Kelly Bensimon, who starred on The Real Housewives of New York from Season 2 to Season 4, opened up about how the women are encouraged to put themselves, their careers, their drama — everything — before their castmates.
“It’s not a show that celebrates women,” she explained. “But that’s just the nature of the beast: He who barks the loudest gets the bone.”
Former RHONY cast member Aviva Drescher has been one of the most vocal Housewives when it comes to sharing secrets from the show. Among those, she says that when she apologized during the Season 5 reunion for calling Sonja Morgan and Ramona Singer “white trash,” producers weren’t happy about it.
“The producers said, ‘We don’t want our characters to be self-censoring. We want them to be themselves’ — i.e., wild and dramatic,” she revealed.
Some past Housewives, including NeNe Leakes, have insisted that booze isn’t allowed on the set during reunion show tapings. But Alex McCord, a former star of The Real Housewives of New York, contradicted that. According to McCord, the green rooms are stocked with as much “liquid courage” as the Housewives can drink.
This one may be a no-brainer, but Aviva Drescher officially revealed that Housewives who bring drama to the show get preferential treatment from producers and, ultimately, better contracts.
The former RHONY star told the New York Post that she was originally only given an eight-week contract, but producers told her it would be extended if she produced drama.
“So what did I do in those eight weeks? I produced drama,” she said. After she exposed that her castmate, Carole Radziwill’s memoir had been written by a ghostwriter, she says her contract was extended to five months.
“I don’t care who wrote her book. I don’t care if [it was her] or Santa Claus,” Drescher said. “I was definitely cast as the villain. And I was going to be the best villain that there was! I played to win.”
In a lengthy essay penned earlier this year, Danielle Staub’s daughter wrote about what it meant to grow up on the set of The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and her revelations weren’t pretty.
“My mother’s storyline was edited and produced, placing her in scenarios to achieve a desired outcome,” she wrote. “She wouldn’t normally be involved in these scenarios; they were dictated by the producers, and they just told my mom where to show up for filming.”
In another part of the essay, she describes how producers let a violent altercation with another housewife happen, even with Staub’s two young daughters present.
“She’s been called trash, garbage, a pig, an extortionist, a felon, a husband stealer. She was even branded as a ‘prostitution whore,”‘ Staub’s daughter wrote. “Imagine an irate woman flipping over a table as she screamed that name at my mother. Actually, you don’t have to imagine at all, because the scene lives on as one of the most iconic moments in reality television history.
“As for me, I don’t need to be reminded. My little sister and I were there. We saw the table fly on our mother, we heard the expletives, we ran as fast as we could to try to catch up as she was chased around the restaurant, and we heard her cries for help. We felt helpless and unable to defend her.”
Anyone with any reality TV savvy knows there’s an element of staging that goes on during any show. But how much of The Real Housewives franchise is actually real?
According to former RHONJ star Amber Marchese, very little. After Marchese left the show, she and her husband revealed that producers would go so far as to feed them lines that would start fights with other cast members.
According to former RHONY star Alex McCord, Bravo foots the bill for the lavish parties the Housewives throw, but that wasn’t always the case. During the first season, McCord said her husband dropped $5,000 on chartering a yacht for her birthday party.
It should come as no surprise that drama from the show can bleed into the Housewives’ personal lives. One anonymous past Housewife told the New York Post that Ramona Singer’s wine-induced antics got her daughter kicked out of Catholic school.
“Ramona embarrassed herself on the show and they thought it was a negative reflection on the school,” the source said. Singer herself has refuted that claim, but former RHONY star Alex McCord also says that being a Housewife is often “frowned upon” in normal society.
According to some early cast members, including Aviva Drescher and Alex McCord, the first stars of RHONY received around $7,000 per season. Now, first-time cast members can rake in $40,000 to $60,000, and returning cast members can earn in the high six figures. Rumors say Ramona Singer makes more than $500,000 each season, and Bethenny Frankel netted closer to $1 million for her return to the show.
In an interview with the New York Post, Kelly Bensimon revealed that, for the most part, housewives are responsible for their own TV-ready looks… but they’re still told when and how to do their hair and makeup. She told a story about being reprimanded by producers after she went with a natural look while she was out horseback riding.
“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!'” she remembered.