An Ode To The Death Of The Reality Broad
A new generation of cast members on the 'Real Housewives Of New York City' has us wondering, has the girlbossification of reality TV finally begun?
Running her hands through her disheveled brassy blonde hair, black eyeliner smudged along her waterlines, Dorinda Medley says with a mouthful of carbonara, “Why don’t you stop getting vaginal rejuvenation and put an E-ZPass on that vagina with your Holland Tunnel?” A tense hush falls over the birthday party. Everyone around the table in this Hamptons estate—including Sex & the City author Candace Bushnell—shifts uncomfortably in their chairs. “Because we all know what shit goes down in that townhouse, turnstile and ticket. Turnstile and ticket to get into your townhouse.”
This was a normal mid-main course conversation for the original cast of Real Housewives of New York, which premiered in 2008. With inexpertly applied makeup and outdated designer cocktail dresses dusted off from the depths of their closets, they’d say some of the cruelest shit you’ve ever heard in your life, only to make up before brunch the next day. They were poorly lit and over-bronzed and couldn’t figure out how to apply eyeliner in anything close to a line.
They were widows and divorcées, bitter and drunk but still hopeful. They were broads. They weren’t “girl bosses”—which is who these shows almost exclusively cast now. People who look the part more than they play it. The “part” being a successful ~entrepreneur~ with 72 side hustles and a perfect ass. (When really what we want is an unhinged, un-self-aware woman on the edge of a breakdown, willing to offer cutting commentary on her dearest friends.)
“I don’t try to be glam, it just happens,” Sai De Silva, one of the cast members of the “new era” of Real Housewives of New York City, says in her confessional. “Glam” has become an epidemic in the Housewives universe (which is kind of like the Marvel Universe if they were all heavily injected, highly functioning alcoholics in hot water with the IRS). It’s often used to describe one’s “glam team,” or a group of underpaid homosexuals tasked with transforming these women into cis drag queens in time for the Homeless Not Toothless fundraising gala.
Sai is a 42-year-old influencer from Brooklyn who packed eight suitcases for a three-day trip to the Hamptons. The very same Hamptons where seven years earlier Dorinda suggested Sonja Morgan install an electronic toll system in her vagina. Now Sai is at 36-year-old real estate agent Erin Lichy’s house complaining that the caviar is served on Pringles instead of blinis.
At first, I thought this new cast was too young. By the time the original cast was put on what ended up being a permanent hiatus in 2020, the medium age was 50 years old. But I was shocked to learn Sai is actually the same age Luann de Lesseps was in her first season—it’s just that being a wealthy 42-year-old housewife in New York City looks a lot different now. Corsets and track pants have replaced sky tops and statement necklaces. This new era is more (painfully) self-aware after being raised on reality TV and well-curated social media feeds.
They know how to self-edit and how to brand. They’re a generation comfortable with filters, fillers, and Photoshop, a less textured version of events. They’re not just pushing products; they’re pushing themselves. They might not know who they are, but they know who they want us to think they are. And they’re making us choke on it.
“Siri, open the door,” a redheaded 36-year-old Brynn Whitfield says in her signature Tommy Pickles-adjacent baby voice as she attempts to open the refrigerator in Erin’s expensive kitchen. You can tell she’s doing a little bit for the camera. She’s the bubbly one. The one who’ll flirt with your husband at your anniversary party, who’ll talk endlessly about her latest “girl crush” but never touch a boob.
Before Real Housewives spent hours in makeup chairs getting yassified, they did their makeup in the car. They wore diapers on the jitney to avoid using the bathroom. They smeared their own poop on the floors of their Cartagena rental. They ate and paid bills and managed entire teams of interns from their four-post beds. They fell into bushes, completely blacked out. They landed in Page Six nearly every week. They assaulted police officers! They were unabashedly themselves, making no justifications for how disgustingly wealthy they were. Now the women attempt to be more relatable by trauma dumping any chance they get, competing for who’s had to work the hardest to get to where they are—aka who really deserves all their money.
“There was a point where I had $20 in my bank account,” new cast member Jessel Taank says during dinner while they're on vacation in Anguilla. Sai yells from across the table, “There was a point where I had zero dollars and zero cents. It was negative $498. Do you know what it feels like to have zero dollars and zero cents? No money? No parents’ house to crash in? Having $20 in my bank account was a dream when I was young.” Jessel nods and says nothing.
Fans thought ushering in a new RHONY cast would mean breathing new life into the franchise, cleaning out the cobwebs, and, with them, the bigots. But it turns out this younger cast is just as controversial as the original. It was discovered Erin made several donations to Donald Trump’s campaign (suspiciously around the time of “Stop the Steal”).
Despite being similar in age to the original cast and seemingly just as ignorant, they’re packaged in a way that’s more palatable. It’s the same thing with a different filter. I guess younger fans would rather see perfect-looking women throw $30,000 parties than watch a woman have the inside of her nose licked and cleaned by her Chihuahua.
Sitting around Erin’s Hamptons mansion, the women play “Two Truths and a Lie.” Some of the juicier revelations include Sai wanting to be choked during sex and Jessel once putting a popsicle up her “hoo-ha.” They want you to know they’re young and fun and fuck! But in a world where Camille Grammer once shared Kelsey—America’s beloved Frasier—loved getting pegged, they’re gonna have to do a lot better than that.