Hey all, I have never covered The Real Housewives of New York City (RHONY) on my blog or podcast before but I decided to share my opinion on the most recent episode from season 13. Let’s go!
Some 13 years ago BravoTv added RHONY to its roster, making it the second show in the real housewives franchise. We met five women living in the city who were working, running charities, taking care of their families and homes and throwing parties. The women were from an elite circle and as one cast member, Jill Zarin, once said in her tagline “I run with a fabulous circle of people”. She wasn’t wrong but she wasn’t necessarily right either. Fabulous for these women in New York city in 2008, isn’t remotely close to what exists today.
Part 1 – Lu
Of the five women and their taglines, one rubbed me the wrong way off the rip. If the headline didn’t already give it away, I’m talking about the Countess LuAnn De Lesseps (Lu). We were introduced to Lu by way of Jill, her tagline being “I never feel guilty about being privileged”. I can only speak for myself but I never expected Lu to feel guilty about her privileged life then or now. The privilege spoken of in 2008 was that of being financially well off, living the life. Fast forward to a decade later with more societal developments, progression and overall awareness, certain privileges are being called out for what they are. In this case, Lu‘s privilege doesn’t just come from money and status but the privilege of being a white woman. My opinion – race, money, status and power/influence are all connected.
Over the years we’ve seen multiple fighting amongst this group of women. Fights about bad parenting, divorce, ghost writers, who is or isn’t white trash, who was aggressive and or a drunk. You name it, the RHONY fought about it. RHONY was dubbed brutally honest, fun and the cast praised for their ability to apologise and move on (until the issue resurfaced at the next event). The formula was working. That was until, real life started creeping in. By that I mean production could no longer film these women from an isolated lens (this has been the same across the franchise) because they were making headlines on their own. With social media platforms constantly changing, fan access and the need to maintain one’s celebrity, these women were now tasked with sharing everything, else leave (some get berated for doing so).
So in 2017 when RHONY filmed its 10th season that aired in 2018, fans expected to see the chaos that ensued with Lu in Palm Beach. What we weren’t prepared for was the Halloween party in episode 1. Dorinda was the hostess and I think the women were supposed to dress as influential/famous woman. Don’t quote me. Lu wanted to share her love for Diana Ross by being her for the night.
I still shake my head at the moment because, though this is reality and we want the women to be their true selves, I sometimes wonder what goes through the producers’ minds when filming certain scenes. At some point you have to speak up and suggest something isn’t a good idea. Lu got herself a spray tan and dressed her head in wig that made her look like Marge Simpson instead. This was obviously a horrible idea. From a cast with six other women, the only person that commented on the wrongness of Lu‘s costume was Carole. In fact, that was the only time it was spoken about for the rest of the season. Lu gave somewhat of an explanation as to her intent (I did and still believe she didn’t mean to be offensive) and a flimsy apology but blackface was(is) never okay.
Later in season 10, the moment that had everyone talking since December 2017 finally aired. Lu got arrested. There was footage of her threatening a police officer, being noncompliant and she even slipped her handcuffs off. I was livid. How many videos of unarmed Black people were there whose outcomes were the complete opposite of Lu’s? Her privilege was on full display. Not the money/status but her whiteness saved her from what would’ve been detrimental for non-white people, particularly Black people.
This was probably the lowest point in Lu’s life. I felt bad for her but I was mad at her and for those who lost their lives doing less than what she did. I’m not saying she should’ve been treated poorly, I’m saying that others should be treated like her. Lu seemed to recognise that she needed to make changes and was on the right path.
I came around to liking Lu as the seasons progressed because it became apparent to me that she was always supercilious. She always believed in her own self-importance. She knew best and would find all the ways possible to school you, empathy be damned. I mean, she told a young girl to lose weight at an after school program in an earlier season. This was her way of sharing her knowledge and helping. Complete lack of self awareness, a running theme throughout the franchise. I know, confusing right? She acted that way with everyone. She was married to the Count for well over a decade, so you can only imagine her social circles. She’d say she is confident, others would say arrogant. Either way you put it, Lu represented a type of housewife that I usually don’t like but she has a likability about her because I don’t think she’s ever coming from a place of malice.
Part 2 – Eboni
The fans who were once content with the shows being as they were, started demanding more. They no longer wanted to see a segregated cast. Though this may have been the truth for some, I doubt it’s anything more than just going with the wave for many. I could be wrong. One should remember that these shows were predicated on a friend group, and not everyone in the group gets to be a cast member. Not every housewife has a diverse friend group either. I struggle with this because I think to myself that there’s no way something like that is possible in modern day but then I look at where majority of the “money”, “status” and privilege lies and I get it. I have been asking for these shows to be diverse from their second seasons. It didn’t make sense to me that a show set in New York, one of the most diverse places in the world, only sought out white women to represent the city.
So we’re in the era of diversity casting and RHONY added its first non white (or half white) full time cast member, a Black woman. The cast member is Eboni K. Williams. I’ve never heard of this Eboni just as I’ve never heard of many of the women on these shows and I wasn’t interested in digging into who she was either. I try not to form any opinions until I see a housewife’s first episode. However, due to this historic RHONY casting Eboni was in videos talking about her first scene with the women and how excited she was to add something different to the show.
Eboni is a lawyer, radio and a television host. She is used to being one of, if not the only Black woman in a room. This might sound intimidating to some but like many Black people, in this case a Black woman, Eboni always knew her role and the position she had to play. She also had to have a game plan/agenda for these spaces like the time she worked for Fox News. Simply put, she was always on guard because she sort of had to. I can’t fault her for that because we’ve seen that Black people could be more educated, skilled and or qualified than their other counterparts and still not seen a such. This is a sad reality for Black people and one I know all too well. Joining RHONY in its 13th season wasn’t going to be any different in her mind and that is as valid a perception as any.
The cast (comprised of Eboni, Lie-ah, LuAnn, Ramona and Sonja) and former housewife, Heather Thomson, went to the Hamptons for their first trip. Though we’re at episode 5, it feels like we’ve been watching this Hamptons trip since the pandemic hit some 15 months ago. Eboni proclaims that she hasn’t been around a friend group like this before. Don’t confuse it with work spaces, although this show is a job as well. You get the picture. Seeing the women on tv is different from being around them and so Eboni was in for a lot. She first felt triggered by Ramona calling one of her staff “the help” and she explained why that was. Ramona has used that word before but from her point of view, which Eboni understood, she used it in the literal sense and not in a derogatory fashion. Luckily for Ramona she’s never said that about a Black person.
Mishearing and Bruised Egos
I know I promised to keep it brief but I’m not Chatterbox Keirn for nothing.
All seemed to be going as expected on a cast trip; petty squabbles, hurt feelings, apologies, drunkenness on repeat. This changed at the Breakfast at Tiffany’s party that Ramona was put in charge of. Lie-ah, in her endless quest to be provocative and interesting brought up sex at the dinner table. Ramona wasn’t too fond of this and got up thinking the conversation would soon die down. Lie-ah thought Ramona was being a hypocrite because she posed in pictures while wearing a thong. What does one have to do with the other?
Ramona returned only to find out that things were getting more raunchy. She asked Leah why does the conversation always have to veer toward sex and in the manner which Leah talks about the male and female genitalia. Lie-ah is just vulgar. Eboni misheard what Ramona said and asked about her liking big dicks. Ramona was once again upset and decided to call it a night but not before Eboni apologised for mishearing.
We’re getting close, bear with me. So the next day the women were all set to go to Lu’s for lunch and painting. Ramona, Heather and Sonja were all ready to go but Eboni and Leah were getting hair and makeup done. Ramona asked why couldn’t they just do without hair and makeup because they were running late. Eboni explained that as a Black woman, she can’t just wash her hair and get it to the texture it needed to be. Ramona said she should’ve started earlier if that was the case. Let’s pause for a second. Eboni isn’t wrong with the reason because Black hair operates differently. However, she knew this going into the trip therefore she could’ve done a different style that didn’t need the maintenance on the trip. She didn’t and that’s her prerogative. Ramona’s point was also valid because Eboni knows this about her hair, so starting earlier would’ve been best. She further said they had technical issues and that’s understandable. It happens. I thought it would’ve stopped there. Where Eboni lost me was in her confessional. She brought up the Emancipation Proclamation of 1865 that stated all enslaved people were free, so she can do what she wants with her time. Yes, Eboni is free to do what she wants to do on her time but invoking the Emancipation Proclamation to excuse being late and having people wait on her is bullsh*t and she knows it.
They arrive at Lu’s and the fun started until Lie-ah decided to ruin it for everyone. Lu asked what she missed as she had gone to bed early the night before and the women started to give the rundown. Lie-ah, as I mentioned before claimed she didn’t understand why Ramona didn’t want to talk sex while having dinner (who really wants to talk about tossing salads in the bedroom at dinner? Unless you’re Lie-ah). Lu tried to explain that Ramona was raised catholic so that could be the reason she doesn’t like engaging in those type of conversations, beyond a certain point.
Lie-ah decides to storm off after getting angry and aggressive with Ramona while the other women continue the dialogue. Eboni tries sticking up for Lie-ah and in doing so she tried to infer that the women made it seem raunchy sex talk made Lie-ah “unclassy” or not a lady. The women never said that. Remember I mentioned that Eboni is good at spinning a story? Or maybe it was on Twitter or in my head. People have boundaries and Ramona was setting hers with Lie-ah as she felt uncomfortable. What’s the issue with that? Eboni then said she heard Lu mention something about being raised in the church and conservatism, to which Lu responds the topic “has nothing to do with class , it has to do with education”.
A switch went off in Eboni’s head because for some reason she felt in that moment that Lu was taking a shot at her education. Watching the scene, I knew exactly where it was headed. Eboni then stated that she is the most educated at the table, so she would know what she’s talking about. She isn’t wrong. She is the most technically educated but what did that have to do with Ramona wanting to set boundaries with Lie-ah?
Lie-ah returned to tell the ladies that they were all hoes and they shouldn’t make her out to be some raunchy b*tch, then stormed off again. I think Lie-ah does a fine job of painting her own image. An appalled Ramona called her aggressive and defensive twice. Heather raised a valid point that the women weren’t listening to each other because if they were, all of what followed could’ve been avoided. Lu chimed in that she tried to explain and be clear about it for an under-educated person, she did, which was slight dig at Eboni’s comment. Lu followed up by saying that Eboni said she was the smartest person at the table which caused Eboni to get upset. Eboni didn’t say that and even Sonja stuck up for her in they moment. Let’s be real, people equate education with being smart. So when she brought up that she was the most educated at the table, after mishearing what Lu said, she was indeed flexing on the women. Based on her mindset, she was justified in her response.
So now Lu has put words in Eboni’s mouth with the smart comment, sorta like how Eboni put words in Lu and Ramona’s mouths with the “unclassy” and not a lady comment re Lie-ah. It should’ve ended there but no one was backing down because they all wanted to be right and the person that started the mess wasn’t even there. This is where everyone’s egos came into play. Ramona asked Eboni why she was making the issue hers. Eboni wanted to clear up the education comment. Again, it wasn’t said in the way she took it. Lu tried once more to tell her that the education comment was about catholicism and Eboni responded that she didn’t care what it was about. Pause. Eboni was being given clarity on the situation, again, and refused to listen. Why? Why was the conversation veering off course? She was getting upset and Lu didn’t make it any better. Then Lu asked her why was she getting so angry. Eboni retorts, “so now I’m the angry Black woman”. This caused Twitter to erupt. People started saying they knew Lu was racist and that the women were gaslighting Eboni.
In her confessional, Eboni claimed that the women didn’t call Lie-ah “angry” when she stormed off but she has a visceral reaction to what was happening and is called angry. Only, that wasn’t true. Ramona specifically called Lie-ah aggressive which technical means something much worse than angry. Eboni obviously wasn’t paying attention else she would have heard that. Though aggressive has a worse meaning than angry, Black people (women in this case) aren’t usually given the grace to feel or express anger like other people (for the sake of this blog, white people/women). It’s also not like someone can’t point out when a Black person is angry, but the line is very thin and that’s where context can come in handy. Eboni then says that Ramona’s white fragility is too much and another back and forth ensues. Lu tells Eboni to not go after Ramona’s race because no one did that to her. Lu, cut the crap! If she had gone after Eboni’s race that would make her racist. So this comment was in fact gaslighting. Anyways, Eboni all but challenges them to do so. She and Lu go back and forth, then Eboni brings up that Lu can ask her to leave since she isn’t free to express herself. Lu obliged (as is her right since she felt Eboni was disrespecting her) and that’s how it went down.
It’s totally understandable why Eboni would feel the way she did at Lu’s, if things went down how she thought they did. She first misheard and misread the context of Lu’s comment but Lu’s ego would not let up and exacerbated the whole situation. Of course people will side with Eboni on social media, especially the white viewers, so they won’t be seen as racist or not a truly ally but I believe the situation wasn’t seen objectively. It didn’t help that this was filmed last October (I think) and Eboni, after seeing the episode and not just relying on her recollection, said she was going to take a break from social media for the next few weeks. She said she wants to work on her mental health because the episodes will be triggering. But why though? Does she still think things went down exactly as she thought they did? Mind you, we only see the edited episode but from what was shown, Ramona isn’t the only one with a hearing problem.
When one looks for an issue with something, they will find it.