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, infertility, Moms, Parents, Reality TV, RHOC, Women

#RHOC: Between the Filler Scenes, Bringing Awareness to Fertility Challenges

The past few seasons of Real Housewives of Orange County have disappointed many who expect more than a montage of filler scenes, but we keep watching because storylines are there…Although it oftentimes may seem akin to separating the wheat from the chaff.

One theme this season consists of Emily Simpson, an attorney and party planner in her early 40s, desiring to have another child with her Mormon Persian husband Shane. On RHOC, Emily is clear and candid about her past emotional ordeal trying to conceive. When a viewer – who missed the explanation of why her sister became her surrogate – asked about the backstory, she responded: “I did in vitro. I was pregnant with twins and I lost them both at 4 months. I went into pre term labor and lost a lot of blood. I had to have an emergency D and C and then a blood transfusion. Because of this… my sister then was a surrogate and carried all three of my children.” When Emily lost all that blood, she was greatly at risk of losing her life. All viewers can agree that her sister must be an incredible person. Emily has said that her sister has a daughter of her own who calls Emily’s daughter her “sister cousin.”

Emily is not the first Housewife on RHOC to bring awareness to fertility challenges. Before she joined the group, there was Meghan King Edmonds who married the older, divorced Jim Edmonds, a former baseball center fielder turned sports broadcaster who had retired from babymaking – or so he thought, prior to marrying Meghan – and had gotten a vasectomy. The smart thing Jim did at the time was having sperm frozen, a “just in case” move.

Longtime RHOC viewers remember how Meghan spoke lovingly about her stepkids, arguing with the other ladies that despite not being their biological mother, she felt a strong bond as if she were.

Meghan wondered then if she would ever have kids of her own with Jim and she was anxious about the challenges. Frozen sperm doesn’t always take, but after IVF, Meghan conceived twins. Then we saw her grapple with the fact that one of the twin sacs had vanished and she cried for the early loss of that twin, but went on to have a healthy daughter.

Last year, when I interviewed Meghan, the idea of using more of the frozen sperm was not her major focus as she was pouring her daily energies into the new baby, but Meghan would go on to have twin boys –and a full term (for twins, that is 36 weeks) pregnancy, an impressive feat for multiples. (My own twin boys were born premature and spent five weeks in the NICU nine years ago.)

People have reached out to Meghan, and more recently, to Emily to thank them for their candor about fertility struggles. Hearing about the authentic hurdles that were eventually overcome instills viewers with encouragement, ideas and hope.

When I encounter folks that don’t watch reality television and feel a sense of despair, I try to share my own fertility saga. In my late teens, my hormones were entirely out of whack and my mom took me to see a pediatric endocrinologist. That visit armed me with the knowledge that I would most likely need “help” in order to conceive when the time – which seemed a long way off back then – was right and I wanted to start a family. Miraculously, I had no trouble conceiving my first child after coming off a birth control pill, but when I wanted to try for a second, the old hormonal issues reared their ugly heads.

I spent many months in a reproductive endocrinologist’s office as he scratched his head, trying to figure out why I wasn’t responding to any treatments. After my first attempt at IVF, I miscarried. Following the recovery from that devastating loss, I tried IVF again. However, this time the doctor recommended adding preimplantation genetic testing of the embryos. Out of the 18 embryos that were produced, only one, “Number 17”, was deemed healthy.

I remember saying to the doctor “Everyone always implants more than one embryo. What’s the chance of one even taking?” I expected this to result in more despair and as my doctor was mentioning the possibility of surrogacy and donor eggs, I reasoned that my son would be an only child and that was totally OK. I was ready for it and would have to figure out creative responses to “Mom, I want a brother or a sister.”

Surprisingly, “Number 17” became the boy that is my 12 year old today. We joke that he was a pain in the butt before he was even born because I was informed I was at risk of preterm labor and took progesterone shots (administered in the derrière) throughout the pregnancy as a preventative measure. He was born only 4 weeks early and was a solid 6 pounds and 11 ounces.

Because of the incredibly lengthy, time (and money) intensive, highly emotional ordeal to give my oldest son a sibling, I declared I was done after two. I gave away my baby clothes, my maternity wardrobe and other related accoutrements. So when my husband turned to me and said, “If we want to try for a third, we better get cracking now,” I gave him the side eye and looked at him as if he were a 90 Day Fiance cast member rather than the man I had married. “I thought I had retired,” I said to myself, while half entertaining the very remote possibility of trying for a third and last pregnancy.

I was technically “advanced maternal age” and my husband is six and a half years my senior. Knowing that doctors had told me it was nearly impossible for me to get pregnant any other way than IVF with PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnostics), I said “let me try one round of IUI (insemination preceded by fertility shots) which is covered by insurance. If the one round doesn’t work, WHICH IT WILL NOT, NO CHANCE OF THAT, then we are meant to only have two kids and that’s totally fine!”

Unlike my prior Manhattan fertility practice that had extra long waits and a packed waiting room area, I found a center near me in New Jersey. I thought it might be a worrisome sign to find myself as the solo patient in the waiting room and my antenna went up further when I was ushered in right away to the exam room. But, long story short: This no-frills fertility practice worked its magic. After only one completely insured round of IUI, I conceived and exceeded what the expectations were for my body. The twins are 9 years old today.

So from infertility to 4 children – actually being told at age 17 that I would have a hard time getting pregnant and hearing that so early on – my journey is one I’ve shared with others in need of encouragement. I’ve been able to relate to people who have miscarried because that, for me, was a far greater ordeal than I detailed above.

I’m not a public figure, nor will I ever be, but when I see someone who has a platform, like Emily Simpson on RHOC, use it to bring awareness to options like surrogacy and detail an emotionally fraught fertility story, I know it’s appreciated among fans going through similar experiences.

It is a natural instinct to seek people out who have already been through the journey you have only just begun. When my twins were in the Nicu as preemies, I had no frame of reference. I remember a man telling me that his daughter was born even more premature than my sons, had weighed a mere one pound at birth, and was now obtaining a degree at an Ivy League university. I cannot properly convey how reassuring that was to hear.

Conversely, when I miscarried years ago, many friends came forward to share their sad miscarriage stories, ones I had never been told despite knowing these people for years.

While we watch reality TV often to escape our lives, we also tend to admire the characters whose challenges we are facing or have faced, the ones we discover commonalities with. While many people make fun of reality TV lovers, the real components of it can provide solace to someone going through an ordeal or contemplating their options.

In many circles, people are incredibly tight-lipped and private about these matters. In the community I hailed from, I hardly ever heard anyone discuss fertility challenges when I was growing up. More people end up hearing about these things from their friends when they are the ones to initiate a discussion about their own struggles and frustrations with the challenges. So when Emily Simpson appears on our screens and discloses that her sister was her surrogate after she suffered numerous miscarriages, we’re going to look up, listen and take note.

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#RHONY, public figures, Reality TV, Television, Women

#RHONY: Does Bethenny Want to Be Here?!

Last year, there were numerous reports about Bethenny Frankel threatening to quit Real Housewives of New York during filming. Press outlets stated it was due to the fact that she and Carole Radziwill, her former on-camera comrade, were not getting along. Allegedly, Bethenny was at her wit’s end, devastated by the whole debacle.

Ultimately, we saw how the demise of that friendship played out. It went from tentatively terse to flat-out terrible. While Bethenny seemed to tantrum rather than ice out her friend (Carole was the one to act too cool for school), Carole is now speaking out bitterly via Twitter when there’s really no need to. Unlike Bethenny, she’s not coming back to RHONY next season.

Which brings us to the point of Bethenny returning. Several seasons ago, RHONY fans expressed frustrations with the Skinny Girl when she didn’t show up to filmed parties and other events captured by cameras.

“So, Bethenny can just dial it in this season?” one recapper lamented to me at the time.

Since Bethenny was considered the Queen Bee with the clever quips that kept the franchise feisty, she was still contributing to the storyline even as it seemed unfair that she could bow out of events at her choosing. That season and this past one – when she was a no-show at Ramona’s skincare line party – she telepathically conveyed to the audience: I’m too good for this. I’m a REAL businesswoman, not a “Real Housewife.”

One friend told me she completely understands Bethenny’s stance: “She’s the only one who really had to pull herself up by the bootstraps, work hard and acquire her wealth all on her own. There was no rich husband. She didn’t have a dime from her parents because they are estranged. Bethenny, therefore, cannot relate to all the other women on this show.”

Although at times it seems Bethenny really doesn’t want to be there at all, this show has given her a platform to promote her products and the visibility of her brand. Overall, she does have many hardcore fans who will defend her to the death (it’s reality TV, but this is only slight hyperbole). Her one-liners are always original and off-the-cuff, and when she’s in the wrong, she knows how to play her cards right, garnering sympathy and armed with defense tactics.

At this past reunion, host Andy Cohen hardly seemed the fair arbitrator with fans crying “Bethenny bias”, and Bethenny stans firmly on her side, deeming Carole Radziwill to be the devil.

Bethenny looked pained and severely constipated (in fact, she had talked about the latter in Colombia on the cast trip) throughout the season – again, a season during which she had reportedly threatened to quit the show altogether. However, she appeared confident at the reunion, vicious even and ready to tear Carole apart. She seemed to take a deep breath of fresh air in vindication and while Carole could have creamed her with a barrage of receipts, complaints and having other ladies on her side, Bethenny shouted the loudest, stood her ground and with Andy Cohen clearly in her corner, she appeared triumphant at the end.

Bethenny Frankel has a love-hate relationship with reality television, specifically with RHONY and with fame overall. What makes her most miserable is what she is inspired to confront…again and again. Walking away is not an option. The successful businesswoman didn’t make a name for herself by being a quitter.

When it comes to Bravo, she is either a glutton for punishment or a genius who feels that all risks – and all hassles, like business parties so “beneath her” that she’ll decline without hesitation- are worth the ultimate rewards. She is smart and shrewd enough to know what those rewards are, and furthermore, what they could be, and see that she gets them at the end of the RHONY journey.

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#RHONY, Bravo TV, Reality TV, RHONJ, Women

The Reality of Reality TV Friendships

I often marvel at how perplexed fans are by the demise of a “friendship” between women on reality television. While casting directors often choose people who are familiar with one another, they also look for personalities that are dynamic enough for on-camera clashes and fireworks.

Sometimes a televised kinship is just that, a business arrangement of sorts where the women go back to their real friends during the months of no filming. In other instances, like colleagues in various professions, true personal bonds are formed and cast members do get together when the cameras aren’t rolling.

However the fates of these reality TV friendships are always uncertain due to group dynamics ahead, seeing one another in new environments, and after being asked dozens of questions about the other person by persistent (and often meddlesome) producers.

Last season of Real Housewives of New Jersey, Margaret Joseph was seen bonding with Danielle Staub and this season, according to Staub’s recent appearance on The Wendy Williams Show, the two had a massive falling out during the filming months. We also had the terse and painfully tumultuous “breakup” of Carole Radziwill and Bethenny Frankel on Real Housewives of New York, that left the viewing audience taking sides. On this season of Real Housewives of Dallas, currently airing, Leeanne Locken And D’Andra Simmons seem to be falling apart at the seams. With the latter, as Locken explained on the podcast Everything Iconic With Danny Pellegrino , there had been some particularly hurtful drama when they tried to work together on a prior reality show four years ago. Until this interview, most of us were unaware of the deep wounds and buried grudges that date back to that earlier project. Having a chaotic history coated by several layers of Southern politeness may have finally brought simmering resentments to a boil.

In many of our lives – the lives of regular people who will not be featured on television – we have lifelong friends as well as people who were once friends who we’ve lost touch with. Then there are friends we’ve lost – not to death, but to life circumstances, differences in lifestyles or geographical distances.

Sometimes women become too close and confide their deepest darkest secrets and a confidence is broken. Other times, we may come to see something in a friend that compels us to pull away. We don’t have producers asking us to articulate exactly what is going on in those moments or encouraging us to hash it out. If we did, we might be able to salvage those friendships through communication we wouldn’t otherwise employ – or more likely, an all-out screaming, glass smashing row would ensue.

The point is that although we all want to be part of a Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda dynamic a la Sex in the City, the headlines about longtime colleagues SJP and Kim Catrall not being able to stand one another attest to how fraught and complicated female relationships can be when you strip away the fictional script.

As a child I always thought it would be incredible to have a huge group of friends, but today I have about 6 or 7 really close friends. According to Facebook, I have 1,361 “friends” though I think I have broken bread with about fifteen percent of that contingent.

Like Leeanne and D’Andra, Margaret and Danielle, Bethenny and Carole, I have had my own friend fallouts over the years and although they cannot compare in volatility to the televised versions, I still wish all friends and acquaintances were life-long ones.

The notion of having everybody adore you forever is a childhood fantasy. As adults, we grow and change, our priorities shift. Fallouts inevitably result from differences in politics, beliefs and the loss of commonalities we once shared.

Whether a producer is in our ear or not, intuition dictates when it is time to walk away.

(Photos courtesy of: Bravo TV/NBC Universal, Us Weekly, People)

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Bachelor in Paradise, Bachelor Nation, The Bachelor, Women

Ashley Spivey on Making #TheBachelor Franchise Better

Ashley Spivey, Twitter

If you’re an avid fan of ABC’s The Bachelor, you might know the name Ashley Spivey. You may have been familiar with her as a contender on the 2011 season, Brad Womack‘s second go as Bachelor (he had already been in the starring role in 2007, but left without a leading lady). Or, she may have only recently come to your attention due to her unique social media activity and interviews on Reality Steve‘s podcast. This is because Spivey has unintentionally become a sort of whistleblower, calling out injustices and controversial aspects of The Bachelor franchise.

Spivey truly didn’t set out to become this person, but as the moderator of a subreddit forum about the franchise, and as a survivor of sexual assault, she’s passionate about how today’s contestants should be treated, represented and protected.

Early on in the process during her season, Spivey detected her brand of ardent feminism wasn’t a match for Womack. “I saw him as wanting to be more in the ‘traditional’ role as a man,” she relates. Spivey had applied for the show after catching her ex boyfriend – who had left a career in finance to pursue one in acting – in bed with another woman. She thought it would be poetic justice to star on television before he ever got the chance. Her father had just passed away and her mood was glum, but she was ready to take a chance on something new and out of character. She completed the lengthy application despite being someone who “doesn’t love being on camera.”

Of course, producers loved the New York based nanny’s feisty backstory. “I think they called me 30 minutes after reviewing my application,” she half jokes.

Her employers at the time weren’t so keen about their child’s caretaker starring on a reality dating show, so once dismissed of these responsibilities (“I thought I was done with nannying and at that point, didn’t envision going back to it like I eventually did.”), Spivey was free to meet the man whose affections two dozen other women would be vying for.

Had producers not followed up regularly with her, she probably would have dropped the ball, she concedes.

Like her friend Sharleen Joynt (Juan Pablo’s season), Spivey homed in on the antiquated aspects of The Bachelor process early on. She recognized and internally recoiled from the reactionary. She was a “one and done” in her mind as far as being on reality TV, but after her season, joined the millions of viewers to opine on social media. There she became a shrewd and critical observer. Now happily married, Spivey remains committed to bettering the process for the singles of Bachelor Nation.

In the years leading up to #MeToo, #TimesUp and women calling out men for bad behavior, more eyeballs landed on Spivey’s Twitter timeline. Social media platforms hadn’t been as popular when she was a contestant back in 2011, but now people were weighing in with alacrity. Like other critics of the ABC franchise, she was not a fan of the public’s shaming of the first Bachelorette to have sex before fantasy suite dates and made that viewpoint known. This resonated with others who replied and responded. Bloggers and reporters focused on the flaws within the franchise as a direct result. Spivey’s tweets took the position of: People seem to take it easy on the men, so why are women being slammed?

She posted and blogged about these types of injustices and her following continued to amass, even more so after pointing public attention to the bad behaviors of The Bachelorette contenders hoping Becca Kufrin would choose them.

As a former contestant, “Bachelor Nation” was paying attention to Spivey, though she was met with polarizing reaction due to the political diversity of that audience. Some of the more conservative viewers were upset when after following a tip, she looked into and verified the strange Instagram activity of Bachelorette contender Garrett Yrigoyen (comprised of “likes” on offensive and racist posts and memes).

When blogger Reality Steve got word of Lincoln Adim‘s battery assault conviction, Spivey arranged for her sister in law to pick up the court documents in person. “Because I manage a Bachelor Subreddit forum, I need to make sure the conversations there don’t get out of hand and that false information isn’t being spread,” she explains, “I also feel that these contestants deserve the very best and it upsets me that there wasn’t a better vetting process in place to protect Becca.”

Spivey’s successful efforts obtaining proof from the courtroom had a greater impact: Adim did not attend The Men Tell All episode.

“They could have done much better than that,” Spivey insists. “Becca should not have been placed in a position where she’d have to choose between controversial men. Producers could also have chosen to address the Lincoln scandal and discuss what is not acceptable during The Men Tell All…They also could have edited out a handful of Lincoln’s earlier scenes.”

Producer Elan Gale did reach out to Spivey to let her know the franchise had a pretty solid selection process. With regard to Yrigoyen, he expressed, there is no way to determine what a person is “liking” unless one follows that person and goes through every single post. Spivey understands how difficult and tedious it is, but something she tells me about herself should be modeled by production: “I always double and triple check things – it’s something I hear from multiple people that you’ll eventually end up reading about – before addressing it.”

Spivey adds that there was another missed opportunity by the franchise during 2017’s nearly-canceled season of Bachelor in Paradise. After allegations of sexual impropriety were investigated, the show reconvened with a post hiatus episode featuring a conversation between Chris Harrison and cast mates. “A professional should have been called in to address the issue of ‘Consent’ and clearly define what it means. In a way, this huge issue was somewhat glossed over following a public controversy. In my opinion, they fumbled the ball by not having a psychologist there. This was an opportunity to educate properly.”

While Spivey expects certain things from the franchise in 2018, it’s amazing that she still watches the show after what she experienced in 2011:

“I spoke about being a victim of sexual assault and rape in a prior relationship that was abusive. I knew there were other women that would be able to relate to my experience and I wanted to be authentic about real life issues. All of that was cut out of the show.”

With a social climate that is changing for victims of sexual assault, Spivey has been able to note progress made by the franchise more recently, but perhaps it is her own scarring past experience that keeps her fighting. By highlighting issues with contestants, it is inevitable that producers are tuned in and making changes –even if some regard her as a troublemaker or fail to credit her.

After exploring claims that a contestant of The Proposal (a spinoff show of the franchise’s) had once drugged and sexually assaulted a woman, Spivey was instrumental in bringing the information to light. Although no one from the network contacted Spivey, ABC promptly pulled the episode and it never aired. “That indicates they’re responding, but there’s still a long way to go.”

There are many viewers who see The Bachelor as a safe entertainment haven, one away from politics. As a result, that contingent would not want to be lurking on Ashley Spivey’s timeline. She tells me she was pleasantly surprised when Bekkah Martinez’s Trump reference wasn’t edited out of Arie’s season of The Bachelor.

“The reality is that there are viewers in Middle America that the franchise doesn’t want to alienate, so you’re not going to hear much political discussion. I believe that Rachel and Nick’s fantasy suite date was on election night, but producers know how polarizing these types of conversations can be. I think contestants are also highly aware of this and as a result, reluctant to discuss politics. Michael Garofola brought up Trump a lot during Bachelor Winter Games – Know that, despite the fact that you didn’t get to see it on the show.”

A more recent controversy Spivey has spotlighted is the one surrounding Leo Dottavio from Becca’s season of The Bachelorette and Bachelor in Paradise.

“I had seen mumblings about Leo sending dick pics and inappropriate messages to women. Bekkah Martinez had Instagram stories about people coming forward to her regarding unwanted advances from Leo. He claimed it was all photo- shopped and fabricated, but there were multiple people coming forward to back Bekkah up. Then Amanda Stanton posted about him and Leo responded by sending threats.”

(Ironically, Spivey and I spoke right before Amanda Stanton’s arrest following a physical altercation with her boyfriend. Stanton’s lawyer issued a statement acknowledging that any violence is wrong and conveying Stanton’s regrets about her actions.)

Spivey would like to see more progress from the franchise, including more inclusiveness and diversity. She is currently disgruntled by the demographics. “Rachel Lindsay, the first black Bachelorette, is also the only Bachelorette to not reach a million followers. That shows you how racist viewers still are.”

Spivey would have also liked to see the first black Bachelor this upcoming season. There were some great candidates, she notes, including Wills Reid and Eric Bigger. However, Spivey sees the selection of Colton Underwood as a response to a call for change and proactively safer casting choices.

“There are lots of crazy stories out there about contestants, but there is nothing bad on Colton,” she emphasizes. “Colton is a good person. I think that raising awareness about what’s problematic really did have an impact. You see that with the choice of Colton as the next Bachelor.”

Spivey is quick to add: “On the other hand, if the whole season is ragging on Colton for being a virgin…that would be a complete step backwards…”

“If they don’t make significant changes, it will be hard for me to continue watching.”

(Photos, from left to right, courtesy of Wet Paint and Brides.com. Spivey has said that during her season of The Bachelor, she was more in love with fellow content Ashley Hebert than Bachelor Brad Womack.)

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Big Brother, Gender Stereotypes, Women in the workplace, Psychology, Reality TV, Women

#BB20: Julie Chen MOONVES, the “player” who stole the show

With Len Moonves recently ousted as CBS Chairman, die-hard Big Brother fans (who often cannot be bothered by distractions while this all-consuming, annual televised challenge plays out) have kept their peripheral vision on host Julie Chen.

Julie had a career before she married Les, but his reign over the network certainly helped her star rise at CBS. Annually, she has hosted Big Brother with its myriad of mental and physical competitions, and she interviews each eliminated contestant in front of an audience for the weekly live portions of the popular, longstanding show.

Julie (who has always gone by “Julie Chen”) is also a cohost of The Talk, where the other cohosts (all women, including Sharon Osbourne who is married to rocker Ozzy) discuss hot topics and news items. The show features a wide variety of guests that join its panel for conversations.

Last night, while BB20’s power player Tyler Crispen made a bold and shrewd last-minute decision to put up one of the strongest players for eviction, Julie had her own “game play” in mind.

The news about her husband’s unwanted sexual advances towards women had been making the rounds since reporter Ronan Farrow exposed the indiscretions. After six women raised new assault and harassment claims – according to The New Yorker – Moonves “negotiated his exit.”

Many fans wondered how her husband’s departure would impact Julie Chen’s fate as Big Brother host. As the players were planning, strategizing and hypothesizing correctly about a double-eviction ahead, Julie was internally fixated on her own game plan during last night’s live show.

She kept her cool throughout the hour, but perhaps betrayed that notably robotic, eerily calm exterior when she referred to the second evicted houseguest as “Brent” rather than Brett.

Astute to every move and guffaw around them because the game requires it, I have to wonder what BB20 contestant Brett Robison thought of that out-of-character slip of tongue…

and how Julie signed off to signify she was standing by her man:

“I’m Julie Chen Moonves, Goodnight.”

It was a subtle statement to CBS by a woman who has never used her married name on air. Fans have taken to social media to comment on Julie Chen’s gameplay, with some in support of a woman “standing by her man” and others disgusted that she isn’t standing up for victims of sexual harassment and assault.

Ironically, what’s been going on inside the house is a mini-metaphor for the drama outside of it. Big Brother fans who constantly watch the live feeds witnessed Sexually inappropriate behavior from houseguest JC Mounduix. Following fan outcry, JC was admonished by producers who questioned other cast mates about whether or not they felt uncomfortable with him in the house.

No one complained about JC (certainly not Tyler who slept right through his own fondling a la Mounduix), so JC was allowed to remain on the show.

Some fans have written me that it is understandable for a wife not to want to believe the worst about her husband. Others have speculated that Julie wants to present a united front until she’s absolutely certain Les did something wrong.

Avid Big Brother viewers have been tweeting about Julie Chen’s potential replacement, while others argue that it would be unfair for her to lose or abdicate a position that has, seemingly, suited her perfectly for years. I feel that no woman deserves to be punished for her partner’s errant ways, but I’m also unfamiliar with the inner workings of CBS and how a company deals with its ex honcho’s spouse…who likely has a massive grudge to bear with the network. If Julie were to separate from Les Moonves, it would be a whole different story. Right now, the future is uncertain.

Do you think Julie Chen…er, Moonves will continue to host Big Brother next season? If not, who do you foresee as her replacement?

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