Bravo TV struck gold in 2006 with the launch of their new reality series The Real Housewives of Orange County, which documented a group of women living a lavish lifestyle in the city of fame and fortune. Its success with audiences provided the network the opportunity to produce multiple spin-off series in different cities across the country. Now a decade later, the Housewives series has kept up appearances and continues to draw in viewers with the dramatic flair of episodes. And sometimes it seems that there is a spin-off for every city in the country and even abroad.
Despite being called “reality” television, it’s no secret that everything illustrated throughout the show is not pure and accurate. When a group of headstrong women are thrown together, it’s a known fact that trouble will brew. But, the majority of time, the drama shown on the show is exaggerated in order to make an entertainment masterpiece. The housewives are notorious for their gossip and when given the opportunity, they are more than willing to share behind-the-scenes secrets involving Bravo’s hit series.
While some of these facts may be obvious in regards to how reality television is really executed, many are confidential and have only been revealed once cast members are fired from the show and are no longer held to silence under their suffocating contracts.
If you want to know about what occurs behind-the-scenes, then grab yourself a glass of Skinnygirl wine and read below to find out about the 15 most scandalous secrets from The Real Housewives sets.
15. The Purpose of The Lost Footage Episode
Following her release from The Real Housewives of New York City, Alex McCord provided viewers with the truth about what occurs behinds the scenes of the infamous reality show. One secret she revealed was the purpose of the lost footage episode that is aired following the official end of each season. McCord shared that the episode serves two purposes. First, it’s an opportunity to air unused footage that the producers felt didn’t help move along the storyline. Basically, the scenes were anticlimactic in their attempts to create as much drama as possible during the season. The second reason for the lost footage episodes is to give the audience another opportunity to create opinions of the cast members until new episodes are aired the following season. Typically, the footage used during this episode is lighthearted and documents fun moments between the cast members. The network reveals the women in a way that contradicts the drama they were involved in throughout the season.
14. Designer Deals
While it may appear that the housewives have the means to clothe themselves in top-of- the-line designer wear, the expectations to dress their best can be a daunting task. The casts of the shows feel the pressure of dressing to impress in every scene in order to deliver the message to the audience that they have a desirable lifestyle. Also, the women tend to try and one up another by making sure that they are wearing the season’s most fashionable pieces. Since Bravo fails to provide a wardrobe team and clothing, many of the women contract deals with designers to borrow clothing that is later returned. While some of the cast members have stylists, the extra help from the designers is a win for everyone involved. The label gets promotion every time an article of clothing, bag, or shoe is worn by a housewife, and in return the reality star is decked head to toe in expensive pieces.
13. Bravo Doesn’t Provide A Makeup Artist
In addition to the cast members being responsible for their own wardrobe, the network fails to provide the housewives with makeup artists to assist them before filming. While the majority of the women have their own artist on their payroll, the cast is solely responsible for their own looks and touch-up in between scenes are conducted by the housewives themselves. Former The Real Housewives of New York City star, Kelly Bensimon, confirmed with an interview with the New York Post that for the most part the cast provided their services for their makeup. However, she shared that the network would step in and tell the women how to do their hair and makeup if it wasn’t up to their standards. When filming a scene horseback riding, Bensimon wore a natural makeup look, but was later reprimanded by the producers for her look. The model restated their remarks, “They were like, ‘The next time you film, you need to have your hair blown out and be wearing makeup. You’re supposed to be a supermodel, not a drowned rat!’” Rude.
12. Producers Call The Shots
The cast members of the hit Bravo series have no problem creating drama between multiple headstrong women, but when the network isn’t feeling like it’s enough, the producers step in. They manipulate the cast in order to seek results their way. Producers provide each cast member with a car service that ushers them to and from filming locations and use this perk provided to them in order to create tension among the women. The producers will purposely tell drivers to arrive later to events in order to stir the pot and upset the cast when one housewife is late. In fact, viewers witness this a lot on the show. There is always a wife that is late to an event and it’s due in part to the producers calling the shots to create drama. There have been occasions where two housewives have met up to discuss conflicts, but are told different things by the producers for the reason as to why they are meeting up. Once the housewives realize they are not on the same page as each other, conflict ensues.
11. Gifts From Producers
In addition to the expensive clothes and accessories worn by the housewives, the lavish trips they take with each other during the season are envy-worthy. However, it’s not the wives footing the bill for their vacations. In her video diaries posted on YouTube, former RHONY housewife Alex McCord, shared, “If a trip is happening on the show, and it’s not season one, it is put together by the producers. Look at the credits. If you see ‘promotional consideration provided by…’ that means [the trip] was provided by the producers.” The getaways are provided by the network as a way to create more drama between the women. On The Real Housewives of Potomac, two of the cast members complained about their room assignments and then later on created conflict when their party was crashed by one of the husbands. Pointless drama, but nonetheless, it provided tension between some of the cast members that carried on into future episodes. Former stars have even revealed that producers have even paid for items that the women attained during shopping trips while filming and they would even barter with the stores to get deals on their purchases.
10. Promotional Platform
Gaining far more than just the typical “15 minutes of fame,” the housewives have the best stage to profit with more money. Many housewives take advantage of the fame received from the series to self-promote themselves and their products. Having no shame in their game, the women will share their endeavors on the show and during interviews while promoting the upcoming season. Many housewives had shared that starring on the reality show isn’t just for fun for them; it serves a beneficial role to their providing other means of income. The show is the perfect opportunity to promote their business ventures. Without the exposure gained from being a member of the cast, many of their services most likely wouldn’t find much success. While the network can’t take the full credit for the women’s accomplishments, it does help them benefit from the marketing aspect. In addition to books and skincare, the housewives have found success in the beverage business. Bethenny Frankel’s Skinnygirl wine company captured the attention of many fans and their curious nature persuaded them to purchase Frankel’s products. Whether it was good or bad wine, the fact that Frankel’s name was connected to the product was enough reasons for viewers to buy the beverage. So at the end of the day for the housewives, it’s all about the money.
9. Staging Storylines
It’s not that difficult to figure out that all scenes and storylines are not as authentic as Bravo attempts to illustrate. Producers and even cast members partake in staging storylines in order to make events more scandalous and interesting. One storyline that was quickly exposed as a fraud occurred on The Real Housewives of Atlanta when cast member Kim Zolciak was receiving help from music producer Dallas Austin with her singing career. Despite his appearance on the show, it was revealed that his involvement was staged and solely used to tell the storyline of Zolciak navigating a music career. Austin wrote on his official MySpace account clarifying his music relationship with Zolciak, “We are not doing a song, we are not doing an album…that was only for television.” The two then engaged in a Twitter war when Austin talked trash about her voice on the social media outlet following the news of his unofficial involvement with the reality star’s singing career. While it was indeed a fake attempt to make Zolciak appear to be the next American Idol, it drew in viewers as they tried to wrap their head around Zolciak having any kind of success at all in the music industry.
8. One-On-One Interviews
The one-on-one interviews used various times throughout the episodes serves more purposes than viewers may be aware of. While the interviews help pace the storylines with additional information, it also reveals the true feelings of the housewife’s opinion. Former The Real Housewives of New York City star Alex McCord sang like a canary following her release from the reality show as she revealed multiple truths about filming. In her videos, McCord shared that the interviews were usually filmed once a month throughout filming, but once the show starts airing, more interviews are filmed. The network conducts more interviews while the show is on air as a way for cast members to manipulate how they are being received by the audience. It’s a savvy ploy to adjust their image. And here we thought it was just an opportunity for the wives to wear high-end designer clothing while doing their best Regina George impersonation.
7. Filming While The Show Is Currently On Air
While most conflicts are typically resolved by cast members following the end of the season, wounds can be reopened as the housewives witness moments that are brought to light during the airing of episodes. In return, the season currently airing can manipulate the casts’ opinion of each other as they simultaneously film the next season. Whether it’s a ploy to create more drama for the season currently being filmed or a gift from the network’s scheduling gods, filming while the show is currently on air can create new tensions. The Real Housewives of New Jersey experienced the consequence of the arrangement as episodes showing snide comments brought up old feelings between the Gorga family. The family has enough drama to sell out a Broadway show, but the revelation of true feelings from the current episodes was a catalyst for creating new problems. Seeing as the producers strive to achieve dramatic flair throughout every season, the task of filming while airing the current episodes is the perfect formula for gaining results.
6. Don’t Save The Drama For Your Mama
It’s no secret that the drama from all of the Real Housewives shows is the glue that binds for the success of the series. Viewers enjoy being able to be on the outside looking in, as petty fights turn into table-flipping moments. Without the drama, the show would just document the excessive amount of money rich people spend on pointless materialistic items. Knowing that producers do in fact call the shots in order to inflict more “entertainment,” if a cast member isn’t participating up to Bravo’s standards, they are fired without any hesitation. It’s been revealed by former housewives that the network encourages the cast to create spectacles to get the pot stirring among their fellow co-stars. Failing to do so results in the eviction of a housewife. The Real Housewives of Orange County let Alexis Bellino go following the filming of Season 8 for just standing by and not saying much at events. She told ShareTV, “I knew I couldn’t put myself there because it went against my beliefs…so if there is a conflict like that I stick to my guns and follow my heart.” Bellino was too much of a lover rather than a fighter to stand up to Bravo’s standards.
5. Reunion Specials Filming
The reunion episodes are perhaps hands-down the most entertaining aspect of the season. With Andy Cohen as the host, there isn’t a question or comment that oversteps boundaries. During the run time, viewers are exposed to more cat fights and name calling between the cast members as they try to justify their actions that were exposed during the season. If it seems like the wives are more on edge during these specials, it’s because the cast has been sitting in ball gowns and two pounds of makeup for up to seven hours of filming. While the audience is only exposed to less than three hours of footage, the reunion episodes take the course of an entire day to film. Being tired and “Hangry” is the ideal shape in which Bravo wants the housewives while filming the special because it creates more tension among the women. Some housewives insist that alcohol isn’t provided during the reunion filmings, but Alex McCord, former RHONY cast member, shared that the green rooms are stocked with booze and the women are encouraged to drink.
4. Contract Guidelines
Before any filming occurs, the housewives sign their lives away (seriously, they really do) to the Bravo network. The production company behind the series compiles a strict guideline for each housewife dictating what they can and cannot do. Some agreements include not running for public office following a year of filming their last scene, and being in good mental and physical health. Additionally, they sign over to the network the right to give inputs on their appearance if it is felt like it is not up to par. The housewives are also expected not to reveal any information regarding what occurs behind-the-scenes while filming. If cast members fail to agree to the terms, they are fined by the network. Payment for their appearance on the show varies in terms of how much drama they produce and how long they have been involved with the project. More often than not, the housewives looking to receive a larger payday lay the drama on thick throughout the season because they are aware that more drama means more money.
3. All Is Fair In The Editing Room
In addition to staging storylines and creating tension among the cast members, the producers have the final say in the editing room. Following their agreements in their strict contracts, the housewives acknowledge that they will be exposed to an array of reactions from the audience. Producers are given the right to manipulate footage that might reveal a different emotion from a cast member than what they were actually expressing during the time of filming. In other words, the way they cut and edit the scenes can either make or break a housewife in a negative or positive light. If a cast member is unhappy with the way in which the producers edited a particular scene which resulted in making them look bad, from a legal standpoint they can’t sue the network because they agreed to it in their contract. The housewives’ contracts ultimately give the editing process a hall pass to use the footage in any way in which the network chooses to do so. Which basically means that the producers create false information using the clips in order to spin the storylines the way they want it.
2. Housewives in Debt
When The Real Housewives of Atlanta first aired, the cast members weren’t living the life of glitz and glamour as they were portrayed to be during the episodes. Despite Bravo trying to illustrate the housewives as prominent members of Atlanta society, the wives were actually experiencing multiple financial and legal issues. NeNe Leakes joined the Atlanta cast as an outspoken headstrong woman, but behind that facade, she didn’t have it all together. It was later revealed that Leakes and her husband didn’t own their house and were in fact evicted from their rental due to the fact that they owed over $6,000 in back rent. While things have turned around for Leakes, it’s surprising to learn that a woman who was being passed off as picture perfect to viewers wasn’t being portrayed honestly. Fellow cast member Sheree Whitfield’s finances were additionally questioned after discovering a check was bounced and her attempt to sell her home despite it not being in her name. These altercations occurred at the start of the series and since then, the housewives have experienced successful turnarounds. However, at the beginning stages of the show, the women weren’t as honest with their financial standings. And now they are just not honest about their plastic surgery…gotcha!
1. Each Season Is Planned Ahead
Despite being referred to as “reality” television, it lacks the factual elements that it claims to deliver. For the most part, the foundation of what audiences sees during weekly episodes of the Real Housewives, is true, but that truth is stretched and over-dramatized in order to create more appeal. Based on what occurred in the previous season and information received from the cast prior to filming, the producers create their own storyboard depicting what is to happen during the new season. Each wife is aware of their overall “role” for the season, but throughout filming, things tend to be altered in order to create more opportunity for drama. For instance, when Bravo received word that there was a potential fake cancer scheme involving Orange County housewife Vicki Gunvalson’s ex-boyfriend, Brooks Ayers, the network decided to incorporate that storyline as they viewed it as an opportunity to increase viewership. Much like scripted television shows, the producers of the hit Bravo reality series create their own plots in hopes of creating intriguing stories from week to week.