Reality TV

#RealityTV Realness: Looking to Cast “Crazy” Folks (But Let’s STOP Using That Word)

“Reality TV is definitely not for the faint of heart,” Emily Simpson recently remarked. In case her name is unfamiliar to you, Simpson was a cast mate on Real Housewives of Orange County this past season, her inaugural one which had a level of inevitable hazing for the newbie.

As an attorney, part time party planner, and a mother, Simpson thought she was well-equipped for any battle ground. However, she quickly discovered that even she, “a tough cookie” needed to be stronger, to fight back, stand her ground and adamantly state what she was opposed to from her cast mates.

Her general tendency is to be more laid back, but she found her voice amongst the taunts, outbursts, gossip and chatter from the other ladies during filming – especially when Kelly Dodd insulted her husband Shane by calling him a “little geek”, “a twerp” and “a nerd.”

Emily fought back, perhaps too hard, saying the words (to Kelly Dodd) that we all need to consider carefully before uttering: “I will kill you.” But stress – and the duress brought on by filming a show which requires you to hang out with volatile personalities who are virtual strangers full of unpleasant surprises – can get the best of you.

That’s why I personally wouldn’t sign release forms. Television would be a magnification of my worse traits. I have a hard enough time listening to my own voice when I’m on a podcast.

Other Housewives franchises and reality shows across the many networks, especially 90 Day Fiance on TLC, are cast with the most eclectic, explosive, dramatic, controversial and polarizing individuals. This is not to say that other people aren’t cast as foils to their antitheses, or because they’re enormously endearing.

Nevertheless, “Crazy” is the most overused (albeit at times, seemingly suitable) label for reality folks. Some of the Real Housewives of New Jersey cast have had difficulty handling the brashness and blunt manner of Margaret Josephs. The answer about whether reactions to her remarks are “crazy” may be subjective. However, it would be wrong to use such a harsh term when discussing exclusively what’s shown on television.

Is Caroline on Bravo’s Below Deck “crazy” on the show? One could definitely assert that she seems neurotic, filled with anxiety and understandably on edge around judgmental cast mates, but again, based solely on the footage (and discounting social media tirades), “crazy” wouldn’t be a fair depiction.

Is it ever a fair one? Caroline is dealing with a mother who has dementia, Emily is dealing with the stress of the unexpected, a terse relationship with her mother, while also grappling with the heavy decision about having another child (following an emotional fertility journey and multiple miscarriages).

Women in their 50s on other franchises have hormones entirely out of whack as menopause looms large. Then there is an audience unwilling to hold back or mince harsh words on all social media platforms.

Maybe we should all own up to the crazy label and say “Yes, I own my temporary insanity”, but I think the word “crazy” is tossed around too liberally. I suffer from Generalized Anxiety and I’m currently dealing with real life stresses that could affect any woman my age as their parents get older.

Do I handle stress well? Not always (or to quote Dorinda Medley from Real Housewives of New York, “not well, bitch!”)

Have I had my “crazy” moments? Oh yes, definitely. I once left a harsh voicemail message asking an individual to knock off their baffling shenanigans. I had my Alec Baldwin moment when the individual (not a friend or even an acquaintance) published the voicemail on a website. I chose not to listen to it (I’ve mentioned hating the sound of my own voice), but I will cop to sounding like I was at my wit’s end – I was.

I’m not bothered that the individual (again, a stranger) went on to call me a nut, unstable…with regard to my momentary lapse in judgement. This person doesn’t actually know me and how I’m open about my anxiety, how I went through the worst period when my twins were born shockingly and detrimentally prematurely. I felt no shame about going on Lexapro when their traumatic birth was followed by months of insomnia.

Emily Simpson certainly never intended to actually kill Kelly Dodd when she screamed “I’ll kill you.”

The normal, everyday man or woman (and let’s be real about how men easily get passes when it comes to “bad behavior,” and are less prone to be labeled “crazy” than women are… “strong,” “stubborn,” “hot headed,” “annoyed” and worse, justified in their annoyance – yet rarely “crazy”) needs to pause and think before reacting.

That is what would happen in an ideal reality, but reality TV is set up with the cards stacked against its stars purposely and things moving quickly as directed by producers.

When on reality TV, you are to spend lots of time – including overseas getaways – with people who are not your “real life friends.” You are advised to swallow your pride in order to film, and producers ask deliberate questions, knowing the answers are sure to get you in trouble.

In your most tense-filled moment, you are asked “Siggy, what do you think of the things Margaret said?” You may cry, you may yell out an expletive. You feel wronged and who is to say feelings aren’t justified! Are you crazy? NO.

You are in an ill-suited environment for you. You are desperately in need of a new one, surrounded by people you view as kind, like-minded, who share your sense of humor and propriety.

Should you decide to return to the show – which is my hope for Emily Simpson of RHOC – you now know how to do things differently and what you will never repeat. And your hope is to give viewers and reviewers new adjectives. “Crazy” is not only a cop-out, but a disservice – especially to women who have been dismissed simply as just that for thousands of years.

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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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#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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Philanthropy, RHOC

#RHOC: Emily Simpson Makes Thanksgiving Season About Giving Back

While viewers get to see an ultra-busy, dramatic and reactive side of Emily Simpson on Bravo’s Real Housewives of Orange County, her philanthropic endeavors haven’t been spotlighted.

Each year, in November, prior to Thanksgiving, Emily and her sister-in-law Shireen Burgan host a special Friendsgiving. With activities and a signature cocktail, festive decor and conversational games, participants are not only encouraged to mingle, but to bring their own discussion-eliciting dishes…plus a donation to the charity of focus.

Emily explains that this is her fourth year hosting Friendsgiving with Shireen and adds: “This year, it will take place Wednesday, November 7th, at my house. We decided to make it an annual dinner with our girlfriends and we always incorporate a charity into the event. This year we asked all our guests to bring a side dish and also to donate to Lonestar fostering connections. Lonestar fostering connections provides clothing and suitcases to children in foster care so that they have a sense of having their own personal belongings.”

Emily, who has been through her own fertility struggles that were well documented on RHOC, became passionate about Lonestar’s services and children going through foster care after becoming friendly with Lonestar Social Service’s founder Dr. James Mercer. It was he who helped to organize Brandi Redmond’s adoption and has been featured on Brandi’s show Real Housewives of Dallas.

For a holiday focused on giving thanks, it is always refreshing to hear about those who don’t take their blessings for granted and are devoted to helping the less fortunate. Last year’s Friendsgiving charity was the Illumination Foundation and Emily explains: “We adopted a homeless family and all my guests brought donations for the family. It was a single dad with four boys.”

To get inspired about hosting your own philanthropic Friendsgiving, here’s a video of Emily and Shireen discussing the planning that went into this year’s event. (Click on the hyperlink.)

Other Real Housewives who will be in attendance this Wednesday are fellow Season 13 newbie Gina Kirschenheiter and RHOC alum Lizzie Rovsek.

(Photo: Emily Simpson and Shireen Burgan, Facebook)

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Flipping Out, Reality TV

#Flipping Out: Tune In to Jeff Lewis Live on Thursday

Jeff Lewis of Bravo’s Flipping Out, and of Sirius’s Jeff Lewis Live, was called for comment and provided with a few of his former work partner Jenni Pulos’s quotes to People magazine.

The former friends, who had an infamous falling out that will air this season on Bravo’s Flipping Out, are currently at odds, and viewers will get to witness the demise of their dynamic this season and weigh in at home.

Lewis announced on his radio show that the article, an exclusive interview with Pulos, is slated to hit East Coast newsstands on Wednesday. He declared that he will not comment until he’s read the piece in its entirety. His partner Gage added that the timing should coincide with Thursday’s episode of Jeff Lewis Live.

Pulos, for her part, has refrained from commenting on the breakdown of her friendship and working relationship with Lewis. Therefore, the People article will be her “Jenni breaks her silence” opportunity.

On air, Jeff facetiously asked guest Melody Chiu, also of People, whether Jenni had been strapped down to a lie detector test. Chiu replied that Jeff probably knew more than she did (the implication being that Dave Quinn, the People reporter to focus on a majority of Bravo-related topics, was the one who conducted the interview).

Be prepared for some unfiltered thoughts and jokes at Jenni’s expense on Thursday. Jeff is entertaining and possesses a unique brand of humor combined with neuroticism that entertains many, but I wouldn’t want to be on his bad side.

I trust that Jenni is prepared for the reaction and backlash from die-hard Lewis fans.

(Photo Source: Us Weekly)

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Bravo TV, Podcasts, Real Housewives, Reality TV, Uncategorized

Tony’s Tea Corner: A Platform For Real Housewives To Truly Open Up

Many great minds have weighed in on a cultural phenomenon of our time, The Real Housewives. A chief example of a commentator extraordinaire is the noted historian Brian Moylan of Vulture.com and of (his self-dubbed) Real Housewives Institute. There are many other astute observers and anthropologists who could be considered Moylan’s esteemed colleagues and fellow philosophers. Dave Quinn of People is the one to obtain exclusive interviews with current “Bravolebrities” and then wax philosophical on his @NineDaves Twitter account. Then there are the podcast hosts: The Bitch Sesh ladies Casey Wilson and Danielle Schneider, Kate Casey of Reality Life, Juicy Scoop’s Heather McDonald, and (as fans affectionately refer to them) the boys: Ronnie Karam and Ben Mandelker of Watch What Crappens, Grant Rutter of Grant’s Rants, Troy Turner of Taste of Reality and last but certainly not least, there is “Uncle Tony” of Tony’s Tea Corner.

Born Anthony Lario, “Uncle Tony” is a moniker his friends granted him because he is the trusted confidant and the one to give you straight-up advice. That means he is also the perfect person to interview former Housewives, ladies who were once a part of a franchise and can now speak more freely in retrospect about their experiences. While comedian Amy Phillips refers to the “100th Housewife” Peggy Sulahian (a one and done from last season’s Real Housewives of Orange County) as “Peggy ‘No Talk’ Peggy”, Anthony was able to get Peggy to open up for over an hour.

During that time, she really spoke her mind and explained the scenes that left viewers perplexed.

Today, a new episode of Tony’s Tea Corner is out featuring another former RHOC Housewife, Meghan King Edmonds.

I spoke with Anthony Lario last week to get a sense of who he is, what Tony’s Tea Corner is all about, and specifically, why all Housewives historians, pop culture enthusiasts and knowledgeable fans should be tuning in weekly to his podcast:

Anthony Lario(Pictured: Anthony Lario, Photo Credit: Courtney Kehr & Mitch Marsico)

How long have you been hosting “Tony’s Tea Corner”? I initially became familiar with you through Instagram. Then, I heard you several times on the podcast Grant’s Rants before tuning into recent episodes of your podcast.

I started my podcast in August. I have always been a fan of pop culture and Housewives stuff. I feel like these are the topics we take in when trying to relax and unwind. These are water cooler topics and are brought up so often with my friends.

They were the ones who said ‘You should do a podcast’. I’ve always been into theater and art and not commentating as much, but I sat down one day and jotted down all my thoughts.

Thanks to Margaret Josephs from Real Housewives of New Jersey, who I met for lunch, I had some great insight and the next thing I knew, my podcast was among the top 200 for TV and film.

I call it a ‘catharsis’. You get out all your negative energy from the week by talking about these topics in their purest form.

What is your background professionally?

Before I got into podcasting, I was active in social media influencing. My Instagram following rose while I was in college because of comedy I did, and I got into brand partnerships.

In college, I studied communications and PR and since then have become more of an expert in social media. I’m constantly trying to find something that joins the right and left sides of my brain, creativity and being more intellectual and factual. Right now, what I do professionally is talent management.

Which shows are you currently obsessed with? I know you’ve had some interesting guests on including Paul Calafiore, Heather McMahan, Perez Hilton, Peggy Sulahian, Troy Hendrickson, Amber Marchese, Lizzie Rovsek, Kelly Bensimon and Meghan King Edmonds.

Right now, Real Housewives of Orange County is airing and it’s been really easy to recap. I’m obsessed with Gina Kirschenheiter and Emily Simpson as new Housewives and think they’re fantastic new additions to the franchise.

They are a breath of fresh air on the show and are delivering some drama.

I’m also discussing Real Housewives of New Jersey a lot in preparation for the new season because many of my listeners are interested in that. I also sunk my teeth into Real Housewives of New York when I interviewed Kelly Bensimon.

What is it that you really love about interviewing former Housewives?

I love giving former Real Housewives a platform because you go back and watch those old episodes and what you really take note of…is the evolution of the show from a cast and a production standpoint.

Of course, they’re not contracted with Bravo as heavily, so they can open up more. They do sort of sign their lives away and there are some things they’ll remain quiet about, but they’re allowed to do podcasts without the stipulation of having to going through a PR person.

That is how I got Peggy and I realized something fascinating: These women are on our TV screens baring their entire lives and then afterwards, the only thing we have to go by (to keep up with their lives) is social media. They have no platform through which to speak, yet they can be spoken about on the show.

When Lizzie came on my show, Tamara couldn’t stop comparing her to Gretchen Rossi and Alexis Bellino. These ladies, like Lizzie, aren’t there on the show to defend themselves. So, I like to think of it as my being a sort of Andy Cohen for former Housewives in a way.

Although that’s going to change because I will be having Leeanne Locken on and I plan to have Margaret Josephs on when RHONJ is back.

What have been some surprising discoveries from interviewing these former Housewives?

Peggy Sulahian can really talk, which might be surprising to some people. I loved interviewing Lizzie and she has become a close friend. She is going to hook me up with Gretchen so I really am looking forward to having Gretchen on.

Do you watch my favorite Bravo franchises Below Deck and Below Deck Mediterranean?

I don’t watch Below Deck, but Captain Lee was the captain of my best friend’s yacht before the show was even on the map. So I would see Captain Lee when I was with my friend and the next thing you know, he pops up on TV.

I recommend it because I think it’s one of the best reality shows imaginable. There are numerous crew members who can’t be filmed and the boat is more cramped than you realize with a camera crew trying to film around those who cannot be filmed. They’re intent on only capturing interactions between the featured members. I think it is brilliantly done.  

I think it’s cool to think of how production is sleeping on the boat with them. I want to know how it all works behind the scenes.

It’s very cramped and they have to weave around the people who didn’t sign release forms.

You also discuss pop culture topics on your podcast. Can you discuss how you incorporate that into the format of the show?

What I do is this: At the start of the show, I discuss a general cornucopia of hot topics that pertain to that week. As I’m doing this, I pivot to related topics because that’s how conversations work in real life.

Even when I’m the only one talking, I want it to be like a conversation you would have with coworkers or friends over lunch. I’m not afraid to pivot. If I’m talking about Britney Spears, I might pivot to something that happened ten years ago. I think that’s an important thing for people who do podcasts – make it like conversation you’ll have with your friends every day and let the topics flow naturally.

Then before I play the interview, I’ll start recapping Housewives’ items from the week. Because of my tendency to pivot, I might bring up an iconic moment from 5 years ago and tie it in to something that happened recently and how the guest is still relevant today.

It seems that all of our mutual acquaintances are obsessed with 90 Day Fiance. Do you cover that at all on your show, or are you kind of out of it like I am?

Well… I probably need to cover 90 Day, but like you said… I just don’t know if I’ll be able to get myself into it. I do listen to lots of podcasts that talk about it, but I’ve got to be real. I am not going to force myself to watch something if I’m not interested in it.

I’m also not a huge fan of the Kardashians, but I am familiar with them. So instead of recapping that, I’ll talk about how my biggest pop culture fantasy would be to bring North West onto Dance Moms. That’s the crossover that we need! That’s how I pivot and get around talking about a show I don’t really watch but want to touch on because my listeners do watch.

Do you ever have guest co-hosts?

Yeah. A couple of times, I had on one of my good friends from where I went to school. She is an expert on pop culture, but is knowledgeable about a lot of things I don’t typically cover. So it was great when I had her on as a guest correspondent because it was like we were learning facts from one another.

I also had a contest and the winner came on. I had comedian Heather McMahan as a guest correspondent too and that was a lot of fun.

It’s definitely a different dynamic doing it with a co-host than doing it by yourself.

Right now, I’m really looking forward to picking LeeAnne Locken’s brain because I thought she and D’Andra Simmons were two peas in a pod. I didn’t foresee the really bad fallout they’ve had.

Whose side are you on in these arguments? I’ll start with the most buzzed about one: Bethenny Frankel versus Carole Radziwill.

This one is interesting to me. I took a personality test in college and it shows you public figures whose personalities are close to your own. Bethenny came up as my personality type. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, but I find myself in her shoes a lot of times.

I think with this specific argument that we saw on RHONY, I’m team Bethenny. I would, however, like to talk to Carole and see her side of the story. Bethenny kind of brought Carole up to her level and then brought her down…which corresponds somewhat to the storyline in Mean Girls.

OK…Margaret versus Danielle – Reportedly they’re not friends anymore – if you watched Danielle’s Wendy Williams interview, but we’ll have to see how that plays out in Season 9.  

When I was at lunch with Margaret before filming began for Season 9, she and Danielle were super-close, so this is kind of shocking. As I mentioned earlier, I know within 20 minutes if someone is ‘my kind of people’ and with Marge, I knew in 5. I was on her side with the feud with Siggy during Season 8 and I think that with Danielle, I’m going to be on Marge’s side. She’s a good mix of fun and natural. She can be outspoken, but at her core is rationality and logic. She reminds me of myself and the people I surround myself with. As much as Danielle is an iconic reality TV personality, I’m going to have to side with Margaret.

The vibe that I’m getting is that when you reach out for help, Margaret cares and will tell it to you straight and that may include cutting the bullshit out and saying it in a way you don’t want to hear…but I appreciate when someone tells it to me straight. Maybe Danielle didn’t like that. But we’ll see in the season ahead.

What’s your hope for the future of your podcast and things you want to change about the format?

I think that my followers look forward to former Housewives each week, but it might be nice to sprinkle other guests in with them, and to have both a former and a current Housewife on at the same time.

There are always challenges getting people on, but often when they have new ventures to promote, they are more enthusiastic about doing an interview, or if they really want to express their side of the story finally – like with Peggy.

What has been most rewarding for you and most notable about your podcast?

Having on guests like Lizzie, Kelly and Peggy. Each of them, in their own ways, dropped bombs. Peggy revealed on my show that Kelly Dodd allegedly called her ISIS!  And that didn’t make it into the actual cut of the show.

Lizzie didn’t mention Tamara once in her interview, but I mentioned Tamara and then all this press comes out about Lizzie mentioning Tamara. It was crazy!

Then Kelly drops her own bombshell when she casually says “I love Carole. She and I use the same ghost writer!” She kept on talking and I was like ‘back up for a second. You’re telling me Carole did actually use a ghost writer?!’

Amber Marchese is really awesome in real life and I’d love to see her on a screen again soon.

I feel like I got really lucky with Peggy. She hadn’t done press in forever, so this was an exclusive tell-all.

I ran out of time on my call recorder app and had to record it the old fashioned way because she had so much to say and I wasn’t prepared for that!

Who is your dream guest?

This is a tough one. Should it be Real Housewives related? If not, I would say Britney Jean Spears. She does NOT do in-depth interviews anymore, but I would invite her over to have a cup of tea and just chat.

She’s an enigma in its truest form. She’s elusive and I’m a huge fan who wants to see what really is going on. Her PR people keep her from talking about 2007, and sometimes, the best place to reveal things is to podcasts with emerging talent. The interviews are less obtainable (than, say, material in a People article), but if you really want to listen, you can listen.

Lizzie was my most authentic and real guest because she was so genuine. She opened up and it became emotional – we both cried. Now she’s a good friend in real life.

Do you have a more realistic dream “get” than Britney?

Andy Cohen. We have a lot of similarities to each other and we both have similarities to Bethenny. We are strong-minded yet creative. It’s a balancing act between logic and creativity. I’d love to pick his brain and go back to before Bravo. I’d love to discuss his hanging out with Sarah Jessica Parker in NYC.

Andy Cohen may be a harder “get” than Britney Spears. OK, not harder, but as his popularity has risen, he’s definitely become more elusive in my opinion!

A few days after the above discussion, Anthony wrote me to say he had just conducted his latest interviews with Meghan King Edmonds and LeeAnne Locken:

“It’s crazy how you can perceive someone differently while watching them on TV and then speaking to them one on one. While talking to both Meghan King Edmonds and Leeanne Locken on my show, I felt like I found an immediate friend in both of them. They are both pretty notable yet controversial in the Housewives universe, which is always something that obviously is going to be at the forefront of your mind — before speaking to someone. Something that both of them had in common is that they made me forget I was speaking to ‘Housewives.’ It was like talking to old friends.

Listen to Anthony Lario’s interview with Meghan King Edmonds and then peruse the rest of the Tony’s Tea Corner archive. His interview with LeeAnne Locken will be out tomorrow.

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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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