Bravo TV, Reality TV

#SouthernCharmSavannah: Catching Up with Ashley Borders

A lot has changed for Ashley Borders, the former full time cast member on Southern Charm Savannah. This season (the show’s second), Borders makes only a few cameo appearances, with a caption that reads “Daniel’s friend.” Many viewers, with varying opinions on her from last season, feel this is an injustice because they were left hanging when it came to her “story.” A prevalent opinion is that she was the ONE character who actually made an otherwise “boring” and lackluster show something to tune in to.

In addition, she received some unsolicited advice from the more stodgy and more conservative viewers – who took to social media to opine – about making herself over, essentially to conform more to be like the others. To give you a mere metaphorical example: replacing her scoop neck tanks and cutoff shorts with Lily Pulitzer numbers that would make an Orthodox Rabbi proud (Odd reference from me, I admit, as only Daniel Eichholz of the SCS cast is Jewish).

Last season, Ashley was called out by her cast mates for excitedly discussing her styling business, but neglecting to gush about a side gig with Delta airlines which required a few scant hours per month. Viewers also snobbishly snarked about this airline opportunity and discussed how it might be “off brand” with the theme of wealth and privilege attached to the overall Southern Charm franchise.

Others deemed Ashley’s cast mates elitist. They contended that all the complaints inadvertently undermined the jobs of many Americans who do something similar to working baggage claims at airports.

Of course, on camera we saw Ashley’s cast mates insist that their gripes were about “honesty” which became a heavy storyline talking point that drove those rooting for this Southern sweetheart with the liberal views bananas.

Ashley comes from a prominent family of means, but you wouldn’t know it. She’s more focused on friendship, a new romantic relationship after recovering from divorce, her teenage son, her parents and siblings, spirituality and travel- lots of travel.

Raised in Savannah, she is the daughter of a pediatric surgeon noted as much for his skill as his charitable medical volunteer work in underdeveloped countries. Her mother’s work involves offering free clinics to people who cannot afford healthcare, and is also involved with home visits to the elderly. In addition, she helped start the first breast cancer center in the Middle East.

From the examples set by both of her parents, Ashley is committed to numerous philanthropic endeavors and focused on giving back, though she stays somewhat private about it.

In terms of the much-discussed Delta dealio and the more snooty smack she incurred from cast members last season and fans, Ashley tells me: “I have a friend who happens to be a millionaire and he did the Delta thing with me! He loved it too. It’s incredible because it gives you the opportunity to travel. He doesn’t feel that any work is above or below him. I have that same mindset. I think it’s important to work hard, not to rely on a trust fund or some sort of ‘cushioning’ when it’s wisest to save that for something important.” College tuition may be one “important” consideration for Ashley when she speaks lovingly of her son who is now in high school.

As far as the question of: Why wasn’t she forthcoming about this side hustle last season? Ashley has other, much closer friends who she talks to a ton, and we just didn’t get to see them and those conversations play out on TV. Mainly, however, she was very focused on her styling work, considering it her passion.

“I didn’t intentionally withhold things from my cast mates. Delta was great, but my great love truly was styling! I really wanted to be able to showcase it more on TV. You did get to see (in an early Season 1 episode) a shoot I worked on for a magazine – where I was in charge of the styling. I do so many things in general. I immediately felt ganged up on as I realized they wanted to make a huge deal out of Delta in a really surprising way.”

“For instance, I sell my old clothing on eBay and other cast members might do that too, but I wouldn’t lay into them for not bringing it up! Like selling clothes on eBay, the work at Delta was something I did only a few hours each month. Because I was so focused on styling, I didn’t feel defined by something I did on the side. I really wasn’t prepared for that to blow up in the way that it did…That caught me completely off guard and was disconcerting.”

Ashley no longer has the Delta side gig, but she discovered a harsh reality after appearing on Southern Charm Savannah last year. After facing some slut-shaming comments from Savannians and audience members, as well as intense critique about her struggling marriage and the Delta debacle, people in the neighborhood treated her differently.

“It became much harder to get local clients” for her styling business.

Co-parenting a teen with her ex husband Dennis, she is able to travel and work on styling projects overseas to make up for local losses. She’s also scored some acting work in the U.S. as well as some enviable projects in set design. Later this month she will appear alongside Gabriel Byrne and Kiersey Clemons in the Hollywood feature film “An L.A. Minute”.

In her first brief appearance of the season, in this past Monday’s episode, Ashley has agreed to meet with Daniel who remains a buddy of hers. You see her wearing a gold band on her left finger despite being divorced. She said that she wears a ring on that finger to avoid being hit on since she’s in a relationship with a man she is wildly passionate about.

He is someone she knew long ago: “He married someone else. I married someone else. We both got divorced and we ended up finding our way back to one another.”

There is a whole intriguing romance and a great story behind their history and reunion. I hope Ashley gets to share that one day with viewers. Meaning, I hope that if there is a Season 3 of Southern Charm Savannah, Ashley returns as a full time cast member with her beau.

In the scene that just aired with Daniel, I personally surmised that he looked uncomfortable confronting Ashley, who he has referred to as a “sweet person”, about honesty and authenticity. It is that harped-upon theme that makes some viewers’ eyes roll when they consider just how much Ashley actually did share last season. In particular, she was extremely candid about her dying marriage and lack of sex life with Dennis.

The conversation that just aired between Daniel and Ashley was incredibly brief, but she says it was longer than what we witnessed (which is always the case with reality television) and somewhat emotionally taxing.

She adds that she adores Daniel and understands why – particularly as he’s a close friend of Hannah’s – he felt the need to ask certain questions. Things were rough between Hannah and Ashley last season and Ashley conveys to me that she wishes they had patched things up then. We’ll have to stay tuned to see if they were able to fix their relationship or not.

As for her status as “friend of” this season. Ashley says: “I really want this season of Southern Charm Savannah to go well and it’s my sincere hope that more viewers tune in. After filming last season, Happy (a character who clashed with Ashley at one point on camera) has been lovely! And Happy’s mother is also incredible and very supportive! I remain close with Nelson (who didn’t return for Season 2) which is unique since we are SOOO different (she’s a liberal, he’s a staunch conservative). I disagree with him often, but we always agree to disagree and do so respectfully! I’ll tell him how I object to something, and he’s always listened and taken it in. I like Hagood, the new cast member this season, who I’ve known somewhat from around town. Daniel is a good friend and I consider his dad to be a friend of mine too – it’s kind of hilarious! He’s a great guy and I’m hoping you get to see more of their father-son interactions.”

Ashley adds that she had a real ally  in Brandon, in spite of some snide remark he made about her that viewers noted from the previews.

Ashley has received plenty of positive messages from fans, but also her fair share of hateful tweets. “I don’t understand this #HiAshley thing that’s going on, or what exactly happened to make people so passionate on social media,” she says, flummoxed at how having the name Ashley has brought on more haters, viewers glued to the original Southern Charm with a different Ashley.

Ashley Borders can cop to the fact that she too was polarizing onscreen last season, but she’s hoping people will get to see that she’s someone that cares deeply about others and feels passionately about bringing more diversity to the franchise.

“It’s frequently pointed out to me that the show has an all white cast and I’m happy that you may…I’m not positive, but maybe?…get to see my best friend, Shena, who is African American.”

Ashley Borders may have been the most misunderstood reality TV character on the most underwhelming reality show during Season 1. It is my hope that this show gains more traction as we see more scenes that capture her uniqueness, open-mindedness and authenticity.

(Pictured: Ashley Borders chatting on set with actor Gabriel Byrne)

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Bravo TV, Reality TV

#SouthernCharmSavannah: Should You Be Watching?

Having debuted on the heels of a catastrophic, yet incredibly captivating season of the original Southern Charm, the Savannian counterpart of the franchise seems to lack luster. Its ratings reflect that too, but there is a contingent of devoted fans, including those who watched Season 1 last year, who are committed to seeing Season 2 through to finale.

While I tune in weekly to Southern Charm Savannah (reneging on a previously tweeted resolution not to), it is with a mix of emotions. My favorite cast member, Ashley Borders, was demoted from main character to one with a select few cameos this season. Allegedly, (and according to several inside sources) this demotion was due to the fact that one stuffy “main” made a stink, stubbornly refusing to film with her.

Borders incurred the wrath for being more offbeat than the others during Season 1, and after interviewing her and meeting in person, I can attest to how kind, sweet and personable she is IRL. Since then, we have kept in touch and viewers have contacted me to relay that they are “bummed”, thinking she would have been an interesting individual to follow up on.

Watching the show last year, I took issue with one major theme: Southern Propriety that demanded keeping what’s unconventional closeted….Or, making it a struggle for the characters who feel harshly judged. Then again, that is in fact the backdrop of the Southern Charm franchise: young people – white people at that, let’s be real – navigating modern life while struggling internally with antiquated, austere and unspoken Southern rules, and concerned about perception.

Many viewers were surprised that this show was granted a second season after the first one seemed to fall short, but since I’m tuned in, I wanted to provide you with my thoughts on why you might want to check it out and why you might not:

The Good: Hagood

I like this new cast pick for Season Two with her peaches and cream complexion. She somewhat resembles actress/model Brooklyn Decker and when I say “like”, I mean that she hasn’t offended my sensibilities thus far. Hagood Coxe is somewhat vanilla and benign. There is this though: She’s great at pulling a prank when she convinces Brandon to drink “wild boar’s blood” or so he thinks.

Truthfully, I preferred Ashley’s flash and bohemian vibe and the fact that Ashley had a cool Persian friend, a jewelry designer, who we saw briefly last season (and who I think added diversity and should have been made a main cast member).

It also helps to know that Ashley’s group of friends who weren’t featured on the show are an incredibly diverse crew. Diversity is something that Southern Charm Savannah lacks, which is not reflective of the city itself.

Hagood does seem to have all the qualities of a delightful debutante on paper, but desperately needs to rebuff her mother’s incessant nudging and bossiness. Mom wants her to focus on her artistic pursuits rather than wasting time brewing sake (which Hagood pronounces “sah-kay!”). But lay off, Mama Coxe! – Hagood is an adult now.

She grew up a huntin’ and a fishin’ and her dad owns a farm, which he hopes to bequeath to her some day. Oh, and she may have dabbled in witch craft. Yes, you read that correctly: She got kicked out of camp when she was young for being a “witch” – no word on if that camp was headquartered in Salem, Massachusetts circa 1692.

Hagood also confessed, during a truth or dare-style game (minus the “dare”) with a few of her cast mates, that she has dipped into the lady pond. Her boyfriend hasn’t been shown on camera yet, but the footage has highlighted Hagood’s confession more than once – perhaps in an effort to make her seem more interesting? Perhaps to explore some sort of mini bisexuality storyline in future episodes? We’ll have to stay tuned, but so far, Hagood seems intriguing enough for a new addition. She’s also eye candy.

The teasers haven’t been exceptionally tantalizing, but I’m hopeful. I should mention that it’s a little strange that Hagood’s roughly a decade younger than her cast mates (She’s in her 20s, they’re in their 30s). But, well, that fits the OG Southern Charm template when you consider Kathryn Dennis.

The Bad: A Ban on Borders

I am not alone in expressing the sentiment that Ashley Borders was the most interesting character last season. I think Haymaker has left us hanging because I doubt Ashley’s cameo appearances will do her the justice she deserves after being slut-shamed for golfing in a one-piece last season. You’ll have to take my word for it that there’s more to this philanthropy-conscious mother, the daughter of a noted pediatric surgeon, than meets the eye. She did make it known last season that she’s one Savannian who didn’t vote for The Donald. So, there’s that.

The Good: Brandon

This season we have an openly gay cast member whereas last season, fans speculated on the sexuality of a man who identified as straight. Which was kind of rude. However, it was also kind of inevitable because it’s what viewers do…..(I’m not excusing it.)

The thing about interior designer Brandon Branch is that he is the sole Savannian featured who is in a healthy, steady, committed relationship. Viewers have expressed their delight about seeing a gay married couple serve as an example of the healthy relationship that the other single cast members should aspire to have.

Brandon possesses snide wit, scoffing and calling out his close bud Catherine Cooper while being affectionate towards her. He’s so truthful that it can be biting, but to his credit, Brandon Branch doesn’t beat around the bush.

The Bad: Brandon Branch can be overboard obnoxious

I enjoy Brandon Branch. Hell, I had a great tweet exchange with Brandon Branch last night because I tweet about all the show characters I find entertaining.

However, I’m not a fan of the slut-shaming statements uttered by Brandon Branch about Ashley Borders last season. And I could forgive that – You know, it was before the whole #MeToo shift in this country – but I didn’t like his line in Season 2 previews about the newly single Savannian. It was something about how there was a stripper pole in front of them but no Ashley. Sorry, Ashley is not a stripper and Brandon recently declared his affection for women, how he relates to them, in light of the fact that he grew up with sisters and always had female friendships.

If you’re reading this Brandon, that was not a statement about Ashley that reflects a priority of female empowerment. That was entirely uncool. Save for that, I like this new cast member. If he takes my constructive criticism to heart, I’ll like him even more.

The Good: Daniel, My Brother

So Daniel Eichholz is a “member of the tribe” (my tribe, that is – Jewish) and last year he had to deal with some insensitive statements addressed to him as the lone Yid in the group. He also wondered if he couldn’t be a part of a certain exclusive club because he wasn’t Waspy. Who knows what the real reasons were for the exclusion, but Daniel was the odd one out being the lone Jew of the clique. Interestingly, prior to attending the overly-mentioned (last season) Savannah Country Day School, Daniel was educated at a Hebrew day school in his elementary years.

I love seeing someone on television who had similar schooling to me and I’ve also found myself subjected to curiosity in social groups of all gentiles. I’ve gotten the same weird questions he has fielded in the past, and when Nelson (who did not return for Season 2) made him uncomfortable bandying around a Yiddish semi-slur word….I’d been there too.

Dave Quinn of People magazine recently tweeted out his appreciation for Daniel’s fit physique. Daniel has an insanely intriguing workout that consists of push-ups and planks off of park benches and bathtubs. Because I’d kill to be half as muscly as Teresa Giudice, I may take him up on his tweeted offer of a workout walk-through. That would first entail a trip to Georgia. For now, I’ll continue Sweating to the Oldies with a retro Richard Simmons.

The Bad: These 3 Are Cool, But What Exactly are the Storylines?

So the 3 characters highlighted above are the ones who stand out to me most at the start of this season.

I want to whisk Catherine Cooper away from this show and cast the bubbly blonde with the OG Southern Charm group in Charleston.

Haymaker Productions is going hard on the storyline of Catherine not being as into Lyle as he is into her. She rejected his onscreen proposal last season, and a highly connected source informed me that she also rejected his off-screen proposal.

I get the sense that she’s with him out of habit (a long, albeit terse, relationship, can become similar to an addiction), fear that someone “better” won’t come along and concern about what others think.

I want Catherine to feel free to fly and I’d like to see her soar. Instead, she strikes me as stifled.

Stifled in Savannah actually sounds like a great name for a spinoff show for her. I, for one, would like to see her happy ending.

I’m not interested in Lyle or the relationship between Hannah, the fashion brand starter (I think that’s what her thing is at the moment), and Louis, the socktrepreneur. I can’t help how I feel. Hannah seems ahead of him maturity-wise and should probably be with an older man – on paper, at least – but the heart wants what it wants. Yawn. Who cares?

The truth is: I’m sticking around to see how Ashley Borders deals with a cast that acted judgmental and elitist towards her (while I realize she was only granted a few scenes this season).

I’m hanging in to hear more about Hagood’s romantic life and to see if she’s less concerned about what others think of her than I think Catherine is.

I’ll be back in front of my TV next week for Brandon: I want to hear his clever barbs and the way he tells it to everyone straight, without seeming embarrassed or possessing any sort of a filter. That said, I’m also tuning in for his apology to Ashley, which I’ll acknowledge as pure fantasy on my part — at this point.

Savannah may not stack up to the competition of Charleston, but I think it’s worth checking out. Perhaps you’ll even discover more to it that you think I should write about.

Southern Charm Savannah airs on Bravo, Monday nights at 10 PM EST.

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Bravo TV, Reality TV

#SouthernCharmSavannah: Haymaker Havoc and What’s Ahead

Southern Charm Savannah returns tomorrow, Monday at 10 PM EST, and a number of its fans from last season are skeptical.

The show didn’t do spectacularly well in the ratings last season – with many complaining it lacked luster compared to the original Southern Charm.

Fans took to Twitter to say that Ashley Borders, who dealt with major life changes and adversity (especially from stodgier members of the more conservative cast), was the most interesting character on the show (definitely the bohemian and most liberal of the group) only to discover that this season she’ll appear in a few scenes. She’s an estranged “friend of” rather than a full time cast member.

According to Savannian sources, one of the other cast members had Haymaker Productions’ ear, made a big stink about Ashley’s potential return, and didn’t want to film with her. There was a bit of a tug of war behind the scenes as a fierce female Bravo executive advocated for Ashley, but ultimately was not triumphant due to the stubborn cast member.

Ashley Borders

In Ashley’s place, Haymaker cast a Brooklyn Decker lookalike named Hagood Coxe and made interior decorator Brandon Branch, who appeared last season, a full time cast member. Some fans regarded Brandon warily, the mean gossip who pettily maligned Ashley Borders to his good friend Catherine Cooper. We’ll get to know more about his personal life and greater insight into his character this season. I just hope he’s a tad more endearing because I wasn’t charmed by him in Season 1.

Last year, viewers saw Lyle Mackenzie propose to Catherine and she turned that down. One source says she also turned down an off-camera proposal!

In the Season 2 trailer, we see another cast member, Daniel Eichholz, plea to Lyle to rethink his relationship and question Catherine’s fidelity.

The very young Hagood, in her 20s compared to her decade-older cast mates, is said to struggle with some identity issues and is concerned about what others think. My sources say that Ashley Borders briefly spoke with Hagood during filming about being proud of who she is and not worrying so much about the rest of the cast’s judgement – which Ashley herself dealt with last season.

The offending Nelson Lewis (who threw out a Yiddish word that didn’t meet with positive response from Jews like myself and Daniel Eichholz, or black viewers) is not back at all for Season 2. Some fans regarded his faux pas of last season as falling under the Hanlon’s Razor principle – Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

That said, Nelson is a smart man, but didn’t possess enough of the “Woke” World Smarts to help him outside of his select Southern circles. Daniel Eichholz was certainly offended, and he felt like the odd man out being a Jewish Savannian in this group in general. I am interested to see how that storyline plays out for Daniel sans Nelson.

I’ll be tuning in, but mainly to rage that Ashley Borders isn’t back – since she was my personal favorite – and to tune in for her select scenes.

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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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