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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Psychology, Reality TV, Vanderpump Rules

#PumpRules: Preconceived Notions, Premature Judgements…or Prejudice?

Season 7 of Bravo’s Vanderpump Rules premieres next month and fans have expressed some opinions on one of the cast mates, who is slated to become more of a central character this time around. The show’s first transgender personality, Billie Lee, had minimal, yet significant story-lines during Season 6. She fascinated and inspired viewers with her candor about her courageous journey with a triumphant outcome, albeit one still filled with challenges.

During the off season while the show was not airing (but filming), some drama transpired in the complicated world of social media. Billie Lee claimed to have been excluded from a party thrown by a cast mate, while the others chimed in to say she had been invited. Others contradicted that by saying the party was for a specific set of restaurant workers. Billie used her platform and past experience to communicate that this current conundrum reflected the type of cliqueness and exclusion she had and still experienced as a trans women. Cast mates chimed in on Instagram to say she was overreacting and viewers came to the defense of the somewhat snobbish Vanderpump Rules queen bee Stassi Schroeder, who deemed Billie Lee to be an overreactive drama queen.

A lot of venom was spewed in that vortex known as the “interwebs.” Facebook groups, Twitter pages and Instagram posts began to pop up that were less than pro Billie Lee. They praised her journey and the fact that she was a trans spokeswoman but, without actually seeing the footage from season 7, deemed her to be a diva with personality issues.

Whether Billie Lee was discriminated against or not is something viewers will have to determine individually when the season airs. But one thing that we should all keep in mind is that she has an understandable reason to be extra sensitive. Stassi Schroeder makes for great television and has learned a lot during her time on the show, but she has made the news in the past and rubbed cast mates the wrong way for criticizing aspects of the #MeToo movement. She also impulsively made quips that were the opposite of “woke.” To her credit however, Stassi has acknowledged that she wants to do better. She has admitted to her faults and to the fact that she is constantly learning and evolving. We have come to see her as continually taking two steps forward, then two steps back and then a step forward again.

Given this context and the fact that Billie Lee has been through a trying ordeal – living most of her life feeling she was in the wrong body and having faced backlash and bias – we have extra information to truly consider once the season airs. Maybe fans will understand Billie Lee, and perhaps others will hate her due to her personality…with it having nothing to do with anything other than personality. Still, I think we need to try to abolish the memories of the social media drama between seasons. We (you and me, all of us) should keep in mind that Billie Lee had been through one hell of a ride before she was cast on the show. She didn’t get to the highs without incurring the unimaginable lows.

Before beginning Season 7 on Monday December 3rd (at 9PM), it might be insightful to read more about Billie Lee’s past, the ordeals she has been through, the trials and tribulations she faces daily and generally, what it is like for her to live as a trans woman in 2018: Billie Lee’s Website.

(Pictured: Lisa Vanderpump with Billie Lee, Photo Credit: Bustle.com)

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Celebrities, True Crime

The Curious Case of Casey Kasem

Casey Kasem was in his 80s when he passed away in 2014. Those not in the know would assume that the legend, famous for his weekly “Top 40 Countdown” in the 1980s and 1990s, had died of old age. But a suit and a countersuit with an ongoing contentious battle indicates otherwise.

As Peter Van Sant reports for CBS’s 48 Hours, when Kasem was diagnosed with a Parkinson’s-like condition in his late 70s, a battle over his medical care, decision making, and ultimately, his estate, ensued.

Kasem’s second wife Jean Thompson Kasem (who doesn’t do herself any favors wearing the zaniest pair of eyeglass frames for half the episode, nor when she later throws meat in an exasperated demonstration) claims his three children were after their father’s money. Furthermore, she says that for that reason, Kasem cut them off.

For their part, the Kasem kids (currently adults) claim that their stepmother is evil, crazy, a pathological liar and that she wanted complete control of their father…and of course, his money. They say that by Jean alienating them from their dad and moving him from facility to facility, his health deteriorated quickly and he died sooner than he would have under proper care.

The problem is, they were also involved in moving their father – away from Jean. Both sides, his wife of 35 years and his 2 daughters and son from his first marriage staunchly contend that they loved Kasem, and wanted the best medical care for him. Both sides allege that the other is responsible for his death.

Listen to the following episode of the 48 Hours podcast for a lot more information on this story. Then feel free to share your thoughts, as well as who you side with, in the comments’ section.

(Photo Source: CBSNews.com)

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Bravo TV, public figures, Real Housewives, Reality TV, RHOC, RHONJ, Women

#RealHousewives: The Question of When (and Why) To Walk Away

Real Housewives of Orange County‘s Kelly Dodd took to her Instagram as news of the upcoming RHOC reunion rocked social media. In the previews and articles, veteran Housewife Vicki Gunvalson makes the outlandish accusation that Kelly, 43, a divorced mother of Jolie (12) who she shares with ex husband Michael, uses cocaine.

Kelly has taken to her Instagram to deny the allegations and say that they are damaging to her daughter who is aware of what transpired.

Kelly has declared that she can no longer be around Vicki and that if the OG Housewife – of the first of the Real Housewives Bravo franchises – stays, she will not be back.

Fans are expressing their doubts because Evolution Media, the production company behind RHOC, seems to have an unspoken lifetime commitment to Vicki Gunvalson, and Kelly, now a single mom, would be walking away from some stellar pay (not that she’s hurting for cash. Her ex husband is the retired CEO of Leapfrog, the teaching tech device company that helped my toddlers learn their ABCs).

Speaking of Housewives walking away, Danielle Staub of Real Housewives of New Jersey was once the most epically notorious Housewife with a temper of Trumpian proportions (not fab for the presidency, but pretty riveting for reality television). After Danielle’s below the belt and bellicose response to Margaret agreeing to attend Dolores Catania’s hatchet throwing event, it was evident to most viewers that the demoted Danielle most likely held resentments about being a “friend of” for the second season in a row, rather than a full time cast member known as “Housewife”, her previous title. While I do NOT think Danielle’s strong-willed cast mates would ask for her to go, and she has Teresa on her side and currently as a real (off camera) friend, she seems quite disgruntled with the majority of the cast to observant RHONJ viewers.

An article on the website TooFab features new RHONJ cast member Jacqueline (“Jackie”) Goldschneider stating that she wasn’t given the warmest reception by Danielle. Jackie is also particularly close to Margaret, she states in the article, so that may have something to do with any prejudices on Danielle’s part.

Unlike with Kelly Dodd, I don’t see producers trying very hard to reason with the volatile “friend of.” Evolution Media and Bravo may very likely go out on a limb to placate Kelly, who is ratings gold and intriguing to many fans in her “full time” secured spot on RHOC. Producers will likely encourage these ladies to make up or pick up their drama next season for a storyline, but monetary offers demanding apologies will have to be a part of their strategy. Kelly Dodd has been declaring that her tween daughter is more important than any TV show and she is not one to mince words or refrain from making necessary demands. Sirens, the production company behind RHONJ, made Danielle a “friend of” for a reason, and with the new cast mates already getting into the overall drama mix, I see Danielle being phased out in a similar fashion to Kim D. (the villain who held an annual Posche boutique fashion show. Both Kim and Posche will be completely absent from the current season according to multiple reports and sources.)

It is my sense that Vicki will be doing some major backpedaling (we’ve seen her do it before), but that both she and Kelly will return next season and their terse interactions will be featured in the first few episodes.

I think Danielle is more likely to end up on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars next year. She has posted about suffering from arthritis, but being quite the determined ballroom dancer despite the aches and pains– and the petite former Housewife has some serious skills. I think she could make it far as one who inspires others dealing with chronic pain and has sashayed away from toxicity.

I predict she would make it much farther than Lisa Vanderpump did on DWTS and she’ll be happier than she would be feuding with the ladies.

Suggest it to ABC. I will too.

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Bravo TV, Psychology, Real Housewives, RHOC

#RHOC: Emily Simpson Triumphantly Claps Back at Tamra Judge on Social Media

“Where has THIS Emily been all season?!” one commenter in a Bravo-focused Facebook group wrote. His remark was in response to a social media argument that heated up between Real Housewives of Orange County cast mates Tamra Judge and Emily Simpson. The group consensus was that Emily had successfully told an aggressive Tamra off. “I’m wondering what transpired at the RHOC reunion,” another Facebook user replied, “Whatever it was had to be the catalyst for this angry back and forth.”

In many of our lines of work, we’ve learned it’s best not to address negativity. I witnessed a reporter from a top news magazine demonstrate that admirably the other day when a livid TV personality repeatedly lashed out at him on Twitter. It’s a lesson to note, but “restraint” rhymes with “saint” and many have deemed that non-coincidental. In addition, being on reality television negates many of those rules and restrictions. You’ve signed the contract and that entails speaking up for yourself.

In the interest of full disclosure, I socially met up with a small group that included Emily Simpson this past Sunday. I’ve had the opportunity to meet many other “Reality TV Personalities” over the years and I bristle at egos and get easily turned off by a lack of humility. Emily was down to earth, kind, sensitive and genuine. She was someone I clicked with, who I felt comfortable with despite badly needing a haircut and wearing my clunky glasses. She is someone to whom I wouldn’t hesitate to say: “Ok, you should really ignore your cast mates’ mean barbs.”

We sensitive folks (who the insensitive call “crazy” sometimes because of just how sensitive we can be. I’m not referring to Emily here as much as myself and others like me who are continually advised to “toughen your skin.”) consider that advice easier said than done. As an attorney, Emily has the right mix of sensitivity and no-nonsense toughness.

I think she handled Tamra properly and I hope she realizes that she effectively got the last word in their terse social media exchange (pictured above). I think she can spend today feeling content. From a production standpoint, and as one still rooting for the longevity of this franchise, Evolution Media can use the above exchanges in their opening footage sequence next season. As many viewers have opined on Twitter and Instagram, Emily has solidified that she’s earned the right to a spot as “Housewife” next season.

(Featured Photo Source: Reality Blurb)

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#RHONY, Bachelor Nation, Bravo TV, Real Housewives, Reality TV

#RHONY & #TheBachelor Crossover? The Countess Once Hit on Nick Viall

ABC’s former Bachelor Nick Viall revealed some tantalizing information on the podcast Juicy Scoop with Heather McDonald, released yesterday. Aside from tentatively dishing about some of the manipulative tactics by Bachelor production, he recounted a story of meeting Real Housewives of New York‘s Luann De Lesseps in Chicago. It was after his first stint on ABC’s The Bachelorette.

“I was out to dinner with friends…It was approximately 4 or 5 years ago. Someone in my entourage wanted to introduce me to…a duchess…or countess. I thought ‘Oh cool, a royal. I’ve never met a princess.’ She proceeded to enjoy the evening with some drinks. At some point, I had to get out of there. I had plans to go meet friends at a divey bar and I thought…for a moment…it would be really funny if I brought her. I don’t think she would have enjoyed that place. She leaned over and said ‘Where are you going? I do have a hotel and this hotel room.'”

Alas, there was no hookup because Viall went to meet his friends, and he hasn’t seen Luann De Lesseps since that evening. From the conversation with McDonald, it doesn’t sound like Viall follows any of Bravo’s Real Housewives franchises, but regarding the Countess, he added: “She was very nice, but it was before rehab and she was about 12 beers deep.”

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#politics, Bravo TV, Reality TV, Vanderpump Rules

#PumpRules: Yes, We Care About Politics

Exactly two years ago to this date, November 8th 2016, the site Jezebel posted an article titled Why Couldn’t We Interview the Cast of Vanderpump Rules About the Election? The author Ellie Shechet stated her desire to ask cast mates of the show their thoughts on the former reality star who would eventually go on to become president.

“I mean, don’t you want to know what Lala thinks?” she wrote.

She continued: “But when I reached out to Bravo to request interviews with the cast on the 2016 election, I was politely rebuffed. We were later told that Jezebel could only attend a ‘pub crawl’ event with the cast if we refrained from asking political questions.”

Bravo’s communications department may have the same stance today, keeping politics off the table in press interviews, but some cast members of various shows on the network are outspoken anyway.

When I asked Shep Rose his thoughts on Donald Trump several years ago, the PR rep interrupted and then Shep very assertively interrupted her: “No, I want to take this one.” As one can see from Shep’s recent tweets, he’s no fan of the president’s but on the phone, I got the sense he was Libertarian (and of course, there was no Trump love there as he explained an otherwise moderate position).

But back to Vanderpump Rules. In the past, we had gotten to know that Stassi Schroeder was the offspring of a gun-loving Republican dad and she would sometimes put her foot in her mouth, getting flack for criticizing some of the #MeToo stories. She was quickly schooled by her cast mates (in particular, Ariana Madix) and angry listeners of her podcast. She became terribly remorseful and some wondered if it was because advertisers had pulled out of her show, while others noted growth and maturation.

On the show, she showed her support for LGBTQ rights. Off air and in social media land (a place my 12 year old has vowed to never go and has deemed evil), Stassi incurred the wrath of many, including her very “woke” and liberal cast mate Ariana Madix, who was always outspoken about politics.

Ariana’s longtime boyfriend Tom Sandoval said in a very nonchalant way in 2016 that he would probably vote Democratic. This casualness reflected a collective mindset of these kids two years ago, who many viewers feel, have grown up on camera (never mind that they’re in their 30s. I do contend that political growth can spurt as part of one’s quarter life crisis).

Vanderpump cast member Kristen Doute now has a pinned tweet that reads “We voted. Did you? Get out and make your voice heard” and an earlier Twitter exchange she had with Ariana shows the latter teasing that she was an influence of this new outspokenness. Perhaps 2016’s Jezebel piece was making the rounds again before this year’s Election Day.

Another “Vapid Rules” (what I used to affectionately call the show) cast member, Tom Schwartz, who I had the occasion to interview multiple times for Huffington Post, tweeted out “I voted my balls off” on Election Day.

Today, his wife Katie Maloney, another integral member of the VPR clique, tweeted: “It’s fantastic that the Trump administration is standing up for a woman after she was ‘struck’ apparently being ‘grabbed by the pussy’ is AIGHT but Acosta trying to block the crazy chick grabbing at his mic is ASSAULT? I need a walk….This can’t be real life.”

Jax Taylor has made statements in the past that have reflected liberalism, not without his own share of faux pas, and the Grand Dame Lisa Vanderpump is a known LGBTQ advocate who has officiated gay weddings.

There are of course, numerous Bravo fans who are conservative and will hop on Instagram and Twitter to argue and defend President Trump to these Bravolebrities, or ask them to refrain from discussing politics. Katie was recently met with this response: “It’s cute when reality tv girls comment on politics.” To which another fan responded:

“It’s cute when tv personas become president too. Like super, SUPER cute. 🙄”

Touché.

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