally don’t care is “leaked”, like reunion outfits or where the cast goes on their annual filming trip. So continue not giving AF if the ladies post or podcast about that. BUT, when it comes to major feuds and main storylines, I’ll stand firm on (a) stopping the cast and crew from leaking information (The Bachelor franchise’s tight NDAs prove you can prevent people from spilling the tea); and (b) having the cast and their family/friends refrain from engaging in social media back-and-forth that gives away who is pissed at whom, and from speaking on podcasts that give away details before the season airs. And trust me, if fans can’t can’t get their content from social media or the gossip headlines, they’ll put down TikTok on a Tuesday night to tune into RHONY for 43 minutes with no questions asked.
Retire—Or Replace—The Sh*tty Franchises
It’s time to retire the sh*tty franchises. I’m looking at you, Dallas and Orange County. Why? Well, we’ve reached a new level of Housewives saturation because Bravo’s failed to trim the fat—AKA, get rid of the boring/problematic franchises – and some viewers are suffering from Housewives fatigue. And sure, I get it, if you’re a diehard Housewives fan you’ll take PuppyGate and the RHOD crew road-tripping to Oklahoma over no content at all. BUT, this is about Bravo upping its ratings and engaging the casual viewer… which can only happen if the content isn’t a dumpster fire of controversial cast members, repetitive plotlines, and the same old tropes over and over again. Let me take a step back. You know how each friend in your crew has a role? For example, there’s the one who can do makeup, the one who has the hot guy friends, the one who acts like the mom of the group, and so on. I use this friend group analogy as my litmus test to see if a franchise is worth keeping or not. IMO, each franchise should bring its own unique twist to the network… like how RHONY brings fast-paced entertainment, RHOBH brings aspiration, RHOP brings spicy drama, etc. etc. But others, like RHOD and RHOC, bring less to the table than Teddi Mellencamp did in season 10… so retire them quicker than Rinna turned on Denise. Now that Heather Dubrow is coming back to Orange County, they get one more season to turn the ship around, but that’s it. And even if Bravo does retire a couple franchises, they have Miami and Nashville (allegedly) in the pipeline. So, fingers crossed that these new groups of ladies bring the same unfiltered theatrics and enjoyably out-of-touch ego that the early New York and Beverly Hills ensembles did, before self-producing became a thing.
Images: John Tsiavis / Bravo
Presented by SkinnyPop
Summer has arrived, and that means you’re probably in the process of planning numerous exciting parties and gatherings. A friend’s birthday park hang? A long weekend at a family lakehouse? A beach day that will require leaving the house at 8am? So many fun things to do, but wtf are you supposed to drink? I always struggle with the rosé vs. seltzer vs. liquor conundrum, so I decided to make a fun little guide to steer your beverage choice in the right direction.
If you’re planning a day of drinking, just choose which Bravo show’s vibe you want to emulate, and then go with the corresponding drink. This is a totally scientific list, so make sure to choose carefully… or just say f*ck it and drink four different things in one day—what could go wrong with that choice?
‘The Real Housewives of New York City’ – Overpriced Vodka Soda
Nature is, as they say, healing, and that means it’s time to get back out there and spend $14 on a barely drinkable vodka soda. Now that you can finally return to the bar scene, you’ll need all the bottom-shelf liquor you can get to suffer through small talk with finance bros and guys who think their stories about their cryptocurrency investments are a little too interesting. Pro tip: if you want your vodka soda in a wine glass, just ask for The Ramona!
‘Southern Charm’ – A Beer That’s Been In The Sun A Little Too Long
Patricia has long made fun of Austen for his startup beer company, but if TropHop isn’t available near you this summer, any beer will do. Grab a six-pack, a 30-rack, whatever—just make sure it doesn’t get too cold. Your warm can of whatever your boyfriend has lying around the house will go down nice and mediocre, just like this franchise that’s several years past its prime. It’s not fresh, but it’ll get the job done, I guess.
‘Summer House’ – Anything In A Can
If your local liquor store carries Loverboy, that’s obviously ideal, but any alcoholic beverage that comes in a can (excluding beer) will automatically make you feel like a Summer House tenant whose main objective is to cause drama. An ideal day-drinking choice, these drinks go down like water, because they sort of are, and you’ll definitely arrive at dinner sunburnt, tired, and ready to eat everything in sight. Just save a sandwich for Lindsay, we don’t need to get her activated.
‘Vanderpump Rules’ – Cheap Tequila
Nothing says “I wish I was still 23” like choking down a sh*tty tequila shot in your friend’s kitchen, and that’s the exact vibe that the Vanderpump Rules cast has given off for the last few seasons. Just be careful to pace yourself and drink water, because you don’t want Hot Girl Summer to turn into Tequila Katie Summer. No one wants to deal with your rage texts, I promise.
‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ – Expensive Tequila
What’s it like to invest in liquor that you can actually sip without wanting to die? I’d love to know one day, but if you’re already there, congratulations. I still think about Denise’s classic Casamigos reposado order on a daily basis, and you know these women don’t touch anything that’s not top-shelf. Goals.
‘Top Chef’ – Red Wine
Ok, I see you Miss Adult! While your less-mature peers are still pounding tequila shots, you’re having a chill night at home, cooking dinner with a luxurious glass of wine in hand. And not just any wine—you’ve probably assessed which red will pair best with whatever you’re making for dinner, and Padma Lakshmi would be impressed. Congratulations on having your sh*t together this summer.
‘The Real Housewives of Potomac’ – Champagne
We all have that one friend whose entire personality is built around “popping bottles,” and honestly I respect the dedication. If I have too many bubbles, I get a headache that lasts approximately 3-5 business days, but you might be the one who’s over there chugging Veuve like it’s nothing. A nice champagne buzz always inspires 1) fun times and 2) messiness, and the women of RHOP are constantly bringing both. Cheers!
Images: Heidi Gutman/Bravo; Giphy (7)
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,
After 13 long years, we finally got our first Black Housewife on The Real Housewives of New York, Eboni K. Williams. I was so excited because I finally got to see a Black woman on one of my favorite shows ever. However, I quickly noticed that the fan reaction to Eboni being cast wasn’t necessarily about her and what she could bring to RHONY. Rather, people were excited that someone would call out the ignorance on the show. I had the same sentiment when Tiffany Moon was casted on The Real Housewives of Dallas and when Garcelle Beauvais was announced as a cast member on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. Adding diversity isn’t going to automatically solve the ignorance within your shows, nor is it the responsibility of women of color to solve the issues for you.
Let’s be honest, Eboni, Garcelle, and Tiffany weren’t hired because they were close friends with the women on their respective shows. Bravo noticed that there was a severe diversity issue within the franchises. I mean, it’s not like people of color don’t exist in these cities, although many of the white women in these franchises have friend groups that are, for the most part, very, very, white. So, when you throw in a person of color, it’s bound to change the dynamic a bit. However, casting a woman of color for the sole purpose of diversity doesn’t do any justice for these shows, especially when their white castmates aren’t aware of their internalized ignorance.
Let’s take Garcelle Beauvais for example. Beauvais, an actress and talk show host, is the first Black woman ever to be cast on RHOBH, and many people, including myself, were very excited. RHOBH is known as the Housewives franchise that represents opulence, glamour, and women simply existing in luxury. It’s not often that you get to see a Black woman simply exist without stereotypes being pushed upon her. Beauvais seemed to feel disconnected with the ladies, though, and later stated that it was possibly because the ladies did not want to feel the wrath of Black social media had they come for her. (Also, yes, I know she missed some events, but Kyle Richards and Lisa Rinna have also missed events, and one complained then.)
Beauvais’ disconnect with Kyle Richards especially was a point of contention. Things got extremely heated between the two when Richards accused Beauvais of not paying a $5,000 donation. Beauvais was rightfully upset, especially since Richards waited until the reunion to bring this up. This was problematic because there is a common stereotype that Black people do not pay their bills on time or do not have as much money as they “flaunt. For Richards to bring up the donation not being paid in a public forum feeds into that stereotype. Does this make Kyle a racist? No. Did she subconsciously feed into a microaggression? Yes. But more than anything else, it shows me that the women, especially Kyle, did not get to know Garcelle on a personal level. Had Kyle done that, regardless of the tension between the two, she probably would have reached out to Garcelle directly to eradicate the issue at hand. Now, because she did not, the conversation about her microaggression had to be had.
Eboni K. Williams, an attorney and notable news anchor, joined RHONY as its first Black cast member. Eboni is brilliant, fashion-forward, and has a remarkable personal story. Yet, I felt like the only thing people wanted to talk about when she was announced to be on the show was her dynamic with Ramona Singer. Singer, who is known to be rather standoffish, came into controversy this past summer due to her COVID and All Lives Matter comments. While Singer did apologize, some people felt as though she was not reprimanded enough publicly. While Singer’s comments were reprehensible, it is not the responsibility of Williams to educate her. Williams has been asked constantly about her dynamic with Singer, rather than her whole dynamic with the cast itself. While the topic of race has come up this season, and personally, I think all of the women (so far) have done a great job of listening and wanting to learn. However, I do think there is something that needs to be pointed out. RHONY, for 12 years, centered around white women, so if Eboni makes a criticism or observation about her dynamic with white women—such as confronting Ramona about her comments on “the help” or sparring with Luann over supposedly implying the other ladies don’t have an education—it’s not so much a dig, more so her perspective as the only Black woman in a group with only white women. This might come as a culture shock to some of the women on the show and viewers; however, as a Black person who is sadly used to being the only Black person in a room, expressing our dismay or observations isn’t meant to start an issue, but to authentically express our feelings.
Dr. Tiffany Moon, an anesthesiologist and entrepreneur, is the first Asian woman cast on RHOD. Tiffany’s case is a bit different from Garcelle’s and Eboni’s. Dr. Moon was cast after the controversy surrounding cast member Brandi Redmond. Redmond came under fire after a racist video of hers resurfaced of her imitating and mocking Asian women. Suddenly, when Dr. Moon was cast, there was this unspoken pressure for her to speak to Redmond about this video. Why is that Tiffany’s responsibility? Why is it that the other cast members, with the exception of D’andra Simmons, coddled Redmond instead of publicly reprimanding her for her actions? It’s apparent to me that while Dr. Moon might have been someone the producers of the show were thinking of casting already, but it wasn’t until Redmond’s video that the actual casting took place.
Let’s make this clear. No matter how many conversations Tiffany has with Brandi, Brandi’s actions are still out there. Dr. Moon cannot be the “fix” for Redmond’s blatant racism. As a viewer, I felt terrible for Tiffany, especially with the constant microaggressions and racist remarks thrown in her face by castmate Kameron Westcott. Westcott compared Moon’s native food to dog food, a rather racist stereotype. Westcott also called Moon ignorant and implied that Moon was ignorant to her own race, and even as of recently, in a now-deleted tweet, Westcott compared a clown emoji that Moon used to “white-face”. It would be an understatement to say that Westcott has internalized racism towards Asian people. This is what happens when you cast people of color for the sake of meeting your diversity quota.
It is not the responsibility of people of color to educate white people on racism. To assume that casting Black, Brown, and Asian people on your shows is the ultimate fix to the racism issues within your cast is incredibly ignorant. Especially because this creates an awkward atmosphere between people of color and white people who obviously have different experiences. To leave the POC that you’ve casted out to dry, and unconsciously force them to educate white people, is not okay. This is a call for Bravo to use its resources to educate its talent on racial biases and stereotypes, especially being a network that celebrates inclusivity. Do not cast people of color just for the sake of casting them; it’s redundant and offensive.
Images: Sophy Holland, Jonathan Zizzo, John Tsiavis / Bravo; KamWestcott / Twitter
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