The Real Housewives of New York City
Eboni brought all of the girls to Harlem and it is one of the most boring episodes of Real Housewives of New York City in modern memory. I mean, this thing was like watching Cindy Barshop on a powerful edible, just lying on the couch snoring and not even giving us a flash of vajazzle to vajazzle things up.
This is hard, because what Eboni is doing is very important. As John Oliver said, “I think she’s doing a great job and I think trying to teach those particular women about the Black experience in America is a thankless task.” He is absolutely correct, but Eboni needs to be about a little bit more, or at least go about it a little bit differently. I loved that she gave the women candles from the Harlem Candle Company to match their personalities. As Eboni says, her love language is gifts, and there is not a Real Housewife who will turn down a gift. This was a little meaningful thing that hopefully they could read about when they get home and educate themselves more about the neighborhood and the Black excellence that it has always embodied.
However, she lost me at telling each of the women who they were assigned at dinner. Each of them had a pamphlet sitting on their plates about a figure of the Harlem Renaissance — Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. Du Bois, James Baldwin — but then in addition to that she went around telling the women about each of these people, and they all quickly lost focus and said that they felt like they were in school. I think what Eboni is attempting here is great, she is definitely trying to broaden these women’s horizons, but why not make it more into a game? She should know that these ladies love nothing more than talking about themselves, so why not have each of them act out the person on their plates? Or maybe just say, “I prepared a little pamphlet about each person, I hope you enjoy reading about them,” and then they could either choose to accept this homework assignment or feed it to Coco, the oldest living dog in New York.
Even brand new friend-of Bershan Shaw isn’t really having it. She is a new “friend” of Ramona’s, and she says they were introduced a few months ago by mutual friends. Do those mutual friends also happen to be producers on a certain reality television program, because I have an idea that they didn’t meet by happenstance in the Hamptons. I mean, we’ve seen Ramona’s friends and they look like the models for the Madeleine Albright Brooch Collection Catalogue. Bershan says at dinner that she thinks that all people, white, Black, Asian, etc., are “all the same.” Eboni is like, “Um, no, sis, we’re not,” and says that she feels like her message is being undermined a bit. I don’t disagree with her. We learned from Crystal Kung Minkoff why saying “I don’t see color” is outdated, and I think that point totally applies to what Bershan has to say as well.
The problem for Eboni, though, is she can’t seem to get out of her schoolmarm role. The most interesting thing she says all episode is at her lunch with Leah (who’s dressed like the bratty ’90s teen that she will always be). She says that after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, she didn’t want to be the “Black teacher” anymore. I took this to mean she almost dropped out of filming the show because she thought it would be too much work and she would receive too much backlash for trying to bring race onto a meringue confection of a show like RHONY. Yeah, it might be a meringue dessert, but, girl, she is an Eton Mess. (Sorry, that was an English-people joke.)
Leah tells Eboni that she doesn’t want her to feel like it’s her job, but it is her job. That is what Bravo brought her on to do, which is be a shield for their lily-white casts. But we also want her to be a Housewife. That doesn’t mean fighting and drama and yelling, but it means opening up about her life. It’s great that she can teach us about the Black experience in America, but I also want her to teach us about her. When we care about her, we will care more about the offensive things that happen to her. Leah instructs Eboni to “just chill” a little bit more, but Eboni thinks, “If not me, then who?” Eboni. I love you. I think you are a great addition to the show. But if you think that you are going to change Ramona Singer, the Karen of Karens, then you are sadly mistaken. She has less change than a credit-only restaurant.
This all comes to a head when Eboni goes over to Ramona’s house a few days after the election, but before it was decided. She and Ramona are trying to go from castmates to friends and, while everything that Eboni says is true, I can also see Ramona’s point. (Oh, Catholic Jesus Jugs. Take me out behind a Gray’s Papaya and end it now because I am defending Ramona Singer.) Eboni brings up the election, and Ramona says, “I don’t want to talk about politics.” Eboni presses her and Ramona demures again.
Ramona is not stupid, she knows this seems like a setup, and she also knows that she has the cast of Fox & Friends in her guest room waiting to jump out with balloons and scream, “SURPRISE!” as soon as the topic comes up. Still Eboni pushes the topic and says she is glad to see Kamala Harris as VP. She tells us in confessional she thought that as women she and Ramona could find common ground over a woman advancing. I think Eboni is right, they don’t need to agree on politics to be friends, but they do need to agree on values. So why not talk to Ramona about her faith or about her daughter or about her business? I’m sure that Eboni would have all sorts of ways to agree with her about these topics. And if any of those fail, she can also go to Ramona’s standard fallback, which is hating on The Countess.
It’s hard because Eboni makes a very valid point that is as applicable to Ramona as it is to all of us who think we may not want politics in our Housewives. When Ramona says she doesn’t want to talk politics and just “wants to escape for 24 hours,” Eboni says she can’t. She’s right. As a Black woman in America, she can’t just escape for even 24 minutes. She is always under attack, always under suspicion, always under oppression. She doesn’t need to listen to Ramona badly explain microaggressions, but she is dutifully sitting there trying not to rock the boat too much so that she can have this platform to talk to all of us about race. We want to just have fun and have our show be about falling down drunk and watching Tinsley Mortimer cry in a circus outfit. Eboni can’t do that because she feels like she can’t let this opportunity go to waste.
And she is doing a great job, but it’s going to backfire if she can’t draw the women in more closely. Even Sonja Tremont Morgan of the Upper East Side Candle Company Morgans, who apparently got her master’s degree in racial studies while trapped at a spa during COVID, thinks that Eboni needs to chill out and talk about some other things. But maybe as white people we’re all wrong. Maybe she should stick to this topic. I don’t know. Like Eboni said, I’m just trying to not do the wrong thing here. I’m just trying to be supportive of her efforts, but I also know that if, like at the dinner, this show gets boring, her platform is going to evaporate faster than boob sweat in the freezer aisle.
However, Eboni does an amazing job turning the conversation around. She goes from Ramona throwing her out of her house (the second time this has happened to the only cast member of color all year) to castigating Ramona for not knowing the name of C.J. Walker to then getting Ramona laughing and hugging her on the couch. Eboni just stayed calm, wouldn’t let Ramona upset her, and drew everyone in a little bit closer. Maybe she is the woman we need? Maybe a certain redhead, sitting outside Ramona’s apartment in a black Suburban, waiting to run over Eboni so she can take her place, should just relax. Maybe Jill Zarin, like all of us, needs to give Eboni a little bit more time to work her magic. Maybe, unlike Jill’s, Eboni’s master plan will finally come together.