Real Housewives – A Retrospective Look at the Winners and Some Misfires by Veena
It is Thanksgiving weekend, and NeNe Leakes has debuted to a full house on Broadway. It has given me pause for thought about how the housewives franchise had affected the lives of the various cast members. With everything, there are some winner, some misfires, and some in between.
NeNe Instagramed: “My name is in lights on Broadway! What a dream come true. Everything I have been thru has brought me to this moment. Thanks to all of you who has supported me! This little black girl from Athens Ga, This teen girl who entered Morris Brown College, yea that 22 year old stripper, yup that single mom and yes she just added Broadway actress to her resume! DREAMS DO COME TRUE”
I don’t think there is any question that NeNe worked her time on Housewives to full advantage to brand herself. She’s got talent, hustle, and personality, and she’s rich b$tch. She’s not only left her fellow Atlanta housewives in the dust, she’s left all the housewives in the dust. And she’s extremely humble. The last sentence was a joke.
The only other housewives with near to NeNe’s success is Bethenny Frankel. Bethenny was the first housewife to earn a successful spin-off, and the only one to go from rags to riches as a businesswoman with her Skinnygirl brand. She even earned a network talk show, and even though it didn’t capture ratings high enough to make it past one season, she fared no worse than Queen Latifa, Jeff Probst or Anderson Cooper. She’s taking a risk returning to RHONY. A big risk. If the ratings don’t rebound to decent levels, Jill Zarin will have the last laugh. Whatever happens, it’ll be interesting.
Andy Cohen is one of only two people that has gone from production to being in front of the camera (the other being Todd Tucker, Kandi’s husband). Andy has become the face of the housewives, hosting all the reunions and Watch What Happens Live. In the last year Andy traded in his steady job as an executive at Bravo to concentrate on his production company. One of his first major coups was getting Bethenny back on to Real Housewives of New York. Again, it’s a huge risk. If it doesn’t bring the ratings, Andy will be blamed. After all, Andy cast his good friend Carole Radziwill on the show, and that didn’t help at all with the ratings.
Lisa was the first housewife to launch a successful spin-off that wasn’t solely about her own life – and Vanderpump Rules is the first Bravo show to bring in the coveted youth demographic. While many of us housewives watchers flinch at the vapid lifestyles of Lisa’s waitstaff and bartenders – the show is a success for Bravo. Aside from Sur, Lisa has also managed to brand Villa Blanca and Pump, and the restaurants are sure to be LA icons similar to Cheers in Boston for years to come.
Kandi Burruss may not have relaunched her music career with housewives, but she seems to be consistent at least with her businesses. Her store TAGS is still in business, as is her sex-toy line Bedroom Kandi, and she is having success with her talk show Kandi Koated Nights. Kandi is also one of only two housewives to find love and marriage as a direct result of being on the show.
Kim Zolciak appeared on our TV screens as an unapologetic mistress of “Big Poppa.” After a few seasons of “close your legs to married men,” being screamed in her ear, Kim turned it around when she met now husband Kroy Biermann while attending a local dancing with the stars contest to support fellow housewife Sheree Whitfield. Four babies and a successful spin-off later, Kim had found her own version of success.
Businesses and Branding
Almost all the ladies joining housewives do so with the thought of branding their businesses. Andy Cohen openly makes fun of them in his book. Perhaps branding has worked for some of them with an actual business, like Heather Thomson with her Yummie Tummie, but even Heather couldn’t help Sonja Morgan launch that toaster oven of hers. But Sonja wasn’t alone, who can possibly forget the misfires such as:
- She by Sheree
- Lisa Wu’s Closet Freak
- Alexis Bellinos clothing line – remember when she cut off the sleeve of that dress!
- Brandi Glanville’s clothing line – she made the Oscar’s worst dressed list in her own dress!
- Anything by Gretchen Christine Rossi (slap her name on it and call it her own)
- Maloof Hoof
Then there were the various booze lines: Ramona’s Pinot that branded her as a lush, Teresa’s Fabellini that is sitting in a huge vat somewhere, and a whole bunch of housewife branded vodka. Sorry ladies, but Bethenny cornered the alcohol market.
This week it was announced that Gigi Hadid made the Top 50 model list for young up and coming (non-supermodel) models. Gigi joined other fellow famous daughters Kendall Jenner and Georgia Jagger, and while she acknowledges the exposure her mom gave her through housewives may have helped a little, Gigi credits her strong work ethic and networking for her success. Whatever the magic ingredients, Gigi is the only daughter of a housewife to become arguably more famous than their mother.
Not that other mom’s haven’t tried to use the show to launch their child’s career. Teresa Giudice and Danielle Staub have both had their daughters perform on the show.
A few other children get honorable mention. The Manzo boys – Albie and Christopher have used the show (and their spin off) to brand BLK water, and Pandora Todd and her husband Jason have a LVP Sangria in major stores.
Kandi Burruss may be the only bonafide singer in the bunch, but that hasn’t stopped other ladies from trying to have a hit single. Most memorable is Kim Zolciak’s Tardy for the Party – which ended (for a time) her friendship with NeNe Leakes (when Leakes was not invited to sing along with Kim) and her friendship with Kandi (probably permanently). Kim’s song was memorable in that it was so bad it was good. Other housewives/husbands that have tried to warble out a song include:
- Countess LuAnn de Lesseps (who can forget Ramona refusing to be in the video because it was inappropriate – but dang the Countess sang a catchy tune!)
- Simon Van Kempen (who can forget his performance on WWHL in those red pants)
- Kenya Moore (twirl, twirl, twirl)
- Melissa Gorga (Melissa should have gone to ATL to work with Kandi instead of building a studio in her basement)
- Ms Laurence (actually Laurence can sing, but he and Kandi failed to reach a distribution agreement, so his song was never really released.)
- Gretchen Christine Rossi (her live performance in Vegas was terrifying)
- Jo de la Rosa
- Danielle Staub (and her pretend-girlfriend showcase a song on WWHL)
There have been some hits:
- Brandi Glanville used her inappropriate tweeting habits to pen a few best sellers. Of course having some inside gossip about her ex-husband didn’t hurt.
- Andy Cohen is currently on the NY Times best seller list
- Teresa Giudice and Bethenny Frankel penned some very successful cook books.
And there have been a lot of other books that weren’t hits. Most notably, Carole Radziwill’s much touted novel didn’t make the NY Times Best Seller list, which was a little bit of a surprise given how much branding it got on the show.
Any housewife or househusband with skeletons in their closet should give the show a pass.
- Russell Armstrong committed suicide while BH was in its second season of filming as Taylor Armstrong’s claims of abuse and his legal battles over business practices came to the forefront.
- Apollo Nida was likely headed back to Federal Prison with or without housewives – but being on the show and trying to keep up with an affluent lifestyle didn’t help.
- Teresa and Joe Giudice committed fraud prior to joining the housewives, but it’s hard to say whether or not they’d be headed to jail right now if they weren’t on the show.
- There are others, but I’ll wait until their cases play out before writing about them.
The Eggs in the Housewife Basket
I’m sure there are many housewives or housewife couples that hoped that participating in the Housewife Platform would lead them to financial security even if it meant baring open their lives. Unfortunately, for most of them that just wasn’t the case. The salaries for the first few years are pretty dismal – and the expenses to keep up appearances high. Who can forget Gregg Leakes complaining to a radio station about bank rolling NeNe.
Andy Cohen says plainly in his book that any househusband that left a job to support his wife’s career on the housewives was looking for trouble. The truth is you should always have a back up plan, because there is no guarantee you’ll be signed for the next season – or even make it through a season without being demoted to friend status.
A typical case is Alex McCord and Simon Van Kempen. Alex and Simon both worked for a living when they joined the Housewives. Alex lost her job in the recession, and Simon a little while later – some say because of Jill Zarin calling his employer. Alex left the show before she had a chance to announce (or brand) their new business venture. It was a tough time to lose their housewives income, and tougher yet to get another steady job. Dishing on housewife gossip and bravo ratings didn’t pay the bills. They’ve announced that they’re leaving NY and heading down under to Australia where job opportunities await.