The Behind-The-Scenes Secrets Of The ‘Real Housewives’

Do you know which cast member paid to be on the show?

“The Real Housewives” franchise started back in 2006 with “The Real Housewives of Orange County.” Thirteen years on, and the series is still going strong. In addition to Orange County, there have been spinoffs set in New York, Atlanta, New Jersey, Washington, Beverly Hills, Miami, Potomac and Dallas. There have even been international spinoffs.

The reality series follows the lives of wealthy women in each of the locations and, thanks to the franchise’s success, many of its cast members have become bonafide celebrities. If you’re a fan of this Bravo staple, you know it’s all about the drama. But there’s even more to these shows than meets the eye.

Here are some interesting, behind-the-scenes secrets of “The Real Housewives.”

The Franchise Was Inspired By ‘Desperate Housewives’

Before the housewives got “real,” they were “desperate.” “Desperate Housewives” was a drama-filled primetime soap that ran on ABC for eight seasons from 2004 to 2012. The show followed a group of women whose seemingly perfect lives belied dark secrets that lurked just beneath the surface.

According to the ladies of Bravo’s “Real Housewives,” they wouldn’t have careers without their predecessor.

“They’re the hottest housewives anyone had ever seen,” Sonja Morgan, who stars on “The Real Housewives of New York,” told Hollywood.com of the impact of that hit ABC series. “That dynasty — we all aspire to dress like them and having beautiful homes like them. And who the hell gets away with screwing around with the pool boy like that?”

desperate housewives photo
Getty Images | Frederick M. Brown

Producers Use Tricks To Up The Drama

I know this is shocking but, despite its name, not everything that happens on “The Real Housewives” is 100-percent real. In fact, sometimes the producers have to use a few tricks to stir up drama. To add fuel to castmates’ feuds, producers have been known to give them different call times (so one cast member will get mad at another for being late), taunt them by telling them that their interview footage is too boring to be included in the show and dish about their own lives to get cast members to open up.


The Cast Members Are Separated Before Reunions

As any “Real Housewives” superfan can tell you, some of the best drama unfolds at the reunion specials, which air after each season has ended. Typically, one or more blowouts ensue. According to “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Kyle Richards, the wives are prohibited from seeing each other before filming of the reunion gets underway, to ensure that all the action is captured on TV.

“Preparing for the reunion is like going into a boxing ring, I always say that. I mean literally it feels like that,” Richards told Fox News. “We all go to our rooms – they like to keep us separate because they don’t want any conversations to happen off camera because they want everything to happen on camera.”

kyle richards photo
Getty Images | Cindy Ord

They Rock Designer Frocks On The Reunions

The only thing more highly anticipated on the reunion episodes than the knock-down, drag-out arguments is the fashion. The cast members are typically dressed to the nines to duke it out with Andy Cohen as their referee.

Over the years, the ladies have worn looks by Michael Kors, Karen Millen, Alexander McQueen and other high-fashion designers. For the Season 6 Reunion of “Real Housewives of New York,” Carole Radziwill even borrowed a dress straight from the wardrobe closet of “Sex and the City,” thanks to her friend who worked as a stylist on the show.


Even Andy Cohen Doesn’t Know Why Kim Zolciak Wears Wigs

“Real Housewives of Atlanta” star Kim Zolciak definitely has a signature style, and over the years, her many wigs have become an integral part of it. However, no one’s quite sure if her faux mane is just an aesthetic choice, or if there’s a more serious reason behind her look.

Although Zolciak claimed that she had hair loss due to treatments for cancer, she later confirmed to Andy Cohen during the season one reunion that she did not, in fact, have the disease. Cohen told Bethenny Frankel in 2015 that the confession remains his favorite moment in “Real Housewives” history due to its pure absurdity.

kim zolciak photo
Getty Images | Dave Kotinsky

Vicki Gunvalson Is Suing Her Ex

Strangely, Kim Zolciak is not the only cast member to be involved in a cancer controversy. “Real Housewives of Orange County” star Vicki Gunvalson’s former flame, Brooks Ayers, landed himself in hot water when it was discovered that he lied about battling cancer. He forged medical records to make it look like he had been a patient at cancer hospital City of Hope.

In November 2018, Gunvalson says she plans to sue Ayers for money he owes her. Although she says she has moved on emotionally from the toxic relationship, she still wants her money back.


Cast Members Make Serious Money From The Show

In addition to the cash they rake in from their personal businesses, the housewives are getting paid pretty handsomely just to appear on the show. Although figures floating around the web are mostly conjecture and rumors, it’s safe to say the cast members are doing pretty well for themselves.

Actress Denise Richards is set to join the cast of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” next season, and she may become the highest-paid cast member in the show’s history. Multiple sources claimed to Radar Online that Richards will make $1 million for her first season, and that she even has a deal to make $4 million in four years. A separate source close to Richards disputes this claim.

denise richards photo
Getty Images | Jon Kopaloff

The Producers Have Waded Into Cast Drama

Once upon a time, “Real Housewives of New York” stars Bethenny Frankel and Jill Zarin were inseparable BFFs. However, they had a falling out, which led to an ongoing nasty feud that played out both on the show and in the tabloids. According to longtime series producer Barrie Bernstein, she encouraged the two to patch things up.

“[Jill] thought she was right, and she thought she was going to win the argument,” Bernstein explained of the rift during an appearance on the podcast, “Reality Life with Kate Casey.” “And she let it go on, and I kept telling her, ‘You might want to nip this in the bud.’ And in the end, she didn’t look very good, and I think she felt that afterward Bethenny came out on top. It was kind of sad to watch the demise of the friendship in a way.”

After leaving the show in 2012, Zarin is set to appear in at least one episode of the upcoming 11th season.

jill zarin bethenny frankel photo
Getty Images | Bryan Bedder

A Lot Of The Cast Members Go Way Back

Many of the cast members have been friends for decades before appearing on the show together — and some are even family (sisters Kyle and Kim Richards on “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and lots of familial relations on “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” for example). Executive producer Andy Cohen says the stars’ tight bonds are a crucial component of the franchise’s success.

“The show works so well because it’s all people who have long histories with each other,” Cohen told Attitude Magazine in 2015. “So it’s not just throwing people together in a ‘Big Brother’ house and seeing what happens.”

kyle richards kim richards photo
Getty Images | Alberto E. Rodriguez

The Show’s Trips Are Carefully Orchestrated

Some of the best “Real Housewives” episodes are when the cast jets off to somewhere glamorous to spend a few days together outside of their usual haunts. From camel riding in Morocco to a pub crawl in Ireland to an ill-fated boat outing in Colombia, the ladies have done it all.

Of course, these trips take some serious planning, and New Jersey-based event planner and travel advisor Sally Serata scouts locations and resorts as well as plans and books meals and activities. Serata says her dream trip for the series would take place in Mykonos, Greece and she would take cast members from a few different cities for an all-star getaway.


Vicki Gunvalson Has Been On The Franchise Longer Than Anyone

She’s known as the “OG of the OC”  — and for good reason — Vicki Gunvalson is the longest-running cast member in the franchise’s history, having appeared on “Real Housewives of Orange County” since its very first episode back in 2006. Orange County is the location that started it all, and Gunvalson has been there every step of the way. Over the years, she has been a part of some of the show’s best moments, a lot which involved her infamous quick temper. Love her or hate her, it doesn’t seem the OG will be going anywhere anytime soon.

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Getty Images | Craig Barritt

Drink-Throwing Is A Common Way To Express Anger On The Show

Throwing a glass of wine, a cocktail or another beverage in a fit of rage has become a common occurrence in the franchise. In season six of “Real Housewives of Orange County,” Tamra Barney threw a glass of wine in the face of her castmate, Jeana Keough. The wine was red, too. (The horror!)

The drink-throwing even extended to the gym when “Real Housewives of New Jersey” star Teresa Giudice ended up splashing her brother, Joe Gorga, with the contents of her water bottle when an altercation ensued after they ran into each other while working out. Considering Giudice flipped over an entire table in a now-iconic episode of season one, the water-throwing seems tame in comparison.

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Getty Images | Monica Schipper

They’ve Been Caught Staging And Re-Filming Scenes

We already know that reality shows are not necessarily 100-percent authentic, but the “Real Housewives” have actually been caught red-handed when it comes to making sure they get that perfect shot.

Back in 2013, “Real Housewives of New York” was shooting in Southhampton when the stars were spied taking cues from producers, taking breaks in dialogue to wait for the camera to be set up and taking multiple shots of the same scene, all of which are typical hallmarks of scripted shows. They even had extensive lighting set up to make sure they looked their best.

real housewives of new york photo
Getty Images | Dia Dipasupil

Viewers Have Decided Whether Cast Members Are Successful Later

Several cast members have leveraged their reality fame into business success, including Bethenny Frankel, who sold her line of Skinnygirl cocktails for $100 million in 2011. Frankel, who catapulted into the limelight on “The Real Housewives of New York,” still owns the rest of the Skinnygirl empire, which includes food products, shapewear and jeans.

Although other cast members have tried their hand in the business world, not all have been successful. Andy Cohen, the franchise’s executive producer, says that the audience is choosy about which housewives’ products they’ll try.

“The viewers are really smart,” Cohen told CNBC. “When it’s organic or a great idea, they just go for it. They know when it’s ridiculous or when it’s amazing.”

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Getty Images | Cindy Ord

Slade Smiley Bought His Way Onto The Show

Slade Smiley first appeared on “Real Housewives of Orange County” as cast member Jo De La Rosa’s boyfriend in season one. However, the couple was not chosen by producers to be part of the series. Instead, the pair reportedly bid $2,500 at an auction for the opportunity to appear on the show, which De La Rosa says was all Smiley’s idea.

Although they broke up and De La Rosa left the show after the second season, Smiley stayed in its orbit and briefly dated another cast member, Lauri Petersen, before settling down with yet another cast member, Gretchen Rossi. Today, the pair are expecting their first child together.

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Getty Images | Alberto E. Rodriguez

The Wives Don’t Write Their Own Taglines

If the cast members’ taglines sound too clever to be written by them, that’s because they often aren’t. Although they might offer suggestions, the quips require the finesse of a professional before they make their debut on the show.

“It is one of my favorite parts,” executive producer Lisa Shannon said of the process of writing the taglines during a special Tribeca TV Festival panel in celebration of “Real Housewives of New York’s” 10th anniversary in 2018. “Usually we spitball them all. Barrie Bernstein, who is another executive producer on the show, will come up to my office and we’ll get out a bottle of wine and we become them. ‘What will Tinsley do this season?’”

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Getty Images | Jeff Schear

Cast Members Chip In On Vacations

When the wives embark on one of their fabulous trips, Bravo is not footing the entire bill. Andy Cohen says the trips are typically financed by a combination of production and the cast. The women are generally well-traveled, so it can be tough to find a place that’s new and exciting. Although they often travel to warm-weather destinations for beach vacations, Cohen says there’s one snowy locale “Real Housewives of New York” star Ramona Singer has suggested: Aspen, Colorado.


Cast Members Are Let Go For A Reason

When a cast member does not return after appearing in one season (or sometimes, many more), fans may be left wondering why they didn’t come back. According to Andy Cohen, when a housewife is not asked back, it’s because they simply weren’t a good fit.

“I think part of the reason the entire franchise is successful is about the group of women, but it is an ensemble show,” Cohen explained. “And it’s always about what’s best for the group; what’s best for the ensemble; how’s it gonna be different; do we want to continue this conversation; do we want to pivot into a new conversation?”

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Getty Images | Andrew H. Walker

There Was Almost A ‘Real Housewives Of Chicago’

As a Windy City native, I’ve often wondered why Chicago has not gotten its own “Real Housewives” series. Fellow Chicagoan Jenny McCarthy once asked Andy Cohen why her city has not been blessed with an edition, and he said it simply wasn’t meant to be.

“Oh that’s a good question,” Cohen told her during her appearance on an episode of his late-night show, “Watch What Happens Live.” “We cast there once, and we just didn’t get it right.”

Here’s hoping they give it another shot some time!


Celebrities Love The Shows

Jenny McCarthy is not the only famous person who loves Bravo’s flagship reality franchise. Actor Jennifer Lawrence, former first lady Michelle Obama, “The Handmaid’s Tale” star Elisabeth Moss, pop star Rihanna and actor Jonah Hill all describe themselves as “Real Housewives” fans.

“I pulled up next to [“Real Housewives of Atlanta” star] NeNe Leakes in a car in Atlanta where I was shooting a movie and I freaked out,” Hill said during an appearance on “The Wendy Williams Show.” “I texted all my friends.”

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Getty Images | Neilson Barnard

Many Of The ‘Wives’ Are No Longer Married

They’re called “Real Housewives,” but many of the stars no longer hold the title of “wife” in real life. As of September 2018, Us Weekly reported that 33 couples had filed for divorce after appearing on the show. Several of the breakups played out in the cast members’ story arcs.

One such star was “Real Housewives of New York’s” Luann de Lesseps, who divorced her first husband, Count Alexandre de Lesseps, in 2009. In 2016, she married Tom D’Agostino, but they divorced within seven months amid alleged infidelity on D’Agostino’s part.

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Getty Images | Dia Dipasupil

Dubin Has A Thing For ‘Housewives’

If you’re a fan of “Real Housewives of New York,” you definitely know all about ladies’ man Harry Dubin. He’s the ex-husband of one-time cast member Aviva Drescher, and he has also dated cast members Luann de Lesseps and Sonja Morgan. Fellow “RHONY” star Ramona Singer says she’s never been romantically involved with Dubin, but she understands why so many of her castmates have fallen for him.

“He’s extremely charming and personable and fun to be with,” Singer explained of Dubin’s appeal during an appearance on “Watch What Happens Live.” “And he’s kind-hearted and warm and generous.”

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Getty Images | Gary Gershoff

Scandal Doomed ‘The Real Housewives Of D.C.’

“The Real Housewives of D.C.” was canceled after just one season. The series focused on the rich and politically-connected women of our nation’s capital, and it was ultimately a political scandal that was at least partly responsible for the show’s demise.

Cast member Michaele Salahi and her husband, Tareq, were caught crashing the White House State Dinner in 2009. The Salahis were not invited to the exclusive event.

“That show really got torpedoed by the ‘Salamis,’ I feel like, with the White House crash,” Andy Cohen revealed.

The D.C. edition is the only one in the franchise that did not make it to a second season.

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Getty Images | Chip Somodevilla

Andy Cohen Has Picks For The Scariest Housewives

Andy Cohen has landed himself between some pretty nasty arguments while moderating “Real Housewives” reunion episodes. Although he can usually hold his own, he admits that some of the wives are more intimidating than others. His picks for the scariest housewives ever? Tamra Judge of “Real Housewives of Orange County” and Teresa Giudice of “Real Housewives of New Jersey.”

Both women are fitness fanatics who have even gone into competitive bodybuilding, so Cohen may be right to fear their wrath. And, of course, Giudice had no problem demonstrating her strength with that infamous table-flipping incident.

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Getty Images | Allen Berezovsky

Not All The Ladies Have Had Work Done

Although many of the wives will cop to using Botox, fillers and having had a couple nips and tucks, some remain adamant that they have not gone under the knife, despite appearances and rumors to the contrary. “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Kyle Richards takes a moderate approach to enhancing her natural appearance with cosmetic interventions.

“I’m not one of those women who is like, ‘Every wrinkle has made me who I am,’ but I’m also not the person who doesn’t want to age,” she told People. “My mom died young, so, for me, every birthday is a reason to celebrate.”

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Getty Images | David Livingston

Erika Jayne Spends Ridiculous Money On Her Signature Style

Looking as glamorous as “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Girardi (aka Erika Jayne) does on a daily basis does not come cheap. Girardi, who takes her “glam squad” with her wherever she goes, revealed that she spends about $40,000 a month on her hair, makeup and clothes.

Despite the high price tag on her beauty and fashion regimen, Girardi insists that she comes from humble beginnings that she won’t soon forget.

“I’ve worked very hard for everything I’ve ever had,” she told People. “But it’s my journey. And I don’t regret anything.”

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Getty Images | Rick Diamond

Lisa Vanderpump Is The Richest ‘Housewife’

There’s no doubt that all the wives are rich, but some have a bit more in the bank than others. Although a public figure’s true net worth can be difficult to pin down, according to reports, “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Lisa Vanderpump is the wealthiest housewife with an estimated net worth of $75 million.

In addition to the money she earns for her role on the show, she and her husband, Ken Todd, own and operate several successful restaurants. They also own vodka and sangria lines and are producers of their popular spinoff show, “Vanderpump Rules.”

lisa vanderpump photo
Getty Images | Araya Diaz

Cast Members Can’t Sue Each Other

Although they sometimes treat reunions like legal trials, complete with supporting evidence, including text messages, emails and screenshots, per their contracts, cast members are forbidden from suing each other in court.

When former “Real Housewives of New York” star Aviva Drescher accused her castmate, Carole Radziwill, of using a ghostwriter to write her memoir, “What Remains,” some suggested that Radziwill bring her to court over the issue.

“There were people who were saying, ‘Why don’t you sue?’ It’s not an easy answer,” Radziwill told Buzzfeed. “There were several reasons. One is we sign contracts, so we can’t sue each other. So you’d have to break the Bravo contract.”

carole radziwill photo
Getty Images | Roy Rochlin

Eileen Davidson Is A Novelist

Former “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Eileen Davidson is multi-talented. In addition to her stint on Bravo and her long career as a soap star on “Days of Our Lives” and “The Young and the Restless,” Davidson has also published four novels: “Death in Daytime,” “Dial Emmy for Murder,” “Diva Las Vegas” and “Swinging in the Rain.”

They say you should write what you know, which may be why Davidson’s mystery novels are all set in the soap opera world. Maybe her next book will take on reality TV!

eileen davidson photo
Getty Images | Kevork Djansezian

The Stars Partied Hard At Andy Cohen’s Baby Shower

“Housewives” executive producer Andy Cohen recently became a dad for the first time with the birth of his son, Benjamin Allen, on Feb. 4. Shortly before the arrival of his bundle of joy, Cohen had a lavish baby shower at the Palm restaurant in Beverly Hills on Jan. 26, complete with karaoke and dancing.

The star-studded affair was attended by a bunch of cast members from several of the cities, including Kyle Richards (“RHOBH”), Ramona Singer (“RHONY”), Nene Leakes (“RHOA)”, Teresa Giudice (“RHONJ”) and Vicki Gunvalson (“RHOC”).

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Getty Images | Gary Gershoff