Bravo TV, Psychology, public figures, Reality TV

An Abundance of Ashleys

Between the years of 1983 and 1988, “Ashley” was a top choice for American parents naming baby girls. It was, in fact, the second most popular girl’s name in the nation in 1985, which means if you are a Millennial, there’s a good chance you know an Ashley or two…or seven as I currently have programmed in my phone.

On reality television now, there are three Ashleys – within the aforementioned cohort – who have people talking. Perhaps there is a special formula for all Ashleys to crack (one I wish I knew!) because each of the three Ashleys I’m about to discuss have either had to overcome hurdles in the maze of reality TV, perception and reality, or are still bumbling through that complicated labyrinth.

Let’s begin with Ashley Iaconetti from The Bachelor franchise. This Ashley first came to our collective attention during Chris Soules’ season of The Bachelor. She was the emotionally overwrought Kardashian lookalike who seemed to cry on a whim. She also quickly became known to us for another more notable characteristic: being the virgin and was rapidly embraced by Bachelor Nation, the dysfunctional franchise-family that feverishly recycles favorites in spinoffs. So of course, Ashley appeared, and shed a ton of tears, on Bachelor in Paradise and later found lust on Bachelor Winter Games.

After many overly emotional scenes and plenty of loud sobs regarding being relegated to the “friend zone,” Iaconetti’s long-time pal and crush from Paradise finally started to reciprocate her feelings. She had cried over him in Paradise and had been encouraged to give up hope by their mutual friend (former Bachelor) Nick Viall. Years and too many tears later, after baring her soul to cameras ad nauseum, Ioconetti has been publicly vindicated, I guess: The object of her documented obsession, Jared Haibon, recently proposed. The perpetually pining princess will need to be recast as the fiance who turned her commitment phobic pumpkin into her prince.

Another Ashley who some of you are familiar with is Ashley Borders of Southern Charm Savannah. I wasn’t wild about the show, a sentiment not uncommon among Bravo fans, but I found this Ashley endearing even before I had the chance to meet her in person and confirm this.

A crowd of white, somewhat wealthy Savannians were introduced to us as a group of friends – except immediately, we got the sense that Borders was more of a free spirit. This was especially so when juxtaposed with the more traditional, snooty Southerner cast mates. They seemed stuck in the past and we witnessed how they were so bothered by Borders’ bathing suit-clad bod and the effect it might have on the taken men. It was clear that Borders was merely an on-camera friend to those who shunned her on the show, and we got a glimpse of the more liberal Savannians who accepted her, like the cute jewelry designer who appears in one episode.

According to one of my sources in Savannah, Ashley was demoted from a main cast member to a “friend of” for the soon to be airing Season Two. This was because the least likable, most stodgy and snobbish cast mates refused to film with her. Luckily enough, not all of them are total dicks, so although Borders will not get the redemption season she deserves after cast mates lambasted her last season, she will appear in a few scenes this time around.

Last season, while focused on her fashion career, she had a side gig with Delta airlines that afforded her travel opportunities. Her cast mates made a big deal about the side gig, calling her dishonest because she didn’t talk as much about it. In doing so, they unwittingly brought attention to their elitist and classist notions about career choices.

Ashley Borders’ liberal views and openness towards those from all walks of life, made her a breath of fresh air alongside this catty and cliquish crew. It will be interesting to see if she gets some redemption in her diminished role this season. Perhaps refraining from having to hang out too much with elitist cast mates is vindication enough for anyone.

The last of the Ashleys on my mind is the most talked about currently. Ashley Jacobs of Bravo’s Southern Charm (the original Southern Charm, as Savannah is a newer addition to the main franchise) is getting a lot of attention for her missteps on the show, as well as backfiring efforts to repair her image via social media.

Jacobs has had a really tough season and is in over her head as a reality television rookie. The hospice nurse attached herself to a paramour with a personal baggage, including the fact that he and his ex (the mother of his two kids) film together seasonally. It has not gone well for Jacobs who clashes on camera during the current season with Kathryn Dennis, mom to her beau Thomas Ravenel’s children.

While initially welcomed by the rest of the crew, they have taken several steps back from Jacobs and rallied around Dennis. The shifting allegiances, and the apparent disdain for Jacobs that has grown since cameras stopped rolling, attest to several complicated off-camera storylines.

The gossip blogs have played their own part in pitting the Charmers against one another.

While everyone loves a comeback and a redemption tale, many fans feel she is beyond reproach and that the influences behind her behavior, the motives and some of the individuals who nudged her behavior along (i.e. those bloggers), will never be revealed to the public.

To me, it would be a shame if we don’t get to see how bloggers contributed, how Jacobs’ relationship with Ravenel factored in, and whether or not Jacobs will acknowledge her bad behaviors after the upcoming reunion airs…Even more so, when ample time passes and realities (beyond reality TV) set in.

Whether Jacobs will have her opportunity to turn the tide and change the minds is something that seems more uncertain than what is likely for the other Ashleys. Her words seemed more astounding, more regrettable and her actions post-filming more shocking. However, when a person takes major initiatives to revamp their life and starts to see things differently, it’s a beginning towards healing all that has been greatly damaged. Having seen young reality stars mature and become more humbled by public reaction, who knows what could happen in the future after life changes offer new perspectives….In the United States of Amnesia, (to borrow the late Gore Vidal’s term) I’ve witnessed fans change their minds when it previously seemed impossible.

Perhaps there is some formula for all Ashleys to follow in order to become successful – especially in this arena of reality television. Or maybe you don’t believe there’s anything significant about a particular name. Rather, that the three Ashleys above coincidently had rough starts, and faced the challenge of being scrutinized by cast mates, viewers and the world of social media.

In the event that it’s not a fluke, here are Things To Know About the Name Ashley if you happen to be an Ashley yourself or know someone who is.

(The title of this post was inspired by the title of John Green’s novel, An Abundance of Katherines.)

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