Bravo TV, Reality TV

Body Image by Bravo

Joining a reality TV show means a lot of things, but a big part of it is toughening one’s skin and buckling up for public scrutiny.

The old adage goes “the camera adds ten pounds,” so a size 6 to 8 woman might appear to be a size 10 or 12 on your screen, according to that saying…if it still applies. With modern technological advances to television and high definition, I’m not sure if this assertion is 100 percent sound today, but I can attest to the fact that I’ve met TV personalities who look smaller in person than they do on my screen.

Emily Moore Simpson never really suffered from any body image related self consciousness, but suddenly she was on a national program, Real Housewives of Orange County, with viewers weighing in on multiple social media platforms. Alarmingly, some were following her in order to tauntingly type “oink” in the comments section of her Instagram photos and add pig snout emojis.

To see Emily in person (which I have) is to note excellent cheekbones, gorgeous green eyes and a well-proportioned figure with enviable curves. While some were excited to see a woman who, like themselves, wasn’t a size 0 or 2 join the crew, others decided to be less kind, going directly to her pages to seek her out and inform her that she was dwarfing her shorter husband Shane – as if that were some sort of a crime.

The real crime here? People weren’t doing the normal thing that viewers do, roasting personalities behind their backs rather than directly to them. In addition: seeking them out deliberately to do so. Emily would proceed to divulge that the nastiest types of emails were sent directly to her, with one woman named Yvett going to the link of an event she posted about in order to share these unsolicited opinions:

You could argue that people get what they signed up for with reality TV, that they scrawled their signatures on the release forms and are making money…but you could also learn from the Bitch Sesh podcast’s “no tagging” rule. The comedy duo Casey Wilson and Danielle Schneider recap Housewives on their popular show and say as much smack and employ as much snark as they desire, but they don’t want the Bravolebrities they’ve discussed informed of the conversations. They perpetually ask audience members not to tag these personalities.

Along the same vein, I used to avoid reading the comments’ sections under my Huffington Post articles. I was fine with readers talking about me, I just didn’t want to focus on some of the highly irrelevant, nastier comments.

Realistically, some of these words will come to our attention and we have to harden ourselves. I remember writing about bullying and receiving an email from a man saying I knew nothing about real bullying and he could definitely show me what bullying was…

But back to the theme of body image…It’s something that comes up a lot with Bravo stars. The Vanderpump Rules cast has been candid about reducing their caloric intake in order to imbibe. Stassi Schroeder spoke about how Adderall worked as an aid for keeping her svelte. Sur manager Peter Madrigal spoke on several podcasts about seeing his stomach on social media and becoming motivated to stop drinking and work out twice daily. He said that rather than take negative comments from trolls and fight them, they inspire him and give him more of an impetus to prove body shamers wrong and get fit. As a result, he recently dropped 30 pounds.

Real Housewives of New Jersey‘s new cast addition Jacqueline Goldschneider opened up on the Oklahoma cast trip about her battle with anorexia and how she ultimately got healthy with the help of a nutritionist and psychologist. Several seasons ago on Real Housewives of New York, Jules Wainstein spoke openly about her own ongoing battle with anorexia. Fans spoke out then about how her frame was still disconcertingly skeletal, but she made no bones about it as she stressed that she was still in recovery – present tense.

For someone like Emily, an attorney who appears to have a tough exterior and seems ready for battle (in the courtroom) when called upon, a major lesson of the season was that people were going to focus on the things she couldn’t have predicted beforehand.

“I was fine with my body,” she said in interviews and on the RHOC reunion. Her cast mate Shannon Beador’s strategy with her own past weight gain was to point it out and poke fun at it. By laughing at or mocking ourselves (and in Shannon’s case, beating up on her self), we get to the punch before others do. It’s a recognizable type of defense mechanism. As for the newer RHOC cast member Emily, she was in tears when discussing her experience at the reunion. She has said that reality TV is not for the faint of heart.

That may be the case, but it would also be a shame to see reality TV become a place for the faint – from too much exercise, exertion, intense caloric restriction or fasting.

Emily is fighting back now by publicizing a new swimsuit partnership. Margaret Josephs of RHONJ amped up her workouts between seasons, but says she is fine and confident with having hips and enjoying splurge-worthy restaurant meals and desserts.

I find it really discouraging when fans, especially women, shame these people for not being the Saks Fifth Avenue mannequin sample size. Most of us cannot relate to gorgeous servers under 35 who blow their paychecks on Botox (Vanderpump Rules) or Housewives who live in opulent mansions in gated communities. It makes no sense to expend hatred, or spew venom directly at these personalities when presented with images that don’t make us feel guilty…

as we sink our teeth into a chocolate chip cookie and enjoy our shows.

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