Hello and welcome to the Housewives Institute Bulletin. I am your sister from another mister, Dame Brian Moylan, president and founder of the Housewives Institute. It’s been quite a few weeks here at the Institute. Not only did we lift our mask mandates (as a nonphysical space, it was weird that we had one, but whatever), but we’ve also had lots of news and new research to go over. Our Pride exhibit exploring the life of the one full-time openly queer Real Housewife, Braunwyn Windham-Burke, had to be put into storage after she was axed from the show in a cast shake-up. Luckily, we had the new modern classic The Housewife and the Hustler to show in its stead. Let’s get right to it, because, with the rate they’re axing Housewives, there might not be any left by the time you’re done reading.
Mention It All
Not all the news, but all the news you actually care about.
ORANGE YOU GLAD I’M BACK: There’s been a huge cast shake-up on RHOC, a bloodletting we haven’t seen since the end of RHONY season four, when Jill Zarin, Alex McCord, and Cindy Barshop all got axed in one fell swoop. This time around, it’s freshly out-of-the-closet Braunwyn Windham-Burke, cult survivor Elizabeth Vargas, and the very controversial Kelly Dodd, whose politics caused many people to boycott the series. The news comes from Variety’s Kate Aurthur, who breaks the best news in the Bravo-sphere.
There will be two or three other women joining Shannon Beador, Emily Simpson, and Gina “You Can’t Spell My Last Name Without Google” Kirschenheiter. As has been rumored for some weeks, one of the new Housewives is actually an old Housewife: Heather Dubrow, who was holding an orange for seasons 7 to 11, will once again be back full-time. Looks like someone finally let her out of her closet, much like Braunwyn! There’s no word yet on Tamra Judge, who was also rumored to be back, but it doesn’t look likely.
Their firing must be devastating news to all of the women, but I also feel like it might be devastating for Fernanda Rocha. Yes, I’m talking about the lesbian trainer who was Tamra’s “friend” back on season six of the show. Did you know that she’s dating Braunwyn now? YES! It’s true. This seems like a Slade Smiley situation. Of all the people in Orange County to date, she’s going to go for another cast member? Oh, sorry. Former cast member.
The Sun obtained the divorce filing Fernanda’s wife Tessa Rocha made seeking to dissolve their six-year marriage because Fernanda and Braunwyn are now entangled. According to an “insider” (probably Tessa herself), Tamra introduced the two and they started dating back in October 2020, though they didn’t go public with their relationship until April of this year. If Fernanda thought this was her way back on the show, this was clearly not the move.
WELCOME TO MIAMI?: The gossip around who has been cast for Peacock’s Real Housewives of Miami revival is heating up like the sunburn I got hanging out by the pool with fellow Bravo nut FacesByBravo a few weeks back. Speaking of him, he posted the news that the returning Housewives would be Lisa Hochstein, Alexia Echevarria, Adriana de Moura, and Larsa Pippen. Pippen was fired from the show after the first season, but has since enmeshed herself in the extended Kardashian universe, which netted her 2 million Instagram followers and a face by the exact same surgeon that all of the sisters go to, based on, you know, her face. While most of this is speculation, Larsa has confirmed that she is returning.
According to FacesByBravo, the women in the running to be added to the cast are former Miss Haiti Kiki Barth, musician Paulina Rubio, designer Guerdy Abraira, doctor Nicole Martin, and Julia Lemigova, the last Miss USSR, which is the most badass thing I have ever heard and I feel like she probably made out with Dolph Lundgren at some point. These are all of their Instagrams, so let the stalking commence. Of course, we won’t know who is on the cast for real until Peacock makes the official announcement, so, until then, grains of salt.
GOOD TO HAVE FRIENDS: RHONJ started filming on June 6 and the cast is exactly the same as it has been for the past three seasons, which has to be some kind of record. Joining Dolores Catania, Margaret Josephs, Jennifer Aydin, Melissa Gorga, Jackie Goldschneider, and (ugh) Teresa Giudice is one new “friend of” that Dolores brought in. According to beloved gossip Instagram DeuxMoi, the new friend is Caroline Rauseo, another realtor friend of Teresa’s, which probably means that Realtor Michelle from this past season has officially taken a job on Fox Business where she belongs. The Sun reports that Aikisha Colon, who would be the franchise’s first Black cast member, may also be in the mix.
THE EYES HAVE IT: Jen Shah wants to have the case against her dismissed. Her rationale? Dry contacts. No, for realsies. In papers filed in court, she claims when the arresting officer read her Miranda rights, he also asked her to sign a paper stating she was waiving her rights, in particular the right to remain silent that everyone who has ever watched an episode of Law & Order: SVU can recite by heart. She signed, but couldn’t read the paper because her contacts were dry, her vision was blurry, and she didn’t have her reading glasses. This seems to me to be the “dog ate my homework” of case dismissals. This whole article is nuts and definitely worth your time.
YOU’RE FIRED: Bethenny Frankel announced on her podcast that she has left the deal she struck with reality titan Mark Burnett after she departed the Bravo family. “I left a very big, high, seven-figure contract recently with my partners at MGM and Mark Burnett because I had a good relationship with them, but I didn’t want to be locked up. I didn’t want to have no freedom in my podcast.” This comes after the deal’s only product, The Big Shot With Bethenny, wrapped up on HBO Max to little fanfare. Well, HBO Max doesn’t release ratings, but if Housewives fans aren’t even talking about it, then what hope did this show have? At least we’ll always have Bethenny’s podcast!
THE HILLS HAVE EYES: The rumors around Southern Charm star Austen Kroll’s dating life are getting hotter than a Thomas Ravenel in church. Apparently, Austen’s newest conquest is The Hills star Kristin Cavallari. After spies noticed they were hanging out in Nashville together, Kristin added fuel to this particular fire by posting a picture of her, Austen, Craig Conover, and another woman to Instagram on June 6 when she was visiting the SC boys in Charleston. That night, people spotted them out at Republic, Leva Bonaparte’s club, making out. Maybe this is all an elaborate ruse to dispel the rumors that he’s dating Summer House Winter Charm co-star Ciara Miller. One person who will not be bothered by any of this is Austen’s ex, Madison LeCroy. This past weekend, she posted a picture of her new boyfriend. She didn’t tag him or name him, but I bet his name is Hot As Fuck, because, well, that’s what he is.
INJURY, BUT MAKE IT FASHION: Everyone has been obsessed with the photo shoot that super-hip fashion designer Telfar did with the Real Housewives of Potomac cast, outfitting them in the clothes for his new collaboration with UGG. You know, Tom Brady’s favorite boots. Speaking of boots, many fans are tickled by the fact that Gizelle Bryant is splayed out in all the pictures wearing a surgical boot that one gets at the hospital as the result of a broken foot. Is this because she had an injury, or is this the world’s cruelest styling choice? I guess we’ll find out at the reunion.
GOOD NIGHT, GRACIE MANSION: RHONY one-season friend Barbara K. has dropped out of the race for NYC mayor.
NEVER HAS SHE EVER: According to her Instagram, Ramona recently crashed a party thrown by some 20-year-olds at the house in the Hamptons next door to hers. They taught her how to play beer pong and flip cup, which she had never heard of before. I’m sure all of this happened while she recklessly flirted with the buff 30-year-olds in attendance, because that is how Ramona rolls.
The Housewife and the Hustler Sheds Light on Tom Girardi Scandal, Danielle Staub’s New Face
I live in London, so I was unable to watch The Housewife and the Hustler, the ABC News special that debuted on Hulu last week about the unfolding scandal involving Erika Jayne’s lawyer husband Tom Girardi and his misappropriation of client funds. (Yes, I have tried every VPN and, yes, Hulu is smarter than all of them.) Luckily, I have recent journalism-school graduate, Housewives superfan, and the Real Housewives Institute’s inaugural Journalistic Fellow for Very Important News Catherine “Caity” Henderson to watch the program for me and report back with all the news and gossip, including an update about Erika’s legal representation that quit immediately after the special aired.
In The Housewife and the Hustler, Erika Girardi’s first tagline plays twice in 68 minutes: “I’m an enigma wrapped in a riddle and cash.” If that line confused me in 2015, it certainly keeps me up at night these days. Erika Jayne took the wealth on RHOBH to a whole new level when she joined the cast, yet her lifestyle cost more than any trial attorney could sustain. That was the whole bit. So why didn’t we notice?
The documentary follows the same timeline from the Los Angeles Times’ investigation in December with a weaker critique of Real Housewives franchises. But it is something to see Tom’s alleged crimes unfold onscreen. There are a couple of clips that will live rent-free in my mind for the rest of eternity. The first is Tom in 1996, with a head of hair and a face free of liver spots. The second is California governor Gavin Newsom on Watch What Happens Live, telling Andy Cohen that the Girardis have been “extraordinarily generous” to his campaign and, therefore, “[Erika Jayne] is my favorite Real Housewife.”
The only two Housewives in the documentary are Danielle Staub and Dana/Pam Wilkey, who wasn’t even technically a Housewife but a friend-of. Both of these women have had their own troubles with the law — Danielle was arrested for extortion and cocaine possession in 1986, and Dana/Pam surrendered to the FBI in 2014 for fraud. Did anyone bother to watch the show before bringing them on? Even a Google search would have been enough to know they aren’t the most reliable narrators.
Danielle is the first interview we hear, coming into focus as she sits down on a starched chair, wearing a white blazer. Classy. Like Danielle Staub. She doesn’t get much time onscreen, but why was she there at all? She says she’s seen Erika on the show and met her “one or two times.” She also claims that Erika is “the best [casting] since me.” Every time I saw her stretched-out face and two-toned hair, I cringed. Danielle, there are people who are dying.
Just watching RHOBH, I never thought of Tom as someone who represents disaster victims. I knew him as Erika’s much older husband who was in the Erin Brockovich case. A capital “L” Lawyer. So it was fascinating to hear his peers describe their shock at seeing Tom and his wife on the show. Describing the Girardis’ lavish lifestyle, attorney Brian Kabateck summed it up: “We represent people that are victimized by big corporations and rich people, and here you’re putting it out there that you’re super wealthy, and that you’re basically The Man. We sue The Man. You don’t want to be The Man.”
This was the greatest strength of The Housewife and the Hustler, providing faces and names to go with the “widows and orphans” that Dorit is worried about in this season’s trailer. We meet Joe Ruigomez, who survived an explosion due to Pacific Gas & Electric’s negligence; Josie Hernandez, who filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of an implant that wreaked havoc on her health; and Bias Ramadhan, whose mother died in the 2018 Lion Air crash. Tom owes all of them millions after (allegedly, but come on) pocketing the money they won in court for his own use.
This is so much worse than Ramona Singer calling the staff “servants” or Dorinda Medley derailing a charity for rape survivors. Even if Erika escapes without being implicated in Tom’s crimes, she’s made it clear she doesn’t give a damn about his victims. The courts will have to pry every sparkling ring off of her cold, manicured hands.
To add even more intrigue, Erika’s lawyers dropped her case the day after the special aired, citing, “The relationship of trust and confidence that is essential to a properly functioning attorney-client relationship has broken down …” There wasn’t much new information in the documentary, so the timing could be a coincidence. But it’s not looking good for Erika. As Karen Huger would say, “Clankity, clank. You might want to help your husband.”
The Housewife and the Hustler definitely explores the big questions on this season of RHOBH. Did Erika know and did her money come directly from these survivors? Her (former) lawyers seem to think she’s lying about the answer. I want to see the rest of the cast and Bravo identify the impact of the Girardis’ actions, rather than getting lost in the wealth and rumors. But being accountable for their role in “real issues” has never been a strength of the Housewives universe.
A Real Housewives Nude Model Bares — and Tells — All
We all got to see a lot of Kurt McVey (not to be confused with Kurt McVeigh, Diane Lockhart’s husband on The Good Fight) on the fifth episode of this season of RHONY, when he was the naked model for the women’s life-drawing class. Naturally, I had a bunch of questions about how he ended up on the show, his work as a professional nude model, and if there were, ahem, height requirements for the job. (This conversation has been condensed, much like a nude model standing out in the cold.)
How did you get into nude modeling?
When I was a freshman at Stony Brook University, I took a studio art 101 class as a requirement. It was clear the model was working through a lot of stuff; they were trying to surmount some insecurity or something like that. I drew a little thing on my drawing and made my buddy to my right laugh, and the model got mad at me. I ran into these situations a lot when I was going through my studio art minor, and I kind of got disappointed and anted up myself. I was a lacrosse player, and I was in the best shape of my life. It really caught on.
I started doing traditional modeling for different brands and stuff, then around 2012 when I was managing an event space on the Lower East Side called Culture Fix, two Australian women booked out the event space for the company called the Artful Bachelorette, and that was live drawing classes with a nude dude. It was a drink-and-draw as an alternative for a bachelorette party, and they would joke, “Are you the dude?” when they arrived at the space. I wasn’t, but then I did it. I was the only guy in the stable when they started, and the New York Times did an article called “Bachelorette Parties Where the Naked Man Doesn’t Dance.” I was the second nude butt in the Times, or something like that. Once that came out, every news agency did a thing and it blew up. Artful Bachelorette spread to 11 cities, and I was Johnny Appleseeding around the country with the other amazing staff members.
Since then, I’ve done probably 2,500 nude modeling things. I just did a weeklong intensive at the Art Students League with them sculpting my head. I’ve done formal classes, but my favorite are these crazy, irreverent drink-and-draws where people can speak to me directly.
What’s the difference between doing a formal art class and doing one like you did on RHONY?
The gaze. By the way, I want to add that I have done many parties for the LGBT crowd. Gay men are equipped with an uncanny ability, much like these Housewives, to deliver one-liners that I think are amazing. You have to let people be people and engage and have fun. I was just doing this sculpture class, but the gaze of serious artists is much more intense. I found myself not being able to make eye contact with these 12 sculptors; they’re picking you apart in a different way. I feel more exposed.
Even though you were more clothed.
When I showed up, I didn’t know what we were doing, and I told the instructor I forgot to bring a towel or a sarong. He said, “Kurt, you don’t have to get naked,” and he saw a look of disappointment on my face.
Okay, so, as a guy, I have to ask, what happens when you’re nude modeling and a certain body part decides to come to attention?
That’s the first question everyone asks, even women. I think it was Leah who called it an “inbetweenie,” which is one of those things I hear and take and put it in my pocket of phrases. There was no backstage fluffing going on. There was no inbetweenie. That was just me.
An erection demands action, and if the action isn’t appropriate, which it is not in this circumstance, the erection is unwelcome. What is more interesting to me is, over the course of an hour or two hours of building people up with sexual potential energy, without being a sexual threat, taking people up to that line is what I enjoy. Sometimes people try to elicit it, and I have a no-touching policy. They try to snake-charm you with their eyes, and it’s fun to be put to the test.
You were modeling nude outdoors in the fall in New York. Were you worried about your, um, stature?
I think there was one moment on the show where someone asked if I was cold and I said, “You tell me.” If it was ice-cold out there, I might ask for a space heater, but it wasn’t necessary.
How did you end up with this gig on the Housewives?
I met [Luann’s daughter] Victoria de Lesseps, [Luann’s niece] Nicole Nadeau, and the Countess in the 2019 Watermill Gala. Then this fall, Nicole slid into my DMs and said jump and I jumped. There was a friend of ours, this guy John Gordon Gould, who specializes in still-life painting, and he is aware of me as a writer and model and he recommended me. She was fishing around.
Was this the first time you were nude on TV?
No. I did one for Mob Wives a couple of years ago for Big Ang. They wanted to do something fun and special for her when she was sick. I will never forget Big Ang saying [affects a Staten Island accent], “A-big saus-eege.” I did one for Telemundo. I did one for Meredith Vieira.
I knew [Housewives] would be a good fit. I’m inviting sassy one-liners and I want that energy. There is a wavelength with women who are smart and intense and wild; they can settle into a place where they’re a little mischievous, but also protective. I want to bring out the best part of that person, so it’s a seamless synergy. I’m there to pull out those funny things.
Who drew the best pictures?
I don’t know if she’s a Housewife, but Heather [“Holla” Thomson]. She was doing really beautiful stuff. She has a good hand. Nicole and Victoria, they have art skills. Eboni did some good stuff. Leah and Ramona bailed. That is natural, for people to bow out. It’s usually because they’re holding onto something.
What I thought was cool about the episode, you get to see them work out what they were holding onto that was distracting them. To see them work it out on the episode was cool, because I don’t usually get to see that.
Most of the drawings were not great.
There is nothing funnier than a hilarious caricature done in earnest. Drawings can be funny and it’s okay to laugh at them and interrogate the nature of good and bad. What some people think is incredible, I think is barely mundane. I just want people to give it a try.
So, how can I ask this delicately? Is being more well-endowed a prerequisite for the job?
I would consult the ghost of Big Ang. [Laughs.] The women who run Artful Bachelorette were doing a segment for ABC and I was their model. They were interviewing them behind the scenes and the women said, “It just can’t be comically small.” I thought, You’re giving the impression that is the case here! I think organically, the people who do it probably do have to have some requisite level of confidence and swag, and I think to some degree that is tethered to the answer to that question.
Have a lot of people tried to book you after the show?
I have received many requests, many of them dubious in nature, and I usually say, “Take a minute to think if you can afford me.”
So how much does a gentleman get for a nude-modeling gig?
I am hesitant to give you a number. Come with something that is reasonable and appropriate for the circumstances. If a young, cool artist came to me and said, “I love what you do,” and approached me in a way that honors me but is honest about what their resources are, that’s fine. But I expect the same consideration if you’re a huge organization.
What’s most important to me in doing this is you show me your true colors. I’m interested in seeing someone’s true colors.
What did the Housewives show you of their true colors?
I think Leah and Ramona had some stuff to work out, which we saw. I think with Eboni, her bravery to step into that space was amazing. I thought Sonja was just so fun; she killed the reveal. I thought the Countess was such a gracious host. I am so grateful to the Countess. I’m really grateful to Nicole and Victoria. Just eating their lamb, just being in the house as they are graciously feeding me.
To see what my work does, it opens people up to have tough conversations with themselves and with others. I think what I do and what the show can do and the conversations that are happening on the show can reach outside of these coastal-elite echo chambers. I’m bored with intellectuals yelling at each other. I’m excited for the show and Eboni coming on to have fun and start kindling these conversations. I feel if I can open people up in that way myself, I am happy about that.
Real Housewives of New York City, Season 13, Episode 6: Luann has her hackles up and says that she needs to have a conversation with Eboni, but Eboni needs to “meet her halfway.” The thing about racism, though, is that you can’t meet it halfway. You shouldn’t meet it anyway. There are some Housewives fights where both parties are wrong. No, I take that back. In most Housewives fights, both parties are wrong. But in this fight, there is only one person who is wrong and it is Luann, and she does not deserve an apology.
Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Season 11, Episode 4: On the boat, Sutton pulls Crystal aside for a chat, and it is one of the craziest conversations I have ever seen on reality TV — and I watched all of both seasons of Joe Millionaire. Sutton is wearing a pair of giant square mint-green sunglasses that are so brilliant they should have an HGTV series where they go into the Magnolia store in Waco and tell everything in it that it sucks, and she’s just flailing. She wants to explain how upset she is and how she feels Crystal is abrupt with her, and Crystal is just looking at her dead in the face and saying, “Okay.” She is ice-cold. She is colder than the Zima that is lodged in the corner of the Igloo. She is colder than the best “yo momma” joke you ever heard. She is colder than Princess Anne next time she runs into Meghan Markle at a family reunion.
Real Housewives of New York City, Season 13, Episode 7: Not much else happens in this episode. Ramona meets with former Million Dollar Listing: New York cast member Michael Lorber, who looks thinner, grayer, hotter, and generally richer than he did the first time he was on television. He really learned from that one season and still probably hates Ryan Serhant like bees hate Jameela Jamil. Ramona is trying to get her realtor’s license with Michael’s sponsorship and, know what, this is actually an excellent idea. If you don’t know about the chaos that ensues when a Real Housewife starts selling real houses to wives, then you need to check out Kelly Killoren Bensimon’s TikTok.
Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Season 11, Episode 5: Crystal is now my second-favorite Crystal, just above the Dark Crystal but right under Crystal Pepsi which, God willing, will one day return to confuse our taste buds and eyeballs once more. She’s just such a wonderful bitch. She is firmly who she is, she doesn’t care about others’ opinions of her, and is not going to take shit from anyone. But that doesn’t mean she’s closed off. In fact, she seems like a very open and honest person who is willing to own her struggles in a way that the women of Beverly Hills rarely do.
Fashion Highlight of the Week
Lisa Rinna and Kyle Richard were both feeling single and seeing double when they showed up to a party at Sutton’s house wearing the exact same polka-dotted dress.
Dean’s List for Best Vulture Comment of the Week
Highlighting the best comment of the week for our lovely Institute members. This one is from last week’s RHOBH.
KimmyLane: Oh Lisa Rinna. You are so “caught.” Caughter than an 18th century parlor maid with the Lord. Caughter than one of Sonja Morgan’s interns expiring under a pile of Wesson Oil in her basement. Caughter than Bethenny’s texts to “Page Six.” The fans don’t like you and using a rapist as an analogy to the Denise situation from last year? I’m surprised you didn’t melt in the heated waters upon Lake Taco. Let’s talk about the husband …
I Said What I Said
“To this day, I do not know what Harry Hamlin sees in me, but I do give a darn good blow job.” —Lisa Rinna